A Roots of Rookeri Supplement
It is a curious fact, that what in Luban is produced as soft furnishings, when imported to Rothi is used by the master tailors to produce elegant, colourful clothing for the lafarden and their lafdi. What is produced in Rothi to clothe farm-workers, herders and the armsmen, however, when imported to Luban is used for drapes and upholstery.
Only in Luban are silk farms found, their brightly dyed threads woven with gold and silver threads to produce dazzling brocades. And only in Luban does cotton grow, its soft fibres ideal for shifts and shirts and underwear.
For the most part in Rothi there is only the wool of the jasckte, a hardy breed of yak-x-(Earth-side)Highland cattle. Its dense shaggy coat yields fibres both long and strong. But those fibres, naturally dark, restrict the range of dyes; the result is dark and muted.
However, the climate in the south of Rothi allows linen to be grown. Linen then is blended with jasckte wool to produce a versatile fabric that is both soft and hardwearing. This linen-wool blend lends well to the sharply tailored thigh-length coats worn by lesser nobility, noble servants and master craftsmen in imitation of the lafarden’s fashion (theirs being of heavy silk). Though the colours remain muted, once tift with metallic threads and cut-glass beads, they are barely distinguishable, at a distance, from the nobles’ finest wear. This jasckte wool-linen mix is an essential when making men’s brecks – for the finer the blend, the closer the cut, and a man’s status is shown by how tight his brecks fit to his legs.
High status women have been seen wearing a cloak cut from this linen-wool blend (though admittedly miniver lined and tift with jewels). But only a hindling or trall would wear a linen-wool kirtle. For women of higher status, lafdi or noble servants, their kirtles are the ultimate item of fashion. Bright and shimmering metallic tubes, soft and clinging flimsy things; such a simple garment, so many ways to wear it. Contrast its vivid blue silk with the deep blood red of an under-shift, flaring from knees to ankle – or merge the colour of one into another, lime-green becoming gold. Encrust with jewels the shoulder-tabs, or reverse it and weight the hem with metallic threads and twinkling jewels. And add a belt, the essential accessory and classed as jewellery.
But it is in the category of ‘not strictly textile’ that Rothi wins out over Luban. Obviously the huge lumbering jasckte will yield, at its demise, many square roods of leather – which considerably outweighs the small goats and sheep herded by the western Lubanthan. But it is in the matter of amphibs skins that Rothi most clearly wins. For while Luban has the greater variety and the larger population of amphibs, it is the marine family of Jacobs that yield the most fascinating decorative patterns of leathery skin.
Rothi scores, too, when it comes to fur. There are no indigenous fur-bearing animals. But the first settlers thought to bring with them the domestic cat and the dog. In Rothi, for centuries, these had run feral to become a threat to travellers and farmers. But of late some enterprising bachelors have rounded them up and en-pounded them. They now are breed for their fur.
To Tift: to trim with embroidery, beads and gems
In Rothi it’s not only the nobles who are hot for the dazzle of precious metals and gems. Even the trall and hindling must have their trappings, bought at the Winwon Market where stalls piled high with the trial-pieces of craft-sprats distract from otherwise illegal-made goods.
The lafarden and lafdi buy the highest quality stones, harvested from the Rotashta Rocks, albeit from the agents of the reckless climbers, and send these stones to their own master craftsmen. The hinan and moldkin, nasky and fitz, however, must be content with cut glass or, for the poorer yet, dyed seeds or – the cheapest tack – with painted wood beads.
This glitter and glitz is worn, conventionally, as jewellery – as necklaces, bangles, earrings, belts and headdresses. Yet it also is sewn onto clothing.
Every edge must have its embroidery in gold or silver thread, or failing that, in silks of brightest colour. Sad is the woman who must use a dyed linen thread. Though amongst herders and farmers, applied patterns of black-dyed jasckte serve both as tift and protection. While tift is commonly applied to the shoulder-tabs of the women’s kirtles, for the men it is the high stand collar of their formal coats. Though epaulettes and cuffs might receive equal attention.
Hems, shoulders and cuffs are all classed as edges, and from the highest lafard to the lowest franyan these will be tift. Yet the sole reserve of the highest of nobles is a cloak or a coat that bears golden flourishes encrusted with gems even into its centre.
Be she ever so humble, the Rothi woman will never be seen
without, at the least, a beaded bangle.
Jewellery is the most commonly given gift – thus does the noble servant rattle loud with it. At birth, and at the coming of marriageable age, there is no other gift worth giving. At the arranging of marriage, jewellery again is given – now by the barrow-load. This applies not only to nobles; the value might tumble the further one walks away from the warison, yet jewellery remains the gift of preference.
A family’s wealth is contained, not in its land (which is, rather, a liability) but in its jewellery. In the citadel Houses the lafarden guard their accumulated piles against the day when they have no other way to meet the tribute demands. Yet at death the jewels must be bequeathed. The daughters each have had their share, given at marriage. The eldest son is heir to the rest. Unsurprising, eldest sons prefer that their sisters wed young – to allow their parents to acquire and accumulate more before the final inheritance. Conversely, parents prefer daughters to wed late, allowing more acquisition to be splurged in display.
By tradition, half a man’s inherited jewellery should go to his wife. Younger sons are given the ‘dregs’ – and half of that will go to their wives! Ultimately, of course, the wife’s jewellery belongs to her husband since he will freely take of it when times get hard – to her benefit, too, of course.
But what form does this jewellery take? For men, in addition to their rings, chain-bracelets and necklets, universally worn, there are gem-studded belts of leather or fancy amphib-skin, or of precious metals their solid links articulating in imitation of plate-armour. For the nobles there are ornate staffs of varying thickness, their variable lengths ringed about with gold, silver or bronze, in repoussé, pierced, or gem-encrusted. The knob might comprise a single stone. Then again, the nobleman, be he lafarden or noble servant, wears an ornamental sword, its hilt varying from unadorned filigreed gold to sparkling stone-set gold plate. The scabbard, too, and perhaps even more so, is subject to the most fanciful displays of a nobleman’s wealth; the baldric, however, by which it’s suspended is more usually the focus of tift.
With women it is the head and the neck that forms the prime focus. It begins with the head-shawl – of silk for the noble woman; for the hindling, cotton; shame to her who must wear wool. Triangularly cut, the shawl’s hypotenuse always the bias, a ribbon or braid of bright colours or metallic thread must first be applied. This helps to stabilise the otherwise unstable edge; then what is a necessity becomes the base for a fringe of varying complexity.
For a woman without noble connections, this more often is 2-4 inches deep, made of tiny dyed seeds, the tapering ends receiving heavier pendants of cut glass (if she’s able) or painted wood; scattered along its length are amulets of the lesser metals (copper and tin).
The fringe on the veil of a noble woman, though short where it rests upon her brow, will grow considerably longer as it reaches the ends – perhaps as much as 12 inches deep. For the noblewoman the seeds are replaced by gem-beads, though equally small. Though gems-beads evenly matched in shade are by far the more pricey, the fashion of late has been to use dark gem-beads at the shawl’s edge, grading to pale where they frame the face. Amongst these gen-beads, again, will be amulets, though of gold and silver with tiny fanciful flower shapes sharing the string. It is at the tapering ends of the lafdi’s veil that the heavier baubles are hung: clusters of gemstones, bells, and heraldic devices. These rest upon the woman’s shoulders and tumble chaotically down her front to tunefully tinkle at her slightest move. (In comparison, the non-noble woman’s wooden beads clack and click.)
Strings of beads worn as necklaces are ever popular. But for the woman who can afford it, the latest fashion is a lunate collar, plain gold or silver, or with pierced designs or repoussé, from which depends a deep fringe studded with tiny cut gems. She is now guaranteed to make a dazzling entrance.
As with the men, bracelets, too, are popular, whether the chunky wood beads of the hindling, or the multiple bangles of the noblewoman – though over recent years the torc has replaced beads for the latter, silver or gold, engraved or repoussé, or studded with sparkling gems. Chain-bracelets, too, are in vogue but distinguished for women by an additional element: from every link a matching pair of gold or silver triangles depend – and these, in themselves, form chains as more pairs are depended, tip-to-base, until, in the extreme, they catch and bounce against the floor. And for that added sparkle, if not gained in the star-cut, each triangle can be gem-studded.
And belts: here gold or silver chains are the usual form, multiple strands that are clasped at the back, thence to cascade down the length of the kirtle, at least to the calves. And as with the chain-bracelets, other chains might be attached to the links to rhythmically sway and jingle around her hips as the woman walks. Needless to say, any number of gems might be depended from them.
During the arrangements of a marriage jewellery is given by the barrow-load.
This is neither bride-price nor dowry but must be seen, rather, as a contest of wealth with the perceived status of a family or House here displayed. A close tally is kept of these gifts, as eagerly by the neighbours as by the families involved. To give too little is an unforgivable insult that brings an immediate halt to arrangements.
The marriage itself is sealed by the exchange of necklaces – not bracelets as in Luban, or rings as Earth-side. It is said, the perceived value of the marriage necklace signals the perceived value of the spouse. Thus commissioning the necklace (it must be specifically made for the recipient) is an ordeal laden with potential disaster. Outside of the citadel, it is not unusual for a family to seek a loan from relatives or a patron to finance the purchase, while within the citadel it’s not unknown for a House to financially fold in the process for these necklaces tend to the highly ornate.
Intended for continual wear, the marriage necklace cannot be flimsy, nor have pieces that might catch on clothing, break off and be lost. Braided gold wire is the most popular for women; an amulet box, gem-studded often acts as the clasp. The box should hang over the heart and contain an appropriate charm. It is common for these boxes to bear the heraldic device of the House. Traditionally the man’s marriage necklace is, like the men’s bracelets, of heavy gold links, though over more recent decades plaited metals have been the fashion, five strands being the norm, each of a different metal. Worked into these might be a solitary pearl, reputed to be an indication of a man’s virility.
On death, the necklace reverts to the spouse. It then becomes part of inherited wealth; though in the citadel Houses the marriage necklace never leaves the family – unless it is given as tribute payment; a certain sign that the family is scraping the cellar.
Finally, marriage is only one of many occasions when the Rothi nobles will flash their wealth. The lafdi needs little excuse to replace her ‘humble’ everyday head-shawl with her most ornate headdress. In its traditional form this is a simple and elegant elongated triangular length of leather. Worn with the base of the triangle at the front of the head, it is folded such that the end is upstanding; the tail then trails down the back. Needless to say, for its entirety it is heavily encrusted with gold and jewels.
A more ‘delicate’ headdress is that of the crossed bands. From a central ring that rests atop the lafdi’s head, one narrow band tails over her forehead, another, longer, again trails down the back, while the two latitudinal bands drape to either side of her face. Fabric-based – usually silk or velvet though it might be of lace – these crossed-band headdresses are ornate with gold-embroidery and cuts gems.
Some fifty years ago a Rothi scholar, Lihan of Kerof, circulated a paper in which he suggested the form of these headdresses was inspired by and symbolises the bohab (a venomous, asp-like marine amphib) and the wyvern (which vaguely resembles a long-tailed chicken). However, Lihan was a reputed misogynist.