Abaka sits just across The River and southwest of the realm capital, Alebad. Large silt deposits and a warm climate combine to make Abaka a fruited paradise. In the southern parts of the region, where the weather tends to be more tropical, citrus fruits abound from numerous groves. Scuppernong grape vineyards line the northern sections, among other familiar varieties. A small trade route has developed between Vir el Mari heights and Abaka to transport pine resin downstream for one of the more popular wine selections. Added during fermentation, the resin gives this Abakan wine its unique, sweet flavor. An excellent complement to fish or salty meals, much of the wine is shipped northward along the Portion-Alebad-Alowca trade route.1
Despite their close proximity to the great city of Alebad, plenty of quiet peasant communities have grown up rather isolated from society on the coastal swamps that line the river delta. These close-knit people, with a fierce independent streak, have fueled and furthered Abaka's reputation as a somewhat dangerous region. All manner of odd legends and rumors have been attributed to the "backwoods Abakan savages" by the more genteel Alebadian city-dwellers.
Abaka is also the location of the founding temple of Kamido, the Temple of Sylph. Prayers, meditation, and other righteous pursuits take place daily, and visitors are openly welcomed.
The Abakan people are renowned for being industrious, self-sufficient and notoriously suspicious of outsiders. The region's habit of frequently changing hands in the past has imbued its inhabitants with an unassailable independance and hardiness which, while admirable, has been the frustration of many an Alebadian bureaucrat. Fortunately, despite several revolts and periods of unrest, the Abakan people seem to have settled under the Flag of the Golden Chalice and are enjoying the prosperity of the established trade route.
A very traditional people, Abakans follow the old precepts of "Promising" in which a young boy and girl - usually in their tenth year - are promised to each other for marriage when they are older. Due to this, Abakans tend to marry young. Through apprenticing boys to a farmer, smith or other tradesmen and girls to a herbsmaiden, loomworker or windcrafter, a village ensures that its young couples enter marriage with all the skills required for the upkeep of a successful, happy home. Marriages are typically grand occasions during which much feasting, dancing and storytelling takes place, with all invited from the youngest babe to the oldest grandmother. The Kamido religion plays an essential part of the celebrations; the wedding vows taking place inside the Temple of Sylph after a joyful procession across the Abakan countryside, led by the husband and wife to be. Depending on the distance of the village from the Temple, these processions, known as the "Walk of Blessing" may take up to a day and a half to complete. Unsurprisingly, though wonderful events, wedding celebrations are exhausting for all concerned.
Villages in Abaka normally follow a traditional hierarchy, with a settlement directed and cared for by a "Council of Elders" - usually five, inkeeping with the Kamido beliefs of five being the most harmonious number - and an advising Wise Woman (or in rare cases, Wise Man.) Very rarely, a village will elect a single chief, though this practice has all but died out. Great respect and honour is afforded to these leaders and each settlement has a very unique sense of pride.
Despite their suspicion of outsiders and fierce image, Abakans remain compassionate and curious and will provide hospitality to the hungry wayfarer, as long as the traveler in question is prepared to entertain the villagers with stories of their adventures around the "Heartfire." This is a continuously burning blaze in the centre of a village, fueled by several dedicated Fire Wardens. It is only ever extinguished in periods of mourning, out of respect for the dead. The Heartfire continues to be the hub of entertainment and village politics as it has done for centuries.
In Abaka's village life, a man is most likely to take up farming, carpentry or metalworking. Solid, steady occupations, they allow a hard-working man with a family to provide for to make a good living. Farmers may trade in vegetables, fruits or meats or a selection of all three. Peasants living in the sometimes bleak but bountiful coastal areas of the region often run fish farms, dealing in various types of saltwater fish, squid, oysters and mussels. Much of this produce goes beyond the Abakan borders and is frequently enjoyed by nobles in Alebad city, Alowca and even further abroad. Abaka is particularly known for its delicious Cocoa fruit - an expensive but well-loved delicacy in any noble household, charred Im'sis fish, large, aptly-named Sunset tomatoes and Abakan potatoes. The highly toxic and elusive Milk Octopus is also an occasional export, though demand for this has dropped rapidly in the wake of several deaths of nobles whose cooks were inadequately trained to prepare it properly.
A lesser followed profession is that of the hunter. Abaka boasts a wide array of wildlife, randing from Fennel Deer and rabbits to the lightning-fast and graceful Crimson Leopard and fearsome brown bear. Though a tidy profit can be made by the patient tracker from the meat and skins of these animals, the occupation remains less popular due to adverse living conditions, the threat of bandits, the dangerous nature of many of the beasts in question and the availability of easier work elsewhere. More than one stone stands in the wilderness in respect of careless hunters slain by their prey.
For an Abakan woman, choices in trade are more diverse. Particularly lauded occupations include storyteller, loomworker, herbmaiden and Wise Woman. Storytellers are adored, kindly women of varying age who entertain all around the Heartfire with tales of magnificent bravery and honour, desperate battles and the loves and mysteries of Kings and Queens. They normally wear colourful, flower-draped garb and are also sometimes called "Joymongers" and "Wondermillers." The loomworker follows a less grandiose but no less essential line of work, stitching together everyday and feast clothes for her fellow villagers and for export to the city of Alebad. Many jerkins, doublets and leggings sold on the streets of the capital are Abakan workmanship, the strong and visually-pleasing nature of which is a talking point among even the wealthiest of men and women and fetches an excellent price.
Herbmaidens follow an entirely different style of work. Often eccentric and reclusive, these women spend months at a time wandering the Abakan countryside, searching out rare flora from which to concoct a variety of potent mixtures. Carrying with them all the necessary equipment to prepare the ingredients, these women - colloquially known as "potionstirrers" - are responsible for the bulk of mixtures sold in the markets of the city. The merchandise varies from potions to ward off a whole host of diseases to foul-tasting remedies for weariness and always fetches an excellent price with conscientious nobles. Rarer blends, such as love potions, remain consistantly in demand right across the city. Though alchemists across the city continue to test and study these elusive potions, it is still uncertain as to their effectiveness. Despite this doubt, gossip remains rife in the noble Houses and the mixtures disappear from stalls long before midday, providing steady earnings for the herbmaidens of Abaka.
For the Wise Woman, her labours focus less on private income and more on village direction and prosperity. She is usually apprenticed as a youngster to the acting Wise Woman, from whom she learns many of the previously mentioned skills and knowledge in addition to village diplomacy and history, leadership and the rituals of Kamido that govern that specific settlement. While a Wise Woman rarely produces items for trade, it is a great honour to hold the position and it is through her counsel and careful guidence that her village is able to thrive. Due to her ability to preside over the ceremonies of Kamido for births, deaths, marriages and other elements of village existance, she is able to maintain the peace and calm of her people.
In addition to these pursuits, a select few tradesmen run sprawling vineyards throughout the north of the region, making their produce from the widely-celebrated Scuppernong grapes that rarely grow so successfully anywhere else and the pine resin that is transported downriver that gives the wine its pronounced, sweet flavour. The wine produced in Abaka is among the most coveted of alcohol in all of the realm, the older bottles selling for up to seven gold coins a bottle.