The natural beauty of the Depths is almost disorienting to many first-time visitors. Although natural light is limited, the glow of Ve Radiation powered crystals and naturally phosphorescent plants, along with the strangeness of the flora and fauna make this land an incredible treat for nature-lovers to explore. It's also a dangerous land, one which can easily kill the unsuspecting or the unprepared. Magic rules the Depths, since technology is easily degraded by Ve Radiation. Even the drones which come here, in order to help enforce the laws of the city, rarely stay for long and must often quickly return to their home stations for repairs. Instead, the whole area, and even some of the land outside of the dome, is claimed by a group known as The Thorns as their dominion. Those who move into the Depths without the blessing of the Thorns often find themselves harassed, or even attacked, as Outsiders, Citykin, or "Disscum". The Thorns tightly guard their source of water, the Well, though they do "sell up" some of the excess water during plentiful times. They often turn around and use credits earned for items such as metal, used for tools or household goods, or for Spicer wares, powerful reagents from other planets that can be used in magical spells. Although the food in the Thorns is the most nutritious, it is usually simple fare, lacking the spices found in the Tear, brought in by the Traversers and the Exos League.
The Thorns were first gathered by a xya Satyr named Ellum Ikesel, who ventured to the land below the Tear in order to write a book about the Depths. That book, "The Petals and the Thorns: A Compendium of Nature Below" is still considered one of the greatest guides to Depths nature, and contains the naming scheme of many of the flora and fauna there. But, in their research, Ellum befriended the various groups living in the Depths, and encouraged them to come together as one, in order to have a more powerful collective voice. In thanks to their friend for the suggestion, they became the Council of Petals and Thorns, so named after Ellum's book, which was later shortened to just "The Thorns". The largest Thorns settlement is near the Well, a village known as Everdark, because it never really receives direct sunlight. It is said that many of the best magicians inside the dome can be found in Everdark, everything from healing, to alchemy, to rarer and more forbidden magics. In addition to the light of Ve Radiation, Everdark tends to be lit by magic lanterns in the city. Thorns youth are often schooled here, as it is much safer than other locations in the Depths. And, of course, several temples or altars to the gods can be found in Everdark, the largest of which is The Temple of the Grace, where the collective Thorns tribes gather to pray and pay tribute to their respective patron spirit animals, and the Grace as a whole.
Unlike other Factions, the Thorns tend to organize themselves by Tribes. Although you can be born into a tribe, you are just a provisional member until your coming of age ceremony, at which time you may become a pledge of any tribe that accepts you. Outsiders are sometimes accepted into tribes, but must give up their attachments to technology and membership in any other faction. A ceremony at the Temple of the Grace wherein they are ritually purified of Dis tends to be done before the tribe sponsoring them accepts them and (often) gives them a new name. At the end of the ceremony, the new Thorns member touches the Blessing Crystal held by Orchida in the Everdark square (see also Anjuul under the Celestial Race). It is said that most of the tribes originate from pre-industrial societies outside of the dome, in Juniper at large, and that many of them maintain their ties to the land beyond, making them excellent guides for Traversers looking to expand the portal base. Tribe leaders are known as Chiefs, no matter their gender. The leader of the Thorns as a whole is known as the High Chief. The Chiefs typically meet in the upstairs of the Everdark tavern when the entire Council of Petals and Thorns is called to order.
Subfactions and Businesses:
The Wintertalon: The Wintertalon tribe is primarily comprised of mystics and shamen whose magics it is said help maintain the waters of the Well, guaranteeing that it never runs dry through prayer and meditation to the spirits of the forest. Most Wintertalon reside within and near Everdark, or in the area immediately surrounding the base of the pillar nearest the Well. This region is known as the Tangle due to its warren of paths that serve as the primary thoroughfare for traffic in the Depths. Those who are unfamiliar with the Tangle can quickly become lost and so Wintertalon guides will offer their services for a nominal fee for those who seek safe passage through Everdark and to the immediately surrounding regions. Wintertalon members prize artifacts capable of housing magical energy and gather these artifacts in the largest of their temples known as the Grace. They claim that these artifacts power many of the magical barriers protecting the Well as the blessing of their totem spirit the Ghost Leopard. All other tribes come to the Grace to pay homage to the spirits of the Depths. Those wishing to live in Everdark, drink from the Well, or set up shop near the base of the pillar must pay a protection fee, although the exact nature of the fee varies from individual to individual. Unlike the other tribes, the Wintertalon tribe primarily prays to the spirits of the dead, and they claim to be able to commune with those who have passed on, individual and beast alike. The Wintertalon tribe also nurture a type of Vertegran crystal known as the Mourn. Dark blue or purple in hue, these Vertegran crystals are prized for their purifying effects and are often sold at a high price because they are one of the safest ways to cleanse the horrific poisons and toxins produced by the Bloodviper tribe. The Wintertalon are also said to be able to bind the spirit of a dead person to an item, causing that item to become animate, using the Mourn.
The Rockfang: The Rockfang tribe are extraordinarily xenophobic and insular. They almost did not agree to join the council, but fear of having their lands trampled by unwanted travelers drove them to seek a tentative kinship with the other tribes. Fierce hunters and proud warriors who spend the majority of their lives training for the hunt or the battle, the Rockfang dominate the eastern region of the Depths, residing in natural caves that dot the great Boughen Cliffs, one of the most beautiful regions in the dangerous forest. The Boughen Cliffs boast one of the only other natural sources of water to be found: The Jade Pool. Located within the heart of their cave system, this water is produced by a single aquifer beneath the Boughen Cliffs and the Rockfang guard the Jade Pool with their lives, almost never permitting outsiders to see it, or even discover its whereabouts. So secretive is the Jade Pool that many tribes consider it to be nothing more than a myth and claim that the Rockfang only spread the rumor of it in order to justify turning away those who come to their lands unwanted, claiming that they are protecting a valuable asset. Warriors of the Rockfang tribe have shunned technology and are often critical of or antagonistic towards people of the city. They are particularly hateful towards those who reside in the Reach. ZetaCorp and the Rockfang have a highly antagonistic relationship and those Rockfang who are more tolerant of technology frequently serve as guards on Exos League ships strictly for the pleasure of disrupting ZetaCorp trade operations. Those more peaceful members of the tribe turn their efforts towards hunting the many dangerous creatures in the forest and will sometimes offer their services as trail guides for those who prove themselves capable of hunting effectively in the Depths. These hunters trade skins, meat and other animal, or monster, parts to other tribes in order to import things that are not native to their region of the Depths. The Rockfang nurture and harvest their own Vertegran crystal, the Hunt. These crystals, green or black in color, have the ability to track an individual or beast whose blood is smeared over the surface of the crystal. It is said that this is how the Rockfang hunters manage to find even the most elusive prey residing in their territory. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of these crystals is their ability to render most forms of technology inoperable while in physical contact with them; thus, the Rockfang tend to make arrowheads and other forms of weaponry and traps out of Hunt crystals. The Rockfang totem spirit is the jade wolf.
The Blackhorn: The Blackhorn tribe are artisans and crafters capable of producing anything from weaponry to boats. They are the most technologically adept of all of the Thorns tribes and are capable of weaving minor forms of tech into their creations at the request of the buyer. The tribe itself is divided into classifications of tradecraft and each member is required to undergo a rigorous three year apprenticeship before being permitted to apply to work for one of the artisan families. The Blackhorn and Wintertalon tribes share a close alliance and together form the largest body of peoples in the Depths. Over half of the shops in Everdark feature at least some Blackhorn products alongside their magical trinkets, potions and mystic salves. The Blachkorn tribe considers the northern region of the Depths to be their territory. This area, known as the Burn, is infamous for its unusually hot climate. The plants in the Burn are more closely related to jungle vegetation than true woodland foliage. The Blackhorn’s primary village, located near the heart of the Burn, is Tempervine, named after the most prominent of the artisan families. It is fed by a natural hot spring of lava pushed up to Juniper’s surface by imbalances in the planet’s internal pressure. The Blackhorn have built their best forges around these pockets of lava and it is here that they nurture their Vertegran crystal, the Scald. Nicknamed scalds due to their painful temperatures, these crystals, yellow or orange in color, are a natural source of heat and are prized by travelers for their ability to produce both light and warmth in a decent radius around them, minimizing the need for campfires and serving as a natural flashlight of sorts in dark places. Weapons created with Scald crystals inset create deep burns in the target that are difficult to heal without the Harmony crystals of the Swiftpaw. The Blackhorn’s totem spirit is the obsidian bear. In Everdark, the Blacksmith's shop is the home-away-from-home for the Blackhorn, with many of them gathering in the warm room upstairs to discuss business. They additionally ply their wares in the market square.
The Swiftpaw: If the Rockfang are the warriors and hunters of the Depths, then the Swiftpaw are the healers and nurturers. Eschewing nearly all forms of hostility, the Swiftpaw prefer to live harmoniously with the other creatures in the Depths and have taken to taming and training beasts that they then trade or sell to other tribes in exchange for what they cannot harvest naturally from their farms and orchards. The entire southern region of the Depths serves as the territory of the Swiftpaw and this area is known as Tranquil. The Swiftpaw don’t live in traditional villages, which makes contacting them a little difficult sometimes, but instead they live on farms and ranches that can span large distances. These farms and ranches trade frequently with one another and with the other tribes. The Swiftpaw’s farms are the most abundant and it is the Swiftpaw who make the majority of the food that is then traded to the city. Most of the animals that they tame are beasts of burden, but they also raise herds of different large animals whose meat is then salted, cured or otherwise preserved for safe transportation. The most famous of the Swiftpaw beasts are the Avar. Similar to large horses, the Avar are capable of navigating the dangerous paths of the Depths at a remarkable speed, making them highly prized forms of transportation through the Depths. Many a Rockfang warrior has sold his daughter into marriage for an elite, pedigreed Avar. There is one trade village where most of the Swiftpaw gather in order to communicate with one another and with other tribes: Haven. Haven is surrounded by a powerful spiritual barrier erected and maintained by the Wintertalon tribe that prohibits violence within the village, guaranteeing that even strangers who are not familiar with the Depths and Thorn culture will be safe while conducting business there, much to the chagrin of Rockfang visitors. The Swiftpaw nurture and harvest their own Vertegran Crystals, the Harmony. These crystals, white or gray in color, have the ability to soothe anyone or anything that comes into contact with them, instilling the individual or beast with a sense of peace and comfort. They are also capable of dulling pain and providing restful sleep for those troubled by nightmares. The Swiftpaw totem spirit is the silver Avar stallion. Their home-away-from-home in EverDark is the Swiftpaw Herbal Apothecary and Healing House, where Thorns come from miles around to have Swiftpaw shamen lay hands on the ill. The Apothecary sells various types of magical herbal reagents, though never things they think can solely be used to injure or perform cruel magics.
The Bloodvipers: The Bloodvipers pride themselves on being the balance to the more peaceful and harmonious aspects of the Thorns. In as such, some of them are outcasts and lunatics who have been shunned or banished from the other tribes in the Depths. However, others are simply those attracted to the darker side of the occult, and the wilder side of the spirits. They are also the smallest "tribe". The Bloodvipers are one of the few tribes in the Thorns who will readily accept just about anyone into their ranks - the more the merrier for their mayhem. They are confined primarily to the western region of the Depths known as the Vile thanks to its high levels of radiation. Those who wish to visit the Vile must first find their way through a gaseous bog; its vapors are toxic and many are the unwary travelers who have become lost and perished in the Vile’s murky gloom. Bloodviper scouts have made themselves infamous by coating their weapons with salves made from the toxic sludge of the Vile and their weapons are known to cause a range of ailments. In the past, the Bloodvipers had been known to lead raids on villages and camps in the territories of other tribes, often seeking to cause as much destruction and chaos as possible before retreating back to their own lands, though since becoming part of the Thorns, they no longer do so. They do not conduct much trade, because there is not a lot in the Vile to trade, other than the milk of Vilegoats and the cheese and liquor made from it. The Bloodvipers are fiercely loyal to one another, claiming that only other Bloodvipers can be trusted, but nearly anyone can become a Bloodviper by proving their loyalty in accordance with the will of the tribe’s leaders. There are really only three reasons the Bloodvipers came to heel as a tribe under the banner of the Thorns. First, there is no clean water in the Vile, only Vilegoat milk, and so the Bloodvipers are dependent on the Well, and access to it. Second, the Bloodvipers know that if they get too out of hand, the Rockfang will lead an assault on them and with the help of the other tribes, annihilate them. And third...Bloodvipers hold a single belief -- that the Crimson Viper will allow the Vile to kill them if they do not place monthly sacrifices upon the alter of the Grace in Everdark. Many people approach the Bloodvipers for their knowledge of the darker side of the occult, and for assistance with needs such as curses or the desire for revenge. The Bloodvipers nurture and harvest their own Vertegran Crystals, the Spoil. Blood red in color, these crystals have the ability to inflict a particularly virulent poison on anything organic that they come into contact with. In great enough quantities, they can poison whole crops of food or kill entire herds of animals, making them especially feared by the Swiftpaw. The Bloodviper totem spirit is the crimson viper from which they derive their name.
Perks and Abilities:
1) Each tribe gets access to the crystals of their tribe, and can always have one in their possession. Only a member of that specific tribe can use that crystal, so even if the crystals fall into the hands of others, it's pointless to try to use them. The crystals are as follows:
The Mourn: The Mourn allows the Wintertalon to see and speak with the dead. They can view the Pale Realm easily, but can often also see the dead who travel to other realms than the Pale Realm. The Mourn can help purify poisons or toxins from a food or drink, especially mundane poisons or toxins, as well as the Vile. If a person is poisoned, a tea is stirred with the Mourn, and the resulting drink can begin to alleviate symptoms, though it is not immediate. The Mourn is also used to create Hosts, one of the races of the Dolliau, creating a tight bond between the Wintertalon and the Dolliau race. Colors: Blue or purple.
The Hunt: When blood from a creature is smeared on the Hunt crystal, it leads a member of the Rockfang in the direction of that creature's heartbeat. Additionally, if the Hunt touches a piece of electronic/digital technology it will cause it to cease working until the crystal is removed. For this reason, known members of the Rockfang tribe are typically not allowed to visit the Reach unless they remove their weapons and submit to a thorough search. Even Exos League captains are wary of keeping Rockfang members around. Colors: Green or black.
The Scald: Used by the Blackhorn, these crystals come from the Blackhorn homeland and are often used to light pieces of the Depths, which is crucial, since much of that area does not receive a great deal of sunlight. They are also used for their warmth during cold times, making the Scald one of the few crystals which is sold or given to others. Heating Scalds can be used to heat a home, and returned later to be re-charged by the Blackhorn. Most importantly, weapons containing the Scald leave a deep and painful burn that isn't easily healed except by the use of the Swiftpaw crystal, the Harmony. Colors: Yellow or orange
The Harmony: These crystals have the ability to soothe anyone or anything that comes into contact with them, instilling the individual or beast with a sense of peace and comfort. They are also capable of dulling pain and providing restful sleep for those troubled by nightmares. And, of course, they can heal the burns created by the Scald. Harmony crystals are not usable by other tribes BUT, many people wear spent harmony crystals in the belief that they will keep them centered and calm. Colors: White or gray.
The Vile: These crystals are really fairly poisonous. Even being touched to the skin can cause a rash. If pierced with one, the poison spreads, causing pain and rot to the afflicted area, followed by vomiting and hallucinations if left untreated. Scattering crushed Vile in an area will cause plants that grow there to be poisoned and die. Thankfully, the whole of the Well is lined underneath with one of the greatest crops of Mourn crystals which are charged daily by the elders of the Wintertalon tribe. So it is unlikely the Bloodvipers would be able to poison the Well, though they do try on occasion EVEN THOUGH it is also their source of water.
2) All members of the Thorns have access to the Well, and because of it, they have enough water to not need to ration water like other areas.
3) Members of the Thorns may hunt and gather in the Depths, drawing on the natural resources there for their livelihood.
4) Members of the Thorns have priority when being seen at the Swiftpaw Healing House, and the charge for care there is halved.
5) Members of the Thorns may be married at the Grace Temple.
6) Members of the Thorns can petition Orchida or pray at the temple (put an ST ticket in) once per month. And once in a while, they may find their prayers answered.