Haense Ambient Project:
SEASONS OF HAENSE
The Kongzem of Haense has always proven itself a harsh land.
This is true both in its history of struggle, war, and endurance, but also in its physical landscape. From the craggy coasts of ancient Siegrad, assailed by seaward winds, where the land of Haense was first born, to the crimson walls of the Royal Capital of today - Karosgrad - which defiantly face the Rimeveld from the north, from which freezing gales and blizzards blow, the Haeseni people have always built their hearth in inhospitable lands. The affinity for settling harsh lands is intertwined with the identity of the Haeseni people as a whole, who, for their entire existence, have weathered crushing defeats such as that in the Great Northern War and have endured overlords for whom they have no love. It is this constant struggle, and this consequent endurance of the Haeseni people, that has defined that very people -- for without these defeats, this Kongzem would have never basked in victories akin to the Greyspine Rebellion, and the mantra of persistence in Haeseni history.
It should thus come as little surprise that this iron-willed people choose more difficult lands to settle as a constant test and tempering of the Haeseni spirit, and so that slothful living in warmer, southern climates does not lead to lethargy and weakness. For, as the Reinmaren say, he who rests will rust.
In recognition of the importance of our harsh homeland, this scroll records the characteristics and customs of the Haeseni seasons on Almaris.
THE HAESENI SPRING
The spring months of Haense consist of Jula & Piov (Common: Malin's Welcome) to Vzmey & Hyff (Common: The First Seed).
Unlike the regions of Almaris to the south, the spring in Haense is a time where the winter cold slowly fades with great reluctance, and the hibernation of nature slowly winds to an end. Symbolically, the time of Haeseni spring is a time of rest, contemplating, and waiting -- the hardships of winter have been left behind, and the battle of survival won for another year. The reward for victory is only the calming of the snows, and a few brief weeks of peace before warming temperatures necessitate the need to begin toiling for the new farming season.
The Month of Rest
Jula & Piov
The heavy winter snowstorms no longer blow down south from the Rimeveld as Almaris gradually begins to warm, and although the thick snows cloaking the capital regions of Haense begin to melt after the first two weeks of Jula and Piov, it takes the entire month before it completely melts. Lighter snowfalls typically continue throughout the season, though nothing compared to the blizzards of winter. In the latter half of the month, it is common for Haeseni to have to take advantage of the calming weather to call upon the service of thatchers and slaters to replace roofs damaged by snow and hail. In the final days of the month, rain begins to replace the snow.
Though planting season does not begin until the cold abates much later in the season, farmers typically begin to allow their hardier animals to graze. Goats, sheeps, rams, and furry oxen become a common sight on the grazing plains between Astfield and Valwyck, while livestock such as pigs and horses are kept in barns until the weather warms towards the end of the month before letting them graze. Consequently, the warmer, final days of Jula & Piov serve as mating season for many Haeseni livestock, stretching into the middle of Vzmey & Hyff.
It is only towards the end of the month that winter hibernation begins to end. Juniper, ash, cedar, willow, and maple trees begin to cloak their once-bare branches in buds, though they do not bloom until much later into spring owing to the lingering cold. Wildflowers and berries do not begin to bloom until the final days of the month, during which time wild animals such as bears begin to crawl out of their dens after the long winter hibernation. Serfs often mark the end of hibernation as when ‘bearflowers’ bloom -- hardy, yellow dandelions that are among the first flowers to regrow.
Haeseni folk consider Jula & Piov a month of peace and rest. No longer must they contend with the wrath of the Haeseni winter, and not yet are they required to begin the arduous planting season for their farms. Consequently, serfs take the month to tend to damage to their farmsteads and homes caused by the winter storms, and let their animals graze again. Among the peasantry, it is considered a time for family and rest.
The Month of Rust
Vzmey & Hyff
The second half of winter marks a departure from the calm and quiet of Jula & Piov. The beginning of Vzmey & Hyff is usually marked with the arrival of the infamous freezing rainfall of the Haeseni spring. In the place of the soft snows of Jula & Piov, Haeseni must contend with frequent downpours of chilling rain that frustrate work and drive most folk indoors whenever possible. The frequent rains often leave those forced to work outdoors with illness, known as ‘Shephard’s Cough’.
Despite the disdain held for the rain, it vanquishes the last of the lingering winter snow and nourishes growth as wildlife returns to the Kongzem. Wildflowers bloom in meadows, the trees grow out their leaves to paint the forests a patchwork of green, yellow, and red, and bears begin to roam the forests while wolf packs, paradoxically, migrate further north and away from farmsteads as game becomes more common.
It is unfortunate that such a wet month is also one of the most important for the Haeseni serf. Planting season begins in Vzmey & Hyff as the rain quenches the fields and the temperature climbs just high enough for hardy spring seeds to begin to grow. The first of the Vzmey & Hyff rainfall is the traditional day upon which farmers plough their fields and plant seeds for the first harvest. This only includes the hardiest of crops for the lingering cold, which include potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, cabbage, and kale. Contrarily, animals actually graze less in Vzmey & Hyff to protect them from the rain.
Whereas Jula & Piov is a month of rest, Vzmey & Hyff is a month of work where the common Haeseni serf begins planting season, flowers and trees bloom, bears rule the forests and wolves rule the north, and the rain makes everyone miserable. Popular Reinmaren tradition names it as the Month of Rust, for those who let the rest of Jula & Piov overstay its welcome.
THE HAESENI SUMMER
The summer months of Haense consist of Gronna & Droba (Common: The Grand Harvest) and Tov & Yermey (Common: The Sun’s Smile).
Given the far northern climate, summer in the Kongzem of Haense is comparable, in temperature and weather, to early spring in most southern regions of Almaris. Still, it is undeniably pleasant when compared to the region’s other seasons: heavy snows no longer clog the paved city streets, and icy rains no longer churn the country roads to mud. Poets and bards sing of summer as a season of contentment and, interestingly, of war -- poems of ancient Ruskan origin often portray summer as a season in which the Boyars would choose to do battle to settle their disputes, as the poor weather for the rest of the year made it too difficult to muster troops. This gave rise to the saying “don’t put it off past summer”.
The Month of Life
Gronna & Droba
Blessedly, the freezing rains of Vzmey & Hyff die down as Gronna & Droba begins, marking the start of the Haeseni summer in the Sigismundic Calendar. Visitors hoping that summer would bring warmth akin to the more southern regions of Almaris will be left severely disappointed by the Rimeveld chill that lingers in the air throughout the season as an eternal reminder of the Kongzem’s natural inhospitality. Even on the warmest days of the Haeseni summer, the faintest of winds carries with it a faint reminder of that fact.
Gronna & Droba marks a busy month of work for farmers, who spent the lengthened days weeding fields, tending crops, and fattening animals on fresh grass. While even turnips - the fastest-growing of the traditional Haeseni crop - are not ready for harvest in Gronna & Droba, the month is still marked by feasting when the first of the fattened animals - the oldest, usually - are butchered and cooked. Farmers also busy themselves in Gronna & Droba by planting crops that would have been unable to withstand the cold in spring -- namely, beans, gourds, pumpkins, and, of course, wheat.
The nominal increase in temperature in Gronna & Droba prompts rapid growth of wildlife warmer climates would have long since expected in spring. Wildflower meadows bloom across the Kongzem, stretching from the hills east of Karosgrad, beyond the Krusev Forest, and all the way into the Attenlund Frontier. The end of the first fortnight of Gronna & Droba is the beginning of the proper hunting season, where men and women take to the woods with bows, spears, and slings to hunt the replenished game since last summer. The occasion is usually marked by a hunting race between the serfs and the local lord, harkening back to an old Ruskan tradition whereby a poacher would be pardoned if he proved himself a skilled huntsman.
Gronna & Droba is a time of contentment for the Haeseni people. The hardships of winter lie yet months away, while the warmer temperatures and fairer weather offer long and pleasant days. The length of the summer days are often used to their fullest extent as the farming season grows demanding, with the first crop of turnips expected mere weeks away in Tov & Yermey, and time not spent working is well-utilised for leisure, whether it be hunting in the thawed woodlands of Krusev or fishing in the melted waters of the Staal Eada. Bards term Gronna & Droba as the month of life, in which the grey rains fade in favour of lush colour in the Kongzem’s landscape.
The Month of Blood
Tov & Yermey
The Sigismundic Calendar marks the Summer Equinox - which the Scyflings call ‘Moonfire’ - as the day on which Tov & Yermey begins, where the days are longest and warmest, though a southerner might disagree on the temperature being termed ‘warm’ at all. Though the eternal Rimeveld chill persists on the wind, Tov & Yermey is the month of fairest weather, where the winds are calmest and rainfall infrequent.
It is because of the fair weather that old folklore describes this month as the month of blood. Ancient Raevir fables speak of midsummer as the time when the Boyars of Ruska would agree to face each other in battle. While their disputes and feuds would drag on throughout the entire year, it was widely agreed to be too difficult to wage war in spring, autumn, and winter, where poor weather or the need to tend to farms required most men to stay at home. Therefore, it was tradition that when the weather cleared in Tov & Yermey, they would do battle, even if their dispute had occurred many months ago.
So popular was this method of battle among the Ruskan Boyars that the serfs came to believe this traditional bloodshed led to a good harvest, and a year of no battles was a bad omen, so much so that serfs would sometimes perform animal sacrifices on their farms if there was little war done that year. In modern times, villages of serfs sometimes honour this tradition by performing mock battles on the Equinox.
The first of the crop yields occur around two weeks into Tov & Yermey, starting with turnips, and shortly followed by the first yields of the other spring crops.
THE HAESENI AUTUMN
The autumnal month of Haense is Msitza & Dargund (Common: The Amber Cold), making it the shortest of all seasons in the Sigismundic Calendar.
Autumn is shorter than the other seasons owing to the speed with which temperatures plummet in the weeks after Tov & Yermey, leaving the Kongzem with only a brief period between the end of summer and before the winter snows that herald the arrival of winter. Autumn is considered a season of feasting, merriment, but also preparation for the looming winter, and thus bards often depict the season as akin to soldiers feasting on the eve of battle, both to strengthen their spirit and body.
The Month of Memory
Msitza & Dargund
The days slowly begin to shorten and the temperature begins to fall as the short Haeseni autumn begins, but most serfs are kept too busy by the demands of the impending harvest to take much notice of the changing seasons. Dawn to dusk is filled with farm chores, from tending the fields, to shearing sheep, to fattening pigs, and everything in between. The clear weather of Tov & Yermey persists for a good deal of the autumn, broken occasionally by bouts of rain, hail, and snow, though the air and wind quickly carry a heavier, biting cold.
Leisure activities enjoyed throughout the summer come to an abrupt end as farm work increases, which instead birthed a culture of heavy night-drinking among farmers who labour to meet the burdens of the season. The ‘Last Hunt’, occurring in the first week of autumn, does, however, serve as a popular serf holiday where hunters compete for the honour of felling the last game of the year, which is said to be a great omen for the harvest to come.
The second week of Msitza & Dargund brings with it the biggest occasion of the Haeseni calendar for the common folk -- the Harvest. While harvests of spring crops such as turnips, radishes, and carrots occur at the end of summer, the main and bountiful harvest happens in autumn. Over the course of the middle two weeks of the month, farmers begin the harvest proper, where all the remaining crops are reaped. The cellars are filled, the slaughterhouses run red with blood, and distilleries are loaded with hops for the yearly brew of Haeseni ales, chief among them Carrion Black.
The season’s end is celebrated with ample feasting in every farm and village. The first feast, usually the most bountiful of them all, is held in honour of the dead, particularly those who have died since last autumn. Typically, each meal from the harvest until the start of winter is held in honour of a particular deceased loved one. Consequently, the month, and the autumn season in general, is often termed as the month of memory. In folklore, ghosts and specters, both benevolent or otherwise, are said to be most active during autumn.
THE HAESENI WINTER
The winter months of Haense consist of Joma & Umund (Common: The Deep Cold) and Wzuvar & Byvca (Common: The Snow’s Maiden).
The northern winter is, obviously, a brutal affair. The Kongzem’s proximity to the Rimeveld makes it the subject of bitter winter storms and blizzards, and plummeting temperatures cold enough to kill. The season is one of endurance and hardship, whose threat is usually determined by whether or not Msitza & Dargund yielded a bountiful harvest. On good years, winters can be weathered with furs and blazing fires, while on bad years - such as when famine struck during the Rimetroll War - lack of food can drive serfs to starvation, or even banditry. Bards and poets depict the season as one of ‘truth’, when hard decisions reveal the true nature of a man or woman. Though winter spans two months, the Sigismundic Calendar ends after the first; the second month of winter heralds the new year.
The Month of Piety
Joma & Umund
Rain vanishes in favour of frequent snowfall at the end of autumn, declaring the arrival of the Haeseni winter. Its first month - and the last month of the Haeseni year - is considered the harshest time of the year, in which the temperatures continue to sharply plummet after autumn. No Haeseni could venture outside and last more than a few hours without heavy furs to keep the deep cold at bay, and even then, thick clothes are insufficient after the few brief hours of sunlight. Indoors, fires are required to burn in every room for most hours of the day to ward off the winter chill, and thus there is a huge demand for firewood in winter. This demand is usually offset by accumulating spare firewood throughout late-summer and autumn, but on a clear winter day, serfs can always be found chopping wood in the forests.
Farms and pastures are glazed over in the thick frost and snows. No crop grows in winter, and the animals, both those intended for winter slaughter and those to be kept until alive for future years, are bundled into warms that require constant heating that takes heavy tolls on firewood supplies. Cold is not the only threat, both to men and livestock, but wolf packs that usually hunt further north are driven south by the bitter cold and diminishing game. With the forests glazed in white and lacking food, wolf attacks on farms are very common, so much so that most farms require armed men to stay awake in the barns to ensure no wolves break in. Despite this caution, every winter ends with tales of farmers killed by wolves.
Outside of the vassal lands and the Royal Capital of Karosgrad, most farms and villages are isolated by heavy snows that climb to half a man’s height, and permanently cling to the land from around the end of the first week of Joma & Umund and remain until spring comes. Therefore, communities tend to have none to rely on but each other. While the month is known as the month of community to some, more than one grim tale exists of villages turning on each other in harsh winters to plunder each other’s scarce food supplies in order to survive. Some particularly dark stories even speak of cannibalism in the most hellish winters.
As demonstrated recently in the Rimetroll War, where mass riots of starving peasants plagued the land, hard times breed hard men. On top of wolf attacks, a much more dangerous threat stands against Haeseni farms in the freezing white of winter -- bandits. With the heavy snowfall making it all but impossible for the Brotherhood of Saint Karl or a local lord’s armsmen from reaching outer farms and villages, brigands can plunder some villages with impunity. Peasant militias are thus required to watch out for both wolves and marauders alike, and villages ill-prepared to face these threats are often found charred and blood-soaked when the snows clear in spring. Sometimes, villages petition the Knight’s Table to have a Knight winter in their village for protection. Such hardship is what prompts many Haeseni to spend the month in deep prayer for the protection of their family from the cold, wolves, and bandits, and thus Joma & Umund is often described as the month of piety.
The Month of White
Wzuvar & Byvca
After the end of the blizzard storms of Joma & Umund, the new year arrives with the second month of winter -- Wzuvar & Byvca, and with it, the Winter Equinox. The new year is celebrated with modest feastings - for the winter hardship has yet to pass - but with great relief among the commonfolk, who eke a glimmer of hope from the lengthening days. While the bitter cold persists throughout Wzuvar & Byvca, the blizzards tend to be replaced by lighter - but near constant - snowfall. The high winds of the earlier month grow weaker, so that the snow lies like a thick blanket of pure white across the Kongzem with little disturbance. The month is thus commonly termed the month of white. On clearer days, a popular game among peasants consists of dressing up in white and hiding throughout the village or farm for seekers to find.
Little changes in the new year as to how livestock is kept in the barns and how villages and farmsteads must be vigilant of the threat posed by bandits and wolves alike. Even so, the shimmer of constant soft snowfall allows Haeseni to look upon Wzuvar & Byvca with far less disdain than they do Joma & Umund, with its howling blizzards and killing cold. Once the worst of the winter storms pass - typically shortly after the new year - it is common for serfs to erect crosses of white birchwood on the paths to their village as thanks to Godan for his mercy this year.
After the first fortnight of Wzuvar & Byvca, the longer days became apparent. The temperature remains bitterly cold and capable of killing, but the slicing winds lesson, and the snowfall remains light and undeniably beautiful, especially on clear nights when the moon shines bright. The threat of winter is considered passed, an occasion marked again by meagre celebrations, as spring slowly draws closer.