the Dog Men

During the Four Winds War of 1329 Avard, Kur Maen soldiers tried to take the Rakoran city of Teras by storm. Floating in on an armada of triremes, the Kur Maens had a considerable force with which to take the city, located on the west banks of the mouth of the Galanus River. Across the river, on the east banks, lay little more than swamps. The Kur Maen forces realized that they could not maneuver through the swamps to help take the city of Teras, and attempted to move into the lands to the west of the city, in an envelopment. The local peoples of the swamps and rivers of the region, who call themselves the Dog Men with pride, soon became known as 'muckers' by the Kur Maen forces. During the invasion, and after, the Dog Men used their innate sense of the lowlands to strike and fade, utilizing guerilla tactics, living off the land, and harassing forces much larger than themselves.

The Dog Men are poor lowlanders that live along the edges of the rivers in 'open pen' houses (see image, below), usually forming family communities of no more than a score of people -- perhaps three or four open pen houses along a narrow trail no larger than a wagon. Open pen houses have two rooms -- one for sleeping, and the other for cooking and heating. Between the two rooms lies the 'dog run'. The whole open pen house is often located on stilts anywhere from two to twenty feet off the ground, depending on the location.

Open pen house of the Dog Men.

They call themselves the 'Dog Men' because of their fierce ties to their dogs, used for protection as well as hunting; the dogs are a necessary part of their lives. The dogs respond to voice commands, as well as short-horn commands, and are used to tree smaller game such as squirrels and raccoons, and corral larger game such as feral hogs. Once treed or corralled, the baying of the hounds lets the hunters know where to be, following the baying through the woods, so that the hunters can pick off their prey. Armed with slings and bows, the Muck Men are excellent shots. When corralling a herd of swine, the faster and more maneuverable dogs will keep the wild hogs in position until the hunters can arrive, pick off the larger of the hogs, and then call off the dogs so that the swine can rush off into the lowlands.

The short-horns of the Muck Men can sound longer blasts to speak with other hunters and their kin. Short blasts are used for dog commands, and long toots of the horn signal other hunting parties or nearby friends. One blast means 'I am here', two blasts means 'where are you', and three blasts means 'come to me'. After making a kill too large for men to effectively move, the Muck Men will use their dogs, themselves, or horses when available, to move the prey by brute strength to the nearest trailway. From there, the longer short-horn blasts can guide in the wives and children in wagons, to take the big kills back to the open pen houses.

Pork is an important part of the Muck Men's diets, and all parts of the wild boar are used -- from fat and ashes to make lye soap, to ham hocks dried in smoke houses, to pungent hogs head cheeses. The Dog Men often keep dairy cows strictly for milking, as well as chickens for their eggs.

Although poor and exceptionally xenophobic, the slate Muck Men will quickly move to the aid of strangers, and are fiercely loyal to the land upon which they live. Taking their living from the land, the king and the court have decided not to tax the Dog Men directly, but rather using them to help keep the lowlands free of more dangerous creatures.

Unmarried women among the Dog Men often take up positions as healers, and are often given the powers to heal by the druidic pantheon. It is not unusual to find a healer of some small power among any group of open pen houses.

Excellent hunters, capeable woodsmen, and even daring river men, the 'muckers' are often respected for their skills, and at the same time disrespected for their apparent lack of wealth, their xenophobia, and for their isolationism and reclusivity.

Their loyalty to one another is rivaled only by their loyalties to their dogs. Sometimes dogs are injured during hog corrals, and are tended to with as much skill as would be used to treat a wounded spouse or child. Needles and thread, poultices, and an innate knowledge of local healing are often with every Dog Man.

During the latter parts of the War of the Four Winds, when the ograns invaded the lowlands, the Dog Men developed an intense hatred of the ograns. It is even rumored that they developed a taste for orc. The coyotes of the ogran kobolds proved of little use against the dogs of the muckers, for the Dog Men could hide their scent, and hunt the ograns at their leisure. Their relatively large numbers of druidesses, coupled with amazing huntsmanship, ensured the survival of the Dog Men in their lowland homes. Many a roc-hawke learned to fear the tell-tale spark of a mucker druidess in touch with the sun-god Phelor.

The Dog Men are quite rare in numbers, despite their large reputation and wide distribution among the rivers and bottomlands of Rakore, though they tend to be found more concentrated near Teras and the swamplands around that region. They have a relatively rich oral history that predates Rakore by centuries, but has tended to wander into the realms of inaccuracy over time.

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