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The Valley of the Tlastin:by Alex Benson
Location: Continent of Davania, Meghala Kimata Plains.
Area: Approx. 56 sq. miles
Language: Tlastin (Milenian/Jennite mixture)
Government Type: Clerical Matriarchy.
Important Figures: High Priestess Dlinarga (C11).
Flora and Fauna: Aside from its inhabitants, the valley is clear of any animal life. Plant life is of a benign type: grasses, shrubs, trees. There is an abundance of fruit bearing trees. Aside from the Llolken and Tlastin, animal life is absent.
Further Reading: None.
Surrounded by miles and miles of desert wasteland, the lushness of Llolken Valley is a lovely little spot amid such a hostile environment. Within its boundaries, visitors will find plush foliage, small brooks and streams, and an abundance of fruit bearing trees. Of note is the apparent lack of animals in this valley. One could deduce that the valley's location would exclude animal migrations. However, one would expect to see some animal life - the plant life got there. The inhabitants got there. Surely the valley's water and plants would have drawn animal attentions.
Inhabiting the Valley are a group of people calling themselves the Tlastin. Physically their appearance is consistent with those of Milenian heritage. Their spoken language also reflects a Milenian flair, but certain words and grammar structures resemble the spoken tongue of the Jennite. Females make up the majority of the Tlastin population. Tlastin males are rarely seen.
A secondary race is an unknown type that the Tlastin refer to as the Llolken. The Llolken are physically different based upon gender. Females are similar to centaurs. Males have human bodies but have the heads of horses. According to the Tlastin, the Llolken are the original inhabitants of the valley. Since male Llolken can be seen as temple guards,
In truth, the Tlastin and Llolken are one in the same. The result of an Immortal curse, the Tlastin are shapeshifters. Females can shift between the human form and that which is similar to a centaur. Likewise, males shift between a human form to a horseheaded form. Remarkably, their natural form is the horse related one. A Tlastin's true form is revealed in their reflections. As such, when visitors are in the Valley mirrors are covered or removed. Other reflective surfaces (still water, polished metal, etc.) are avoided. Physically, the torsos of the females are the same in either form. The Tlastin are careful to appear before visitors in only one form.
The Tlastin follow an Immortal named Arastia and her mount Dromeld, a twisted view of the Immortal Tarastia. The clergy also acts as the governing body of the Tlastin. With the necessities of life laying about in abundance, there is little for them to do. The clerics are always female. Males with the intelligence to be a cleric focus on philosophy and thought. In this role they usually act as consults and advisers. Otherwise males act as guards to the Valley, usually when visitors are present. The horse form is more comfortable for them and offers increased fighting abilities.
Leading the Arastia Following is High Priestess Dlinarga (C11). Living at the temple with a handful of subordinate clerics, she sees to her Immortal's needs. Fast approaching her 70th year, Dlinarga is getting old and several subordinate clerics have contemplated assuming the position. Most have declined since their Immortal has not instructed them to do so. Old age has given Dlinarga time to have certain second thoughts about the Immortal Arastia. She has begun listening more and more to the visions that interrupt her sleep.
The Tlastin are rather promiscuous. However, they rarely have natural offspring. For the most part, births occur after the deaths of several Tlastin. This tendency is linked to the Immortal wards that keep animal life away. Therefore, the population remains essentially the same. Population booms usually come after the arrival of visitors. Anyone consuming the waters of the Valley are forced to make a Save Vs. Death Ray. If successful, the Save must be rolled again each subsequent time he or she consumes local water with a -1 penalty. A failed save has no immediate affect. The person does begin losing one experience level per day. During this period, the afflicted person will become lethargic and will function as if he or she was at half experience level. After falling to 1st level, the transformation is complete leaving the person as a normal Tlastin. The transformation can be stopped or reversed by leaving the Valley or not drinking the local waters for six weeks. The tainted water can be made drinkable by casting a purify spell upon it.
The Tlastin want to expand their numbers by assimilating visiting peoples. They are not really aware of the powers of their water. They are aware that the water does have a lethargic effect. Likewise, those under its affects tend to be more open to the Tlastin philosophy. Physically altered, afflicted persons are easier to be assimilated. The Tlastin see the transformation as a sign that the person meets with the approval of Arastia. Those transformed that resist assimilation are killed or expelled.
Though they do not officially follow Tarastia, the Immortal does grant the Tlastin clergy spells. She grants them only a limited number of spells, mostly protection and healing types. She does this to maintain a sense of contact with the Tlastin. She also hopes to keep other Immortals from gaining influence with them, further corrupting them. This hope is unneeded. Most of the darker Immortals find the situation amusing and act as spectators. The whole thing is a big embarrassment for Tarastia, but her own honour prevents her from putting an end to them.
The nemesis of the clergy comes from an entity that the Tlastin call The Dark One. According to them, The Dark One roams the wastelands surrounding the Valley, preying upon those Tlastin that venture too far out. His mission is to slay those that follow the "true way of Arastia" and are intent upon being missionaries of the pseudo faith. Though few Tlastin have come face to face with the Dark One and returned to tell the tale, his image is a constant fear and living nightmare to the Tlastin.
In truth, the Dark One is a mortal identity of the Immortal Noland. Centuries back, Noland made a deal with Tarastia after she aided one of his causes. Since Tarastia could not bring herself to slay her wayward people, Noland pledged to act as a policing force in the region to keep the Tlastin in their valley. Outside of the Valley the lack of protective wards would allow them to breed normally, spreading their numbers and their faith. If Tarastia ever decides to do away with them as a whole, Noland will do the deed.
Given Noland's personality and beliefs, he has altered his task a bit. Anyone willing to leave the virtual paradise of Llolken to face the wastelands and himself are either religious fanatics or exiled heretics. Those he encounters are challenged, mainly to see if they are under the effects of the waters. If they are worthy, he reincarnates them and transports them to other lands. Unaffected persons are usually left unmolested.
Stats in parentheses denote horse form:
Males Females AC 9(7) 9(7) HD 4 4* Move 90(120) 90(150) Attacks 1 bite or weapon weapon or kick or trample or spell Damage 1d8 or by weapon +2 by weapon or 1d12 or 4d4 or by spell No. Appearing 1d4 1d4 Save As F3 C3 Morale 10 10 Treasure Type None None Intelligence 9-13 9-13 Size M(L) M(L) Alignment C C XP Value 75 125
The Tlastin are a shapeshifting race. In their natural form, they come in two forms based on gender. Females look like centaurs. Males retain a human body but have a horselike head. In their natural equine forms, coats include white, grey, or various shades of tan. Coat colouring is always solid. Their shape shifted form is more human. In fact, in this form they are indistinguishable from a normal human.
The Tlastin are a passive people. If circumstances lead to conflict, they can be formidable fighters. In their more human shape, they attack with slings, spears, or short swords. The Tlastin prefer to fight in their natural horse based forms. In this form, males receive a strength bonus of +2. They also can use a rather vicious bite attack doing 1d8 points of damage. Though they lack the strength bonus of the males, females can utilise clerical spells as if they were a 3rd level cleric. In their horse form, females can kick an opponent doing 1d12 points of damage. A female can also use their larger mass to overpower an opponent and trample them doing 4d4 points of damage. The change between forms takes the Tlastin one whole round. Males gain initiative after a change. Females lose initiative since their transformation takes slightly longer and is a bit more disorienting.
Habitat/Society: The Tlastin living in Llolken Valley live a virtual paradise. Food is plentiful thanks to the numerous fruit bearing trees. The Valley's aura keeps most predators away. The Tlastin spend their days wandering the valley, stopping to eat or drink when it suits them. With the necessities of life all around and in a great abundance, they have little need for currency or government. Religion of their false Immortal, Astarte, does have a strong influence. The Tlastin do not practice marriage and are quite promiscuous. However, offspring are not common and usually occur when populations begin dwindling. Gestation and maturation is similar to a regular human. Children are born in their natural form and begin mastering the shape changing ability at puberty. The average Tlastin lives for 80 years.
The Tlastin are a cursed race. However, they do function as humans do in the world. In their present environment, Llolken Valley, they have few needs. If they ever got out into the regular world, it may be a different story.
The Tlastin were once of the Jennite people. During the civil war between the male dominant faction and the equal standing faction, the Tlastin Tribe supported the equality faction. During the conflict, the Tlastin Tribe began to alter its view on the matter. Instead of male dominance or gender equality, the Tlastin focused upon a matriarchal system of rule. The conflict ad been long and difficult. During the fighting, the bulk of the tribe's male warriors had been killed. The females had assumed a more prominent role in the fighting as well as the rule of the tribe.
Even the faith of the Tlastin had changed. Their former patron Tarastia had changed from an Immortal of justice and fair treatment into a warrioress. The Tlastin call their version of their Immortal Arastia. In their eyes, when she mounted her steed, Dromeld, the two became a singular being, a centaurette. The various images and idols of Arastia portray her as either a centaur warrioress or as a Jennite warrior maiden leading her horse. Either way, the two are usually referred to as a singular entity.
After the conflict had been settled, Tarastia turned her attentions to her misguided Tlastin supporters. Their image of her as well as their focus on female dominance troubled her, yet they had been loyal to her. She dispatched a number of her clerics to journey to them and bring them back into the fold. These clerics were viewed by the Tlastin as being heretics and were slain as such. This infuriated Tarastia, yet she still hoped to sway her wayward people back into the fold. It was only when the Tlastin began acts of conquest against neighbouring tribes to impose their religious views that Tarastia finally acted.
Using her Immortal powers, Tarastia decided to curse them. She chose that the curse would be based upon the very object they held in such high regard, the horse. She made the females centaur-like. She made the males more human-like with a horse's head and hooves for feet. She also granted them the ability to assume a human appearance at will. She hoped that the Tlastin would favour the human form and see the error of their ways.
This was not to be, for the Tlastin embraced their new form, seeing it as reassurance that they were blessed. The Tlastin intensified their attacks against the neighbouring tribes. With their new forms, they managed to conquer a few tribes. These tribes were steadfast in the true following of Tarastia. Most were enslaved or slain outright as heretics.
Tarastia knew she would have to act. She used her powers to gather and transplant the Tlastin to a secluded valley on the continent of Davania. Still hopeful to show them the right path, she set up wards to keep predators out of the valley. She also created fruit bearing trees to feed them. She wanted them to sit and think about their predicament, not perish. She hoped that with food a plenty, the Tlastin would commit more time to their situation. She also hoped that the lack of predators would tone down the aggressiveness.
The Tlastin spent decades at peace in their new home. They saw their paradise valley as a reward for devoted service. Soon, the quiet life turned to boredom. It was decided that the Tlastin would venture out of their valley to spread the teachings of their patron. For a long time, Tarastia had visited them in their dreams telling them of the true Following. These attempts proved a failure. Aside from a few Tlastin, most ignored what they saw as evil forces tempting them. Those that accepted the truth in the visions fled or were slain as heretics.
After a period, Tarastia decided that drastic means were needed. Using a mortal guise, she persuaded a group of Milenians to venture to the valley. These Milenians were the survivors of a small city-state that had been overrun by humanoids. She hoped that the Milenians would literally "knock some sense into the Tlastin". She hoped that the Tlastin would turn to her in their time of need.
Once again, her efforts backfired. The Tlastin assumed their human forms and welcomed the Milenians into the valley. The abundant food and water was most welcomed by the travel weary refugees. The Milenians soon were taken under by the effects of the water, and the Tlastin found the Milenians easily swayed to their religious beliefs. The newcomers showed the Tlastin the benefits of the Milenian culture, and under their guidance, Llolken was transformed to reflect that Milenian lifestyle. Within a few generations, the two people had completely merged into a singular people.
Since then, the Tlastin have embraced their paradise valley. They cannot leave it, and many do not wish to. Their location keeps them isolated. From time to time, outsiders stumble across the valley. The Tlastin attempt to assimilate them into their culture. In this, they have become quite adept. All the while, Tarastia sits and contemplates how to bring them around.
Llolken Valley is a veritable paradise amid the harsh wastelands. The sight of it on the horizon is a welcome vision to any weary traveller. Aside from the natural beauty, there is little else to see. Most constructions are temporary lean-to shelters. About the only real building is a structure that acts as their temple to Aristia. There, visitors will find some interesting statuary and adornments. However, there is little monetary gain to be had in looting them.
Staying in the Valley for an extended period is dangerous. Visitors will either succumb to the transformation or be dealt with by their hosts. Leaving the oasis is the real option. However, the visitors will have to make good their escape, face the Dark One, and then survive the trip out of the wastelands. All of this with limited supplies of food and water.