Deep in the mountains, beyond where the trails end, one can find collossal stairways and long, cliffside roads, massive arched bridges and huge vaulted tunnels, spanning thousands of miles. These roads, though seemingly deserted, are closely watched by their creators, the reclusive and strange Iothun (“yoh-thoon”).
Iothun average around 12 to 15 feet tall. They are somewhat human-like in stature, though they also share a posture not unlike that of a gorilla, with a hunched appearance given by huge shoulders and thick bull neck, and rather long arms. Their bodies are covered in a thick pelt of hair which covers all but the face, neck, chest, and palms. Their hands and feet are large, with thick, sturdy digits. Their faces are also gorilla-like in appearance, with flat, long-nostrilled noses, slightly protruding muzzles, and small, squinting eyes. Their faces, though, have a strange human capacity about them that cannot be denied.
Iothun life is organized into tribes (called Societies) of several families each. Each family has an ancestor who is regarded as divine, and who is said to have sprung from the Origin Caves in the Heart of the World fully-formed and armed with the family’s holy items. Each family keeps these ancestors in high regard, and keep intricate and breathtaking family histories of deeds and ancestors in what is sometimes called Iothun heraldry, though this is a misnomer. These incredibly intricate patterns can only be interpreted truly by an Iothun, for their complexity rivals even the most labyrinthine of Celtic knots.
Each Society (tribe) has a totem-stone. There are Quartz Societies, Granite Societies, Jade Societies, Redstone Societies, Basalt Societies, Flint Societies- Societies for all kinds of stone near which Iothun live. The Iothun revere their Society’s totem-stone as a holy substance. They craft their ancestral plaques of this stone, and, seeking to emulate the holy mountains from which they were born, they carve Giant’s Faces from the totem-stone. These are roughly-carven facemasks, chipped from the Society’s chosen stone, which are worn by all Iothun of a given Society, except in informal occasions. These masks are carved so that from many angles, the Iothun’s face is a mass of granite, a geode of quartz, a wind-carved knob of sandstone. They are somewhat disturbing to look upon in this state, but careful examination can assure that these Giant’s Faces are merely cunning stone (These have given rise to a myth that Iothun are made of stone).
The Iothun hang these family histories as stone insets upon their armor, the famed Giant’s Mail, created by Iothun smiths in their hidden cities. The Giant’s Mail are tunics of metal scales or discs into which are sewn stone insets in the Society’s totem-stone, which are carved with the individual Iothun’s ancestral heraldry. Giant’s Mail, adorned with these heraldic plaques and embellished with tiny toolings upon the scales, is both strong and beautiful.
The Iothun cities have been seen by very few, and fewer still have lived to tell the tale. At the hub of the long mountain roads and stairs, there lie entire mountains, carved with artificial cliffs, walks, paths, and stairs, all leading to and fro across the face of the peaks, from one great stone-carven portico to the next. These porticos lie open at all times, roofed entrance-platforms to the vaulted burrow-houses of the Iothun, hewn from living rock and warmed by meager fires, for the Iothun are a most hardy folk. Any given city will hold from 2 to 6 tribes/Societies of Iothun.
Below ever Iothun city is the holiest spot of all, called the Heart of the Mountain. This miles-long vault is the location of all a tribe’s dead. The honored predecessors, upon death, are inducted into the ranks of the holy ancestors, and are carried on a long funeral procession down the endless stairs to the Heart of the Mountain. They are arrayed in a small (for a Iothun) cell carved from the mountain’s rock, where they are dressed in their finest Mail and their Society Mask. Their favored belongings are placed all about them, as well as a pot containing the spiritual food necessary for the departed to survive the journey to their Ancestors at the Heart of the World. Their bodies, sealed into the cells with walls which are carved with their personal heraldry, are slowly mummified. The Iothun revere their ancestors as holy beings who have become one with the Earth, who are present in all the stones and mountains around them.
OTHER RANDOM NOTE
The artsy style that I was going for was sort of Maya-ish in appearance- stylized, formal, with lots of glyphs, and ritual poses, and curling borders and such.
Additional Ideas (5)
I think this is more than a new species rather than a simple rework of the Giant (which has always been more of a monster rather than a society/ race).
The society reminds me of Polynesian society. So we have a clan grouping which is not a strict clan. We have legendary ancestors, who form the loa.. or spirit of the clan. These First One serve as the Archetypes for these people. Each clan will try to emulate that first one.
Most of their individual homesteads are probably similar to a nordic Long House, One giant place where they exist, around a central cooking fire. There might be small outer rooms, that enter/ exit the main room.
Cities, how will they work given the society nature?
I like the Mayan Imagry. It adds to a Bourrough-esk lost world feel.
They should have a clerical magic based upon these masked (we can borrow from Africa for a moment). Magic is enhanced by wearing the correct kind of mask.
The mountains paths should be filled giant heads. Each society marking its territory with a representation of its First One.
(I might add that they have a different ideal on how to get around. There may be giant size "monkey bars" for them to climb up or cross chasams. Poles are used as ladders. Their idea of stairs might be an artistic waterfall of stacked cubes (ala Quebert). They might be more acrobatic, despite their mass and part of their build. This makes them more than just another large humanoid).
I also find it interesting that the Iothunl live on the outside of the mountains the Dwarves live under. (Well they live mostly outside the mountain... I am sure they dig into it a small bit). There is probably some conflict between the two. Especially since the Dwarves live inside (like parasites) their holy mountains.
Human explorers enter Iothun territory and are confronted with huge, glaring stone heads, facing them down. Passing them by, the explorers are confounded by the gigantic sets of monkey-bars set into the stone!
The cube-waterfall stairway thing is interesting, but how would they do it? The Q-Bert levels are somewhat strange to build and such. I can imagine it, I guess- it would be cool.
A- "ah" or "uh"
B- As normal.
C- Only the hard sound (as in 'cat')
D- As normal.
F- As normal.
G- As normal.
I- "ee". When paired with an O ("io"), it makes a Y sound (As in Iothun, "yoh-thoon")
L- As normal.
M- As normal.
N- As normal.
O- As normal, but see letter I.
R- As normal.
S- Present but aspirated, as in Castilian Spanish (makes a soft "th" noise).
SH- As normal.
T- As normal.
TH- As normal.
W- As normal.
Yes- Sha ('shuh')
No- Tsha ('t'shuh')
Examples of Verbs:
To be- Ioti ('yoh-tee')
To work (work with stone)- Ionana ('yoh-nah-nuh')
To bury/worship/revere- Iothurge ('yoh-thoor-geh')
To carve- Ionashid ('yoh-nah-sheed')
To go/enter/leave- Ioca ('yoh-cuh')
To talk/speak- Iothuwac ('yoh-thoo-wahc')
To live- Iombaga ('yohm-bah-gah')
To conceal- Iowuthid ('yoh-woo-theed')
Examples of Nouns:
The People (Giants)- Iothun ('yoh-thoon'; singular, Ioth, 'yohth')
Ancestors- Iotithurgem ('yoh-tee-thoor-gehm'; literally 'those who are buried' or 'those who are worshipped'; singular, Iotithurge, 'yoh-tee-thoor-geh')
Heart of the World- Gemanana Ioftec ('geh-mah-nah-nuh yohf-tec')
Mountain- Cofawa ('coh-fuh-wah')
Hill-City- Cofathera ('coh-fuh-theh-rah')
Society- Iombage ('yohm-bah-geh')
Granite- Agucuma ('ah-goo-coo-muh')
Sandstone- Wicanana ('wee-cah-nah-nuh')
Redstone- Shathoiona ('shah-thoh-yoh-nuh')
Shale- Desthinuna ('dehth-thee-noo-nuh')
Thinking about the people a bit, perhaps having an Incan look to their places would be better. The Incans built in the hills/ mountains. Their architecture and works would be a good templates for their rockwork.
The Incans were expert stone masons. They could craft stones together without morter that you can not fit a piece of paper between... several centuries later. I guess living with the rocks will give you that kind of empathy with the stones.
Maybe the artwork can look Mayan, but the architecture should look Incan. Can you say manchu-pichu?