I’m rushing headlong into the second year of writing Coldforged Material, and this year I hope to cover enough topics in preparation to print as is possible. I hope we’re in the home stretch. This week we’re going to continue my look into the Thraxian tribes living in and around the Thraxian forest to the north.
Continuing from the previous post we’re going to dive into more of the thraxian tribes. I had originally wanted to keep this pretty minimalistic, but like always, I get carried away when I find something I like, and these were really moving my creative juices in my head.
The Thraxian forest is littered with rocks and boulders, but the Shattered Rock is unique among them. The rock formation justs nearly 60 feet high, and the top 20 feet is jagged and sharp, and splits the rock into 5 individual spires, towering over most of the smaller, lighter trees.
The Tribe reveres the lightning that they say split the stone in ages past, making them unique among the tribes of Thrax as worshipers of Gestril, the god of storms. They participate in storm summoning rituals and send their youth off in great rhino hunts to prove their worth to the tribe. During times of war, strife and conflict the Shattered rock paint jagged blue lightning bolts across their faces and clothing, to represent the spirit of thunder that lives within them. The Chieftain of Shattered Rock is a quick, deadly, and intrepid spear wielder called Kal’Dran, who leads with both a quick wit and a quick blade.
The Fire springs are a small collection of scalding pools filled with caustic acid, that smells of fire and ash. These pools bubble up close to the Ironarm Mountains, seemingly derived from the blood of the mountains themselves. They emit constant sounds, smells, and jets of boiling liquid at all hours of the day and night.
It is here that the Fire Springs tribes perform their rituals of sacrifice, divination, and other acts of piety to the land and its spirits. They read the messages of the sprays, sounds and smells in a complex pattern of ritualistic omens, auguries, and prophecy. They are extremely superstitious and live their lives always consulting omens and ensuring that the signs are right before making any actions. They are contemplative for the most part, but once the omens speak, they are fanatically devoted to the outcome. The Chief of the Fire Springs is Fel’Kas, a war priest devoted to Takannas, one of the first that joined Ter’ina, and to those that follow the Fire god, her natural successor.
The howling Caves drop deep underground in the western hills of the thraxian forests, where they scream at all times of the day and night, creating a chilling howl that echoes across the region’s woods and rocky outcroppings.
The endless screaming of the caves has driven mad nearly all of the Howling Caves tribe, who fly into battle with but the slightest of causes. While they can control themselves, many of their numbers find that the reasons to do so are so few between as to not worry about it. They live their lives according to their whims, and the destruction and joy that it brings is merely a side effect. These wild berserkers are the most often avoided of all the tribes, and their constant raiding both against each other and against their neighbors is a source of worry and contention. The Chief of Howling Caves is Hel’drak, a typical berserking warrior, but his council is Val’kan, a remarkably calm arcanist who’s made some sort of grand plan with the voices beyond the howling to understand their cries. Or so they say.
The giant’s bowl is a massive bowl-shaped basin of stone that has been carved by the power of a waterfall for ages into the stone. The sheer cliff that the water pours down is 30 feet tall, and the basin is at least 15 feet deep, and filled with water or ice nearly year-round, which magnifies the glistening red and black of the bowl.
The Giants Bowl are devout followers of Evalrun, seeing in the bowl and its waters below the perfect representation of the god of earth’s dominion. They perform ritual sacrifices, tossing bound and helpless captives from the cliffs, and their rituals of good weather, healthy crops and victory in battle all involve the bowl itself. Unlike many of the other tribes, the Bowl has tenders and keepers who ensure only the most relevant and useful rituals are performed at their sacred pool and keep others away without previous accommodations. To touch the water is to invite death from the tribe, as its sacred waters may only be disturbed by sacrifice and ritual. The Chief of the Giants Bowl is Je’kand, a devout and powerful warrior who has devoted his life to prove himself worthy of Evalrun and the earth itself.
In the southern portion of Thrax, as the forest thins out, there are the remnants of a colossal dragon, with the upper skull, horns, ribs and other bones protruding from the earth in numerous places. These bones are the sacred site of the Dragon Bones Tribe.
The Dragon bones tribe sees itself as the cleansed and purified version of the Thraxians, worshiping both Evalrun and Takannas in an equal and fervent measure, dedicating many of their lives to expanding the power of the gods. They have adopted the rituals of the southern churches, and follow their beliefs in a number of ways that seem anthemic to the way of life in Thrax, but they are able to settle that difference as being of different blood with different expectations. The dragon bones tribe is rife with holy knights and priests, with their leader, Tel’Rok being a pious warrior of the gods.
The stone trees cover a vast amount of western Thrax, consisting of enormous, 20-50’ tall stone pillars coated with grass and shrubs, giving the impression of trees, interspersed within the dense forest. These stone trees have been around for as long as the forest itself, and some have been carved with stairs leading to sacred spaces and ritual platforms.
As the largest of the tribes, the Stone Trees wield a lot of power within Thrax. Their shamans and leaders carry the weight of hundreds of warriors and dozens of seers and prophets when they speak, and when they travel, other tribes defer to their might. The stone trees use this power and position within the tribes to become de facto leaders, pushing the tribes to act when needed, instigating beneficial warfare and raids, and gathering forces for defense. The Stone Trees find themselves in privileged positions, and they are unwilling to waste the opportunity while it lasts. Barg’ak, the chieftain of the Stone trees, is a powerful animist, shaman, and warrior, able to shift between attacking as a bear or an orc at well, leaving many enemies and bodies in his wake as he walks the battlefield seemingly unscathed.
The Reeking bog tribe lives on the eastern coast of Lake Karov, in the expanse of a large swamp with black waters and a monstrous smell. Trees, both dead and living, pepper the swamps ever-expanding swamp water and few patches of sturdy land, and the razorgrass and mirethorn make every step hazardous.
The reeking bog is cheerfully called home by its inhabitants, and they build their homes and hunt the deadly creatures that roam the swamp here with glee. What others see as a castoff and terrible place, the people who have chosen to live here take pride in their unorthodox territory. The frogs and lizards and swamp lights all call to these people, who find solace in the solitude of the marshes. The Rooking Bog tribe distinguishes itself from the others by creating muck soaked tendrils out of their hair and decorating it with bones and ivory from the creatures killed within the swamp. They are led by Chieftain Su’nag, who seems to have a knack for remembering where and how the bog shifts, and has led many attackers, pursuers and hunted beasts to its death in the twisting mire.
In the south, alone within the land, there is a single spire of rock, almost a hundred feet tall, shaped like a spear at the tip, thrusting straight into the air. It is crisscrossed with black, gold and silver streaks on its unnaturally cold and pale surface. The bolt stands in the center of a large portion of the forest that stands slightly higher than the majority and is unusually treeless.
On this small plateau, the tribe has built a moderately sized city where most of them live. The Bolt spire have created a culture that specializes in ranged combat, as a function of honoring their sacred location. They hone their skills every day, challenging each other to feats of accuracy and distance. This has made them spectacular hunters, stalkers, and rangers. They know their land inside and out, every hill, every tree, every ancient fence. They defend their land and attack the same way – ambush, stealth and ranged superiority. The chieftain of the Tribe is Uth’kan, a master archer and javelineer, who has proven his wisdom as well as his accuracy over the years, leading numerous successful hunts and territorial defenses.
Each year, when the ice and snow come down from the mountains and buries much of the Thraxian forest in its cold, wet blanket, the ridge that stretches down from the Ironarm and into the Thraxian forest is also subject to this cold, but here, for some reason, any frost or snow lasting for more than a few days turns a brilliant red that then fades into a burnished brown and Ichory black.
Here, among the foothills of the and mountains that the Bloodfrost tribe live. The tribe reveres the ice and cold, with shamans and druids of the ice being their most trusted advisors and leaders. During the winter, they find the cold and stillness of the land to be refreshing, the necessary, if sometimes permanent sleep, that the world and all things in it must undertake in order to continue existence. This outlook, and their general personality, are often considered harsh and cold by others, but the bloodfrost tribe feels they are simply misunderstood. Da’Kun, a winter druid, is the chieftain of the tribe and leads them both in reading the winter’s messages and in ferocious combat when needed.
Shadow gorge spreads across the center of the Thraxian forest, fracturing dozens of times, spreading its tendrils across a wide swath of forest. Though the gorge isn’t deep, it is peppered with deep and winding caves that easily hold dozens of people. It turns are harsh, zig-zagging ridges often with trees on its ridges, though sometimes harsh and bare rock. The caves inside the gorges have been used for unknown thousands of years to shelter people from beasts and weather, keeping them safe and warm in perilous times.
Within these caves today live the shadowgorge tribe. These people have habits and rituals that are looked down on by even the rest of the Thraxians. They are accused of cannibalism, bestiality, ritualistic sacrifice, and other more hideous activities. They are brutal, cold, and unforgiving to outsiders and each other, seeing any sign of weakness or injury as a reason to abandon the individual in any number of ways in order to take their worldly goods, power and position within the tribes. Their savage and brutal chieftain is Wa’thak the Gorger, a massive, destructive and completely unsubtle warrior.
Standing high over the forest, these three massive pillars of stone, high and wide, are close enough to each other, and large enough individually, to have bridges between them and massive excavations within. Gray-green and riddled with foliage, trees, and bushes, the three pillars could be seen from miles around, if the trees weren’t so dense.
These stone pillars are so large that they have been almost completely hollowed out, excavated through hundreds of years, a natural fortification consisting of the three pillars and the massive fortress atop it, made from the excavated stone. The fortress-monastery is home to a sect of monks, and their attendants, who practice a form of worship of the god Conadral, something that is uncommon among the Thraxians. The people of the stone pillars are stoic, cold, and wise, though when roused to combat are completely capable of defending themselves and, in those rare instances, bringing their forces to war against those who would offend them. The leader of the Three Pillars tribe is Abbot Ul’egg, a monk who has, through fierce combat and wise decisions garnered the respect of those in the tribe.
At the edge of the Thraxian forests, leading down to the south, the trees and the white grass of the plains meet, forming a low, rolling land of small hills and scattered copses of trees. Within this white grass that coats the hills are larger trees, hidden pools, and secreted valleys.
This land is where the white grass tribe, excellent cavalry, and vicious raiders, lives. While many tribes hold the southern lands to be hostile, it is this tribe that is most commonly seen leagues away from their home pillaging and plundering the various remote villages and towns of the other kingdoms, taking from them what can be carried away. They are led by their chieftain, Lir’gath, a skilled raider and deft cavalry commander who’s raiding success propelled them to the head of the tribe.