The der Whurlitz Griffin riders are a tightly knit band of raiders that reside in the middle-eastern region of the Ribs. Their fortress is named Anthelcraig and is nearly impossible to approach except through the air. The Riders are bonded through blood, affection for their griffins, and a common goal of exacting revenge upon Nevros for their traitorous to the Empire—of which the Riders are the only surviving remnant. They are comprised solely of humans and are somewhat inbred, if not for the northern barbarians whom they trade and intermarry with. The Griffin Riders reside outside of Nevros within a highly fortified portion of the Ribs called Anthelcraig. As the griffin flies they are only one hundred twenty-five kilometers outside of the Nevros capital of Alden. The Griffin Riders are never referred to as such, but either as “der Whurlitz’ Raiders” or “the Griffin Raiders”. They are spoken of with trepidation by all except those under the direct protection of a garrison or fortress. While they aren't considered evil, they are considered to be quite a nuisance.
Edgar der Whurlitz: is the current leader of the Riders, and bears the title of Duke der Whurlitz. In the event of his death his son Eustace will then bear the title of duke, and all the leadership of the riders.
Captain: A captain is the direct superior of two lieutenants, and a flight of twenty riders. Captains are charged not only with leadership over their riders but with the wellbeing of man and beast. It is a prerequisite that a captain must possess the bloodline of a healer, the high magic tie to life that renders them able to heal whilst abroad. There are only four captains.
Lieutenant: A lieutenant is part of a flight and leads nine other riders as a part of his wing. He is directly responsible for their performance as well as their orderliness. There are only eight lieutenants.
Rider: A rider is an avowed member of the Riders, and has responsibility over their griffin and its training. Both rider and griffin are trained from youth as a trainee, and are inseparable; it is deemed impossible for a grown man and griffin to acclimate to one another. A rider is expected to take no less than one pupil from the trainees to mentor—raising a griffin being a full time job. There are only seventy-two riders.
Trainee: A trainee is a rider in training. They are always younger than eighteen years old. Both young boys and girls are accepted into the ranks, however female riders make up the minority. A trainee is responsible for their griffin and its training. There are a potentially unlimited number of trainees, limited only by the availability of young griffins.
Disavowed: It is a true disgrace to be disavowed. However, sometimes it is necessary, and the disavowed do provide useful services. But how else would they be accepted back into normal society without being disavowed by the Riders? Disavowed are usually spies and scouts, tasked with finding the richest most vulnerable targets. They also are commonly used to sell stolen goods for which the Riders have no use, and for purchasing essentials that cannot be easily obtained in a raid. Disavowed are never counted, but still welcome within the fortress. The disavowed are permitted to keep their griffin, as it would respond to no other.
The Riders are solely human, with unidentifiable tribal backgrounds mixed in. They have intermingled with the northern barbarians to a point, but are mostly their own clan. Riders are a more compact lot with lesser heights and weights than most humans. Their average height is only five foot four (1.63m) and their weight averages between one hundred forty pounds (63kg) down to one hundred twenty pounds (54kg). Their hair is almost always a shade of brown, which fades to gray or silver around the age of thirty; the more common, yet rare, hair colors would be black and red. Eye colors have all variations of color normal to humans. And all Riders possess a certain subconscious air of superiority about them.
High Aramic is the common language of the people, and by and large almost everyone can read and write. Skill levels at this may be differing depending upon station, of course, but the written histories of the clan are freely available to read at any time. Lower Aramic is the language used for trade, and all riders who leave must be adequately fluent in this Tradespeak so as to get the point across.
- Rider: Either a rank or an individual within the Riders.
- Wing: A group of ten griffin’s and their riders; when directly addressed it includes all members except when its lieutenant is doing the talking.
- Flight: Two wings headed by a captain. A group of twenty-one riders.
- Dropped: if speaking of a person being dropped this means being disavowed or “dropped” from the riders. If spoken as a rider dropped, then it means death or critical wounds to the griffin.
Code of EthicsEdit
- Respect thy leaders and thy peers, do not fight your clan. # Obey the leader assigned to thee.
- Neither take, nor kill, prisoners.
- Treat the personage of thy victims with respect.
- Harm not the unarmed.
The Riders are skilled bowmen who utilize a short bow at altitudes of fifty to one thousand feet. They drill both from the backs of their griffins and from the ground. This is their predominant weapon as a clan. In close fighting on the ground the griffin is trained to be an absolute menace. Ripping with beak and talons, the griffin is often more deadly than even the archer on its back. The Riders are in no shape to lay siege to anywhere, or to take high amounts of losses. While the losses would do little enough to their stronghold, they would enter long periods of hardship in being incapable of raiding adequately. As such their tactics involve hit-and-run and ambushes. Because Nevros is paranoid and highly fortified, the most common prey are traders, merchants, and caravans. Anything that looks large enough or well guarded enough usually is would be attacked. The most common tactic is to shoot any archers from a safe height, then descend and in a second fly over shoot whomever is armed while the griffin lands and begins to attack its prey. The entire time the rider would be shooting targets around his griffin with impunity.
The Riders have a secondary bloodline that they accidentally acquired from the nearby barbarians through intermarriage. This bloodline is the high magic gift of life, primarily the ability to heal or in some instances to kill as well. Due to the interbreeding of the Riders and the tribes, the gift of healing is very nearly universal. Those without the gift cannot qualify as a captain, but may serve in any other capacity. The Raiders have all but forgotten all other forms of magic but this ability to heal. Low magic, or other high magic abilities, are very rare within their ranks.
Summary: Anthelcraig is located in a bowl back in the Ribs above the snowline. The entire bowl is a city that houses some three hundred men and women excluding the fighting ranks. Around the bowl are walls twenty feet (6.66m) high and ten feet (3.33m) thick. All gates are made of wood covered with iron.
Society: Society is tightly knit and loyal to family and clan ties to the extreme. There is no real aristocracy besides the hereditary leadership of der Whurlitz, and any child within the city can attempt to become a trainee. If accepted there is nothing preventing them from becoming as high ranking as a captain, the highest rank. To prevent inbreeding, the Raiders periodically trade with, or raid, the barbarian tribes to the north and frequently take young women and widows with them on the return.
Culture: It has become important to track the bloodlines of the griffins over the centuries, to breed them as one does prize horses. And indeed, to the Riders they are the horse of the sky. Most of the people involved with the breeding and hatching process keep written records of the eggs and their parentage; some records reach back over one hundred fifty years for a single bloodline. Fire's Day the 10th of Akaril is viewed as an unlucky day and no raid is ever sent during it. The 10th of Akaril being, historically, the day of their single greatest lost against the Naga centuries ago. However this has stretched to become that every Fire's Day the 10th is unlucky, and therefore any raid on the 10th is viewed as both unlucky and highly risky. The Riders possess a custom that dictates that no unmarried, or widowed, woman should wear their hair below their shoulders. The custom goes so far as to require the hair to be cut to that length if widowed.
Clothes: Because they cannot just raid and strip clothes off people in hopes they'd fit, the Riders frequently must buy clothes from their own people. Almost all people have two pair of linen undergarments and one set of leather trousers and a leather jacket. Because the leather alone isn't enough insulation, the fur is frequently kept on the leather when tanned. The shorter length furs are worn on the inside, and the longer length on the outside. But hides are valuable, and so a single suit of leathers may cost as much as seven silver.
Agriculture & Food Supply: Because of the location it is impossible to grow any sort of crops, and so the city is highly dependent upon its raiding. There are a few outlying farms that brave souls have established that supply enough rations to survive the winter, but barely. These farms must be close enough to the fortress to have its protection from Nevros, but far enough away that they are below the snowline.
Wealth: The city as a whole typically exchanges goods in a barter system or uses copper or silver coinage, most the goods being stolen or produced at their location. As such prices are quite low on most things like weapons and food, but the cost of things like clothes are high enough that most only have one set of clothing.
Trade: Trade is virtually impossible, and is only made possible by the disavowed that retain friendliness towards the Riders. The disavowed then become the merchants of the Riders, who resell the stolen goods away from where it was taken for a decent profit. This profit is frequently used to purchase food to supplement what had been raided, and then returned to the stronghold. Common trade goods are: luxurious clothes (which cannot withstand the cold climate), weapons, or anything unused by the Riders.
Common Jobs: Because griffins must be tended there are a large number of grooms that work the stables. Second to those are the griffin breeders, the ones who arrange for and care for griffin eggs until hatching. Thirdly there are then griffin caretakers that take care of the young griffins until a suitable human child reaches the right age at the same time of the griffin. After this comes the tanners and tailors that furnish the warm fur and leather garments of the der Whurlitz. Other common jobs would be those of smiths, carpenters, masons, cooks, hunters, and even bookkeepers. The bookkeepers largely tend to keeping their written histories of events and their duke, but also keep a tally of spoils and what must be sold.
Many do not know when the Griffin Riders were formed, but they remember even to this day. To the shock of many a historian, the riders predate even the conflict with the Naga. The Riders were formed during the reign of the Empire shortly after its campaign against the Ogres. The der Whurlitz held the northernmost lands in the empire and were constantly roaming yet further north. Emidio der Whurlitz never knew what he was searching for nor if he found it, but the two large eggs he managed to steal from the nest of a griffin left a legacy that survived the many centuries. At first they were just glorified watchdogs. Then a handler decided to try flying on one. But it was only with Emidio’s son Edward did the concept of griffin riding become militarily attractive. The new Griffin Riders of der Whurlitz fought through the campaign against the ogres with great success. By the end of this campaign they had fully two hundred riders and griffins. They had, by this time, learned the methods of how to rear griffins and how to care for the eggs until they hatched. Then the Naga came and tried to invade the world. The Riders fought valiantly, and at the same time they worked as a scout corps to perform reconnaissance missions. The Naga quickly realized the threats of these flying eyes and so focused their magics upon the Riders. All of a sudden the Riders went from their swelling ranks down to the survival of only one flight. This flight was under the command of Eckhard der Whurlitz, nephew of Edward. Edward was slain in battle with the Naga, and soon this one flight was fighting for its very survival. Eckhard der Whurlitz was hailed among his men as a genius for bringing about their survival. But inwardly Eckhard despaired at the situation of his people. He was the only remaining der Whurlitz and therefore his family’s northern lands went to him. With the war over and the empire crumbling he retreated with his troops to his lands and the Riders nursed their wounds. In the smaller skirmishes against the Naga Eckhard lost almost half his lands, only to have them reclaimed by his supposed allies. After the war with the Naga the Riders remained neutral for many years. Naturally in the peace their numbers grew, though slowly because there were so few griffins remaining. During this time Eckhard became an old man. He had foreseen trouble with his greedy neighbors and had sent his men back into the Ribs to find a place suitable for a fortress. By the time of Eckhard’s death the fortress was completed and inhabited. As unforgiving as the terrain was he had spared no expense in its creation. It was here that the new Riders were born after Eckhard’s death. Edsel der Whurlitz soon found himself at the head of the Riders, and began to focus upon the trade so essential for their survival. The Ribs had no agricultural capability for the six hundred souls in the mountains, and so despite some hunting and foraging trade became all important. When Edsel in turn became old the Principality of Nevros abandoned the empire and declared independence. This new independence permitted them to prey upon the only remaining land of the der Whurlitz, the only arable land they possessed. This wouldn’t have been so bad, if not for the fact that they refused to trade with Edsel—who still was loyal to the Empire. Infuriated with the insult, Edsel declared the Riders the new arm of the empire and began raiding Nevros for the supplies they needed. No longer was it peaceful trade but rather out and out extortion. Edsel died nine months after this drastic policy came into effect, and rumor had it that he had been mad for years. The Riders have not changed since then. They still feel the smart of the insults upon their honor, the denial of trade to brothers who sacrificed their lives to drive away the Naga. While today the Empire no longer stands the Rider fortress of Anthelcraig is held as the sole bastion of loyalists to the old empire. Nor can they forget, as most riders are taught to read High Aramic and can read the history of their people at any time they choose. Their blood still runs as hot as when the insult was first received, though the lure of gold is now just as strong as the former.