Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Dwellers in the Twilight Forest

The Twilight Forest is an ancient Taiga (cold, coniferous forest) like that which covers much of Scandinavia, Russia and Canada. Its western borders are in the eastern quarter of the Walrus Freehold, and it continues eastwards across much of northmost Toutus. It is bitterly cold during the winters, and mildly cool in the summers - survival is possible, but not easy, and starvation or freezing are very real possibilities for those who have not prepared shelter and food stores for the winter.  Although there are some wild animals that live here, it is generally the humanoid inhabitants that get the most attention.

Silverbow Clan: This clan of elves is centred around the Silverbow Village, and the village itself is only 600 strong. However, there are plenty of elves scattered widely around the Twilight Forest, and although the elves themselves don't talk about how many they are, there are probably another 4500 elves beyond the village. The members of the Silverbow clan are shy and elusive - humans don't find the Silverbow elves - they find the humans, often at Heragon village, the remotest outpost of civilization in the Walrus Freehold. The Silverbow clan are known to have links with the fey - dryads, treants, sprites, pixies and the like, and may have fey allies when confronting enemies.

Orchunter Clan: The elf rangers of the Orchunter Clan are known for their tactic of training predators to fight along side them - particularly wolves, giant weasels and brown bears. The Orchunter village is conveniently on the Salmoning River, the same river that Hurin Castle, Stalim and Trislem all sit on, so there is regular contact with civilized humans, including trade with merchants willing to brave the icy river or wild forest. Unusually for elves, the Orchunter clan go underground during winter - they have dug out a series of storerooms, living rooms and dormitories underneath the village where the vicious winter blizzards cannot get to them.

Cheruscu barbarians: These human barbarians have fallen from a grand and fearsome past - over five centuries ago the Cheruscu fought a long and bloody war against the Toutus Empire. Unlike some barbarian tribes that simply fled or surrendered when the soldiers of Toutus came, the Cheruscu inflicted a number of brutal defeats on the proud Toutatian army, including the notorious massacre of three regiments ambushed in the Twilight Forest. It was a war the barbarians could not win, and grudgingly they shifted further north where Toutatian expeditions were unlikely to reach. They have never got on well with civilized humans, and there is good reason. The Cheruscu are chaos worshippers, particularly Slargor (god of war and slaughter, a natural choice for war-like barbarians) Bhael (god of fear and darkness) and Havok (goddess of disasters, including blizzards and plagues). Any prisoners taken (whether human, demihuman or humanoid) can expect to be sacrificed in a messy way. The people of Stalim, Walrus City and other towns and villages hate and fear the Cheruscu with good reason.

Northern Rakastas: These cat people are rare, and seem even rarer due to their elusiveness. They have no large-scale organisation or plans, but wander around the forest in prides of 5-20 individuals, never staying in one place more than a week. They generally leave other folk alone, as they consider only four-hoofed animals to be proper food, but in harsh winters when food is scarce, they could view lone travellers as potential prey. The Silverbow clan have had some success in contacting them but even then the Rakastas are not interested in trade or business (a concept that some of them don't get), but will share stories, legends and poems instead.

Winter Centaurs are a varied and unpredictable subspecies of centaur. They all have pale skin on their human parts, white or dappled grey on their horse parts and blonde hair, and they all dress in animal furs and hides to keep warm. However, while some stay neutral and will leave civilized folk alone, about a third of them are chaotic and are vicious raiders. These chaotic centaurs may turn to worship the chaos gods, especially Slargor and Havok. Their interaction with the human Cheruscu barbarians varies - some chaotic winter centaurs will simply attack them as another target of opportunity, while others will ally themselves with the Cheruscu in order to attack a common foe such as a large caravan or a fortified village. Winter centaurs are always nomadic, wandering around the Twilight Forest looking for food and avoiding foes. It is interesting that the chaotic centaurs will generally not attack other centaurs unless they feel actually offended or threatened - unprovoked centaur-on-centaur attacks are unheard of.

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