City of Phoenix
Varisian are a human ethnic group originally from the country of Varisia. Varisia was completely overrun during the Great War turning it’s surviving peoples into refugees. That said, they are a nomadic people known to favor the open road over permanent settlements, and as such their caravans can be encountered throughout the Standing Nations. Varisians are largely considered to be scoundrels and rogues, a reputation that is not entirely based on misconception; members of other races and ethnicities primarily know of these nomads from interactions with either traveling performers, harrow-readers, or the criminal Sczarni. However, despite outward appearances of frivolity, the Varisian people are fiercely loyal to family and friends, and embrace a rich culture steeped in history and tradition.
Physical Description and Physical Outlook
The Varisian people typically possess deep, olive-colored skin, and long, dark hair ranging in hue from black to auburn. They often garb themselves in brightly colored clothing; Varisians favor practical dress when completing daily tasks, but are more widely known for the elaborate, embroidered costumes they don during performances. Varisians prefer wealth in the form of gemstones and jewelry, rather than coins, and secure such valuables on their person whenever possible.
Varisians often bear intricate and meaningful tattoos on their bodies. These markings range in scope from those representing notable events in an individual’s life, to runes and symbols charged with magical energies, and even mysterious birth tattoos, present from the day one first enters the world. Varisians are also fond of scarves of all types, and frequently use them to provide emphasis during performances. They also commonly use scarves in more specialized capacities; the bladed scarf serves as a favorite weapon when one must appear unarmed, and a Varisian’s Kapenia is an intricate record of his or her family tree.
Varisians favor scarves of all sizes and colors, but some hold special significance. Most notable is the family scarf, or Kapenia. Children receive their Kapenia upon maturity; to own one is to be an adult. These long, heavy scarves display elegant and complicated embroidery that is incomprehensible to most outsiders. To Varisians, though, the scarves show their family trees. By tracing the loops and whorls of a scarf, a Varisian can trace a person’s history back through her mother and father, her siblings, grandparents and great-grandparents, as far back as the family possesses knowledge.
Varisians wear their kapenia only on special occasions, such as weddings or funerals. Most choose to be buried with their kapenia, though some bequeath them to loved ones. It is extraordinarily rare for a Varisian to bequeath it to a non-Varisian, or even a Varisian not of her clan. Varisians wear sensible but colorful clothes during the workday. When performing, they dress in fancy gowns and heavily embroidered vests and trousers and wear excessive amounts of jewelry.
Varisians consider themselves the native race of the realm that shares their name, even though that land is now long overrun by the goblinoid hoards. Wanderers and nomads, Varisians travel the land in caravans, stopping only to put on their shows. Some Varisians use their gregarious natures and dark good looks to swindle unfortunate marks; it is these few scalawags who give the Varisian people a bad name. Most other people respect the Varisians of their ancient tradition and vast knowledge but mistrust their motives.
Tales about Varisians circulate endlessly. To ordinary folk, the colorful travelers who never settle but flit about like butterflies over the land seem fascinating, but also just a little frightening.
A traveler can sit down in any tavern in the Standing Nations and overhear a story about the Varisisans – how they never build towns or sow crops, how they live in the wagons that carry them over the land, how they sing and dance for money, how they dress in bright colors and cover their bodies with jewelry and intricate tattoos, and how a Varisian once robbed someone’s uncle’s wife’s brother’s best friend in an elaborate scam. Conventional wisdom holds that observers should view the beautiful, exotic Varisian from a distance, as if admiring a tiger prowling through the jungle.
Tales of Varisian treachery and deceit usually come from interactions with the Sczarni, a clan of Varisians dedicated to larceny and confidence games. The Sczarni continue to bleed their victims until their pockets are full and neighbors grow suspicious. They then move on to the next town and start over.
Varisians call the world their home. Artwork on the walls of ruins, fragments of ancient writing, and stories passed down from Varisian wise women talk of the former Varisian homeland, but they fled in the wake of the Great War. A handful of prophecies suggest that the Varisians wait for a sign that will come in the form of a hero, possibly an angel, sent by Desna herself. This hero, often referred to as Vyush’baro, is a popular character in Varisian stories since the exodus.
Varisians believe that certain colors carry specific powers and choose their outfits to attract the right type of energy. Pink is the color of love, kindness, and courage. Red represents lust, long life, and inner strength. Orange is the color of happiness and resourcefulness, and adventuring Varisians often wear a touch of orange on their travels. Green enhances wisdom and self-control. Turquoise represents physical strength and nonverbal communication, and most dancing costumes feature it. Blue is the color of health, youth, and beauty. Violet enhances intuition and divine inspiration, so most fortunetellers and seers wear violet scarves.
Varisians also love jewelry and favor gems over coins. Most Varisians pragmatically believe that worn wealth is harder to steal than wealth hidden out of sight in a tent or locked up in a box. Varisians love their brightly colored, intricate, and personally significant tattoos. Rarely, a Varisian might enter the world already tattooed in the form of a birthmark. These “birth marks” bear little resemblance to conventional birthmarks. Most are extremely elaborate and multicolored. Some represent physical objects, such as a sword or a unicorn, while others spell out phrases in some long-dead runic language or outline a map. Varisians believe that birth tattoos are an indication of a profound destiny awaiting the marked child.
Popular opinion holds that most Varisians are singers, storytellers, and thieves – rogues and bards, in other words. In truth, Varisians of all classes exist, although some appear more commonly than others. Many Varisian walk the path of the fighter, ranger, or sorcerer. Varisian clerics typically worship Desna. The latter usually cover their bodies with colorful tattoos of powerful humans and animals with great feathered wings.
Varisians have a saying: “First the seed, then the trunk, then the leaf in the breeze.” The seed refers to a bloodline or family history. The trunk refers to the elders in a clan who helped raise the current generation. The leaf in the breeze refers to the wandering Varisians, free to go where they please thanks to the strength of their elders and their families. Varisians never brook insults to their ancestors or their clan leaders, and they appreciate this loyalty in others. Varisian adventurers are most likely to respond to pleas for assistance when a family’s unit is threatened, such as when a child is kidnapped or a poisoned grandfather requires a rare herbal cure.
Although their dedication to their families remains unswerving, Varisians do leave their caravans to adventure for many reasons. Some receive strange dreams or visions which lead them to wander apart from their clans. Other pursue the answer to a mysterious and disturbing Harrowing. A Varisian might fall out of favor with the clan and seek redemption, or she might feel betrayed by her family and leave in search of a new one.
Strangely enough, most Varisian druids are not true Varisians, but adopted members of the clans. These druids, nomads, wanderers with a fierce love of nature, empathize with the Varisian way of life and often travel with caravans. Over time, some find homes with their new families and use their wandering life to learn about and protect wild areas.
Varisian wizards often serve as historians and record the legends of their families. Instead of studying in dusty libraries, they glean lore from old books and bits of knowledge traded for a song or a Harrow reading along the road. Varisian wizards often speak a handful of commonly used languages and know phrases from a dozen dead ones. Their spellbooks are collections of mismatched pages sewn into thick tomes and covered with runic scribblings.
Barbarians, monks, and paladins are rare among Varisians.