Rise of the Runelord
The Shoanti (pronounced show-AHN-tee)1 are a barbaric, often nomadic people native to the Storval Plateau and Velashu Uplands regions of Varisia. Like their Varisian cousins, these humans descended from the enslaved workers of the ancient empire of Thassilon, but have, since its fall, developed a unique and advanced culture of their own.
The origins of the Shoanti people can be traced back to before Earthfall, specifically to the well-known Thassilonian Empire. The runelords enslaved them and trained them to become their combat caste. After the destruction of the empire, the Shoanti struggled as best they could through the many hardships of the Age of Darkness which followed. This group consisted of equal parts Varisian, Ulfen, and Kellid and their language is a combination of all three as well as the Thassilonian language into one unique tongue called Shoanti, after the people.
For thousands of years the Shoanti lived in relative peace with the Varisians who shared their lands. Their primary conflicts were with the wild beasts of the region, raiding orcs from the east and barbarians from the north, and the harsh landscape itself.3 When the Chelaxian Empire expanded into southern Varisia through Bloodsworn Vale in 4406 AR, the Shoanti found themselves facing a new enemy: colonizers from the south. The battles between the people of what would become Korvosa and the Shoanti raged for decades, finally ending in 4488, but the bad blood sown between the two peoples has remained even until today.
Tribes of the Shoanti
Despite their common heritage, the seven tribes (or “quahs” in their native tongue) of the Shoanti are quite different from one another in terms of traditions, beliefs, and overall world-views. In most cases, loyalty to one’s tribe is paramount in the life of a Shoanti, but what this means is specific to the individual clan. Occasionally a quah will adopt a non-Shoanti into the tribe, but never an orc, half-orc, or Chelaxian. Some scholars view the Ulfen-descended Horsemen of the Velashu Uplands as being akin to an unofficial eighth quah of the Shoanti; the Shoanti themselves forcefully refute any such suggestion.
Lyrune-Quah (The Moon Clan)
The Lyrune-Quah are said to be among the best archers of the Shoanti people. Traveling under the bright Storval moon, and hunting by the illumination of the stars in the vast Varisian sky, members of the Moon Clan recognize that a well-aimed arrow is as effective, if not more so, than a whole band of raging brawlers.
Typical tattoos for the Lyrune-Quah evoke the night, sight, and wisdom. Prestigious runes include Navrik (Eyeless Sight), Iyon (The Great Moon), and Vinic (Piercing Stone). Animal totems held in high regard are bat, cave bear, field mouse, mountain lion, owl, and wolf. The nature totems of moon, rainstorm, and star are also revered.
Shadde-Quah (The Axe Clan)
The Shadde-Quah make their home in the cliffs and vales of the Calphiak Mountains in western Varisia. Hardy, proud, sea-faring people, the Shadde-Quah are mistrustful of outsiders and tend to attack intruders on sight, if they are not of Shaonti heritage. The Shadde-Quah have virtually no interaction with the nearby town of Riddleport, which they perceive as a settlement of dishonourable, untrustworthy criminals.
Tatoos with the themes of vitality, endurance, and the ocean are valued. Desirable runes are Vonark (Many Arms), Donark (The Long-Armed), and Eanaw (The Endless Journey). Revered totems include cave bear, cliff, dire bear, eagle, sea, squid, and water elemental.8
Shriikirri-Quah (The Hawk Clan)
The Shriikirri-Quah, of all the Shoanti tribes, possesses the strongest animal affinity. Ever learning from the beast with whom they share the land, the Hawk Clan is perhaps the most peaceful of the quahs, and they serve as the emissaries between their people and the Chelaxians in the south.
Favored tattoos suggest travel, the wilds, hawks, horses, and other animals. Desirable runes are Rotomo (Headwind), Ingir (Beast Heart), and Iyavak (The Pack). The clan’s totems are the air elemental, cloud, firepelt, forest grove, hawk, hippogriff, horse, and wind.
Shundar-Quah (The Spire Clan)
While the Shriikirri are skilled diplomats with outsiders, members of the Shundar-Quah act as go-betweens among the other Shoanti clans. Their primary ambition is to see the Shoanti unified as a single people, despite the differences that separate the seven quahs.
Typical tattoos evoke unity, watchfulness, and the ability to lead. Important runes include Drimiil (Guardian Heart), Kokip (Sentinel), and Klartitil (Broad Klar). Clan totems are the earth elemental, mountain spire, rock fall, spirestalker, and storm roc. Some clan members travel with other quah’s; occasionally, they will adopt totems from the host clan.
Sklar-Quah (The Sun Clan)
By far the most xenophobic of the Shoanti clans, the fierce members of the Sklar-Quah are almost constantly at war. Whether they fend off the orcs from Belkzen or the Chelish invaders of the south, the Sun Clan has learned to use the heat and fire of the Cinderlands as much as a weapon as it is a hardship for themselves.
Desired tatoos are those showing flames or battle, especially comprising of the runes Damkil (Orc Skull), Akmiz (Fie Hand), and Razkiv (Emberstorm). Popular totems are aurochs, cindersnake, emberstorm, fire elemental, firepelt, and sun.
Skoan-Quah (The Skull Clan)
Life among the Skoan-Quah revolves around death. Whether they are fighting against undead, acting as guardians for the deceased among all the clans, or tracking the oral history of the Shoanti people, the enigmatic members of the Skull Clan are an enigma which sometimes troubles even the most understanding of their fellow Shoanti.
Bones and skulls are favored tattoos. Popular runes are Sosmo (Forever Dead), Eiril (Duty), and Graxt (Eternity). Revered totems are ancestor spirit, earth elemental, giant scarab beetle, vulture, will-o’-wisp, and wolf.
Tamiir-Quah (The Wind Clan)
Members of the Tamiir-Quah are among the most territorial of the Shoanti people. The Wind Clan makes its home in the mountains of northern Varisia, and may the gods help anyone who threatens these areas.
Their tattoos often reflect speed, freedom, and their mountain homes. Runes of significance and Dra (Mist), Cilvat (Wind Soul), and Sovola (The Roc King). The clan’s main totems are the air elemental, cloud, griffon, mountain peak, snowflake, storm, storm roc, and wind.