Beyond the borders of the Paynim Empire lie the lands of the Ablashian barbarians. Comprising a number of tribes (which they call "Counties") both independent and interrelated, the Ablashians have a sophisticated and rich culture that is treated as simple and backwards by the patronizing Paynim envoys to the Ablashian Courts.
Ablashian society is centered on the idea of the contractual obligation (though they would not conceptualize it in this way - their concept would be of reciprocity for favors). A young Ablashian who wishes to rise in society (as a farmer) will indebt himself to a patron by borrowing capital goods, such as cattle, land, a plowshare, and so on. There are traditional amounts of each that are based on the status of the client's family and other matters. In return, the client will pay about half of what could be built from that capital (about half of the expected calves, half of the expected crops less the seed, and so on) for a period of time, usually seven years, then the client will return value equal to the items originally loaned. During this period of time, the client also owes certain responsibilities of loyalty to the patron.
Skilled trades, such as smithwork, are handled similarly, but the prospective smith apprentices himself to the smith in exchange for training. The smith gains the service of the apprentice, and will eventually loan the necessary capital goods to the apprentice when he becomes an independent smith on the same sort of terms (though at a much lesser interest rate).
In addition to these areas of society, there are also intellectual and warrior trades. These are handled much like the skilled trades, with apprenticeship, but since the output of these trades is not so easily quantifiable as material goods, different methods of repaying the training are developed. [Details are vague at this point, but probably include indenturing and such.]
Ablashian government is based on the client/patron-apprentice/master system, in that clients owe loyalty to their patrons or masters. However, there are some necessary institutions which exist to limit the abuses that this basic system can engender. For instance, each tribe has a groups of priests called "Judges". The Judges hold Court at Alehouses (see below) and hear cases brought up by one person against another. Judges are assisted by an order of priest-investigators called "Advocates" whose jobs are to investigate the facts of a case, especially criminal cases, and by the "Counts", who are a group of warriors whose mandate is to find criminals and bring them to justice at the Courts. The Counts are empowered by the Baron, who is given his authority through election by, and from among, the landholders, a position that he will hold for life. Not that life is necessarily long, as the Baron is expected to operate in the front lines of any war the County is prosecuting.
A town is governed by a Mayor, whose position is chosen by vote of the business leaders of the town. There are usually a few towns per County.
There are other priestly castes, as well. Some include:
The Holy Doves: Priestesses (and the occasional priest) of Valentina, the goddess of love and beauty.
Duelists: Wandering devotees of Dullahan, the god of fighting. They can be either a benefit or a bane to a community, and are greatly feared for their immense, nearly magical skills at fighting.
Trappers: Mountain ascetics devoted to mountain spirits. They collect fur pelts to trade in the towns.
Taverners: The maintainers of special temples called Alehouses. The Alehouse is the center of a community, and includes, at the least, a room devoted to the rites of the Holy Doves and the service of alcoholic beverages, and another for the Court of the local Judge.
(There's more inspiration to be found in the American Old West.)