Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Races of Lint

You don't need a description of these guys. Unless you are one of my stranger readers, you probably have cursory knowledge of them. But, there is something I do want to talk about.
I want to talk about the ever present horror in any fantasy or sci-fi setting with non-human races: 'What makes humans special?'

The common answers are 'jack of all trades,' 'anti-magic,' or sometimes 'virility' (this is less common, because of goblins and orcs). In Lint, humans are certainly jack of all trades characters, but Embraced can literally transfer any knowledge they share between them in a matter of moments. They are not anti-magic at all, and might even be more susceptible to it than other creatures. As for virility, while they do have the more children than other races, and in a faster time. However, I think it's a bit of a cop-out, and if I ever want people to let their children read my stuff, I can't have the most interesting bit about humans be how much they have sex, can I?

So what did I want it to be? I finally decided on Religion and Community.

Other races don't really have gods. They don't become gods, they don't worship them, they don't bother with them. To the non-humans, gods are just very, very powerful beings, deserving of respect but not worship. Since gods want to be worshiped, this means that they generally favour humans.

This doesn't mean that the odd non-human will not become follower of a god they like. However, they may be one of a dozen or less of their species who chooses to worship that particular god. For less known gods, they may be the only one of their species.

Community is pretty self-explanatory. Other races are generally solitary or come together in small groups, nothing near like what humans create. We are very social creatures, which is possibly our biggest strength, and what allows us to survive in the world without the advantages of all other creatures.

The most common mistake anyone makes about ghouls is that they are undead. They aren't, although they like to cultivate that image, to provoke fear.

Ghouls were originally humans, thousands of years ago. In fact, they were the original worshipers of Child Eater, long before she became the wife of Gothos. They were the ones who named her, after the name their enemies gave their warriors.

They were a cannibalistic tribe, eating all those that they killed. Degenerate man-eaters, soon to be extinguished by their opponents. Child eater made them something more.

Some called it a blessed curse, others a cursed blessing. Whatever the cause, the cannibals became warped, and strange. They became ghouls.

Ghouls have a body shape that is identical to a humans most of the time. However, under close scrutiny, or when the ghoul is hungry, changes become apparent. They have sharp, vicious-looking claws and teeth, perfect for grappling a foe and rending them limb from limb. Their insides are some of their strangest parts: a ghoul's organs are alien, all in the wrong places; someone using knowledge of human vital spots will find ghouls much harder to put down. In addition, their stomachs are suited for an entirely cannibalistic diet, where they can consume nearly an entire human being without noticeably gaining much body mass.

 Josu Hernaiz, 'Hunted Ghoul'
Ghouls are, when fed, witty, friendly, and have great senses of humour (although some find it a little morbid for their tastes). They are rarely suspected by even the most diligent of men. If you are close enough to a ghoul to know it, you are most certainly within range of their teeth.

However, when hungry or hunting, ghouls are the stuff of nightmares, like fast moving shadows with glowing eyes and sharp fangs. Their bodes warp and bones reshape, letting them scale walls like spiders, or leap between buildings with ease. Combine this with their unnatural endurance, they are nearly impossible to outrun. Their claws and teeth combined with great Strength makes them nearly impossible to outfight if unarmed.

They are perfect hunters of unsuspecting humans.
 Anna Steinbauer, 'Falkenrath Gorger' 
Ghouls don't have a society like we think of it, or even a clandestine network of communication, like some particularly paranoid humans expect (although, when there are man-eating monsters hiding among your colleagues and friends, most would say the paranoia is justified, but as they say, ignorance is bliss). They operate more like tigers, or other solitary animals. 'You stay out of my way, I'll stay out of yours. You let me share your meal, I'll return the favour.'

Being obese in ghoul society is something to respect. A ghoul has to be an accomplished hunter and manipulator to even be able to get fat in the first place, and maintaining the fat is even more difficult, as now they have to hunt with a hundred or so extra pounds of flesh weighing them down.

Ghoul children can only be born if the mother of the pair eats a human baby before conception. The pregnancy is generally very quick, lasting less than a month. The children, although they do resemble their parents, will grow up to look very much like the child they would have been (there has been at least one case of someone meeting their ghoul 'clone,' who was a twin stolen at infancy).

They live quite a long time, and the average ghoul lifespan (not including violent deaths) is a little over a hundred years old.

Not all ghouls are the evil and remorseless beings that one would usually expect from a species that needs to consume other sentient creatures on a near-biweekly basis. Some of them are truly remorseful, or pay off gravediggers to get them their meals. Many become soldiers, although they rarely last long, due to the lack of privacy allowed in the army, especially around the recently dead.

There are records of ghoul assassins, who charge extra for their services, but can make a person disappear fantastically well. 

Ill-don, also called 'the eel-men' or 'mermaids' by sailors, are a progenitor race older than humans. They bear a strict resemblance to eels, with slippery (and often black) skin, long tails, and thin fins running down the top and bottoms of their bodies.

Ill-don are solitary creatures. They live in shallow-sea caverns or rivers, dependent on their surroundings for survival. They hunt with rocks and flint daggers.

However, some Ill-don become tired of the solitary, hunter-gatherer life. They come into contact with humans, offering their services as guides, navigators, or treasure-hunters.
 fuuryoku, 'Mermaid'

A long time ago, the Ill-don had a great oceanic empire, stretching from shore to shore. Ocean travel was impossible for nearly every other creature in the world, preventing any sort of trade or exploration for hundreds of years. There were ocean wars, which the Ill-don won every time.

Hundreds of men and women were captured on floating mounds of hollow bones, built into floating prisons. The Ill-don barely had to do anything, just chain the barge to the ocean floor, and throw fish up on a daily basis. Any dead were dumped over the side, and escapees were welcome to try. There are very few records of anyone escaping an Ill-don bone-barge.

However, like all great empires, it could not last. Nobody knows exactly what happened to it; slave rebellions, civil war, a great beast beneath the sea... Whatever the cause, the Ill-don rule of the ocean was gone for good. It's members scattered across the sea, hiding themselves away unless they were called by another of their kind.

  Erica Batton, 'Eel mermaid' 
They are quite friendly beings nowadays. They have mostly forgotten about their empire, and it lies rotting somewhere on the ocean floor, just a few mad zealots still residing there.

The Ill-don have eyes that are not well-suited to the darkness they live in, and so rely mainly on touch to work their ways around their caves. They hunt by snapping out and catching prey in their hands, before bringing it to their mouth. A second pair of jaws reaches up from the inside of their throat, takes hold of the fish or crustacean, and it is ground down and swallowed. They are strictly carnivores. Their language sounds like the screaming eels from the princess bride.

Pine Men
Far, far to the north, where the Utakita tribes roam and the Nosi hunt and ancient beasts sleep in glaciers that touch the sky, live the Pine Men. 

They speak in the language of the great trees that create an enormous boreal forest up north, a strange tongue that sounds like wind and creaking branches.

They hunt all who come into their lands, driving off anyone curious or foolish enough to come looking for them. Some leave to discover more about the world, but almost all of them are exiles, for crimes that we do not understand.

Physically, a pine man is made of a thick, sticky, sap-like substance, overlaid and surrounding bones and skin of bark. Their eyes appear to be made of a similar substance to the veins in a tree leaf, overlapping into a rough orb shape. Their brains, when dissected, look like a multitude of pine needles slotted into specific spots in a hole-filled head.

They are about the same height and build of a large human, but are warped. They look like someone tried to sculpt a human while only ever having seen them in armour. Their limbs are overlapping bits of bark and wood, held together by flexible 'tendons.'

They are created with a ritual performed by a pine man druid, where a specially prepared head is made, inserted with pine needles, and buried underneath a sapling. Throughout the next several years, the sapling will grow into the shape of a pine man, before uprooting itself and setting off to find it's tribe.

Anyone who makes a joke about
them being 'pine men' gets slapped.

They are very hostile to visitors, and even the Church of the True God, usually so stubborn in spreading word of their god, gave up on the pine men.

When out in the world, they speak of a city beneath a glacier, a place warm enough for plants to grow freely and happily, forever. They say this is their paradise, given to them by the great spirit of the north. Why they do not live there remains a mystery, and they guard their clan secrets with undying devotion.

Pine men so rarely see the sun up where they live, and so are constantly amazed by sunrises and sunsets, which they often wake early to watch.

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