The Land of Frozen Tears
Tribes of the Tenguru Ice-Folk
On the western side of the Continent of Perfection there is a vast inlet of sea, that reaches almost up to the Great Glacier. Here, pack ice covers this sea for most of the year and the lands to either side seem to be in permanent winter. Imperial explorers named it the Land of Frozen Tears, the Vaartans know it as Tenguru after the local people.
The Tenguru people are hunter-gatherers, possibly distantly related to the Hinar of Vaarta and the Nekuu of the Empire of Splendour. Although they have been influenced by both the Empire and the Khazarate over the centuries they hold to their own culture, and their relative isolation and hard way of life has made them a tough, independent folk.
The Tribes and the Clans
The Tenguru identify themselves with various totem animals, and totem animals are followed along family lines to give the Clans. Different Clans gather together into Tribes in a local, geographic basis. An individual Tenguru owes equal allegiance to his Tribe and his Clan, thus Tribes are tied together along the lines of Clans, and Clans are mixed together on the basis of Tribe. Conflicts are thus usually settled peacefully, through long discussions and negotations, according to guidlelines laid down by the legendary founder figure Sun-In-His-Heart.Tribes and Clans will gather together on certain holy days, notably during the Time of the Great Hunt. This time varies between Clans but is the day when young members of the Clan must prove their worth as adults by hunting one of the totem animals. Each year the totem of a Clan sends out one particularly strong and distinctive specimen of the totem animal and if a hunter catches this he or she becomes the Great Hunter of the Clan for the next year, a position of great symbolic and political importance.
The largest or most important Clans are:
- Bear. Bear are strong hunters and have a matrilinear, matriarchal society (unusual amongst the tenguru). They are known for their spirituality.
- Mammoth. The Mammoth Clan are renowned as travellers and traders, inventors of the tenguru trade language, counting and writing.
- Elk. The Elk Clan have a reputation as being dim-witted and slow, which is almost deserved. Perhaps this is because they are accredited with discovering many narcotic uses for the local flora.
- Whale. The Whale Clan are acknowledged master of sea canoes, and they have the tribal secret of oil production, essential for warmth and light.
- Xhem Deer. These are a small Clan with a reputation for odd behaviour, much like their elusive totem animal.
- Wolf. The Wolf Clan do not hold to the laws of Sun In His Heart, and thus they are hated enemies of all the other Tribes. They live as bandits and scavengers.
The Nose-Horn Clan, once large and powerful, is considered extinct, wiped out by enemies. There are other smaller Clans but these are often subsumed in their role by the larger Clans. The Seal and Walrus Clans, for example, occupy a similar niche to the Whale Clan but are often overlooked. There are some creatures that have no Clan. The mighty roakan has no Clan but is considered to be the king of the beasts, the representative of Sun-In-His-Heart. The scavenging orlatki, on the other hand, are deemed unworthy of worship as a totem animal.
Clan allegiance is usually by blood, but outsiders can be adopted into Clans as well. The Imperial scholar Taruvaanja went to study the Tenguru people. He was found by a later expedition twenty years later living with the Mammoth Clan under the name Man From Beyond The Ice.
Marriage usually brings the woman's family into the man's Clan, except where the woman is from the Bear Tribe, in which case the man and his relatives go over to her Clan. Marriage is a fairly informal affair, often simply a statement of intent in front of witnesses. Child-rearing is performed as a communal duty and biological parentage tends to play little importance. This, of course, varies from Tribe to Tribe. The Elk have strong traditions honouring one's parents, grandparents, ancestors etc.
The tenguru mainly eat meat and fish, supplemented by lichens and roots, nuts and berries from the few hardy shrubs which they harvest during the brief weeks when such things are available.
Tribal Ancestors are important spiritual figures. Tenguru often call upon them to aid them in their everyday life, and at some ceremonies (aided by Elk Tribe potions) the ancestors manifest to teach the young Clansfolk of skills and traditions. Some tenguru may get on well with a particular ancestor spirit, and this is often the first step on the journey to becoming a shaman. As well as ancestor spirits, the tenguru revere spirits of the land, of the trees and of the animals. Sun-In-His-Heart is an important founder figure, and the Hidden One is a source of evil.
The Tenguru have a legend about how the Hidden One plunged an icicle into the heart of the land and brought about the perpetual winter. Before that, there was a golden kingdom of light and warmth but they angered the gods with their arrogance (Imperial explorers use the name Tarlimbor, Land of Golden Light, for this mythical precursor). Typical Golden-Age mythology, but for black stone artifacts and structures occasionally found about the land. Most well known is the obelisk at the Xhem Deer settlement of Black Rock. The Xhem Deer Tribe seem to have some sort of connection with "Tarlimbor". Tenguru legend says that anyone born with green eyes carries the blood of Tarlimbor, and the Xhem Deer Tribe have more green-eyed members than any other. Some of Xhem Deer blood also claim to experience a strange sensation in the presence of Tarlimbor black stone.
There are some elements of Imperial and Vaartan religion as well, brought in by Imperial explorers and Vaartan missionaries. Outsiders, like Taruvaanja, have tried to settle in the Land of Frozen Tears many times over the years, the Empire mainly as a means to set up a pincer movement against Vaarta but the land has always proved too harsh for them to remain. Many of their ideas, however, linger on.
Tusk Town (so named for its impressive mammoth tusk gateway) is a stockaded settlement at the mouth of a geothermally heated valley, near the coast, built on the site of an Imperial trading post. During summer (Time of Long Days) the coastal pack ice usually melts enough to allow sea travel. The Tusk Town Tribe contains a typical arrangement of Clan members, with some "civilised" ideas blended with traditional tenguru culture. The local geothermal springs, for example, serve as a handy replacement for an Imperial bathhouse.
- Grey Mountain of the Mammoth Clan is nominal ruler of the town and head of the Council. His role is to oversee trade deals and town security.
- Revered Mother of the Bear Clan is the matriarch of the Women's Council (a sub-group of the Council upon which she also sits). Her role is to oversee supplies and storage of consumables.
- Walks Unseen, also of the Bear Clan (she is, in fact, sister of Revered Mother) is the town's shamanka, spirit walker. She is called upon in matters dealing with the supernatural, as well as healing. Her apprentice is Green Ice, of the Elk Clan.
- Morning Frost is of the Fox Tribe (clever-minded finders and makers, with a reputation as thieves). He is the town's Storyteller, a ceremonial role that acts as loremaster and entertainer in one.
- Voices From The Flame, of the Mammoth Clan, is the current Chief Hunter, called upon in matters of hunting and war.
- Wounded Bear, despite his name, is actually head of the Elk Clan, in charge of brewing and potion-making. There is some professional rivalry between him and Walks Unseen.
- Comfort is a large lady of the Xhem Deer Clan who runs the Stranger's Hall, what passes as a inn in Tusk Town.
Creatures of the Land of Frozen Tears
As well as the totem animals already listed, there are others. Some are totems, some are not.
- Orlatk (or-LAT-kuh, plural orlatki) are scavengers with the bodies of stubby muscular dogs (like pit bull terriers) with bald, beaked heads like vultures. They travel in packs, eating carrion and when bold and hungry they will stalk live prey. Their behaviour is like that of jackals.
- Swoops are common pigeon-like birds that are used by the tenguru for food and fletching.
- Ghost-Birds are rarely seen, but their haunting cries can be heard in forests. The tenguru say that these are the spirits of still-born children.
- Grave Root comes from a fragrant bush, similar to rosemary. The tenguru live close to the spiritual realm. The deceased remain close by as ancestor spirits and the reality of life is harsh, so they have little sentimental attachment to the corpses of the dead. They are normally left some distance from the settlement, perhaps with a layer of snow over them. Grave root is used to deter predators, more to protect the living than the dead.
- Roakan are very rare six-legged carnivores, considered to be rulers of all beasts in Tenguru folklore. Their roars can be heard for miles.
- The White Wyrm is said by the residents of Tusk Town to sleep further up the nearby geothermal valley. It is a servant of the Hidden One, a terrible ravening creature of hunger and death. Luckily it is asleep....
- Frost Wights are non-corporeal creatures whose voices can be heard in the wind during snowstorms. They like to freeze people to death with their icy touch.
- The Ancient Ones are what the tenguru call the elusive race of furry humanoids who dwell in the mountainous regions. Some stories describe them as fearsome flesh-eaters, others as wise and gentle shy folk.
Using The Land of Frozen Tears
Tengruru offers an opportunity for adventuring in an environment of almost permanent snow and ice. The Tenguru people are largely hunter gatherers, but regions like Tusk Town can serve to ease soft civilised adventurers into the culture and there are many reasons why outsiders should wish to visit.
The mysteries of Tarlimbor are one such reason, perhaps events elsewhere in the campaign point to an artifact or site related to Tarlimbor that the player characters need to find. Not only will they have to deal with the harsh environment and creatures like frost wights, they may find that members of the Xhem Deer Clan don't want foreigners poking around in their sacred sites.
There are many rare and unique beasts in the Tenguru region, and some player characters may come to hunt them, either for the menagerie of a patron ruler or to components for a magical ritual. Adventurers who want to become more integrated into Tenguru society may find themselves competing in the Time of the Great Hunt in order to win a place in a Tribe.
More diplomatic players may find interest in simply studying the Tenguru folk, or perhaps attempting to forge a political alliance on behalf of the Empire or Vaarta, with wily Wolf Clan bandits threatening the peace.
The exact nature of Tarlimbor is left up to the individual gamesmaster to decide, as is the relationship between the Xhem Deer Clan and Tarlimbor, and the roots of the Ancient Ones (for which Yeti stats can be used). The White Wyrm of Tusk Town similiarly could be a remorhaz, a frost worm, a white dragon or any other creature appropriate to the ongoing campaign.
Tenguru characters use the standard human characteristics, except for the following features:
All Tenguru characters speak Tenguru and their Clan language. For ease, the gamesmaster may want to give Tenguru characters automatic proficiency in Low Imperial or Vaartan if they are part of a mixed group of adventurers.
- Cold Endurance: gain a +4 racial bonus to Fortitude saves made to resist the effects of cold weather or exposure.
- Illiteracy: any Tenguru character needs to spend 2 skill points to read and write any languages that he knows.
Being functionally illiterate, wizards are obviously not common amongst the Tenguru but most other classes can be found. Sorcerers tend to be green-eyed and commonly (but not exclusively) members of the Xhem Deer Clan. If the class is available, shamans are more likely than clerics but clerics could be used instead. Animal and Weather domains are common but any domain is available, usually those related to the natural world.
Clan Ancestry Feats
Tenguru characters can gain feats based upon their Clan ancestry. These feats can only be taken at first level, and not all members of a Clan will express these attributes. Alternatively if you use traits these could be modified slightly for use as background traits.
Prerequisites: 1st character level, member of Tenguru Bear Clan
Benefits: A character with this feat casts all healing spells as if one level higher, and gains a +2 bonus to all Charisma-based checks when dealing with creatures with the Spirit subtype.
Prerequisites: 1st character level, member of Tenguru Elk Clan
Benefits: A character with this feat gains a +4 bonus to all Fortitude saves used to resist the effects of drugs, alcohol and other narcotics, as well as a +2 bonus to all Craft (brewer) rolls. If the character has the Brew Potion feat he may create potions of up to 4th level spells (normally 3rd level is the maximum).
Prerequisites: 1st character level, member of Tenguru Fox Clan
Benefits: A character with this feat gains a +2 bonus to all Hide, Move Silently and Sleight of Hand checks.
Prerequisites: 1st character level, member of Tenguru Mammoth Clan
Benefits: A character with this feat gains a +2 bonus to all Appraise, Bluff and Diplomacy checks. Additionally she is not illiterate, unlike the majority of Tenguru.
Prerequisites: 1st character level, member of Tenguru Whale Clan
Benefits: A character with this feat gains a +2 bonus to Swim checks, a +2 bonus to all Knowledge (nature) and Survival checks whilst at sea and a +1 bonus to all attack rolls made against cetaceans.
Prerequisites: 1st character level, member of Tenguru Wolf Clan
Benefits: A character with this feat gains a +2 bonus to all Hide, Move Silently and Survival checks.
Xhem Deer Ancestry
Prerequisites: 1st character level, member of Tenguru Xhem Deer Clan
Benefits: A character with this feat gains a +2 bonus to all Spellcraft checks. Additionally, whenever he casts a spell with "detect" in the name the range is effectively doubled (for example, detect magic normally has a range of 60 ft., for a character with this feat it will work out to a range of 120 ft.).
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