Tahro

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The Clockwork Jungle

Cosmology

Races

Gheen · Iskites · Tahro · Umbril

Regions

Obsidian Plain · Mosswaste
Netai · Black Circle · The Wash

Entities and Creatures

Bestiary · Saffron Moss · Cogs
The Forest · Aras Tay

Society

Factions · Trade and Currency
Language · Calendar

Religion and the Occult

Powers · The Breath · Cults
Elder Wyrms · Creation · Afterlife

Lore

The Artificers · Antiquity
Age of Prophets · Recentering

Technology

Metalworking · Dendronautics

The Tahro are one of the four civilized races of the Forest.

Contents

Introduction

It is sometimes said that the category of "civilized race" is extended to the Tahro only out of charity. Unlike the Gheen, Iskites, and Umbril, the Tahro are not sedentary, though they do return to established camps on a seasonal basis. Their living groups are quite small, and they neither cultivate the earth nor forge metals. Even before the Recentering, they set themselves apart from the others, choosing to live under the shadow of aliens rather than embrace the power of the Oracle Tree. Aliens see their deep traditionalism as obstinate and foolish, but their reluctance to accept the ways and cultures of others has also preserved them as a people against far more organized adversaries. The Tahro are not, in any fair sense of the word, "uncivilized," despite the opining of alien philosophers – but they are protective of their own civilization, an ancient bulwark of strength against a raging world that gleefully tears down the weak.

Physiology

Tahro are large, physically imposing apes. To a native of our world, they would appear to be built like a slender, more erect gorilla, but in the low gravity environment of the Clockwork Jungle they are perceived as quite bulky and stout. An adult male weighs around 350 pounds and is about seven feet tall; for comparison, they are 75% heavier than a female Iskite despite having the same average height. Female Tahro are usually a few inches shorter and 20-50 pounds lighter than the males. Though they have a more erect posture than earth gorillas and are no more predisposed to knuckle-walking than to an upright gait, they still appear somewhat hunched and rarely draw themselves up to their full height unless trying to intimidate.

Though they are gorilla-like in size and build, their features are more suggestive of a Drill (the monkey, not the power tool). They have golden eyes, long nasal bridges, and short, sharp fangs. They have thick, coarse hair on their backs and legs, with finer and shorter hair on most of the rest of their body. Their hands, the soles of their feet, and their faces are hairless. Their skin is a subdued grey color, and their hair is most often reddish-brown, though it can vary from a fairly vivid red to a very dark brown. Adult males have a mane of lighter, reddish-gold fur around their face that appears much larger when they are angry or feel threatened.

The Tahro are renowned for their strength and stamina, though they lack the phenomenal healing of the Iskites or the resistance to toxins shared by the Umbril and Gheen. They are capable of continuing physical exertion for far longer than any of these aliens, and are considered more than a match against them in hand-to-hand combat.

Tahro can climb trees large enough to support their weight, but are primarily creatures of the forest floor. Though they are no great leapers like the Gheen, they have been known to jump between stout understory branches to get over an obstacle or come at an enemy from an unexpected direction. They are not monkeys and do not brachiate.

Tahr hearing is quite acute, and their eyes work very well in low light conditions. Their senses are otherwise unremarkable, save for their pseudomagnetism sense. The Tahr are capable of intuitively sensing the pull of the Grandmother Mountain and always know in what general direction it lies. Though this is nowhere near as accurate as a proper lodestone compass and can’t guide a Tahr to precise locations a long distance away, it does prevent them from getting hopelessly lost, and is an asset on their constant migrations.

Language

Of all the languages of the creatures of the Forest, the languages of the Tahro would be those most familiar to humans. They speak in low-pitched, sonorous voices, without either the clicks and trills of the Gheen or the hissing and ingressive "gasping" sounds of the Iskite Luminous Tongue. The Tahro, however, have more regional variability in language than any other alien species. Bloods that share a Red Camp have few linguistic differences (or none at all), but those in different regions have languages that are seldom mutually intelligible. An alien who learned the Tahr language of Koldon's Well will find it does him little good among the Black Blood or the Tahro of the Netai.

Tahr script, however, is logographic, and though the symbols may be pronounced in wildly different ways, most Tahr will be able to understand the general content of a written message regardless of which Tahr language it was written in. Because one can easily understand Tahr writing without necessarily being able to pronounce Tahr speech, Tahr writing is used by aliens in some locations as a means of trade and diplomacy with other aliens even when Tahro aren’t involved. Tahr numerals have been adopted into most written languages save the Luminous Tongue, which retains its own numeric system because of its distinctive line structure (and Iskite pride in their "universal" language).

Life Cycle

Tahro are mammals and have live births after a 8 month pregnancy. Like humans, the vast majority bear a single child, though twins and triplets do happen on rare occasions.

Children are raised chiefly by their parents, though the other Tahro of the blood play a role. The child is taught the skills of survival by its parents. Male children are tutored as hunters, while female children usually learn specific crafts like painting, weaving, herbalism, and blacksmithing. The forest floor is dangerous and Tahr children are kept under close watch during their development.

Adulthood among the Tahro occurs not when an individual reaches physical maturity, but when they are considered strong enough to help defend the blood. A Tahr must have a significant kill to his or her name, usually of some large game animal or a reasonably dangerous predator (though in times of war, an alien may suffice). A Tahr that reaches physical maturity, usually around 16-22 years of age, becomes a "sub-adult." This differs from childhood only in that they are taken along on hunting trips (or raids, during war) that they may be granted an opportunity to prove themselves and take on the mantle of real adulthood. An adult Tahr (of either sex) abandons his/her childhood name and is given a new one by the blood. An adult gains the right to paint him/herself, the right to participate in religious rites, and the right to take a mate.

An elder Tahr’s coarse hairs on the back and legs begin to gray as he ages. For males, the mane starts to grow dull after their reproductive years end. They eventually grow infirm and die, and are interred within the ground by the members of their blood. The Tahro return to the earth, and their grave is never marked, out of fear that evil spirits or the Saffron Moss may use any marking to disturb the rest and peaceful decomposition of their fallen kin. They are always buried with their heads towards the Grandmother Mountain to assist them in navigating the afterlife.

The Tahro usually live to around 150 years of age if spared an unnatural death. Many bloods have tales of long-dead patriarchs who lived far longer than this, but this is likely exaggeration accumulated in oral histories over time.

Society

Tahr society centers around the blood, an extended family composed of the patriarch, his mate, his children (save his adult daughters, who are likely living with other bloods), his daughters-in-law, and his grandchildren, as well as any of his brothers not powerful or prolific enough to have their own bloods (and their descendents). The blood is the fundamental unit of society, and its members are expected to be loyal to it above all else. They do not subscribe to the "immortality of the blood" that Gheen do, but family is nonetheless important to them, and is the fundamental basis of their understanding of the world and the place of society within it. They are expected to give and sacrifice for their family, which is its own reward, and to do so stoically and without bitterness or regret. There are distinct channels through which a Tahr shares its feelings, primarily through ritual, battle, and music, and outside of these channels they are typically phlegmatic and terse in nature and speech. They are seldom clearly excited or curious and react to most new things and developments with dispassion. Outsiders find Tahro to be stubborn, cold, ignorant, and incurious, but they are also determined, prudent, magnanimous, loyal, and generous.

Tahr bloods revolve around the patriarch, whose station comes from age, not ability. Patriarchs must be respected and have a great deal of children in order to break off and form their own blood, but most patriarchs came to the position simply through the death of their father and their position as the eldest son. There is no societal basis on which to challenge a patriarch’s leadership – an individual can either accept it or leave the blood. Patriarchs are often given advice from their mates, brothers, and sons, and the wise ones solicit it and consult with their family. Still, in the end their word is law within the blood, and they must be treated with the respect they are due even if their judgment is clouded by age.

Tahro are semi-nomadic, and move between a variety of camps in the course of a year. They are "semi" nomadic because these migrations are generally cyclical, with the same camps being used year after year. This is done primarily because the Tahro are voracious eaters that would deplete any one camp of game quite quickly if they did not allow time for the area to recover. Some bloods maintain alternate camps for different seasons in case of danger or changing conditions, and many have camps near alien settlements for trade purposes. They refer to all their camps on the basis of color – one that is inhabited in the Green season will be called the Green Camp, and further refinements are sometimes used (Late Yellow, Blue-Indigo, etc.) Multiple bloods (usually 4-8, but sometimes as many as a dozen) share a single Red Camp where they meet during the Red Season.

During the Red Season, the usual Tahr lifestyle is put on hold. This time is the most important part of the year on the Tahr spiritual calendar, and every day is marked by a different religious ceremony. Bloods are forgotten, and all Tahro reaffirm their identity as one universal blood that encompasses all their species. The Red Season is also the time for exchanging news, stories, and chants, as well as trading and recreating with friends and cousins not seen since last year. Most importantly of all, these meetings are where mate selection takes place. For males, many of the religious ceremonies serve double duty as tests of mettle, prowess, and stamina – long-term seclusion in sweat lodges (a practice adopted from the Gheen), exhausting physical feats, ritual hunts, and even pain-endurance rites. Females endure very similar rites during this season, but they do not hunt. These acts have ritual significance but are also designed to allow young adults to showcase their desirability as a mate.

By necessity, Tahr courtship is fast – many Tahr take the Blood Oath (as Tahr "marriage" is called) after the two-week courtship of the Red Season, before which they may not have even met before. Blood Oaths must be approved by the patriarchs of the couple’s respective bloods, but this is traditionally given unless one of the Tahr has committed a crime or is otherwise undesirable to the other blood. When the Oath is approved, the female is given to the male’s blood in a ceremony at the end of the Red Season, and the male’s blood gives a suitable gift in return. The female joins the blood of her mate and leaves with them when the great meeting is dismissed.

There is no societal sanction against abrogating the Blood Oath (that is, divorce) in Tahr culture. Many mates do remain mates for life, but a Tahr of either sex that finds their mate unsatisfactory can easily end their relationship at the next Red Season. In fact, the Blood Oath itself only lasts for one year; Tahr mates endure the same "marriage" ceremony year after year. A pair that does not wish to remain a pair needs only to skip the ceremony. Not wanting to renew the Blood Oath is not considered an insult or slight to one’s mate, and ex-mates usually remain on friendly terms.

Thus, Tahro who do not find a partner they wish to commit to (or one who wishes to commit to them) live out a series of annual "serial marriages." Children stay with the father’s blood, so a child could conceivably have a rather long list of “mothers” who helped raise him as his father takes new mates. Mothers are expected to treat their children and step-children equally and generally make an earnest effort to do this.

Reciprocal gift-giving is critically important to Tahr culture. Nothing is bought, sold, or bartered, save with aliens, who tend to have a rather poor understanding of the custom. Gifts are given for even the most minor of occasions; for instance, Tahro do not celebrate birthdays yearly, but weekly. Gift-giving, however, is not frivolous. Gifts are utilitarian and valuable – food, tools, clothing, and so on. Those who receive gifts are expected to give back in turn. Through mutual generosity, the blood cooperates and thrives. Among the Tahro, selfishness is the cardinal vice. Aliens often make light of the custom as simply another way of describing barter, but the Tahro insist that real gift-giving comes without material expectations. One should expect only generosity, and to that end be as generous as possible so others return the favor. The Tahro seek to continually outdo each other in generosity, but are also careful not to give a gift they know the recipient cannot possibly reciprocate (this is considered rude).

Habitat

More than any other civilized race, the Tahro favor ruins. The ruins of the Ancients provide perfect seasonal camps, as they are permanent and often much easier to defend than undeveloped Forest. The Tahro value good ruins highly, and will explore new complexes they come across to see if they are fit for use. The work of the Ancients is believed to have certain sacred properties, and it is considered auspicious to maintain ruins camps, especially a Red Camp. Such settling is done carefully, however, as some ruins are still guarded by Cogs, or may be homes to more recent occupants.

The Tahro sometimes shape the Forest for their own purposes if good ruins are not available. Trees will be planted and pruned yearly in order to make "living palisades" that provide sites with some additional protection; if done well enough, the growth appears natural, and few will suspect that a solid tangle of branches and brambles is actually the wall of a seasonal camp. The Forest is notoriously difficult to restrain or thin, but easy to coax into growing even thicker.

Tahr camps are not highly developed. The Tahro build no permanent structures, simply constructing lean-tos and shallow burrows when the blood arrives. Unlike the Umbril, who rely on stealth and concealment to protect themselves, the Tahro are capable of fighting off most forest floor predators. Still, they do not invite trouble, and favor naturally strong defensive locations and conceal them with leaves and branches.

Warfare

For the Tahro, physical defenses like walls and palisades serve to keep out wandering predators, and are not a means of defeating any enemy. That task is borne by a blood’s warriors. Tahr warfare takes two basic forms.

Disputes or vendettas against two Tahr bloods may progress to a blood war. Usually, this is the result of a dispute over a particularly good ruin, the dishonor of a family member, or theft (which is considered as heinous as murder, as it sabotages the principle of generosity). Individual Tahr who are wronged will seek a duel with the one responsible, usually during the Red Season, and have the option of killing or sparing their enemy if they win. Tahr duels are fought unarmed, and have few rules. If the duel is refused or offenses continue, the bloods may take up the vendetta and go to war. War between bloods follows a strict ritual code, but still can be fatal. Surprise attacks against another blood are forbidden.

Against aliens, all restrictions are off. The Tahro use surprise whenever they can and do not restrain themselves with ritual. Individual bloods rarely war with aliens; instead, several patriarchs make the decision together. The Tahro are prudent about war and seek to build up alliances with other bloods and even alien settlements before committing themselves to action. They often give gifts to alien allies, but will not fight with aliens they believe are only fighting because of such gifts. The Tahro favor fast, decisive battles where they are on the offensive. They will allow opponents to flee a lost battle, but do not typically take prisoners.

Tahr warriors in blood wars are always male; upholding the blood’s honor is considered an exclusively male obligation. Against aliens, warriors are usually male, but females will join if the stakes are high or if the blood or its camps are in danger. The Tahro favor surrounding their opponent and charging into melee combat immediately, though they will often throw a volley of axes, bolas, nets, and spears just before the charge. They often wear light armor but prefer to not restrict their movement too much with the heavy armors favored by the Iskites. The Tahro themselves do not forge metal, and their blacksmiths only sharpen and repair tools and weapons, so they usually lack the resources to make metal armor anyway. In general, they fight more as individual warriors than a cohesive whole, which sometimes puts them at a disadvantage against more organized Iskite (or sometimes Umbril) forces.

Art and Music

Chanting fulfills religious, social, and artistic purposes in Tahr culture. All Tahr adults have some chanting ability; the best of these are the blood’s Lore-speakers, who serve as the memory of the blood (since the Tahro write very little down). They commit many long chants to memory that recount the history of the blood as related by heroic acts, excellent gifts, notable wars and conflicts, noble sacrifices, and distinguished patriarchs. Chanting by all members of Tahr society is used both formally (in religious ceremonies and before hunts and other events) as well as casually, to keep time while cracking nuts or weaving cloth or to entertain one’s fellows over a campfire.

Instruments are not generally used to accompany chanting, save for certain religious rituals. Hand-held drums and clappers are the most common varieties of these, but the Tahro also use pipes and other wind instruments unaccompanied. Circular breathing is a skill Tahro are born with, not a learned technique, and they can chant or play a wind instrument for an hour or more without stopping for breath.

The Tahro create only the art they can take with them – or carry on their bodies. Tahr adults regularly paint themselves, especially the hands and face. Paint is used instead of tattoos because these patterns change frequently. Face-painting is critical before a hunt, a battle, or any ceremony of any kind, and is often done even when no significant event is forthcoming. It may carry some significance to members of the blood or other bloods within the larger group, telling of an individual’s age, accomplishments, offspring, or availability for the blood oath. These kind of meanings vary drastically between regions.

Most Tahr art consists of decorations of everyday objects. Virtually no object owned by the Tahro is without patterns, pigments, beads, engravings, or some other embellishment. Even objects acquired from trade with aliens (like most Tahr weapons) are augmented with designs, tassels, paints, and so on. The Tahro consider this to be the real purpose of art, and don’t see much point in an "art object" that has no purpose besides looking pretty. To own such a thing would only mean additional weight and encumbrance for no real purpose.

Food

The Tahr diet is rather like that of bears. Hunting is an important part of their diet and culture, but they also eat a great deal of tubers, berries, fruits, and other products of the Forest. They find grains tasteless and the meatless diet of the Gheen insubstantial (and, of course, have no love for Umbril cuisine). Drying food is practically impossible in the humid jungle, so the Tahro use other methods to preserve their food supply. The Tahro smoke most of their meat and pickle some fruits and vegetables in vinegar or alcohol. Preserved meat is often stored in caches at seasonal camps; it is placed in a clay jug with hot ashes and buried underground. In this way, nothing is wasted, and the blood is well supplied both on the move and whenever they return to an old camp.

The Tahro do make some alcohol from fermented fruit, which is used both for drinking and for preserving food. Tuber Beer is a common Tahr drink, made from ginger and starchy roots mixed with honey or cane juice that is allowed to ferment. When honey is found, it is often made into mead. The Tahro do not have the technology for distillation, and usually trade with the Iskites for such spirits. Mead is sometimes consumed ritually during certain Red Season rites.

Recreation

Tahr recreation is primarily physical in nature. They prefer wrestling and running to the games of the Umbril, partially because the skills learned and maintained in wrestling matches help to sustain and protect their community. Bola-throwing is the centerpiece of several Tahr sports; Tahro may compete to wrap bolas around set posts at long range, or seek to entangle each other while dodging back and forth.

Because Tahr culture is largely oral, few books or manuscripts are kept by a blood and none are made. Those that the blood does retain are usually foreign works of utilitarian value, or novelties of culture or philosophy owned by a single Tahr. These works often circulate throughout the blood over time, with the expectation that eventually they will work their way back to the original owner, who by that time may be interested in reading them again. Such things are rarely carried with a blood, and a blood with a particular literary interest may keep small stockpiles of books and scrolls in caches throughout their migratory route, so each camp has its own small library.

The Tahro and Umbril have a similar outlook when it comes to the use of mind-altering substances – they serve a serious ritual purpose, and "recreational" use is self-contradictory. Many Tahr bloods have incorporated Umbril pharmacological knowledge into their rituals, especially around the Red Season.

Religion

It may come as unsurprising that a nomadic people conceive of the spiritual realm as a journey. The predominant Tahr belief is that the yearly cyclical migration is merely a physical reflection of a more important metaphysical cycle between life and death. The individual is only present in his material body for part of this journey; when he dies, the soul wanders elsewhere, to return when the time is right and begin a new life among the bloods. Most Tahro thus believe in reincarnation: a Tahr will return as a new Tahr in time, even if he has no memory of it. Memory is believed to be a property of the physical world; the spirit itself lives only in the present and lacks any knowledge of the past or apprehension of the future. Memory is the burden of the living, to be gratefully shed upon death and solemnly shouldered when one returns.

A great deal of Tahr ritual concerns preparing oneself for the spiritual journey after death. Just like a "real" migration, preparations are needed, and one must take precautions against the dangers of the spirit realm that exists both within and parallel to the physical world. One can, it is said, get lost in the world of the spirits, and never return to life. As spirits do not have memories, however, the preparations are not memorized lists or advice, but a cultivation of the "essence of the soul" through asceticism, meditation, chanting-trance, and other processes. Upon death, a spirit is laid bare before the world – it literally knows nothing except itself. The purpose of ritual, then, is to refine the self to a point where one will naturally be able to navigate the great cyclical journey and return to life again. The Tahro believe preparation for death must begin at birth, for death may come quickly and unexpectedly like an assassin spider, and they involve even the youngest of children in their religious practices. Tradition and religion are inextricable in Tahr culture. It is impossible to disentangle one from the other, and the Tahro often assert that there is no appreciable difference between the two. The journey is eternal and unchanging; so too is tradition.

For the most part, Tahro do not concern themselves with the question of what happens to aliens after they die. A minority of Tahro believe in transincarnation, the idea that a dead Tahr does not necessarily return to life as a Tahr – all sentients (or alternately, all animals, or even all beings) share the same manner of spirit, and thus frequently return as another kind of life altogether. Proponents of this idea are generally split as to whether one’s new form is essentially random or a reward (or punishment) for behavior in the world of the living (and if the latter, what entity is doing the rewarding and punishing, if any).

The Tahro are generally ambivalent about things such as "gods." They recognize that there are beings much powerful than themselves, but deny that power in the physical world necessarily translates into power in the spiritual one – a powerful entity may kill you, but it cannot extinguish your spirit. The Tahro give respect to those beings they see as more enlightened than themselves, because these beings serve as examples to those who wish a purer essence of the soul. They withhold real worship, however, to those beings they believe have the capability to exist in both worlds, or to cross between them trivially. Chief among these are the dragonflies, represented by the dragonfly messenger-god Ath, who serve as intermediaries between the physical and the spiritual. These "children of Ath" are believed to fly between worlds, and carry the souls of the newly dead and nearly reborn. They are seen in Tahr culture as harbingers of both death and birth, and it is considered a great sin to harm them.

Adventurers

Tahr bloods allow their adult members to come and go as they please. The world beyond the community is dangerous, but to leave is ultimately the decision of the individual, not the patriarch. Tahr bloods tend to be self-regulating – when the population grows too high, the blood splits, and when it dips too low, the blood may join another it is related to (at least for a time). Thus, the Tahro are much less concerned about members leaving than the Iskites are, but they do consider it supremely irresponsible to abandon one’s own children (if they are not yet adults).

As a result, many (perhaps most) Tahr adventurers are not young adults straight out of adolescence – instead, they mated early on, raised children to adulthood, and only left the blood around 40-50 years of age. As Tahro do not really begin to suffer the infirmities of age until they are a century old, this still leaves plenty of time for an active career in the wider world.

Young Tahr adventurers usually left on a less positive note, having fallen out with their blood or Tahr society in general. Others are exiles, cast out of the blood for committing a crime or because of a particularly bitter vendetta with a patriarch.

Relations

The Tahro stoically suffer the oddities of aliens; they consider it only proper to bear with the antics of others and not burst forth in annoyance or anger. They are not made of stone, however, and even a Tahr has his limits. In general, the Tahro have very little interest in the lives or customs of others, preferring their own traditions and customs and leaving alien things to the aliens. They are usually self-confident enough that they do not fear the corrupting influence of foreigners, but they also know that aliens are often grasping and ambitious and have found that it rarely hurts to be suspicious.

The Tahro are not overly fond of the Iskites, who they see as haughty, self-centered, and callously destructive. They don’t care much whether the Iskites think of them as "civilized" or not – it's not important what outsiders think – but do resent the way in which the Iskites lord themselves over the Tahro and others they believe to be their inferiors. The Iskites do not give them the respect they believe should be extended to all sentient creatures. Most egregiously, the Iskites occasionally settle on a Tahr seasonal camp when the blood is elsewhere; the blood returns only to find that the Iskites have destroyed it, turning carefully managed groves and sacred sites into fields and pasture. The Iskites are seldom aware they are settling on a seasonal camp, but are dismissive of the "rights" of non-sedentary beings and typically refuse to return the land. Wars often result from such incidents, ending only when the blood gives up and relocates elsewhere, or when the village is destroyed and the Iskites are forced from their recently-acquired land. This kind of conflict is not very common, however, and usually nearby villages and bloods maintain a lukewarm trading relationship, exchanging valuables and goods but not expanding their interactions beyond that. Every Tahr blood has stories of Iskites destroying sacred camps or taking Tahr slaves, and have a deep distrust of the race as a result.

The Tahro find the personal habits of the Gheen to be frequently frustrating and sometimes downright annoying, but respect the "tree sprites" (as they call them) and often maintain friendly relationships. They find the Gheen devotion to family to be commendable, if perhaps a bit excessive, and believe them to be more capable of dealing in a forthright and honest manner than either the arrogant Iskites or the untrustworthy Umbril. As a result, though the Tahro do not welcome the Gheens' ham-fisted and oblivious attempts to ingratiate themselves into Tahr culture, they do seek them out as trading partners and – in times of war – allies. They conceive the Gheen as very different and yet unopposed to them, a culture that they have no interest in emulating, but nonetheless possessing enough merit to engender cooperation. The Tahro usually trade decorated crafts and plant goods from the forest floor (which is dangerous for the Gheen to tarry in) for Gheen silk, metal, and pigments. The Gheen have also introduced the Tahro to the khauta, which some Tahr bloods use to observe the land around them and plan new migration routes or reconnoiter possibly hostile villages or other settlements. Bloods and dreys seldom ever come into conflict, as they do not share the same habitat and have no other reasons to be at odds.

The Tahro are very suspicious of the Umbril, who they share the Forest floor with. They believe the Umbril to be overly self-confident, thinking themselves smarter and more clever than they are, yet still clever enough to be masters of deception. The common Tahr conception of the Umbril is that they are pathological liars, incapable of telling the whole truth even when there is no reason to lie. They suspect that the Umbril feel safe when they believe they know more than others, and because of this the Tahro often act purposefully oblivious even when they know an Umbril isn’t telling the truth. In a similar way, they know the Umbril sometimes cheat them in negotiations and trades, but prefer to let the Umbril get away with a little rather than pressing the issue and risk the Umbril cheating them in another way they don’t know about. The Tahro have very little faith in the Umbril moral fiber, but abide it in part because they believe the Umbril to be a part of the Forest, more like animals and Aras Tay than themselves, and thus restricted by their "natural" inclinations and in some way unable to control their instincts. They often act as regional intermediaries between Umbril colonies and other settlements, trading Umbril goods to those the Umbril would rather not meet personally. Some cultural exchange has occurred between bloods and colonies, and Thalevin (known to the Tahro as the goddess Tholveth), the Umbril deity of renewal, fertility, healing, and giving, is more widely revered by Tahro than it is by the Umbril themselves.

Though membership in a blood is generally determined by heredity and marriage, the patriarch may choose to allow a non-related Tahr or even an alien to live with the blood and share in communal rites and obligations. Though this is not exactly a common practice, if an alien shows an earnest desire to live according to tradition and has the potential to benefit the blood, he may be accepted as an honorary member. Regardless of age, the new member must undergo the Tahr ritual of adulthood before they are granted full privileges in the community, but once this occurs they are treated more or less as an equal. The most frequent blood-aliens are rogue Iskites, though some Gheen with an interest in Tahr culture may attempt it, and very rarely an exiled Umbril may turn to a blood for community and protection.

Varieties

The Tahro vary regionally with regards to coloration, but unusual populations are more typically identified by culture and tradition rather than physical features.

The Tahr bloods of the Feathervale, known collectively as the Exiles or the Banished Blood, were driven from their traditional camps by the World-Queen and now live in the Wash and the edges of Whitefen. Many have pledged to never abandon the land they have lived in since time immemorial, and serve the League of the Waterfall against their oppressor. They are known for the prevalence of dark green eyes in their population, something unknown within other Tahr communities.

The Black Blood is a population of Tahro that lives around the Sea of Serpents and in the perilous environment of the Chokereed. They live primarily on the water, migrating in reed boats and hunting riparian game. They are staunchly isolationist and frequently attack first and ask questions later when it comes to alien visitors.

The only "Tahr City," better understood as the largest Red Camp in the world, is the settlement of Koldon’s Well on the Black Circle. The bloods that travel there in the Red Season are considerably more cosmopolitan and technologically advanced than most of their kin, though they have resisted better than most the inclusion of "Black Circle culture" into their society. Some have even become "settled Tahro," members of a unique blood called the Children of the Well that pledged itself generations ago to abandoning nomadism in order to guard the Red Camp against enemies while the other bloods are elsewhere.