The half-orcen Kaaer'dár'shín people of the Themed'lon Forests of Northern Sarvonia are a tribe born from the fires of war and conquest. The birth of the Kaaer'dár'shín was witnessed by terror, fear and rebellion during one of the most devastating wars Sarvonia has ever suffered. The tribe today is said to be the descendants of orcen and human offspring that began during the dawn of the Third Sarvonian War of 298 b.S. Sages note the Kaaer'dár'shín peoples' strength, resilience, and strong devotion to nature as the reason that they have survived for as long as they have. In addition, the Kaaer are the subject of many whispered Northern tales involving shapeshifting creatures known as the fylja fur-folk. The tribe exists today divided into three clans: the Stoneblessed (Kaaer "Gyn’orchén"), the Mist Stalkers (Kaaer "Noq’vak'hol") and the Grey Keepers (Kaaer "Suk’rom’da"). They are known to the Kuglimz as savage animal-men and to the Antislar as mysterious forest watchers. To the elves, the Kaaer are known as "Thróg'zoumáth" (Styrásh lit. "Beast Dwellers") and to the orcs, the Kaaer are known as "Traag'hag Suun" (orcen lit. "those who command the darkness and the trees"). The Kaaer'dár'shín are a mysterious tribe in many ways, but one cannot deny that they are tenacious survivors.
Picture description. A Kaaer'dár'shín shamut, wearing the Mask of the Tree Cousin, performs a blessing during the Feast of Horkcha with a warrior woman drumming the beats of the woolly boar's heart. Image drawn by Bard Judith.
The Kaaer'dár'shín people think of themselves as the embodiment of nature
itself and live comfortably among the harsh northern elements. Kaaer body types
are as varied as any human, but given
their orcen bloodline, they possess physical attributes of both races. Dark
skin tones of brown, grey, black or even green are typical. Their skin is
weathered and free of blemish giving them a healthy and well worn appearance.
The Kaaer possess powerfully lean musculature with arms and legs taut with wiry muscle. They are quite athletic and swift runners. Both male and female Kaaer have broad shoulders and are accustomed to heavy lifting. As adults, both sexes average just under two peds in height with females typically shorter than the males. Adults are also estimated to be between one to two pygges in weight giving them the stature of light, swift movers.
The half-orcs' agile bodies are well suited for swift running and stealthy movement. Their physical training begins at an early age and as young children, they already have built hearty bodies capable of tirelessly running or riding long distances. Their lean legs and wide feet are well suited and balanced for agile movement. The Kaaer also possess nimble hands with dexterous fingers. Their grip is strong and they wield their weapons with extraordinary agility.
Each individual Kaaer can possess a wide range of human and orcen-like facial features. Generally, both sexes possess wide and flat faces with a high brow and widely spaced eyes. They have slightly wider noses with larger nostrils than most other human tribes. They have gracefully high cheekbone structure with strong chins and a pronounced jaw line. Their teeth are larger than most other human tribes, and are square and blocked shaped. The ears are wide and Kaaer women enjoy decorating their lobes with shiny fish scales or bone studs. The orcen trait of pointed ears can also be seen among certain individual Kaaer depending on the family lineage.
Hairstyles among the tribal members would be considered plain and ordinary. Most Kaaer'dár'shín men wear their hair long, approximately shoulder length, tied back with leather cords. A scalp with several long braids tied off with cords is another typical hairstyle. Some men prefer to have no hair at all and practice shaving it off with their daggers. Their bald scalp is then painted with black or red paint patterns. Still other men shave part of their hair off around the sides leaving a braided length along the top and back. Women adorn similar hairstyles as the men, including shaved or partly shaved painted scalps. Often, family and clan members appear similar to each other with the same hairstyles being worn by generations of each family.
Clothing made of animal hides constitutes the majority of the tribe's wardrobe. Robes, cloaks, pants and vests made of the hides of the Tsor-Shotak lizard, the uncil cat, the snow wolf, the cuncu sheep and the Cartashian bear are all common. The colder climate of the tribe's homeland means most clothing is heavy furs in the winter and lighter hides in the warmer months. Footwear is typically hide boots or sandals crafted by the women clothiers. During the warmer months, most of the tribe prefers little clothing with the men typically having no shirt on at all or a simple vest and pants. The women also wear midriff pants and wraps around their chests.
Coat of Arms/Sign. All of the Kaaer clans recognize the traditional coat of arms known as the "To'ava Dro" (Kaaer lit. "Nature mark"). It is depicted as a runic tree with two branches, one on either side. To the tribal shamuts, the tree symbol itself signifies a pendrowe and the Themed'lon, their sacred home. The two branches represent their racial heritage, human and orcen. Behind the tree symbol are two circles depicting Suriot ("Light Father") and Leigor ("Mother Darkness"). The wavy line below the circles represents Gynturg ("Earth Brother") and Bynapryl ("Water Maiden").
Territory. The Kaaer'dár'shín occupy three regions of land within the Northern Sarvonian peninsula of Caaehl'heroth. The Stoneblessed clan make their home in the tribes' traditional colony of Torik (Kuglim-Seitre lit. "Home") and Eph'denn. The colony is situated along the northern borders of the Themed'lon Forests at the fork of the Kharim River. Torik was the tribes' original settlement is the largest one. The Stoneblessed clan function as leaders, traders and advisors to the other clans. They are primarily the clan whom other foreign tribes relate and trade with.
The Themed'lon Forests are home to the Grey Keeper clan who take responsibility for maintaining the balance of the vast forests. The entire forest region is considered sacred and holy to the tribe and the Keeper clan rarely leaves the borders of their forest home. The Themed'lon has been called one of the most beautiful woodland regions in all of Northern Sarvonia by the Injerín ranger Saryas Kelweather. He noted that it compares with even the elven woods which is, coming from an elf, a grand statement.
The Mist Stalker clan are the nomadic group of the tribe and roam the Heaths and lands far to the north of Torik. They are hunters and wildsmen who live off whatever they can find. Over time, many have come to settle an area around the great Mount Osthen near the southwestern edges of the Mists of Osthemangar. Here, the Kaaer have integrated themselves with the smaller Osthen orcen clans. As a result, the Mist Stalkers have far less human bloodline then their southern kin. The Stalkers are the embodiments of Durgho's hunting passion and enjoy challenging themselves against the many dangerous beasts of the Mists.
People. The Kaaer'dár'shín people are composed of three separate clans with each having certain responsibilities and skills. Given the tribes' complex religious and spiritual needs, it was necessary long ago that the tribe divide themselves in order to best serve the nature spirits that dwelled with them. Each clan is ruled by a chieftain (the Wood Keepers are ruled by a shamut) and together, the three rulers and their families lead the tribe.
Stoneblessed Clan (Kaaer lit. "Gyn’orchén")
The clan known as the "Stoneblessed" serves as the tribes' overall face to the outside world. They are so named because clan members are said to have a close communion with the Earth Brother spirit and are blessed by him to bring forth the fruits of the ground. The Stoneblessed clanmen serve primarily as the tribes' traders, farmers, crafters and laborers. This clan conducts the trade and business with other tribes and are whom most visitors to the Themed'lon often interact with. The artisans of this clan are renowned among Northern humans as producing exquisite stone, wood and bone carvings. The clan also serves as the tribes' main source of warriors and tribal leaders. The Stonekeepers also breed and train the Landesh pony for use as work animals and mounts for the warriors. In addition, food, weapons and furs are all produced and traded by this clan.
Keeper Clan (Kaaer lit. "Suk’rom’da")
The Grey Keepers are known to outsiders as being the most mysterious and secretive of the Kaaer clans. Scholars can only guess at the true nature of the Suk’rom’da, but enough is known to be said that this clan functions as the chief religious class. The Keepers live solely within the Themed'lon and rarely ever venture outside of it. They maintain a close vigil over the region and safeguard it with their very lives, not even allowing other clans to venture in uninvited. It is said that the Keepers have close communion with the pendrowe tree-creatures (Kaaer "pafalka" or "wood-men"). It is believed by some scholars that the Grey Keepers have such a close connection to nature that they can change their bodies into those of an animal such as an uncil cat or snow wolf. Some sages maintain that from these whispered rumors come such mythical creatures as the fylja, or folkbeasts, of Northern legend.
Stalker clan (Kaaer lit. "Noq’vak'hol")
The Mist Stalkers, or Veil Hunters, are a clan well known for their hunting prowess and tracking skills. Most Mist Stalkers can be found around the base of Mount Osthen, though a good number live among the Stoneblessed and Grey Keeper clans. They are so named because they vow to follow in Durgho's way in every aspect of their lives. The Noq’vak'hol have become friendly with some of the Osther-Oc clans of the region and many orcs join the Mist Stalkers as members. True to their name, the Noq’vak'hol favour hunting in the dreaded Mists of Osthemangar where they stalk and kill many twisted and horrific spawns of the Netherworld taint. A question often asked among Northern scholars is how the Stalkers protect themselves from the Mists' corrupting influence. The Stalkers themselves say it is their faith in Durgho that shields them. A common trinket worn by all of the clan members is a symbol of the tree and wolf's head, two traditional symbols of the nature spirit Durgho.
A general belief among the
Kaaer is that those not of the tribe have little understanding of nature and
its ways. Because of this, the Kaaer are generally distrustful of other races
and should a stranger cross into their lands, the half-orcs
will challenge them directly. Strangers are viewed as something possibly
destructive and unclean until proven otherwise. Some
dwarven clans have earned the respect of the Kaaer over the years and are
welcomed into the Themed'lon
(though dwarves visit so rarely given
they prefer underground places). The Injerín
and Kurakim have learned long ago to shed
their biases towards the Kaaers' orcen
ancestry and recognized them as unique among orc-bloods.
Kaaer and human interaction has evolved into a far more complex matter. The half-orcs have always found human women to be attractive and suitable as mates. Kaaar clan chiefs often favour human females to breed with and it is common sport for Kaaer hunting parties to raid Kuglimz settlements and "steal" human girls and women. Likely this attraction is inborn having evolved and been maintained since the birth of the tribe between humans and orcs. The Antislar tribe has never been as resistant to sharing their women given that some of their own tribe is also of orcen/human lineage. In fact, the Antislar have at times willingly traded away groups of human girls in exchange for Kaaer ponies, herbs and furs.
Children born to each clan are raised in that particular clans' traditions and practices. Rarely does a child leave the clan for another. Family ties are important to the Kaaer culture and children are seen as vital to carry on the tribes' traditions to the next generation. From the age of 10 years, children are taught the ways of their clan and the tribe. Hunting, tracking, reverence for nature and combat skills are taught to both male and female children. Women are known to take an active role in each clan, but typically they are seen as homemakers and caregivers of the young and elderly.
Housing. Two styles of housing are prevalent within Kaaer'dár'shín settlements: the bromer and the stilt-house. Bromer houses resemble tent-like structures built using wooden logs and sticks draped over with stitched together furs. Small fire pits are built on the ground in the center of the bromer for cooking and warmth. The fire smoke escapes from a hole built at the tip of the bromer. Around the firepit, the occupants lay down furs and hides for sleeping and sitting. A single bromer can fit up to four people comfortably. The bromer can be built with two to three tent poles together making for a larger structure. Due to the simplictic structure of the bromer, it can be assembled and disassembled relatively quickly and easily for transport. The nomadic Mist Hunter clan uses the bromer primarily as they tend to move locations to find the best hunts. Kaaer bromer camps can be found as far north as Mount Osthen near the Mists of Osthemangar or along the southern regions of Caaehl'heroth beyond the Wood Forest. During winter when the snows cover the ground, bromers are abandoned in favor of stilt houses.
The stilt house is a structure built atop thick upright standing logs. This home is usually round or rectangular in shape approximately nine peds in length and six peds across. The size can vary depending on the amount of occupants. The stilt house is favored as a year round home that not protects the occupants from the cold ground in winter and the occasional flooding in the spring months. A ladder extends from the ground to the entrance. The inside walls are draped with furs for warmth and a firepit made of stones sits in the center. The two largest Kaaer settlements, Torik and Eph'denn, are comprised primarily of stilt homes.
Clothing. The North can be a quite cold with an unforgiving climate. As such, the Kaaer'dár'shín dress for warmth as well as light weight movement. Typical clothing is composed of hides and furs from a variety of animals found in the Northern regions. Hides from the woolly boar, Tsor-Shotak lizard, the wolverine, the uncil cat, the snow wolf, the cuncu sheep, mountain wison or the Cartashian bear are used. These hides can be made into robes, coats, leggings and shoes that provide more than adequate protection from the winds that blow from the north icelands or from the gulfs.
Clothing does not vary much between the genders. Warriors and hunters typically wear clothing that allows them maximum range of movement and agility when fighting in hand to hand combat or when riding upon the Landesh pony. The clans favour darker coloured apparel with a dark green or brown mantle and dark-brown leather sole pads for stealth with the hide of the Tsor-Shota as armour for the warriors.
Attire made from the hide of the wolverine is probably the most favoured and most valued. A Kaaer'dár'shín warrior who finds victory in slaying a ferocious wolverine is fortunate to be able to have a cloak or vest made from the soft, durable and water-resistant hide. Generally, the more difficult and ferocious the prey, the more valued the hide. The skin of the oogorim creature of the Caaehl Mountains is highly prized among the Mist Stalkers. Frequent rumours from human traders claim that the ruling Kaaer chieftains wear a dragon hide cloak as a badge of office, but this claim has never been proven.
The Kaaer'dár'shín are a deeply superstitious folk and believe in wearing charms upon their bodies. These charms are known as "to'vatars" to the people and can be made of bone, teeth, wood, stone or metal. Hunters and warriors favor wearing woolly boar tusk, the teeth of the Tsor-Shotak lizard and the bones of fallen enemies as to'vatars. Among healers, water stones are worn and farmers and craftsmen can be seen with stone charms. They believe these charms provide everything from protection in battle, successful hunts, good crops and favourable weather.
Diet. The Kaaer'dár'shín are primarily meat eaters. Their main staple diet consists of the dried and cured meat of three beasts native to the Northern lands: the woolly boar, the mountain wison and the Tsor-Shotak lizard. Fish are also a means of meat. The tribe also grows small amounts of crops such as berries and vegetables.
The Kaaer'dár'shín are simple cooks. They believe in using most every part of the animal for food, clothing, shelter and charms. The woolly boar is hunted year round and can be prepared in several ways, depending on the cut of the meat. The boar is favoured during the Feast of Horkcha, when up to fifty boar are caught and roasted over a massive open fire pit. The meat is prepared using fruit juices to give it a tangy flavor and portioned off in large chunks.
The mountain wison is usually cured in the sun and dried before eating. The meat provides a long term food source as it can be stored for long periods or taken on hunting parties and eaten as needed. Wild male wison are important in the Festival of the Pit Horn, where a wild wison is loosed in a fenced off arena and pitted against warriors who attempt to kill the animal with their bare hands. Once the wison is killed, it is slaughtered, cooked for two days over a pit and eaten by the victorious warrior's clan.
The Tsor-Shotak lizard's meat is also cured and used for long term feasting. The animal is revered and is never killed for anything except for food and armour. The meat of the lizard has a stringy and tough consistency, and is usually cut in strips and dried before eating.
Living so close to two main bodies of water provides the tribe with a substantial supply of fish. There is typically no special means of preparing the fish other than stripping off the scales and cooking it over an open fire. Not all of the Kaaer'dár'shín eat fish. Only the clans and families living close to the coastal areas consume fish as a primary food source. The Kaaer'dár'shín living in the plains and mountain areas are boar, wison and lizard eaters.
The tribe has also developed a type of bread-like wafer from the bulbous roots of the maizet plant. The hardy stalks of brown plant grow in abundance along the heaths and the tribe has even cultivated the plant in fields to the east of the Themed'lon. The roots are pulled during the late summer and ground up in a mixture of flavoured dried moss and water producing a sticky paste. The paste is then baked in a domed oven to form flat, flaky bread. The tribe call this starchy food "tor'mata".
Also, the tribe eats another staple food in the form of the althz'onn bean plant that grows along the southern and eastern sides of the heaths. The bean is a favourite side dish as it can be boiled in water until it becomes soft and then smashed into a pasty substance and served with meat.
Weapons. Kaaer'dár'shín warriors are adept at light range combat on foot and upon a horse. They are skirmishers, ambushers and primarily use hit and run tactics against their enemies. Light weight, hand held weapons that can be held easily when running or riding are favored among the warriors. The few Kaaer'dár'shín daggers and hand axes that have been seen outside of the tribes borders command respect and awe. The dagger, known as the "ru'noq" (Kaaer lit. "swift blade") is intricately designed with a curved or barbed blade and a handle wrapped with thin strips of Tsor-Shota hide. The blade is light and designed and balanced according to each warrior's hand.
The tribal warriors are experts in the use of the bow and arrow. All males are provided with basic training in the bow as a means of fighting and hunting. Warriors are given additional training to be able to shoot while riding a swiftly moving horse and to hit targets far away. The skill of the bow and arrow cannot be understated as it provides a means of hunting and fighting.
Typical Kaaer'dár'shín bows are made from the trees of the Themed'lon Forest. The bows come in long and short forms, and can be decorated with feathers, paint or strips of animal hide. The tribe's bowyers are a clan to themselves and are revered for their bow making skills.
The spear is another weapon of the Kaaer'dár'shín warrior. The spear can be thrown or used as a hand to hand weapon. The wooden shaft of the spear is made from the forest trees of the Themed'lon. The sharpened tips are carved from bone or stone. A few spears have barbed tips or curved blades, but those are not used for hunting, but more for ritual purposes.
Hand axes and special, smaller daggers are used as ranged weapons for throwing and in hand to hand combat. The axes are also made and balanced accordingly so as to be handled easily when dual wielded or thrown. The tribes warriors are trained to have extraordinary accuracy when throwing the axe and some veteran warriors can hit a moving target over twenty peds away with an axe or a target up to ten peds away with a dagger.
The T'lark (lit. "Blood Defender"). Among the most
sacred and revered possessions among the Kaaer'dár'shín warriors is the
T'lark, or the "Blood
Defender". This is a special holy buckler made by a coming of age warrior after
his first kill. The buckler is made of heavy hide from the
Tsor-Shotak lizard and is an
effective defense against sword or mace strikes. Also, the Defender is small
and easily carried by a fast moving skirmisher.
A T'lark is often decorated with small symbols or pictures depicting each battle a warrior has won (or lived through) and other kinds of decorations vary depending on the warrior's preferences. Some have boar tusk or hide attached. Some have feathers while others are plain with simple markings. The T'lark is sacred and always carried into battle. A warrior who returns home with a broken or lost buckler is allowed to make a new one, but only if the Defender was lost in battle with an enemy.
Occupations. The Kaaer'dár'shín fight for survival amongst enemies on all sides, namely the various orc tribes that surround the Kaaer'dár'shín borders. As a result, the tribe's main occupations are centered towards warfare and most family clans understand that their role within the clan is to support the warriors both physically and spiritually.
Warrior (Kaaer lit. “Uck”)
Kaaer warriors, like the hunters, are known for their horsemanship, keen weapons skills, tracking ability and how to blend with the environment. Although warriors can come from any of the three clans, it is from the Stoneblessed group that most are born and trained. Both male and female children can become able warriors and usually identified when they are about ten years of age. Those with strong bodies, cunning minds and the ability to work well within a group are requirements for warriors. Warrior training camps are located all over Kaaer lands. The chief enemy of the Kaaer has been certain clans of Osther-Oc and Antislar who have made unsuccessful attempts to conquer the Themed'lon over the years. Recently, however, the tribes of Caaehl'heroth have enjoyed an uneasy peace.
Crafter (Kaaer lit. “Olot’uuk”)
Men and women of the tribe are capable of serving as craftsmen, and were schooled in weaponsmithing, bow making, fletcher (arrow making), tool making and trap making. These men and women are second only to the warrior in importance as they provide the means for a warrior, and tribe, to carry out their duties and the tools with which to hunt. A typical craftsman takes a life long vow to serve the tribe using his or her skills and begins in childhood under the tutelage of a master, usually the child's closest relative, or if no relatives are craftsmen, the child is apprenticed under another master. By using the readily available material around them, such as wood, stone and steel (the steel typically taken from fallen enemies), the craftsmen creates extraordinary weapons, tools and traps for the tribe.
Shamut (Kaaer lit. “Uon'kh'al'on”)
The third most important occupation within the Kaaer'dár'shín is the holy man, or shamut. The shamut is viewed as the embodiment of the spirits of life and protection and the tribe sees the shamut as the most wise person in the tribe. The shamut advises the chief warrior in all manner of subjects - warfare, management, spiritual matters, politics and laws. The shamut is typically an older warrior who has proven himself in battle and is chosen on the basis of his victories. It is said that an esteemed warrior is chosen with a vision from the spirits and becomes the holy man by a vote from the council.
Hunter and Fisherman (Kaaer lit. “Kaaer'kun” and
Hunting and fishing are done by both the men and women of the Stoneblessed clan and these occupations serve an important purpose, obviously, to keep the tribe fed and nourished. Hunters are trained with the bow, spear and dagger and join a group of warriors on hunts for wison, woolly boar or Tsor-Shota. Every spring, summer and fall, the tribe gathers at the Themed'lon Forest and hunts for days at a time during the Festival of the Hunt. All able hunters would join small groups of warriors and journey north and south from the Themed'lon and hunt wison, woolly boar and Tsor-Shota and bring back the spoils to the tribe where they were dispersed to the families.
The Kaaer'dár'shín have a loose system of government where a single leader from
each of the three clans ultimately rule. A shamut from the Wood Keeper clan, a
warrior from the Stoneblessed clan and a renowned hunter from the Mist Stalker
clan are charged with governing the tribe together. Each leader can be male or
female. The shamut is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the tribe while
the warrior and hunter are responsible for the physical welfare of the tribe.
The three elder leaders are responsible for all major decisions that the tribe
has to make such as laws, warfare and hunting.
The elder shamut is the spiritual head of the tribe and thus is charged with interpreting all of his visions and others' visions. He leads in prayer and all religious ceremonies and rituals. He blesses all festivals and hunts. He also leads prayer for victory over the war parties. The elder shamut is seen as the embodiment of Durgho's power and is revered, respected and obeyed without question.
The elder warrior is responsible for all leadership in war and craft. He oversees all tactical decisions during warfare and, along with the elder hunter, determines the best method of fighting the tribe's enemies. He is also charged with making sure the warriors have their tools and weapons by governing the craftsmen and weaponsmiths and making sure there are enough workers to function properly.
The elder hunter is responsible for making sure the tribe has adequate food and that the tribe knows where the good hunting grounds are during the year. He leads the nomadic Mist Stalkers in providing food and pelts for the tribe. The elder hunter typically has an impressive record of hunting successes with many of the past hunter leaders trophies including oogorim heads, spinewyrm tails or drake claws.
The elder shamut and elder warrior are chosen from a select few revered and veteran men (or, in the case of the shamut, sometimes a woman has filled this role) and typically voted by on by the all of the heads of the families of the tribe. Each family is led by a man (or, if the man is dead or no longer able to fulfill the role of leader of the house) or a woman. The meet and decide from a group of capable leaders and vote.
To become an elder leader, one must show extraordinary skills in leadership ability. This usually means for the elder warrior, he must be gifted in war and have had many victories in battle and be a proven leader of men. For the elder shamut, the process is similar. Usually a wise and worldly person is chosen for this role. One who is blessed with visions and one who can bestow confidence and courage to the people. The typical elder shamut is someone gifted in speaking, interpreting and decision making.
Each family within the tribe is headed by the male who is responsible for leading his family in the ways of the tribe and is given the order to train his children and to determine his children's gifts.
Religion. The Kaaer’dar’shin half-orcen tribe of Northern Sarvonia are a deeply spiritual people who revere both nature and the hunt. Their religion is known as the "To'ava'yarna" (Kaaer lit. "Natural or primal spirit way"). They respect the wilds' savage instincts and believe that the world is nurtured by five primal nature spirits called the "To'ava". These spirits each represent an aspect of nature that encompasses the surrounding living world. Represented are the Tree (or Beast), Earth, Water, Light (sun) and Darkness (moon and death). The To'ava is lead by one "male gendered" spirit considered the oldest and most powerful called Durgho. He is typically represented in the form of a tree or wolf. The Kaaer believe that each member of the tribe is born with the essence of one of these natural aspects. Through meditation, prayer, songs, the use of totems and successful hunts, every Kaaer's natural spiritual essence grows in power and eventually they obtain the gift to perform divine magic by bringing forth their spirits' power.
A Kaaer'dár'shín legend story known as "The Mask Unearthed" tells how a wise shamut named Krull'mor discovered a powerful relic (unknown to them to actually be elven in origin) known as the Mask of the Tree Cousin in 1300 a.S. Krull'mor donned the mask he found and was immediately given gifts of wisdom and foresight. It was then, he later claimed, that the primal spirits of the world spoke to him and instructed him to lead his people in reverence of nature. The Kaaer belief system was born. After living under many generations of harsh orcen and dark elven rule, the Kaaer had finally found a path with which to journey upon their own.
The Primal Self ("Yarna"). The Kaaer believes that each member born of the tribe (regardless of clan) inherits an essence derived from each of the To’ava primal spirits. These spirits (some would say souls) together are called a “Yarna”.
The Nature of the Yarna. Each yarna is identified as an essence of one of the primal spirits. Each spirit of nature represents specific gifts, or areas of power. As children, each Kaaer develops their own walk in life with interests and talents of their own. The Kaaer do not believe that this process is accidental or random; rather they believe that a particular To’ava leads them along their path in life. For example, a sympathetic young girl with a gift for comforting and aiding wounded is believed to be strong with the To’ava Benapryl, or the representation of Water (healing). A boy may be particularly talented with building and crafts and thus is strong with the To’ava Gynturg, or the representation of Earth (craftsman). The following representations are described below:
War, combat, tracking, animal husbandry, skinning and cooking. Those strong with the beast yarna are said to be capable warriors and hunters of the tribe. They are trained in the use of weapons, tactics and are responsible for keeping the animals.
Harvesters, gardening, food preparation, planting, caretakers of the forest. Those strong with the earth yarna tend the fields and are especially close to the pendrowe of the Themed'lon. They are the builders, craftsmen and artisans of the tribe.
Healers, comforters, soothers of the mind. These gifted are trained in the use of medicinal herbs and salves. They possess a talent for calming the mind and are a soothing influence.
Those gifted with the light yarna are few, for they are blessed with great wisdom and leadership skills. Most shamuts are of light yarna and are responsible for passing down the lore and history of the tribe.
While the darkness may be deemed something negative in other cultures, the Kaaer believe the dark is just as important as the light. Those with the dark yarna are responsible for communicating with the dead and performing funerary rituals.
The Kaaer'dár'shín are gifted
weaponsmiths and the tribe's craftsmen produce some of the finest small hand
in the North. The skill of iron working was a skill that the Kaaer brought with
them when they broke from the Kuglimz.
Most of their iron comes from the fallen weapons
of the tribes enemies, the orcs,
and the metal is re-processed in weaponsmithy enclaves. Most of the weaponsmiths
are located in the main Themed'lon colony of Torik.
The tribe's warriors rely on stealth and speed when they fight and have a need to carry lightweight, smaller weapons. Among the weapons produced by the Kaaer'dár'shín are the dagger, throwing knife, hand axe and short spear. Each weapon is crafted to fit the warrior wielding it and the warrior is charged with keeping his weapon in excellent condition. While fully encouraged to use their weapons against the tribe's enemies, each warrior proudly displays their weapons and usually a weapon is passed down through generations. In the case of the throwing daggers and throwing axes, this is not always the case, nevertheless, each throwing weapon is still a finely crafted piece of work.
Kaaer weapons are uncommon outside of their homeland as the tribe is isolated between two seas and various orc tribal lands so rarely does a Kaaer'dár'shín dagger (ru’noq) or axe appear outside of the North. Even if it did, very few people would know the difference other than weapons of Kaaer make are of excellent craftsmanship.
The Kaaer'dár'shín have a talent for producing exceptional items from animal hides that are sometimes traded with the neighboring Imlith dwarves, Injerin elves or Antislar humans. The skin of the Tsor-Shotak lizard makes an excellent light armour and is highly valued by the few non-Kaaer'dár'shín who have traded for it. The tribe women make warm blankets and clothing from wison and woolly boar hide. In the cold north, having good, warm clothing is paramount to survival.
Natural Resources. The area surrounding the Themed'lon Forest hosts many natural resources used by the tribe. The Themed'lon is a large forest, and with the unique distinction of having the Kaaer'dár'shín as the sole humanoid tribe living in and around it. The tribe uses the forests trees for a host of tools, weapons and items. Bows, tents, homes and shields are all made from the Themed'lon's woods.
The tribe lives between two large gulfs and thus the Themed'lon colony has an abundant supply of fresh fish for food. The tribe does not have any kind of large fishing vessels and fish close to the shore but the seas are abundant with fish of all kinds.
Horses provide a large service to the Kaaer'dár'shín. The tribe catches and breeds the Landesh pony chiefly because this animal is small in relation to the larger horses of the North and strong in build. The Kaaer'dár'shín favour stealth and speed when fighting and the Landesh provides both due to its size and strength. The Kaaer'dár'shín people are shorter than an average man of other tribes and a large horse would prove a disadvantage to them.
The Landesh are caught along the Heaths to the north and south of the Themed'lon. A group of warriors will form a hunting party and catch a group of male and female ponies to bring back to the tribe's breeding stockades for domestication and training. The Kaaer'dár'shín have kept the long tradition and skill of the Kuglimz horse training skills and are also exceptional horse breeders and trainers. Unlike their orcen cousins, the Kaaer'dár'shín do not eat horse meat.
Festivals. There are three main festivals the Kaaer'dár'shín celebrate:
This feast is an annual feast celebrated in the spring by the entire tribe. A massive fire pit is constructed near the Themed'lon colony and the women and children spend many days constructing spits for roasting entire boar. Fifty warriors gather on horseback and with the blessing of the shamut, they go forth into the plains and hunt woolly boar. Each of the fifty warriors is expected to bring back one woolly boar ithin five days for the feast. Not all of the warriors return, as hunting woolly boar can be dangerous. Those that do return with a boar are honoured and the feast begins with as many of the boar they have. The feast celebrates the hunt and if all fifty warriors return, it is a sign of an especially blessed year to come.
Festival of the Pit Claw
Another festival celebrating the warriors is the Festival of the Pit Claw. During this festival, held in the winter months, all able bodied warriors gather around a fenced arena. Three warriors on horseback are placed within the arena. A single male Cartashian bear is loosed in the arena and the warriors are given the challenge of subduing and killing the bear with a short sword or spear. The warriors must work together if they are to be successful. The festival is celebrated regardless if the bear is killed or not, but special privileges are given to the surviving warrior(s) if they slay the bear. Typically this includes higher ranking in the clan and a unique symbol painted upon their t'lark.
of the Tusk
This festival is celebrated by the women of the clan. It is held twice a year, in the summer and winter, when all of the clans women and girls create beautiful dresses and cloaks in honour of the wild spirits. The cloaks are decorated with beads, bones, animal tusks, feathers and paint. The women gather for six days and, accompanied by a group of up to twelve drummers, the women dance in celebration of their role in the tribe and are honoured by the men and boys. A feast accompanies this dance, usually fish and Tsor-Shotak lizard is eaten.
The half-orcs and the mythical
fylja fur-folk share a unique
connection that is only whispered about among the tribes of the North. The
legends among the Kuglimz tell that the
fylja are shapeshifters, people
gifted (or some say cursed) with the ability to change their bodies to that of a
beast. While no one among the Kuglimz knows what
became of their lost exiles so long ago after they were banished, some have
heard through orc reports that the exiles
were lost to the wilds and overcome with bestial urges and ate each other to
survive. Others correctly assume that they exiles were subjugated by
orcs and turned to slavery. Still, a few
rumours have come from brave adventurers through the years that say that the
Kuglimz exiles not only survived their exile, and
survived their orcen occupation, but actually
live as beasts in the Themed'lon Forests. The whispered tales persist that the
lost Kuglimz are a race of shapeshifting beasts, capable of changing into
wolves, bears and even eagles.
The truth about the half-orcs, perhaps, can never be known. A single testimony survives to this day from an orcen child who lived among the Kaaer’dár’shín since he was an infant. When he was of the age of ten seasons, in approximately Changing Winds, 1400 a.S., he was lost in the woods south of the Themed'lon. He wandered alone, frightened and sick, for many days until he was found by a Kuglimz caravan. The child was brought to the village of Salmador, along the Ulaenoth river. The orcen child told a fantastic story of his life among the Kaaer’dár’shín (as told by a Kuglimz translator).
The story raised even more questions about the mysterious half-orcs. The child spoke of trees in the shape of beasts, swift warriors on ponies wielding deadly spears. Archers who could strike the sky with their arrows and even trees who could walk on their own. He spoke of a man wearing a tree mask who spoke so powerfully that even the very winds ceased in their blowing and the animals sat and listened to his words.
But even more extraordinary, the boy spoke of some in the tribe who ran as fast as the wolves themselves. He described how the shamut with the tree mask would sit in his bromer for hours at a time. Bestial growls and snarling could be heard within the bromer. Then, as the night would come upon the land, the shamut emerged secretly from his home and would race away across the heaths. His form was as a beastman, no longer standing upright, covered in thick fur with paws for hands and a wolf-like face. The shamut would return days later, in the stillness of the night, in his beast form and would not be seen for many more hours when he would then appear as a man again. The boy thought others in the tribe were as beasts, too, yet he only claimed to have witnessed the shamut as a beastman.
The orc boy's tale was quickly spread, but just as quickly, they were dismissed as the silly dreamings of a stupid orc child. Yet, the tale persists to be told among the more scholarly folk of the North. It is surmised that the mythical fylja fur-folk are indeed the Kaaer’dár’shín half-orcs. However, the tribe is so isolated and they are a secretive people who do not readily welcome visitors, so definite proof of a shapeshifter tribe does not exist.
Most of the stories and rumors say that the half-orc shapeshifter is capable of one of several beast forms, each one being a revered animal of the Beastlord. The wolf is a common animal form and the one that is frequently seen and heard in most tales. The uncil cat is another common beast form, as is the woolly boar and the toran eagle. Even the bear is whispered to be a potential beast form, and probably the most dangerous, given the size and strength of a single bear.
Another question arose during Azhira's research into the supposed half-orc's shapeshifting powers: does the shifter's sense of self-awareness and intelligence remain with them as an animal? How potentially powerful a shifter must be if he keeps his human intelligence and knowledge when in animal form! Or, when a shifter changes, does he take on the mere basic instincts of the animal he becomes? Does he have any knowledge of his actions as an animal when in human form? Such questions cannot definitively be answered as no one within the tribe will speak of this secretive power, let alone the shamut, who is rumoured to be a shifter himself. However, the few outsiders who have visited the tribe have sworn that wolves, eagles and the occasional uncil cat and bear can be seen in and around the half-orc settlements, tamed and calm. But could these be shifters amidst their own? Or perhaps they are simply tamed familiars?
None of the legends can explain how a half-orcs shapes himself into the beast forms. With such drastic differences in physical shapes and sizes between a man and animal, it is hard to imagine how horrific, let alone painful, a change must be. Some say dark magic is the source of the shifting while others say a shifter undergoes a painful process where the bones and skin literally reshape themselves in unimaginable ways.
The Northlands researcher, Azhira El'rosse, is known to have made many excursions to the Kaaer’dár’shín lands and she is thought to be on friendly terms with the half-orcs. Whether or not she has proof that the half-orcs are shapeshifters is unknown. She has surmised, however, that given the tribe's deep connection with nature and their devotion to the Beastlord god has given them a unique bond with the animals. It would not be so extraordinary to say that a tribe who claims to be able to speak to trees can also have the touch of the Beastlord himself and can become one like him.