In the free state of Cabzia, lives a people called the Travelers. The Travelers are a race of semi-nomadic traders that spend the majority of their lives traveling routes through the state, selling wares to the landed citizens of Cabzia. They have a single established city, but all other homes are mobile wagons of vast proportions. The most important things to Traveler society are family and honor.
The Single City
Jaibacon, more commonly known as Traveler Town, was created as a place for Travelers to recuperate from illness or take time off from traveling. Many of the folk there are old or crippled and have chosen to spend their final days at ease. The largest caravans have entire neighborhoods built to accommodate their less mobile relatives, and these neighborhoods are patrolled by the family that owns them. Oddly enough, Jaibacon has no marketplace. There are always caravans moving through, and the people in the town merely purchase their everyday supplies from these. Some Travelers that have settled down in the city still craft, but these products are nearly always sold to the caravans, or sent out with members of their family as they pass through in order to be sold. The caravans loop all the way around the town, creating a natural defense through which any visitors must navigate to reach the homebound inside the city, but only the little two-wheeled carts are allowed inside the city itself. At the northern edge of the city, inside the caravan loop, is a strange sort of shipyard that is used for major wagon repairs and building new wagons.
The Caravan Wagons
The wagons of the Travelers come in four varieties. The smallest are called tugs, and are no more than a two-wheeled vender cart filled with goods, with wares hung from all sides. They vary in size enough that the smallest can be pulled by a single person, and the larger ones require a pony or a mule. They are easily brought into towns and villages, and are also used for making deliveries. The next type of wagon is a cog. This is basically a shop on wheels, some of which are large enough that customers can walk inside the wagon to browse the goods being offered. They’re pulled by teams of oxen.
The third wagon is a caravel, and is a huge wagon with a shop below and living space on an upper level. It’s pulled either by multiple teams of oxen, or by massive, six-legged beasts called sestians. Sestians are extremely stupid, and horribly slow, but can pull as much weight as twenty horses. They resemble giant hippos, standing twenty to twenty-five feet at the shoulder with their heads lower to the ground. The fourth and largest wagon used by the Travelers is the galley. It’s essentially a house on wheels and has bedrooms, a kitchen, a commonroom, and storage. It’s pulled by teams of sestians and surrounded by outriders. The galleys are central to a family group, and are extremely well protected.
Roles of a Traveler
There are a few standard professions that need to be filled within each family unit. The most important is the wagonmaster and the elders. The wagonmaster is the head of his or her entire extended family, and travels the route with them, while the elders are a group of four men or women that are the most senior members of the family. The wagonmaster has complete authority over everything concerning the family, and relies on the elders for guidance and support. The wagonmaster’s wagon is the first in line in the caravan, but the elders can be located at any point along the line.
When a wagonmaster takes over leadership, he is required to immediately name a successor who is of age from within the family, be it male or female. The successor is not only the heir, but also has certain responsibilities within the caravan. It is his or her duty to make the rounds each night among the wagons and settle small disputes, reporting the status of the caravan to the wagonmaster afterwards. It’s also the successor’s duty to ensure everyone gets moving in the morning when the caravan heads out. The successor’s wagon is the last wagon in line in the caravan.
The next most important role in the caravan is the outriders. These are the Traveler’s version of a police force. Each caravan employs its own protective force, outfitting them with the best horses and weapons, and sometimes even sending them far away for training in various fighting arts. It’s an outrider’s job to protect the caravan, bring dishonored family members back for justice, carry out any sentencing the wagonmaster decrees, and act as scouts for the caravan. They’re also required to lend assistance to family members if there is a domestic dispute, if a wagon is stuck or damaged, if a customer is becoming quarrelsome, or if there is any other problem they can help with. The care of the family is an outrider’s source of honor, and they would all die beneath a family member’s wagon if need be. In large families the outriders are organized into segments, and a marshal commands them.
There are a few specialized members of the caravan, no matter what the size of the family. There is a healer for the sick and injured, and to assist with childbirth. There is a shepherd that is the person responsible for the religious health of the caravan, including making sacrifices to the Six Gods, acting as a spiritual guide for the people, assisting the wagonmaster during festivals, and reading the oracles. There is a headmaster that oversees the business aspect of the caravan, settling price disputes and product quality issues, dealing with landed officials, and acting as a witness during trials of honor. There is a cook whose responsibility is to ensure that anyone without a kitchen in their wagon has a hot meal, and who is also responsible for organizing food for festivals. There is a loremaster responsible for keeping the caravan history and teaching the children of the caravan, as well as providing bardic entertainment in the evenings and at festivals. In large caravans each of these roles may consist of a single person with a crew below them to assist in their duties, and in very small caravans multiple roles may be carried out by a single person.
Each caravan has a wagonmaster that serves as the leader of the caravan as well as the head of the family. A caravan’s family consists of the blood relations of the wagonmaster, including brothers and sisters, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc., as well as people the wagonmaster has adopted. These adopted family members can include people who have done a great service for the caravan, orphaned children from another caravan or even from another race, an old friend of the caravan family, or even just someone the wagonmaster takes a particular liking to.
The family of a caravan has certain responsibilities and privileges. They are expected to protect the interests of the caravan and physically protect the caravan itself. They are also expected to give aid to other family members in their caravan. In return they are provided for, protected, and if they should need to leave the caravan they have a home in Jaibacon in the houses that belong to the family. It is often said by Travelers that the dust of the road is thicker than blood.
Honor is the second most important thing to Travelers next to family. They have pride in their work and in every sale they make. Because of the tightly linked society of the caravans, they can afford to take many losses during business to keep their honor intact, and it earns the respect of the rest of the Travelers to be willing to do so. The word of a Traveler is priceless. Taking that into consideration, those who break this caravan law are dealt with harshly, often hunted down by the outriders to be brought to justice. Typically, if a Traveler is found to have sullied his honor, he is most often stripped of his possessions and declared an outcast. He is marked on his forehead so that others may know he is untrustworthy and so that they will not take him into their family. The more serious cases involve death.
Travelers all take oaths before they are allowed to trade any goods on their own. Usually the oath takes place when the person comes of age and has decided on a particular path in life. They swear to treat each customer fairly, to truthfully represent their goods, and to honor any guarantees they make on their goods. This oath is enforced by all the caravans, and it is a mark of dishonor on a family if another caravan has to make amends to a customer for a sale gone bad. The dishonored family is considered indebted to the helpful caravan until released by its wagonmaster and their honor is restored. Because of this system of honor and oaths, when people trade with a Traveler they can be assured they are getting exactly what the merchant tells them they are getting.
Life As A Traveler
Children of the Travelers are born on the road. The birth of a child is marked by a small birthday festival that night, with gifts being given to the new baby to aid him or her through life. Typically it’s tools, trinkets, crafted items, clothing, or weapons, and the parents make or purchase a small birthday chest in which to store these items until the child is old enough to use them.
As a child, the Traveler is instructed in the ways of their people by the loremaster. They are taught to ride little ponies from the time they can walk and graduate to horses as skill permits. When they’re young they’re kept close to the wagons but as they grow they roam up and down the length of the caravan, and if anything threatens the caravan itself they immediately are taken into the closest wagon for protection. They’re often used to communicate from wagon to wagon as the caravan is traveling.
When a child reaches the age of 12 they have a ceremony marking the beginning of their transition from childhood to adulthood. They are given a horse by their parents to serve them through the busy years ahead, and they receive gifts from the caravan like they did as a baby, only this time the gifts are more useful to the age they have reached. In addition, they are expected to discard the possessions of their childhood, giving them to the other children of the caravan. At this point they are no longer considered children, but aren’t yet given the full rights of adulthood. They are expected to help with work around the caravan, assist crafters in order to gain an idea of what area of work they are most suited for, and generally act as extra hands wherever they are needed.
When the youth reaches the age of 16 they have completed their transitioning and a ceremony is held for their coming of age. During this ceremony they take the Oath of the Traveler and declare their particular trade. The only gift they receive at this ceremony comes from the wagonmaster. The wagonmaster gives them a gift appropriate to their new trade, usually tools, and with it is considered to be gifted the honor of a Traveler. The youth is now considered an adult with all the privileges of a member of the family, and the right to buy and sell goods.
In typical adult life there are a three major occasions for celebration. The first is a marriage, during which the couple is given household gifts and the entire day is spent in festival and not traveling, in order to respect the solidarity of marriage. The second is the birth of a child, as explain previously. The third is the festival held when a person is adopted into the caravan family. During this festival the new family member is given small tokens of belonging, and an evening festival is held in their honor.
The people of the caravan stay on the road as long as possible, but at some point they become too old to travel, or to disabled, and must take up residence in Jaibacon. They continue to provide goods to their family to sell as long as they are physically able, and the family ensures that they are well taken care of.
Upon a Traveler’s death, a small wooden wagon is constructed, filled with the body of the Traveler and any personal items that the family wishes to send along to the afterlife with them, and burned in a quiet ceremony at sunset. The items sent with the deceased are typically not valuable, but are items the person used often during life. It’s believed by the Travelers that when a person takes the road to the afterlife, to bring amassed wealth with them is an insult to the family on the other side. As it is the family’s responsibility to care for each other in this life, so it is the family’s responsibility to care for each other in the afterlife. A Traveler passes down the last road with only their traveling clothes and a few small trinkets sent along to help them remember those left behind.
Law and justice for the Travelers is handled by the heads of the caravans when the matter is internal. If an issue spans across more than one family, typically the wagonmasters of the parties involved will settle the dispute together. If an issue becomes too out of hand for the families involved, the parties are brought to the city of Jaibacon, where a trial is held. This trial is presided over by a group of six retired wagonmasters or elders, chosen from among those residing in the city. No person from the families involved is allowed to be a judge during that particular trial, so that the outcome is considered fair. This group is called the Convocation of Six.
Punishments in Traveler society can include many levels. For minor crimes the punishment is usually caravan service, having the person do the most undesirable jobs on the caravan. For more serious crimes punishment can include anything from being stripped of possessions and the right to practice trade, death, or being marked and exiled from the caravans.
There are many more little details of life on the road that make the Travelers a unique race. They’re hard-working, free-spirited, honorable, and loyal. Their life is a hard one, and they live it with gusto, depending on each other for health and protection. Because of their wide range of dealings they look at other races in terms of what kind of trade partners they make, and are open to new people and customs. They work with diversity and diplomacy. At the same time they believe that landed races are missing out on the true zest of life, and can never understand the lure of the road. They do have a greater respect for people like traveling bards, wandering priests, adventurers, or tinkers, believing these people to be reaching out to the spirit of the road.