A Rough Guide to Fomorians
Minimum Features = Scaly/grey skin, large build and at least one mutation or deformity
Prohibited Realms = Necromancy, Purity, Life
Element = Any (younger race)
The blood of the changelings runs strongest in this race and because of it they always suffer from some mutation or deformity. Fomorians are fearsome in appearance, with a large build and dark grey skin, with scales common, particularly on the face and hands. Because of this they may sometimes be mistaken for lizardmen or snake people, but they are in fact a completely separate race.
Fomorian attire is designed to make the wearer look more imposing, so armour is usually heavy and obvious, and they prefer hefty and unsubtle two-handed weapons. Dragon designs are a recurring motif in fomorian art and the Fomorian longships that prey on merchant ships in the seas near the the Banath Isles often have their prow carved into the shape of a dragon.
Although their bulky build and strength may make it seem unlikely, most scholars now believe that the Fomorians are distant descendants of the ancient Fey or Danari. Somehow, most likely not long after the Starfall, a devolved sub-branch of the Fey managed to claw its way back to sentience, though the evolutionary process is apparently still incomplete as all Fomorians still suffer from mutations. Fomorian creation myths tell of a great sea dragon from whose breath they sprang.
Their relatively recent genesis and the isolation of the mysterious Banath Isles where they dwell mean that the Fomorians have yet to make any great impact on the Known World. They are perhaps best known as the source of much, if not all, of the piracy that plagues the waters surrounding the Banath Isles, which lie to the west of Danar and the Anvil Lands. The failure of several expeditions led by the Knights of the Order of the Lance to root them out is testament to the martial prowess of Fomorians. Their current King is Grulect, a fearsome warrior who reputedly slew a High Mystic of Madrog in single combat in the last of the Order of the Lance’s unsuccessful missions.
Outlook and Attitude
Fomorians are a fierce and aggressive race whose prowess in battle is legendary. Fomorian attitudes, culture and even society are all based around the single, simple premise of “might is right.” Strength, whether martial or magical, is everything to Fomorians. They are brought up to be stoic and uncomplaining, ferocious in battle, but true to any oaths that they swear.
Losing is a source of shame to Fomorians, for it highlights their weakness, although if faced with a stronger foe they will yield if given the opportunity. While shameful, such submission allows for the possibility of finding a way to better themselves and rechallenging the victor at a later date. Of course, if pressed or given no quarter then Fomorians will fight fiercely to the death. Admitting defeat is not the same as begging for mercy. Fomorians do not beg.
Fomorian society is based upon a feudal system of blood oaths. Any social grouping of Fomorians, whether it be a mercenary band, pirate ship or a village, will have a single ruler who has complete authority over that group (referred to as a brood). The brood’s members each swear a blood oath of loyalty and submission to the chieftain. In return the chieftain swears a pact of peace, promising not to harm them outside of ritual combat or winnowing (see below). When a chieftain dies there is a brief but chaotic and violent interlude known as “The Choosing” when the remaining Fomorians fight it out for the right to be the next chieftain. Any members of the previous brood who refuse to swear to the new chieftain and do not leave immediately are quickly challenged to ritual combat by the new chieftain, for to permit such defiance to continue would be seen as a sign of weakness.
Once the new chief has been sworn in then the only way for members of his or her brood to challenge him/her is through a ritual duel to the death called “The Test of Blood”. King Grulect is said to have fought and won over 100 such fights. Fomorians from other broods are theoretically allowed to kill other chieftains by whatever means they deem fit, but stealthy assassinations and poisoning are rare, largely because Fomorians deem such underhand means as a sign of weakness and the assassin will quickly find themselves the subject of repeated challenges or attacks from other Fomorians.
Although broods function largely autonomously, the Fomorians do have a king (or queen), whose role it is to deal with matters that concern the Fomorians as a whole, a.k.a. the Great Brood. The holder of this role is selected much as a normal brood chief is, save that he or she is elected from existing brood chiefs of Fomorian blood only. When the current king dies or is seen to be weakening, the chiefs are all invited to a gathering in which many duels are fought to determine whether the old king is still strong enough or if not, who will take his or her place. As this process often results in the death of many brood chiefs and consequently many more deaths amongst the members of broods left chiefless, the death of a king is a highly significant event in Fomorian society. Fortunately, for the Fomorians at least, the fierce selection process that any Fomorian must go through to actually become king or queen means that they are extremely tough and hard to kill.
Although Fomorians do not have any honour as is commonly understood, their social conventions often mimic it. For example, they consider it bad form not to allow someone you wish to challenge time to heal or regain power before fighting (though this does not apply once a fight has started). This is not done out of a sense of fairness, but rather because to not do so would be taken as a tacit admission that you are not strong enough to beat them when they’re at full health, which is of course a sign of weakness and as such anathema to most Fomorians. Similarly, if an enemy yields during a fight (and it appears genuine) then unless they bear particular loathing towards the individual in question, Fomorians will generally accept the surrender, though they may make some mark on the victim as a sign of their triumph. Cutting a scar on an individual’s cheek is common, as is the taking of a finger or even an ear. However, do not expect a Fomorian to allow you to get back up after a slip or to retrieve a dropped weapon. Unless you surrender and throw down your weapons they will press any advantage strongly, for the weakness in making the error was of your own making.
There is little distinction between the sexes in Fomorian society, in part because given their likely reptilian heritage it is hard to tell the sexes apart, but mostly because the Fomorian respect strength above all things, so gender is comparatively unimportant. Equally, while force of arms is by far and away the preferred martial tactic of Fomorians, magic is not forbidden and is an acceptable way to win fights, though if the wielder appears to lack martial skills they may find themselves the subject of several challenges before the Fomorians are satisfied of that individual’s worth.
While content to serve under a stronger leader than them, Fomorians will expect any leader to continually prove themself worthy of the role or face being deposed. There are no jobs for life in Fomorian society, the moment you can’t cut it anymore, you’re likely to be challenged. Although ruthless, this system does ensure that Fomorian society is only ever run by those best able to do so.
Although scholars believe that Fomorians can live to more than a century, in practice they rarely do so. This is in part due to their aggressive and warlike proclivities, but mostly due to a traditional practice called “winnowing”. Any Fomorian who is judged by his or her chieftain to be infirm, chronically sick or just too old and weak, is given the opportunity to fight for their right to live. Once challenged, they must pick any other member of their brood and best them in single combat. While it is not customary to kill such an opponent if the Fomorian so challenged wins, if they lose then they are put to death. Fomorian society is utterly ruthless in this regard, either you keep up or you die.
While winnowing is a wholly accepted cause of death amongst everyday fomorians, it is seen by many warriors as a poor death, akin to dying in your sleep. There is however another way out for those proud Fomorians who, whether by injury, sickness or old age, find themselves to be no longer the force that they once were. This is the “Sea Change,” a ritualised suicide which takes the form of a plunge from the Shining Cliffs, situated in the Banath Isles, where the Fomorians symbolically return their bodies to the sea from whence their race sprang. If they are physically unable to journey to the cliffs, then a Fomorian’s comrades often carry them there and, if necessary, throw them over the edge too.
Interactions with other races and lands
Despite their remote location in the Banath Isles, the combination of the Fomorians’ martial strength with their ferociously competitive nature means that even in the relatively short time they have been part of the Known World they have come into regular conflict with most races and cultures that they have met.
Fomorians are perhaps best known for their piracy, and it is this that has caused the current conflict with the Order of the Lance. Attempts have been made to mediate by the likes of the Church of Luthien, but the seemingly intractable problem is that the Fomorians simply do not see piracy or banditry as being in any way wrong. It is simply the strong taking their rightful share of the world’s bounty from those that do not deserve it, the weak. Similarly if you steal something from a Fomorian, they will not go running to the law, instead they will simply try and take it back off you, unless of course they think you are stronger than them, in which case they will usually concede your right to the property while pondering how they might be able to best you in future.
Those who have successfully dealt with Fomorians report that it is essential when first encountering them to appear as strong and imposing as possible, for if you show any signs of weakness you may be attacked without warning. If you are unable to fight them off then surrendering will usually guarantee your survival, for they have no interest in unnecessary bloodshed and yielding indicates your respect for their martial prowess.
Although the Fomorians are on the whole fiercely clannish, there are nevertheless individuals who seek to travel beyond their normal range to face the many challenges that the world had to offer. Those that cannot curb their Fomorian instincts and adapt to the laws and traditions that govern how the rest of the world works usually end up in prison or dead, but those that can will find that they are greatly prized as mercenaries, so long as they will swear on their blood to obey their employer. Of course while Fomorians can curb their instincts, deep down they are always there.
Unsurprisingly, given their ongoing mutability and aggressive nature, Jareth and Madrog are the most popular Realm Lords. Despite the Fomorian attitude to piracy and banditry, Fomorian mystics of Omaga do exist and are perfectly content to allow such, being more concerned with matters of honour and blood oath-keeping. They also have unorthodox interpretations of some of the other Realm Lords and Ladies, for example, with Wydren, Fomorians believe that to find your way across the web of fate you have to act like the spider, lest you will struggle and die like a fly.
As a race, the Fomorians have a profound antagonism towards necromancy. Death is seen as an essential part of keeping the Fomorians blood strong and vital, so the dead cannot be permitted to rise again, whether through necromancy or resurrection. A fair number of Fomorians initially fought in the war against Quartak for ideological reasons, though when it became clear that the only way to depose Quartak was to restore Drune they withdrew en masse in disgust. As a race they are too mutable to ever be considered pure with all Fomorians being touched with some mutation or deformity. Serving Luthien is similarly beneath them as aiding the weak goes against their fundamental principles.