Beastheads

The beastheads inhabit the land to the south of the Sea of Turfrae. There are three kinds: the cattleheads, who are herders of cattle, horses, goats and sheep, sometimes nomadic but often in fixed pasturelands; the dogheads, who are farmers and occasionally fishers; and the catheads, who are hunters, messengers and warriors, helping to protect the settlements of the other two kinds and the camps of the nomadic cattleheads.

The whole society was designed by a team of elves led by Kulendal, a Mengele-like experimenter who was also responsible for Breeze Ashgrove and Wave Rocky Islet's peoples.

Beasthead society is largely peaceful and stable, thanks to the code known as vel. Vel is not just a set of laws, but a way of life and behaviour covering every aspect of being a beasthead. The advent of the "flatfaces" from Denning and Koskant threatens to disrupt vel, and provokes intense debate over what it is and is not and whether it can adapt to new circumstances.

The beastheads were created to renew land damaged in an ancient war, again guided by vel and the lifemagic the elves imparted to them. They have been doing this ever since Empire times, slowly moving westwards. They were also expected to supply food to the Isle of Turfrae when it was the imperial capital, and continued to do so even after it was taken over by humans, though the trade stopped for a while as the human population of Turfrae diminished to the point where the island became self-sufficient. More recently, with the foundation of the College of Ancient Turfrae and the westward expansion of the beastheads, trade has resumed, not without tensions with the Human Purity movement based on Turfrae.

The beastheads are not usually animalistic, but under great stress they can enter a state known as och, in which the mind of the beast becomes dominant. Those who are unable to control their och are exiled.

Beastheads oathbind only to their own kind (cattlehead, doghead or cathead), since the three kinds are not interfertile. Inevitably, couples do form between members of different kinds, but it is socially frowned upon as not in accordance with vel. The word for such a couple is charha, and it is considered a term of contempt. Other kinds of unions which cannot be fertile are also called charha (such as same-sex couples). Couples of the same kind who happen not to be fertile are not considered charha, but pitied as unable to fulfill a part of their vel, namely the raising of children.

The beastheads do not have any gnomes or dwarves among them (the land has no mineral deposits to speak of), and do not work metal themselves, so they eagerly trade for metal tools. Their own tools are made from hardened wood, stone, or a kind of ceramic worked by magic so that it will take an edge and not shatter easily.