No one is sure what the Doviello were before the Age of Ice, most likely men from many nations. But instead of retreating to caves to wait out the cold, they became wild men barely surviving on the surface, raiding and killing any groups they found. They continue their habits even as the other nations try to settle on the surface.
Charadon was a young boy raised in the harsh Age of Ice. Whether this accounts for his savagery or some other worldly taint is a question for the ages, but it did allow him and his tribe to survive. He copied the tactics of the wolf packs preying on his people, taking the strongest under his wing, sharing with those who helped his tribe survive but abandoning those that slowed it down. Other men and women joined this tribe, their alternatives being submission to Mulcarn’s White Hand priesthood or a cold lonely death. Only the Doviello were free and thriving in the heart of the winter, but the cost of this was any noble aspects of their humanity. The ruling Illians left the Doviello alone to prey on those tribes that gained Mulcarn’s enmity.
Eventually the Doviello clashed with Kylorin’s Amurites, and the savage wolf was brought to heel. The Amurites bested them, turning them against their Illian masters. As the Age of Rebirth dawns, the Doviello wonder if they had made a mistake. They did what they felt they had to do to survive, but by allowing the Age of Ice to end they have endangered their way of life. The wolf is adaptable, but also cunning, and should they sniff out Auric Ulvin’s plans a path to their old dominance may arise.
Mahala seeks to reawaken the spirit of their founder, Charadon, whose leadership would renew the Doviello’s savage ties, though a path of strength through civilization may be open to the Doviello’s current pack leader.
< 1% Other
60% Chaotic Evil
30% Chaotic Neutral
< 1% Other
Adult population Lvl 1 or higher: 8%
Sorcerer: 1% (Wild Magic)
Other: < 1%
He was lost. The realization suddenly dawned on him, in all its cold and inescapable horror. He had no idea where the camp was. He had been taken along on the hunt, for the first time, but now the others had left him here. He was about to panic, but he steeled himself against the cold and loneliness instead, remembering what could happen if you lost control out here.
Charadon wandered about the windswept plains for some time, catching a few rabbits and eating them raw, as his father had taught him just a few weeks—an eternity it seemed now—earlier. As twilight gave way to moonlight, he saw a hill close by, and decided to climb it.
It was then he saw the wolves. A large pack of them, resting for the night in the small shelter against snow and wind the hill offered. They did not see him, and nor did they smell him, it seemed.
To Lucian, wolves had always been defined by the distant howling at midnight, or the shadowy shapes sometimes darting at the edges of the campfire’s light. He had never had the chance to behold them in their stark glory before. Their graceful figures, stalking across the land, always poised to strike, never letting their guard down. Their thick grey fur providing shelter from the wind and ice. Their powerful jaws, with teeth fit for crushing and grinding.
For the next few weeks, he followed the wolves. Always taking care to keep a safe distance, he diligently observed the behavior of the pack with a child’s curiosity.
One thing he noticed was the sheer brutal efficiency that signified its progress, not constrained by the human emotions of compassion and mercy. If one among the pack had been hurt or struck by fatigue, the others merely left it for dead on the icy ground, unless prey had been scarce lately, then they welcomed the food supply their weaker kin provided.
If a young pup was born weak or crippled, it was the father’s prime duty to crush its neck and throw it aside, as a human would throw down a broken spear. When the hunt was on, and a prey was taken down, the wolves did not share the spoils equally, but fought to the death for it, young as well as old, male as well as female.
At first these things horrified the young Charadon, but gradually the horror gave way to admiration. Because the wolves, thanks to these measures, were very efficient at what they did. By rooting out the weaknesses of individuals, the pack managed to survive. In a world as harsh as this, unyielding cruelty was the greatest tool in the struggle for resources.
One day, as he climbed a hillside to get a view of the progress of the pack, he spied the smoke of campfires in the horizon. Greatly uplifted by the sight, he made his way towards the camp. As he approached the camp, moving slowly down the hillside, he gazed at its inhabitants. What a contrast compared to the wolves! Here, the elderly were brought food by the hunters, the children nursed in their mothers’ tender embrace and the sick cared for by herbal medicine and gentle treatment. They were glorifying weakness. At this sight, and this realization, something deep in the heart of Charadon went cold and dark. With a clarity both liberating and dreadful, he suddenly knew what he had to do.
Charadon stood on the hillside and watched the slaughter. His people had been taken completely by surprise by the pack of wolves. His face was expressionless as he watched them drag his mother out of her tent, and fight over her entrails. His father attempted to stop them, only to be ripped apart by the leader of the pack. As he stood there, silently waiting, what was left of his people, the strongest and fiercest among them, finally managed to drive the wolves away. The worthy ones. He made his way down the hillside, to join up with the survivors. There would be a place for them in the future after all.
“He said it would allow him to write a story that would show my greatness. I think putting his head on my spear accomplishes the same effect.”
—on why not to be a Doviello scholar
“We need to find out more about him.”
“Need to find out more, are we the yellow skirts now? Why do you obsess about knowledge? It’s that kind of talk that makes the civilized…” Charadon practically spat the word “…people soft. It makes you soft as well.”
Mahala ignored him. Blustering, headstrong fool… “The man could be a fraud, or he could be a very real threat—or an ally. We need certainty, or as much as can be had. If the Illians are on the rise…”
She had hoped he would see sense for once, but their discussion deteriorated, as usual. Damned, stupid, single-minded, vicious bastard. For the Shamans to reawaken this monster… Mahala took a deep breath and tried again to argue her point.
“All your pointless wars will do is make sure our enemies get organized and decide that we are better off extinct!”
“Hah! All you want to do is weaken us and then hand us over to our enemies, to be put in pens like sheep and cows! Better to die as warriors than live as thralls!”
“Sheep and c… Argh! I am thinking of our children, while all you think of is your thirstfor blood!”
“If I didn’t watch you every second, I’m sure you would sneak up and plant a knife in my back—then you’d be rid of the last defender of Doviello strength!” The insult was clear and damning. Killing an opponent in any other way than in public, gory, single combat, was perhaps the most cowardly thing the Doviello could think of.
“I would never shame myself like that—but I wish to Camulos someone would challenge you! You are well past your prime anyway! It’s about time the pack had a new leader, grey hair. Bringing you back was a mistake.”
She could see that struck home. She knew it would. Charadon’s face turned deep purple with unfettered rage.
“You rodent! How dare you! You ungrateful little sheep’s daughter! It is not too late to make you into mother’s meat, weakling! You will listen to your pack leader!”
“You are not my pack leader! I built the Doviello alone with my bare hands! After your failed age of ice, they had nothing but me. The Doviello is my pack!” Mahala had enough. She turned to leave, but Charadon grabbed her from behind, wrapped his arms around her waist, held her tight and brought his head to the level of hers.
Mahala could smell the stench of rotting meat and bad teeth on Charadon’s breath as he panted in her ear: “Your mind is weak, your words are foolish, but your body has… potential. We would have strong cubs, leaders. As long as they had my good blood in them…” There was an undertone to his statement, an ill-controlled growl of anticipation and desire, anger turned to lust.
She snarled, twisted, and brought her knife, concealed in the folds of her sleeve, up along his jugular. She drew blood, a hairline running along his neck.
Undeterred, Charadon flashed her a lecherous grin, and backed away from her. As he left the hall, his parting words were “Not yet, I see.” That lascivious dog, Mahala thought uncharitably, as her chest heaved and fell, the adrenaline pumping through her veins.
It didn’t really matter what Charadon decided, she would be conducting her own investigations anyway. At this stage, it looked like a very good idea to go away for a while.
She closed her eyes and once again saw the figure from her dream. Handsome, but…effeminate, foppish, with some ridiculous roguish affectations and a thin, pointy sword that looked like it was only good for skewering meat. He did not seem like a warrior, let alone a hero or someone she could trust. But he must be important. Why else would such a figure haunt her sleep?
After waiting for Charadon to lumber out and meet his henchmen, Mahala slipped out the back. Her mount was waiting, along with a handful of her most trusted and capable friends and bodyguards. One of them, a huntress named Ciciel, approached her.
“We are ready. Did you get any more help?”
“We will make do with what we’ve got. That man is impossible to reason with. Camulos, he is impossible to even speak to! He tried to mate with me, again! If I could, I would have every Shaman who helped recall that lunatic from Camulos’s vault put to death.”
“The elders seem to think it was good. A leader in a time of need, with so many young beastmen dying on failed raids…”
“No time of need! It was sad to be weakened like that, it was dark times to be sure, but it was a necessary cull of the headstrong.” Mahala did not mention that occasionally the raids had failed on purpose. Not many people knew that, and her continued good health depended on her keeping it that way: “We would have emerged much more lethal and efficient afterwards, but now, now…”
Mahala gave her stubborn horse a sharp jab in the belly, forcing him to exhale the air he was holding on to. Then she pulled the saddle strap tight.
“Now this ghost from the past thinks it is a good idea to use the chaos in the south to raid everyone else with abandon, and hang everything else. It is folly either way—if they defeat him, they’re coming for us, but if the sorcerer wins, we will not escape either.”
Mahala peered around the corner of the great hall. She could just see Charadon busily inspecting his beloved War Machine. It was the perfect device for Charadon, brutal and direct. No wonder he loved it so much. She busied herself with her own preparations.
“Well, at least one of us has some common sense and a will to think beyond the tip of her sword.”
Charadon would probably just be glad to be rid of her, so he could continue his mad race to drown the Doviello in blood. But she was bringing one man he was sure to miss…
“Ciciel, is Lucien here yet?”
Lucian grunted, lifted his shoulder and threw Fadious back. His axe swung just as Fadious was far enough away to meet the heart of its thick steel blade. It cut easily through the worn leather breastplate spraying the air with blood and bits of Fadious’s entrails.
The axe was a symbol of the problem with the Doviello. It was a relic of an earlier time, when the Doviello were capable of forging such items. Even now, at the beginning of the Age of Rebirth, a weapon nearly a century old was better than the crude weapons the Doviello used. But the other empires were relearning the knowledge of former ages, soon the Doviello would face armies outfitted with steel weapons and armor. And the strength of the Doviello would not be enough to stand against it.
Yet here they stood, arguing with each other over the meager scraps of their frozen tundra. While each year the ice receded and more powerful empires moved into the lands, pushing the Doviello back. Instead of uniting to stand against these other armies the tribe leaders fought each other. Lucian hated killing Fadious, it was another senseless death that only weakened the Doviello but that was all the Doviello responded to.
“Does anyone else oppose me?”
Most dropped their eyes as Lucian looked at them. A few sided with Lucian and had cheered him on during the fight, but most had hoped that Lucian would die and they could go back to the life they knew and ignore his crazy plan to restore their power. Either way no one stood against him.
“Gather your weapons and as much gear as you can carry without slowing you down. We will hunt as we go and the land will only get less hospitable as we near Letum Frigus. Two weeks’ run, and then we will feast from the Illians’ larder. They will receive us as kings for the message we carry.”
That is the secret of a forced march, promise the men paradise at the other end. For the Doviello that is a feast. Lucian only hoped his story was true.
“We cannot breed more than the orcs, or learn more than the Amurites. If we are to survive this age we must do so with muscle and iron."
—on Iron Working
Dentaro and the War Machine
Dentaro was not a typical Doviello. In battle he was as ferocious as the next, which earned him his place in the tribe, but after battle, he would not partake in the feasting, the telling of exaggerated stories of bravery, or even the sating of other desires with the conquered peoples.
No, after every battle Dentaro scurried about picking through the remains. He examined each rusty blade, axe handle, chariot wheel, bits of sturdy bone or even teeth. These would be placed in his pack, and deposited in his home the next time they returned to Doviello lands. Worse, to his kinsmen’s estimation, he would inspect any books they came across, reading some, discarding others. His older brother laid Dentaro flat the first time he caught him reading. The second time, Dentaro broke his brother’s axe arm and knocked out three teeth, so the others left him to his eccentricity.
Any dwarven prisoner would be questioned closely by Dentaro. Unlike his peers, he would not ask where their wine, weapons, or wealth were. He asked them about steam, about mechanics, about enchantment.
On this continued, late into his life. The tribe’s fortunes waxed and waned, but gradually the enemy pushed them back to their tundra homeland, and pressed further. Then one night Urslo itself was threatened in a surprise attack, by disciplined soldiers. The sounds of battle awakened Dentaro, and the sounds of battle continued until they were drowned out by an unearthly roar. Dentaro’s ramshackle house burst apart. The Doviello word for “machine” was invented that night, as Dentaro’s War Machine emerged.
Dentaro’s steam and smoke-belching behemoth of timber and iron falls well short of even the practical dwarves’ standards of beauty, but no one can deny its effectiveness. Six rock-slinging ballistae and twenty heavy crossbows fire as it drives forward, operated by eunuchoid gnome and dwarf technician-slaves. Blades sweep side to side, and more lances lead the War Machine’s charge than a company of knights. Whether powered by magic, technology, some beasts running in circles inside, or an unholy combination of the three, no one but Dentaro could truly say.
The enemy at Urslo was wiped out to the man. The Doviello began to retake their old conquests, Dentaro at the lead. No one spoke of him as the odd one anymore, and even Dentaro’s older brother began to introduce himself by his relation to the old misfit. Dentaro himself barely noticed his increased stature. After every battle, he climbs down from the War Machine, and begins to pick through the carnage, taking a blade here, a chariot wheel there, and adding it to his sack.