Chillwind Tundra is a hard and frozen landscape. This icy terrain houses the Frozen Forest of Edar, primary home of the Ursa.
Travellers will find that the robust capital city of Ellyena holds highly peaceful relations between the Ursa, Goblin, Orc, Human, Lupine, Moon Elf, and Avian races. If you are not of the Chillwind Tundra you may find a rather cold - no pun intended - shoulder from those who reside here.
Throughout the icy cliffs and magically enhanced landscape of the northern hemisphere are enemies that rely on the weaknesses of their prey to minimize effort in obtaining what may be their last meal for weeks at a time.
The Atbir, often referred to by others as the 'Avians,' were once a migratory race, spending time in many of the mountain ranges of Estrom’Ir, and traveling between them. As the race grew, they started to stray away from their migratory primal instincts, choosing instead to grow in scientific knowledge. Some scholars also believe that an incident with the Ašarm, or Lizar, led to them abandoning their migratory ways. Some members of this race still choose to migrate, as every race has its loners who travel the world on a whim, but by large the Atbir have made a home in the high mountains of the Deepwater Peninsula.
The Atbir have the appearance of small bronze-skinned humans, with arms and legs, but also with large wings. Additionally, their faces are more bird-like than those of humans, with large beaks. They average in height between 140 to 175 centimeters, with a similar wingspan. They lack natural flight, being far too large to gain lift, but they can still manage to glide for short periods with their understanding of air currents, and if their launching point is high in the mountains they call home, they can sometimes glide for many kilometers. They are also experts on all things concerning flight. The Gēnom may have designed the first parachutes, but it took an Atbir working with them to create the gliders used today. Their studies of aerodynamics and wind patterns have also improved firearms technology, allowing for more efficiently shaped bullets. It has also have led to the Atbir having the best windmills of any on the planet, generating energy with which to run all the machines the Atbir use in their daily lives.
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Atbir religion is often a mystery to outsiders, and there are several reasons for this. One reason is that few outsiders ever make their way to the heights of the Atbir Eyries. Another is due to the secretive nature of the Atbir religion. From the limited clues that scholars have been able to piece together over the years, it is possible to get an idea of what their religious practices entail. Additionally, a limited number of religious manuscripts have been smuggled out of their secret archives over the years, however some have turned out to be forgeries and doubts have been cast on the veracity of the others. Since there is this uncertainty, some doubt that even what is ‘known,’ is based on real facts.
Atbir priests, it seems, have long taught that the will of Trajor can be found in the seeking of knowledge and an understanding of the world around them. What is not clear is the level of religious commitment among the Atbir, or whether they truly see Trajor as a real deity. Some of the manuscripts that are purportedly from the secret archives seem to imply that the Atbir have seen their religious beliefs as purely figurative since very early times, although others dismiss this and believe that the Atbir have historically never been more or less religious than any other race. Even today, it is difficult to tell how many of the Atbir are true believers, as opposed to seeing their religion as simply a cultural practice. This is because very few will talk about it to outsiders, and those who do are often those who have rejected their own culture at a young age, before they have been inducted into the upper echelons of their hierarchical religion.
In the distant past of the second era, priests of the Ašarm were responsible for an atrocity, which led to tensions between the two races that have continued to this day. While the Ašarm never made the sacrifice of sentient life a continuing practice, there was an incident in which they once sacrificed a group of Atbir nestlings on an altar, not realizing that they were sentient beings. This led to retaliation by the Atbir, in which they tracked down the priests responsible and assassinated them in the center of one of the largest Ašarm cities. The Ašarm then retaliated for the assassinations, and there has been bad blood between the Ašarm and the Atbir ever since. Eventually the tensions led to a war between the Ašarm and Atbir in the middle of the second age, which resulted in the expulsion of the Atbir from the lands of the west. This is believed to be one of the reasons that the Atbir ceased their migratory ways, settled in the north, and are rarely seen in the west. Make no mistake, however, the Atbir have not forgotten.
Weapons and Military
The traditional weapons of the Atbir include the cyllell, a curved dagger made from the ribs of a mountain wyvern, a dragon-like creature that lives in the lower foothills of the mountains in which the Atbir live. These daggers, made from bones that were already stronger than the bones of any other creature, were enhanced and strengthened by magic to make them even more durable. In more recent centuries the Atbir have learned how to use these strengthened wyvern bones to create firearms, and even use the bones to make their bullets.
The Atbir have often been underestimated. Some people, who have never met one, have thought them to be as gentle as songbirds, or as timid as poultry. These individuals forget that cocks can be extremely territorial, and the Atbir are much more aggressive than cocks. The Atbir have personalities as varied as any race, but they also have the natural instincts of raptors. The cold calculating eyes of many Atbir have caused no small amount of dislike for this race. They are definitely not an opponent to be taken lightly with sharp beaks, sharp minds, and even sharper tongues.
The Atbir bypass sarcasm, and instead go directly for the most acerbic, abrasive, and callous speech. Bathing among the Atbir is an outdoor activity, and is done in cold mountain streams and rivers. All Atbir once disdained clothing completely, seeing it as unnecessary due to their extremely thick skin. Over time, however, their culture changed to some degree, largely due to the outside influences of the Dvergar, among others. While they are by no means prudish, a modern Atbir will rarely go completely naked in the presence of strangers, and will usually only bathe in the presence of family members or close friends. One exception is a class of hunters known as the ‘sky-clad,’ who continue to shun clothing and a settled existence, opting instead for the traditional ways of their ancestors. These hunters are mostly solitary individuals, however, who stay in the most remote wilderness and shun any contact with others. Sightings are extremely rare.
Clothing and Armor
The bronzed skin of the Atbir is also much thicker than that of a human, and gives greater protection against heat and cold than would the skin of a human. Due to this, the Atbir have little need for heavy clothing, even in the cold of the high elevations in which they live. Most males wear simple loincloths, while the females usually prefer a short tunic that reaches halfway down the thigh to the knees. They will sometimes wear armor over this, usually made from the ribs of the mountain wyvern.
The Dwarves, or Dvergar as they often call themselves, were created by Naeil, the goddess of time. Having an affinity for the surface of Estrom'Ir, especially the mountains, the Dvergar have traditionally eschewed living in forests or coastal areas and are more apt to clear a forest if necessary than live among the trees. In the earliest age, the Dvergar interacted with Naeil often, who inculcated within them the desire to always learn all they could about the world around them and to question everything. This led to the Dvergar being one of the most prone to science, and one of the earliest races to question the existence of the gods in the later ages.
Dwarven society places a high value on work ethic. They strive to be the best in their chosen profession. When amongst other Dwarves, this can breed friendly competition based upon mutual respect. When this competition extends to other races, however, it can quickly turn bitter, as some other races misunderstand that to a Dwarf being seen as an equal and worthy competition is high praise indeed.
Dvergar stand between 105 and 125 centimeters tall. Being a shorter race, their large bone structure and propensity to mining and other physical labor has made them extremely strong. Some may appear portly but appearances can be deceiving. The musculature of the Dvergar makes them one of the strongest races physically. Dvergar men are expected to grow a beard as they mature, and to shave the beard of a Dvergar male is the best way to shame him. There is a saying that there are two kinds of Dvergar, those with beards and their women.
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The Realm of Vastra'Mar
During one of their wars with the Dark Elves, a group of Dvergar found a hidden valley surrounded by a high ring-shaped plateau, and founded the city of Vastra'Mar. The city is built on the plateau surrounding the valley, with protective walls surrounding the edges of the plateau. This plateau rises in sheer cliffs to a height of four thousand feet above the land below. There is also a strong fortress protecting the single pass into the valley. On a single edge of the plateau, the land rises to a high mountain peak, known as Mount Vastra'Mar. The high temple to Naeil holds the highest place in the city, on the peak of the mountain. Below, in the vast Valley of Vastra'Mar, farms support the population of the city, brought into the city proper by switchback roads carved into the rock on the inner edges of the plateau. Deep within the plateau are numerous aquifers that supply the society with water, some of which is channeled to irrigation projects within the valley.
The Dvergar religion from the earliest times focused on the worship of Naeil, who encouraged the Dvergar to learn all they could about the world around them. Over time, as the Dvergar have become more secularized, they continued to follow the forms of religious worship, but even their priests have come to see Naeil as a mortal Dvergar who established rules for living to follow. Most modern Dvergar, therefore, will attend the temple services, but see their religion as simply rules for living without believing that there are really any gods. Although magic is known and used, it is simply seen as an extension of science, albeit one that is not yet fully understood in all respects.
Science, and Technology
The Dvergar long preferred melée weapons, particularly axes, for their combat, and many of the officers will still carry a battle axe in addition to whatever other weapons they carry. The Dvergar, however, have always been on the cutting edge of new technologies, and military technologies have been no exception. During the early years of the second age, crossbows became the standard infantry weapon, though in more recent centuries this has been supplanted by the shotgun and the rifle. The mechanical exoskeleton suit used by the miners, which operates using a fusion of steam technology and magic, has also been adapted for use by soldiers. The technology is expensive, however, and only specialized soldiers and units are issues the suits.
Dvergar stand between 105 and 125 centimeters tall. Being a shorter race, their large bone structure and propensity to mining and other physical labor has made them extremely strong. Some may appear portly but appearances can be deceiving. The musculature of the Dvergar makes them one of the strongest races physically. Dvergar men are expected to grow a beard as they mature, and to shave the beard of a Dvergar male is the best way to shame him. There is a saying that there are two kinds of Dvergar, those with beards and their women.
The Dvergar society places a high value on work ethic, and physical labor is seen as highly desirable. Although scientists and scholars hold as high of a position in society and those who work mostly by the sweat of their brow, there is an expectation that when needed they will pitch in on the physical labor the same as anyone else. In fact, most Dvergar scientists will work shifts in the mines from time to time to keep in peak physical shape.
All Dvergar strive to be the best in their chosen profession, and among other Dvergar this can breed friendly competition based upon mutual respect. When this competition extends to other races, however, it can quickly turn bitter, as some other races misunderstand that to a Dvergar being seen as an equal and worthy competition is high praise indeed.
Dvergar place a high premium on family life, and also on building things to last. To be known as a shoddy workman among the Dvergar is one of the most shameful things that could happen to a Dvergar. Their homes and cities are therefore built to last, and are maintained with rigorous attention to detail.
Overview of the Kob'Al
The Kob'Al, often referred to as 'Goblins,' are believed by some to be distant cousins to the Orcus (or 'Orcs'), though this alleged connection has been debated by scholars. Connected or not, the Kob'Al have taken advantage of the Orcus by bringing them into the lower echelons of their society. Some argue that they are doing the Orcus a favor, while others see the Orcus status as only one step up from slavery.
Copying works of history, science, theology, or philosophy, the Kob'Al have maintained a technological edge over most races by compiling knowledge from across Estrom’Ir and sending it home via an underground network that no other race has yet to infiltrate or discover. This compiling of knowledge has gone on for generations making the hidden library of the Kob'Al the most extensive collection of knowledge worldwide. It has also led to a much animosity, as few scientists and inventors enjoy having their personal work copied or outright stolen. Many people of learning or research have therefore come to view every Kob'Al with suspicion and envy, afraid they have come to steal away precious information and yet wishing they themselves could gain access to the Kob'Al Library. The world has come to view the Kob'Al as an intelligent race. Stolen knowledge or not, their trove of knowledge is truly impressive. The Kob'Al themselves rarely seek to further sciences, and have been accused of hoarding knowledge like a dragon hoards gold. Among the Kob'Al, proving a hypothesis, experimenting, or seeking evidence is quite rare. They tend to prefer letting the other races solve the big problems, and only innovate themselves by building on the work of others. Kob'Al are uninterested in the problem, only in the solution.
Where the Kob'Al truly shine and show their genius is in the areas of trade and finance, especially the latter. Kob'Al merchants and traders are among the most successful in the world, rivaled only by those of the Virt’Ka, or Vermi. In the area of banking and finance, however, they have no true peers, and the city of Tuthi Uosta has long been the largest center of banking and finance on the planet.
Short, small, and thin the Kob'Al could be looked at as frail by anyone who didn’t know better. The Kob'Al are sinewy creatures. It is not skin and bones you see but skin muscle, that is, muscle on a strong thin bone frame. The combination of thin bones, strong muscles, and a diminutive size makes the Kob'Al a very agile race but it’s their intelligence that is often underestimated. The Kob'Al are wiry, with large heads, and large ears and eyes. Their skin tone includes various shades of gray, brown, and green. They vary between 137 centimeters to 167 centimeters in height, with the males tending not to be any shorter than 157 centimeters, and few females being any taller than 155 centimeters.
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Traditional Kob’Al religion is centered on the worship of Ninory, the goddess of Beauty, whom the Kob’Al priests and priestesses teach was the creator of their race. The Kob’Al see beauty in different things, and over time there have come to be two major religious sects among the Kob’Al.
One religion sees beauty in gold and other precious metals and jewels, and sees the accumulation of wealth as the best way to honor Ninory. This religion is most popular among bankers and merchants. The other major religion sees beauty as lying more in the accumulation of knowledge, and believes the best way to honor Ninory is collect ever greater amounts of knowledge and learning. The keepers of the Library, as well as most artisans, factory workers, and military are more likely to favor this religion.
Religious texts of religions have, over time, come to be seen by many as being more figurative than literal, even by the adherents of the religion. True believers among the Kob’Al are very few, though many go through the motions of religious worship for reasons of social acceptability.
War, Weapons and Military
The Kob'Al once did their own fighting, and have sometimes been the worse off for it, at one point losing their original homeland and being forced to migrate to their current home in the Dark Dusk Harbor. It was after this later migration that they came in contact with the Orcus, and began to employ them as foot soldiers. While the officer corps of their military is made up entirely of a cadre of Kob'Al, almost all of their enlisted force is now Orcus. This did not save them from conquest by the Gēnom, however, largely due to the technological advantages of that race. Since they regained their freedom, they have vowed that they will never again allow that to happen.
Time of the Dark Dusk
In ancient times, the Kob’Al lived in northern reaches of the area now known as the Isolated Highlands- the area now occupied by the Ksuma Emirate. During the reign of one of their ancient kings, Plecu Larisu Calas, the Ksuma arrived in the area and their chief challenged Plecu to a duel to determine which should have domination over the land, and which should leave. Plecu lost, but the Kob’Al people were allowed to depart in peace by the victorious Ksuma. The departure of the Kob’Al coincided with the period known to the Kob’Al as the Laiko Paslapti Priebla, or 'Time of the Dark Dusk.' This was a period of several years during which much of the light from the suns of Estrom’Ir was blocked out by dark clouds, leaving the land in a perpetual dusk. Temperatures fell, and crops failed. The reason for this is believed to lie with the legend of the Rasna, an ancient and advanced civilization of the early Second Age, which disappeared from history during the period in question, leaving only a single tower as a sign that they ever existed. This tower was called the Bakšta Paslapti Priebla, or 'Tower of the Dark Dusk,' by the Kob’Al, but is more widely referred to as the ‘Midnight Tower.’
Arriving in the region where the tower was located, the Kob’Al discovered a long bay that stretched from the Deepwind Sea all the way to the Thundering Plains. They called this bay Uosta Paslapti Priebla, or 'Harbor of the Dark Dusk.' One of the many earthquakes of the period sealed the entrance to the bay at about this time, and it was on the stretch of land that filled the original bay entrance that the Kob’Al built their new settlement, which would come to be called Tuthi Uosta, and became their premier city.
Also during this time the Kob'Al discovered the Orcus contingent of the Aesir army, and took them under their protection and influence, while also molding them into the protector force that they would become. While many have been critical of the second-class status of the Orcus in Kob’Al society, it should also be pointed out that without the Kob’Al the Orcus would not have survived, since it was the self-sacrifice of many Kob’Al families that saved the Orcus from complete genocide during the Gēnom occupation, by hiding them in their homes at a time when many Orcus were being sent to extermination camps by the occupying Gēnom forces. Those Kob’Al who were discovered harboring Orcus, and any who protested the occupation too loudly, were also sent to the extermination camps. Despite the fact that the Gēnom government that perpetrated the crime was forced out of power and those who were responsible were executed for their crimes by their own people, there is still a great deal of animosity against the Gēnom by the Kob’Al and the Orcus.
The Kob'Al society might be said to be symbiotic with that of the Orcus, dependent as it is on Orcus labor for basic construction and raw materials. The Kob’Al, on the other hand, are the ones who create the finished products on which the Orcus depend, and which they cannot provide for themselves. Among the Kob'Al, the public baths are popular. Unlike among the Aesir, however, public bathing is segregated by gender. Although clothed females have free access to the male baths to clean them if they work there, or to locate or take messages to their spouses or significant others, complete nudity in the presence of the opposite gender is generally frowned on in any other context, and males never have access to the female baths for any reason.
Clothing and Armor
The standard garment for Kob'Al males, which has been standard for thousands of years, is a simple rectangular piece of cloth which is thrown over the left arm and shoulder and pinned in place at the right side of the waist, leaving the right upper torso bare. Under this, the Kob'Al males wear a simple loincloth, and in modern times they have sometimes added a pair of simple trousers. The standard footwear is usually sandals, though boots have come to be preferred by some in the modern era. Those who are conducting heavy physical labor in the heat of summer are likely to strip off the upper garments and work in just the loincloth and sandals, while in the winter a heavy coat that stretches to the ankles might be added. Female clothing is similar to that of the males; however the garment that covers the upper torso is likely to be pinned below the right armpit, rather than at the waist, leaving only the right shoulder bare instead of the entire right side of the torso.
Overview of Northern Humans
The Humans of the Northern regions of Estrom'Ir fall into one of two groups. One such group, the Ængeáta, tends to be taller and more muscular than most human groups, with pale skin and hair that ranges from black, to various shades of brown, and even blonde. Humans of the other group, the Altaia, tend to be somewhat shorter, ranging from a thin to stocky build. They also have somewhat darker hair and skin tones, as well as almond-shaped eyes. They are largely nomadic raiders, who live in the saddle, and tend to be excellent horse-archers.
Humans can vary widely in appearance, with many varied shades of skin and colors of hair and eyes. Some groups, such as the red-haired and freckled Ahhiyawa are almost uniform in appearance, while others have more widely varying features. Males can average anywhere from 140 centimeters to 230 centimeters, although this varies from group to group. Among the Altaia it is uncommon for males to ever be taller than 150 centimeters. For the Ahhiyawa, males tend to average between 150 and 230 centimeters, with the average being taller than 200 centimeters. Among the Ængeáta, height varies more widely. While a male who is only 165 centimeters is not uncommon, one is just as likely to see men who are a 195 centimeters. The Ksuma are the tallest human group, with males averaging between 200 and 230 centimeters. For females of all of these groups, the average height tends to be between 10 to 20 centimeters shorter than their male counterparts.
The humans were created by Trajor (Trah-jor), the God of the Skies. While Trajor holds a special place among many of their race, humans in general have embraced the worship of all the gods, with only the most traditional holding a special place for Trajor. Forms of worship are as varied as the people themselves. Also, like the Dwarves, the largest segment of humans have abandoned traditional forms of worship. Some continue a form of worship that views the gods as figurative, and religion as simply rules for being good people, or they have abandoned worship of the gods altogether. This abandonment is more common among those of the North, with only a tiny fraction still following the old ways, with a smaller percentage among the Ængeáta than among the Altaia. The traditional religious views are somewhat more common among the Ahhiyawa, though still a minority at about twenty percent, and among the Ksuma almost half the population still follows the old ways.
Weapons and Military
Humans are the most adaptable of all the races in almost every way, and their weapons and military customs are no exception. The sword has almost always been the preferred weapon among most humans in the history of Estrom'Ir, though in modern times this has been replaced by various firearms. There are almost as many different specialty weapons among the humans of Estrom'Ir as there are among all the other races of Estrom'Ir put together.
One weapon that is unique to the Ahhiyawa is the oomra (plural: oomras), a device that was used for extending the range of throwing spears before they adopted the use of firearms, particularly the rifle.
The traditional Ængeáta weapon of choice was the steel long-sword, but they now prefer rifles, or in some cases shotguns.
The Altaia developed a recurve bow made of whale bone that was one of their defining features for much of the history of Estrom'Ir, though in modern times they have adopted long-barreled twin revolvers as their weapons of choice.
The Ksuma excelled at the use of the spear, used in conjunction with the shield. A Ksuma warrior was likely to have a medium spear used for close-quarters combat, as well as numerous short spears used as missiles for throwing, weakening the enemy ranks before closing the distance. While many Ksuma now use firearms and explosives more often than not, they will still often use their throwing spears during ambushes due to their comparative silence.
There are as many human cultures as there are groups of humans. Due to their dispersal over more of the surface of Estrom'Ir than any other race, there is no single unifying element of human culture. In general, the humans of the north tend to be more conservative in terms of speech and dress than the humans of other areas, possibly due to the influence of the Dwarves, to whom they have close ties, although in modern times cursing has become more acceptable and normalized within these societies. Unlike some of the Elven races, both groups of northern humans tend to be less prone to shedding layers of clothing, even in hot environments. There are exceptions to this, with some northern human groups that have migrated having adopted the customs of other races to which they live in close proximity. The Ahhiyawa don't share the northern attitudes in this regard, though they are not quite as open about public nudity as, say, the Aesir (Dark Elves). Seeing the function of clothing in purely pragmatic terms, Ahhiyawa males see nothing wrong with removing items of clothing that serve no immediate purpose, even to the extent of complete nudity, and even when there are females present. While Ahhiyawa females are the same way, they will usually wear at least a skirt or pair of pants when males are present. Ksuma attitudes are perhaps closer to the Ahhiyawa than to the northern human groups in that they see nothing wrong with shedding unnecessary layers, but only to a point. The Ksuma, unlike the Ahhiyawa, have taboos against public nudity, though their traditions have nothing to do with discomfort with nudity and more with their strict rules about following traditions. Their standard garments cover less than those of the Ahhiyawa, but they are less prone to remove these garments due to strict penalties for doing so.
Ængeáta tend to wear simple wool trousers, with wool tunics and fur coats. The garments for men and women are quite similar, with only slight variations in the cut of the garments. When traveling in warmer climates, they will occasionally bring similar garments with them, albeit ones that are made of linen, rather than wool.
The Altaia tend to wear more fur, though when indoors they will remove the outer fur garment and wear simple trousers and short robes with a sash for a belt. These are made of the finest silk. The Altaia imported silkworms from the south long ago, and maintain extensive greenhouses where they grow mulberry trees and cultivate the silkworms from which they make this finery. Altaian silk is the finest in all of Estrom'Ir.
Ahhiyawa clothing has changed much since the days of their maritime empire. In those days, Ahhiyawa males wore bright and elaborately decorated loincloths. In the sunny equatorial climate in which they lived they wore nothing else, with even the loincloths being cast aside for heavy labor or exercise. The women wore wide skirts, and blouses that opened wide in the front to the navel and exposed the breasts. After the Doom of Knossonia, when their original homeland was destroyed by a tidal wave, they had a shortage of tailors, and with this shortage a reduction in the means to make elaborate clothing. They therefore adapted to making clothing that was simpler. Women opted for a garment called a stolgat, which consists of a piece of cloth four feet wide by eighteen feet in length that is wound around the body in folds, with the end thrown over the shoulder. In earlier times these were usually draped to leave one breast bare, though in modern times this way of wearing the stolgat is less prominent. The men adopted a garment known as the ephklamudos. This garment is simply a piece of cloth about eight to ten feet long by four feet wide. This is folded in half, and a slit is cut in the very center. They throw the garment over themselves, sticking their head through the center hole. A sash is sometimes tied around the waist, though most do not bother, especially among the lower classes. Like the loincloths they once wore, this can be easily tossed aside. Another garment that was worn for a time by male Ahhiyawa soldiers was a simple skirt that covered from the waist to the mid-thigh, with a similar skirt being worn by female soldiers. These skirts were worn with a breastplate, greaves, sandals, vambraces, and a helmet. Before modern times, soldiers of the Ahhiyawa of both sexes generally went shirtless under their armored breastplates unless operating in colder environments. In modern times both male and female soldiers have abandoned the skirts for a pair of shorts, with the females wearing a halter top. They have also abandoned the armor, wearing instead a simple pair of boots, with a bandolier worn across the chest diagonally for some of their equipment such as ammunition
Among the Ksuma, women wear a simple wrap. This is a long piece of cloth wide enough to go from the armpits almost to the ankles. They wrap this cloth around themselves several times and simply tuck it in. If the woman is weaning a child, it is acceptable for her to fold the garment in half along its length before wrapping it, so that she is only covered from the waist to the knees, leaving the upper torso and breasts bare. This alternative form of dress is also considered acceptable when doing any form of manual labor outside, such as while washing clothes in the river. Ksuma men wear a small apron that covers from the waist to a point only about halfway to the knees. The apron is only about four to five inches wide, which is barely large enough to cover the penis and also leaves the buttocks completely bare. While some might think the Ksuma to be quite open about nudity as a result of their choice of garments, the reverse is true, unless nudity is part of a punishment. While prepubescent boys can sometimes run amok quite naked, especially among the lower classes, the Ksuma have a curious custom whereby any man who appears in public without his apron is publicly castrated. His apron is then taken away, and he is no longer allowed to wear any clothing whatsoever. If found wearing a garment after being castrated, he is exiled, and if he returns after being exiled he is then stoned to death. Most simply choose exile to begin with after being castrated, not being able to bear the public shame of no longer being a complete man.
The Lupine, who prefer to refer to themselves as the Amarok, are a bipedal wolf-like race that lives in the taiga, tundra, and glaciers of the far north. They prefer to live in small isolated communities where they hunt game and mine various minerals, which they trade for other necessities.
While those Amarok that have remained in their homelands are sometimes seen as provincial, many warriors and scholars among them have integrated into other societies. Amarok scholars within the large urban societies of the Angeata, the Aesir, and Dvergar are among the finest in Estrom'Ir. Anyone with learning and knowledge welcomes them gladly, and they are treated as a breath of fresh air in many political capitals.
Amarok exhibit a fierce loyalty to anyone they consider friends, and in combat they have been known to show such ferocity as to cause men to piss themselves. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that the Amarok have a reputation for truthfulness. Ranging from blatantly forthright to pointedly silent on any given subject, if one does not wish to have an honest answer, one should not ask questions of an Amarok. This does not mean they are incapable of deceit if they feel the need, but they are experts at using the truth to their advantage and seeming truthful even when they are not.
While their brutally candid manner might normally rub many the wrong way, their jovial nature and easy demeanor usually disarms any who might otherwise be offended. Due to these redeeming qualities, it can be quite disconcerting when witnessing an Amarok in combat. They remain in touch with their animalistic heritage and acknowledge their base instincts, but most of the time they keep these in check. In combat, however, those checks are removed. Fight or Flight is not an option for the Amarok, when presented with a threat. They will always fight. Even a dangerously ravenous animal would flee from some threats, but an Amarok will not.
The Amarok resemble wild wolves in appearance, however they differ in that they are bipedal, and they have hands with opposable thumbs in place of the front paws of wild wolves, albeit they have claws on these hands instead of fingernails. They range between 230 centimeters to 260 centimeters in height, with females tending toward the lower end of the scale and males toward the upper end.
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Amarok are very vocal and charismatic when it comes to their religious practices. Their howling hymns to Aljornasum (All-jor-nah-some) are seen as some of the most beautiful vocal music on the planet, but also some of the most haunting. Traveling Amarok preachers once ranged all over Estrom'Ir, holding camp meetings and telling all who would listen of the glory of Aljornasum. These circuit-riding preachers are not as prevalent as they once were, and many of the Amarok in the cities shun the old religion of their forebears. Many of the Amarok in the homelands still follow the old ways, however, and even those who do not still enjoy the traditional Amarok hymns for their musical qualities, if for nothing else.
Weapons and Military
The Amarok once preferred simple bows, with a short axe known as a mahigan for close melee fighting. Many still use bows for recreation, but it is the mahigan that has continued as a weapon into modern times, with most Amarok continuing to carry it on their belt and training to use it as a backup weapon. Their primary weapon has become a six-shot revolver. Most Amarok carry two of them in holsters. They also will carry a lever-action rifle, usually strapped to their back. Amarok tend to use less magic in their weaponry than many other races, but they have occasionally enhanced their revolvers, rifles, and mahigans with magic. In recent history the Amarok have begun to use more advanced firearms which they’ve kept concealed on their persons. At one point they made an attempt for fully automatic weaponry and quickly removed the creation and use of these as they were found far inferior in overall use with lack of power and accuracy in a world where every attack - be it swing of the sword or impact of a bullet - is the difference between life and death. Where they are truly adept is in the use of herbs and medicines. Their medicine bags are better for healing than many of the first aid kits that other races use.
Many Amarok prefer to live in small communities, and in their homelands these small to medium hunting communities are the rule. In the northern climate in which they live, they tend to build homes that are literally dug into hillsides. These dens are seen as dark and poorly lit by outsiders, but for the Amarok they are quite comfortable.
While many are content with the traditional Amarok lifestyle, a large number of the more social Amarok have moved to the larger cities. These Amarok shun the drawling accents of their homelands and have adopted the manner of speech of the cities in which they live, usually the cultured accent of the Angeata. Many give their loyalty to their chosen city and as such serve that city as city guards, magistrates, or in some other public service. Many leaders prefer having Lupines serve in these roles, as their integrity and honesty never has to be questioned.
The Amarok are omnivorous, and will eat some plants, but their preference is for meat as the main part of their diet. Plants are used more in medicines than in food dishes. In terms of manners, city-dwelling Amarok are seen to have the highest caliber manners of any race on Estrom'Ir. That having been said, even the Amarok who live in the homelands and are seen as uncultured by the city dwellers have such good manners that they could easily give lessons on etiquette to most anyone on the planet.
Amarok in the homelands do not have formal marriages like many other races, but they are monogamous and when they find a mate they mate for life. They view the licentious behavior of the Fae and others like them with disdain, and are less likely to accept the cultures of others as having the same merit as that of their own culture. This causes some others to view them as backward or intolerant. Amarok in the cities, however, have often adopted the customs of whichever culture they live among.
The Amarok are blessed with a natural covering of fur, so they do not really need additional clothing, and when traveling to warmer climes some will wear only leather harnesses for their equipment. Most, however, prefer to wear long duster coats with fur lining on the interior. They also have a preference for heavy boots and wide brimmed hats. City dwellers, viewing these garments as rustic and provincial, have instead opted for long leather trench-coats, with dark berets. These fancier modes of dress are shunned by Amarok who have remained in their homelands and see the adherents of such modes of dress as 'dandies.'
The Máni, who are often referred to by others as ‘Moon Elves’, are known for their pale skin and their rich arctic culture. At some point in the mists of pre-recorded history, they mostly settled in impressive cities under the glacial ice and were so reclusive that for much of the second age they were thought of as mythical by some of the other races of Estrom'Ir. In more recent centuries, they have ventured farther and farther from their arctic abodes, travelling across the ice in giant sleds pulled by their tamed white arctic deer. It is taught by some of the Máni priestesses that a separate branch of their race was dislocated with the broken moon of Orthir, and that this separate Máni civilization lives on the moon's surface. Some priestesses in more recent times have indicated that those Máni who reside on Orthir only do so in a spiritual sense, having died when the moon was sundered from Estrom'Ir. These priestesses see Orthir as the place of the dead, where the Máni go after they die. Whatever the truth of these teachings, it is widely believed that the Máni suffered the greatest losses in the sundering of Orthir from Estrom'Ir, though all records of this sundering were written hundreds of years later, and some in the modern era viewed the sundering of Orthir as mythical until scientists proved that it had actually occurred.
Standing at 150 cm to 185 cm, the Máni have a pale tone with porcelain complexion. They appear as pale and cold as an ice sculpture, beautiful yet cold. Their large eyes are dark pools that absorb light and make their night vision excellent, on par at least with the B'alam (Jagua). They can also see some things the B'alam cannot, including infrared spectrums.
Bard, Blood Mage, Cleric, Defender, Druid, Duelist, Infuser, Invoker, Necromancer, Paladin, Sniper, Summoner, Tempest, Wizard
Historically among the Máni, worship of Aljornasum (All-jor-nah-some), the god of the Night, took precedence. They especially associated Aljornasum with Orthir, and in ancient times built tall, needle-like pyramids out of ice, which were the only visible protrusions of their cities above the ice and served a dual purpose as observatories to learn about the night sky. Their chief city was to become Ellyena. The Máni were often accused of having their heads in the clouds, but this might be a bit of an understatement. It would be more accurate to say that they have their heads among the stars. The priestesses among their race often spend their nights studying the heavenly bodies that grace the skies and their days are spent in applying that study to art. The cities themselves, the largest being Ellyena, were designed with the study of the stars and Estra’s Halo (northern lights) in mind, with the tallest of buildings being the numerous observatories protruding above the glacial ice.
As a result of their astronomical studies, the Máni priestesses were long among Estrom'Ir's greatest astronomers and astrologers. Their pyramids were shaped from the ice, but the early priestesses learned how to use magic to transform the ice into a crystal harder than the strongest steel, and capable of holding a sharper edge when formed into blades. According to the priestesses, this skill was taught by Aljornasum himself, though most modern Máni dismiss this as figurative language. Their cousins, the Dark Elves (Aesir), study shadows and darkness, while a Máni stares at the sky to be inspired by a single star. One star in a sea of nothing, a single light, that by itself might go unnoticed, but the sky is covered by innumerable single stars to create a single blanket of light that covers the darkness. Aesir and Máni share neutrality and mutual respect, as both acknowledge that both light and dark are required. Absence of all light is blind emptiness, but the absence of all shadow is also blind emptiness.
The Máni, who dislike daylight and prefer to travel at night while above ground, developed the belief in the second age that Aljornasum swallowed the sun each night. He kept a watchful eye upon his children on Estrom'Ir with one eye open (Orthir), and the light of Orthir was the obscured light of the sun emanating from the eye of Aljornasum. Lunar eclipses were explained as a period of rest for Aljornasum, during which time they should refrain from work or sexual intercourse out of respect. In more recent times, the mainstream Máni have become more secularized, though not to the same extent as some of the other races. They still maintain a strong minority who follow the old ways and the worship of Aljornasum.
Weapons and Military
The traditional weapon of the Máni is a long-sword made from the same strong crystal as their pyramids, which is also now used in most of their other construction. They were also historically adept at using lances from the same crystal, riding the arctic deer that also pulled their sleds, and have at times in their history built war chariots on the sled principle. In more modern times they have adopted firearms, though they often use bullets fashioned from crystal rather than brass or steel, and sword and lance training is still mandated for their officer corps. Máni tend to be isolationist, and prefer to avoid conflict. Their armies tend to be small, but their soldiers are second only to the Aesir in terms of their capabilities. Some of these armies now fight for human leaders in the cities where humans have gained dominance.
Historically, the culture of the Máni was male-dominated in the political arena, though never to the extent of some of the cultures farther south. Also, while the political leaders were often male, the religious leaders from the earliest times were traditionally priestesses, who were often referred to as "brides of Aljornasum."
The Máni lived in cities from the earliest times. This urban existence did not do away with the nuclear family, however, but bonded with it. While parents were seen as the ultimate deciders in what was best for their children, there was an exceptionally strong sense of community among the Máni and there was the expectation that if one saw a child that needed help the thing to do was to help them just as they would their own children. In this sense, all adult Máni act as surrogate parents to all children, albeit without taking the place of the child's natural parents.
The traditional center of the Máni city is the pyramid of Aljornasum, which is situated in the center of the city. The streets are laid out like spokes on a wheel and the cities all follow a circular pattern. Closest to the temple are the administrative buildings. Public baths are situated in the vicinity as well. The Máni, unlike some other races, have always had a strong sense of cleanliness, which in early times was taught to be mandated by Aljornasum himself, who the priestesses teach instituted the practice among them of the steam bath and cold plunge. Due to this bathing culture, Máni have historically been more permissive of public nudity than most other races of Estrom'Ir, though not to the extent of the wood elves (Táyshaʼa) or even the dark elves (Aesir), and only in the context of bathing. In more recent decades, however, this aspect of their culture has become less pronounced, with many opting for smaller private baths. These smaller bathing facilities are shared only by families and friends, and many of the sprawling public baths have fallen into disrepair, though a few have been restored and serve tourists who want a taste of the old ways of the Máni.
The houses of the Máni, which are situated around the fringes of the circle, are spare and utilitarian. Like the Aesir, the older houses tend toward a very open floor plan with transparent inner walls, though some of the more modern homes have followed the Ængeáta practice of more closed off spaces. Most of the newer hotels also follow a more Ængeáta-influenced architectural style, although some of the older hotels and hostels are in the more traditional Máni style. The Máni tend to believe that they have a duty to their society to be good citizens and not to acquire more than their fair share. Though many agree with this philosophy, the mandated enforcement of this norm over time led many Máni to leave their cities and migrate to other locales to avoid the high taxes that have become the norm among their society. Cultural improvement has stagnated as well, since there is no incentive to do more than anyone else to improve the society, and the leadership ensures that all citizens are provided with the basic necessities even if they choose not to work at all. This cultural decay has progressed hand-in-hand with the religious decline, as the average Máni no longer sees it as his or her duty to Aljornasum to contribute, and they now do the bare minimum expected of a society that expects less and less of its citizens with each passing year.
This tendency not to care about political matters has led to many of the Máni cities falling under human dominance. Continuing to be active in the arts and sciences, they have given over the governance of the cities themselves to humans, who have become the day-to-day politicians. Studious, the Máni continue to keep their culture alive by writing plays, sonnets, ballads, and creating portraits that adorn the city. They also have some of the best sculptors, and the central plaza of Ísvorg is dominated by a famous crystalline sculpture of Thunor, who was one of their most famous kings in ancient times. This sculpture depicts Thunor facing a giant winged serpent known as a draki, which was attacking Ísvorg. The event occurred early in the second age, although there are many who believe the tale to be purely myth, and doubt that Thunor even existed. The sculpture was completed early in the third age, by the famous sculptor Gjöf, and at thirty meters in height it is the largest free-standing nude sculpture in all of Estrom‘Ir.
Clothing and Armor
The clothing needs of the Máni are somewhat less than those of many other northern races, as the Máni do not feel the cold to the same extent. Civilian males among the Máni prefer to wear simple, short, legless pants of a shimmering silk material. These brief-like pants are known as nærhöld, and are made from fibers spun by ice-worms. They will rarely wear anything else within the confines of their cities. When venturing outside, they will wear a pair of trousers and a jacket, both of which are made of a somewhat transparent or diaphanous cloth that is formed from meshed chain link crystals of the same sort from which they make their swords. This outerwear protects from the cold as well as heavy furs would, and also serves the purpose of light armor against raiders or predators. In their cities they keep their feet bare, but will don crystalline boots when venturing into the arctic wastes. Female Máni wear trousers and a brassiere type garment that are both made of the same silken material as that of the male nærhöld when within the confines of their cities, and will wear the armored transparent mesh trousers and jackets that the males wear when venturing outside. The small soldier class wears similar clothing, though of more muted colors, and will often substitute transparent crystalline scale armor for the lighter mesh worn by civilians.
The Orcus, often referred to as 'Orcs,' are believed by some to be distant cousins to the Kob'Al, or 'Goblins,' though this alleged connection has been debated by scholars. The Orcus are very physical and, while not completely lacking in intelligence, the intelligence they possess is average at best. Taking advantage of this, the Kob'Al have taken charge of the Orcus community and, while they are not enslaved, the Orcus are seen as lesser beings. Orcus are used to guard The Library, as protection while traveling, and as physical labor. Tell an Orcus to get a job done and he’ll just start doing it. Tell him how to get a job done and that’s how he’ll do it. Due to this, it’s easy to see how Kob'Al took charge of the Orcus.
Built for physical labor, both males and females of the Orcus race tend to have a stockier build than the Kob'Al, though nowhere near as large as the Agro. They tend to be muscular, and their skin is dark, with deep red overtones. The average height of the Orcus is between 165 to 185 centimeters. Males are more likely to be greater than 175 centimeters in height, while females are not likely to exceed that height. They also have lower canines that are extremely pronounced, and this fact has contributed to the comparisons made between them and the Agro. These teeth, however, remain fully inside the mouth when it is closed. Some also have horns, but these are not generally as pronounced as those of the Agro can be, and rarely grow to be more than a few centimeters in length.
Berserker, Defender, Doom Knight, Duelist, Gun Priest, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Strategist, Tempest, Warrior, Zealot
Despite their close association with the Kob'Al, the religion of the Orcus is vastly different than that of their overseers. While the faithful among the Kob'Al look to Ninory, the Goddess of Beauty as their creator, the Orcus instead look to Naeil, the Goddess of Time. This difference is likely due to the fact that their religious beliefs were in place long before their association with the Kob'Al came to be. While their religion is among the most ancient on Estrom'Ir, it is also one of the most simple. The Orcus elders, who also serve as religious leaders, have taught that time is a test to be endured, and that the Orcus are like a chain that runs through time from the beginning to the distant future. By being steadfast, faithful, and patient, they will meet the test and, in the fullness of time, they will be granted a nation of their own, which will last until the end of time. They therefore look forward to a prophesied deliverer, who will free them from the influences of other races and will establish them as a power in their own right. In the meantime, until a deliverer arrives who meets the conditions of the prophecy, they are to be patient and continue to do their jobs diligently as they have for millennia. Some of the younger Orcus have become disillusioned with these religious beliefs and see them as simple superstition.
War, Weapons, and Military
There are tomes of fighting techniques, existing in The Library, which are beyond the abilities of the Kob'Al. These forms of combat, based on more physicality than the Kob'Al possess, were taught to the Orcus as a way of ensuring they could provide protection.
Subjugation by the Aesir and Association with the Kob'Al
In ancient times, the Orcus were in a far worse position than that in which they find themselves today. In a similar manner to the Agro, or Ogres, they were subjugated by the Aesir, or Dark Elves, as the Aesir were expanding their influence over the western reaches. During this period, while some were used as common laborers, most were used as shock troops by the Aesir in their wars of conquest. Like the Agro, they have since faced discrimination from others due to this, but this has been to a lesser degree since they are often seen as a lower form of life, unlike the Agro who are now their own masters. Some aisthitikólogists have, in modern times, pointed out that, in addition to having some similarities to the Kob'Al, they also have many similarities to the Agro. This has led some to believe that the Orcus were actually formed as a cross-breed between those two races, although others dismiss this as mere speculation.
What is known is that after the cataclysmic defeat of the Aesir at the gates of Vastra'Mar during the Time of the Dark Dusk their armies were scattered. This would culminate in their ultimate defeat and occupation by the Dvergar. When this occurred, the Orcus contingent of the Aesir force found itself split off from the rest of the force, and wandering in the area that was to become Dark Dusk Harbor. It was at this time that the Kob'Al force of Larisu Plecu Calas found them and took them under their protection and influence, while also molding them into the protector force that they would become. During the Gēnom occupation, many Orcus were singled out for genocide, and were herded into extermination camps by the occupying forces, but many thousands were hidden by Kob'Al families in their homes, or joined Kob'Al guerillas in the deep woods that were fighting against the occupation.
The Orcus culture is similar in many ways to the culture of the Kob'Al, among whom they live. Their joint society depends upon Orcus labor. From the fields that provide food, the mills that make paper for the tomes, to providing security and expanding construction, the Orcus lot in life is to work. Luckily, most don’t mind, content to live their day to day lives without worry. No Orcus holds any office of authority outside of their profession. A guard captain may order his soldiers but he answers to a Kob'Al in charge. Only in recent centuries has this been challenged, though the Orcus underground is relatively small. This underground believes that the Orcus should break free from Kob'Al influences, and should forge a path of their own. Ironically, while championing the idea of their own culture, they reject the traditional Orcus religion, believing it was imposed on them as a means of control to keep them from rebelling and forming their own nation. The underground has engaged in a few bombings and assassinations, but has been mostly ineffective. While the underground has grown some since it was founded, it remains relatively small, and most of the Orcus do not approve of its activities, seeing them as lunatics, especially since the underground has recently started to conduct suicide bombings to show their resolve.
Among the Orcus mainstream, as among the Kob'Al, the public baths are popular. Unlike among the Aesir, however, public bathing is segregated by gender. Although clothed females have free access to the male baths to clean them if they work there, or to locate or take messages to their spouses or significant others, complete nudity in the presence of the opposite gender is generally frowned on in any other context, and males never have access to the female baths for any reason.
Clothing and Armor
The clothing of the Orcus is similar in style to the Kob'Al, though somewhat modified to fit their larger frame. The standard garment for males, which has been standard for thousands of years, is a simple rectangular piece of cloth which is thrown over the left arm and shoulder and pinned in place at the right side of the waist, leaving the right upper torso bare. Under this, the Orcus males wear a simple loincloth, and in modern times they have sometimes added a pair of simple trousers. The standard footwear is usually sandals, though boots have come to be preferred by some in the modern era. Those who are conducting heavy physical labor in the heat of summer are likely to strip off the upper garments and work in just the loincloth and sandals, while in the winter a heavy coat that stretches to the ankles might be added. Females wear the same type of garments as do the males, however the garment that covers the upper torso is likely to be pinned below the right armpit, rather than at the waist, leaving only the right shoulder bare instead of the entire right side of the torso. Also, while the length of this garment does not quite reach the knees on the males, the female variant often reaches to the ankles or just shy of them.
The Tavakar, often referred to by others as the 'Ursa', are a large race that is covered in fur. They have long been compared to bears, due to their resemblance to that creature, and have been hunted as such. Bear pelts and teeth fetch a high price in certain markets, and Tavakar pelts sell at an even higher price due to the fact that their hides are tougher than that of a bear, and their fur is softer. Long ago the Tavakar were hunted nearly to extinction, their small communities unable to protect them from hunters. The hunters treated them as a rare species to kill, rather than as intelligent, sentient beings. Then the human group known as the Altaia found another use for them that many Tavakar saw as being even worse.
The Tavakar have the appearance of large bears. Their fur can range in color from light grey to the white of the polar bear, with the latter being most common. Some have darker fur, but this is not as common. Unlike bears, Tavakar tend to walk on their hind legs more often than on all fours, but they won't hesitate to do the latter when running, as they can run much faster in this manner. Walking on the hind legs was discouraged by the Altaia among the slave Tavakar, and they were almost always on all fours except when rearing up during certain combat moves for which they had been trained. Upon gaining freedom, and re-integrating into Tavakar society, some initially continued to walk on all fours most of the time, but this has become less common among their descendants.
Tavakar range in height from 245 to 305 centimeters. While 305 centimeter females or 245 centimeter males are not unheard of, females tend to be no more than 275 centimeters, and males no less than 275 centimeters as a general tendency.
Assassin, Berserker, Cleric, Defender, Druid, Monk, Paladin, Shaman, Strategist, Warrior, Witch Doctor, Zealot
Long ago, the Tavakar lived in family units that ranged among the northern reaches, preferring the solitude of less inhabited lands. While they were natural hunters, they hunted only out of necessity and used every part of their kill. The combination of being relentlessly hunted and the rise of sport hunting of their natural prey by the other Races forced them to come together for safety and survival, creating the single tribe that exists today. Numbers alone did not afford enough protection, however, so the Tavakar approached the Máni (moon elves) of the northern reaches. It was then that they learned about something that didn’t come naturally to this gentle race- war.
After the race learned the hard truth about war and battle, taking guidance from the Máni, they presented a strong defense to those hunting them, and their numbers began to grow once again. Today, Tavakar not only teach their young the ways of the wilds and hunting, but they now teach combat as well, guiding their children on how to fight other mortal races. Misjudging their gentleness for passiveness is a mistake that one doesn't make twice, for a raging bear has nothing on an angry Tavakar. Their natural strength alone makes them powerful allies and dangerous enemies, but that's not all that they have going for them. Many Tavakar have also become good witch doctors, casting devastating spells on any who cross them. Anyone foolish enough to attempt to hunt a Tavakar will soon find themselves the hunted. The protective nature that once extended only to their family units now covers the entire tribe. Harm one and offend all, kill one and be hunted by all.
Long before they learned to defend themselves, a group of Tavakar young were stolen from their slain parents by a group of Altaia hunters, who then raised the young cubs themselves. These Tavakar were trained as a class of slave soldiers, who also served as mounts for specialized Altaia cavalry. This fearsome combination of cavalrymen with fighting mounts was so successful that soon other Altaia hunters were targeting the Tavakar young for kidnapping, while continuing to hunt the adults for their pelts. This continued until those Tavakar who had been trained by the Máni began to hold their own and even regain lost ground against the Altaia. It soon became much more dangerous to raid for Tavakar young, so the Altaia turned to forced breeding among their Tavakar slave class to grow the numbers of their Tavakar slave class. Although there were some minor incidents of Tavakar slaves turning on their Altaia masters, this was rare. The Altaia mentally conditioned Tavakar from the time they were born to accept the hierarchy of Altaia on top with loyal Tavakar below as the natural order of things, and for a long time few Tavakar were able to break this mental conditioning. Eventually, however, an underground resistance grew among the Tavakar slaves, and during a major battle with the free Tavakar they turned on their masters. Most of the slave class became free, and over time such slavery also became illegal among the Altaia. Although rumors persisted among the Tavakar of such slavery continuing in some places among renegade factions of Altaia, this has not been proven.
Corthul, the god of the wild, has always held a top spot in the worship of traditional Tavakar. Unlike some other races, however, which worship only one of the seven and only acknowledge the existence of the others, traditional Tavakar have always included all seven, albeit with Corthul being seen as the chief god. Their worship was centered around nature, and as a result they have always seen various creatures as manifestations of the seven. These creatures are never eaten, though they can be killed if they are threatening the peace and safety of the clan. Corthul is the only deity that was seen as not having an analogue among the forest creatures, as he was seen as encompassing all nature. Naeil was seen as being embodied by the arctic tiger, Safory by the polar bear, Etrum by the seal, Aljornasum by the wolf, Trajor by the eagle, and Ninory by the arctic fox.
While many Tavakar still worship in this manner, over time many have come to see this worship as simply a practice that is part of their culture, and don't view it in truly religious terms. Therefore, while a majority still follow the forms of the old ways, very few are true believers in the deities.
Weapons and Military
When first taught to the ways of war by the Máni, the Tavakar used many of the same weapons, however over time they developed some of their own. One heavy weapon favored by the Tavakar is a spiked steel club. Many, however, prefer a glove with sharp steel claws called the kynyk. This weapon was designed to be worn even when running on all fours, which makes it more versatile than the club, since the club must be put in a special sheath when running in this manner. While the kynyk was designed by free Tavakar, the Altaia were quick to copy this and use it to equip their slave Tavakar as well.
Tavakar live in clans within their tribe, spread out for resources but no further than a day apart if they ever need to aid another clan. Each clan has two parts to its name, the name of the actual clan and the sex of the leader. So the Kar clan that is led by a female Tavakar would be known as the Kar’Ma clan, whereas the Thul clan led by a male Tavakar would be known as the Thul’Da clan. They only spread out into a new clan when the current clan grows too big for the resources of the surrounding area, though with hunters still after them the chance for creating new clans does not arise often and is done so with very cautious practice.
Many outsiders view the Tavakar as being very provincial, due to their reticence in talking about sexual topics among outsiders. While this is true to an extent, the reality is that among their own clans they are unusually frank and direct in talking about such matters. Since very few outsiders are ever admitted as members of their clans, however, this side of their culture is almost unknown to the outside world. Tavakar clans primarily live in clan dens, which are long houses burrowed into hillsides and mostly hidden from the outside. In ancient times they were more likely to live in single-family dwellings, and there are some clans that still practice this, but most have opted for a single clan dwelling due to the protection it offers. Since these dwellings are a single large room, with no privacy from others in the clan, sexual activity is not something that happens behind closed doors as in most other societies. While they don't make a show of it, Tavakar mates make no effort to be discreet and will sometimes have sex on the hearthstones of the clan house even when all the other clan members are present having a meal in the great room, including the young. They see no shame in this, seeing it as completely natural. On the other hand, Tavakar are strictly monogamous, mate for life, and have a dim view of the "free-love" of some races. Therefore, if a Tavakar behaves in a sexual manner toward one who is not their life-mate, they are shunned by their society and might even be killed if the one they pursue is the mate of another or one who is seen as too young for such activity.
Clothing and Armor
Tavakar have never seen a need for clothing, due to their natural fur covering, however they have long used armor, ever since they were trained to war by the Máni. Also, some of the suits of armor they have developed over the years are so ornate they put to shame the designer clothing of other races. Leather has always been incorporated, but this has often been supplemented by breastplates of steel. Máni crystal has sometimes been used as well, but this is rare since the crystal is one item the Máni don't share freely.