Tattoos in Aleis
That above image is a rendition of the cliff rose tattoo that Kayle Radieri bears on the back of his left shoulder. It was designed by Celeste Hansen (check her work out here). Of course, this tattoo is more than a pretty design. Unlike real life, everything I put in a novel has to work for its place, and those of you who have read the book will know the significance of this to a particular scene.
In Aleis, having tattoos is considered a regional practice. Every Halim - the people of Halimgor - gets a tattoo by the time they reach puberty, and it's usually a small palm-sized design somewhere on their torso. Sailing crew get tattoos on arms and legs too, and their ink gets more complex as they rise up the ranks or when they switch captains. The Halim practice of tattooing has become a reliable way to identify if someone grew up in Halimgor. The tattoo artists have their own guild, and the finest masters in the art command exorbitant prices for their work.
Most tattoos borne by Halims feature nautical themes. Some, like Kayle's, incorporate anchors, symbolizing steadiness, and cliff roses, symbolizing resilience. Others may have a verse from famous Halim poets and philosophers. Those who sail under the banners of the larger gangs will bear their symbols on the back of their necks, which have to be tattooed over should they ever jump ship. (It seldom happens.) The Halim women have tattoos as well, but in hidden places. One old saying in Halimgor alludes to how seeing a woman's mark means she has either married you, or she is about to.
With its three major ports, Halimgor has the most interactions with external cultures. Its largest and wealthiest city is simply named Port Halim. This was the first established city of the area, and its people came from the chain of islands to the east. Over time and with the conquest by the first kaedin king, Halimgor has more or less assimilated with the rest of the kingdom, yet it is still vibrantly, defiantly colorful, open, and adventurous. Halims enjoy the bounty of the sea and reveres it above all of Creation. They celebrate the changing of the currents rather than the changing of the seasons; the fishing folk count the months by the types of catch they make.
While the people of Halimgor can be very daring and charming, they are also very free with their affections and that goes against much of the rest of the kingdom. "A Halim's love changes with the wind", which is of course a generalization, but the fact remains that most Halims have lovers of different genders in their lives, and think little of having affairs outside of marriage. This is in stark contrast to conservative Enthinians and traditionalist Dunteans. As such, anyone outside of Halimgor are wary of marrying a Halim. However, once a Halim has decided on their life partner, it is very difficult to sway them from their chosen course.