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 start looking at the Tribes of Thrax, the northern civilization containing orcs, half orcs, goblins, and giants.
The Thraxian Tribes
Within the Thraxian forests, the many peoples within organize themselves into tribes, the functioning units of society. These tribes have existed since before the Great Conversion of Ter’ina, and they will exist long afterward. Structurally, they are made of a loyal combination of Giants, Orcs, Half-orcs, humans, and Goblins who follow their sworn chieftains. They raid each other, and other kingdoms, but rarely claim land outside of their forests.
The tribes are territorial due to their identities themselves being territorial. The tribes are not a cult of personality or tied to a vague sense of loyalty to one another. Instead, it is bound within what the Thraxians view as the natural holy places of the forest, the great wonders of nature that persist throughout its vast, dense land.
Each of these locations is holy in a specific and individual way, often relating to oracles or visions, but sometimes to more practical needs, such as arable farmland or access to a specific resource. These lands are fought over by the tribes in a friendly, if extremely deadly, competition. Those who are unable to hold their lands against aggressors are quickly destroyed and their holy lands abandoned as clear signs of their weakness.
Below, we go into each of the tribes, their locations, and what makes them unique and their area important.
The black sands are a tribe of orcs that live on the western shore of the Thraxian forest, in contact with Bloodhunger bay. The tribe’s namesake is the black sand on the beaches in that part of the bay. The Tribe follows both Nera, the goddess of the ocean, and Dagor, the god of death, a reasonable combination for a tribe that lives on a storm wracked coast with blackened volcanic sand.
The Black Sands tribe often looks to its Priests, both water and death, as well as their druids for wisdom, and those positions hold as much weight as the chieftain in many other tribes. They are known for painting their eyes like blackened fangs, the points coming down their jawlines like beards. They excel at fishing and live off a diet of shellfish, fresh fish, and the bounty of the ocean. They have little gripe with the nearby tribes, but the Sharkfolk of the bay are a constant threat and mortal enemy. The Tribe is led by a Ferocious warrior, Chief Kal’gor.
Living on the southern edge of the Ironarm mountains in a fairly secluded valley, The Thunder falls tribe takes its name after a massive, raging waterfall that pours from high up the cliffside and into the valley, creating a large lake and fertile land surrounding it.
The Tribe is very protective of their fertile land, and are often the subject of raids from nearby Tribes and cyclops from the north. They put great weight in their shamans who commune with the spirits of the ancestors and the land to procure promises of good harvests and weather. In battle, they are often accompanied by terrifying war drums, played by goblins, orcs, and Giants in proportional parts, which they use to terrify the enemies they encounter. Many Thunder Falls Tribesfolk shave their heads into small, tight mohawks which they then dye a pale, cold blue. The Chieftain of their tribe is Yal’aguk, a legendary skald and warrior.
Deep within the forest is an enormous, singular white tree, towering over those nearby. It is unknown what the origins of this otherworldly, seemingly immortal plant is, as it has been around longer than any living Thraxian. It stands in the center of a grove of smaller, fairly pale trees, growing tall like a father among its children.
This massive tree has become central to the lives of the Ghost Tree Tribe, who make blood sacrifices to appease it, consult it for wisdom, and centralize it in their ceremonies. The tribal land is mostly forested, and the tribe posts morbid totems made up of ghost-white fallen branches, bleached bones, and teeth to define their territory, which they are quick and vicious to defend. They are isolated and insular, even by thraxian standards, and rumored to be cannibals. Brave and desperate visitors do seek them out, however, as the tree is known to give out superior omens and accurate visions of the past, present, and future. The tribe is identifiable by the bone shards they pierce through the skin of their neck in devotion to the tree. The Chieftain of the tribe is Vas’a, a grim and dour, but enthusiastic, cultist of the Ghost Tree.
There are many ponds, pools, and lakes within the Thraxian forest, and the most beautiful of those are the Golden Pools. These are over a dozen cool, shallow springs that constantly burble and bubble up from the golden sands in the western half of the forest. These pools are clear and crisp all year round, strangely maintaining their temperature, never warming or freezing like many of the other ponds.
The Golden Pools tribe has settled over a broad area near the pools, and considered each of them sacred, only extracting water for specific ritual baths and other functions. The tribe is fairly peaceful and is known throughout Thrax as a reasonable and wise group of people who can be sought out for arbitration and knowledge. While they do not have a library or any form of physical knowledge, the stories of the historians and poets go back beyond known memory, deep into the past. The Tribe looks to their chieftain for direction, following their lead. Members of the tribe, upon coming of age, take the plunge into the deepest of the pools, Suuath, washing themselves of their past. When they emerge, they are branded with a complex symbol of a dozen interlinked circles on their left breast, forever marking them as a member. They are lead by a devout and powerful paladin, the Chieftain Isth’ala
The Broken River tribe lives along a miles-long stretch of the banks of a powerful, rock-studded, twisting river. The Broken river winds its way south from the mountains to Lake Taishi, with both calm pools and harsh rapids that appear without warning, with jagged rocks that jut at harsh angles both from the riverside and from the river bed. These harsh banks, as well as the numerous ravines and cliffs that abut the river, are where they have made their homes.
As the river proves to be an extremely intimidating barrier for travel and trade among the Thraxians, the Broken River tribe finds themselves in an advantageous position of holding the few crossings that are possible. Thankfully, they have taken this opportunity to not to become aggressive but to simply demand a small tribute for guiding and protecting those who need to cross. The Tribe isn’t particularly aggressive, as they have acknowledged that many other individuals will need to cross through it, but will defend their ground without hesitation against any threat. The Broken River tribe claims that the blood of giants runs in their veins, and revere those individuals who express their gigantism. The Chief of the Broken Stream is Val’drak, a towering individual who resembles more closely a hill giant than a Thraxian.
Along the northmost, seaward edge of the Thraxian forest, the woods end abruptly at the sheer and terrifying heights of Red Cliffs.
Along the cliffs and among the high terrain here, the tribe builds its towns and fortifications, acting as both guardians of the sea and the last bastion of Thrax before the ocean. The tribe guards its territory against incursions aggressively and without hesitation, gaining a reputation of extreme hostility towards outsiders. The Red Cliff Tribe follows those who are in touch with nature, able to see and hear the spirits of the earth and the wild. They know that they have nowhere to retreat and fight with the determination of the massive cliffs at their backs. The Chief of the Redcliffs is an unusually calm and reserved individual named Ter’Vas, but when they are forced into confrontation and battle, their rage is unparalleled.
Rising up among the trees are a stand of thick, straight, broadleaved, yellow barked trees, a sight unseen in this part of the forest. These trees normally grow far to the south, and their being here is an anomaly, yet they somehow continue to grow and thrive in the forest where they should not exist.
Surrounding this stand of trees, and living within it, is a tribe of woman warriors, protectors of the abandoned and the lost. These women will take, train and raise unwanted and broken children, and those who will not survive due to circumstances beyond the parents control, such as drought, famine or other disasters. This tribe does allow grown women to join the tribe at the age of adulthood, but men are cast out and forced to fend for themselves and find a tribe that will accept them, or go south and find their fortunes. The tribe is led by Ya’rath, a warrior and archer as ferocious and wild as a bear.
That’s it, we’ll continue with the tribes next week, cleaning up the last of them, and then moving onto the Drimmen Leagues.
Until next time