First and most importantly it should be noted that the creatures which make up the “Rat Brownies” are anything but a single tribe. They do not live in one place nor work together, and there are even huge differences in appearance. The reason they are generally grouped together under this one heading is only a matter of tradition and convenience; the other Brownie tribes have always used this title for those of their species who they no longer consider true Brownie. The main, and possibly the only conclusive difference is in the two group’s beliefs. For a long time these creatures were thought to be almost completely lacking in intelligence, or even to be mythical, but the more discovered about them, the more they are proving to have infiltrated most major cities and towns, and to possess the same capabilities as normal Brownies.
Image description. A Mud Brownie riding a city rat in the dark alleys of a Santharian town. Picture drawn by Seeker.
Such it the animosity between "true" and Rat Brownies, that a large proportion
of both would like to forget the other exists. Lost or never found when modern
Brownie civilisation was being rebuilt,
they now live fragmented into dozens of bands scattered both in the sewers
underneath major cities, and in far off forgotten corners of
Caelereth. Many of these bands are at
constant war, both with other bands, and with starvation. Shut away from the
world above, eating the refuse of the citydwellers, and in many cases inbred,
many of these bands have suffered from severe alterations of their physique,
rendering them hideous in various ways, different for each tribe. The spirits
they worship are spirits of nature, but they are the darker side of the spirit
realm, those which demand blood and death rather than those which revel in life.
Viewed as savages at best, most Rat Brownies have little contact with other
races or even with other Brownie tribes.
We actually know quite a lot about the various tribes, considering their seeming abhorrence of contact with outside life. This can largely be contributed to Milken Brownie scholars who have developed a fascination with the history of their own race. The Rat Brownies may seem a small part of that, but they are widely thought to provide a vision of the past since cut off from the modernisation of most of the "true" Brownie tribes. Whether their languages are actually a preserved from of really ancient Browniin (as the scholars hope) still remains to be seen.
Appearance. Rat Brownies are notoriously hard to discover and therefore it is likely that there are other groups out there which we still don’t know about. However, those groups which are discovered often become the subject of some serious research, or at least of some serious extermination attempts, and therefore the few types which are known about are fairly well known. On the other hand, most of the information has to be based on the research which has taken place in Milkengrad, unclear sightings by various nightfolk, and the descriptions of bodies caught in traps or by guard dogs. The different types which are actually known to exist differ so radically that it is almost certain there must be many more yet undiscovered. So far only five select groups have been clarified, greatly helped by accounts of the attacks led by Arxxt the Bold during the Year of Darkness. This year was something of an awakening to the population of Santhala, as the inhabitants realised just how many of the creatures lived beneath their feet.
The groups do not include one tribe but rather several, which is rather strange considering how distinctly the groups can be identified and split. This is simply another piece of proof in support of the theory that their strange variations were a punishment during the Birni era (see History). A tribe itself can normally be classed under one of these headings, as most classes possess distinct, obvious characteristics.
The main Rat Brownie types are listed below:
Mud Rat Brownies
Mud Rat Brownies is the name given to Rat Brownies who live deep under cities and towns and shun the light of day. Some groups underneath Milkengrad are rumoured to spend all their time underground, never needing to venture out even at night. From a report by the Milken scholar “Gratcha Swath“:
"Mud Rat Brownies have lost just about everything that makes Brownies distinctive. They look like little mud-brown parodies of other races, having eyes, hair, and skin that no longer match in colour, ranging from black through to light, sandy browns. Their bodies are strangely warped and rather top-heavy, with powerful shoulder muscles and backs from grubbing around underground. Large, dark eyes of a brownish hue are darkened further by thick brow ridges and something about them is far closer to the dark spirits they worship than to the rest of their race.
They walk upright, although hunched over, all the time, and are often a little taller than true Brownies averaging 15-16 nailsbreaths rather than 14-15. Of course their larger build makes them seem even more intimidating and one can easily see how they became the subject of so many horror stories. The intelligence in their eyes and the smooth assuredness of their movements gives them an air of unshakeable confidence which makes them far more terrifying than a wild beast."
Faded Rat Brownies are among the strangest of sentient creatures. Brownies belonging to this group are blind, but seem to be strangely good at finding their way around. The natural pigment in their hair, eyes, and skin has all faded to a pasty white as well, although the reason for this is unknown. The excellent navigation is thought to be partly due to their excellent hearing, but it is more than that as they seem to be able to detect inanimate objects in their way too, like rocks or the edge of a cage. Even if they were not in fact fully blind but still had some sensitivity to light, it would not account for the uncanny way they manoeuvre themselves around their surroundings. It has been suggested that they navigate like bats, who manage to avoid objects and even locate the tiny flies they eat without even the tiniest glow of light.
Possibly the only people who know how they do this are the Morjualerons, a group of dwarves who tame bats and use them to send messages across the continent. Unfortunately the only nugget of information which could be gleaned from this group is that the animals make small squeaky sounds, apparently called “chits”, and somehow this helps them. Even the Vale Brownies who work very closely with the Morjualerons making the “Singspeaker” (a machine for helping them listen to these noises) were very reluctant to share their knowledge. Particularly, as they kindly pointed out to this researcher, as the information was to be made available to whoever would like to read it.
On the other hand, several things support the squeak-theory – firstly that the Faded Brownies almost always sit down to talk, and are all but silent at any other time to allow their high-pitched squeaks to be heard with the minimum interference. They often wear long flowing capes of some sort, which appear to be used as a basic signalling device whilst on the move. These are normally made of a heavy leather, to provide the benefits whilst not flapping around too much. Staffs are also fairly common, but only carried by those in charge. The vibrations of one of these hitting the floor as the leader walks sends a subtle but perceptible signal to the others of where he or she is, and they can follow the sound without having to talk or hold hands.
Twisted Rat Brownies
Twisted Rat Brownies can be distinguished from the others by their strangely animalistic appearance. The tiny creatures look almost completely like rats from a distance, having a covering of dark, tufty fur across their backs and walking rather hunched, often even running on all fours. However, they possess elongated fangs which protrude from each side of their mouth. Of all the Rat Brownies they are the ones who are most often found in traps and communicate by a series of grunts and body language rather than speech, and so it is thought that they have lost some of their ability to reason as well.
Strangely too there is a marked difference between the male and female Twisted Brownies. For example the male Brownies’ fur starts on their heads and reaches to around halfway down their backs, whilst the females’ tends to only cover their head and shoulders. The males are also slightly larger than the females, around the same size as true Brownies. Females are one or two nailsbreaths smaller when standing, so 12-14 nailsbreaths. The fangs are also noticeably larger in the male of the species, almost reaching the bottom of the jaw.
Field Rat Brownies are easily the most commonly spotted, because, as their name suggests, they do not hide below ground. They possess the same strange variety of skin colours as true Brownies, although there are noticeably more greens and browns, and far fewer blues and yellows. They are regarded as vermin by most farmers as the little creatures will happily steal anything they can; grain, sacks for bedding, even small livestock. Being quite intelligent enough to get around most forms of protection, they can become real pests and hard to get rid of. They are unfortunately often confused with groups of the far more sociable Auhu’o Brownies, which only shows the farmer’s ignorance as although they look very similar, their habits are completely different. Like other Rat Brownies they regard other sentient beings as their enemies, whilst the Auhu’o will hide from them, but never seek conflict.
Shadow Rat Brownies are mentioned in far more myths and horror stories than they are in actual records, and so the truth about them is far from the general population’s belief. They are not in fact able to melt into shadows, nor can they disappear or make themselves invisible. They are simply all a dark, pure black with black hair, even black eye banners. The rest of their skill at hiding is purely practice; they live off whatever they can steal and so if they do not steal they perish. However, Shadow Brownies do have one remarkable feature. Each of their hands and feet end in extremely strong, curved claws which can be retracted back into their skin. These allow the light little creatures to get a really good grip on a surface, and can climb almost anything from tree bark to rough stone walls. They are distinguished from the Twisted Brownies by their intelligence and lack of hair on their backs.
Unfortunately it is impossible to give a full list of Rat Brownie tribes, due to the plethora of legends and stories which feature them, at least in the culture of other Brownies. There are rumoured to be bluebark groups who actually live underwater, tiny pygmy Brownies no bigger than a human thumb, and even a group of green, plantlike Brownies living deep in the bowls of the Vale. The problem is that it is impossible to disprove the existence of these probably mythical tribes without searching the whole of the area they are rumoured to live in.
Some trappers even report finding strange tattoo-like markings on Rat Brownies they have managed to catch, although noticeably never on Shadow or Twisted Brownies. The marks are not like the normal blue or coloured pigments which are sometimes seen adorning human flesh. Rather the pattern is raised from the surface, sometimes by up to two grains, and often a dark black. Mud and Field Rat tattoos tend to lie on the chest or back, whilst Fadeds usually have them on the wrist, presumably because these Brownies are blind and must feel them rather than see them. The patterns are normally simple and as large as possible, covering the whole of the available surface.
Coat of Arms/Sign.
There is no one symbol which is used by all Rat Brownies, and in fact it is
unknown if most do use one or not. The few which have been seen have mainly been
some kind of representation of the spirit or god which they honour most, or
consider the most important. The banners depicting it are often decorated far
more richly than the Brownie’s own
clothes, highly prized and well cared for. Marks can also be carved into a
Brownie’s skin in a crude form of tattoo,
or painted on entrances in whatever they can find to stain it with.
Territory. Rat Brownies are generally found in the sewers and other underground spaces of major cities, as well as being scattered all over Caelereth above ground in small, seldom discovered bands. They mainly inhabit places where there is daily (or nightly) access to leftovers or some type of food source, but somewhere they can nest out of sight. Unused cellars, or the remains of other houses which have been built over as the years progressed are ideal. Natural underground caves, as long as they do not fill with water during the course of the year, are great for Mud Rat Brownies as they provide a good habitat for the fungi which supplement their diet. All tribes compete with city rats and vilerats for space as well, so anywhere that is suitable for them will also support Rat Brownies.
Image description. A Rat Brownie with his mount riding out ion a swampy area. Illustration drawn by Max.
Being extremely wary of humans, they are
very seldom spotted and so there are suspected to be a vast number of groups
which have so far gone undetected. It does not help that many people most likely
to spot the signs have no idea of what they are seeing, and have likely never
seen a Brownie before. Often sightings of
them are dismissed as large rats, or even a
vision of small, malevolent spirits.
On the other hand, climates which are known to be too harsh for other tribes of Brownies to live happily are more than likely going to discourage Rat Brownies too. It is unlikely that anywhere which sees a covering of snow for more than a few days a year will be home to these creatures, as it is certain that somewhere too sandy or rocky to dig a decent burrow will be. There are known to be bands living under Strata, Nyermersys, Milkengrad, New-Santhala and even Voldar, and it is very likely that they live under almost every large city with the right climate. Most towns are thought to have their share of Rat Brownies too, which at least help to keep the rat population at bay, although it is debatable which one is worse.
There also seems to be a difference in the conditions each tribe prefers. Although Twisted Rat Brownies will etch out a living wherever they can, Mud Rat Brownies tend to stick exclusively to sewers and damp underground caves and supplement their rat-based diet on the various fungi which live there. Shadow Brownies mostly survive from stealing, and so live right near the surface, preferring an unused cellar or underground storage area. Faded Tribes are often found living rather deep like the Mud Rat Brownies, but noticeably never near the water, so not in sewer pipes.
People. These creatures seem to have almost no respect or care for other races, sentient or not, and from what can be gathered they regard anything other than Brownies with loathing and disdain. They are quite happy to steal, kill and generally cause difficulty for anyone else, making them hated and even feared by most who come into contact with them. They do not seem to seek contact with other tribes, even other Brownies, and when that contact is forced upon them they are reluctant to make any effort towards communication. They seem protective of their culture and language, and even though they are able to learn basic Tharian, most refuse to teach others their own language or share beliefs, myths and stories. It seems that the hatred that the majority of "True" Brownies show towards them is mutual.
Although as intelligent (in most cases) as other Brownie tribes, Rat Brownies generally are lacking in education, never learning to read or make their own tools, living and dying in ignorance. Or at least this is what is thought by the majority of people who actually recognise their existence and sentience. There is some speculation as to whether the Mud Rat Brownies at least have some sign of a culture and system, and really it seems likely that the tribes have some sort of primitive structure. All tribes except Twisted, for example, are known to capture and train the city rat for riding, as well as being able to survive far under the city without ever coming above ground. Certain Field Rat Brownie tribes show a complex daily routine based around the worship of their particular spirit, and Faded Rat Brownies have developed ways of communicating so as not to interfere with their sonic navigation. Tattoos found on some specimens even suggest some sort of respect for certain members of the tribe, or perhaps some sort of hierarchy. Such feats suggest more planning and capacity for logical thought than they have previously been given credit for.
On the other hand, the Twisted Rat Brownies are known to be rather more animalistic. They were the first to be widely believed to actually exist, although the writing which caused this was just a few short entries by the Rat Exterminator and Researcher Erron Ratdweller. In fact, this observation from around 220 a.S. is thought to have led to the long-standing misconception that all Rat Brownies were seriously lacking in conscious thought, despite the other sources available which disputed this. Sadly people have a habit of believing what they want to, rather than what is backed by the best evidence.
“The animals were strange, oddly rat-like but defiantly not rats. Thinner and leaner, with slightly longer legs than arms. They moved sometimes on all fours and sometimes standing, squeaking away almost constantly at each other as if they were in distress. A fight suddenly broke out between two of them and they snarled and tussled like two dogs, raking at the fur on each other’s backs with clawed paws. The other two, smaller and balder, squeaked in agitation as the fight escalated, and then suddenly seemed to reach a point at which the tension was too high and bolted. The first two stopped almost immediately and backed away from each other, keeping their eyes on each other until they had both disappeared into the darkness.”
that any of the bands of Rat Brownies have survived to the present day is a
mystery that has baffled scholars and sages throughout the ages, as history
seems to prove that Brownies cannot
survive for long outside of a protective environment of some kind. Generally
possessing debatable skill with weapons
or tools, illiterate and most often starving, Rat Brownies must be a hardy lot,
resistant to disease and pain from long exposure to them. They are considered,
among many, to be a classic example of how a civilized species can degenerate if
left to itself in a questionable environment.
Each band has its own language, seemingly unrelated to the languages of the Browniin family. Various archaic pre-Browniin languages, most likely derived from recombinations of the original Brownie languages, gradually developed into the languages now used by Rat Brownie bands, and this link to the Brownie’s mysterious past is one of the reasons they have been studied by Milken scholars. The members of each band generally have a familiarity with the basic words of the languages of other bands under the same city.
Housing. From what little information we have, underground Rat Brownies most often live in abject poverty, building sprawling villages of rubbish alongside the stinking streams in absolute darkness. Beneath the ground there is no wind or rain or other elements to protect from, so there is little need for any sturdy structure. Housing is built purely for privacy and thus mainly from whatever is lying around and can be made to stand vertically. On the other hand the Twisted Brownie camps spotted have simply been a series of fires, thought to be one for each family, or family group.
Field Rat Brownies need to put a bit more effort into the construction of their houses, making them more often out of twigs and leaves in the branches of trees, or burrowing into loose earth at their bases. However, structures are uniformly simple and not particularly sturdy. They can be easily distinguished from bird’s nests by the size as well as the lack of skill which goes into them. These Brownies have been found in old tarep burrows too, probably after chasing out the animals or killing them for food. One group was discovered inside some natural caves which were too small for human or dwarven use.
Rat Brownies are not known for their fine fashion or skill with fabrics of any
kind. They have no woven or knitted materials unless they find or steal them,
and such things are hard to carry away. Thus they almost exclusively wear furs
and leathers, uncoloured and tied with leather thongs. Small pieces of fabric
which look or feel different from the norm are used as decoration. Beads of bone
are not uncommon either. Shoes, however, are almost unheard of. Perhaps the
constant damp of life underground simply makes them ineffectual.
Mud Rat Brownies are known to cover themselves in a series of furs, tied together and onto their bodies with thick thongs. The clothes are not so much tailored as strapped on, with new patches just slapped on top of the old and any decorations tied on wherever the fabric is thin enough to take one of their large, blunt needles. They seem to love anything coloured or strangely shaped, and such items are thought to bring great luck.
Faded Brownies form the exception in this case, as they often wear long, thin capes or cloaks. They still make these out of leather, but work it very thin by scraping the underside of the animal hide until most has been taken off. It has been suggested that these help the Brownies to distinguish between Fadeds and other Rat Brownies as the strangely light material is prone to fluttering around the creature as it moves.
Diet. Studies on captured Rat Brownies have been unable to discover anything they won’t eat. Hence it is thought that they will pretty much consume anything their environment provides - leftovers from the town above, insects and grubs, small mammals like rats and mice, even fungi. There are some scanty reports of Mud Rat Brownies farming small crops of sulcho and glowcap mushrooms, the second providing a faint source of light as well as a food supply. Typically living near the sewers, this group has better access to a range of fungi and moulds and takes advantage of that. Perhaps their wider range of diet is the reason they are somewhat larger than other Rat Brownies who live mainly on meat.
The Faded and Twisted are thought to live mainly on rats, beetles and grubs, and the Shadow on anything they can steal. The myrmex insect, when it can be found under the city, is a particular favourite of the Faded Rat Brownies and they often decorate their camps and homes with the pincers. Otherwise common or city rats form a large part of their diet, the later also being used as mounts. Shadow Brownie bands have been known to go for the mirjah groundbird as it sleeps. They adore anything sweet, and will forsake a lot of their natural cautiousness for anything sugary or honey-covered. In fact the best way to get rid of an infestation is said to be to lace leftover kao-kao and doch nut cookies with poison and leave them with the rest of the waste.
Field Rat Brownies are always found living near some source of food, be it a village or farmstead or perhaps a particularly well-stocked stream. They, along with the Shadow Rat Brownies, often rely on stealing to sustain themselves which explains why they are spotted more frequently. They will take grain, eggs, stored meat, even live chicks, puppies or kittens if they are not well looked after by their mother. Like the rest of their race, they have a craving for sweet things and have actually been known to launch attacks on malise nests to get at the honey.
The recent findings of the Milken Brownie Terrak Themal (see Researchers and the History of Research for more detail) provided some new and slightly grisly information. He noticed that when the Rat Brownies made a large enough sacrifice, the ones who were leading the ritual would feast from the meat too. “Large enough”, in his words, could be defined as “if, when the bodies had been burnt and the fire had died down around them, there was anything left which looked edible”. This at least shows that the creatures are not adverse to cannibalism, although this one account does not mean that all Rat Brownies practice it this way. It would be stupid to waste good meat when food is not plentiful.
Weapons. Basic clubs and rough spears are generally the extent of Rat Brownie weaponry, fashioned from whatever material comes ready to hand. They don’t possess the means of smelting or refining metal, but do collect whatever they can find from the sewers or other waste pits. So weapons are generally crude wooden spears and strange-shaped clubs with the odd sharpened human eating knife as well. These are typically covered in a poison made from pieces of dead vilerat carcass. The Rat Brownies seem to have found a way to preserve the venomous qualities of the carcasses to make the substance practical.
After the attacks from the Rat Brownies in Santhala which occured during the Year of Darkness, their tiny weapons were a common sight. Cat, rat or dog teeth were found in clubs or as decorative or possibly luck-giving additions to spears. How the Brownies managed to kill the larger predators remains unknown, but then with a big enough group of them it is probably possible. The likelihood of actually getting killed oneself whilst attacking must be extremely high, but maybe this only adds to the prestige of owning one. Ranged weapons are almost never found on Rat Brownies, but then what would be the use in the small underground tunnels and lairs. Field Rat Brownies have been known to throw small spears at their foes. These are simply sharpened splinters of wood, nothing fancier, although they can be poisoned.
Occupations. As most Rat Brownie tribes are known to be fairly primitive hunter-gatherers, it is not thought that they practice any division of labour other than someone to look after the children when they are very small. However, there is one particularly interesting report which came from a Milken Brownie, “Terrak Themal” who actually managed to spend some time with a Mud Rat Brownie tribe and return fairly unharmed. His story gives some rare insights into the culture and life of these antisocial beings, and suggests the presence of at least a couple of different jobs: a tribe leader and a religious leader. The tribe leader was the one actually in charge of the decision-making, but the others seemed to hold a lot of sway over the tribe’s willingness to follow them. There was noticeably no division between the sexes, much like "true" Brownies. All hands are required to help feed the family, and as soon as children can be taught to take part too then they do.
Government. Rat Brownies are thought to be ruled and governed through fear of the dark spirits they worship. The strongest Brownie, or possibly the one who can sway the most followers to their side, will rule undisputedly and the others will obey or be next on the altar. The specifics may vary from band to band, but all information so far points to this type of tribal rule. Hierarchies are thought to be strict and unforgiving, and this probably suits there lifestyle very well. After all, the more people in charge of running the proceedings, the less Brownies who would be gathering food and other supplies or fighting to protect the colony from other tribes.
There is no central government for the Rat Brownie race, nor any between the tribes of one town or city. Instead they fight among each other, squabbling over good hunting and housing spots. They are also known to fight the sewer rats, as they compete with these animals too. The only known alliance between Rat Brownies was led by Arxxt the Bold in the Year of Darkness, and that was only between a few groups in Santhala. Tribes who spend a great deal of their time fighting against and sacrificing one another are not destined for long term cooperation.
Production/Trade. There is thought to be no trade at all among Rat Brownies, or very little, but then it is impossible to know for certain what goes on between different underground tribes. Seeing as their languages differ so much from one band to another, regular trade does not seem likely. Underground bands lack the opportunity to get the materials required to produce anything worth trading, and the majority of Field Rat Brownie bands must use all their energy to keep from being wiped out by predators. It is however possible that there are some tribes aboveground that do produce, having found some way to hold predators at bay.
Natural Resources. The Rat Brownies are not known to mine, fell wood, or take advantage of their environment in any such way. Thus their most valuable resources are things they can eat and the things made by other races which they find or steal. The animals which frequent their patch, or the plants which grow there determine how rich it is, not the minerals or timbers.
Holidays, Festivals and Observances. The following small text was found in the religious writings of the Llaoihrr Scholar “Ll’eh SpiritFriend”. The scroll dates from around 880 a.S., so the information is rather out of date now, but it has largely been found to be true, if a little melodramatic:
"Rat Brownie festivals are uniformly gruesome, and generally involve the sacrifice of Brownies or other bloodletting. Rat Brownies live in terror of the dark spirits of the deeps, including some creatures living in the depths which are perhaps best forgotten, like the móh'sýs and other creatures of ancient evil. Unending wars between rival tribes result in an attempt to capture members of other bands to use to appease these bloodthirsty spirits."
Rat Brownies are known for their bloodthirsty religious rituals
and in fact share one belief with “True”
Brownies. This is that the dark, underground spirits do not celebrate life
or want to help it, but rather seek control over it. The difference is that the
Rat Brownies try to appease these forces by making sacrifices to them, whilst
the “True” Brownies trust the spirits
they worship to keep them at bay.
On the other hand it is doubtful whether Rat Brownies have any special celebrations based on the time of the year or the circle of night and day. Almost all tribes spend the majority of their time underground where these things are virtually meaningless and often hard to judge. Stories about them throwing large festivals with many sacrifices after a successful battle are more likely to be true. They seem to consider sentient beings better altar-fodder than rats or other animals, and so having a lot of Rat Brownies from another tribe for sacrifice would be a logical reason for celebration.
Researchers and the History of Research. Although it may seem strange to have a tribe (or selection of tribes) who need to be actively researched, the Rat Brownies prove to be one of them. The uneducated masses generally believe them to be nothing more than horror stories as it is, and only those who have come into contact with them or the research on them realise the extent of their intelligence and culture even now. The myths and legends about them are often far more prominent than the facts, and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish where one ends and the other begins.
The most noted researcher of these creatures is the Milken Brownie Gratcha Swath, whose writings are far the most complete of any about Rat Brownies. Her first passion was for language and the history of language, particularly that of her own race, but this quickly led to investigating the best living record of these languages, the Rat Brownies. Her fascination with them grew from there, and quickly became the main focus of her research. She was the Brownie who finally provided conclusive evidence that the Rat Brownies had not lost capacity for sentient thought, although this had been suspect by some less reliable sources for some time. But then who believes a farmer who swears there are miniature men waging war on his grain store, or the every-day rat-trapper who tells of the weird little clothed beings he discovers now and again? When Gratcha began her research, she actually found a considerable wealth of people ready to give her the information she was looking for. Tales and descriptions were easily forthcoming, although they naturally had to be sifted for accuracy.
For a period of about ten years the tiny Milken took to travelling around Mid-Sarvonia speaking to whoever she could find. This possibly earns her the title of most-well-travelled Brownie in the whole of Caelereth, and she is probably one of the only to have ever owned a full-size Centoraurian mare. Gratcha had to hire someone to control the beast, but she also had a special saddle commissioned which stretched backwards onto the horse's rump. Here was a small covered space where the Brownie could sit and finish recording her findings on the move. Thus almost none of her writings were written in the same place, which goes some way to explaining their disorder. You can still distinguish the villages and parts of the towns she visited by their unusually friendly approach to Brownies and the unfortunate yet unwavering belief that our race drink only warm goats-milk. This seems to have been Gratcha’s favourite beverage, although for the record it is not a common preference among other Brownies.
Gratcha’s sources were many and varied, but her friendly and businesslike demeanour did lead her to speak with two notable names: Yeun the Ereshian, a Ximaxian Scholar and Leifloff Sjungnarr from Marcogg. The first of these had only come across the Rat Brownies in passing, and not in his own city either. He often travelled with a pack of intelligent Ximax rats and spoke of a time when he had been in Voldar, visiting family, and a night when the pets had drawn attention from a very strange group. His account, recorded in note form in Gratcha’s hand, probably helped her discover something about the way the Faded Brownies navigated. Leifloff Sjungnarr on the other hand, had actually written something himself about a troop of Field Rat Brownies he had spotted actually hunting butterflies. Of course the avid butterfly-lover made sure they didn’t bother the insects again, giving himself a chance of a better look at them too.
Possibly some of the most complete studies (the findings of course mentioned in Gratcha’s writings) took place in the city of Strata at the beginning of the Age of Blood. Rat Brownies were officially discovered living under the town in 854 b.S., considerably earlier than most places in Sarvonia. However this discovery did not cause the outcry it probably deserved, mainly due to the outbreak of the War of The Blood only 48 years later and the political tensions which led up to it. With the fear of attack running rife throughout the city, the Brownies were shown no mercy either and any Rat Brownie which showed its head was exterminated. Some must have survived, as there are certainly several groups living there now, but it is thought they retreated further underground or simply stopped using any spaces large enough for a human to get down. There were also a few which were captured for study. As Brownies were fairly unknown that far from Milkengrad and the Vale, cruelty towards them was not really an issue, which led to some seriously detailed findings.
Unfortunately the period was far from stable and the Rat Brownies were just another enemy in the War of Shadows. With no-one to care for these writings they became dispersed and most are now irreplaceable. A few references to the research live in books and other documents, but all the originals are no doubt lost forever. However, what is mentioned has provided a base for more recent research in Milkengrad. Historically-minded Browniefolk started the research trend mid 700s, and the Rat Brownies living there have never been so watched and studied. This is what led Gratcha to travel elsewhere in her search for knowledge: she knew that not only the creatures living in their own city should be of interest.
One very lucky break for the researchers came in 1666 when a small Brownie who had previously been thought dead returned after almost a year of absence. Although obviously shaken and thought by many to be out of his mind, Terrak Themal seemed to have spent the time actually living amongst some of the deepest Mud Rat Brownies in the city. The details which were extracted from him are easily the most in depth reports on life, culture and hierarchy which exist today.
History. One of the great mysteries is how Rat Brownies actually became so different from “true” Brownies. Traditional theory says that it was a punishment for turning against the nature spirits worshipped by two-thirds of the Brownie race, and that these spirits have made them strangely animalistic to mark their decent from grace. However, certain Brownies question the logic in this idea, most notably those from Milkengrad who themselves worship the elven High Goddess Avá rather than the traditional spirits. It is reasonable to assume that if their “decent” has not caused them any lasting harm then it couldn’t have caused such a change to the Rat Brownies.
There is a far more likely reason, or at least one which is thought more likely by the scholarly types. Records from the Birni era are all but gone, but we do know that members of this civilisation had amazing control over life magic. It is possible that the Rat Brownie Tribes were originally groups of Birni Brownies who fell foul of the political upheavals and were classed as criminals. As punishment of their wrongdoings they were not only banished but also had their very structure warped by the life magi to mark them as unsavoury characters. So their fall from grace was not so much with the spirits they worshipped but with the Brownie society. They were given certain animal traits as a mark of their exclusion and a sign that they had been thrown out of civilisation. Of course this would put the formation of the bands in the Birni Era rather than after it in the Harsh Years.
This idea is supported by the strange pattern of similarities and differences between bands. It is quite common for two Rat Brownie tribes living in the same city to look nothing like each other, and yet another tribe four furlays away is close to identical. It seems very likely that there were a set number of different animal traits used for punishment and groups who were brought to trial together all got the same deformation. It’s even possible that the particular transformations went in and out of fashion as the years passed.
However, this idea does not explain the change in religion and mode of living which defines these scattered bands; an argument which is often brought in defence of the traditional theory. It was most likely a reaction of the banished Brownies themselves, after all they had been officially stricken from the Brownie civilisation, which at that time could have included their religion. Set adrift and believing the spirits to now be against them, it does not seem impossible that the mutated groups turned to the only spirits who they thought would now take them in and protect them: the darker, evil ones. Moving to human settlements and living off their refuse might have been the only way to survive. Sadly, there is little proof of this, as we do not know how people were punished in the Birni Kingdom, nor their views on religion or civilisation.
Before the start of the Milken research, Rat Brownies (when anyone thought of them) were considered nothing more than intelligent animals, degraded beyond any form of sentience. They were a cautionary tale for Brownies everywhere of what would happen to them if they failed to worship the spirits properly. As they were not considered to be sentient, Rat Brownies were not unheard of as pets or live conversation pieces. Their bodies were found occasionally in traps, but more often mangled in the mouth of a dog or cat. They were seen as rather clever vermin, and hunted or poisoned as such too. In a fair number of places this is still the case, as a farmer will brook no-one stealing his crops, sentient or not, but it is now noticeably uncommon to have them as pets. It is unknown whether this is in fact a mark of people realising their intelligence, or if the creatures’ uncooperative, sometimes vicious behaviour has simply made them worthless in this field.
Myth and Legend. Please note that this section is not a collection of stories from within the Rat Brownie tribes, but rather what other people believe about them. The former will only be possible once we learn to actually speak and communicate with the Rat Brownie Tribes themselves, something which sadly is still in the beginning stages at the time of this report. Most of these stories are of Brownie origin, simply because the number of humans aware of the Rat Brownie’s presence has never been particularly high. Even when they are mentioned in human tales, they are often mistaken for clever rats that are far bolder than the norm. These seem to appear considerably more often than, say, intelligent mice or vicious rabbits, which does suggest that some of these tales can be accounted to them.
This particular Llaoihrr tale is told to small Brownie children as a warning of what will happen to them if they don’t pay respect to the plants and animals and their spirits.
Ehei’s Mistake. Long ago, when today’s trees still nestled
in their seed cases, there lived a
Brownie maiden by the name of ehei. Ehei was a pretty little thing,
always catching the remarks of other
Brownies if she was out helping her mother. She had the most amazing
leaf green hair, which seemed to sparkle with new spring life at any time
of the year. Her parents would have been very proud of her, if it wasn’t
for one little thing.
A similar tale tells of a little male
Brownie who does not look after the rat
which drives the machinery he uses to grind grain, leaving it without
not feeding it properly. The rat dies and the spirits turn him into an
unintelligent half-rat half-Brownie
as punishment. As his family no longer has
a rat to help them, and he can no longer contribute to the other tasks, he ends
up working in its place.
Milken Brownies have many horror stories featuring Rat Brownies as the things which hide in corners and jump out when you are walking alone down a dark alleyway. They are considered all the more dangerous because of their intelligence. If the culprit of a crime is not known, it is almost always blamed on Rat Brownies, particularly thefts or violent attacks. “He’s a Rat” would be applied to someone who is thought to be involved in dodgy dealings and is so far getting away with it. On the other hand, “twisted” can point to someone who is thought to have something wrong in the head. Often this is someone who is dangerous because of this defect.
The horror stories feature all kinds of Rat-Brownie-Like beasts. Each real type seems to have its own exaggerated version made more fierce and terrifying in the process. Twisted Brownies are warped by magic, constantly changing form, flickering between Brownie and all kinds of other animals. Some have wolfish fangs, some the long, movable tail of a cat, some are the strange yellow-green of a vilerat. The stories tell of Faded Brownies with a psychic ability to sense where their victims are, sometimes reaching up to three of four strals. The black Shadow Brownies are even better at remaining unseen and can literally fade from existence at will. Mud Rat Brownies are huge looming monstrosities with eyes bulging from their heads. Their strength allows them to crush their victims in one easy stroke. Thankfully these myths are very far from ever being found out to be true.
Then, of course, there are the tale of other types of Rat Brownie groups which have not yet been confirmed. A particularly interesting one tells about plant-Brownie creatures, with branches instead of hair. These are actually far more likely to be young drasil than a type of Rat Brownies, which might mean that there are a few of this species hanging on in secluded areas of Sarvonia.The idea of pygmy Brownies was more than likely started by a sighting of a group of Brownie children, although it is not impossible. Water-dwelling tribes are also unlikely, but not implausable.
In short, the Rat Brownies are a strange, mismatched tribe, grouped together by chance and habit rather than any striking similarity. Maybe one day they will become more a part of society, although it seems doubtful they will ever be willing to help it.