Thenigmas is not a planet you would like to visit on a holiday. Everything about the place is violent — earthquakes, volcanoes spewing ash and lava, and fierce tribes that are at war with each other. Mirrortac comes here through the portal connection to his home planet of Mareos, but it is not through his own volition. Nevertheless, he needs to be there as this is where the second Stone of Destiny, Darm, is hidden. This planet is so vast and complex that Mirrortac’s experience of it only touches on a few tribes in the central western sector. Thenigmas thus also features in another novel I am working on, but that is for later. I will discuss all the tribes and their lifestyles here:
NORTHERN TRIBES OF THE FOREST OF TREACHERY
Haks, Futs, Teks and Woks
All the woodland tribes are fiercely territorial but do not indulge in raids of other tribes. They wear animal skins for warmth against the cold seasons, and hunt with the use of bow and arrows. Each tribe has its own identifying arrow design and utilise various poisons to quickly disable the animal or man as the case may be. Food consists primarily of small and medium sized animals up to the size of a deer. Other foods include various herbs, roots and leafy plants; refreshments are from the juices of various plants and include an intoxicating drink made from fermented fruits of the forest. Almost without exception, all intruders are killed and eaten after they have been basted in herbs and roasted in hot ashes underground. Men and women are likewise long haired with hairy bodies and pale tan skin. They are as tall as an erfin (short) and of like build with flat noses. Men exhibit small beards but are the same height as the women. They are agile climbers and build raised huts made of slender tree stems and thatched pine needles. Tribes distinguish themselves by the style of hair which may be tied back in a specific manner.
TRIBES OF THE PLAINS
Zidites, Shrones and Bluves
Zidites: This tribe lives on the edge of the Slosh of Sour (see map above) and the Plain of Scorched Flesh, and ride the plain on a horse-like creature, the Parduk. They wear hide armoury and hunt the large herd animals of the plain with sickle-shaped weapons made of sharpened Mamorf bones which they use to cut the animal’s throat while riding alongside on their parduks. They can also use these as weapons against other tribes they may encounter on the plains. Competition for food animals against other tribes results in constant battles between the tribes. Other tribes-women are also kidnapped and taken as their own and vice-versa. Thatched grass huts are built in the village of Zid. Food is solely meat, including bones and innards, and warriors prize the heart of their victim — animal or man — which is eaten raw fresh after the kill. All Zidites have shaved crowns of their heads. This is a light tan skinned tribe. Fresh blood and water are the only drinks they partake of.
Shrones: This tribe lives farther west and up the coast alongside the plain. They also ride parduks and live in thatched grass huts at their home village of Shron. They wear animal hide armoury marked with the insignia of two parduk shoes crossed at their apexes and also a helm of cranium hide with inward curled horns. Their chief weapon is a wide-bladed bone dagger which they use in a thrusting action while leaping off the backs of parduks to kill their victims. The men are bearded with almost shoulder length hair. They eat the meat of animals but detest the flesh of their enemies, lest they be despoiled by inferior blood. They are also fishing people who build natural fish traps using the tide to advantage. They use reed canoes to cross over to the island of Woin where they invade the people there in an age-old rivalry going back many generations. They drink the milk of domesticated animals and have a liking for an intoxicating beverage made solely by the Woineks.
Bluves: These are a black-skinned race who inhabit the hot northern part of the plain at the foot of two volcanoes — Grorl and Somok. They wear metal breastplates and short leather skirts, hunting on foot. They use a range of metal weaponry forged at volcano fed furnaces. They have long ponytails stemming from otherwise bald heads, and are tall and lithe, with little body hair. They use spears to kill the animals of the plains but have wicked little daggers which they store in their ponytails, and can draw them swiftly to finish off an enemy. They are often at war with the Clunuks to the north of them who always try to steal their food, women, weapons and whatever they can get their hands on. They live in clay huts and eat the meat of animals as well as a kind of bread made by their women. They drink the blood of their victims as well as milk and a floury gruel like porridge.
Warriors of Ning, Huds and Clunuks
Clunuks: The Clunuks are a dark-skinned tribe who inhabit the hills of the Tor of Clun. They have long waxy black hair and wear headbands and spiked anklets. They armour themselves with sleeveless mail shirts with an undershirt and tailed into a skirt of light leather. They often hunt and raid under the cover of darkness, and are discreet and treacherous in their movements. They are notorious thieves, and will steal the enemy’s metal, including weapons and armour off those they have killed in battle, then smith the metal into their own weapons and armour. Their weapons include crossbows, swords and daggers. They inhabit homes made of layered stones transported from the nearby hills, and their food includes animals of the plain, various wild vegetables and wildfowl. They drink a variety of vegetable juices and a steamed leaf tea with a certain narcotic quality that promises to heighten the warrior rage.
Warriors of Ning: Perhaps the most feared tribe in Thenigmas because of their slave animals — the giant insectoid Gnax which they use to ride the skies from their homeland in the Hills of Ning in the far eastern quarters of the world, to swoop upon their enemy, the Huds, in the Hills of Crush. Generations of tribal hatred stand between the two tribes who battle on without end; their whole purpose bent on war. The women are left to hunt for food while the men go out to battle, returning only to recover from injury and gather more food supplies. Women hunt the giant creatures in the country north of the Hills of Ning and the volcano, Qaja, that provides the furnace fire for forging helms and the solid metal balls slung at the enemy with sling-shots made from bone and animal sinews. Male smiths operate the forges and also teach the young men to be warriors. These are a dark-skinned but hairy tribe who wear helms with slightly curved horns. They are loud and raucous, fight hard and play hard. Women are expected to be mated early, and to give birth to many sons and daughters, as both ensure a constant supply of warriors for battle where losses are great despite their aerial advantage. A number of domesticated animals are kept to provide milk and eggs; and vegetables are grown to save time in searching for food. They value the heavy mineral waters of nearby springs for drinking and also have a variety of juices.
Huds: This tribe lives in the Hills of Crush in the south and must battle on two fronts, but mainly against their most hated enemy, the Warriors of Ning. Their reply to the slung metal balls from their insectoid riding enemy is to use catapults armed with oil soaked stones set alight and shot at the gnax which are often severely burnt in flight, thus forced to ground where their Ning riders can be killed. The Huds also use the huge Mamorfs to pull their platforms constructed on rounded boulders which offer a vantage point for battle and to literally crush any enemies. The Huds use a variety of metal weapons, including sling-shots and spears. They are similar in appearance to the Warriors of Ning but go naked except for leather loin cloths, and instead of armour, use heavily studded metal shields to ward off shot. Their women collect a variety of water plants from Heathens Sunk in the north and will also hunt with spears for herd animals on the plain if there are none to be found in the hills. The women are also fierce warriors and can take care of themselves against men from other tribes wanting to have their own way with them. A particular bulb collected at Heathens Sunk has highly potent properties and is used as a smoke or in a narcotic drink.
TRIBES OF THE DEVOURING ISLES
Shrids, Ashes and Ihaytites
These closely related tribes are perhaps the most beautiful in appearance as their bodies are deeply tanned, slim but strong, and with little hair over their naked skin. They have multi-pronged spears for fishing and wear no clothes bar ornaments such as shell necklaces, metal earrings and circlets around arms and legs. They live on fish and fruits of the islands, and use outrigger canoes made out of carved out tree trunks. The tribes keep an uneasy peace with one another, killing any who cross the boundaries between their home island and the neighbouring ones. There are no raids but frequent skirmishes in the waters between the islands. Island chiefs can start a war if they feel their tribe has been compromised by the actions of individuals in other tribes. Rising populations strain at relations.
The prince immediately selected some of his archers and hurried them to the opening. They moved with hesitation and as the first of them stepped out onto the bough, there was a sudden roar issued from the side, out of sight. The archer swung around and cried out in alarm. The wedge-shaped head of a snerk shot out of the gloom, striking the branch with a sharp blow. The he-faug lost his balance and fell over backwards. His bow slipped from his hands; his wings flapping up vainly, propelling him down into the waiting jaws of another snerk positioned beneath him. The faug’s squeal was cut short with a terrible crunch of bone. There was a quick retreat as the archers rushed for shelter. The topmost snerk curled its neck around and hissed at them through the opening.
‘Shut the gateway!’ shouted the prince.
The door-faugs fumbled at the timber in their haste to push it shut. The snerk roared its defiance, its glassy eyes searching out the erfin, its tongue lapping at the timber of the doors. The door-faugs pushed the doors towards each other, closing the gap. The snerk charged the entrance, ramming into the doors with its huge head. The faugs were thrust back and scuttled with the impact. Mirrortac stared up at the snerk’s nostrils and the fork of its leathery tongue as it flipped through the opening.
Chen motioned to more of his he-faugs to assist. ‘Quick! Help them. Shut the gateway!’
More faugs stepped up to the doors and pushed them back into the looming head of the snerk. The serpent forced the gap. More faugs joined in the effort but the snerk was too powerful. The Yu-wood buckled under the pressure and faugs slid across the floor as the monster pushed its way in. The snerk’s cold gaze rested upon Mirrortac and it issued a long slow hiss. The prince looked at the erfin with agitation, waiting for him to act.
‘Why do you wait, Mirrortac? Speak the words. We are in peril!’ he pleaded.
Mirrortac spoke without shifting his eyes from the snerk. ‘I do not know the words any longer. You must all leave. It is me they want.’
The prince was horrified. ‘You could not have forgotten the words. You must say them, Now!’ he urged.
Mirrortac swivelled around, snatched a bow and arrow from one of the archers and lifted it to his eye. He asked for a second arrow and nocked it alongside the first. The prince shook his head. ‘You are possessed!’ He made a movement towards the erfin to snatch him away to safety but stopped in his tracks, distracted by a flash of light that seemed to come from the erfin’s side. He caught sight of the feather tucked into his belt and stared at it with disbelief. He did not know whether it was a trick of the light but he could have sworn that it was glowing softly. The snerk pushed open the doors fully, rattling with menace; its eyes fixed on the erfin.