Reekin are, by an astronomical margin, the most populous sapient species on the face of the planet. With their incredibly high birth rates, hardy natures, and ability to adapt to nearly any environment, they can be found on nearly every single landmass in Teicna, and sometimes even in between them. Though most of the world considers them to be little more than pests, they have a remarkable capacity for learning given their short lifespans, leading some anthropologists to wonder if they might have had a greater impact on the world stage had they not developed a reputation for being violent little vermin.
In recent years, there have been more and more stories drifting in from backwater towns and lawless frontiers about 'intelligent' Reekin - an unfortunate misnomer born of ignorance - attempting to meet and speak with the people around them and better integrate into the societies around them. The success rate of these attempts is, sadly, quite low.
Most sapients know a total of two things about Reekin: They are present on every known continent, and they breed more than quickly enough to make up for how many are slaughtered by the combined militaries of the world in rebuffed raids and extermination missions. With the recent discovery of the Reekin fable that their kind originated in the planet’s very core, a new terror has found root within the ranks of the young, the impressionable, and the uneducated: The legend of the Reekinswarm.
If these ever-present pests really are from the center of Teicna, the theory posits, surely whatever hellish nooks and crannies they emerged from are still loaded with the progenitors of their race! And should these creatures ever emerge and join forces with their shallower-dwelling cousins, their numbers would be great enough to flood the surface world with violent rat-lizard beasties and wipe out all other life. Of course, nearly every scientist, historian, adventurer, soldier, and miner who has ever dealt with Reekin or their culture can debunk this fear quite quickly - largely because Reekin can barely cooperate within a single warren, let alone between literally all of them - but this does little to stem the spread of the dire predictions.
Interestingly, this tale managed to work its way backwards along the chain, reaching the Reekin themselves via the relative few individuals among them who have both learned the languages of their local sapients and managed to overhear just the right conversations. Believing it to be some kind of prophecy of their eventual ascension to power, word has since spread through a great number of Reekin warrens like wildfire, spurring even the most solitary of tribes to consider allying with those near them in preparation for what they have begun to call the Great Raid. Should the quarrelsome little monsters ever muster the numbers to actually attempt this grand, unified strike on the surface, they are bound to cause a surprising amount of damage before the unified peoples of the surface finally buckle down and quash the ill-conceived uprising.
Reekin are bipedal, exothermic reptile-folk who dwell in most subterranean regions of the world, occasionally spilling out into surface villages when their populations rise particularly high. Their thin, semi-prehensile tails and whisker-like barbels have earned them the nickname 'Rat-lizards' among younger populations.
One of the defining feature of the Reekin is their thick skulls, the upper jaw of which overhangs the lower in a way that most people mistake for an overbite, but is actually a sharpened, almost beak-like 'lip' that is separate from the teeth inside. It also extends out the rear in the form of spikes which, while sometimes accompanied by actual horns, are solid bone and connected firmly to the rest of the head.
Both their hands and feet feature thick nails that make them excellent climbers and diggers, but hinder their manual dexterity quite a bit. In the case of their feet, it's often said that they resemble strange, cloven hooves, further adding to the curious mix of animal comparisons the creatures often accumulate. Reekin hides, while fairly leathery and covered in fine scales, are unfortunately also quite thin, leaving them fairly vulnerable when caught in close quarters. Though their reputation and general demeanor paints them as violent aggressors, their biology has them much more suited to a lifestyle of ambush hunting and hit-and-run tactics.
Reekin have four primary deviations from the 'standard', garden variety Reekin. These come in the form of the Digger Drakes, the Sleek Paddles, the Skitter Rams, and the Riphooks. Each of these is a sort of hyper-specialized subspecies that dominates the Reekin population in their respective regions, though they will sometimes end up intermingling or even interbreeding with the other Reekin around them, creating all manner of mid-point hybrids with lesser versions of their primary traits.
The adaptations of the four Greater Reekin are as follows:
- The Digger Drakes grow a fair bit larger than their cousins, and are the most adapted to subterranean living, with slightly larger eyes, dulled horns, and a curved, bony plate that grows out from behind their wrists and serves as a powerful digging implement when needed.
- The Sleek Paddles are the smallest of the Reekin variants, having adapted to a more surface-oriented life by compacting down, as well as developing webbed appendages and a finned tail. Their coloration also drifted more towards greens and yellows, better allowing them to blend into the water and vegetation throughout Duwallen.
- The Skitter Rams have perhaps the most extreme changes of any Reekin, having grown larger, curved horns, cloven hoof-like nails, and a ridged club on the ends of their tails. While these development don't actually make them all that much fitter to combat their home's inhabitants, it does make them much more capable of being painfully annoying during scraps.
- Finally, the Riphooks are the bulkiest of the Reekin comparative to their height. Both their muscle mass and their skin have grown thicker than usual, presenting a much hardier opponent than most Reekin. On top of this, their claws have developed to be slightly longer and sharper than most, as has the keratinous growth at the end of their tail that they use as both a weapon in combat and occasionally like a rudimentary blade when skinning their kills.
Ancient sketch labeled 'Varieties of Reekin' by Cotton
Sexual dimorphism is particularly prominent among the Reekin, although the average sapient would likely be unaware of this fact, as rarely as females of their species are seen. The vast majority of Reekin are male, looking as described above and rarely growing any taller than a meter in height, if even that tall. The outnumbered female Reekin come in two varieties. Sterile females - whether it be by birth, age, or injury - make up the majority of their sex, and are typically up to twice as large as their male counterparts. Fertile females tend to be just a bit smaller than that on average, but make up for the difference with enhanced strength and agility, which appears to be an adaptation to allow the most important members of a warren to have the highest likelihood of escape in case of emergencies.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Reekin are found across the globe on all major landmasses and even in some of the oceans. Among the variants, the Digger Drakes reside primarily in Mordrekain, the Sleek Paddles in Duwallen and Stirge, the Skitter Rams in Tirpazk, and the Riphooks in Sur'Dhanza.
The average Reekin is actually far more clever than most would give them credit for. The trouble is that they have a serious issue with both their tempers and their attention span. Internal conflicts and an unfamiliarity with the the social norms of most other species leave them more prone to violence or thievery than they might otherwise be, and sadly few efforts are being made to resolve these issues. At least, few efforts that aren't attempts at extinction.
Civilization and Culture
As a matter of the importance of species survival over individual survival, Reekin females are incredibly important in their society. Even when they don’t technically run things around the warren - which is often, as the males seem fond of arbitrarily declaring themselves the leader - their words carry immense weight. More often than not this allows them to live safe, comfortable lives within the warrens or the surrounding areas whether or not they are able to bear children, meaning that they are often the most learned and developed of their species.
Average Technological Level
Reekin are not particularly adept craftsmen due to their large claws, but they can be surprisingly ingenious when pressed. They are well known for managing to cobble together complex traps in order to protect their warrens. On top of this, Reekin will frequently steal what they can from the sapients around them, indirectly boosting their level of technology. Though some warrens will have individuals attempt to reverse-engineer stolen tools and machinery, the most the average Reekin will do is augment devices to make them more manageable to thick, clawed fingers.
Major Language Groups and Dialects
The Reekin language is a mixture of various chirps and barks, a smattering of more cohesive vocal sounds, and a whole lot of gestures. The aural element of their language also lacks much of the context of a given statement, making difficult to convert directly into something that most other sapients can easily understand, let alone into a consistent written form, without carefully describing the speaker's physical movements as well. A single series of sounds, out of context, might mean as many as a dozen things in a vacuum, but with the added context of their body movements and gesticulations, and to someone who knows the speaker well, it has a perfectly comprehensible, perhaps even shockingly specific meaning.
Even still, due to frequent interaction with the world above, usually in the form of scouting parties and raids, Reekin often begin to pick up bits and pieces of the languages of the people surrounding them. They don’t always fully capture the meaning behind the words they borrow, but they integrate them into their language nonetheless. Some of these words even follow storytellers on their journey, spreading into distant warrens. This has filtered into their naming conventions as well, as some Reekin seem to find the foreign words to be strange and exotic and almost sing-songy in comparison to their own tongue. This has led to a rise in Reekin with seemingly nonsensical names in languages that might not even be local to the area.
Culture and Cultural Heritage
In Reekin society, an individual is expendable, but the warren must be protected at all costs. Because they breed at astronomical rates, they are capable of making up for their relative small size, weak stature, and violent natures by simply having more children and passing on the lessons that might have saved those who came before. Of course, sometimes these lessons are lost with the Reekin who die learning them, and sometimes those dead Reekin’s companions simply forget to pass things along, so progress can be slow and sporadic at times.
Despite all of this, nearly every Reekin warren has a minimum of one Storyteller; an adult Reekin who has memorized the stories of their people, ranging from ancient legends to current events. Typically the acting storyteller is a male, and usually one who is in some way unfit to join raiding parties, but because of their short lifespans and volatile tempers, there will usually be one or two females supporting the primary storyteller, keeping track of the stories just in case an accident means that a new one needs to be trained in a hurry.
Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals
Unlike most other Reekin, who will usually remain within their warrens from birth to death without leaving their general vicinity, Storytellers are expected to travel. They keep detailed oral directions, and more rarely physical maps, which lead them from warren to warren around the world, often involving traversing oceans in order to reach new continents to spread their stories and pick up new ones. No one is entirely sure how they accomplish this feat, as stories from the northern hemisphere have somehow managed to reach Reekin warrens in the southern hemisphere, even before the other sapients managed to travel between them again.
Riknik (Nia) - A female Digger Drake rendered infertile by a terrible wound to the abdomen during a Dwarven raid on her warren, Riknik was inconsolable after her recovery, believing she had been robbed of her purpose to the warren and no longer worthy to be a mother to the others who had survived. She was taken in by a roving band of infertile females from a distant sleek paddles warren and taught that there could be more to life than the simple perpetuation of her species. She trained with them to be a warrior and adventurer, but soon felt a yearning to leave the site of her perceived failure and seek a greater purpose in the world beyond. She stowed away on a ship bound for Sur’Dhanzha and slipped into the foreign nation unseen. There, she’s managed to pick up the language and pass herself off as a cursed Kiarren woman, serving as a guide, bodyguard, and occasionally liaison to the less violent local Reekin warrens. Though her identity has yet to be widely revealed to any of her new Kiarren brothers and sisters, word of her and her new name, Nia, has slipped into the storytellers’ most recent tales and legends, giving many Reekin hope that there might one day be a place for them out in the world beyond their warrens.
Common Myths and Legends
Legend has it that a particularly large and hardy tribe of Reekin managed to cobble together enough magic and materials to make a seaworthy vessel and took to raiding across the sea rather than on land. These 'Seakin', as they've come to be known, have amassed a veritable island's worth of flotsam, jetsam, and the odd full vessel that's been cobbled together into a ramshackle armada of destruction. Their storytellers, it's claimed, have mastered weather magic, allowing them to mask their approach in fog and rain, surrounding ships and slaughtering their crews before anyone even knows what's happening.
Of course, no one who's met the Reekin would ever believe such outlandish stories...