Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beastmen of the Haunted Forest

The northern border of the nation of Tarush Noptii is the Haunted Forest, a vast realm that is mostly untrammeled by human (or even vampire) feet.  As the name indicates, the Haunted Forest is a land with a dark reputation.  Tarush Noptii claims it in theory, but in reality does not pass under its eaves--or even very close to it--with its troops, merchants, or anyone else.  It is a realm of wild, dark wilderness, and those who pass under its boughs rarely emerge again.

The tribesmen who live to the north, members of the most eastward-pushing Untash group, have some experience with the savages that live within the Haunted Forest and give it its name, as they sometimes come raiding onto their lands looking for captives in their dark sacrifices.  While the Untash are themselves consummate raiders and cavalry, the savages of the Haunted Forest are surprisingly fast and hardy.  While they can't sprint like a horse, they have the endurance of a wolf, and can run seemingly without stop.

The savages of the Haunted Forest are sometimes compared to the xenophobic changelings or woses of the Shifting Forest, but in reality, they have nothing in common.  The changelings are the diluted descendents of werewolves, but savages of the Haunted Forest are some other kind of savage beastmen of uncertain provenance.  Hairy, and with a stocky skeleton and thick muscles, the strength and endurance of the beastmen is beyond that of men, and comparable (if not even greater than) that of a Neanderthal.  They are also tall.  With grayish black or leathery brown, hairy (although not furry) skin, the savages have clawed feet.  They have curled ibex-like horns that occasionally give them an almost goatish appearance, but in reality, their inhuman faces are more ape-like than goatlike--flat, with wide, spreading noses, and wide mouths full of sharp teeth, with molars that can crack open bones like a hyena.  They wear little other than a kilt of roughly tanned (or even untanned) hide, sometimes that of a human.  They savagely hunt and kill anything that enters their forest, and occasionally leave it in search of victims for their savage rites.

Sometimes called satyrs or thurses, but also known as beastmen, they have no formal contact with any civilized nation.  Indeed, except among those who live on the borders of the forest, many believe them to be a myth or legend, and dispute their reality.  This is, however, not the case.  The thurses exist, and their evil may be more dire than many could believe.  On their blood-stained sacrifice stones lie the lives of many innocents.  More to the point, their dark god, who slumbers deep in the woods, is starting to slumber much more fitfully.  An ancient, chthonic entity named Demogorgon, it is a being capable of perhaps unmaking the world as we know it, and the sacrifices of the thurses, its children, may wake it much sooner than many expect.


Joshua Dyal said...

As the images imply, my "thurses" are mostly just completely swiped from the Beastmen of the Warhammer World. While I'm not a Warhammer guy exactly, I think that the setting is one that in many ways is quite up my alley. The Beastmen aren't the only elements of that setting that I really love; the skaven also get a lot of my attention. And the Chaos Gods, who serve as a kind of Lovecraftian threat in the far north, are right there as well. My biggest concern with the setting are the elements of occasional silliness (most often seen in the orc and goblin camp, but not exclusively), the somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach to the setting that it sometimes presents, and the overt Tolkien homages. I actually think the setting works best when it wanders into its own, more unique territory.

Joshua Dyal said...

Oh, forgot to mention--thurses is my interpretation of an old Anglo-Saxon word. When Tolkien created the orcs, which have darkened the nights of many a fantasy setting ever since, he did so by referencing the word orc-Þyrs from Beowulf. Orc, which probably ultimately comes from the Latin god of the Underworld, Orcus, came to English also via the fairy-tales of Charles Perault, referring to humanoid, man-eating beasts of the dark forest. This word eventually became ogre. Þyrs was a cognate to the Norse word for ettin, giant, or jotunn, so also meant something very similar to what we'd think of as an ogre. Probably coming from the Common German *thurisaz, it is probably an Old English word that got lost as part of the brusque restructuring English underwent after the influence of both Norse and then Norman French. If it had survived into modern English, it might have been something very like thurse--although I'm not a linguist as was Tolkien, so take that with a grain of salt. In any case, that's a sufficiently nice pedigree for my taste--an Old English name, and old Charles Perault inspired fairy-tales, as interpreted in a way very much like the Warhammer beastmen--that's a creature I can sink my teeth into.