It is easy to mistake a forest landscape as one that has no depth, but that could not be any farther from the truth. The residents of Kuzakest Forest live both on the ground and well above the heads of those who would seek to do them harm.
The capital city of Draycott is made up of several different levels among the trees. Getting lost is a guarantee if you’re visiting for the first… few times. The Fae, Brownie, Oaken, Nymph, Halfling, Wood Elf, and Jagua races all call the Kuzakest Forest home and while they welcome other races they tend to be a little cautious around them.
Be very careful here if you’re treading for war… it is just as easy to miss the ground stalkers as it is to take an arrow through your skull from a Wood Elf that is 300 yards away and another 100 yards above you.
Click on the name of the race that you want more information about and if it has been released you will be redirected to a page specifically for that race.
There’s a saying among people who live near the Ùruisg: that if a person has seen one, that is more than most of their victims can say. While this description is not entirely fair, it is also not unwarranted. A small race with a deeply tanned complexion, the Ùruisg prefer to live among the wilds where they easily blend in. From forests and groves to grassy plains, most landscapes hide an Ùruisg or two. Generally a reclusive race, they choose to live in seclusion, yet play on the fringes of the established communities of other races. Their small size allows for nimble movement and has always made them clever rogues, but over the past several generations the Ùruisg have learned from other races. Learning skills and magic has allowed this race to further their mean-spirited entertainment.
Many outsiders believe that the Ùruisg have no single community or society, as Ùruisg are rarely seen together in anything more than a duo. This is not entirely true, however. The Ùruisg are simply very good at keeping their towns and villages hidden from the outside world. Most of these towns and villages hold no more than five hundred inhabitants, with the majority holding no more than three or four dozen members of a small clan or tribe. While some of these dwellings are in caves or hidden glens, most are located along the fall lines of various escarpments in the Korthal Wilds, and are hidden behind waterfalls. The largest city, if it can be called a city, among the Ùruisg is Linneas, which is located behind the largest waterfall in the region and boasts a population of no more than three thousand.
Ùruisg adults average in height between 90 and 105 centimeters, with the males tending to be closer to the latter and the females to the former. Their heads, and parts of their faces, are covered with soft downy brown fur. Sticking through the fur, they sport horns similar to those of a goat that were similar in color to their head fur, though usually of a slightly darker hue. The faces themselves appear to be a mixture of human and goat features, but are closer to human than they are to goat. Below the waist they are covered in fur that, while much thicker than the fur on their heads, is just as soft. They also have human-like legs and feet. From neck to waist they have no fur, only skin, with human-like features. On their hands they have tens of thousands of retractable barbs that are so small they are almost microscopic. These allow them to climb surfaces that appear to be sheer to anyone else.
Assassin, Bard, Blood Mage, Cleric, Doom Knight, Druid, Duelist, Gun Priest, Invoker, Jester, Monk, Necromancer, Ranger, Techromancer, Thief
Ùruisg religion focuses on the enjoyment that can be sought from pranks, with their highest priest or priestess holding the title of Supreme Pontifical Prankster. One of their highest feast days is also a day of games, in which they compete for the coveted title of Prankster of the Year. This individual serves as a sort of emissary, traveling through all the various Ùruisg settlements throughout the year, during which time they are wined and dined. At the end of the year they preside over the next set of games, in which they are not allowed to compete. This is not a lifetime ban, however, and they can always seek the title again in another set of games. Ùruisg once took the religious aspect of their pranks quite seriously, seeing a good prank as pleasing to Etrum, who their Pontifical Pranksters taught was their creator. In modern times, however, the religious aspect is more pro forma, and the pranks themselves are more important in and of themselves than any enjoyment they might give to a deity.
When in their own settlements, among their own kind, Ùruisg see little need for clothing. On the other hand, they will wear armor when going into battle, and those few who have ventured to other lands have often adopted the clothing and customs of the local cultures in which they have settled.
The fur of the Ùruisg cover their heads and lower bodies, with only their torsos being bare skin. Ùruisg children are practically indistinguishable by gender, as fur on their heads is similar in length and both boys and girls go bare-chested. As young girls near puberty, however, the fur on their head thickens and begins to lengthen at an exponential rate, forming long manes that hang down and cover their breasts as they begin to bud. While there is no hard and fast rule prohibiting it, cutting off these long manes is frowned on by the society at large.
Weapons and Military
The Ùruisg have a fascination for short blades with a slight curve. Not quite long enough to be considered swords by most races, their eighteen-inch blade, called a xipho, has sent many an enemy to his or her grave. While these blades are the most favored weapon, Ùruisg relish any weapon that causes great destruction and carnage. In modern times they have created shaped explosive charges that fire hundreds of lead balls from one side of a steel plate, creating swaths of destruction along roadways or paths where they set the charges. In modern times, they have also excelled in the use of landmines.
Ùruisg warriors will often wear light armor and helmets, usually made of a see-through mesh material created by green vines that have been strengthened by magic to be as strong as diamond, yet pliable. Due to the meshed nature of the armor, it does not protect as well against arrows and thrusting weapons, but there is nothing better to stop a slash from a sword. Their survivability in battle is also greatly enhanced by leafy cloaks that have been given a similar magical strengthening.
Ùruisg culture, such as it is, revolves around their enjoyment of pranks, or at least what they view as pranks. While they learned about pranks from the Aes Sídhe, or Fae, their pranks are quite removed from the harmless pranks of the latter. This has caused a rift to form between the two races, with the Aes Sídhe looking down on the Ùruisg, seeing them as uncouth neophytes in the art of the prank. An Aes Sídhe prank might involve untying a person's horse from its hitching post and tying it to another one across the street, or perhaps gluing a person's shoe to the ceiling. These kinds of pranks are wildly amusing to the Aes Sídhe and perhaps a small annoyance to their target.
An Ùruisg prank, on the other hand, might involve dropping a poisonous snake in front of a horse, laughing if it threw the rider, but laughing harder if the rider was trampled by the horse, or bitten by the snake. Another common prank of the Ùruisg involves knocking a ladder or stool out from under their target's feet, as they find the sound of a body hitting the ground to be quite hilarious, with harder impacts being ever more hilarious.
Unconcerned with whether or not others laugh, the Ùruisg find glee and mirth in blasting unsuspecting creatures with magical spells, and many find twisted enjoyment in the sound of a blade entering flesh, the color of blood sprayed across a battlefield, or the patterns of disembodied limbs on the ground in the aftermath of a battle.
The Fae, or Aes Sídhe (pronounced Ays Sheeth-uh) as they call themselves, were originally one of the more mysterious races of Estrom'Ir. Their history is a complete mystery to other races, and even their own historians believe the stories told by the priestesses are nothing more than superstitious legends. These priestesses teach that were created by Etrum, and were initially incorporeal creatures living in hidden cities, and could only occasionally be glimpsed by a select few among members of other races when they ventured forth for mischievous pranks on the realm of mortals.
The teaching goes that their ancestors, who lost their incorporeal form and became mortal, were punished for going too far during one of these pranks, accidently burning a whole village and killing its inhabitants. According to the priestesses, Etrum did not completely do away with their other-worldly traits, and that this is why Aes Sídhe have exceptionally long life-spans to the extent that some other races view them as immortals. The priestesses also teach that another group of Aes Sídhe did not fall, as they were not involved in the prank and punishment. Critics ask why those who did not fall are never seen.
Physically, Aes Sídhe are between 90 and 105 centimeters, with the males tending to be closer to the latter and the females to the former. Their wings are beautiful, and are as varied in shape, color, and form as are those of flying insects. Unfortunately and this is the saddest part of the whole change for any Aes Sídhe they lack the strength to lift their corporeal selves off the ground. While the Aes Sídhe can hover, using their wings to aid them when running, true flight is unattainable. When leaping from high altitudes, their wings prevent them from freefalling, allowing for a graceful gliding descent.
Their lack of the ability to grow facial hair combined with slender frames, smooth skin, and childlike humor have led some to describe the Aes Sídhe as 'ten year old children with wings.' While they might be similar to ten year old humans in size, however, they tend to have a muscular tone that no ten year old human could manage.
Most Aes Sídhe choose to dress in light clothing of spider silk, and never grow accustomed to the added weight of corporeality. While this clothing can be made in just about any style, most prefer styles that cover little of their bodies, with most males wearing styles that leave their upper torso and most of their legs bare, and most females opting for a two piece outfit that leaves their legs and midriffs bare. In the warm environments they favor, most do not see the need for more.
Their pointed ears may resemble that of the Elven races but it is a resemblance only as there is no relation between the Aes Sídhe and any of the "earth bound" races. Aes Sídhe also are thought to have the gift of invisibility by some of other races. While this is not entirely true, they are very adept at slight-of-hand and at camouflage, making it difficult for outsiders to find them if they want to remain hidden.
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Historically among the Aes Sídhe, religion has always been about honoring Etrum and having a good time while doing so. Their worship often involves wild revelry around bonfires deep in the woods. These can become so wild that some outsiders can find it uncomfortable... when they are invited at all, which is rare. This is largely due to how hedonistic Aes Sídhe tend to be, how public they tend to be with their hedonistic practices, and how alien the concept of monogamy is to the Aes Sídhe, all of which do not sit well with many of the other cultures of Estrom'Ir.
When an Aes Sídhe dies, the practice of the other Aes Sídhe is to burn them and use their ashes to fertilize their gardens. This has traditionally been seen as an ultimate sign of respect toward both the fallen Aes Sídhe.
Weapons and Military
The traditional weapon of the Aes Sídhe is the bow and arrow, though over time they have developed and enhanced this weapon with magic to such an extent that it is much more powerful than the simple bows some of the other races have used. A master bowman of the Aes Sídhe can fire an arrow every two seconds with pinpoint accuracy to distances of several hundred yards, with the arrows traveling as fast as the bullets in the firearms of some of the other races. They also make use of specialty arrows to a great extent, including arrows that can penetrate thick armor and explode. They are formidable foes in battle, not to be underestimated.
Their small size and gaiety has caused many to underestimate the Aes Sídhe. While they may be relatively new to their physical form, they have been around for ages. They know war and violence, as they learned these from other races. While they have always held games mock battles, strategic plans, and duels these have taken on a more meaningful role in Aes Sídhe society and are used as preparation rather than play.
The homes of the Aes Sídhe are very small and many are quite drab. Their true homes are by all accounts still incorporeal, phased, and unreachable. The Aes Sídhe themselves speak of the beauty of their lost city and homes with a deep longing, bemoaning the futility and impossibility of attempting to rebuild. In their current existence, most Fae choose homes that are simply a functional place to protect them from the elements from which they once did not require protection.
These homes are often made of simple logs with turf roofs, though no two are of the same shape and they Aes Sídhe abhor geometric form in their architecture. Also it is difficult to tell by looking at one of their homes from the outside that you are looking at anything other than a mound of earth.
Historically, the culture of the Aes Sídhe has focused on what they see as the arts of trickery and deceit, though they see deceit not as something dark and foreboding, but something that is quite hilarious. They are mischievous pranksters by nature. When protected by invisibility, their highspirited games went largely unnoticed by the other races, though they have since become somewhat of an annoyance. The Aes Sídhe don't understand the annoyance, however, as in their society having an exceptionally intelligent prank played upon oneself is a sign of great respect. Never meanspirited, the Aes Sídhe possess a childlike sense of humor, and the jokes that they play tend to reflect that. Moving a hat from where it was placed and watching the owner search for it is a source of great amusement. Treating them as children would be a mistake, though, as there is nothing else childlike about this winged race.
The Ordari, often referred to as ‘Halflings,' are a short race that resides primarily in a region to the south of Dark Dusk Harbor. Ordari tend to work only as much as absolutely necessary and often spend much of their time lounging under the shade of a tree smoking a pipe or napping. While not particularly lazy, the Ordari try to find a balance between work and fun. They know how to enjoy life and often find reason to celebrate. This small race has a large appetite for life as well as food and vices. Few taverns can be found without Ordari, whether performing on stage or draining the inventory of the tavern in question. With their love of pleasure, many choose their profession because it is something that they enjoy doing. Many choose agriculture, as this allows more time for leisure, especially with all the labor-saving devices used by the Ordari.
Seen by many as a quaint people concerned largely with agriculture, there is more to this race than meets the eye, and it would be a mistake to underestimate them. Friendly on the surface, the leadership of this race holds many secrets.
The Ordari are much shorter than the other races of Estrom’Ir. Males are seldom taller than 60 centimeters when reaching puberty, while females are seldom taller than 55 centimeters at this point. Their feet, however, are often 30 centimeters in length by this point. While their feet are generally never longer than 30 centimeters, they continue to grow in height throughout their lives, and the oldest can be 300 years old by the time they die, reaching heights of as much as 120 centimeters.
Bard, Druid, Duelist, Gun Priest, Jester, Shaman, Sniper, Strategist, Tempest, Thief
Religion and Social Clubs
Traditionalists among the Ordari worship Corthul, god of the wild, but more important to most is not the religion but the social club to which they belong. To most Ordari, these clubs are no more than a means to help their communities and stay connected with others. These clubs, however, are hierarchical in nature, and the higher one rises in the ranks of one of these clubs the more they will understand about the connections between them all, for they are really all arms of one organization. As they rise into the uppermost ranks of the organization, they are entrusted with the most closely guarded secrets of the Ordari race, including things that would cause others to truly fear and perhaps despise them if they were known.
The Ordari don’t have a visible military, and any outsider would see nothing more than a small constabulary that maintains order within Ordari towns and villages. What most don’t know, however, is that within the upper ranks of the organization of social clubs, the Ordari conduct secret military training. There are therefore many thousands or Ordari who are highly trained and professional soldiers, though no one who sees them working on their farms might suspect this. For all the ability of their secret military, they have never needed to use this military in recorded history, at least not the recorded history that is known to the outside world or even most of their own people.
Weapons and Armor
The Ordari constabulary wears padded tunics with leather breastplates in place of the traditional upper garments. Their only weapon, however, is a simple club about 35 centimeters in length. In the secret armories, however, they have impressive steel armor made with dozens of overlapping plates. They also have slightly curved steel swords which are so sharp they can remove the head of an ox with a single swing, and these swords can also shoot energy discharges out of the end.
Culture and Clothing
The clothing worn in public by most Ordari is unremarkable, consisting mainly of simple baggy pants, belted tunics, and boots. While they are circumspect around those who are culturally sensitive to this, they are not upset or shocked if one of them sets aside the tunic when conducting heavy manual labor, wearing only the boots and trousers. They also have no taboos against nudity when swimming, although this is generally only done in remote and gender-segregated locations.
The B’alam, often called the ‘Jagua’ by other races, is a bipedal feline race that resides in the southern jungle region of Draycott, in closest proximity to the Taysha’a (Wood Elves) and the Deru (Oaken). They are extremely warlike, but are also cool-headed and can be reasoned with. Being close to their feline roots and natural instincts, members of this race are more at home in the wilds than in the civilized societies of other races, although the largest group of B’alam has built an impressive society in its own right. Throughout history, there have been reports all across the surface of Estrom’Ir of groups of B’alam that are little more than animals. This has left the B’alam with some social troubles in certain parts of the world. Thanks to the Taysha’a, and their acceptance of all things natural, Draycott is where many of the more civilized can travel safely and study a profession, and it is in this region that a distinct B’alam society was able to emerge. Still, this race is slow to trust, continuing to be wild at heart.
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The B’alam clans believe that there are two spirits residing within each being, that of the animal and that of the enlightened being. If they give in to their animal side too much, they will lose themselves and go feral. On the other hand, if they give in to the enlightened side too much they will lose their ability to be fierce in battle and to effectively protect their loved ones. The goal, then, is to live in a balance between two opposites. In ancient times those that were striving to become more civilized would select one member of the tribe each year to be a ritual sacrifice, and the priests would disembowel them at the summit of one of their pyramids. This was seen as a way to keep them in touch with the animal side that was more civilized than the constant fighting and killing of the feral B’alam. Over time, even this came to be seen as barbaric, and, while these ceremonies still exist, they are now only acted out and the ‘sacrifice’ is not actually killed. Another supplementary tradition has arisen, whereby two of the warriors will fight in an amphitheater until one of them draws blood. Although rare, fatalities do sometimes occur. The blood that is spilled is seen as a means for the society to connect with the animal side, even in times when there is no war. Those who are the best warriors, while also maintaining the best balance between an animal nature and pure enlightenment achieve the rank of Mystic. Mystics fill the ranks of their priesthood, which also makes up the senior military ranks.
Weapons and Military
B’alam who live in the wild use only their claws and teeth as weapons, and even among those in the mainstream B’alam society of Draycott the use of teeth and claws form the basis of all their combat training. The Draycott B’alam clans have also adopted the use of many other weapons, the most favored of which is a curved short sword with a single edge called a maca, which is made of steel that is folded until there are over three-thousand layers. Incorporated into the edges of the blades are teeth made from a volcanic glass that has been enhanced by magic to be stronger even than the steel around it. These teeth rip and tear at the flesh at the same time the steel edge of the blade slices through it, all to achieve the maximum level of damage possible. These swords are used in pairs, and there are dozens of dual-wield martial arts techniques that have been developed for use with these swords over the millennia. Another weapon used by a minority of specially-trained B’alam masters is an elasticized striking rod, made of a magically enhanced rubber found in the forests in which they live with metal claws on the end. This rod is swung toward the enemy and will stretch to over three times its original length, ripping through the target.
The B’alam society is built around their cities, located deep in the forest. Unlike some other societies, however, their cities serve only as gathering places for festival or market days, and most B’alam live in smaller family or clan groups farther into the jungle. B’alam homes are earthen dens that are burrowed among the roots of the largest trees. Many of these clan homes are connected, however, with underground passages between them and others, as well as connecting the closest among them to the cities. There are many quirks of B’alam society that cause confusion among other races, and can cause conflict when they occur. One is that meals among the B’alam are completely informal. Once food has been introduced, a B’alam will inspect it and sniff it, but may not immediately eat. They will, however, expect the food to remain in place until they are good and ready to eat it, even if that time is hours later. This attitude does not go over well in non-B’alam establishments, needless to say.
Most of the B’alam cities are situated around deep sinkholes in the forest, which are named ts'onat by the B’alam. These sinkholes fill with water, and serve as recreation centers for the B’alam. They were once the primary source of drinking water as well, but as their underground network of residences expanded, they channeled cleaner river water into their dwellings and now that source is almost universally used. While feral B’alam are averse to water and to being wet, the Draycott B’alam overcame their aversion to water millennia ago, and enjoy swimming through the ts'onat, seeing it as a mark of the differences between them and the feral B’alam and part of the balance between their two natures.
Clothing and Armor
Historically, B'alam males and females have not seen the need for clothing, as their fur covering serves them well enough, at least within their own communities. Those who are still feral and live in the wild continue to reject clothing. Over time, however, those who had established a society in Draycott came under pressure to adopt clothing. Those doing the pressuring pointed out that the fur on the B’alam does not completely cover the genitals, especially on the males. Although the B’alam did not care about this, still being somewhat wild by the standards of other races, continued pressure eventually led to most of the non-feral B’alam adopting the wear of a pair of short trousers, at least outside the home. These trousers are specially designed to accommodate their tails, and though they are made from plant fibers they are designed and colored in such a way that they appear to be made from fur and are matched to the coloring and pattern of their actual fur. It is rare for a B’alam to wear a garment that does not match their natural pattern, as they would find it embarrassing. If their garment becomes damaged beyond repair and they don’t have a spare of their own available, a B’alam will generally wear nothing until they can get a suitable replacement that matches them personally, rather than borrow from a B’alam with different coloring and pattern.
Other than the short trousers, the only other covering worn is the armor, which is generally worn by warriors of a lower rank. This armor tends to be light and minimal, to fit with their fighting styles, and many of their masters prefer to fight without armor, as they believe it slows their reflexes.
A small corps of B’alam has been specially trained to fight in units with the Taysha’a, and these B’alam will run on all fours with a Taysha’a rider, and learn to fight as one unit with that rider. These units are symbiotic, with the B’alam having as much control as the Taysha’a, and, while the B’alam will wear a special light saddle, there have never been reins or bits involved. Once combat has been joined, the Taysha’a will often leap off the back of the B’alam, and they will fight back to back, although they have also developed tactics for both to fight while the Taysha’a continues to sit on the back of the B’alam.
The Nymphs, who refer to themselves as the Urtü (which means "Elemental" in their own language) are a waifish race that embody nature itself. They have sometimes also been called Sylphs, Pygmies, or Salamanders. It was originally believed that these were separate races depending upon the elements they favored.
The Urtü are small, with very attractive features, and have brightly colored skin and hair, though the hair is usually not as bright as the skin. They average in height between 110 to 130 centimeters, with the males averaging about 5 centimeters taller than the females. The Urtü come in a wide array of skin colors that are very rarely dull. Whether they are the bright red of a burning ember, the pure sparkling blue of the calm ocean, the bright yellow of a flower, or the pure white color of a cloud, the Urtü, when gathered together, are a kaleidoscope of colors. Despite popular belief, the skin tone of an individual Urtü does not denote any affiliation or affinity for a certain element. Their hair also comes in a wide variety of colors. Generally, the brighter their skin tone the darker their hair color, though the hair is never truly "dark."
Assassin, Blood Mage, Druid, Duelist, Infuser, Invoker, Necromancer, Ranger, Summoner, Tempest, Warrior, Wizard
Urtü religion is considered a private matter for the individual, or perhaps the family. Organized religion is virtually unheard of within the Urtü societies, although a person's right to their own beliefs is almost universally accepted. In historical periods, the Urtü were much more vocal in their public lives about their beliefs, but in modern times there is a tendency to keep their thoughts private. This does not mean that they are not allowed to voice an opinion, but has more to do with their general reticence when it comes to telling others their personal business, a reticence that extends to almost every other aspect of their lives.
Weapons and Military
The Urtü are perhaps the most adept in the use of poisons of any of the races of Estrom'Ir, and their weapons and armor reflect this. Their armor, which is designed to protect against projectiles, is made from water in a similar manner to their other clothing. Indeed, since their clothing and armor follows the same principle, an Urtü's clothing and armor are virtually indistinguishable when they are wearing anything other than the minimalist clothing of the civilian Urtü. The traditional favored weapon of the Urtü is the blowpipe, with which they launch poisoned darts at their enemies. In modern times, however, they have almost universally abandoned the traditional blowpipe in favor of air rifles to launch their darts at the enemy.
The beautiful appearance of the Urtü has led many to believe them to be friendly at first glance, but Nightshade is also beautiful. In reality, the Urtü are very serious creatures, and are not to be under-estimated. They are like the Crocus or Bella Donna, whose flowers may appear fragile but can quickly turn deadly. It isn’t just their blades that are cold, hard, and razor sharp. Their laws will be followed in their lands or there will be consequences. In some ways, they are even stricter in the application of their laws than are the Ksuma. While they are not shy about using their bodies to attract others as a strategy of war or espionage, they are somewhat more reticent than most when it comes to sharing details about themselves. They view excessive displays of emotion in public as being uncouth. This does not mean they lack passion; simply that they choose not to display that passion to anyone to whom they are not close.
Urtü homes are also made from water weaves, in a similar manner as their clothing. However, these weaves are of a more permanent nature and do not merge with other water molecules when wet, otherwise their homes would disappear whenever it rained. The weaves are such that light can be bent in areas where privacy is desired, or allow the surface to remain transparent when more light on the interior is desired. Urtü build their homes with controls to adjust this on any surface of their home. Therefore, if they want complete privacy they can bend the light on all surfaces, which makes it impossible to see into the home from outside. In that situation, only a small amount of light gets inside, and without artificial lighting the interior will be close to complete darkness even when it is day outside. On the other hand, they can also adjust the surfaces so that the entire house is transparent if they so desire.
Urtü clothing is unique, to say the least. Rather than using animal skins or plant fibers to make their clothing, they use magic to literally weave water into clothing of various sorts. The magic is used to bend the light so that the clothing lacks the transparency of water, except where such transparency is desired. Due to the magical transformation of these watery garments, the molecules don't behave like normal water molecules. While seeming to flow about the person wearing the garments, they don't cause the person to be wet, and in fact protect the person from the cold and dampness even better than most furs. On the other hand, when a person is swimming, their watery garments blend into the water molecules in the water through which the person is moving to such an extent that they don't cause any drag whatsoever. When wearing these garments, in other words, the Urtü become naked when submerging themselves in water to swim or bathe. Yet, when they emerge from the water, the water molecules making up their garments will resolve again and they will be fully clothed. Their clothing can take many shapes and sizes. When not armored, and not concerned with protecting themselves from attack, the Urtü prefer clothing that is minimal, with men often wearing a simple garment that covers only the loins and the women covering only the loins and breasts.
The Deru, or Oaken as they are often called by other races, were created by Safory, the Goddess of Peace. They are the tallest of the races of Estrom'Ir, being slightly taller than the Ursa, but are somewhat slimmer in physiology. They were largely spared from major losses during the Orthir calamity, seeing as they lived in regions far to the south. In the first age they initially lived in scattered tribal villages and lived lives that were closely in touch with Estrom'Ir itself, which they believe is the soul or embodiment of Safory. As time passed, they began to build great cities, though these cities often blended into the woods in which they were built, and one would be hard-pressed to tell where the boundaries were if it weren't for the city walls, which often rose above the tree-line significantly.
The Deru males stand about 360 centimeters on average, though some of the shorter males may be as little as 330 centimeters and 395 centimeter males are not unheard of. For females, the average height is 345 centimeters, though their height can range anywhere from 300 centimeters to 375 centimeters.
To a human, the Deru appear largely like giant muscular humans in the area between the neck and the knees, but there the resemblance stops. The lower legs, arms and head appear more tree-like than human, though some human-like characteristics can be seen in the face. The Deru wear no clothing, but have mossy growths that cover certain areas. These growths are not worn, however, they are simply part of the Deru, and they can cover and retract at will as needed.
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In the first age, Safory began to teach some of the Deru about the "Giedo Deru" or "Song of the Wood." Through this elemental magic they were able to "sing" wood into whatever shape they wished, and to harden it into a petrified state that was as hard as stone, but as strong as steel. They were also able to fashion weapons from this sung wood that were equal to some of the best steel weapons of Estrom'Ir, and were surpassed only by those of the Máni for their strength. Using this material, the Deru built their cities, literally singing them into existence in the dense woods in which they lived. Other than the encircling walls, their cities blend into the forests and if one were to wake in a Deru city one might not know they were in a city and not a wood, at least for a moment.
Whenever an elder died, a curious tradition arose whereby those of their guild would gather around, each with their own swegala, or sung-wood flute, and the attributes and song power of the elder is passed on to them, with his very body compressing, merging with his swegala, and splitting, adding mass and strength to all the swegal of the remaining elders. A new elder is also chosen to join the ranks, and he adds his voice to the song. As a result, a layman's swegala is formed from the elder's body as well, and is given to the new elder as his badge of office.
The chief elder of each of twelve guilds, made up of the twelve classes, form a priestly council that leads their people in the worship of Safory and also serve as political leaders. At least nine of the elders must agree on a law to put it into effect. For war, the decision must be unanimous, though if an elder chooses to abstain and all the others vote for war it is still considered a unanimous vote. Unlike many of the other races of Estrom'Ir, a majority of Deru still follow the old ways when living in their own cities. Those who have left Deru lands and settled in more cosmopolitan areas, however, have mostly adopted a more secular attitude.
Weapons and Military
The traditional weapon of the Deru was the war club, though they were also able to make edged weapons that were among the finest. These were always secondary for the Deru, however. In more recent times they have developed their own firearms as well, though these are not the favored weapons of the Deru, who prefer melée combat when possible, and eschew ranged warfare.
The Deru culture is closely bound to staying finely in tune with the natural rhythms of Estrom'Ir. As the Deru initially grow in the ground as seedlings before breaking forth and walking free, the structured family units of some other cultures do not exist within Deru society. Most do not know who their parents are and identify more closely with those of their chosen guild. Deru reach adulthood at the age of twenty-five, and it is at this time that they ultimately choose the guild that will shape the rest of their lives as families shape the lives of other races. They will choose whether to be a bard, a berserker, a cleric, a defender, a druid, an infuser, a paladin, a shaman, a summoner, a warrior, a witch-doctor, or a zealot. Once their guild is chosen and they are accepted, it becomes as important to them as a family would be. While this dynamic would not work in a human society or in the societies of the other races of Estrom'Ir, a familial-like bond develops between the Deru of each guild, and they will protect each other to the death just a readily as a brother, sister, father, or mother would in the other races.
The Táysha’a, often referred to as ‘Wood Elves,' are a race of medium height known for studying all forms of nature. They are equally fascinated with the insects that make their home in the roots of the forest to the boughs that reach the sky. Life and death are inescapably tied together in a cycle that the Taysha’a find beautiful. Death isn’t mourned, as it leads to new life. When one creature dies, the amount of life that is supported by that one death has left many Táysha’a with no qualms about killing. While the Táysha’a value life, it is valued as a whole. Individual life is important, but when it ends this is not seen to be a tragedy as it is in other cultures. The death of an animal provides sustenance for other living animals and plants. This has led the Táysha’a to view all living creatures as the same. The life of a man may be different than that of a cow, but in death they are the same. Where the Ursa of the north use every part of their kill, leaving nothing to waste, the Táysha’a take just what they need and leave the rest for the carrion. The Táysha’a do not think themselves better than any other race, but neither do they see any other race as having more value than any other living creature. If you feel like a Táysha’a is studying you like an insect, you may be right. Due to their nature-loving culture, Táysha’a spend much of their time outdoors.
Shorter than most humans, the Táysha’a average between 140 centimeters and 170 centimeters in height, with few males tending to be under 155 centimeters in height, and few females greater than 160 centimeters in height. Their skin tends to be a deep bronzed tone, and they have large ears, which are somewhat larger in proportion than those of the Máni, although not so large as those of the Aesir.
Assassin, Bard, Druid, Infuser, Invoker, Jester, Monk, Necromancer, Ranger, Shaman, Sniper, Tempest, Thief, Wizard
The Táysha’a traditionally worship Safory, the goddess of peace. While this focus on a deity associated with peace might seem to be contrary to their acceptance of death and their willingness to kill, Táysha’a priests and priestesses teach that real peace comes with balance. Killing for the sake of killing is therefore discouraged in Táysha’a religion, but killing to retain or restore a natural balance is considered to be justified. This is why the death penalty is considered perfectly normal in Táysha’a society, but it is also why the priests and priestesses serve as the executioners.
Weapons, Military, and Equipment
The Táysha’a have traditionally used weapons created from materials found around them in nature, and even in modern times most have retained the ability to craft a working longbow when needed. A Táysha’a warrior is trained in the use of this weapon, and can hit targets as far away as 300 meters with pinpoint accuracy with an unmodified bow. Some have modified these bows with magic to increase their range to as much as 600 meters. In modern times many have also trained with firearms, and some are more comfortable with modern weapons. On the other hand, even those who usually use modern weapons will still learn the weapons of the past as something upon which to fall back when needed.
Most Táysha’a warriors have a preference for minimal armor, if they wear armor at all. Some even go so far as to fight completely in the nude, painting their bodies with red paint to intimidate those on the other side. These warriors are referred to as Béhmitešweju, which literally means ‘those who fight with their penis exposed.’ Most Táysha’a, however, prefer to fight in just their béhmbatsa, or loincloths, and will also wear moccasins known as wáwabatsa. Some, who need greater stealth, will wear a cloak known as a kenhtà, which mimics the leaves of the forest and allows them to blend into wooded environments. Variants of this garment have also been adapted to desert environments.
Within the Táysha’a, everything revolves around balance with nature, but also with the cycle of birth and renewal. For this reason, everything about their culture is about maintaining that balance. Their clothing is made from animal skins, and they maintain compost piles to which their dead are added for decomposition and use in fertilizing their sky-farms.
The cities of the Táysha’a are varied. The main tribe, from which the race gets its name, lives in cities that are built high in the trees in a forest whose trees average fifteen to twenty meters in diameter. Roads encircle and connect these trees, with floating platforms in the spaces between. The giant cones of these coniferous trees, which can be as big as ten meters in width, are often hollowed out and used as homes and offices for the civilization. The compost heaps are usually situated on the perimeter, on the side opposite the direction of the prevailing winds. Above the treetops, in the spaces between the trees, the Táysha’a will build farming platforms for their sky-farms, with soil averaging about a meter in depth on these platforms. Cisterns will also be situated near the sky-farms, and are fed with collected rainwater. Pipes will be routed through the trees to the homes and businesses to supply water to the Táysha’a. Other tribes of Táysha’a have different building practices, from the Uškáhákékókó of the islands and their primitive earthen huts, to the cliff-side dwellings of the desert tribes and the animal hide tents of those who live a nomadic life on the plains.
The Táysha’a have widely varying cultural practices, since there are literally dozens of different tribes. Among those of the namesake tribe, public nudity, while not commonplace, is perfectly acceptable for swimming, bathing and other physical activities. Their cities in the trees are usually located in close proximity to rivers and lakes, which are also used for recreational swimming, and, like the Aesir, they have no compunctions about swimming or bathing nude in the presence of others. Also, since privacy within the home is not a high priority, their homes will usually lack any interior walls. Indeed, it is not uncommon for their shower facilities to be situated in the center of their living rooms. Among other groups, such as the tribes of the plains, public nudity is less accepted. Among the Nasa’a tribe, their cliff-side dwellings are designed around privacy, and while they are not as prudish as the Dvergar, they wouldn’t dream of being nude in the presence of the opposite gender unless it is their spouse. Remote tribes such as the Uškáhákékókó, on the other hand, have no concept of clothing for males, and even the females will wear only simple skirts. The Uškáhákékókó are so unused to seeing clothing on males that this has led to some assumptions on their part. When a couple of Ængeáta scientists, one male and one female, came to meet them, they removed their shirts to blend in with the tribe. Since the Uškáhákékókó males wear no clothing at all, however, they assumed that the male scientist lacked a penis.
Clothing and Armor
Clothing is widely varied. Standard male clothing in the largest tribe consists of a simple belt with a small loincloth looped through it, known as a béhmbatsa, which literally means ‘penis covering.’ They also wear moccasins known as wáwabatsa, or “foot covering.” Ironically, the sheath for their arrows is also known as a béhmbatsa, as the word
béhmcan be used to mean either ‘penis’ or ‘arrow,’ depending on the context.
Female Táysha’a wear a garment called a haçbatsa, which is basically a short skirt made from animal skins, and also a second garment called a kënimbatsa, which is wrap, also made of animal skins, that covers from the armpits to just below the breasts. Haçbatsa comes from haç, which is a reference to the female genitals, and batsa, meaning ‘covering.’ Interestingly, the word haçko, which is a slang word they use for having sexual relations, also comes from haç. The suffix ko, meaning ‘to give,’ implies that consent is required for such relations, at least from the female.
Kënimbatsa comes from kënim, which is the word for breasts, and also the word for milk. A similar word, kënima, means ‘mother.’ Other tribes have similar garments to the main Táysha’a, although those who live on the plains usually wear more clothing, while the Uškáhákékókó wear considerably less.