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Gnolls are dead. The species was almost entirely found in the Free World. Gnolls were extremely tribal creatures, a slight bit on the uncivilized side of things. The humans in the Free World grew in size and population and territory, forcing gnolls to be pushed either further out into the wilderness or into the slums and dark places in the world. Some acclimated to their new surroundings, others died off. There were a large group who, however, found peace in the arms of the sem. Through a twist in genetics, they were able to have children, but those children were different from both parents. Some of the gnolls fled with the sem when they escaped to Cathemega, and the children they had continued to have children of their own. These are known as the gnollen. There are two types of gnollen – mountain and forest.
What the two types of gnollen have in common is many. They are short humanoids who resemble wolf-like dogs. Both races tend to have spotty or striped fur. They are both still fiercely tribal creatures. They are very short lived – a gnollen usually not living more than thirty or forty years. They do, however, have large families, making up for the short lifespan. A single pregnancy most often produces two or three pups, with upwards of seven or eight not unheard of. Genetic diversity remains strong because families try to avoid having their children marry the same other families.
Both gnollen types have a chieftain who keeps watch over the entire tribe. He or she is the leader of the tribe as well as its primary priest and ritual leader. Each family is headed by its father, though due to the progressive nature of everyone around them, mothers are given equal share of responsibilities. Though the chief rules over all, it is mostly a figurehead type ruling, because decisions are made primarily through the families themselves.
Both tribes have a communal type structure, where every member of the tribe puts their own skills and their own abilities towards the betterment of the tribe. Each gnollen, around their eighth birthday, is considered ready to begin the rites of adulthood, and by the time they’re ten, they step into their skillset and become a tribe member. If they refuse, or are unable to show a skill, they are considered an extra mouth, and given the last of everything – the scraps of food, the smallest homes, the last of the clothes.
Mateship is usually a choice between the two young gnollen. They approach their prospective mate’s parents and tell them they wish to become mates. The parents approach the chieftain for his or her blessing. Very rarely do parents refuse a mate and very rarely does the chieftain not give a blessing to the union. Mountain and forest gnollen have different rituals for mateship.
The mountain gnollen are a larger breed, standing about four feet tall. They have thick fur, usually of lighter colors than their forest kin. They worship both Golem and Siren, the elementals of the earth and wind, because they are both closest to the sky and embraced within the mountainous arms of the earth. Their rituals are very heavily evocative of the wind and the earth.
They are excellent smiths, able to create impressive metallic objects, including the extremely difficult gun. Gnollen are the only species to use firearms – since magic is so prevalent with all other races. They cannot cast their own magic, so for defense the mountain gnollen use the musket or flintlock type weapon. They are extremely regimental and very well trained at defense.
The forest gnollen are a more slender, shorter breed – only about three feet tall. Their fur is thin and dark. They are worshippers of Luna and Stella, the elementals of the moon and the stars. Luna has always blessed the forest gnollen, and her eyes (the moons) are always watching over them. The gnollen use the subtle changes in the moon as part of their ritual cycle, as well as using the positions of the stars.
Forest gnollen are woodcarvers mostly, able to use wood to their best advantage. They are expert trackers and trappers as well. Their chief defense against those who may seek to harm them are their traps and tricks.
When Creation and Destruction made the planet of Dramoth Gilead, the latent magical flow throughout the surface of the world also decided to create other races, species, and creatures. It was this simple natural creation that birthed everything from flowers and trees to birds and bees. The planet also manifested not only the normal creatures, but also those which might be called “monsters.”
Among the monstrous creatures were two general humanoid species – ogres and gnolls. Today I’ll talk about ogres and tomorrow I’ll talk about the descendants of the gnolls.
The Dramoth Gilead version of an ogre is almost the planet’s way of creating its own human species. Both versions of the ogre look very human in nature aside from a few key differences. Standing an ogre and a human next to each other would show some variance depending on which species there is. The two variants are the mountain ogre (simply called ‘ogres’) and the desert ogre (or the ‘mesan.’)
Despite the connotation of the term “ogre” – a brutal, vicious person – and the typical ogre in fantasy stories – usually hideous, monstrous brutes – neither species of ogre are violent, hideous, or brutish.
The mountain ogre looks very similar to a human aside from their size. They stand nearly ten feet tall and are extremely strong. They have a pair of horn (sometimes four horns) that resemble sheep’s horns. Their skin is a pale color, their hair is very dark, and their eyes are a pretty gold. They live in very small family bands – often just a husband, wife, and any dependent children. When the children grow up they (regardless of gender) travel to try to find themselves a spouse to form a family group with.
The ogres live in small huts that they build out of wood. An ogre hut almost always has two things nearby – a garden and a flock. Ogres tend flowers and plants and herbs, growing a small garden of essential vegetables and herbs to flavor their foods. They will also protect beds of flowers and plants they find growing in the mountains, putting a rope marker near the plants to show that it’s protected by the ogre. They also raise flocks of sheep for their wool and for their meat. The easiest way to piss off an ogre is to mess with their garden or their flock or their family.
Ogres live very simple lives – tending to their gardens, raising their flocks. They do not terrorize or bother anyone. In fact, an ogre is one of the best things to find in a mountain because they’ll tend to be very polite – not necessarily friendly – but they’ll bring travelers into their home, feed them and give them some tea (which may actually be narcotic… it’s said to send all your worries away.)
The desert ogre are called mesan. They, unlike their mountain cousins, stand barely taller than a human – usually a half of a foot higher on average. They tend to be slender and elegant rather than hulking strongmen like the ogres. Skin is a dark tan color, hair is usually very pale blonde or white, and their eyes maintain that same gold color as their mountain-based cousins. They live either in small nomadic packs or in one of the two mesan homes – Canyon or Mesa – which are, in turn, a big canyon and a big mesa. The large communities in Canyon and Mesa are made up of many different families. There is no real government, they share all they have with the community as a whole – any who are seen to be greedy are denied the community’s goods.
Mesan do not raise crops. The desert is far too unforgiving for that. They rely on the Herd, a huge, constantly moving group of large cow-like creatures. The Herd moves between oases, seeking the shade and the water and the good ruffage therein. The mesan follow these creatures, hunting the weak or the old, gathering the food and water from the oases, and returning to their home. They use the entire animal, paying extremely high respects to the simple creatures. Nothing is thrown out because it’s disrespectful and wasteful. Their homes are tents made of the animals’ skins, except for those in Mesa and Canyon, which are dug out hollows into the sides of the canyon or the walls of the mesa.
The mesan people have an interesting ability. They merely need to concentrate for a few moments and they can detect two things – nearby sources of water, and how far and in which direction Mesa or Canyon is. This ability is an analogy for their lives – all about choices. Do I travel the two miles east to get water when I know Canyon is over a day’s walk to the south? Will I get this water knowing it’s a sure thing or take my chances on the hope that there’s water closer to Canyon? Do I live in the shelter of Canyon or do I follow the old nomadic ways? Do I stay with my people or live with the humans?
Relationships with Other Races
Both species of ogre tend to keep themselves away from the other races – not as a protective measure, but more in that they have little in common with the created races. They have a lasting peace accord with the other races, and there has been the rare breaking of that peace – mostly from some despotic dictator or a warlord. Both species have been used in the past for fighting and sometimes as guards in the cities and towns, but the ogre races feel that the petty squabbles of the younger races are not worth their energy.
Among all the races (with the exception of the elven thoughts of superiority) the ogres are known to be friends and allies, always willing to help if they’re asked. Humans find the ogres to be extremely peaceful, and some wander to the ogre homes to learn their secrets – which results in some mutton stew, some tea, and stories shared among friends. Nün elves enjoy the ogres’ ability to live as one with nature. High elves think they’re better than the ogres, but seek them out if they need assistance with tasks suited for the strong mountain ogres or the hardy mesan. Orcs living in the deserts often band together with the mesan, but due to their huge wandering tribes, they never truly have combined their races. Tallis study the ogres, trying to figure out their societies and how everything works, much to the annoyance of the ogres themselves – tallis ask too many questions.
To round off the explanation of the four primes, I leave you with the biggest oddity in the world – the tallis. This race was created by Destruction with the essence of fire embodied within them (and by me to fill a niche left by the lack of the small humanoid races – gnomes and dwarves.) They are the only one of the primes that stands out as different. Line a human, an orc, an elf, and a tallis side by side and you’ll see a human, a dust-skinned, tough human, a slender, darker-skinned human, and a dragon.
Tallis is an old dragon-tongue term that means “worker.” Indeed, this race is an industrious and hard-working one. They were created as an affront to nature itself, a way for the beings on the planet to always know they had a creator, and that nature and natural evolution did not make them. They are somewhat shorter than humans, also much lighter. They also appear to be human-shaped dragons. They walk on two feet, have scales, claws, a long tail that can serve as a third limb due to its prehensile nature, a snout filled with sharp teeth, and a pair of wing-like flaps on the sides of their heads for protection of their ear-canals. They are actually mammals, with breasts, hair, warm-blood, live birth, milk production, and the specialized inner ear bones – but all draconic creatures and dragons in Dramoth Gilead are mammals anyway so that’s not unusual.
Tallis do not know much magic. There is a group of dedicated warrior-priests who have focused on learning the magic of draconic seals – emblems and patterns given to them by the eight elder dragons. The torgaruna (as they are called) wander the continents in search of the homes of the eight dragons. When they receive the blessings of the elders, they are given the knowledge of their particular seals. These unusual patterns are difficult to reproduce properly, so only the torgaruna are able to use it. Instead of magic, the vast majority of tallis work wonders of science instead. They’ve mastered the control of steam powered devices – their city of Sedurka is a technological wonderland. This technological marvel is seen as bizarre to the other races, and they don’t trust the tallis devices without there being a tallis to fix them. Some say the tallis are capable of doing anything, and they just might be.
Tallis culture is designed around learning and application and study. They are run by a number of council-members elected from the heads of the guilds. Each tallis is put in school from the time they are very young and taught all subjects to help them along. When they reach the age of 13, they are sent to a master to learn their ways, and then after their apprenticeship is over, they are put into one of the many guilds. Their art is unusual, formed by twisting and beating metal. It does not resemble any normal structures – drawing from the abstract and the ideological rather than the concrete and story-based artistry. While most tallis cannot be bothered with ritual worship, the majority at least pay some respect to the elder dragons. The torgaruna are the priesthood of the elder dragons, and even they do not ritualize their worship.
Socially, a tallis is not really interested in any sort of limit to their strengths. Male or female, rich or poor, able or not, a tallis strives for excellence, and the greatest of the tallis are those that rose through adversity to become guild leaders or council members. They pay high respect to their parents – their surnames made from the first few syllables of their parents’ names as well as the last syllable from their parents’ birth place. Other races see the tallis as highly energetic, a bit too imaginative, and kind of dangerous – but they respect their knowledge and their abilities. Tallis enjoy the company of other races, always willing to listen and hear everything that they say and know.
And with that, the four primes are done. There are a few other races in the world I’ll get to another time, but for now I’m going to explain a few minor details about the world, then in depth about the cities.
Wind can be a terrible, damaging force. It can be harnessed, but it is free to its own chaotic nature. It is this energy, this freedom, this chaos, that embodies the orcs of Dramoth Gilead. I’m sure the image in your mind of an orc is probably tainted by things like Warcraft and Lord of the Rings and Warhammer, but none of those truly capture what is actually my orc.
When the orcish race was created by Destruction, he embodied them with the chaotic nature of wind. This is evident in the fact that they are widely a nomadic race. There are orcs who live in cities, but there are no primary orcish settlements. They appear to be a large humanoid, a bit taller, a bit tougher, and a bit stronger than the average human. Their skin is dusty brown, hair usually very dark, and eyes almost never a color other than an amber color. Besides these differences, they look very much like a human would.
Orcs have very little connection to magic, there are very few orcs who know how to cast magical spells, and those that do rarely become wizards. There is, however, a branch of magic available to orcs that is unavailable to the rest of the primes – spirit magic. The ability to tame and control spirits is a very highly advanced, often dangerous skill. The shamans who have this ability are sought after to become heads of the family groups. This magic allows very amazing abilities to be presented – everything from taking control of the elements to twisting their own bodies into the forms of animals. They also tend to become fortune tellers and can read omens in fires, bones, and other methods.
Their ways are centered around rather sizable famly groups. At the head of the family is a head patriarch, a head matriarch, and a shaman (if one is found.) The patriarch and matriarch do not have to be married, they are usually the oldest male and oldest female in the group. Everyone else in the family group is related – by blood or by marriage – to the patriarch and matriarch. All requests are passed to the heads of the family, who make a decision based on the will of the people below them. The shaman, if available, talks to the ancestors and the spirits to determine the correct path. The groups can, and often do, split if there are rejections to the family’s decisions. The smallest orcish family groups are often just a married husband and wife and their children. The largest orcish family group is found in the southern tip of the continent of Relay, and contains a couple hundred orcs – with more than one patriarch, matriarch, and shaman.
The orcish culture is very heavily based on respect of the ancestors. They do not last very long in any one place – wandering as the weather changes and going to where the best food is for their flock. They have art, made from whatever they find laying around. It is rarely entirely decorative – often serving some purpose, be it for hunting, for ritual, or as a tool. The art is highly tribal in design – geometric shapes and patterns, figures carved into the designs related to spirits or ancestors. Naturally as one would assume, the orcs largely worship their ancestors and spirits. They were created by Destruction – so they do not worship him as their god, they have abandoned that, and chosen to instead worship something that isn’t actively trying to murder them or subjugate them.
Socially, orcs are very highly in-group, not very often do they meet with or accept other races to come to see them. The orcs that do venture out of their family groups to live inside civilization are seen as a bit odd to the other orcs. However, despite this, orcs are trusted very highly by most races (high elves don’t like them, but don’t hate them.) They are seen as good companions, powerful and trustworthy – if not a bit odd at times. The non-nomadic orcs see other races also as trustworthy as the orcs are seen. They find the smaller races a bit too energetic and not willing to settle down long enough, however. The rare orc/non-orc relationship is never followed up by any extended family since the half-orcs are completely sterile.
Only one race left for the four primes to be finished, the tallis.
When Creation made the elves, she gave them the essence of the earth. Strength, patience, and sturdiness represent the race easily. They were also born with the innate connection to the planet itself, one would call their connection an actual give-and-take relationship. There are two basic types of elf, the Nün elf and the high elf.
The Nün elf (pronounced “noon”) is the actual pure-blooded elf. They are darker skinned than humans, with dark hair and typically green eyes of varying shades. They have a distinct connection to the planet itself, communicating and partnering with its energy and its nature to control and to protect themselves and their families. The word “Nün” is an old elven word meaning “caretaker.” They have sharp features, with highly pointed eartips and everything seeming to be more angled than a human’s features. They are approximately the height of the average human, although a bit more on the slender side.
Nün elves are highly focused onto magic. They can actually sense the presence or absence of the ley line energies beneath their feet, which aids them in performing magical abilities. Not only that, but they are also able to directly influence nature itself, whether it’s using a tree to build a home or convincing an animal to assist them with some task. The ancient city of Seiis, before it was turned into an actual city of brick and stone, was an enormous tree summoned by ancient Nün elf conjurers. It has since been destroyed except for the stump, which after magical energies flowed into the area, became a small mountain. The Nün elves’ communion with nature is not, however, one-sided, and they almost always take extremely good care of nature itself.
Nün elf culture is very much based around rural applications and nature itself. They live simple lives as farmers or wood-shapers. Their art is based on the dedication to nature, and most of it is done in homage. If a tree is felled by some natural event, the Nün elf will turn it into a work of art, and instead of carving in a story paying respect to some ancient elf, it will be respect paid to the tree itself. They have festivals and holidays based around natural events such as the solstice or the appearance of the Destroyer in the sky. Religious identity is based on the worship of nature and Creation, although they do not consider themselves part of the Church of Creation – theirs is a much more basic religion than that of the Church.
Nün elves do not see a difference between their sexes. Females are as much a part of society as males. They, in fact, often see the females as stronger in many cases, after all it is they who provide the world with life. They see other races as partners although they are critical if they waste natural resources. Other races see the Nün elf as a strong and stalwart companion, they can always be trusted, even if they’re a bit too uptight.
What do you get when you mix the freedom and power of water with the strength and sturdiness of earth? You get mud or silt, and over time a rock. This is the high elven race. When the primes were created, it was inevitable that some of the races would gather together to have children outside of their own. Any half-orcish child is sterile. Tallis cannot have children with any race other than tallis. However, the combination of human and elf was not only viable and fertile, but in a stunning turn of events, these hybrids were cocky enough to declare themselves the true elven race – the real goal of Creation. In another twist, the Nün elves don’t seem to mind too much.
High elves have the typical elven traits of much more slender and pointed features – although their ears are a bit shorter than the Nün elves’ are. They also have human-like traits such as their skin, hair, and eyes being varied tones – although they’re more typically fair skinned because of their proximity to the Northern humans.
High elves still have the innate feeling and ability to sense the ley line energy beneath them, but at the same time they’ve lost the true communion they have with nature. This makes them excellent, although not natural, mages.
The culture of the high elves borrows much from human culture, favoring architecture and stone work to the wood and aid of nature that the Nün elves employ. The high elves enjoy the aspects of architecture more in line with the Gothic period, with pointed arches, buttresses and ribbed vaults alongside stunning works of stained glass and fresco paintings. Their art and music is very over the top with expression, and most of it is of a sort of religious nature – though the stories sometimes get a bit twisted around. Holidays are almost entirely religious in nature, and many of the high elven cities and towns are also centers for the Church of Creation.
Socially, high elven culture still believes that women have the same place as men. There are sometimes high elves who feel otherwise and try to put down the women in their lives, but they are rare. They get along with most of the other races, but are bothered by the orcs and tallis – the former because they’re nomadic and the latter because they’re a bit tough to understand. Other races tend to see the high elves as arrogant and proud, but they know them to be extremely good allies and trust them to always be happy to help out a friend.
With that, the elven races are done, and next time I’ll explain the third prime, the orc.
Today I will be discussing the four first created races on the planet. Before I start let me just clear the air for those of you who might be worried about this (I know I sometimes am.) These four races do not represent the first creatures on the planet. Bacterial, animal, plant, and other sorts of life such as that were created along with the planet itself. These races were born, given enough knowledge to build and create, and have a full happy life.
The initial four races are known as the primes. They were the ones specifically called by Creation and Destruction, built into the very creation event, spoken into existence. To aid them in their life, they were granted the nature of one of the four major elements – wind, water, earth, and fire. I will talk about all four primes in separate posts. To start things off, I will begin with the first created race: the humans.
Creation created humans and gave them the nature of water. Freedom, power, and exploration are in the hearts and minds of every human living on the planet. As with any race of humans, those living in Dramoth Gilead are just your typical humans, complete with a wide array of height and weight, hair and eye colors, natures, dreams, skills, and flaws. The best thing that Creation gave humans was their nature to unite. In fact, without humans, it’s quite possible that the entire population of Dramoth Gilead would have quickly descended into war, murder, and genocide. It’s human nature that permitted the (sometimes) peaceful coexistence of the three other races.
The humans in Cathemega (the main continent of my stories – I’ll get to geography soon) are, for the most part, relatively pale-skinned – the equivalent of the European continent if they were from Earth. There are desert dwellers south of the major cities who are darker skinned, but they’re still quite pale. A pseudo-human race called the Mesan live in the desert as well, and they have even darker skin – but they have white hair, gold eyes, and an innate, never-failing sense of direction, plus they’re not actually humans at all, they’re one of the races birthed by the planet itself.
That is not to say that all the humans in Cathemega would appear to be of European descent if they were stuck on Earth. There is the race known as Freeworlders, whose ancestors came from the ancient and forbidden lands outside the continent of Cathemega. These Freeworlders have very dark skin – African descent so it would appear. They get discriminated against, distrusted, and thought to be bad-natured. The Freeworlders are, however, just as hard-working and loyal as any human.
Humans are highly reactive to magic. While they are not as sensitive to it as elves (who can feel ley lines underground) they have powerful innate magic abilities. Humans can be born with such an innate reaction to magic that they are able to sense spirits and ghosts. Girls born with these abilities can see and communicate with ghosts, while boys born with these abilities can hear them (which is scary for a five-year old boy.)
Human culture is entirely trapped within the Medieval European fantasy trope. Music and art is varied to the artist and the ear or eye enjoying it. Their festivals are based around seasonal or historical events. Religious humans mostly follow the Church of Creation, although there are others who follow local or elemental deities.
Unlike the Medieval European trope, humans do not view women as a “weaker sex.” They are given full rights and responsibilities and granted every opportunity to succeed that men are. In the history of some of the great kingdoms (which are mostly representative monarchies) there have been equal representation of men and women on the councils chosen by the people. Some of the greatest heroes and legends are also women.
With that, I’m done with the first of the four primes. Next I will speak of the second, the elves.