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Manduskian Whitemen, Frightful Roamers

— by Slodius Rex   The sherpas that tread the peaks of Manduskia spin tales of cloud giants with wicked swords and fists covered in iron that slap the earthen peaks with such ferocity the clouds burst. These stories make sensible people steer clear, not for taking them at face value, but because most see past the exaggeration to the warning. Those that sneer at the warning pay for it with their lives. Too many "adventurers" have gone off to the Manduskian peaks in search of fame or glory to be routed if not devoured by the evil and malice that lurks in the never-level snowfields. Many have gone off to convert or make peace with them but only hold conversation with the howling wind. The few trees that brave this altitude are pincushions of humanoids too brave or foolhardy to pay attention to the wise words of the scared sherpas. The howling of a wolf is welcoming next to the low growls of a bear, and even so these growls are but a lark's tune compared to the battle-frenzied warcry of the Whitemen.   No one scholar knows for sure from where the Whitemen descended, but their dominance over the roof of rocks the tinkering Dwarves call home is uncontested. No man or woman, no matter how brave, dare to face the wrath of the stone-shattering mauls of Whitemen. No king has usurped them, no army has routed them, no god has command of them. These feral creatures have little ties to their former heritage of those noble and fairly amiable race of Goliaths.   When the races think of Goliaths they usually consider the idealistic naturists of the deep wood or overgrown grove or snow-dusted peak. They think of the shamans and druids with pale skin casting bones of cows and giving fateful omens like the human witches of Ognatum do with their notched chicken bones. The rare warrior or sellsword makes their way into other races' cultures and societies, and these are heralded for their battle prowess. Only one gentle giant of these was considered for highest position in a magical tower, and he was a Scholar. Indeed, few consider the unbreakable Whitemen of the Manduskian range when thinking of Goliaths, and the Goliaths themselves prefer it that way.   Whitemen, also known as "Snowmen" or "Snow Devils", are a splinter subrace of Goliaths that stalk the peaks. They sport no tattoos unlike their cousins but do support quasi-kratocracy, as far as we know. No scholars have come back with successful interviewing of these creatures. Those that have tried met cold iron as their words. From what we know, however, the Whitemen do have a distinct society.   Despite their brutal appearance, Whitemen do have a sort of structure. Chiefly, rule seems to be unanimously viewed as divine right, though whose divining is unknown. The others in a tribe will view their leader as the leader and all other claims quelled. When a challenge is taken, the usurper must throw their spear next to the feet of the leader. Almost immediately a duel is prepared among the howling snow drifts. The leader chooses the mode of combat whether iron armed, fists, or wrestling. When defeated, the chief, if not killed in the fight, is bound and thrown from the tallest peak the tribe controls. The usurper must find the body and retrieve the head. They are sworn in on the old chief's bloody head with eyes held upward praying to whichever god accepts them. At this, they are installed as chief, retrieving all the old chief's possessions and family.   Their lust for blood knows no bounds, and it is up to this new chief to immediately declare war on a rivaling tribe. The tribe's fighters march out at dawn to strike. A battle need not be a decimating victory, only a slight victory wins over any holdouts to the old chief. This blood spilled is sacred to the Whitemen, who pray and ask to be healed of wounds. The tribes shamans or druids offer poultices of fire to cure them and congratulate them on a grand job achieved.   After the blood-spending, a night of drunken revelry ensues. All members except small children feast upon the delicacies of the mountains: moose, elk, the occasional roc or mammoth, or any passersby unfortunate enough to stumble upon a Whitemen's snowfield. The revelry lasts until the last Goliath is asleep, which can last days given the Whitemen's stark constitution. These are ended with at least one tribe member dead either from foul play or neglecting their environment.   When one of these creatures dies, a funeral service is quickly held. The remains are cremated and the ashes thrown over a cliff to blend with the snow, for Whitemen tales tell of descending from the snow, and the shaman earnestly proclaim from the snow they came and to snow they return, possibly to be born anew as a fearful warrior. The family is given a day's mourning before expected to return to their duties of the tribe.   The duties of the tribe range from hunter to warrior. The only specialized jobs are the work of a shaman or oracle, though most shaman do both. Most duties include carrying the weight of the yurts as they travel, since no beast of burden dare brave the weather or the terrible wrath of the Whitemen. The mothers are seen as next to the chief in terms of respect, but this distinction is a two-edged sword. For the mothers and chief are held highest accountable for their actions and their crimes.   When a mother or chief disregards their duty or does not fulfill it or lies or cheats, they are held up to the rest of the tribe to decide their fate. The other mothers or chief sit as council and hear the defendant's case, though the Whitemen are usually too dull to have what even the lowliest of barristers in Evoria call "trial." The guilty is sentenced to death by sword, or hang up by their ankles and cut on the neck so the blood drains. The most evil, though, is exile. With no one to take them in due to their ferocious nature, an exiled Whitemen is sentenced to doom beyond the warmth of a fighting death. A long fate is set upon them and any ties to any god are seen as severed. If any family members are caught praying for them or to them they too are exiled.   Fear of exile faces many of us in the civilized worlds, but usually none of us feel the fetid, rotting breath of it as they do. Their exiles are infinite and final. Whereas some — such as the Avians of Samba Ka — find a life outside of their culture, none take in the Goliath Whitemen, and for good reason. Every single exiled Whitemen turns on their new master or friend as soon as opportunity allows. Many a village has been completely eradicated by a White Plague that leaves trails of snowdust in its wake until put down like a rabid wolf. Exiled Whitemen are often the food for trolls or Hill Giants that roam the lower slopes of their homes.   Although the Whitemen elude yet captivate us to this day, we have never confirmed a good many speculations left out of this article. Their names and language cannot be described, and their behavior is nothing short of fear-inducing. If you find yourself pining for the steep and perilous slopes of the Manduskian range while you visit Rockwell or Morangl, just keep in mind that something far more sinister and dangerous than the rocky slopes waits for only a second of your time, and bides its own away far into the raging blizzards far higher up than you can even begin to imagine. And if you fancy yourself alive and brave, you will be sharply proven the contrary.


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