North East of the Green Chalice, lies a forest wholly unlike anything seen in the old world. This forest is completely and utterly devoid of trees. In their stead grows an enormous mass of thickets, brambles and gigantic nettles. It is here, in the Great Tangle, that the loxosceps dwell. An adult stands at the menacing height of four foot six, maximum. Their fat black palps bear imposing fangs a centimeter in length, and their eight, beady eyes glow with the fires of a peaceful, slow, curiosity.
Above all, the people of the Great Tangle are passive, their lives revolving around their stomachs and their love of music. Each young loxling is fostered into a particular school of music at their coming of age ceremony, roughly 7 years after birth. Until then, they study in a wide range of musical styles, all revolving around the fiddle - or rarely, other stringed instruments. Their stomachs come into play both in their refusal to eat anything but live meat, and the internal production of “loxoscep pearls” hard, shiny, red stones anywhere from a centimeter to an inch in diameter. These pearls aid in the digestion of their meals, and, once expelled, are used by these people of the Great Tangle to produce their famous jams, - unbeknownst to many a man who buys them - as well as Saps and Blackjacks.
These pearls are a tough, nacreous substance not unlike the pearls of molluscs, but they can be cooked down to a soft, tapioca like consistency when placed over a low heat for the whole of a day. Any quicker and the pearls have a habit of crumbling, or at the very least losing their creamy, delicate, orange-like flavor. Beyond their delicious - if disgusting - uses, loxoscep pearls are also highly valued by alchemists. It is said that no better reagent exists for the creation of invisibility potions, and rumors abound that the forest folk themselves use the pearls in the creation of deadly toxins.
Loxosceps are not particularly fond of clothing, they are, however, obsessed with hats. In fact, it is not uncommon for a loxoscep that has left Great Tangle to wear entire stacks of hats, each hat more gaudy than the last. They are also very proficient at jumping, however, a fact that often leads to the headgear of an escaping loxoscep to litter the ground it leaps over. In recent years, younger loxosceps have developed a taste for masses of tangled scarves around their short, barely existent necks. Though they have no vocal apparatus capable of emulating human speech, they can be quite deft communicators through written languages.
If not for their penchant for music and their gifted salesmanship, loxosceps would be all but barred from human interaction - if for no other reason than their acrid, metallic smell and eerie arthropoid movements. Even so, their history is not free from conflict with other races. Though many years have passed, they have not forgotten about the attempts at genocide that kings of the past have made, or the burnt and salted swaths of their bracken jungle that still scar the edges of the Tangle. Were they able, it would not be unlikely that a great war of revenge between them and the men of the south would brew.
Though they age quickly in their youth, the average lifespan of a loxoscep is over two-hundred years, allowing many of the forest folk remember the last incursions of man into their home first-hand. Despite a generally gregarious outward demeanor, more than a few harbor a deep-seated resentment for human beings. Though they are seen in the great cities of man where they come to play and trade as urbane - if somewhat strange - the rural towns along the edges of the Great Tangle. In these places, much livestock has gone missing, and in recent years, even the corpses of missing children have been found hanging, poisoned and battered in trees outside villages.
Indeed violence between the two races has begun to increase in the last decade. Many rumors point to a mysterious prophetic figure in loxoscep mythology, supposedly returned from thousands of years spent sleeping in the center of the tangle. Many a man knowledgeable on the subject claims the figure is merely an imposter, a loxoscep druid inciting violence against the nearby border towns. But this is an easy supposition to make from the ivory towers of a wizarding college, far away from the twisted nettles of the forest folks’ home, and the difficult to scry Tangle has been getting darker even to the most skilled magical eyes of late.
- A young girl in the village of Newsteppe goes missing. The villagers immediately leap to accusing the loxosceps on the edge of the forest, and are prepared to hang one up by his ratty nest of scarves. However, some of the more level-headed townsfolk suspect a band of kidnappers. Was it the tangleman? Is the sheriff involved in a conspiracy against the loxosceps? Only the heroes’ dedicated gathering of evidence can uncover the truth, and they must race against the executioner’s clock.
- Tasked by an alchemist with obtaining a bushel of loxoscep pearls, the heroes must brave the edges of the Great Tangle. But monsters and bandits are the least of their worries. Resentful forest folk at the behest of an unseen master are stalking them through the bracken intent on killing or imprisoning them. Will they be overcome? What do the dark shamans of the people of the flute want with them? Their blood, their servitude, or merely their suffering?
- On the edges of the slums, the heroes encounter the haunting music of a fiddling loxoscep bard. If they stay and listen to his playing, he tasks them with finding him rare heartwood from the depths of a magical forest so that he may construct a new instrument.