Taqukaq's Trading Post
Felim collapsed into the snow, exhausted. It felt like it would be the last fall this time, his limbs stiffening and flesh numb. The adventurer had heard of natives that thrived out here, men who slew bears and made coats of seal fur. But who could build anything out here...?
Just as he felt light start to fade, Felim cast his gaze up to see the sky one last time. He was startled - or would have been, if his body had the energy - to see a furred hood and a leathery face with a toothless grin. 'Ho there, brother!' it spoke. 'You came to just the right place.'
Given the typical housing of the native peoples of the icy wastes, Taqukaq's post is unusually large and lavish. It seems to appear from the white haze as though a mirage, a smallish but sprawling sort of structure of many hides piled into mounds. The entryway is a hole dug into the icy and snow, covered by a bearskin for a door. The only hint of the place's identity is a organized pile of square stones, stacked into the rough outline of a man, draped in a wolf skin like a cloak with the head as a hood.
The interior is styled in a sort of spartan luxury. The floor is packed snow, the walls carved from ice blocks with rawhides as a roof. The structure is supported by ice block pillars and archways of whalebone. The building is roughly cruciform: the left branch is a store room with many skins, barrels, and dugout holes acting as larders; the right is a bedding area, covered in skin blankets; the rear features a crude counter made from ice blocks tended to by Taqukaq, and behind that is a wider area that appears to be Taqukaq's home, with bedding area and a small fire beneath an opening in the skins as a chimney.
Finding the Trading Post
Though it's not unusual to find native trading posts on the borders of more settled lands, Taqukaq's place is by all accounts deep into the tundra. The land is uncharted by all, even the natives. Here great beasts dwell, enough to drive off most native hunters, and the average merchant has neither the knowledge nor patience to go so deep. How does Taqukaq's enterprise manage to stay open? For one, his wares are by far the best. Taqukaq and his band of hunters always seem to find the best game: bearskins with fur white as the winter sun, walrus ivory long as man's arm, whale blubber rendered to oil that burns pure and slow. Taqukaq is also renowned for knowing information few others do; he seems as much a part of the northern environment as the wolf or the tern. Those who seek such goods and knowledge are often either great adventurers or the hirelings of powerful lords - both of which carry a multitude of interesting goods.
So how to find the trading post? Ask someone who has made the journey and returned successfully and you're likely to get different answers. Follow the Frozen River north until you see the White Escarpment? Leave the Taiga north of Thordar until all is ice? Traverse the Blue Glaciers into the Black Valley until nightfall? With no sure path, the adventurer takes a certain risk when making the trip. However, there are others that say you don't find Taqukaq - Taqukaq finds you. More than a few travelers have found Taqukaq by chance and just in time, as the cold began to set in earnest and the light dimmed beyond hope. The friendly and reassuring grin of Taqukaq has greeted many on the door of death, thankful for his insulating furs and warm fire.
Once safely inside Taqukaq's igloo-tents, travelers are greeted with the warmest place this far north. The furs and ice blocks make for a surprisingly warm hut, necessitating the shedding of outer clothing that one would normally keep in a standard winter tent. For a merchant, Taqukaq is a warm host, freely offering his fur-lined room for rest with a cut of roasted walrus meat and a cup of fresh seal blood. Before getting to any talk of trade, Taqukaq likes to sit down and hear tales - any kind, really. He and the native hunters that often bunk with him love a good story, and whether its one's personal tale, regional fairy tales, pious gospels, and all else are listened to with appropriate dedication. Taqukaq likes to tell stories himself, usually ribald jokes and local myths. A treat is for he and his hunters to perform the Kargyraa, traditional throat singing, its haunting drone echoing off the ice block walls. It's no wonder that Taqukaq's hospitality is as fabled as much as his mercantile goods.
Fur Trade and Beyond
Once everyone is fed and happy, Taqukaq is ready to deal. His most popular stock are furs, practically a currency of the north, and his are certainly the finest. Any local creature - seal, walrus, bear, wolf, even mammoth and great cat - seems to have its flesh dealt here. Ivory, both walrus and mammoth, is also popular, some of it carved into beautiful shapes and figures. More practical travels supplies like dried meat and whale oil are also offered. Others come exclusively to get a piece of information: the best fishing spot in the tundra, an enchantment only his people know, even the secrets to Kargyraa. Taqukaq seems a master in the strange tongue of the wilderness.
In exchange, Taqukaq trades for the really unusual and unique. Magic clothing, enchanted musical instruments, and exotic jewelry are among his favorites, but he also will take personal items of great value: a grandmother's ring, the amulet from a spouse, the only cloak that made it out of the village fire. Taqukaq seems to value these above all else, even goods that seem to be of more monetary value. He makes his deals insistently, though not aggressively.
While he seems a simple if exceptional native of the tundra, Taqukaq and his hunters are more than they appear. Centuries ago, beyond the ken of mortals, the natural spirits of the icy wastes fought a civil war. The traditionalists insisted separation from mortal society, treating them as invaders to be wracked with all the powers of the tundra. A dissident group of younger spirits wanted to have direct interaction with the mortals, fascinated by their simple magics and personal dramas. A schism split the northern spirit tribes, expelling the dissidents from the heavens in hopes they would be forced to see the error of their ways among humans.
Taqukaq was the leader of this radical group, and now he haunts the arctic lands with his hunters seeking interaction with the mortals who tread his lands. Many of the natives worship the traditional spirits, and shy away from Taqukaq as a devil, but non-natives are not privy to this history and are thus drawn to Taqukaq's wiles. He hunts the great beasts like a mortal and offers trade mostly for the pleasure of interacting with others. As a spirit, he can see the simple and natural magics that flow through the world - hence his love of personally valuable goods.
The feud in the spirit world continues, so Taqukaq must not tarry in one place. Instead he roams in ghostly form until he comes upon those who seek him, when he materializes with his shelter. He often waits until mortals are half-dead before rescuing them, loving their thankfulness and taking the chance to admire their form. He is thus a benevolent spirit of a sort, while not hesitating to take his own worth through the trade of the goods that fascinate him.
Knowledge of the North - The players are tasked with finding secret knowledge known only to the northern tribes. While no one in the igloo village they stop at has the answer, a persistent rumor of Â sends them into the deep tundra. No matter whose directions they follow, they will find nothing until they reach exhaustion brought on by the powerful cold. Taqukaq rescues them and brings them to his post. They will have to entertain the merchant with stories before he's willing to discuss trade (this could be a good session to build character and reminisce). In the end, Taqukaq is willing to offer the occult knowledge, but only at the price of the items most beloved by the PCs, magic or not.
Spiritual Warfare - The party catches wind of a rumor: the famed Taqukaq, rare tradesman of the far tundras, seeks great warriors to share their tales, secrets - and arms. The folk in the north are deathly quiet on the matter, so the PCs decide to seek out the man himself. After they (eventually) find their way into Taqukaq's post, they must convince the hunters - who seems uncharacteristically on edge - that they are warriors worthy of his call. If successful, Taqukaq will reveal his true being to them as an exiled spirit. The Kuurngaq - bodiless nature spirits who dwell in this realm - have decided to bring justice on Taqukaq and his hunters for their companionship with mortals. They harass him at every turn, and Taqukaq fears they may imprison him deep below the frozen sea for his humble crime. The party and Taqukaq must put their heads together to find sanctuary, salvation, or retribution for his little enterprise.
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? Responses (6)
Update: Any suggestions before putting this one to print?
I'm a big fan of seemingly incongruous locations in an otherwise wasteland. It has that sinister arctic flavor hidden behind a veil of the commonplace. I can see a Cthulhu mythos short-story starting out this way...
I really like this one. He reminds me in a way of Tom Bombadil. I like how warm the character is.
A solid 4 for you my good sir!
I agree with valadaar, he does seem to be a very warm character.
Could also be an interesting place to start an adventure, with maybe a few of the characters already there and another couple having just arrived.
Thanks for this creation Dozus.
I like him, you can chose to keep the errant spirit aspect and play him up as the Tom Bombadil of the Tundra or you can drop it completely and have an excellent northern merchant character.
I would give him a stamagast as a companion