The tribes of the Great Forest are a proud warrior culture, unified only in their resistance to intrusion from outside their lands. Despite their isolationist bent, the events that have followed the Cataclysm might finally force their fierce warbands to look beyond their borders for the first time that anyone can remember. If that occurs, the armies of the other nations may be in for a surprise when the Wild arrives on their doorsteps.
The Great Forest Tribes are not one nation but many, spread over numerous tribes, family groups, and territories. The chieftains of each tribe govern their people as they see fit, although each chieftain may be bound by a different tradition. Across the whole of the Great Forest, the most constant unifying factor is not political or cultural, but a simple law of survival. When beasts twisted by Wild Magic or tribesmen devolve into monsters, the tribes must always be ready to fight.
Life in the Great Forest is shaped by the power of Wild Magic, the energy of raw and primal life. Druids guide the tribes in their rites to harness it, or simply survive it, and become respected leaders in their homes. Those who suffer more from its touch can become feral, mutated Wilders, while those who fall deep into its embrace only to overcome it with strength of will become the legendary Bear Shamans, who are masters of its power. Bear Shamans can take many forms, including that of a powerful animal hybrid known as a were-bear.
The smell of the forest filled Caedmon’s lungs as he breathed deeply of the air, but somewhere in it, there was another scent. The foul musk of a beast twisted by the Wild drifted along a distant breeze. It smelled of rotting meat, ash, and blood—the scents of the village it had slaughtered not two nights ago. The few survivors said the beast was like a great elk, but larger than any seen, and with a second head that hungered for death. Such a beast would be beyond the warriors of the Tribes, so they had called upon a force that could match it. With that thought, Caedmon the man ceased to stand in the forest, and a huge bear dropped to all fours and began following the trail of the twisted beast. If the raw Wild had birthed this monster, then a master of the Wild would slay it.
“Alric of the Red Stone tribe! Alric the kin-slayer! Stop, or we will kill you where you stand.” The voice came out of the trees around him, but the fleeing exile saw no sign of the speaker. Nevertheless, he halted, nervously. Alric cleared his throat, and tried to speak in his defense, to explain how his drunken brother has attacked him first, but only a fearful rasp came out. The hidden voice spoke again. “Your chieftain has called upon us to bring you to justice, but I do not believe his stories about what you did. Speaking with others of your tribe, I do not see any other way your tale could have played out. But there is no place for a kin-slayer in the Red Stone tribe.”
In the clearing, Alric closed his eyes, sank to his knees, and waited for death to take him. He knew the voice now, or at least its kind. It was a ranger, one of those sworn to keep the peace between clans, and to roam where the defenders of the villagers could not. The hurled spear he expected never came, however. Instead, a woman emerged from the shadowed brush, and extended her hand to help Alric back up. “There is no place for a kin-slayer in the Red Stone tribe, but there may be a place for a wronged exile in a band of rangers. Tell me…how are you at tracking?”
Once, she had a name. Once, she had a family. Once, she had a tribe. But now, she had great tearing claws, and a hunger for raw meat, but she did not have a tribe, a name, or a family. Instead, she had a pack. There were some in the pack who held onto more of their old lives, who still had names. None of them had tribes, though, and no family beyond the pack. They did have this buck, though—fresh, red, bloody meat. It smelled of…smoke? That was not right. She looked up, gazed around her, and saw the bright light of fire in the distance, in a place that she did not go, had not been before she was her. It burned. Many of the pack looked up as well, and she could see similar thoughts surfacing. That place was not home, could never be home. But it was still theirs, in a way. And it could be avenged.
For more on the Great Forest Tribes, visit the Chronicles wiki page here!