Bogren by David Pasco
HISTORY: After the Great Cataclysm, over ten millennia ago, Aenya was forever altered. Tidally locked, the planet remained with one side perpetually facing the sun, becoming the desert, Ocean, while the opposite end became forever shrouded in moonlight, The Dark Hemisphere. Only the narrow region between the two hemispheres, The Midlands, continued to be suitable for human habitation. As a direct result, wars broke out over limited resources. The strongest, wealthiest, and most clever managed to find a place in this new median, whereas the weak and the poor lost their lands to become vagabonds.
Over less than a decade, these displaced peoples found themselves as migrants to the dark hemisphere, joining other fallen civilizations. Together, they managed to eke out an existence under a sunless sky. Forever in search of sustenance, those living by the twilight bore witness to the worst of humanity, routinely denied admittance to settlements whose resources were stretched too thin, picked off by beasts who hunted in the dark, or slain by members of their own as desperation took its toll. By 40 AGM, nomadic groups settled in underground caverns created by the Zo that, in places, reach to the core of the planet. Adapting to this new environment, these cave delvers carved out an ever expanding network of tunnels to house their burgeoning population. Never forgetting the cruelty inflicted upon them by their human kin, they evolved into an altogether new species, bogren, and as the centuries passed, their hatred for humanity only intensified.
PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Ironically, the small stature of their ancestors aided in adapting to life below ground. Less body mass necessitated fewer calories. It also helped in hiding from predators. Natural selection continued to favor this attribute so that adult bogren are scarcely taller than a human child. With the only light available from fire, volcanic vents, or from Aenya’s twin moons, the bogren developed larger eyes. Ear size also increased to detect predators and prey, and for navigating pitch black tunnels through a weak form of sonar. Due to sun deprivation and a drastic drop in temperatures, bogren skin adapted to both manage the cold and synthesize Vitamin-D, a dull gray fish-like hue.
Each bogren is distinct, and can vary in appearance to a greater degree than a human. Some possess more human-like features, while others have more exaggerated ears, ridges above the eyes, or a bat like facial structure. Body types range from muscular torsos to bulbous stomachs to lithe skeletal frames. Variation may be indicative of caste or subspecies. Differences in subspecies correlate to different depths and geographic regions of the dark hemisphere.
SOCIETY: Bogren society can be divided into three separate castes: workers, warriors, and foremen:
Physically smaller and weaker than their kin, the worker is the lowest in the bogren caste system. Females birthing workers rarely survive, due to the crude way in which infants are delivered. The sounds the mother makes during labor becomes the worker’s name. There is no upward mobility for a worker. A worker is born, lives, and dies a worker. Among them, the worker caste can be subdivided into smiths, wranglers, and diggers. Least of the least are the diggers, who work in the mines with pick and ax, cutting an eternally expanding network of tunnels and hovels, called warrens. Diggers receive the least food, often the scraps left by others. Their lives consist of equal parts misery and monotony, though they delight in the suffering of their own, whenever a digger falls into the magma. Rarely does a digger know anything but digging, coming to their deaths without ever seeing the light of the moons. Smiths works in the Forge, a crude network of bridges, winches, pulleys and cauldrons. They work with molten metals, hammering tin, copper and iron into crude armor and weapons. Highest among the worker caste is the wrangler. The wrangler domesticates beasts for war and for labor. These include saurians like the bandersnout, and the dreaded horg. Among bogren kind, the wrangler is the most intelligent, but intellect is of little value where everything is measured by brute strength.
Selected for their size and strength, the warrior stands at the top of the bogren hierarchy. They are given armor and weapons and are trained to fight. These weapons are crude and misshapen, rarely following any design. Cutting edges and bludgeoning surfaces are merged without distinction to form sword-hammers, ax-shields, mace-spears and other deadly perversities. A warrior seeks always to rise in rank, and rank can only be won by killing another of higher status. Chieftains are usually found among the warrior caste. Others may challenge them at any time. For this reason, bogren leaders rarely live to old age. Warrior names reflect physical attributes, but can change as those attributes change. Such names include: grumblestump, meatface, and bloodsnot.
The foreman is a fallen warrior, having been severely injured to the point of being ineffectual in battle. Typically, they are missing eyes, hands, feet, or some combination of the three. Very few are retired warriors, having grown old and infirm. The duty of the foreman is to enforce labor. Embittered by their fallen station, foremen can be unusually cruel, seeking any and all reasons to punish their workers. This includes being thrown into the magma.
Dark Side Beasts: To supplement what they lack in physical power, bogren have domesticated a number of beasts, including small saurians, like the mild-mannered bandersnout. Familiar with animal taming, and beasts of war, from before the Great Cataclysm, the bogren also set their sights upon more fearsome companions, like the horg. Dominating such monsters highlights not only their cunning, but the depths of their cruelty. Young female horg are baited with icksak fruit, rendering them numb and unconscious. A wrangler then scalps the head, and through gruesome needlework, attaches strings to the horg’s brain. The invasive process drives the creature insane, further feeding into its ferocity. The end result is a living marionette, a near unstoppable siege engine controlled by the wrangler. Should the wrangler companions be killed, however, the disowned horg body will fly into a violent frenzy, before ending its own life.
Wrangler Chiefs: On rare occasion, a wrangler may ascend to chieftain, having learned to control their horg mounts with enough proficiency to act as a single creature, with the wrangler acting as the brain and the horg the body. Despite overpowering any challenger, wrangler chiefs are often despised, their rule typically ending in murder, whenever the chief is separated from its horg or sleeping.
6296 to 6300 AGM marks the rule of Zogbak the Wrangler Chief, one of the bloodiest periods in Aenya’s history. Using sophisticated military strategy uncharacteristic to bogren kind, Zogbak’s armies swept across Aenya, from the Dark Hemisphere to the Potamis River. Over a hundred villages were lost, including the fabled city-state of Kormingar. Zogbak’s rule came to an end when a rival party of bogrens joined into an uneasy truce with a legion of displaced troops from Kormingar. A man-at-arms named Jennick is said to have struck the killing blow, and for this history grants him the honorific of Batal, though he and the other human conspirators were slaughtered moments later by their bogren allies. A new chief was elected for his size and strength, but failing to understand basic military tactics, the bogren force fell into disarray and were quickly routed.
Bandersnout by David Pasco.