Questions of the visiting Druid
“Who the bloody hell are all these people?”
The four tribes of the earth goddess are threatened on all sides, with the constant risk of the Fomorians sweeping down from the icy north, the Drune Lords encroaching from the South and the ravages of the berserkers of Midguard coming form the east.
The Earth Goddess tribes are also known as the northern tribes, or as the Tuatha Dé Danann (the ‘People of Danu’). Danu is the name of the great goddess they all revere; who gave birth to them all and who will one day received them all into everlasting sleep. She is served directly by a sect of hierarchs known as Druids, placated and sacrificed more secretively by witches and simply worshipped by every other member of the tribes.
The Sessair are one of the most feared tribes in all of T’ír nan Órgh. They are famed for deliberately attempting to receive wounds (in combat) in order to prove how tough they are. Their ancient city, Murias, is just to the north of the Inland Sea, on the west bank of the River Dôn. The Sessair are feared for their particularly fierce Red (violent) Branch, an elite warrior band who are at the front of all their charges. Sessair Red Branch warriors are initiated at the Great Cairn in Ériu, a site sacred to both the Danu the Earth Goddess and Lú the Sun God.
The Finians are the northernmost of the tribes of the Earth Goddess. They tend to be dour and taciturn. Long years of vicious battling with the Fomorians have taught the Finians to endure great hardships and they are well used to surviving an entire military campaign on a handful of oats and the occasional turnip.
The Fir Domhain, known as the ‘tribe of growling shields’, occupy the central territories amongst their kin. Thus they are in constant contact (conflict) with the Drunes to the South and the Midguarders to the East. They regard titans as a pest, rather than a real enemy and organise titan hunting parties as social events.
The ‘Tribe of the Shadows’ have suffered greatly from attacks by the Drunes who have been draining the earth power from under them and have left some of their lands sour and infertile. The Shadows paint themselves and their gear black and only conduct war at night. Their decline is exacerbated by their long and vicious war against the usually peaceful Avancs (beaver people) who inhabit the marshes and the inland sea. Their attacks on the Avancs have left them under a curse from the Moon Goddess, which is perhaps why they can now only operate at night.
Yes, Danu the Earth Mother has many aspects, as Danu herself she is the goddess of the fertility of all things, men, women, plants, animals and even the land itself. Morrígan, the Crow, goddess of war and bloodshed, whose sphere of influence includes both war (righteous or legal killings), mass killings (battle or massacre) and murder (secret or illegal killings). Brigit is the Goddess of fire, both as a tool (she first showed man the secrets of smelting ores into usable metals) and inspiration (she governs the tales of bards, told around campfires and in feasting halls and by extension thereof, all songs). Ceridwen, the Moon Goddess who governs time and minds. Each of these three also represents an aspect of female sexuality and the female psyche which men do not understand. The Moon Sow is a manifestation of Ceridwen as wary or possibly enraged mother figure.
“You have no formal trading culture, how do you value things?”
They don’t. The tribes live by subsistence farming and such trade as occurs is done on a barter basis. There appears to be no consistent or equitable system of taxation, indeed much of the time there appears to be no taxation at all, only the sequestering of goods by those in power. Commerce, as an activity in its own right, doesn’t happen, none of the tribes generate enough economic activity to support a mercantile class - there is too much infighting between the tribes.
Having worked all that out by reading between the lines of the Druid’s answers, the basic unit of exchange is the sét. A sét is an iron bar weighing about 5lbs. Cattle are a more usual sign of wealth, being more abundant and self transporting (although they cannot be buried for later collection without loosing a lot of their value), and possibly self multiplying. One cow is usually worth two séts. If smaller denominations are needed, pigs and chickens are used.
For high value transactions, such as real estate deals or the fixing of a noble warrior’s sarhead (honour-price), it is calculated in cumnals. A cumnal is a female slave. A cumnal usually equates to three cows.
The tribes of the Drune Lords and some of the tribes of Lyonesse also use coins struck from gold . This is a very recent innovation and most of the populations of the tribes of the Earth Goddess will struggle with the concept, even if they have heard of it. For them, gold is a sacred metal (to Lú) and suited to jewellery and magic, rather than something as rude as trade.
The various economies of T’ír nan Órgh are constantly in flux, having no defined standards anyway; A period of war and uncertainly is no more destabilising here than in the PE, possibly less so. Everybody is expected to haggle and the value of everything is set by what the potential purchaser is willing to pay. Even in the most stable and mercantile of situations, the relative value of cattle, cumnals and séts depends on the size and quality of each, along with their general availability and of course, usefulness to either party.
Rough guide: 1 Cumnal = 3 cows = 6 séts = 12 pigs = 72 chickens.
“Gold is the sacred metal of Lú then?”
Yes, as silver is of Ceridwen. Lú is the Sun God. The god of bountiful harvests and of sun-ripened corn. The god of the warmer months, not the cold, dark, wet ones. He is the god of conquest, of rulership, of dominion over the land, and of bringing light into places that were dark. He is the wisdom of kings, the valour of warriors and song in every man’s heart.
“The warriors appear to have some very nice iron and flint weapons”
Kamilata, conversationally fishing for information
Iron weapons, despite their becoming blunted and bent through use, are superior to copper and bronze ones . Flint is harder and sharper, but it’s harder every year to find a really skilled knapper who can make a truly effective weapon . The arts of smelting and smithying are regarded here as obviously magical, so it may be that a lot of the forged items encountered are a little bit special.
Thallums can be made by anyone who has previously been shown how to make one (it’s a crafting skill). It involves mixing brains and the flesh of the head with lime and setting the whole until it becomes like concrete. [The ancient Kea used to do the same thing, possibly after learning it off the troglodytes; the legend is that they are potent magical weapon when used against the relatives of the person from whose head the weapon is made.]
Most warriors do regard their own blades as magical (hoping never hurt) and believe that they have formed a mystical bond with them. They give their weapons bloodthirsty sounding names. Druids only class such weapons as ‘named’ if there was an elaborate naming poem, composed by a bard. This blurring of the mundane and the mystical seems to be par for the course in T’ír nan Órgh.
Most warriors carry only two or three weapons, this may mean they are more proficient with them. Bronze helmets seem to be available, but uncommon. Shields are commonplace. The usual weapons are spears and javelins. One type, the gáe bolga, appears to be a ritual weapon with a set number (thirty) of large barbs along most of its length. Bows are simple lengths of wood with none of the crafted, powerful, heartwood types found on Oerick. Arrows are simple sharpened sticks or flint tipped. Thus the missile weapon of choice is the sling. Massed slingers seem to be the main siege weapon.
[Most of the weapons and armour carried by the PCs is of mild steel or an alloy with a high chrome content. Even your mundane arrowheads present a major technological advantage; composite bows, which with the wind in the direction can fire over 300m, are likely to be a huge shock to the populations of Tir Nan Órgh.]
Organisation and deployment – There is a class, effectively the nobility, who have horses to ride, but fight on foot. Their profession appears to be as some sort of warrior or champion, they function as a small cadre or elite when a tribe mobilises. If someone has a sword or a helmet then they are most likely from this group. Most of the foot soldiers are also subsistence farmers and therefore have other skills to offer the tribe. Normally these men would be doing other things, rather than following their martial masters, thus it is without question that you have arrived during interesting times. The warbands would term these two groups as ‘noble warriors’ and ‘tribal warriors’ respectively.
There are also bands of mercenaries wandering about, formed largely of younger noble warriors who otherwise would have no means of economic support (or meaning) . These come close to being ‘soldiers’ although are still prey to their tribal eccentricities, rather than being subject to proper military discipline.
“What is Earth Power?”
Earth Power is the magic of T’ír nan Órgh, Flowing through men, beasts, rocks and plants. [The Druid doesn’t mention the elements, from which the Sindalië believe all those things are made, but aside from that the answer makes sense.] It rises up from the earth and beams down from the sun. For generations, the tribes have been able to tap into the EP and use it for their own purposes. It is simply a tool and can be used for good or evil.
All sentient creatures have EP flowing through them. [So far, this more or less mirrors you understanding of the Essence Flows of Oerick.] Creatures can be sacrificed, using certain rituals, which will release the EP currently within that creature for immediate use. [This is a huge difference, and quite beyond your experience. On Oerick, it’s conceivable, but you have no idea of how it would work, even on a vague theoretical level.]
Certain places will sap EP. The Sourlands are vast tracts of wasteland made infertile by the Drunes draining away all the EP and using it in vile rites to their Gods, Crom Cruach and Carnun. As a druid uses EP, it is normally replaced from the environment, in the Sourlands, this will not happen.
Other places can boost EP, allowing the Druids to channel much more than they normally could. These are usually temples to the deities that the practitioner worships, or at weirdstones to which the practitioner is attuned. [The unspoken implication is that it’s certainly not the done thing to attune oneself to weirdstones which already have an ‘owner’.] EP also flows as it does on Oerick, to sacred sites at certain times of year, at religious festivals and, unlike on Oerick, in towards battle fields (must be something to do with the blood).
Blood is a rich source of EP, with that of great heroes being greater yet. It is fairly common for both witches and Druids to sacrifice animals and humans to raise EP. Various feats can be learned to allow a spell-caster to tap into such sacrifices and either draw the EP for their own use or to ‘charge up’ a weirdstone.
Spell-casters can, in extremis, spill their own blood, although obviously this is risky and damaging. The only possible reason for this you can figure out is if the spell-caster needs to power a weirdstone for some reason and only knows how to charge it by a blood sacrifice. [In Oerick, a few hours work would allow even a Greyrobe to find a way to charge an item without such dangerous practice.] Other freshly spilled blood could also be used, if one knows the rituals.
Another way to raise EP is to sacrifice by ritually destroying items of use or beauty. Usually by bending them to uselessness and then throwing them into especially consecrated bodies of water.
Spell-casters in T’ír nan Órgh appear to suffer from burnout and other power related mishaps in the same manner as those in Oerick.
“Crom Cruach and Carnun?”
Crom Cruach the great devourer worm who is destined to eat the entirety of creation. Carnun the beast god, patron of male virility/fecundity, hunting, animals and wild places/things.
“What is this mad obsession with menhirs?”
Thranduil’s blurted out question
Drunes in particular specialise in the use of weirdstones to drain and store EP. A weirdstone is any piece of rock or stone that has been crafted for a particular sorcerous purpose. Most are used sparingly to gather EP for the use of their owners (to perform rituals for the benefit of the tribe). They can also be used to power sky chariots and in the creation of Druid’s Eggs.
Weirdstones in normal use will accumulate EP [1 per week] up to their natural limit. They can be set to drain EP at double that rate, although this drains the lands and leaves them ‘sour’.
The key to releasing the stored EP for use almost always seems to be a magical ritual, keyed specifically to that stone. Some are simple (touch with both palms it and use the EP) to the long and involved (lasting days and having very specific and unusual requirements). Accessing the stored EP without knowing these rituals carries a level of risk [ESF], and uses the stored EP at an accelerated rate.
A dolmen is an arrangement of three or four weirdstones into a great arch. This arrangement is used to ‘broadcast’ or ‘transmit’ the EP to a remote user. The cap stone, not being in contact with the ground, does not draw or store EP itself, but appears to be the focus for the transmission process.
A cromlech is an arrangement of several weirdstones or dolmen. The purpose of a cromlech is to be able to collect, focus and transmit the EP from all of the stones present, not just the one dolmen.
There are ‘portable’ weirdstones, mounted in sky chariots, normal water borne vessels or large carts, rather than stuck in the ground. These are normally ones associated with safe travel (or in the case of the sky chariots, keeping them aloft).
A Druid’s Egg is a small weirdstone the size of a goose egg. [It might be a form of Iaun Stone.] Druids, warriors and common folk alike all regard a Druid’s Egg as a ‘lucky object’.
“So who are these Drunes then?”
Strictly speaking, they are a heretical sect of Druids dedicated to Crom Cruach the Great Devourer, rather than to the proper gods of the Tuatha de Danann. They are styled the ‘Drune Lords’ and anyone who lives under their hegemony is known as a ‘drune’ by most other people, despite the technical inaccuracy. The Drunes don’t have a noble warrior class in their lands, they have organised bands of warriors known as ‘Skull Swords’ owing to their decoration (face masks, skull pommels etc). They seem to be dedicated to evil, although most ‘Drune Lords’ appear to spend more time scheming against each other than they do conquering the free tribes.
The Fir Bolg were once part of the Tuatha de Danann, but they spilt (from the Fir Domhain) and now also worship the same gods as the Drunes. However, despite being sandwiched between the Tuatha de Danann and the Drunes, they remain the implacable enemies of both.
 These are like real ye olde style Gygaxian AD&D ‘gold pieces’, being 1/10th of a lb.