Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Rumor #3: Shaved Heads for Citizens, Long Hair for Slaves

Art by fantasio

<Nuaros shakes his head, sweat and water flying from the ends of his black hair as the small boat he's on plies the waters of Lake Thaylambar.  He and his crewmates are swapping stories as they work, because they're not just flinging and drawing in nets at boring intervals this time.  Instead, they have to continually search the haul for a particular type of fish that supposedly comes up through the portals to other planes at the bottom of the water.  

Any other fish are supposed to be tossed back over the side on the captain's orders, but Nuaros has already pocketed a few tasty beauties.  Later, he and the others will collect their pay, leave the captain behind, and begin to bargain for the morsel they want for dinner.  He's keeping a notable prize for Vosala, the most alluring of the women in the boat, in the hopes that he can trade it for a drink and some time with her.  She's always toyed with him in the past, but this is the sort of fish they serve in that fancy restaurant with the hanging garden.  She won't be able to just make a joke and walk away this time.

It's Vosala who's just brought up the next point of conversation.  She visited Bezantur last tenday, the only city in Thay where foreigners are welcome, and noticed the tourists trying not to stare at her hair, which is only shaved along the sides and back.  The rest of its length is pulled back into a pony tail with ties at intervals to keep the strands from getting free over the course of the day.  The tail falls half way down her back and might not be a point of confusion or note in other lands - but this is Thay.>

They really are stupid, aren't they?  Either that, or all the patrols and magic are working and keeping them out, since their rumors are a few hundred years out of date.   Probably both.

They're idiots for a few reasons with this issue.  First, they think all Red Wizards shave their heads and keep them that way so they can show off their tattoos.  It's part of our 'ethnic folkways' or something like that, but Red Wizards supposedly keep it going, and then commoners do it to be more like them.  It doesn't help that the Wizards who travel abroad do shave to mess with other people's heads and make an impression, even if they don't stay shaved at home.  

We know damned well that if a Red Wizard wants to shave their head, they will, and if they don't feel like it, they won't.  Nobody is forcing them to do anything except their superiors, and most of the higher-ups don't care if the novices burn their hair off.  There are plenty of reasons why some of them keep their hair longer at home.  Why show off their secret defenses if they don't have to?  And if they get to stay in cushy positions, there's no risk.  Some of them shave everything off in the old way, but most of them get over it after a few years.  Maybe they'll do it if they have a dangerous assignment or they know they're going to be in an alchemy lab for a few months.  But with magic to take it off and grow it back, it's not a big deal.

Yes, shaving all the hair on your head is an ancient custom, blah, blah, blah.  But it was never for the common people; it was for the upper crust Mulan in Mulhorand, and that's it.  If you go there now, you'll see it.  Some of the nobles decorate their heads depending on which god they serve and which titles they have in their temple, because that way they can announce themselves just by walking into a room.  Others wear those fancy wigs with different decorations that let you know who they serve.  

Their commoners only shave to keep their hair out of their way, and their women rarely have the courage to do it because their beauty is in their hair or some such nonsense.  Here in Thay, any citizen can shave without shame, or do it in sections, like our Vosala.  We have some wicked styles, too.  Our women know their worth isn't in their hair, and a few of them are more striking without it.  It's a bigger deal in other lands because the people need all the help they can get to keep from looking ugly.

You've heard the rumor that our slaves can never cut their hair, just so we can tell who's a slave at a glance?  That's Mulhorandi bullshit again.  That's in their laws.  They don't mind if their slaves are tripping all over themselves; everything is slower in Mulhorand, anyway.  It's practically the land that time forgot.  Hasn't changed much in thousands of years and they wonder why their empire is falling apart?  But never mind that.

Can you imagine if we did such a thing?  We'd get some good laughs, sure, but the slaves would die even faster than they do now, catching on all kinds of things.  We mark our slaves, but we have a few different ways of doing it and it's not like they get to walk around looking like us.  Their clothes and decorations are always different from ours, even when they're prettied up like the courtesans my lady Azonia trains for sale.  It's not that hard to make sure they stand out.  The humanoid patrols can tell the slaves from the citizens, and they aren't the brightest embers in Kossuth's brazier, if you know what I mean.  The penalties for slaves being found with contraband are horrible enough to take care of most problems.  The penalties for helping slaves disguise themselves take care of the rest.  

But the rumors just show how gullible foreigners are.  We fought a hell of a war to do it our way in Thay, so why would we keep blindly doing the same old thing?  The nobles started changing it up right after we took our independence, and the Red Wizards did the same a few decades after they established their hold.  Fashions come and go, and sometimes shaved looks are in, but we're not slaves to tradition or fashion.  We are not slaves at all.  We are free in ways other lands can only dream.  We are Thayan.

<The atmosphere in the ship has become electric, and with a shared glance to confirm the need, the lot of them raise their fists and shout in unison, "Hail Thay!"  Some follow it up with a hail to their deity, but some do not, and nobody cares who does or doesn't.  And that is also very natural for most Thayan folk.

Nuaros notes a heartening gleam in Vosala's eye as she regards him.  The evening could be worth the hard work of the day after all...>

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