Alaran Subraces: The Crows

Of all my encounters in my exploration of the Wastes, one was undoubtedly the most disturbing.

After several long months getting accustomed to the politics and standards of the Wastes, me and my party were just starting to fit in. One day, we were meeting some of the Gishnath Asilin to trade several rare artifacts we had recovered from a nearby ruin for several weeks’ provisions. We were uneasy trading with the skeletons, but the Asilin had somehow picked up on that and consistently sent human or mostly-human parties to meet us. The envoy we met this day consisted of several young men and women, an older man who appeared to be in charge, and two of the Asilin.

We had just finished working out exactly what the exchange would be (we were trying to conserve several artifacts to bring back to the Explorer’s Society to be displayed prominently in their guildhall) when the sun was suddenly blotted out. Darkness struck like a snake, enveloping both parties. It lifted several minutes later. To our shock, Gaedric, one of the youngest members of our exploratory party, was entirely missing. Where he had been standing remained only a black feather.

The following day, a tall, black-feathered birdman appeared at the edge of our camp. He was immediately set upon by both Sturgis and Thassin, who had been good friends of Gaedric. He vanished in a cloud of smoke, and did not return until three days later. He then explained to us Gaedric’s disappearance: the ruins we had explored had been sacred to the Coalfeather Clan, and Gaedric had been taken in return for our violations. He would be returned to us if we left all the artifacts we had claimed in the middle of our camp for an entire night. We did so immediately (we still retained all the artifacts, as the deal with the Gishnath had fallen through after the attack), and went to bed with a feeling of foreboding.

When we woke the next day, the artifacts were gone. In their place was the skeleton of a young man, picked clean – except for the eyes. The dead, staring eyes…

-Excerpt from the memoirs of Thulin Thunderboot, famous dwarven explorer

The Crows are not a major power of the Wastes, but they are nonetheless one to be feared. Most Rhokari stand anywhere between five and six feet tall. The Crows are uniformly over six. They have pure black feathers, black beaks, and black eyes. This gives them excellent camouflage at night, as well as during their magically induced darkness.

The Crows have a very interesting history. Thought they have their own distinct languages, they were conquered and enslaved by the humans of Tugél Vas for a short time several centuries ago. Though the Crows quickly arose and overthrew the humans, their culture was permanently maimed, and many of the clans have since adopted Wastes Common as their official language. Some purist clans remain, communicating only in ancient Crow dialects. These clans are essentially limited to communication only within their own clan, as ancient Crow dialects vary greatly between clans.

All Crow clans are profoundly cannibalistic. Their very culture revolves around it: the most common form of commemoration ritual for a dead individual is to have the entire clan gather and have a feast, with the individual in question as the main course. When devouring individuals who are not of the clan, the Crows are much less ritualistic, and usually just tuck in. This is the most common form of retribution against those that offend or slight the Crows. They get eaten.

90% of Crows are warriors. Crows warriors wield small handaxes, often two at a time, with vicious rage. Crow warriors often weave died feathers into their hairfeathers (Rhokari possess an odd mane of hairlike feathers) to give them a fiercer look. Feather colors vary from clan to clan, but green, red, and blue are all common. Colored hairfeathers are used to display one’s experience; most clans weave one feather in per year they have been fully accepted as warriors of the clan.

The Crows that are not warriors follow the path of the shaman. The shamans are the most important part of Crow clans; they lead the clans, preside over rituals, and basically do everything. Shamans use the power of the spirits to their advantage, doing all kinds of magical things. Shamans are most often the diplomats used by the Crows, as they are usually more intelligent than warriors. They also possess the means to get themselves out of tight spots, which they often get into, considering the way they most often deal with other races.

Crow warriors typically do not wear anything. Clothes hamper them in battle, and what with being out in the blazing sun all day with those nasty smothering feathers, they get quite hot enough anyway. Crow shamans wear long, flowing garments, most often made out of leather taken from various animals of the Wastes and trimmed with beads. It’s assumed the shamans use their magic to keep themselves cool, or else they would be very, very unhappy. Crow shaman hairfeathers often turn white due to the large amount of mystic energies they are exposed to on a daily basis.

Crows pray to a deity known as the Skyfather. The high priest of the Skyfather (of which there is only one in all the Wastes) is known as the Sighted One. It is believed that the Sighted One is capable of seeing all, as he sees through the eyes of the Skyfather as well as his own. The title of the Sighted One is passed oddly: when a Sighted One dies, his servants will scour the land and search for a child that was born just as the Sighted One died. This child will become the new Sighted One.

Crows believe that the soul is contained in the eyes. For this reason, eyes are never eaten, as they believe it is a dire blasphemy to devour another’s soul, as all souls belong to the Skyfather. A member of a Crow clan will have his eyes burned after death. The Crows traditionally return the eyes of a devoured outsider to whoever (if anyone) the outsider was with, so they can do whatever they see fit with the soul. The Crows consider themselves very accommodating for doing this.

Crow clans owe no great allegiance to one another. While they may trade, they are just as likely to war. There are two exceptions to this: no one wars with the clan the current Sighted One belongs to, and if the Sighted One decrees that two clans should stop warring, it happens. Otherwise, anything goes. And we mean anything. Them Crows be some creepy muthafluffas.

Most Crow clans live in the mountains surrounding the Wastes. This is beneficial to them in several ways. For one thing, it means they avoid the wrath of Tugél Vas, the Asilin, and most of the Zantith tribes. This is a good thing, because the Crows are most definitely not powerful enough to stand up in a real war. Also, the varying terrains of the mountains allow the Crows to achieve sufficient height to be able to glide, and thus ambush travelers, as well as members of other Crow clans.

The Crows exist entirely in the mountains to the east and north – the western mountains are devoid of them. What Clans once existed there were wiped out by a combination of clan wars (the Sighted One was all the way on the other side of the Wastes, and thus didn’t have ample time to intervene) and exterminations performed by the dwarves of Dwargenheim. The clans of the east and north mountains often ally along those lines – that is, large wars occur between the northern Crows and the eastern Crows. It doesn’t help that the eastern Crows have had the Sighted One for the past several decades. Basically, they all hate each other. Hate makes the world go ’round.

Crow battles work like this: first, the shamans induce magical darkness. The warriors then glide down from whatever high point they managed to achieve, and, using their fairly decent night vision, proceed to beat the living crap out of whomever they’re fighting. This works much better when facing outsiders then when facing other Crow clans (although the Zantith also have fairly decent night vision, and also are uniformly batshit crazy, so the Crows avoid them).

The most important Crow holy site is a massive obelisk, a monument from a bygone age, dedicated to the Skyfather. This massive obsidian monolith is carved with all manner of ancient Crow symbols, four-fifths of which the meaning has been lost. What the shamans can decipher is that it’s the creation story. It involves an egg. Other than that, nothing’s really clear. The Skytotem, as it is called, is located far in the mountains to the west. This makes it basically as far away from the Crows as is physically possible while still remaining in the Wastes. Young Crow shamans often make pilgrimages to the Skytotem, so as to see the greatness for themselves.

Important Crows:

The Sighted One is the spiritual leader of the Crows. When a newborn Crow is selected to become the new Sighted One, it never receives any name other than the Sighted One, as Crows are only named when they achieve adulthood. Until then, they are often referred to by pet names that are bestowed upon them in their first year after birth. When a Sighted One is selected, none of this occurs. All refer to him as Sighted One, even if he is still a child. Sighted Ones often manifest great wisdom, even at very early ages. Although young Sighted Ones are taken away from their parents as soon as they are identified, the parents do not mind, as it is considered the highest honor possible to be a vessel of the Skyfather and to birth the Sighted One.

The last Sighted One died around thirteen years ago. As usual, his servants, the high shamans of the Crows, set out and searched for a child born at the time of the Sighted One’s death. However, a complication arose: two such children were found, one male, one female, one the son of a powerful clan chieftain, one the daughter of a hermit who had not had contact with the outside world in decades. Holy writ of the Skyfather declares that when such a thing occurs, both crows in question are the same person. Now, both children are the Sighted One. This has led to some issues.

The male Sighted One, being the son a chieftain, was doted upon, commonly visited by his father, and so on. The female One was neglected (if such a thing is possible when speaking of a holy figure who is higher than everyone else, ever) for several reasons. One, she was the daughter of a hermit, so her father was not permitted to see her. Two, Crow society is pretty damn chauvinistic. When coming to ask the advice of the Sighted One, shamans and chieftains would most often go to the male Sighted One. This has led to the male having a massive ego, a bull-headed attitude, and a sense of overall superiority. This is contrasted by his great sense of honor and personal responsibility for his people. The female Sighted One, on the other hand, is wise and a great leader. However, she has almost no sense of honor, a product of her male (dumbass) counterpart being consulted more than her over the years, leading to bitterness. She is willing to kill to have her way. She is currently attempting to have the male Sighted One assassinated, leaving her as the sole Sighted One, something that would almost positively be good for the Crows in general. The problem is that she can’t ask a Crow to assassinate him, as assassinating a Sighted One is basically the equivalent in sin of decapitating the pope and then skullfucking him.

Add to all this the fact that the female is from the north, and the male from the east, and you basically have a huge clusterfuck. Many shamans are beginning to ignore the writ proclaiming that both Sighted Ones are the same person, and take sides. This may eventually lead to a war the likes of which Crow society has never before seen.

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2 Comments

  1. pieboy said,

    September 11, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    All-seeing godlike raven-person Dalai Lama = awesome.

  2. tuskedchimp said,

    September 11, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    INDEED.


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