Wield: In Guided Hands
Creatures of the Wild
The Jotun are creatures of myth – it is said they created the land, then retreated in to the high places of the world they had made. High in the mountains, there are vast outcrops of stone in the shape of eroded skulls, and in the forests near the ruins of Calmlakes, a single withered tree, hundreds of feet high, that looks like a finger pointed in accusation against the sky.
Alban are not of this world – creatures of the wild places in the forests, using trees as doorways to whatever dark place they live. When they attack, they surge out of the dark with pale faces and wide, bush-baby eyes – and sharp, sharp teeth like those of a fish, loosing arrows that are thorn-tipped and dripping with poison. More often, they will slip in to a village in twos and threes, stealing cattle and stealing children away, returning them to their shadowy home beyond the bark – perhaps to eat, or to raise as servants to the pale king. Their magic makes you see what they want you to, and believe what they wish, until it is too late for you.
“…The story goes that Once Upon a Time, a woman’s husband and sons were away on a hunting trip and she was alone for many days with the baby. One day her child grew cold and stiff, it’s wide eyes staring. It refused to drink her milk or even to cry; only staring silent in to the distance. On the second day of this she grew much a-feared and strapping on her walking shoes and winter coat, she strode out in to the snow, with her child, walking for hours until she too was cold, down towards the village nearby. She took the child to the wise woman who lived there, showed her the child and begged for help.
The wise woman gently took the child from her trembling hands. ‘Look.’ the wise woman said. ‘Look at what I am holding.’
…for her child had been stolen from her – and wrapped in the blanket was naught but a cold, hard stone.”
Nobody knows how many trolls there once were, because even in the early days, they hid from others – or perhaps not, for it is said they had the same skills of the Alban, as shapeshifters – though things that would give them away would be cold iron; which can force them to reveal their true form, and their long tufted tails – which they cannot hide even in their changed shape. It is said that using star-iron can bind them to your cause.
In their true forms, they are vast, towering over cottages – and even in their shape-shifted forms they tend to being very tall and broad. They are expert craft-folk, and the stories they tell say they were closest to the Jotun’s breath in the early days when the world was young,
Mountain folk live in the grand halls of Frittelhold, under the mountain, in the East. They stand a little shorter than average and tend to wide, dark eyes and pale skin. They are great crafters, fashioning textiles and art that is famous across the land. They are a quiet people, as one would expect in the echoing halls under the mountain; and their home is brightly lit and heavily decorated – soft furnishings, and silks that they trade with the outside world; and with the Spiderkin that live deeper in the mountains.
The mountain folk are, as a rule, sensualists, favouring touch and sound and taste over sight – a typical hall contains many tapestries and incense burners, and works of art that bring delight to all that see them. They are famous for their singing – otherworldly, wordless polyphonic songs that carry in the wide chambers under the earth.
Spiderkin live in the deep places in the mountain; or in the darkest parts of the forest, where they can be undisturbed by louder creatures – for they are a dying people, rarely seen, preferring to live in small family groupings, so as not to attract attention. They weave silk finer than anything human hands can work; and will occasionally venture from their homes to trade or to hunt. They eat flesh and woe betide any who walk their lands without permission, for their nets and traps are indiscriminate, but the stories say that they are delighted by children and will not see them harmed. Some of them, it is said, brew herbs and potions that have miraculous effects, using magics that they stole from the Alban, many hundreds of years ago.
There are many wolves in the wilds of the forest. Some of them talk, caught by the Jotun’s breath. These aren’t werewolves – to call them that is to suggest that they were ever human; and though many of them are smart-like-people, or have learned to walk on hind legs, or even to wear clothes, they are still as far from human as they could wish to be. Most of the wolves-with-words are solitary, shunned by their animal kin who fear and hate them in equal measure; but some cold nights have seen vast packs of them. all tooth and blood and scraps of tattered clothing, surging down to tear apart a helpless village. It is said that recently, one has named herself Queen, in pale imitation of the great line of Bear-kings of the north; and that she lusts for power and glory.
The Ice Bears live in the floes north of Worldsend, a proud people, who were conquered during the time of the Iron Empire, a little over 250 years ago. Since then, they have lived in a grudging peace with the cities of Worldsend and Bjotrnorth, a peace that occasionally erupts in minor skirmishes and raids. Clans of Ice Bears are each led by a Jarl, who all pay fealty to the King, who lives in a great palace west of Bjotrnorth.
Ice Bears know strange magics. Some young Bears from the southern clans will travel to Bjotrnorth, directed by their elders, to avail themselves of tea and vodka and to learn about humans – some work the docks and the whaling ships that sail out of Bjotrnorth; though Ice Bears will refuse to hunt Narwhals, which they consider sacred animals.
Living in the deserts around Prima Casa, Dustriders are so called because , when they were first encountered, they were thought to ride in on clouds of dust and sand, appearing magically. In fact, the Fennec (as they call themselves) live under-ground, and tunnel with their powerful magics, kicking up clouds of dust and sand from the desert in which they lived. Since the early days, Fennec have spread across the known world – some families of Fennec live in the forests and even (rarely) in some large towns and cities, though they tend to shy from company, moving on when trade in an area dries up.
Some Fennec elders have wild magics, linked to music and song – every month, Fennec will meet and celebrate under the bright moon, sharing these magics with other families. The old stories say that some Fennec can leave their skins and walk as humans – and if you capture the skin of a Fennec you can trap them in their human form.