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The Carcolie (as they call themselves), also known as the Mountain Elves, Rook Elves, War Elves, and so forth, are an insular race of Elves who live in the the Atlas Mountains. They occupy the higher reaches of these mountains, which are lush woodlands and rife with cliffs. The term Carcolie can refer to either elves of the region or anyone else taken into the Carcolie Nation as a whole; chiefly, this is almost exclusively humans and half-elves, both of which are quite rare.

The Carcolie maintain close bonds with nature, and are particularly fond of and known for their Dire Rooks, a race of extraordinarily large Corvids which service the Carcolie as messengers, beasts of burden, and even as mounts. However, the rough nature of the terrain in which they live and the semi-nomadic nature of the Carcolie nation means that advanced infrastructure and industry has yet to be developed.

The majority of cultural worship among the Carcolie is directed toward nature itself, through animistic beliefs cultivated by and centered around the Cult of the Stormseers; a druidic belief system. However, an small but not uncommon minority worship the High Elven Pantheon, introduced by missionaries from neighboring Atarlie Empire.

Carcolie adventurers may have become so by accident, having gotten lost, or may be driven by the desire for the greater riches and supposedly easier lives experienced in other parts of the world. Finally, a great many Carcolie adventurers belong to a caste known as the Wildsouls, made up of individuals outcast from their villages due to their exotic abilities.

Carcolie Geography and Government

The Carcolie operate along the eastern and western slopes of the Atlas Mountains. Their government consists of matriarchal extended family units (Tribes) which travel together; as needed, Tribes may occasionally form alliances with other tribes, appointing from among themselves a Chieftain.

There is also a Great Grandchieftain, who occupies the racial capital. Most, but not all, Carcolie tribes recognize her authority, and its the laws this “confederacy” of tribes pass that have limited internal conflict among the carcolie of late and enabled their alliance with the Atarlie.

Carcolie Culture

Arts and Architecture

Carcolie fine visual and material arts, by the culture’s nomadic nature, focus heavily on practicality and portability; permanent, emplaced objets d’art and burdensome ornamentation are economically selected against. That said, those items which can be travelled with easily or which have such utility as to be kept close to hand are often highly ornamented and well-crafted. Rare gems and precious metals are rare; instead, exotic woods are prized, alongside rare hides, bone, and other such trophies. Carcolie artisans have also perfected a particularly hardy variant of tempera paints which are used to ornament everything from crockery to armour.

In any settlement of town size or smaller, there is unlikely to be a permanent structure of any kind. The main family dwelling is a yurt, which must be deconstructed and reconstructed between moves. Metal fasteners are not used in construction. Fortification, where it is deemed necessary, comes most often in the form of palisades – living palisades, if the settlement has enough of a Stormseer presence to maintain them.

The rare larger settlements are still largely of shaped wood or timber frame construction. Some stonework may be used in fortification if deemed necessary, again usually done by the use of magic. This is very rarely done – only the Hidden Capital is known conclusively to be fortified in this way.

Permanent structures – and even the solid parts of yurts – are often as richly painted as anything else. Fashions tend toward utilitarian in form, but rich colours are prized in contexts where camoflage is not important.

Religion, Festivals, and Timekeeping

The native religion of the Carcolie centers a duality of ancestor worship and reverence for spirits of all kinds, particularly powerful local and regional spirits tied to nature, such as the spirits of prominent mountain peaks or creatures. Principal concerns of the religion press the need for a lifestyle in harmony with the environment as a necessary counterbalance to nature’s destructive properties – storms are seen as both powerful omens and divine punishment depending on context. Stormseers, the relevant religious class, are consulted routinely on matters pertaining to the weather, such as prior to journeys, in consultation for plantings, and so forth.

The Wood Elves maintain dual calendar of lunar months and solar seasons. As a result, they have minor festivals on the full moons, and major festivals on both equinoxes and solstices. A sort of anti-festival, a day of restfulness and security, coincides with each new moon. New moons and the days immediately surrounding them are considered inauspicious for the start of journeys or other endeavors.

Fighting, Warfare, and Death

The Carcolie have a violent life. The Atlas Mountains is home not just to them and to the Clans of Magnus, but also to any number of dangerous beasts, even outright monsters. To be a Carcolie is to live in the wild with only your extended family (tribe) for support, and only the wits of those assembled for weapons.

Though not as common as it was in the past, Carcolie raiding included each other. While the new spirit of pseudo-national unit among the tribes has helped to lessen this, there’s still the matter of raiding (and recompense) against dwarven settlements, attacks by magical beasts, natural disasters, and other raids, particularly if you live in the frontier of Carcolie lands, where enemies are multiplied as you face the Bastonians (in particular).

When conducted out of necessity, raids are considered a just sacrifice, though raiding is not an honoured activity. Unless under particularly ruthless or greedy chieftans, raids are primarily about protecting territory or obtaining a desperately needed supply, moreso than growing the wealth of the tribe. Well-fed and secure Carcolie are more apt to trade with their neighbours than attack them.

Death – violent or otherwise – is seen as a return to the earth. The dead are mourned, but with no particular emphasis on a retributive or saintly afterlife, Ancestors are simply remembered for their deeds. Their life force is believed to be brought forth again in new life, but the idea of direct reincarnation is foreign to the Carcolie and not a standard part of their beliefs.

Language and Scholarship

Though speaking Elvish (and in large part reading it), there is not a prominent tradition of writing among the Carcolie. They do maintain a library in their permanent cities (few as they are), but the vast majority of history and knowledge comes through oral tradition, song, and theater. Most Carcolie (especially most adventurers) are proficient in reading and writing all forms of Elvish, as well as their own, as well as with Common.

There is no formal scholarship among the Carcolie, but a strong spirit of self-sufficiency and a long tradition of master-apprentice relationships creates highly competent craftspeople and experts as the need arises.

Diet, Libations, and Entertainment

Moreso even than in other nations, Carcolie diet is highly seasonal. Among all known elvish cultures, they consume by far the most meat, especially game meats. This is due to the need for providing for the Dire Ravens, as well as the nomadic nature of their livelihood forcing them to rely heavily on hunting and fishing in the winter months.

Drinking, especially to excess, is uncommon with the Carcolie, as there are better uses for their limited agricultural produce. However, in times of plenty they do produce a form of wine from the juices and skins of wild berries; this wine is either drunk in celebration at the relevant festival or, of time allows, fortified to brandy (to reduce its weight) and taken to the winter encampments for later consumption.

Plays, stories, and song feature heavily at mealtimes. Meals are communal, taken among the whole tribe where possible – if a tribe is under threat, they will eat in shifts.

Carcolie Economics

Seasonal Nomadism

The Carcolie rotate their encampments throughout different regions of their territory as the year progresses. They overwinter on plateaus and even in the lowlands as needs be, to avoid the risk of avalanche. During the spring and fall, they range further throughout their territory, operating more as hunter-gatherer groups, and come summer they return to areas near their winter camp locations to take advantage of flatter land for agriculture.

Scarcity and Plenty

They would disagree, but the Carcolie are not a culture of abundance. By and large they own only what they can take with them, which limits the amount of material wealth they can stockpile, together with treasure. Most Carcolie, if they have any wealth at all, keep it in the form of livestock; hearty breeds of goat and boar that they can shepherd around the mountains, and of course the Dire Rooks themselves.

Metals in particular are in very short supply. While some tribes are able to harvest surface deposits of minerals, most metals seen in active use by the Carcolie are recycled or misappropriated from the result of various raids.

Technology and Craftsmanship

The mobile nature of Carcolie life does not lead much to the development of assistive technologies, but some larger settlements are permanent and moreover even encampments tend to last for several months. Carcolie make up for a lack of a dedicated technological cohort through abundant use of spellcraft in the craftsmanship of objects and buildings.

Carcolie steel in particular is sometimes prized by other surface races; the unique needs and limitations imposed by their lack of advanced smelting technique has required stringent carftsmanship compensations for the shortcomings of the metal itself. This leads most steel objects to be poly-hardened, often through folding, giving Carcolie steelwork an instantly-recognizable, patterned appearance, which is its primary attractive quality in foreign lands.

Carcolie and the Classes

There are two professional classes (in the economic sense) of “physical combatant”:

  • Carcolie Ravenmasters are professional light cavalry, breeders of Dire Rooks and masters in their employment. Chiefly, they’re drawn among the fighter and ranger classes. While not every settlement of Carcolie is going to have a Ravenmaster, certainly no Carcolie Chieftan is going to be without a few on his or her retinue. Ravenmasters are not the exclusive users of Dire Rooks, but they are warriors par-excellence, favoring shortbows or javelins and maintaining the attack with the advantage of their altitude and the speed of their mounts.
  • Carcolie Hunters are in no short supply and exist everywhere, being variously rangers, fighters, and particularly barbarians. Some heroic hunters specialize in hunting monsters that are common throughout Wisteria, whereas others hunt mere animals. All hunters form a sort of militia for their settlements, and hunters are often called upon to form raiding parties in times of particular scarcity.

Of course, there is also the matter of magic. Carcolie Culture does not place a high value on formal education, and so the culture itself does not place a huge distinction on arcane versus divine magic. Instead, Carcolie spellcasters are likely to fall into one of two categories:

  • Carcolie Stormseers, being primarily druids, with some minor elements of wizards and even sorcerers of the right alignment, form both a religious and political backbone in the Carcolie Culture, and are accordingly both feared and revered. A settlement without access to a Stormseer Circle’s intervention is in dire trouble.
  • Carcolie Wildsouls, on the other hand, are a peculiar caste of oracles, clerics, and sorcerers who leave behind mainstream Carcolie culture and travel their mountainous woodland home on their own, enraptured in the mysteries they have uncovered and the forces they now worship (or fear). Wildsouls are a strange almost-pariah class: avoided in daily life but sought out by the desperate in times of danger for their guidance and abilities.

As with all Nations, Rogues are common in the criminal underclass, though see Economics regarding the prevalence of criminality in the nation overall. There are no strong traditions supporting either Monks or Paladins among the Carcolie, though they may still be found as visiting members of other races, or even Carcolie under the training of these visiting monastics and paladins.

Carcolie and the Other Nations

The Carcolie are not a particularly warlike nation – Magister Idiodox’s Registry of the Races instead lists them as “perforce” - the Carcolie nonetheless have a fractious relationship with the other nations of northern Wisteria, as a result of their propensity for raiding their immediate neighbors and their corresponding distrust of strangers. In times of plenty, they prefer trading to raiding, which can be difficult – and happens almost exclusively among the Atarlie and the Bastonians.

Raiding culture is driven by desperation and need rather than greed or convenience and focuses on obtaining foodstuffs, raw materials (particularly metals), and, on rare occasion, “recovering losses”. Some Carcolie raids involve no casualties at all and instead involve the plundering of storehouses or fields.

In particular, the Carcolie frequently skirmish with (and occasionally enjoy a state of war with) $DwarvenNation. As the two nations are effectively coterminous, $DwarvenNation frequently faces Carcolie supply raids, and the corresponding retaliation by the local Thanes causes a spirit of escalation.

The Carcolie also occasionally raid the Bastonians settlements nearest the mountains, though there is rarely retaliation involved, unless raids become so frequent as to force the relevant local Baron or Count to take retaliatory action to “resettle” the nearest Carcolie encampments and ease the pressure on his people.

The Carcolie do not raid the Atarlie or the Hearthfolk, as the latter are too far-distant from them and there is an understanding with the Atarlie – this understanding also explains why they do not raid at all in the Verdant Foothills, which is home to the Hearthfolk.

The Carcolie do not often venture far enough to encounter the Shimmering Shore or Lordless Lands, but occasionally traders from that far afield visit the less-reclusive Carcolie settlements.

Carcolie and Monsters

Carcolie do not often have to deal with monsters, apart from those normally found in mountainous regions. Some Carcolie Hunters or Ravenmasters “errant” wind up making a living as professional monster hunters. Due to the danger posed to both the individual and the community by monsters, killing monsters is seen as a mark of particular prestige and are particularly celebrated.

The exception of course is the killing of monsterous humanoids and giants; these are seen more as enemies on an equivalent cosmological tier of being than beasts of particular hazard, and this is seen more in line with warfare, which the Carcolie consider a necessary evil.