I am telling you lad, that if you stray too far inside the swamp, ogres and goblins will be the least of your worries. Beware the Ragori , those monstrous beasts that lurk in the water, waiting for an unsuspecting fool to come along. My own uncle went into the swamp when he was just your age and he never returned. It wasnt the Sproggan that took him, for we have the good sense to live well away from the foul parts of the swamp in which they live. Nor was it the Ogres since those slavering brutes prefer drier lands. No, it must have been the accursed Ragori that devoured him!
Dwelling in the great swathe of swampland known as the Purvis Swamp, the Ragori are well adapted for life in this punishing environment. Although they are vast and hulking creatures, the Ragori are nevertheless able to move with relative ease amid the mass of dank water and rotting vegetation that chokes the Purvis Swamp. However, like much of the swamp’s other denizens, they make for a less than pleasant sight. Standing at a height of no less than eight feet, their skins are extremely slimy and are always seeping a slimy film that is a lurid green. Exuding a powerful stench strongly reminiscent of faecal matter, this discharge keeps away the deadly mosquitoes that infest the Purvis Swamp. Their heads are massive, resembling a lizard’s and extend into a wide but broad snout crammed with vicious, menacing looking barbed teeth that protrude over their lips.
Their eyes are yellow slits that seem to balefully glare out from either side of their heads. Tiny membranes automatically slide over them whenever the Ragori submerge in the waters of their swamp home. Whenever they open their maws, a sinister looking scarlet tongue flickers out. Tiny sensory organs that line this lolling appendage allow the Ragori to sense the muscle movements made by even the smallest fish swimming in the water. Their hands and feet alike have four clawed appendages that are covered with webbing at the base. Streamlined and muscular creatures, the Ragori have lean but powerful limbs that allow them to swim with great ease and speed. Long but powerful tails help to propel their movements in the water and when pressed hard enough, a Ragori can move in the water almost as fast as a dolphin. Not even the best rowers can elude them on the filthy waters of the swamp. Females and males are almost impossible to tell apart, save for the somewhat larger size of the males. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature about the Ragori are three thick tentacles that sprout from both of their shoulders. Moving with swiftness of a snake, these tendrils can grab small fish with frightening speed.
A hunting and gathering people
The Ragori live in small tribes usually consisting of a collection of related extended families. These tribes typically number a few hundred strong each. Amphibious creatures, the Ragori are able to spend most of their waking hours submerged in the swamps murky waters. Surviving primarily on whatever they can gather from their environment, the Ragori spend the hours between dusk and dawn swimming in the dark waters of the Purvis swamp, in search of edible food. The roles that both males and females play are firmly fixed by gender. Females are tasked with gathering edible aquatic vegetation. Males, due to their larger size and greater physical prowess, are given the task of hunting and snaring anything that they can find in or on the water. Small and large fish, frogs, toads, amphibians and water are attacked and eaten by the Ragori. Using nets made of thick fibrous water plants, they are able to ensnare such large prey, while their tentacles quickly grab smaller fish. Their prized prey is a large eel that is the size of a great white shark. A different implement is used for ensnaring them however. A thick spear, consisting of a fallen cypress branch that has been whittled down to size by the claws of a Ragori male and has had a carefully scraped flint head attached to it, is often employed to impale the eel. Five Ragori hunters when armed with this implement can bring down even the largest eel. In addition to hunting and gathering, Ragori female also supplement the food source of their tribes by catching certain large fish such as juvenile gars. These fish are then kept in submerged cages made of carefully woven reeds and are fed scraps. When they grow large enough, they are butchered and eaten. Small scale farming is also practiced by females who cultivate little plots of aquatic plants around the family dwelling. Fish bones are often used as fertiliser. Moreover, females also make the implement used by males for hunting , as well as making the reed flutes and guord drums sued by the council for certain ceremonies.
Ragori tribes are dominated by a council of elders who are the most senior members in existence. Drawn from the leaders of each extended clan, this council has absolute power over the tribe. Positions on this council are hereditary and are passed down to the appointed heir of each existing leader of each individual family. Since each family is a largely self-sustaining unit, the council only gathers together on rare occasions to decide important decisions as to whether the tribe should move on in search of new fishing grounds or remain where they currently are.
Ragosi households are strictly controlled by either a reigning male or female elder. Having complete control of his or her dependents, this clan elder expects complete obedience from everyone else, along with the prime portion of what they catch and gather. Any refusal to honour the wishes of this elder will result in the culprit being exiled from the tribe on pain of death. Such offenders become pariahs, forever scorned. Even other tribes who waters they pass through, will revile them since they have commanded the cardinal crime of turning against their progenitor.
Below the elders, ranks the eldest of his offspring, one of whom will be nominated by his peers to replace his dead or her dead parent as the head of the clan. Ascension to this position depends on the ability of the candidate to be a strict disciplinarian who can control the younger members since autocratic firmness is a trait revered by the Ragori culture.
Much of Ragosi culture revolves around an unusual feature of Ragosi physiology. An unusual aspect of the Ragori physiology is that depending on the temperature during the spawning season, the young birthed by the females can either be exclusively male or female. Thus, during a particular year, the newly hatched infants might be either exclusively male or female, depending on the temperature. Warmer climates produce females, while cooler ones result in males. The Ragori procreate once every five years, instinct driving them to carefully time this urge to reproduce around the same time that the spawning season of most fish species begins.
Once this time arrives, the either exclusively male or female members of the current generation set off in search of the domain of a neighbouring tribe to gather new mates.
This event is one of great ceremony, as the visitors journey forth bearing an array of gifts, ranging from large fish catches to carefully carved spears and other implements. The music of reed flutes and gourd drums will greet their arrival as the council of the resident council greets them and order their own youngsters out to seek a suitable mate. Determined to impress the females, males often challenge one another to impressive bouts of wrestling, seeking to seize an opponent and hurl them to the ground. Females for their part, seek to impress the males with quality and skill of the implements that they have carved.
The elders for their part will seek to encourage this business by regaling the visitors with tales of just how skilful or strong the youngsters from their clan are. Once suitable mate has been selected, a suitable dowry is paid to the clan elder and the sojourners take their new acquisition with them back to their own tribe.
These new arrivals to the tribe are immediately greeted by the elders who then subject them to long rituals designed to ensure their fecundity. Prayers are made to the great deity Sudago to bless the tribes latest acquisitions with strong and healthy offspring. Once this is over, the returning tribe members quickly begun to procreate with their new mates. Over the course of a month, the eggs within the female will begin to develop. As much as a hundred of them are fertilised and quickly begin to develop into embryos.
However, ultimately two or three hatchings will hatch before their siblings do and will begin to devour their un-hatched siblings. Finally, at the end of this period, the female will give birth to these two precocious offspring. Should one prove to be sickly and weak, it is immediately slain by the mother and its sibling is encouraged to feed on its remains. The Ragori see nothing wrong with such acts of cannibalism, understanding that only the tough and worthy can survive in the harsh wastes of the Purvis Swamp. A weak baby would ultimately perish anyway, falling prey to diseases or some stealthy predator.
Young Ragori grow quickly, attaining complete maturity by the age of fifteen. For the first few years of their life, they are fed by both their parents. Once they become strong enough however, after a few weeks, they are expected to accompany their parents and join them on their daily activities. By the age of ten, they are expected to fully participate. Ragori that show special talent at a useful skill by this time, are proudly given a name by their elder that reflects this ability. Thus, a male Ragori that shows exceptional talent at spearing fish is often named Tussslarssssi which means ‘he who is adept at impaling prey’. This is a profound moment, signalling complete acceptance by the clan. Others who fail to accomplish such an act worthy of a name, will often remain saddled with their childhood names, monikers given to them by their mothers who name them after certain amusing animals like mudskippers or toads. These are names that must be shed as soon as possible for fear of the humiliation that will follow if their owners fail to attain a real name.
However, in order to be recognised as true adults, both male and female Ragori must undergo dangerous ordeal in order to demonstrate their ability to survive anything that the spirits of nature might confront them with. Male Ragori that have just turned fifteen are sent on individual quests to raid both human and Sproggan settlements. Trekking through dangerous tracks of swamp alone and unescorted, they must demonstrate their ability to both fend for themselves and to sneak into hostile locations without getting caught. If the raiders are captured and killed, there will be no war parties sent to avenge them, since their deaths would mean that they were weak and unworthy.
Females for their part, must undergo an equally dangerous trial. Once they too become fifteen, they are ordered to leave their native waters and settle on dry land. For the next twenty days, they are given a massive amount of hallucinogenic funguses to ingest. However, no food or water is provided at all. Forced to fast, female Ragori must meditate under the brutal heat until their souls finally leave their bodies and travel down into the dark depths of the swamps which no Ragori can reach. There, their souls will face the supreme deity, divine Sugada himself. If he finds them worthy, they will survive. Unfortunately, deaths are not uncommon, with many females succumbing to the heat and perishing as their hides become shrivelled and dehydrated. They, like male initiates that die in the course of their coming-of-age trial, are also un-mourned for their perceived weakness. However, the ones who do survive, have the potential to become shamans or '‘rrrrrlosssi'' as the Ragori call them.
Exclusively drawn from the ranks of female clan elders, shamans are believed to posses the ability to enter trances in which their souls leave their physical frames to speak with the sprits present in every aspect of nature. Even the very plants are able to speak to the shamans when they have entered this state. In hard times when the giant eels are scarce, the shamans speak to the great god Sugada in order to divine the reason for his wrath and appease it. As a direct result of their unique ability, female Ragori elders are revered as almost sacred beings. Even a male elder will be respectful towards the female clan elders of other clans.
Each Ragori clan lives in a sprawling submerged complex. Resembling a vast igloo with its rounded dome and circular walls, these homes have no walls or partitions. The concept of privacy or private space is unknown and the whole clan eats and sleeps together on the muddy floor of their dwelling. As the common offspring of the same ancestor, the entire clan is expected to see itself as a collective whole rather than as a collection of bickering individuals. Any squabble that might break out is swiftly quelled by the elder who threatens to permanently exile any miscreant. Sanitation for these dwellings is basic. No privies exist and adjoining garden plots are used as communal toilets with the intention of fertilising the soil.
What is easily the most distinguishing feature of Ragosi dwellings are the massive totem poles that project above the surface of the water. Harvested from a single banyan tree painstakingly worn down by stone saws over the course of generations, it is subsequently submerged in the bed of the swamp. Planted close to the clan dwelling, its bark is then stripped away. Once this has been carried out, the females will begin carving myriad elaborate panels depicting the outstretched maw of Sugada, the giant eel god, on its bare trunk in order to create a shrine dedicated to his worship Only females are allowed to add to this totem pole. Any male that violates this taboo will be attacked and killed by a giant eel as the Ragori belief.
The Ragori communicate with each other primarily via hissing noises that are incomprehensible to non-Ragosi. These sounds are limited to expressing simple emotions such as anger or joy . The deep, sonorous croaks that they sometimes produce, are by contrast, reserved solely for the formal and highly ritualistic prayers that both lament and praise the deaths of the animals and plants that feed them. In addition to these two means of communication however, is a third, more potent way of reaching out to their kindred. By concentrating its willpower, a Ragori secretes a subtle pheromone that when sniffed by others of its kind, immediately triggers in their minds vivid images of what exactly the speaker; is trying to convey. All but impossible to detect for non Ragori, these pheromones are emitted by young Ragori once they become a week old or so.
Relations with other races
The Ragosi are a deeply insular culture and loathe all other races. Any human fishermen that make the cardinal mistake of straying too far into the waters of a Ragori tribe are immediately pursued and seized by the males of the resident clan. There is nothing more terrifying in the entire Purvis swamp then to bear witness as these monstrous things emerge from the dank waters to clamber onward a bat and seize its screaming occupants before they once again submerged with barely a ripple in their wake. Contrary to what many terrified human villages perched along the edges of the swamp belief, the Ragori do not devour the humans they ambush and capture. Instead, such captives are quickly drowned and then buried under the totem poles of the clan. Only their innards are not left to rot beneath the swamp bed and are instead fed to the caged giant eels. By doing this, the Ragori seek to appease their god Sugada who is offended by the vile pink skinned beings that selfishly deplete fish stocks and desecrate the waters with the offal discharged by their villages.
On occasion, tiny and isolated fishing villages have even been raided by bands of bloodthirsty Ragori warriors brandishing their flint tipped spears. Filled with righteous fury after drinking vast amounts of intoxicating snail secretions, they despatch almost all the inhabitants, even as their eerie hisses fill the night sky with terror. Only the most able-bodied male villagers are spared and carried off to have their lives offered to Sugada afterwards. These raids are inevitably organised by young males seeking to win the approval of both clan elders and the great eel Sugada by punishing the encroaching humans that keep pushing relentlessly into the interior of the swamp. This xenophobic hatred also extends to the other non-human inhabitants of the swamp. The indigenous goblins that call themselves the Sproggans are seen as inferior vermin and are ruthlessly slain wherever the Ragori encounter them.
Only the savage and brutal Ogre clans that live in the more arid lands located further to the north, have earned both the undying hatred and grudging respect of the Ragori. With a brutish strength that equals that of the most powerful Ragori warriors and their sadistic tendency to see the Ragori as little more than exotic if dangerous beasts that make for good hunting, the Ogres are reviled by the Ragori as their arch-foes. Violent skirmishes will ensue wherever the two races encounter one another.
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CodexPurvis Swamp ( Locations ) Area - Swamp
The Ogre charged at the small goblin and ran out after it only to find the dried crust cracking under it’s feet, plunging it into the ooze. It roared with rage, but the more it tried to escape, the deeper it sank. "Welcome to my homeland," said the gopblin with an grin on it’s face. "You were a fool to chase me in here, and now I’ve got you right where I want you…"
Sproggans ( Lifeforms ) Intelligent Species - Swamp
The muggers cornered the little goblin against the wall, when with a hissing noise he suddenly grew to double his size. Muscles bulged out from his body and they lokked at each other, then turned and ran. The Sproggan watched them go and grinned at the thought of how well he had fooled them, and when they were gone he deflated back to his normal size and went on his way.