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Races of Leehaby JTR from Threshold Magazine issue 7
Races of Leeha
The western Bay region is lightly populated. Collectively, humanoids form the largest group of inhabitants and have strong communities in the Catberg Hills, the Greenwood, the Jotunheimr Hills, the western mountains, and locations further south. They are followed by the wide-ranging human barbarians, the halflings of the Gulf, and finally Foresthome elves. The halflings are discussed in greater detail in the next section. All other populations are discussed here.
Many different languages can be heard in the vicinity of the western Bay. Those that are most notable are listed below.
Novum-Or: Novum-Or is the language of the Gulf halflings. It is a mixture of the ancient Lalor tongue, barbarian languages, and Heldannic.
Thyatian: This is a common language of adventurers and potential settlers.
Alphatian: This is a language of the newcomers; however, it is also spoken by many halflings and barbarians who have had contact with the Alphatian Empire or the Court of Ericall.
Viaskodan: This is the language of the northern barbarians.
Theorundian: This is the language of the southern barbarians.
Essurian: The trade town of Leeha maintains records and instruction for the Essurian language, which is native to the Denagothian Plateau far to the south.
Elvish: The Elvish spoken by Foresthome elves derives from the Shiye dialect heard in Alphatia. It provides no significant barrier to conversation with speakers of most other Elvish dialects.
Hymsprach: More commonly known as Giantish, Hymsprach is spoken by all true giant-folk (fire and larger).
Shonak: This is a human language heard on the tundra to the north.
Catherwek: This is the language spoken by humanoids in the Catbergs.
Athraeg: This language is spoken by humanoids in the Valley of Ath and the surrounding mountains.
Malaasilut: This is the language of the humanoids of the northern territories.
A number of human tribes and clans live semi-nomadic lifestyles and their numbers range from as little as a dozen to over 1,000 each. The southern Theorundians are more settled, while the northern Viaskodas maintain seasonal migrations on the long northern coast of the Great Bay, from the borders of Leeha to the Ljallenvals Mountains of the east.
Both Theorundians and Viaskodas are a mixture of Antalian and Littonian stock, though they also carry some Alphatian blood – a legacy of the empire’s colonial periods. They have naturally pale complexions, but wind-burn gives them a ruddy hue. Hair and eye color are very diverse, although many barbarians along the Bay coast share a slight elongation of the eye. It is also quite common for Viaskodan males to shave their heads.
Attire is assembled from fur, leather, and limited textiles. Theorundians favor sleeveless tunics and breeches, adding an insulated leather jacket or overcoat during the cooler months. Their women don a double-tunic dress cinched by a rope belt. Viaskodan men eschew tunics in favor of going bare-chested or wearing only a harness or baldric during summer; the women sport fitted halters that expose their midriff and breeches, shorts, or skirts. Viaskodan women only wear dresses or full length skirts while pregnant or nursing. Both groups use heavy fur coats during winter.
Organization and Banners
Tribal organization varies, but some barbarian nations still remain extant. The western Vanders, or the Barbarians of the Red Banner, are one such group. Their name is actually of Theorundian origin and means “the great wind,” a remark on the nomadism and savage potential of that nation in times past.
Other groups are also identified through the use of tribal banners – totemic expressions of the most powerful person or group. They are comprised of a central timber shaft about six inches in diameter. Cross beams are lashed to the top third of the banner, from which are attached skins, ribbons, and various items of significance.
Not all individuals are affiliated with a tribal group, especially among those who have adopted a more sedentary lifestyle. The reception of these settlers by their nomadic kinsmen varies, but scorn rarely rises beyond the teasing label of “Dairy-Men” employed by the Viaskodas.
The Volek Leiho and the Guldskung
Every year during the summer solstice, the Viaskodan tribes gather under a Banner to celebrate the Volek Leiho, or “Festival of Brotherhood.” The hosting tribal chief, or Kung, settles disputes between tribes and adjudicates criminal complaints according to oral tradition. In turn, the visiting tribes are expected to offer tribute.
Historically, a greater title was also employed by the Viaskodas. Bearers of the title Guldskung (“first among chiefs”) were warlords that ruled the great barbarian nations during the time of the Alphatian incursions, and they commanded thousands of subjects over great swaths of territory.
There has not been a Guldskung since the time of Akra, but with the coming influx of foreign settlers, the time may be right for the rise of a new title bearer.
The barbarians display a wide range of activities, from herding sheep, goats, and shaggy cattle, to smelting and weaving, even to raiding and piracy along the coast. Neither meta-group possesses its own currency, but they understand its worth and use it as necessary when dealing with other parties.
Culture and Lifestyle
Among the Viaskodas, men and women have almost equal rights: stronger and tougher individuals fight, while others raise children and herd. Their primary sports are wrestling and lacrosse, and it is not unusual to see Viaskodan women participate in such events.
The laws of the tribes are based on an oral tradition. Judgments are issued by tribal chiefs and are swift and ruthless. Rulings can be appealed to a jury comprised of seven adults, but the jury cannot vacate a ruling. Instead, a convicted person with whom the jury has sided may challenge the chief to combat to the death. If he prevails, he will be the new chief.
Theft of property is punished with the branding of the hand. Theft of food, however, warrants being tied down to the ground for three days without food or drink as tribal shamans intensely watch for signs of the wendigo. Murder is punished with either immediate death or exile into dangerous surroundings. Most other transgressions are considered matters of honor to be settled through wrestling matches.
A limited form of slavery is also practiced by the Viaskodans, but not the Theorundians. Those captured in war are made household servants, signified by a rope cord about the left wrist. Servitude lasts up to three years, after which the slave is set free. It may also be terminated earlier, either by adopting the slave into one’s family or setting them loose (often to untax tribal resources).
Magic and Religion
Witchcraft and sorcery are matters of great fear for the barbarians, a legacy of their suffering during the various Alphatian occupations and the reign of the Akra. Foreign magic-users are subject to contempt and scorn, though this may be mitigated if the offender displays martial bravery and skill. Yet despite this aversion, the barbarians did give birth to Norwold’s modern druidism in conjunction with Alphatians surviving the fall of Alphia.
Their religious outlook focuses on nature spirits and the ghosts of ancestors that serve as divine messengers. Spiritual shamans known as taltos function as intermediaries between mortals and these divine agents, while other priests serve the general function of moral counselors.
The barbarians’ greatest spiritual fear is succumbing to the spirit of the wendigo, a wild, voracious, and malignant hunger. Because of the cannibalism and gruesome consumption associated with the wendigo, the Viaskodas are suspicious of the Vaarana nomads to their north. The barbarians share the Thanksgiving of the halflings.
Both the Theorundians and Viaskodas favor heavier, two-handed weapons, e.g. staves, war hammers, mauls, great spears, bastard swords, and two-handed swords. Missile weapons are limited to capturing devices such as bolas and nets, although the short bow and javelin are used for hunting purposes.
Armor is limited to various hide-based forms of protection, but a few pieces of scale mail can be found. Those wielding smaller weapons often employ wooden shields on the off-hand.
In addition to the native populations of Norwold, humans from more civilized, foreign lands have made their presence known. Alphatians already have a small community at Arboria, and there are many Thyatian traders filtering up from the southlands. Additionally, human adventurers from a variety of nations are beginning to flock to Leeha.
Norwold’s Foresthome elves were originally part of the Shiye of Alphatia that fled in dispute with their king. Their strongest presence is on the oceanic coast, but a few outposts have been established around the Great Bay. These elves are secretive and avoid contact with outsiders.
Present since AC 525, the elves of the north coast number only a few hundred in total, and not all have a mature Tree of Life. They originally left their homes among Oceansend’s Lornadiel clan to settle the lands memorialized in the Ley of Lornasen, a tale of their eponymous founder who journeyed from Norwold’s eastern shores to locate the Sylvan Realm far to the west and returned with the knowledge of the Tree of Life.
Within the Ley are clues that Lornasen may have seeded other Trees during her return, and the Foresthome elves came to find them and to plant their own. Most of the elven families have now settled themselves in the Lothbarth, but one mythic location, Sythan Alabarik, still fills their dreams.
The major northern families are Sinar, Leafbower, Feryndul, Sunviel, Sanathyl, Wensaren, Esendath, Ithyshiye, and Almashiye. The western Almashiye are the most open of the elves, and a few of the younger ones have made their way to Leeha.
The Imerath elves dwell within the Mur Woods of the south. Their forebears left the community of Whispering Grove for different reasons. They trekked the dangerous Norwold interior and faced the Wyrmsteeth before settling. There are perhaps one thousand Imerath elves. They are very withdrawn, and they are currently unaware of their brethren to the north.
Both groups of elves construct houses in and around hardwood trees through carpentry. They also both celebrate the Shelter of Ygg (Felmont 17), which commemorates the providential arrival of Foresthome elves to Norwold. This is a day of thanksgiving among the elves.
Elves in the north and south consider the barbarians as primitives, using the latter as a shield against the more dangerous opponents in the area.
Tribes of goblins, orcs, and hill giants infest the Catbergs and surrounding forests. The orcs have been severely weakened in recent conflicts with the halflings, and the goblins are in the ascendence. In the north, hill and frost giants dwell in the Jotunheimr Hills along with trolls, bugbears, and orcs.
Most tribes of the Catbergs and Jotunheimr are unaligned, but the humanoids of the west – primarily hill giants, orcs, and goblins – have been organized by Kiriakiss, a huge female red dragon.
Total Population Sizes
It is estimated that there are 15,000 Viaskodas – including 900 members of the Red Banner – 22,500 Theorundians, and 1,550 elves in the western Bay area. Halflings are thought to number 10,000 in total. They are matched by 12,000 denizens of the Catbergs, 6,000 in the Jotunheimr, and 5,500 under the direct control of Kriakriss.