Tribes of the Urdaggar
“Go back to your mattresses and fire-hearths, stone-dweller. There is nothing for you here.”
– Stag Chieftain dismissing a Haradelan envoy
In the far, hostile, northern lands of Faelon dwell the mighty Urdaggar tribes. Death quickly finds those who are unsuited to these wild lands where one might say the men are wilder than the lands around them. In the Urdaggar homelands the tribes today thrive despite a never ending battle for mere survival.
Long before men began to record their histories in books, scrolls and letters, the Men of True Blood, the Urdaggar, as they now call themselves, fought, hunted, survived and most importantly, lived free in the world at large. Freedom was in every person and it was every person’s destiny.
Not much is known of the Urdaggar tribes for few scholars of the south have as yet considered them worthy of study and investigation. Most southerners consider the Yemtaar, as they call them (Faelish, literally, ‘chaotic-people’), crude, uncouth and backward. The merchants of the south who venture north to trade with the tribes look down their noses at them, yet no one would dare do so openly or underestimate the power and quick temper of the Yemtaar. Those who show disdain to the Yemtaar soon find themselves at the beginning of their journey into the afterlife.
The Urdaggar themselves keep an oral tradition preserved by their great Councill of Mystics. Every tribe has at least one Mystic, most have a small circle of their own, whose duty it is to preserve their tribe’s histories in enormously long verses of song or poetry. These verses are memorised by the young novice upon entering the Circle as his or her first task of learning. Later, the Mystic will compose his or her own verses to be added to the history describing events occurring during his or her own life. Thus the epic tale of the Urdaggar is found in their great oral tradition.
The Urdaggar lead a nomadic existence, moving about the plains and mountains in great mobile villages. Urdaggar raids are a part of daily life along the Falkaaran, Haradelan and Varkraalan northern borders.
The Urdaggar have a Tribal-Clan structure. Tribes are lead by Chieftains, who are selected in a contest of martial and athletic ability. The Chieftains are advised and supported by a High Shaman. Each tribe is composed of family-based clans. There are eighteen tribes, each with an animal totem that corresponds to one of the male or female aspects of the Gaal. The Tribes of the Urdaggar are: Lion, Eagle, Wolf, Owl, Boar, Bear, Raven, Horse, Dolphin, Serpent, Spider, Bat, Stag, Falcon, Jackal, Vulture, Mammoth, Shark. Each of the tribes has a unique nature that reflects the characteristics of their totem and strongly influences the way the members of the tribe act, fight, and live.
The Circle of Mystics is the closest the Urdaggar come to any form of unified government. The Circle is formed from the spiritual advisers of the tribes and their leadership influence ‘usually’ is limited to spiritual matters. The tribes individually are lead either by a single chieftain or a council of elders and the methods of choosing leadership are as varied as the tribes themselves, though many involve combat or some form of contest to prove one’s ability to lead. All the tribes regard themselves as free and recognise every member of age, male and female, has a voice in the tribe’s affairs.
Each tribe has its own totem, which is the animal from which the tribe takes its name. It is often represented in a woodcarving or banner. There have also been many attempts to gather various of the tribes into larger nations or alliances over the years. The most common groupings are known to the civilised lands as The Tribes of Valor (Lion, Eagle, Bear, Boar, Wolf, Owl), the Tribes of Omen (Raven, Snake, Stag, Falcon, Dolphin, Horse) and the Tribes of Ruin (Bat, Spider, Jackal, Vulture, Mammoth and Shark). The Tribes of Valor are the most likely to band together to cooperate against outside threats and have often taken the white hammer as their sigil.
The tribes of the Urdaggar have no organised military, though they will sometimes work together to fight off an outsider or form alliances to fight differing factions within the tribes. In times of war, the armies are lead by a great chieftain or hero who has proved himself in previous battle. Though it does not often occur, war bands of Urdaggar have been known to rally around a particularly powerful Mystic. Indeed, one of the most successful counter-incursions against the invading Traazorites was lead by the famed Mystic Merkalathar, a Mystic of the Serpent tribe, who successfully united many of the southernmost tribes under his leadership for the purpose of halting the Traazorite incursion into the Urdaggar lands.
All men, and many women, begin learning to use weapons the day they are first able to hold them. The Urdaggar way of life demands it. Everyone is expected to contribute to the welfare of the tribe in times of war and peace in whatever ways they are best able and everyone must be ready to take up arms to defend their tribe’s rights to survival at a moments notice. Even those called into the Circle of Mystics are sometimes called upon to fight in defence of the tribes, though they often support combat and add valuable spiritual support to the tribes’ efforts in more potent magical ways.
Urdaggar warriors employ a variety of weapons based on their tribe’s totem. Their horsemen are capable and employ both shock and skirmish tactics, although they are no match in direct combat with knights of the Faeler kingdoms. The tribesmen are not drilled, paid soldiers, but their charge can be ferocious. All able-bodied men are warriors when called upon.
Each tribe communes with its totem through its Mystics.
The Circle of Mystics
Those who shall be called into the Circle of Mystics are recognised at a very early age, usually before the age of 10. A Mystic is recognised by his or her ‘mark’, which manifests itself in a display of curiosity, wisdom and knowledge of the child’s environment beyond his or her years. When the Mystics, who keep a watchful eye over all children for signs that they are marked, discovers these traits in a child, the mark will be tested in a ritual ceremony for its validity. The ceremony is secret, known only to the Mystics themselves, and does not appear to be harmful to the child candidate in any way, though no child ever passes through with memory of the ceremony and thus cannot report it to outsiders.
Upon successful validation, the child candidate is announced as a novice Mystic. The child will remain with his or her parents until the age of 10 (unless he or she has already attained that age, but in no wise after the age of 12), at which time the child will be given over to an elder Mystic to begin his or her training. The first task set a young Mystic is to learn the song of his or her tribe while serving and supporting the elder Mystic in menial household tasks like cooking and cleaning. After the new Mystic has successfully mastered the songs of the tribe’s and the Urdaggar history, he or she is ready to begin proper training in the ways of the totem, nature and the earth, and learns to gain mastery over the spiritual forces that connect everything both living and dead.
The Circle of Mystics is made up of all Urdaggar Mystics from every tribe throughout the Urdaggar lands. Twice each year at the winter and summer solstices the Circle meets at a sacred hidden location known only to its members. While en route to the conclave, the persons of the Mystics are considered inviolate, and no rival tribe would dare attack a rival Mystic. To do so would bring down the wrath of all the Mystics upon the offending clan or persons who would curse the perpetrator to a violent, painful and most undignified death. The Mystics are revered by all and afforded special status, even when captured as a prisoner of war when rival clans clash.
The Circle of the Mystics itself is lead by the Elder Masters, the ranking Mystic of each tribe.
Once a young Mystic begins his training, he is called to a higher purpose that supersedes even that of his own original tribe. Though most Mystics remain with their own original tribes for life, it is not unheard of for a Mystic to change tribes when required by the Elder Masters to do so. For the higher mission of the Circle of the Mystics is the preservation of the remaining tribes of the Urdaggar. It has happened before, that the last living Mystic of some of the smaller tribes has died, leaving the tribe without spiritual counsel and healing. In such a case, the Elder Masters will select one or more younger Mystics who are at least fully initiated, yet young enough to adapt, to go to that tribe and become the tribes new Mystic. The new Mystic is usually welcomed, though old clan rivalries can sometimes interfere with the adjusting to a new tribe and Mystic.
View of Outsiders
The Urdaggar view all outsiders as soft. “Stonedwellers” and “Pillowsleepers” are some of the tamer epithets for the supposedly civilized. The tribes do not look at themselves as “barbarians”, the revel in the freedom their way of life brings. Its hardships are simply there to prove the value of their choices.
Mating Rituals and Customs
The Urdaggar are serial monogamists. Though some Urdaggar partner for life, divorce is common and provides an acceptable resolution of marital disagreements. Divorce is as easy as marriage in Urdaggar society, which simply requires a public statement of the fact. Obviously, for a marriage to be recognised, both man and woman must publicly state their intention to be married, and for divorce, only one need so state. At the basis of Urdaggar marital beliefs is the same undying belief in freedom and that all persons are by right free to choose their own destiny.
The primary entertainments for the Urdaggar are contests of physical prowess, the types and forms of which vary with each tribe.
What is valued by this society?
Above all else, Urdaggar value freedom. They take the Faeler predilection for not being able to be told what to do by anyone to an extreme.
The Urdaggar have no currency of their own for theirs is a system of barter. They will by force of necessity often use the coin of the realms of Falkaar, Haradel, Varkraal and the Kuzaarik in trading for important staples, cloth, wine and beer, which the Urdaggar much like, but do not make themselves. Urdaggar traders barter livestock, milk, cheese, fur, and hides for manufactured goods.
The Urdaggar steppe is a cool plain bounded by mountains. Summers do not get hot and winters can be harsh.