Like the Cuada, the Anura are amphibians. A race of frog-people, they have soft, moist skin much like those of the Cuada, but lack the bright coloration the salamander-folk possess. Instead, their bodies are covered with smooth hides of dull greens or browns. Only a collection of scarlet motes that are found gathered in unique patterns on the skin of each Anura serve to enliven their otherwise less than eye-catching, tailless forms. But their physique is certainly more impressive to behold, with the Anura tribals proudly demonstrating leanly muscled and streamlined forms that they sometimes decorate with a water-proof, bright electric blue dye obtained from a certain swamp plant. Excellent swimmers, they use their long, powerful limbs and webbed appendages to swift advantage when pursuing aquatic prey. Toothless but sturdy jaws allow them to chomp and chow down on pretty much most catchable prey, sparing them the embarrassing fate of having to dine on soft, rotting meat and vegetation the way the Cuada do. These folk like their meat fresh and firm.
Life Within the Tribe
The Anura are a society obsessed with traditional ideas of honour and valour. Retreat in the face of danger is shameful,as is the idea of bondage. For this reason,an Anura warrior will try to die in battle, rather than allow himself or herself to be taken alive as a slave by Eshal raiders. This is why the Anura are extremely difficult to collect as slaves and even harder to be beaten into submission. Their famous ability as trackers and hunters however,has made them very popular among young Eshal warriors who want ‘‘Anura hounds’’ of their own . Any lone Anura out on a hunt has to keep a wary eye out for Eshal slavers.
Their culture is a most interesting one, sharply divided by the all-dominating difference in gender. Male and female Anura only interact with each other during the mating season. During this part of the month,the roving bands Anura congregate at ancient breeding pools,to seek out a mate. It is always the male Anura who makes the first move. He approaches a female, loudly croaking,in the hope that she will respond to his overtures. If she isn’t impressed however,she will attack him to drive him off. A wrestling match then results. If the male Anura manages to overpower her,she submits to him and they copulate. Shortly after this,she lays a clutch of eggs,over which both parents carefully watch until they hatch. The offspring that emerge, are usually equal parts male and female.
Offspring that emerge from the clutches of slimy eggs deposited by fertilised females, find themselves driven by a powerful, primal honing instinct that drives them to seek out their parents among the cluster of adults that wait expectantly along the banks of the spawning pools as the young ones hatch, flocking to the adult that displays the same exact speckled pattern that is found on their own newly birthed skin. Males are taken into the band of their father, while the females are adopted by the band their mother belongs to. There the offspring are raised by the entire band,to become skilled hunters and warriors. Their upbringing is hard and no softness is shown to any young Anura, not even the offspring of the Alpha male or female that leads the band, with all pack youngsters being given the same treatment. The young Anura are only accepted as adults after they kill their first Dunkleoustous and bring it back to the band chieftain. This is a dangerous rite of passage, in which many young Anura perish in the jaws of those dangerous fish. But the more an Anura demonstrates the reckless virture of blind courage, the greater it stands the chance to become pack leader, for the Anura are often proud to elect one who ranks as a fearless fighter and hunter, during the process of the tribal council that is called upon the reigning chief’s demise. Charisma and bravery, not parentage, is what makes a leader among these people.
The Anura fight with swift, deadly stabs, using light spears that have wooden hafts and points made of sharpened flint. Each Anura makes his or her own spear and never surrenders it to another. They do not use distance weapons,such as throwing spears or arrows, seeing them as a cowardly way of slaying anything and insist on fighting an enemy face on. In addition to being a warrior and hunter, every Anura is also a bard of sorts, who composes poetry and songs of the feats of his ancestors and his own, with loud animated croaks, which he or she then takes great care to memorise, passing the verses on to his or her heirs. This ensures that all the Anura remember the history of their ancestors. Often a lively affair, these songs are accompanied by leaping dance steps and exaggerated movements that provide a visual spectacle to complement the verbal narrative, and accentuate the heroism and reckless courage involved in the mighty achievements that the singer declares with such proud abandon. The singing is often loud and passionate with the powerful streak of rivalry so endemic among these hot -blooded people, leading the singers into a frantic attempt to completely drown out the voice and performance of a fellow-tribe mate when these ancient art-form is performed as a prelude to the mating season, with each Anura demonstrating with both voice and limb, his confidence that when the people gather to spawn, his or her blood-line will find much opportunity to grow and multiply.
Each roving band of the Anura claims vast swaths of swamp as its lands. Overlapping boundary claims sometimes result in blood feuds running among the different bands,especially if the bands involved are of different genders. Since each gender considers the other to be slightly inferior,there is no possible way either band will back off since by doing so, one gender would be giving the other the satisfaction of having demonstrated its perceived inferiority. With such an overweening clash of egos in a permanent state between male and female Anura, relationships between them are often tense and chilly at best, with only the spawning lust brought on by the mating season allowing them to put aside all questions of ego and pride that arise between male and female.
The Wise Ones
Some Anura are born with special traits that allow them to live twice as long as the average Anura and are said to enter into trances that allow them to communicate with the animal nature sprites worshipped by their people. They are known as Wise Ones and are not part of any band, but instead have a small, remote community of their own along the harsh coastline of Tarrod. These gifted ones can come from either sex and upon being spawned, are immediately identified for what they are, thanks to their distinctive broader skulls and weaker limbs. They are immediately given over to the other Wise Ones to be raised as one of them. The Wise Ones possess great knowledge that even the scholars of the Eshal lack, though where they get it from is a mystery, for the Wise Ones are forbidden to speak of where their knowledge is derived from, though popular legend has it that it is obtained from the fabled Ulluuuuun that dwell in the great Ocean. Only the Wise Ones have ever spoken to these mighty water-dragons of great wisdom and knowledge, leading them an air of reverence in the eyes of their less intellectual siblings that view the sea behemoths as divinity come to guide the Anura to the true path by calling out to the seers among them.
Although Wise Ones have to leave the band they were born in, they will always see themselves as part of it. In times of crisis, the band may journey all the way to the coastline to seek the advice of the Wise One that has pledged his or her loyalty to it. And in times of death as well. Especially beloved leaders are carried to the coast upon their death, where a trusted Wise One from the tribe will cast his body into the ocean and commend the soul of the deceased to the protective embrace of the immortal Ulluuuun.
An Uncertain Future
The might of the Eshal empire however, has humbled these proud hunters and their way of life. Their beloved swamps have been seized by Eshal settlers hungry for land, forcing the Anura to abandon them and move deeper into the dry lands, where game is scarce, forcing these Anura to find themselves restricted to the few breeding pools and hunting grounds that the warriors of the Emperor have neglected to colonize. Blood feuds over limited land are more frequent. Many have died of starvation and some bands have even resorted to cannibalism.
Those tribes that banded together to push back the armies of the Eshal, ended up being butchered on the battlefield, despite their great bravery. Some of them finally realized the futility of challenging the might of the Eshal and swore allegiance to to the Emperor as his vassals and send him yearly tributes of fragrant woods, herbs and raw copper. In return, they are allowed to keep some of their lands and are spared slaving raids.
With the recent decline of Eshal power brought about by the arrival of human colonizers, Anura tribes are now beset by a new menace as the soft-skinned mammals proves themselves every bit as keen to abduct them as the Eshal. But there do exist some shrewd Anura chieftains who have begun to ponder on the possibility of forming an alliance with these new-comers with the hope of further eroding Eshal dominance.