Culture and SocietyEdit
The Cliffrunners live in teepees made from rattan poles and cured, dyed hides. Their furniture is primarily skins, woven reeds, and rushes. This means that the entire tribe can uproot and travel with their homes on their backs in order to flee from the infestation or to follow game herds. They typically stay within the 4th and 5th northern longitudinal parallels and the 7th and 9th lattitudinal ones.
They hunt local wildlife as their primary food source, though there is also fishing and farming to a lesser degree. The tribe prefers using javelins, bows, and spears, though there are some that carry scimitars to use in raids or fighting bugs.
The tribe is ruled by a chieftan. When one chieftan dies, the tribe holds a great bug hunt. The warrior with the most kills becomes the next chieftan. Lesser warriors can choose to ally with others and contribute their kills to their ally's total. Thus only the most respected, charismatic, and skillful warriors become chieftans.
When the tribe loses any member, male or female, a vigil is held where stories are told and songs are sung of the fallen centaur while the body is cremated in a public pyre. The ashes are then taken by friends and family and scattered across the plains in a midnight running of the tribe.
Like many other centaur tribes of Lados, the Cliffrunners believe in Kiron, the centaur god. They believe that he created the centaur race, along with all other tauric races, in his image, and gave them the superior strength and speed over the two-legged inhabitants of the world so that they could guide the two-legs in living as one with the land. The tribe has a Keeper of Lore who also acts as the spiritual guide for the tribe.
The tribe is patriarchal to the point of misogyny. Women are considered second class members of the tribe, and are relegated to live in what is called the 'women's conclave,' a central portion of the tribe's village that is typically roped off. Within the conclave the women perform most of the work of keeping the village running: dressing kills, cooking, cleaning, sewing, blacksmithing, tanning... pretty much everything except farming, fighting, and hunting. Any woman is considered to be an available sexual partner for any male of the tribe, even when the two are related. There has been no sign of birth defects from incestuous offspring, in fact quite the opposite, which makes such pairings even more common. Regardless, if a male's firstborn offspring is female, it is considered a great shame on him, to the point where some fathers will kill their newborn daughters in hopes to alleviate some of this shame.
The Cliffrunners are known to raid the camps and caravans of two-legged travelers, taking what goods they want and often taking captives as slaves. Slaves are marked by their owners in a manner that each owner decides... some might give the slave a token to display while others might burn or carve some marking into the face or hands of his slaves. Only males can own slaves. Female slaves are given to the tribe's chieftan their first night after being captured, and if they please him they are released back to their owners. If not, they are hung naked and spread-eagle on a tanning rack from sunup to sundown and are commonly abused by the tribe in all manner of ways. If they survive they are then returned to their owners. Should the owner accept the slave after this, it brings shame to him. Many choose not to endure such shame and kill the poor slave. Male slaves are given to the women's conclave for 1 week after being captured, and frequently suffer broken legs, arms, and hips, as well as extreme exhaustion, as the females collectively use the slave as easy manual labor and to satisfy any carnal needs.
Because of this vile practice, most know to stay away from the northern border of the Infested Lands. And since the warriors of the Cliffrunner tribe are so deadly, it is rare that anyone taken as slave by them has been rescued or escaped.
However, it has been known that a slave can rise to become an equal in the eyes of the Cliffrunners, and thus be given ownership of all other slaves except the chieftan's own. This happens rarely, as a slave must earn the respect of five of the tribe's prominent members, and survive the hate that other slaves harbor for such a person, who is seen as willingly betraying their own kind.
The Cliffrunners speak the common centaur language, and those that try to speak in common often pronounce "w" sounds as "v" instead, pronounce "h" sounds like the -ch in "Bach," and change the "b" and "g" at the end of words to "p" and "k" respectively.
Members of InterestEdit
He is massive, even by centaur standards, likely standing four or five hands taller than even Balios. His fur is grey, flecked with black spots, and thick tufts of white fur cover his ankles and hooves. His tail is likewise shock white. His human half is barrel chested and thick with curly grey hair. His arms are like immense pythons as each is hung around a beautiful girl's shoulders as they lounge against him, rubbing their fingers through his fur and hair and looking up adoringly at him. From his chin a multiple-braided grey goatee hangs almost to his belly button. A ring of grey hair forms a semicircle around the sides of his head, leaving his bald pate clearly visible. He looks rugged, almost haggard in fact, and in the flicker of the torches spaced out around the clearing one can see the shiny flesh of deep scar tissue crisscrossing his body from flank to face. He wears almost no adornments, excepting a wide leather stole over his shoulders which appears to be intricately worked with what must be the centaur language as well as primitive pictures.
Outwardly he is gruff and severe, but secretly he is kind-hearted and loving.
Amphia stands 14 hands high, her fur is slick black, though her tail and thick head of shoulder-length hair is dark grey. She is muscular on both human and equine parts of her body. Also known as the Mistress of Goods (or Lyubovnita to slaves), Amphia is the eldest female of the tribe, except for Nessus, and leader of the women's conclave. She has borne over fifteen colts for various members of the tribe, including a daughter for Balios. Her sister Phrixa (deceased in a bug raid) was Chief Melanchaetes's wife and mother to Balios. She is a stern but fair woman who has natural charisma enough to get her way even with the males of the tribe. She has latent druidic powers of healing, weather telling, and food preserving.
Balios stands fifteen hands high, his fur is a deep russet, and his tail is black. His human parts are well defined, if not overly muscular, and deeply tanned and rugged. He keeps his black hair in one thick braid on the back of his head that goes down to the middle of his human back. A noble of his tribe, Balios is the chieftan's eldest son. He is a swift runner and deadly shot with his bow. He is the tribe's greatest hunter, and holds more bug kills than anyone except his father. He has an abbrasive demeanor and does not toerlate disrespect or weakness. He has a daughter named Daphnis with Amphia.
She stands just ten hands high, and Daphnis carries none of her father's physical traits, having light auburn hair and a white and brown skewbald coat. She is sleek and agile, and at only nine summers old is the fastest sprinter in the tribe. She has yet to bear any children for the tribe, as for some reason males lose the ability to perform when they try to mount her. Unknown to them, but known to her mother, this is because of her powerful but not fully awakened magical abilities.
Silenus is almost as large as the chieftan, and is Amphia's firstborn, though his father is dead. Like his mother he has a grey coat, though his hair and tail remain black. He prefers to wear large metal rings in his hair which are actually some of Amphia's many bracelets. He is a vicious and cruel man, branding his slaves with hot iron on their cheeks. He hates Balios with an unreasonable burning anger and would rather die than see him assume his father's place as chieftan, and has plans to make sure Balios dies in the great hunt to replace his father. Silenus teaches all of his slaves, of which he has more than any other tribesman, to hate and revile Balios and his slaves, and often rewards them when they manage to injure those slaves, or force them to bring shame onto Balios.
Nessus is a sway-backed, very old mare who acts as the tribe's primary physician, herbalist, and alchemist. Her chestnut coat is shaggy and matted, and she has a permanent aura of mixed herbal smells around her. She walks with a bow-legged limp but carries an impressive array of herbs with her that she can use to incapacitate anyone that gets in her way. As the oldest living Cliffrunner, and one still of sharp wit and tongue, she is afforded a level of respect not normally seen given to females of the tribe. Though she might act oddly at times, she is still very sane and very clever. Some say that the whole village dances according to the strings she pulls.
Carystus is a thin, dun-furred stallion only a few years younger than the chieftan. He is certainly the most bookish of all the Cliffrunners, as his job requires him to be. He is the tribe's spiritual leader, and the keeper of its history. He owns no slaves, and has supposedly never sired any offspring. Most of the other males find this combination of peculiarities unsettling enough to avoid him unless absolutely necessary. He is outwardly cool and brief with those he speaks with, and is a very demanding teacher that doesn't give second chances, hence the lack of an apprentice Keeper. However is he passionate about Kiron and the tribe's history, and will speak at length on these subjects if given the chance.