This section highlights a few of the human customs in the Ruined Forest region and is far from exhaustive.
Any traveler may expect hospitality for one night from a lord, according to his rank. For example, a son of another chieftain would be seated at the lord's table and share the lord's meal while a traveling free farmer might get a spot on the floor beyond the warmth of the hearth and some bread and cold meat. This custom applies at the dwelling of anyone above the rank of thrall but anyone other than lords may refuse the hospitality if the person's rank is more than one lower or they choose to plead limited resources. Falsely pleading the latter is a sacrilege and truly pleading it is a personal dishonor so it is rarely done.
Hospitality precludes any strife by host or guest and violation of this, which is taken very seriously, is a sacrilege, especially if it occurs beneath the roof of the host.
Kinship plays a prominent role in human society. Children must honor and obey their parents absolutely. They must honor and defer to kin who are of the same rank and older then themselves. Failure to do so is a sacrilege.
Fostering a child, male or female, is common among all ranks (except of course thralls). A foster parent is treated as a parent in all ways (see kinship). Fostering is a way of extending one's political network. It is not a form of hostage taking (as it is in some cultures) because the foster parent cannot harm a foster child in any way and must treat the foster child as he would his own offspring.
A child apprenticed to a craftsmen, wizard or priest is considered a foster child of that person and all customs of fostership apply.
Except for thralls, anyone of equal rank may challenge another person. A bard or channeler can halt a challenge on religious grounds either before it starts or at any point in the challenge although once a challenge starts, it is very unusual for a challenge to halt before it is clear who has won the challenge. They often prevent the taking of the life of the vanquished, however. Bards and channelers must be acting on sound custom to interfere in a challenge and cannot be doing so purely for a whim or political purpose.
A challenge must be formally declared and includes whether it is a to the death, first blood or some other criteria. A person cannot simply just draw a sword and kill his neighbor as Buliwyf did at the start of 13th Warrior. The person challenged may then accept or decline although if he declines, he may lose honor if he declines without a good reason. At that point a time and place is set to resolve the challenge by arms. It may be immediate or some days later. It is always outdoors and never in someone's hall or dwelling. Warriors are more likely to fight to the death than free-farmers or craftsmen but it is up to the combatants (and the intervention of the priests or bards).
There are no challenges between persons of different ranks; any such battle between ranks is handled as a simple assault. It is possible but frowned on for priests and bards to challenge each other.
First Portion and Feast Order
There is a whole etiquette to order of serving at a feast that requires the services of a skilled bard to sort through. But in highlight, folks are served in rank order. The choicest and first portion of a feast goes to either the greatest warrior at the feast or to the greatest priest. Whether the priest or warrior has precedence depends on the nature of the feast and again a bard must be consulted to sort through all the customs in this matter.
Channelers (also called Priests)
Channelers represent the divine and with their spirits honor in mind. They can expect extra courtesy and deference from all ranks.
Bards have similar status to priests but they are honored more for their knowledge and the fact that they are keeper of the laws than for religious reasons. The fact that they can also darken a persons reputation with scathing song also tends to earn them better treatment.
Cattle play a very important role in local society and theft of cattle, disrupting herds or pens, attacking a lords cattle herds, even if a thrall, is taken very seriously. Similarly, cattle feature prominently in many raids against other lords and in bardic songs.
Rank and Cast
Humans of the land take rank very seriously. Rank determines seating at feasts, position at religious ceremonies, wergild, and a host of other concerns. Lower rank folks must defer to higher rank folk on the road and failure to do so is an act of sacrilege (see Human Laws).