Dwarves

The dwarves of Uhl are a chthonic, congenial lot who adhere to a lifestyle ruled by unity, strength of will, and, above all, patience. They believe in what they can see, smell, and touch, having little use for such concepts as luck or fate, and are renown throughout Uhl as master blacksmiths, armorers, brewmasters, and cooks. They take great pride in the sampling of their own creations. Dwarves favor the comforting gloom and solidness that is found underground and will never make their homes anywhere else. Dwarven families tend to be large, with four or five children being the norm. Both sons and daughters are loved equally. They have little use for reading or writing. Lore and stories are passed down through the oral tradition.

They are a short, stocky people, standing about 4 to 4 1/2 feet tall with ruddy cheeks and brown, black, or red hair and beards. Clothing tends towards the drab side as bright colors cannot be seen well in the half-lit dark of their realm and so serve little purpose.

The beard of a dwarven man is sacred and worn with extreme pride. It is a symbol of their honor, courage, and devotion. Some wear their beards braided, others loose. None shave or trim them as a general rule. Only those dwarves who have committed the most heinous of crimes are made to shave theirs off, for a dwarf who has no beard is branded an exile, one who is no longer considered dwarven. A disgraced dwarf is looked upon by his own people with disdain and contempt and, by others, with pity.

Uhl boasts seven dwarven thane fortresses. They are Rillock, Dwathenmoore, Heidelheim, Akenraen-tor, Berjendale, Merkinjel, and Brokken-tor. Only some are in close proximity to any other, but even those are separated by hundreds of mountainous miles. While each thane holds true to a set of common dwarven traditions, each has evolved their own variety of customs, rituals, and way of life. Each is ruled by a single thane lord.

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Eslar

Eslar are an ancient race whose origins are steeped in mystery and the shadows of elder times. The aura of secrecy surrounding them has remained murky over the decades because eslar lands are cut off by a variety of natural and unnatural geographic features, including the haunted Dead Lands to their north and the sitheri-infested Grimmere Swamp to the south. West lies the Merrow Woods, but there dwell the krill, who suffer trespassers only as long as it takes for them to hunt them down and kill them. While these boundaries have made eslar into a reclusive race, some do find their way to other parts of Uhl. The rare encounter with one of their kind will reveal a people that loves to laugh but that has very little sense of humor of their own. They are intelligent and industrious, as comfortable around a book of spells as they are an engineering diagram. Their melding of science, sorcery, and alchemy is said to be unparalleled.

They are unique amongst all the peoples of Uhl in that they are united under a single banner. Their kingdom is called Panthora and it is ruled by a magocracy of unknown size and make-up. Isia, their capital city, is a place of spiraling towers, magnificent domes, and vast gardens.

Tall and slim, their skin is blue-black in color, eyes are stark white with no pupils, and hair varies from rust red to copper in color. The hue of their every day clothing leans towards metallic colors and consists of long tunics or gowns, leggings, and simple shoes.

Panthora maintains a standing army of disciplined soldiers who have been known to test their mettle against warriors of the Freelands on occasion. These regulars are experts with sword, bow, and pike.

Like any people the eslar nation has seen dark days. Their darkest came with the ascension of the Masadi Order, a cadre of necromancers bent on enslaving all eslar. Had they succeeded they would have turned their attention to the other nations of Uhl. But their order was broken and scattered, their leaders killed. Many eslar maintain a vigilance to this day to make sure they never return to power again.

Goblins

Goblins are the most prolific race found in Uhl. Most dwell in the subterranean darkness of the Underland or at the highest of mountain peaks. Collectively, there are four species: gaugaths, haureks, imps, and, the smallest, grekkels. This is not a hierarchy, per se, as each prefers to exist alongside their own particular kind. But in a society ruled by brawn, gaugaths, the largest of goblin-kind, are often at the top, though haureks, with their greater cunning and intelligence, are just as often found in positions of leadership. Imps and grekkels are both the regular soldiers and spies of goblin-kind.

While there are some similarities amongst the four sub-species—they are all beer drinkers, for example—there are far more differences. Left to their own devices, they've each their own leaders, social hierarchies, taboos, rituals, and festivals. They come together beyond that only when opportunity for gain—such as a nighttime raid to the surface—presents itself.

The Underland's true vastness is unknown to any surface-dweller. It is therefore also unknown how many goblin fortifications, cities, and other settlements exist. Those that are known, namely Greth and Gugal, have been identified only because of their persistent attacks on the Four Fiefdoms and raids into the Freelands. Members of the King's Patrol watch these remote mountain fortresses closely from the frontiers of civilization. But because of the Underland's expansiveness, it is not unknown to have a goblin raiding party emerge right in the middle of a populated area. Their threat remains a constant one.

Gaugath

As the largest, strongest, and most ferocious of goblins, gaugaths could lead all others of their kind if they so chose. But gaugaths, for all their warrior spirit and battle prowess, prefer nothing more than to dwell in their mountains, cultivate their lands, and brew their seasonal beers. Of all goblin-kind, they alone do not occupy any part of the Underland, referring the highest of elevations where they can feel the coolness of the mountain breezes on their faces and, more importantly, where few will ever bother them.

Gaugaths are extremely territorial. They dwell in tribal units where the strongest of the males serves as chieftain. They are possessed of incredible strength, are savage warriors whose own stamina and bloodlust easily exceed that of the greatest of Anolgan berserk warriors, and are known far and wide as perhaps the most tenacious of opponents.

They are omnivores, feeding upon everything from berries, roots, and plant bulbs to ground dwelling rodents, moose, elk, mountain goats, and mountain sheep. They often raise the latter. A particular favorite nut of theirs are whitebark pine nuts, which they will horde when in season. With their excellent sense of smell, gaugaths can locate carrion from miles away. They have no reservations concerning eating such fare. They are not even averse to eating humanoids, though they find them inadequate morsels for the most part. They do not cook their food; their teeth and digestive systems are well suited to eating tough roots or raw meat alike.

The gaugath mating seasons runs from late spring to early summer. Males can become quite erratic during this time as they vie with each other over the rights to mate with the most select females. Birth occurs in early spring following a gestation period which coincides with the gaugath hibernation cycle.

Gaugath warriors do not use missile weapons in combat as they prefer to close with their opponents where their great brawn always gives them the advantage. They can be tactful and sly, setting traps or lying in wait in ambush when such tactics are necessary. Their weapons are large as suits their bulk. Amongst their favorites are massive iron hammers, clubs, morning stars, and flails. An unarmed gaugath is equally deadly, for they can strike with their thick claws, dealing considerable damage to unprotected flesh or simply stunning or bashing an opponent from shear force of the blow.

Armor will be varied and mostly mismatched, though the greatest of the tribe may have a full suit akin to plate mail. Their fur, thick as it is, provides fair protection on its own.

Gaugaths enjoy a good hunt as much as a good brew. Their beer—a particularly thick stout—is unpalatable to most. Even dwarves find Gaugath stout repugnant.

Grekkel

Grekkels are the smallest and most devious of the goblin races. They rely upon guile, stealth, their peculiar magical abilities, and general slyness to annoy, distract, and ultimately overcome adversaries. It is their evil dispositions coupled with their joy of creating mischief and chaos which causes people to both fear and loathe them. They are loners by nature, though they will sometimes band together with their own kind should an opportunity warrant such a union. These sorts of gatherings are always short-lived and, more often than not, end in the grekkels fighting amongst themselves as their greed and unruliness often takes precedence over all else. Grekkels may also be found serving some goblin lord, witch, or dark sorcerer, willingly accepting this role as spy and information gatherer as long as they share in the mischief. They are not fearful of magic just because it is magic, nor are they superstitious. Their humor is crude and sick, often climaxing with the death of some helpless creature. Their laughter is prolonged and hideous.

Grekkels make their lairs in the Underland or some other dark place. They abhor sunlight and will make forays onto the surface world only at night. Even then, a full moon or an abundance of bright stars will send them scurrying for shelter. They are sexless beings and do not therefore reproduce in the traditional manner. In asexual fashion, they require only a single member of their race to produce offspring. Young reach maturity in about a week's time.

They are omnivores, though they prefer meat of any kind above fruits or vegetables. They will not hesitate to eat carrion, their own kind, or any other humanoid. Though they've no use for money or jewelry, they sometimes collect shiny baubles or trinkets as they seem to be fascinated with such things.

They do not make use of armor to cover their hairy bodies, though they will use short spears or blow guns, as well as their teeth and claws, to attack the unwary. Their preferred method of assault is always from ambush, after having harassed and annoyed their prey with any number of traps, snares, and surprise hit-and-run attacks.

They stand about two feet tall and are slender to the point of being cadaverous. Their noses are long and hooked, their tails, hairless and spindly, and their arms and legs, gangly. They have only three fingers and an opposable thumb on their hands, with three toes per foot. Grekkel ears are long, flat and perk upwards. Their yellow eyes are slanted with dark, beady pupils. Their chins are long and can be curled when the grekkel so desires it. Tongues are long and skinny. Their lips are black. There exists a strain of grekkel that possess wings, or so it is said.

Grekkels are inherently magical. Their mere presence can have adverse effects: milk will sour, fruit will fall from trees, luck will be spoiled. They can weave nightmares by whispering dread things in the ears of sleepers, and can commune with flies, mosquitoes, spiders, and scorpions. They have the ability to teleport up to a distance as far as they can see. The use of this ability leaves behind the smell of brimstone. They are highly resistant to most forms of magic.

Haurek

Fierce combatants, adequate strategists, and competent craftsmen, haureks are a strong people both physically and mentally. Because they are at home either underground or on the surface and in any climate or terrain, they are the most adaptable of Uhl's races. Their preference, though, is for the shadows and half-light of the Underland where they gather together in blood clans ruled by only the most ruthless.

Extremely superstitious, haureks have great respect, and sometimes fear, for magic. Their own witch mothers are looked upon with awe and reverence. They believe that one's fate can be read in the stars or the roll of the bones. Strange happenings or an abnormality in their routine lives is often looked upon as a premonition of things to come.

Their humor is often crude and disgusting—they get as much of a laugh from a verbal joke as from the screams of their enemies as they lay writhing under the torturer's tender mercies.

Haureks are man-like or greater in size. Their skin is a parched, dark tan while eyes are yellow or green with beady pupils. Men and women alike are covered with dark, bristly hair. They employ a wide variety of arms and armor.

They prefer hard drink as a rule, often brewing their own thick ales and stouts. Their particular recipe is not highly sought after, for it takes a goblin's taste buds and stomach to properly appreciate the potent drink. Brewing is a major part of haurek society; recipes and techniques are passed down from generation to generation.

They will take slaves, often killing them when they are no longer needed. Though carnivores, they will not eat other humanoids like their smaller cousins are wont to do.

Imp

The most prolific of goblins are imps. Neither the smartest nor the brawniest, their greatest strength is their sheer numbers which they use against their enemies to harry, frustrate, and finally overwhelm them. They delight in setting traps and ambushes and have gained general notoriety as wicked creatures who delight in the spread of chaos and misery.

Unlike other goblins, imps abhor sunlight. Even the light from the moon and stars annoys them to the point where they will venture out from the Underland only when the prize is grand or the whip at their backs too painful. And if the whip fails to properly motivate them, they are easily bribed by healthy quantities of haurek ale. Imps are excellent miners and hard workers when presented with the right incentive.

Just like their larger brethren, they are extremely superstitious, and look upon events which seem out of the ordinary to be signs of things to come. Their own shamans and witch doctors, who practice their own form of crude, goblinish sorcery, are held in the highest regard.

Imps take slaves as needed, especially when they are in need of someone well-versed in some particular skill. It is rare, but not uncommon, for them to come up from their underground lairs on moonless nights of their own free will in order to raid towns and villages in search of slaves, plunder, and food. When a particular slave is no longer needed, imps prepare an extravagant feast with the slave as the main course.

Dwarf-like in stature, imps have none of a dwarf's thickness. Instead their limbs are bone thin, their necks are scrawny, and they have only the leanest of musculature. Impen eyes are white without pupils and provide them little in the way of eyesight. Instead their hearing has grown super-sensitive, compensating for their other sense's shortcomings. They typically do not wear heavy suits of armor, preferring the greater mobility advantages of loose garments or nothing at all. In battle and on raids, they wield small swords, axes, and blow guns from which they shoot poisoned darts.

Humans

The humans of Uhl are such an adaptable and resilient race that few lands or peoples have not felt their influence in some way. They are masters of their environment, dwelling in almost any locale except for the underground and that only because they have a great love for the sun and a great fear of the dark. Amongst all the people of Uhl, humans possess an unparalleled combination of determination, intelligence, and, at times, such stubbornness to put a dwarf to shame. They are expert builders, craftsmen, and farmers. Their leaders are known for their grandiose demeanor as much as for their cunning statesmanship. As soldiers, their mastery of tactics is without equal. Their cavalry is a thing to be feared on the open battlefield.

Krill

Krill are a bipedal feline race known for their reclusive nature and intolerance of trespassers. They call the vast Merrow Woods their home where they dwell in great tree villages high above the forest floor. Krill have no fear of heights and possess exceptional agility and a heightened sense of balance, so navigating the leafy branches and occasional rope bridges that make up their system of 'roads' is of no issue to them. While there are paths amongst the great trees leading from one village to another, they are rarely used as the six tribes maintain only limited communication with one another. As a rule each tribe sticks to its own dominion and affairs, involving others only when an issue is at its most critical or, because of their pride and stubbornness, not at all.

The elite warriors of the krill are the sinji. Much like the rinja of the skeva, sinji are deadly killers, expert swordsmen, and masters of hand-to-hand combat. Sinji are different from all other soldiers, though, because of the shi-ja, a ritual steeped in tradition and mystery. It is known only that once a krill has given himself to the ceremony, he or she is never the same again. The consummation of the ritual is a requirement for full enlistment in the cadre of sinji. Those who initiate this final test either emerge as a sinji warrior or not at all.

Raspel

The newcomer was revealed as Liz's raspel imperator, the one she'd called Falofogus. He was a lean, short creature, with fine silver hair on his head and cheeks, and mustard colored skin that matched the yellow patches of his tunic, but not the blue, violet, or red. Such garish outfits were the norm where raspel were concerned. People assumed they were color blind, and that their tailors liked to have fun at their expense, for surely no one would wear such an outlandish display by choice. This one set off his colorful medley with a short cape of simple black, but with a collar so high it covered half his foot long neck. The raspel strode into the lit space, promptly rounded the table with cape whirling as he dumped a collection of scrolls onto the table, and walked straight up to me. He raised his head, so that I found myself staring down into a pair of angry, green eyes set beneath the thick bone ridge that passed as a raspel's brow. - Thief's Gambit (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #5)

Long-necked with flat noses, small mouths, a thick brow ridge, and a fine layer of fur that ranges in color from silver to brown and sometimes black, Raspel hail from the Southern Reaches. Their merchants and traders frequent Uhl's marketplaces and sometimes find their operations so lucrative they take up permanent residence to better manage their enterprises. They are known as much for their exotic wares as they are for their vibrant, multi-colored clothing. Raspel are strict vegetarians. Their speech is rich with raspy undercurrents. They stand anywhere from four to six feet in height. Their feet possess three toes and hands are four-fingered. Eyes are hues of blue, violet, or green.

Sitheri

Sitheri are serpentine swamp dwellers who live in matriarchal broods deep within the Grimmere or Death's Head Swamp. Little is known of their culture or social structure other than that a single female always sits as headwoman over an individual tribal unit. By right of leadership, this 'brood mother' is the sole female granted the right to lay eggs.

There are ten known sitheri tribes. Their borders are ever-shifting, for sitheri are at constant war with one another and are territorial to the extreme. They are a ritualistic people who engage in sacrificial rites to ensure success in such things as battle, the seasonal harvest, or simply the general survival of the tribe. Though sitheri enemies are the ones who most often are sacrificed, warriors of the tribe have been known to leave the Grimmere on short forays in order to capture humans or others who are then sacrificed and eaten.

The most well known of sitheri rituals is one dictating that each young, male warrior must leave the tribe for the wider world, not able to return until the warrior has slain a hundred foes. Proof of successfully completing this rite of passage is in the form of the collecting of scalps which are attached to shoulder sashes until such time they return home to present them to their brood mother.

Skeva

Skeva, or rat-people, are the product of alchemical engineering and the magic of a witch named Ulusaba, who long ago transmutated ordinary rats into man-like creatures. Whether early skeva rebelled against their mistress or simply escaped from her is not known, but the rat-people found niches throughout the civilized lands in which to hide and proliferate until almost every major city lives with their subterranean presence. Skeva as a rule do not attempt to draw attention to themselves. While this policy has allowed them to thrive and grow strong, it does not entirely prevent the occasional surface dweller from being snatched for food or entertainment.

There is no central government or skeva nation. Rather each locale, whether in caves in the wilderness or the sewers of a city, has its own clan. These clans are led either by the strongest warrior or the wisest shaman.

Skeva stand from five to seven feet in height. Their fur is black, brown, or white with eyes that are black, red, or, in some cases, pink. Their eyesight is generally poor. To compensate for this they weave their heads from side-to-side in order to gain perspective on objects in front of them. They are color-blind. Their tails are thick and hairless and provide them with greater balance.

The best of skeva warriors belong to an elite caste known as shodeth. Known as stealthy assassins and ferocious fighters, their prowess matches that of the krill sinji.

Perhaps because of their origins, magic is strong in the skeva people. Those who have taken on the role of shaman or witch possess great attunement to the world around them.

View my gallery of skeva on Pinterest.