Centaurs

Average Lifespan: 230-300 years
Average Height: 5’ to 6’ feet at the withers
Average Healthy Weight: 1000 to 1200 pounds for females, 1500 – 2000 pounds for males
Pregnancy Duration: Centaurs deliver their children 10 months after conception, and within hours the child can walk and stand to nurse.

The first laws and trials were said to be products of the Centaur People, and for certain they have a love of law and order. During Al’Drenra they first took up arms to maintain that order, and they have never seen the need to abandon them since. Centaurs have firmly established concepts of honor and dignity, and to insult one is ample cause, among their kind, for a life or death battle. Many of them seek positions among city guards and lawmen, and until recently the largest concentration of them was to be found in Danzibar, where they maintained strict control over the prosperous port city. In those days, it was said that no merchant dared over price their goods, that the weights and measures were fair and standard, and that everyone was entitled to a fair hearing if they stood accused. Some say those days are gone, now that the Centaurs have been scattered. Still, Danzibar’s loss is seen by many as an opportunity to hire fine guards and soldiers, and the Centaurs have not fared so poorly.

Physical Characteristics

An apparent fusion of Human and horse, the Centaurs are alone with the Gryphons in being the only seeming amalgams of creatures in Valindir. While they are regarded as a People by the Eiltia Empire, and thus by the other Peoples of Valindir, there are malicious whispers (these having begun shortly after the Centaurs were expelled from Danzibar) that they are in fact magical constructs born during the chaotic days of Al’Drenra. The Centaurs do not bother entering into discussions about their status as a People, feeling it is beneath them. They simply take the tongue of the one brave enough (or stupid enough) to voice these rumors aloud. Some Centaurs enjoy displaying these trophies to others, making war-time fetish necklaces of them to intimidate their foes.

Centaurs may be any typical mix of coloration of Humans and horses, with the particular coloration of that breed they resemble terminating at the joining point, which normally occurs just below the navel of their Human-like half and at the neck of their horse-like half. Beneath the coat of fur on their horse-like half, however, the skin color of the Humanoid portion continues. Centaurs are most typically of darker coloration, and this is most likely due to their militaristic past, in which lighter colors were easier to spot and make targets of than the darker hues. In modern times, those who are born pale are said to be called to the service of the Elements or the path of a healer, and indeed Centaurs who follow these paths wear white coverings and dye their fur and hair white so as to distinguish themselves as non-combatants.

Curiously, the upper portion of Centaurs is almost completely devoid of hair or fur, putting it at stark contrast to their lower half. Centaurs are capable of growing chest and facial hair, though, like their lower half, it more closely resembles a horse’s main or tail in texture and fullness. Much like the Dwarves, many Centaurs choose to braid and bead their longer hairs in extraordinary fashions, with each caste having their own, favored styles. Centaurs have never been a People much bothered by nakedness, and indeed many prefer to exercise in the nude, with their upper and lower halves uncovered. From years spent living among Humans in Danzibar, however, Centaurs are accustomed to wearing Human clothing on their upper halves. Over the years Centaurs have delighted in devising coverings for their equine half as well, developing flowing cloaks and banded leggings typically dyed a deep, crimson red to disguise any potential wounds from enemies.

History

When the Humans first journeyed to the coasts that would eventually be the location of Danzibar, a band of guards hired on to guard the merchants followed them. The guard company was called the Azure Flame, and it was comprised entirely of Centaur warriors, the ancestors of many of the Centaurs who remember Danzibar as “home”. These Centaurs helped to establish secure trade routes, and later, the very walls and defenses of Danzibar herself. They became an integral part of the city, making up almost the entirety of her guards and being represented by a position each term on the Sapphire Council. Their last representative was General Terseir Ulath, and it was he who bore the brunt of Joreland Krithor’s accusations, which included blackmailing the merchants, setting up protection rackets, and murder. The General was hanged and quartered, with each of his legs being put on display at the four gates of Danzibar and his body put into an iron cage in the harbor for the fish to glut on. Six hours later the Centaurs were forcibly evicted by the replacement Sapphire Guard made up of Krithor’s men, in what has become known as the March of Blood, as each Centaur that marched from that city cut across their chests with a knife and vowed on the blood of their ancestors to return and take their revenge for the injustice against them.

Since that day, the Centaurs have sought shelter under the protection and alliance with the Orcs, and have taken to raiding Sapphire Guards and Danzibar caravans entering and exiting the city. The Centaurs are known to take prisoners and put them to work tilling the fields, an occupation they believe worthy only of slaves. They claim this is to force the people of Danzibar to pay off the blood debt they owe, although no one can recall any slave having been released. Despite this, the Centaurs continue to guard the borders of Danzibar, and have more than once captured and killed bandits that attempted to harm the city and its citizens. The Sapphire Council calls this insanity, but the Centaurs reply that unlike some, they have not broken their vows.

Culture and Religion

Within Centaur society there is a rigid caste system, implemented at birth and almost impossible to rise or fall within. The station a Centaur will hold throughout their lives depends upon the caste of their parents. In the past this has resulted in some inbreeding, though Centaurs have attempted to remedy this by occasionally taking slaves as concubines or lovers. Any child born of a slave and a higher caste member is considered to be part of the higher caste, as the only way to become a slave is to be taken as a prisoner or have committed some crime that requires a harsh punishment. Centaurs are almost never slaves for very long, often working off their debt or earning their freedom very quickly, but other Peoples are not quite so lucky. Households are often organized beneath warriors, with a prominent warrior often claiming people from multiple castes as part of their household, serving beneath them for the right to claim their family name and coat of arms.

Slave: No Centaur was ever meant to lose their freedom, so those who have been demoted to the caste of slave are looked upon with contempt. Most of the Centaurs who are serving as slaves are either working off debts they were unable to pay, being punished for dishonoring themselves, or are serving as marks of atonement for a wrong they committed. It is the lowest of castes, unworthy of speaking to those who are their betters (and that’s everyone) or even of being allowed to own a weapon, and it is only marginally better than death in the eyes of a Centaur. Not surprisingly, many commit suicide rather than be forced into slavery, and even those who do their time must bear the shame all their lives.

Merchant: A strange caste, merchants have a very low place within Centaur society (since they seldom make any of their products themselves), though they are often very wealthy. Many merchants lost their livelihoods when their People were forced out from Danzibar, and though it has been a long, slow time rebuilding, they have found the war between the Centaurs, Humans and Orcs to be quite profitable. More than a few merchants have taken their ill-gotten money (or, rarely, legitimately earned money) and used it to encourage higher castes to take their sons and daughters as concubines. This gives the merchant better trade connections, especially if the union produces a child, though even the childless merchants have found prostitution can give them connections just as valuable. In the end, merchants will do whatever it takes to make coin, and while their position in Centaur society is essential, it is not one that gains a lot of respect.

Servant: Servants, unlike slaves, are paid for their work, and those who serve loyally and with skill are often paid very well. It is no shame to be a servant (all Centaur see themselves as servants of the law, after all), and can even be a mark of pride if one serves a particularly important member of society. A servant will typically serve the same family all their lives, though they may leave and seek employment elsewhere if need be. A servant who is advertising that they are looking for an employer goes out into a busy part of town, either an inn or the square, and kneels down upon a white mat. Those interested in employing them may come by and ask to “share their mat”, at which point the two will share a drink of honey mead and discuss terms. If they come to an agreement the new employer will provide a meal for them to share, if not the servant will simply sit and wait for the next interested party. Servants well-known for their skill and discretion who put out their mat often create pandemonium, with employers actually breaking out into fights for a chance to make it to the mat. On several occasions the poor servant was trampled, and so some bring a small table with them so that they may stand instead of being underhoof.

Farmer: In the old days the Humans of Danzibar oversaw the livestock and the fields. These days Centaurs have been forced to do their own animal husbandry and tilling, but most find it to be insulting to their battle-ready blood. Those who make the sacrifice and tend to the food supplies for the Centaurs are viewed with pity, and farmers themselves sing songs and tell tales about the day when they will be able to melt down their farm tools and remake them into tools of war.

Artisan: These are the craftspeople of the Centaur tribes, and can be as lowly as a basket weaver or as esteemed as a blacksmith. Centaurs place the most value on implements of war, so artisans who cater to that often have a higher place in society than those who simply create art or beautiful household goods. All artisans, however, earn respect from society by being productive, and are seen as the gears and cogs that keeps the machine of war moving forward.

Warrior: The highest caste that one can be born into with Centaur society, warriors (whether male or female) are trained from birth to defend their People and avenge the wrongs done to them. Every warrior is expected to be well learned and a paragon of virtue and honor, as well, so while even the children in their caste are capable of killing a man, most Centaur warriors are not considered to be finished with their training until they are able to compose prose, poetry, or song, discuss philosophy and history, and have demonstrated service to their community. Warriors are the only caste permitted to own property or serve in the Senate, and even then these rights only belong to those warriors who have proven themselves in battle.

Senate: Warriors who have demonstrated their skill, cunning, and honor are, should the Senate so vote, raised to the rank of Senator. This is a life-long position, and those who are so honored are expected to mete out the laws, direct battles, and organize the distribution of resources. They also have say over the lower castes, and can, if the vote dictates it, raise or lower people according to their deeds (though this is rare, and not without great merit). No decisions are made without the vote of the Senate, and this includes the death penalty, for the Senate alone carries the right to decide if a Centaur has shamed themselves to the point that death is the only atonement.

Long ago the Centaurs had Emperors, or so the stories say, though Centaur historians say it’s purely the stuff of bedtime tales. On a few occasions in recent history a particularly ambitious Senator or warrior has attempted to take power, though they have always been put down and their corpse desecrated for the offense.

Centaurs may be part of any religion, though they are most often drawn to Elements that are patrons of their particular caste, or of those who favor battle. It was the Centaurs who constructed Metal’s temple within Danzibar, and while a few of them are still allowed into the city every so often to make a holy pilgrimage, many of them are furious to be so separated from their Lady.

Geography

The Centaurs currently have no home of their own, and because of this they make their homes in a series of highly mobile leather lodges. These they erect on wooden poles to form long, communal lodges positioned in circles, with a Clan fire in the center. Men, women, and children share the lodges equally, as well as the work in setting them up and maintaining them. Each member of the Clan (or family unit, as some might call it) is expected to know how to construct a lodge, as they may one day split off to start their own Clan and continue the bloodlines of their People. Each Clan maintains a flag with the sigil of General Terseir, that of a blue dragon coiled in a circle and biting its own tail, and so some people refer to the bands of roving Centaur Clans as “Terseirs”. Terseirs are said to be more fearsome than any bandit, heedless to physical pain or intimidation, and the farmers of Danzibar seek shelter within the city at a moment’s notice if word of a possible Terseir attack reaches them.

Relations with Other Races

There are many who, following the condemnation of the Sapphire Council, cut off all contact with the Centaurs for fear of losing trade relations with Danzibar. This has put traveling Centaurs in a precarious position, though as a general rule all races that maintain friendly relations with the Orcs extend the same to Centaurs, likely from fear of losing those relations. The Centaurs do not take this personally, understanding as they do the need for trade to ensure survival, bearing it all with a calm pride and inner strength that, while not changing the minds of those who cannot afford to be their allies, still allows them to pass unmolested in many places that hold that strength in awe.

Alubra – Viewed as chaotic and childish, the Centaurs wryly remark how nice it must be to live so far removed from the demands of the world in a floating land above the earth. Because of the relative safety in which they have lived their lives, Alubra are thought to be “soft minded” and a bit slow. No Centaur takes anything they say seriously, and will often pointedly treat them like noisy children when the “adults” are talking. Even their art, something which Alubra pride themselves on, is thought to be too “unrealistic” and lacking in the complexities and subtleties that can only be realized by someone who has had experience with the harshness of life, at least according to Centaurs.

Danava – Almost immediately following the expulsion of the Centaurs from Danzibar, messengers from the Eiltia Empire began extending offers of asylum to them. A few Centaurs accepted, choosing to join the Empire’s army or live out their lives on one of the islands controlled by the Empress. Most of the Centaurs were hesitant to accept aid from a government they view with suspicion, however, wary of trusting anyone with such vigorous expansion goals as the Danava seem to have.

Daphinae – When they were forced to leave Danzibar, a few of the Centaurs sought refuge among the Daphinae, long-standing friends and allies who happily took them in. Appreciative of their love of nature and their fine taste in liquor, the only real dissention among the Peoples come from the belief among the Daphinae that the Centaurs should embrace their new lives, free of city life, while the Centaur as a whole can think only of revenge and reclaiming what was taken from them. The Daphinae do not seem to understand this need for justice, and it can cause many a bitter argument between them.

Drakien – Perhaps understanding what it is like to have lost one’s identity, the Drakiens have been staunch allies of the Centaurs in recent years. If any Drakiens have continued to bear grudges against the Centaurs for slights they might have given them when they were respected members of the Sapphire Guard, they haven’t shown it. It is instead likely that the Drakiens now view them as kindred spirits. The Centaurs, for their part, are grateful, and it is likely that a new, strong alliance is in the making between the two Peoples. The Elves, for their part, are less than pleased.

Dwarves – Seldom are the Centaur able to make their way down into the rocky tunnels of the Dwarves, but on the odd occasions when the two Peoples may meet, they almost always find that they share a strong set of morals, ethics, and a love of fine brews. A gathering of Dwarves and Centaurs means that ale-fueled ballads and epic poems are not far behind, and perhaps the odd axe toss as well.

Elves – The friendship between the Elves and the Centaurs is balanced precariously at this point. Yarola’Sia views the dismissal of the Centaurs as a gross betrayal, incapable as they are of imagining a world in which they lose the Gryphons. At every meeting the Ambassador to Danzibar urges a reconciliation, though his cries have gone unheard. At the same time, the Elves find the alliance between the Orcs and Centaurs, and the Orcs and Drakiens, highly distasteful, doing their utmost to convince the Centaurs to seek refuge in Yarola’Sia instead.

Gryphon – Their hearts bleed for the Centaurs, and they see their plight, like the Centaurs themselves do, as a grave injustice. It was the Gryphons who advised them to direct their fury at the Sapphire Council, not the Humans as a whole, reminding them of their sworn oaths to protect the people of Danzibar, even if the oaths sworn to them have been broken. No Gryphon has willingly taken part in the Sapphire Council’s war on the Centaurs thus far, even if a Gryphon is staying in the city. They claim they cannot act without direction from the King and Queen, and, regrettably, this means lengthy delays and an unusually large amount of mishaps whenever their aid has been requested against marauding Centaurs.

Humans – When the Humans, who had for centuries been their closest allies and friends, expelled the Centaurs from Danzibar at the behest of the Sapphire Council, the Centaurs were heartbroken. When they heard of the “lawlessness” and “chaos” that had taken root upon their expulsion, however, they became utterly furious. Certain that they have been betrayed and slandered, the Centaur do not so much hate the Humans, but rather feel a fiery and bitter anger towards the Sapphire Council. The very sight of the blues and silvers of the Council send most Centaurs into a berserker rage, and no wagons or guards bearing their seal can hope to leave the northern gates of the city unmolested. Sympathizers with the Council are likewise detested, and the Centaurs have sworn a blood oath to claim the heads of all who betrayed them, and once more take their proper place in the city they helped to build.

Kithras – Thieves and charlatans, the only good Kithra is a chained Kithra, at least according to the Centaurs. They have no honor, no pride, and their lawless tribes are festering breeding grounds for thugs and whores. The Centaurs strongly suspect that Kithran families are all practitioners of incest and blood rites, possibly at the same time. Certainly they’ve jailed Kithras for these charges many times when they were running the Sapphire Guard, and now that they’ve fallen from grace, so to speak, the Kithras are being quick to deliver “payback”.

Kren – For all their talk of “community strength”, that they keep their People separated from the rest of Valindir speaks volumes to the Centaurs of just how weak the Kren actually are. The Centaurs view their seclusion as the only way their flimsy “society” of peace and sharing can last, believing that without strong leaders and a chain of command such naïve ideals would crumple and collapse under the weight of reality. Still, the Kren make admirable workers, and whenever possible a Centaur will seek to enslave one of this People to put to work in their fields.

Melrog – The Centaurs have never quite accepted the Melrogs as a People, though when they were Sapphire Guards they were always careful to maintain civility and treat them, if not as Danzibar citizens, then at least as creatures protected under the law. Most Centaur place them somewhere in the same realm as cattle and farm equipment, useful to be certain but almost always controlled by a master or more intelligent mind. Having been expelled from the city, they are now viewed with suspicion, as if they were the very eyes and hands of the Council itself.

Minotaur – Plodding philosophers and pacifist farmers are what Minotaurs are to most Centaurs. They see a group of potentially mighty warriors, absolutely wasting their Element-given natural talents on slave labor and farm drudgery, a sin which the Centaurs place only just below the betrayal of the Sapphire Council. The two Peoples become easily frustrated with one another, the Minotaurs calling them “stubborn jackasses” and the Centaurs waving them off as having “brains steeped in bulls’ shit”.

Mithyrn – In the past, it was always the Humans who attempted trade and negotiations with the Mithyrn while the Centaurs concentrated on protecting the city and its inhabitants. Now that they are no longer a part of the city, the Centaur see no reason to end the practice of ignoring the subterranean race. They have a marked distaste for the People’s blatant acceptance of homosexuality, feeling that it violates clearly marked social lines and boundaries, and as an extension of this many Centaurs feel the Mithyrn to be chaotic and mentally unstable.

Orcs – The Centaurs were surprised when their ancient enemy offered them safe haven following their expulsion from Danzibar. They had long considered the Orcs to be barbarians, but having spent time among them they now know these People to be a sort that values ethics and honor above most anything else—concepts the Centaurs understand and take comfort from. In recent years a number of Centaur have begun to adopt Orcish customs as their own, such as gauging their ears and wearing mohawks. They do these things as outward signs that when they reclaim their home, they will not forget the Orcs, but will continue to keep a friendship with them.

Sidhe – Having little use for magic themselves, some might think the Centaur would have little patience for the Sidhe, but they would be wrong. The Centaur view them as guardians, a People with an understanding that there are some things in life worth protecting, worth sacrificing the wants of the individual for the greater good. A few Centaur, hungry for a Purpose, have thrown their lot in with Sidhe guarding other cities or holy sites.

Senai – Pacifism and peace are not possible in the real world, at least according to the Centaurs, so the fact that the Senai strive for these things make them appear foolish and soft-minded to the hoofed People. Centaurs tell stories that the blood of Senai is cold and fish-like, and this is why they have no passion for battle or debate. It is also, so they say, the reason you cannot trust them, for if you cannot see where a person sleeps (in this case, underwater) you cannot truly know them.

Talmori – Greatly prized as slaves, the Centaur view the Talmori as beings who have not yet reached their full potential, and who could do with a good conquering. It is said that the Centaur have offered to help the Orcs renew their old campaigns against the Talmori, and that they would like to see the whole of their People conquered and taught to make war in the manner of their masters.

Language

Having lived for centuries in the trade city of Danzibar, the Centaurs speak mostly Common, as well as a hodge podge and smattering of other tongues, usually just enough to barter with. In recent years they have been careful to add Orcish to their languages, as the Orcs are one of the few Peoples brave enough to offer safe haven to the Centaurs following the March of Blood.

Names

Having once been the closest allies of the Humans, many Centaurs have similar names to them. It was once not unusual for Humans and Centaurs to be adopted by one another, and so on occasion one will even bump into a Centaur bearing the same last name as a Human family. Because of their new status as exiles and refugees, some Centaurs are given Orc names in honor of the People which took them in.

Male Names: Rothgar, Draeke, Thoemas

Female Names: Ursaera, Jhaquelyn, Rhoxanne

Player Difficulty Level

Difficult– Much in the way of the people of Tibet, Centaurs are refugees, and are unwelcome in their homeland. Though their ultimate goal is to invade Danzibar and reestablish themselves there, for now they are forced to rely upon the generosity of the Orcs. It is important to remember that the pride and honor of the Centaurs have been slighted by the actions of the Sapphire Council, and that Danzibar’s government is considered the enemy of their People. There are physical limitations to keep in mind, as well. Centaurs are natural denizens of the flat grasslands, and they have great difficulty moving in mountainous or wet terrain. They are also incapable of scaling a ladder, as their weight would crush the rungs and their hooves would slip.

Notes on Role Playing this Race

Inspiration for the Centaur peoples has been drawn heavily from Sparta. Because of misconceptions that may carry over into a player’s portrayal of Centaurs, we feel it important to clarify a few things. The Spartans, while certainly a warring people, were not unintelligent butchers. They wrote poetry, songs, and histories. They had skilled artisans that were well-known across the ancient worlds. They made allies out of the peoples they had conquered and serfs out of the ones foolish enough to keep opposing them. The Centaurs of Valindir have a similar culture. Though their life is hard and they are masters of battle, they are not crude barbarians (whatever the Humans may think). No race is designed to be entirely muscle and no wit. Nature simply would not allow such a creature to exist for long.

Posted September 21, 2011 by belimedra

%d bloggers like this: