What follows is an passage from the journal of reknowned, and deceased Beastiographer Laans Torier

'Many have said the Old Men of the mountain were mere myths, or had been wiped out by the Theosians many years ago, but I am staking my reputation on the fact that they do in fact still exist!'

Three months later, the narration continues

'The Garons' Teeth are quite the inhospitable mountain range! Although the individual peaks are not terribly high, the entire range is pushed up high above sea level, so the tops of the mountains are inaccessible due to the Toxicity of the Air. (Editors note - Laan was operating under the mistaken belief, the norm at the time of writing, that air became more toxic as one increased in altitude. Alchemical studies have shown this not to be the case, but in fact due to a reduced concentration of elemental Fire...) Except for short months in the middle of summer, even the valleys are snowbound and few navigatible passes exist at the best of times.

It did not help us that owing to the current 'political instability' in Theos, we had to enter the mountain range from the least passible side - the southern edge of the kingdom of Seradard. It cost us a kings ransom to secure passage to the mountains, and then another in equipment, provisions, and mystical assistance to make progress through them.

Two hellish weeks - if one considers hell cold - passed before we had our first and only break. We found what appeared to be a ruined settlement of some kind. Now based on all histories that I've consulted, there has never been a human habitation in this region, so we investigated in detail.

The wind apparently had recently scoured the snow from the site, for it was well preserved. Old charred timbers and piled stones showed where primitive houses once stood. One structure stood apart from them all and we moved in closer to examine it. It was definitely the site of a major battle, for even now the stubs of old arrows and crossbow bolts stuck out from the wood. What followed next I would carry with me for the rest of my days..

Underneath the rubble we saw what appeared to be a large furry being pinned beneath an especially large timber. It was obviously dead - frozen sold. We had found one! One of the Asrok! And from what appeared to be ornate marks dyed into its fur, possibly one of high station! We hurried to clear the debris and take a closer look.

Alas, hindsight being what it is we should have been more careful. Though this Asrok had died many years ago, his hatred had not. Just before we finished with the last large beam, there was an odd sound - frozen flesh yielding - and suddenly the beam was swung with terrible force. Two of the hired Seradardian guides who were helping us with the process where hit by the beam and were dashed hard against nearby stone, the crunching of their bones clearly audible. In a panic we all scattered from the site as the newly risen Asrok corpse took to its feet. It dropped the bloody beam and began to advance on us. It was well that we scattered, for its speed on the snow had to be seen to be believed. Where we had struggled through the deep snow, its own feet barely imprinted it and though slow, he was still faster then us.

Two more of my party plus another of the unfortunate guides fell to the corpse before the remainder of our expedition got clear. In our hurry we had left our beasts of burden so we were ill equipped for the journey back. However, our fear of the arisen Asrok was an excellent slave driver, and we managed to escape those fell mountains with our lives...'


Overview


A species of white-furred, nearly-human primates who called the Garen's Teeth mountain range home. Sages speculate that they originally ranged far further, but human encroachment drove them into the mountains. The species seems to have a special tie to the element of fire that allowed them to live easily in even the coldest of regions.

To most observers, the Asrok appear as tall, white-furred lanky apes. The typical Asrok averages 6'5' in height and 220 lbs in weight. They have strongly sloping foreheads and prominent jaws. Their canine teeth are larger then those of humans or Alun and they share the greater number of molars that typify the Alun. Their bodies are covered by a heavy white fur. The Asrok are much are stronger then humans - more then double weight for weight. Their intelligence is inferior to both human and Alun, some suspect this is due to severe inbreeding that occurred early on in their development as a species.

The Asrok as a race is about the same age as man and are the descendants of an isolated population of Alun and are currently the only known such descendant group.

In the World of Neyathis (still very much under development) where this race is initially envisioned, Humanity and most 'traditional' fantasy races are relatively recent colonizers and did not evolve on this world. In a more earth-like worlds without mystical creation, the Asrok and the others related to them could easily be offshoots of human ancestors.

Society

The Asrok are a stone-age society organized into extended family groups or clans, with shamans, if any, serving as the chief authorities. In absence of shamans, they tend to be very disorganized. They are primarily hunters, eating what few creatures call the mountains home including mountain goats, rodents and some birds. They also eat lichens and occasionally descend into warmer climates to scavenge for food.

The Asrok are a very task-oriented people with little art to speak of - all of their material artifacts are generally their dwellings, rough stone tools and weapons. None of these bear any adornment or finishing beyond that needed to accomplish the necessary function.

They do, however, have one striking art form. The Asrok are wonderful singers and they generally will sing when doing virtually any task except battle. All of their knowledge is passed through the generations via song. In their heyday, the mountains rang with their baritone voices.

Language

The Asrok have quite advanced vocal apparatus and they are quite capable of learning languages above and beyond their own. The Asrok langauge is unusually complex and is nearly as complete as most human languages.

Magic

The Asrok are an inherently magical race, much more so then mankind or even their Alun ancestors. They draw upon the element of fire enough that with the assistance of their fur, they derive no discomfort from the cold of the mountains. Similarly, they bear a subtle but powerful enchantment which allows them to tread upon snow as if it were hard-packed earth, or slide upon it as if skiing. Apart from these abilities, only their shamans are able to draw upon magic forces more directly.

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Religion

The Asrok enjoy a very close relationship with their patron dieties. The low population of the race has also served to limit the power of their pantheon, and their gods are viewed (at best) as demons by the dieties of Human religions. The Shamans of the Asrok have moderate powers granted to them, but the age of miracles for the Asrok has long past.

The Asrok pantheon is small, consisting of four major dieties and a swarm of minor spirits:

Dieties of the Asrok

Luukos -'Father' diety

Meluuna - 'Mother' diety

Karuun - Lord of the beasts (Literally, anything non-Asrok)

Sharuun - Gaurdian of Spirits

The Spirit Hosts

In addition to the major dieties, the Asrok have hundreds of spirits tied to most animals, natural phenomena, emotions and tasks. These minor sprits are invoked in much of Asrok speech.

Burial Customs

The Asrok do not burn or bury their dead. If the death is not associated with sickness they practice ritual cannibalization. Those who die of disease or poisoning are carried out to the edge of their lands and left for the scavangers. In both cases the process is accompanied by much ritual and mourning.

The need for these rituals is so strong with the Asrok that those who die and do not have this performed are likely to raise as Eer'Shak, or 'Uneaten Ones'. This is the only known form of undead derived from the Asrok.

The Uneaten Ones

Occasionally, Asrok which have not been properly tended to after death will rise as a rare form of undead, referred to by the Asrok as The Uneaten Ones. Only those whose cause of death would constitute normal burial will rise in this manner.

They are not totally unreasoning beings - they are very angry but will generally have a solid direction for their anger. If they were deliberately denied proper burial by the Asrok for whatever reason, then they will be focused on extracting vengeance against the individuals who wronged them.

In some cases the blame for improper burial do not lay with the Asrok but as a result of outsiders. For example, when the Asrok are enslaved by a race unfamiliar with their customs, they are usually prevented by their masters from performing the proper rituals. The reasons for this include simple ignorance - dead Asrok being treated appropriate to the master's culture, ie. buried, burned, etc - or pure revulsion or disgust.

Other times, such as during caravans, etc, the dead Asrok are simply discarded by the wayside, left to the scavengers. In all of these cases, the hatred of the Uneaten Ones will be directed against the outsiders. These ones closest match the behavior of most undead, being vicious and insatiable in their desire to obtain vengence.

One factor which increases the danger these creatures pose is that their intelligence is as high as a living Asrok and so they are capable of planning their attacks. Triggering avalanches or using missile attacks are strategies well within their capacity.

The Uneaten Ones appear as Asrok corpses in whatever condition they were in when they first arose. They are often frozen solid with the limbs barely attached - held by skin, tendons and force of will. The rest of the flesh and bone generally breaks as the limbs are forced to move.

Frozen Uneaten Ones are generally quite slow and plodding but are quite resistant to further damage - they also share the Asrok mobility in ice and snow.

Plot Ideas & Campaign Use

The Asrok could be considered a remake of the Yeti and can be used to populate any cold, out of the way region.

Their situation could easily be changed to make their hold on the world less tenuous and in which case they can be used as ravening hordes decending from the mountains from time to time to raid in force.

History

The Asrok are the decendants of a tribe of Alun which was isolated by the most recent ice age. Trapped in a region which was becoming increasingly hostile each generation, they quickly adapted to the harsh conditions. It is theorised that intervention by their dieties helped speed up this process. That along with a pre-existing elemental affinity present in the Alun allowed them to survive, if not thrive.

With the passing of the ice, the Asrok were forced to migrate to higher altitudes - competition by other humanoids in the warmer lands was too fierce for them to find and adapt to warmer homes.

Early contact with the Modern races was infrequent as their homelands were remote and colder then the human-held lands.

The greatest single reduction in their population occured in modern times, when the kingdom of Theos killed nearly half of all the Asrok when creating the Boots of the Asrok. Since then, only scattered, unsubstantiated encounters have been documented.