It’s Valentine’s Day here in the real world, so I’m bringing this weekend’s blog post a little earlier in celebration to explore love and romance in Sandair.
When a Sandarian falls in love, it’s all sparks and fire!
Sandarians are a passionate people, and therefore their love lives tend to be steamy. There is a slight cultural divide between the noble families of the Houses and the common man; both engage in customs and marriage rituals, but city folk are more outgoing and relaxed in their relationships compared to the Houses. Arranged marriages are common between the Houses, whereas city folk have more freedom to marry who they please. Casual relationships are common to both, but the Houses try to keep that behind closed doors.
Hotheaded Sandarians can become jealous and possessive of their loved ones, but if they form a marriage bond, they effectively mate for life. Infidelity or divorce is practically unheard of.
Sandarians court each other like most people do; by meeting up at public places, flirting, exchanging gifts, and so on. Sandarian men love to boast and show off, and Sandarian women certainly don’t mind being pampered with jewellery, cakes, or flowers. For city folk, the local markets and taverns are for business only, thus the best place to find a new lover is at the city baths in the Temple of Lune. At night, the city baths are for pleasure rather than hygiene. Men and women gather inside the mixed sex pools, mostly naked, and use it as an excuse to relax, unwind, and flirt. When you’re lazing naked in a pool, you’re showing your best self – literally. Though the Water Bearer’s have strict rules on what couples actually do inside their baths. There’s public rooms for more private activities!
Most nobles consider frolicking inside the city baths beneath them. For nobles, the best place to mingle is during the evening meal either at their House’s mansion, or within the dining hall in Bloodstone Keep. Housemen tend to congregate during major festivals, such as the end of year tournament, where marriages can be arranged between Houses. Many nobles rarely meet their intended bride or groom before their wedding day.
For a couple living in the city, engagement can be as simple as agreeing to get married and then making the necessary arrangements. For some, marriage is decided on after an accidental pregnancy. There’s no tax benefit for married Sandarians, but it is a cultural taboo to make a child outside of marriage. Couples who find themselves suddenly expecting will quickly get married to ensure the child is provided for and to avoid social stigma, though there are some methods for preventing pregnancy, including a Neu Bosan potion called Lotus Bud which acts as a contraceptive and is available on the Bosan black markets.
For nobles, engagement is a grand affair worthy of celebration. The engagement is announced across their House and city and usually includes an exchange of gifts between the two marrying Houses, as well as feasting. Gifts include jewels or other material trade goods. Sometimes it involves sorran arrangements where a younger male member of a House will mentor under another in order to gain advanced training or experience as an apprentice.
It was once tradition for a Sandarian man to propose by forging and crafting a dagger made from the metals of the desert, and then present this dagger to their intended fiancee. This is an old Dusland tribe tradition. By forging the dagger, the male proves he is resourceful and skilled enough to provide for his family, and by accepting the dagger, the female would then be obligated to use the dagger to ward off any other potential males. Some of the Duslanders still follow this tradition, but it has largely fallen out of practice among the Solanders and Gaislanders.
Both common and noble families arrange their marriage via their local Temple of Rahn. It’s the Fire Walker priests who officiate the marriage ceremony and create the marriage bond. For common folk, this ceremony can be performed at their local temple, but noble Houses prefer to have the ceremony in their own home. This is partly because the partner who is joining the House via marriage must make an additional bond to join their family, which is something city folk don’t have.
Marriages traditionally take place during Gai’s Seed, the spring season, which is the season of love, birth, and renewal. Many believe that marrying outside of Gai’s Seed is bad luck, as the goddess Gai blesses each marriage and ensures healthy fertility for starting a new family. Hosting marriage celebrations during Gai’s Seed means avoiding the heat of the summer season, and the misery of the rainy season.
When two Sandarians marry, they make a blood bond.
A marriage bond is a permanent connection which can never be broken, not even in death. It binds two souls together through a blood ritual, and like a House bond, it is a deep and intimate connection which two bonded souls can feel every physical touch and emotion of the other. Because of the nature of this bond, bonded couples rarely travel far from each other as the bonds tends to pull them back together, and though bonded couples still have disagreements and argue, their ability to feel each other’s emotions means they reach a deeper understanding of one another.
Divorce is thus impossible for a bonded couple and so marriage bonds shouldn’t be taken lightly! This is why a Fire Walker Priest must be on hand to administer the bond to ensure it takes, and that nothing goes wrong. Occasionally a marriage bond doesn’t take; this is because the blood lines are too close together and so the bond rejects it.
The bond doesn’t differentiate between sex however, and so same-sex marriages are possible. Homosexuality isn’t a sin in Sandair, but the Houses try to dissuade such coupling because they’d prefer to grow their House through children. Among the city folk, same-sex couples and marriages are perfectly normal and no one cares either way.
Life After Love
Whilst divorce doesn’t happen to bonded couples, people still die. Bonded couples who lose a partner will experience their partner’s death and suffer a soul wound that tears their soul in two. The soul wound is emotionally devastating and many widows don’t recover from it. Women who lose their bonded partner can receive housing and support from the local Temple of Lune, which doubles up as a women’s shelter. This support is generally given to women and not men as women lose their husbands to battle or war. There is a misconception that men who suffer the soul wound eventually get over it, but suicide rates among soul-wounded men are high.
Remarriage isn’t common in Sandair, as it’s considered distasteful and bad luck to remarry, and many soul-wounded wouldn’t want to disrespect their late partner. Some widows can move on from the soul wound with therapy and go onto remarry, but a new marriage bond cannot be made.
Love Beyond Sandair
Beyond Sandair, the nations of Hartnor and Neu Bosa have their own marriage customs.
Hartnor custom is traditional. They don’t have the same marriage bonds as Sandarians, and their marriages tend to be grand and expensive affairs in their equivalent of a church. Hartnords gift their children with a “life” candle that they keep lit their entire life until marriage, which they merge into unity candle during their wedding ceremony. Despite their religion being quite strict about marriage, adultery is rife among Hartnord nobility.
Neu Bosa are more laid back when it comes to romance and marriage, which has unfairly earned them a reputation for promiscuity. To them, a marriage is a contract, and the number of children a family has is a sign of their wealth and status. Neu Bosan nobles have large families!
During the Sand Dancer series, we’ll meet a wide variety of characters in various relationships who fit some of these customs!