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Kleistans get a really bad rap as mercenaries and thugs -- and, okay, it’s mostly deserved -- but they’re actually a really complex culture. The Kleistos is an archipelago of six islands in the Amarna, five of which are inhabited; the last island is used for some religious ceremonies. They don’t have a central government, but instead a loose system of clans/family groups numbering anywhere from twenty to one hundred people. Kleistans don’t have marriage at all, and they’re matrilineal, though not necessarily matriarchal. A brother and sister head a household, instead of a husband and wife; the man heading up fishing and piracy expeditions and the woman ruling the long house. Her children will inherit, as you can never be sure of paternity.

Women almost always stay in their clan of birth, but men will move to another longhouse for weeks, months or years – mostly because they form some attachment with a woman of that clan. Men and childless women will spend weeks or months at sea or working in Edessa or other coastal cities. Once a woman has children, she usually chooses to remain at home, though some women leave their children with a sister or cousin and continue sailing.

The birth rates are very high, but so are infant and child mortality rates. Undernourishment and disease kill one infant in five and drowning deaths are also common; children start working on the boats as young as six. These ‘sea-claimed’ deaths are viewed rather stoically by Kleistans, who don’t expect to reach old age. They expect life to be short and brutal, because it so often is: ships sink, childbirth is hard, and the Edessan navy is always looking to wipe them out. The aged are revered because you have to be smart, tough, and lucky to get there.

Still, the Kleistans are a fairly cheerful bunch if somewhat sardonic bunch. Ironically, not expecting happiness makes it easier to be happy. They value freedom more than comfort and are fiercely independent.
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