He rose cautiously and slowly, gauging how likely he thought it would be that he could outrun the three, or outfight them. His hand very slowly inched towards his own swordbelt. That's when he heard more chattering in the uncouth language of the dark shapes in the night who had surprised him. He wheeled around to see an additional six or seven warriors had snuck up on him from the other direction. He was surrounded by a ring of spears. He slowly raised his hands above his head...
The Cavusti Tribesmen are named for the Cavusto steppes, where they live. Cavusto itself is the Terrasan rendering of the native word Kvuustu; the word the people use to describe themselves. Today, the Cavusti are nestled in the cool, dry high steppes of Cavusto, but there is a lot of evidence to suggest that they once lived as far north as the southern shores of the Mezzovian Sea. They never seem to have lived on the northern shores, though, and in general, Cavusti who travel dislike the warm, tropical climate of the northlands, suffering more from heat than other peoples. Similarly, the cold windy steppes of Cavusto seem to offer much less discomfort to the Cavusto than to others; their thicker, more robust bodies seem to be better adapted to cooler temperatures in general.
The Cavusti are easily spotted from amongst the other ethnicities in the region. Uniquely, their skeletal remains are also easily recognizable, whereas a Kurushi skeleton, a Terrasan skeleton (or even a jann skeleton) is not. In addition to the thickening and greater robustness of the bones, the Cavusti have a prominent slope to the forehead, brow ridges over the eyes, weak chins, exceptionally large, strong teeth, and a marked occipital "bun" at the base of the skull. Cavusti skin is usually paler than the olive-skinned Kurushi or Terrasans, or the copper-skinned Tazitta, Untash and Haltash tribesmen; as pale as some of the Balshatoi peoples. But there the resemblance ends; the Cavusti are frequently heavily freckled and tanned, with red or auburn hair and brown eyes.
Cavusti culture is one based around their economy, which is one of nomadic hunting and gathering. Never numerous, the presence of large quantities of large game animals--elephants, bison, horse, shrub-oxen, (and pronghorn, although they're usually too fast and skittish to be prey animals to the Cavusti) and ground sloths, along with occasionally tapirs in the forest and riparian environments, make up their diet, as well as providing them with most of the raw materials from which they make their clothing, weapons and more. While they are mostly confined to the high steppelands east of the Black Mountains, they do occasionally wander as far north as the Oceja River or Claw Canyon, and a few Cavusti claim to have pressed all the way to the shores of Tolosa Bay.
The Cavusti are not particularly war-like by nature, since they tend to be organized in small family bands, and have never developed a strong sense of nation, nor a state or other large polity. Few buildings or monuments, other than shrines, standing stones, and other "ephemera" are attributed to them. However, as big-game hunters of some of the largest, most dangerous animals in the area, as well as competitors to huge predators like short-faced bears, saber-tooths, lions, dire wolves, and others, they are certainly familiar with and comfortable with violence on a smaller scale. For several generations, many of their younger and middle-aged people, sometimes upwards of 50% of the population, have organized themselves into intra-family group "platoons" and drilled in military maneuvers, then gone on to serve as mercenaries for Terrasa, Kurushat, or other nations. In this, they are highly valued as amongst the toughest, hardest infantry troops available, and troops that are also very familiar with woodcraft. Since even the meagerest of pay allows the Cavusti to buy luxuries that are undreamed of in their nomadic homeland, they've also traditionally been available at low cost--although savvy platoon leaders have managed to parlay their scarcity into higher rates due to high demand.
Lately, many of these soldiers and former soldiers have dropped their mercenary endeavors and moved to the far west in a show of solidarity and racial patriotism. The armies of Kajim Tokraas IX, khagan of Kurushat, start to expand outwards from the Sutaka Pass in an attempt to "pacify" lands that are traditionally Cavusti. In a number of bloody engagement the infantry of the Cavusti--tested and blooded in battlefields around the Mezzovian area--is clashing with the equally elite Praetorian infantry of Kurushat. The savviest of mercenary platoon leaders are trying to parlay their influence with their former customers for political and military support, but there is little aid coming; the political will of Terrasa is weak. Only Alcàsser at the delta of the Durenga River has shown much interest in protecting the status quo in the region and halting the spread of Kurushat at the Black Mountains. Perhaps they're the only ones foresighted enough to recognize that if Kurushat does break the resistance of the Cavusti, there is no longer any meaningful buffer between the aggressive kurushi and the shores of the Mezzovian Sea itself except easily traversible low hills and plains.
For the most part, this support from Alcàsser comes not in overt military aid, but in covert intrigue within Kurushat. The Alcassans believe (probably rightly) that the best chance for blunting the efforts of Kurushat to expand is to consume it in internal dissent and conflict, and with the impending death of the elderly Kajim Tokraas, the khaganate has a looming succession crisis. By worsening the rivalry between the camps, as much as possible, Alcàsser sees a very real chance to take all attention off of the Sutaka Pass and any lands to the east, in fact. Much of their effort has been spent in fomenting the spirit of rebellion and revolt in Hu, a fairly recent acquisition by Kurushat. Meanwhile, the outnumbered Cavusti maintain their desperate guerilla war in an attempt to halt the eastward expansion of the kurushi military.
Neanderthal (Kvuustu, Cavusto)
- +2 Strength, +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma: Amongst the Neanderthals, brute strength and ruggedness are necessary for survival. Creativity, good looks and perfectly honed social skills are not.
- Humanoid (Human) Despite their appearance and difference from "normal" humans, Neanderthals are also members of the genus Homo and are therefore as human as Homo sapiens. Any effect that targets humans specifically applies to Neanderthals too.
- Medium: As Medium creatures, Neanderthals have no special benefits or penalities due to size.
- Neanderthal base land speed is 30 feet.
- Neanderthals recieve the Endurance and Diehard feats for free at first level.
- All skills are treated as cross-class regardless of actual class except for the following: Climb (Str), Heal (Wis), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), (Listen and Move Silently are collapsed into Spot and Hide respectively. Their use always struck me as frustratingly redundant) Ride (Dex), Search (Int), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), and Swim (Str).