Bluefoot Orlanthi

A closer look at the clans of the Tovtaros tribe

This article was first published in Questlines.

No tribe more acutely embodies the contradictions and tensions of the Far Place than the Tovtaros. Known to the world as the ‘Bluefoot Orlanthi’ or ‘Source of Heroes’, their tribal lands encompass both rich farming and grazing lands in Jaskors Hold and wild and sodden upland gallt bordering on Ginijji. Traditionally followers of Orlanth, the tribe now has a majority of Yelmalian worshippers, and a substantial number of converts to both Ironfist’s Bigger Wind and the Lunar Way. The old traditions are collapsing, and the way ahead is troubled and unclear.

Proud of their Far Walker ancestry, the Tovtaros have inherited the stubborn independence and resolute determination of the first settlers. They struggle for survival against harsh elemental forces, the festering Chaos out of Snakepipe, enigmatic dragonewts, and the Dark Men who watch from the shadows. Their human foes, however, are less clearly defined. When religious tensions flare, enemies might be your closest kin. Every bloodline in the tribe has lost sons and daughters, fathers and mothers to kinstrife, and many spirits still cry out for blood vengeance. The clans are divided against each other.

The tribal king of the Tovtaros is Conla Brightshield, from the Yelmalian Cordali clan. By most reckonings he is a good king, having brought a measure of stability to the tribe after the kinstrife and slaughter following the rebellion of the Righteous Wind. Pressured by Harvar Ironfist, Conla is moving against the remaining Orlanthi clans one by one, attempting to replace their traditional Lightbringer’s Rings with clan councils based on the Solar model.

The gods of the Tovtaros include Orlanth, Ernalda, Yelmalio, Barntar, Odayla, and (in the uplands) Elmal. The hero-cults of the Animal Twins and Taros Ridgeleaper are also popular.

An ancestral heroquest much attained by hunters of the tribe provides the ability to move across snow-covered ground without leaving tracks. Successful questers tattoo their feet, and move about barefoot even in the depths of winter. This provides the nickname by which the upland Tovtaros clans are known to the outside world: the Bluefoot Orlanthi.

The tribal founder of the Tovtaros is Tovar the Hungry, the second son of Taros Ridgeleaper. Tovar founded the ancestral stead of Piddledown in 1372. Piddledown lies within a small hill fort some three kilometres south of Ironspike. (For unknown reasons, most of the Youf hill forts in the north were built in pairs, a large open site (such as Ironspike), and a nearby, smaller, easily defended site (Piddledown Heights).

The Tresdarnii Clan

(Suggested PC Base)

The Tresdarnii are commonly known as the ‘Snakepipe Dancers’ or by their totemic name, the ‘White Bear’ clan. Their lands encompass Jaskors Hold south of Ironspike, the western gors to the boundary of Snakepipe Hollow, and the northern and western reaches of the Lost Man Hills. (See the Trollpack map).

The clan founder is Orla Deep Mind, who led her clan in migration and apportioned land like a king. Her ancestral stead is Godi Gors, founded in 1417. Other steads include Long Run, Three Beacons, Young Lagerwater and Sentry Stead.

The flooded stead of the original Lagerwater (see Taroskarla) is sacred to the Uplanders, strongly associated with both Taros Ridgeleaper and the Animal Twins. Because of this, the Tresdarnii are first in ritual and ceremony, but in other matters are overshadowed by the hostile Yelmalian Cordali clan.

Traditionally an Orlanthi hunting, herding and marsh-farming clan, a substantial minority of the clan now live in Ironspike itself.

The major bloodlines of the Tresdarnii are the Validor (Twin Birches), Heldarni (Windspear) and Kinlini (Sacred River).

Clan Chieftain is Orlstein Bluecloud, a priest of Orlanth Thunderous. Notables include the air tracker Karim One-Eye, Broddi Clapsaddle, an aging Humakti heroquester, the tribal lawspeaker Kierston Two-Worlds (who openly cohabits with a Lunar trader-priest!) and the seemingly immortal though elusive shaman Cloudstrider.

The Tresdarnii maintain close links of blood and marriage with the Orlarnii.

The Orlarnii Clan

The Orlarnii encompass the High Fens, the eastern reaches of Jaskors Hold north of Ironspike, Godhurt and the Sheep of Luck Hills. Theoretically their lands extend north through Uz hunting lands to the Cholanti River, though no steads have been cut there. Amads Trail marks the boundary with the Amad Tribe.

The Orlarnii are primarily wild hunters and trappers, little involved in tribal affairs.

Clan founder is Densesros the Blade, who was Tovar’s weaponthane. The ancestral stead is Beardance. Other steads include Finnabair’s Gift, MammothSeen Ridge, Pricklefish, Many Boar, High Razor, Nutrich Edge, Ice Gors and Lava Guard.

The Danlarni Clan

The Danlarni occupy the lands north-west of Jaskors Hold, and west to Ginijji. Their territory is bounded by the Giant’s Walk in the north west. Clan founder is Lanolf UzFriend, and his ancestral stead is Horse Run Fall. Other steads include Shadowdeep, UzDark, Rawcook Pool, Tovtaros Tor, TurtleSnap and the ‘lost stead’ of Ginunga’s Gap.

The Cordali Clan

The largest and richest of the Tovtaros clans, the power of the Cordali has grown considerably during the reign of Harvar Ironfist. It is a Yelmalian solar clan, and often at odds with its fellow tribesfolk. Its territory includes the southeast corner of Jaskors Hold, the southwest reaches of Sheep of Luck, the rich northern slopes of the Valley of the Chalk Man (a claim violently contested by a rival Vantaros clan), and Gamla’s Leap.

Clan founder was Yelam Lackland, who performed a series of quests to obtain land from the Orlarnii. This initial friendship between the clans has become a bitter rivalry. The ancestral stead is now the Elder Kukbirds Nest, as the original TrueSun Stead was destroyed and desecrated in 1612. Other steads include sacred Piddledown, Kinwood, Younger Kukbird, Stenchmud, Killwater, Sunwatch and Cofar’s Rest.

Conla BrightShield, the tribal king of the Tovtaros, is a Cordali clan chieftain. He resides at Piddledown Stead.

The Priderni Clan

One of the original clans, driven to extinction in a clan war with the Cordali in the 1580s, and now ‘revived’ to accept the large number of refugees and exiles streaming into the wilderness from Sartar, Prax and Tarsh. The clan’s original founder was Harla Day of Life, but her shrine is no longer maintained. Two steads in the north east of Jaskor’s Hold – Godi Gallt and Lady’s Pleasure – have been granted the clan in exchange for oaths of fealty to the Orlarnii. As well as these steads, many of the clan also live in Ironspike itself.

To be accepted into the clan, one must have dwelt within the region for three years, be “honest, noble and free”, and swear to uphold the traditions of the Far Walkers.

Walled Palisades and Water Steads

The communal steads of the Bluefoot Orlanthi are the centre of their culture and society; at once farm, village, hunting camp and fort. Heavily defended and self-sufficient, they typify a people who have said again and again to the outside world, “You have nothing that we want”.

These steads are large by Sartarite and Tarsh standards. The ever-present threat of Chaos out of Ginijji forced the first Far Walkers to build defensive palisades large enough to shelter their herds, flocks and families. Later, hunting clans not so dependant upon cattle began to construct equally well-defended ‘water steads’ (crannogs) amidst the upland marshes. These two very different types of stead are often constructed in close proximity.

A typical upland stead supports 80 to 150 adults. It will comprise members of three or four bloodlines, with duties, rights and labour organised along kinship lines. Within the steads, most property is communal, as are the sleeping and hospitality arrangements. Families seek privacy in bloodline or cult lodges, and count their private wealth in cattle and milking sheep.

The Tovtaros Tribe, c.1621

Clan Pop. Totem Name % Solar % Orlanthi % Lunar % Other
Orlanii 850 Calling Thunder or Ice Wind 40 30 15 15
Tresdarnii 900* Snakepipe Dancers or White Bear 35 45 10 10
Danlarni 750 Thunderhead 25 60 0 15
Cordali 1500** Sun Horse 60 20 15 05
Priderni 350*** ‘Exiles’ or Good Trail 15 60 20 05
* plus an additional 150 resident in Ironspike
** plus an additional 100 resident in Ironspike
*** plus an additional 120 resident in Ironspike

The Tresdarnii Clan Ring

The table below presents the Tresdarnii Clan Ring circa 1620. The Tresdarnii ring has been shaped by the clan’s turbulent history and by its relationship with the surrounding wilderness. A variant on the traditional Lightbringer’s Ring, the clan has created voices for Odayla and Vinga. As the Tresdarnii lost all of its senior vingans (and many other warriors as well) at the disastrous ambush of Gamla’s Leap during the Righteous Wind Revolt, Humakt has taken Vinga’s place on the Ring.

The Lightbringers Ring
Orlanth Orlstein Blue Cloud* (Dar)
Issaries Forth the Righteous
Lhankor Mhy Kierston Two-Worlds* (Andrin lawspeaker)
Chalanna Arroy Tarman Forestdaughter
Eurmal Orlan Smallpiece
Odayla Karim the Air Tracker* (seldom present)
Humakt Braggi Clapsaddle*
Thunder Brothers
(Outer Ring)
Gamla the Antler (Animal Twins)
Maldon Fire-of-Waters* (Elmal)
Vorana Laughing Buck (Vinga),
Lyzen Two Herds* (Orane),
Karlii the Patient (Vela)
Erena Tarsh-Walker* (Kev),
Hreidar the Unready (Barntar)
Erryn Jumping Salmon* (Ormalaya),
Selma Calfmother (Uralda),
Braggi Afraid-of-the-Dark* (Odayla)

The Welcome Voices all have special powers in calling and addressing stead or clan moots.

The Welcome Voices
First Priestess Langa Cry-No-More (Orventilli)
Thunder Godi Lanson Black Mountain
Animal Shaman Cloudstrider
Salt Kick Gyrda Harlii Virginland* (represents the hunting camps)
Speaker For Fire Gaumata Lynx Eye* (represents the Yelmalians of the clan)

* resident in Lagerwater, its hunting camps or associated Ironspike hearths.

Note: Humakt is not usually on the Ring. He replaces Vinga, as the clan lost all its experienced Stead Daughters at Gamla’s Leap during the Righteous Wind Revolt.

In my own campaign, Orlstein Blue Cloud is murdered during the Sacred Time ceremonies of 1621. The assassination creates great turmoil and instability in the clan. Orlstein is succeeded by Karlii Ravenbrow.

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