The tlaxu are a humanoid race with a vaguely cat-like appearance. They are numerous on the Inner Continent and can be found scattered across many smaller islands. Like humans, they display many different ethnicities created by cultural and geographical differences (and perhaps the hand of the Immortals). All tlaxu share a common heritage and although they may look superficially different all the races can interbreed.
A typical tlaxu is slightly taller and heavier than an average human. They are also slightly stronger and faster than an average human, but they exhibit as much variation in height, weight and general physical traits as humans. Tlaxu hands and feet have four digits, giving three fingers and a thumb on each hand. Fingers and toes are broad at the tips and all tlaxu have retractable claws. Opinions on the display and use of these claws varies between tlaxu cultures. They have large cat-like ears and all tlaxu are covered by a fine furry hair, which is thicker and grows longer on their heads. Their faces are often considered feline by other races, although they are not feline creatures as such. Tlaxu have better senses than humans and in some cases they are able to see into the spirit world.
The plains tlaxu are probably the best-known (but not the most commonly seen) tlaxu race, at least along the Anhoi River where they are infamous amongst the humans. The plains tlaxu are nomads who wander the savannah east of the Far Anhoi River in loose tribes based around a patriarchal figure. The status of the patriarch is determined by the number of wives that he has. Plains tlaxu patriarchs are notorious for marrying their sisters and daughters, leaving only the daughters of their daughters (known as second-daughters) free for other males to marry. Unmarried males, known as tshoymar, often form groups wandering the plains seeking to impress patriarchs with daring deeds or stealing the females from other tribes. The other point of notoriety for the plains tlaxu - one that is a particular sore point to the people of Llaza - is that about 150 years ago the plains tlaxu tribes banded together under a tshoymar named Tshem into a terrible horde that rampaged through the Imperial Eastern provinces and partially sacked the city of Llaza. Tshem's horde fragmented after his death and the plains tlaxu place little importance on the event, but Llazans still mistrust tlaxu, and tlaxu in Llaza can experience prejudice for the 'crime of having fur'.
Plains tlaxu have sandy coloured body fur with dark head hair. Males grow their hair long and braid it in elaborate styles that denote number of wives, successful hunts, enemies slain and so on. They consider it uncouth to use their claws in all but ritual hunts designed for coming-of-age ceremonies. Common plains tlaxu weapons are the long-claw and claw-stick, simple wooden staves set with teeth and claws of enemies, designed to tear unprotected flesh. Plains tlaxu have begun to trade with humans for metal weapons.
The plains tlaxu believe in an all-powerful pervasive father-spirit that they call the Whispering One. The Whispering One has many sister-wives such as Mountain Sister, Plant Sister, River Sister and so forth and the spirits of the world are all his children by these sister-wives. Apart from some nominal placation of the spirits, however, the plains tlaxu in general have little time for religion.
Mountain tlaxu are a rare and reclusive tlaxu culture. They can be found in the Three Sisters Mountains that lie between the Anhoi River states and the Tlaxu Plain, and sometimes in the northern Throne of Heaven Mountains. Male mountain tlaxu stake out a solitary hunting range, quite often located around the locus of a powerful spirit. Female tlaxu are wanderers, travelling the mountain lands until they find a mate. When mountain tlaxu children are old enough (about 15 years of age) they set off to find their own place in the world. There is little in the way of social organisation for mountain tlaxu. Some tlaxu settle specifically to worship the spirits and follow the way of the shaman.
Mountain tlaxu have striped tawny fur, and their body fur is slightly longer and more shaggy than other tlaxu. They wear little except for a belt for carrying useful items and adornments such as magical talismans and decoration (they favour ear-rings). Mountain tlaxu tend to recognise each other by fur pattern and scent. Those that deal with other cultures will often assume that similarly dressed people are related. Normally, however, mountain tlaxu have little to do with other races. They avoid humans, some of whom hunt them for their fur. Other tlaxu consider them to be sub-normal primitives. As mankind encroaches further into the mountains their territory dwindles.
Mountain tlaxu signpost their territory with markers made from woven twigs, plants, bones and other items. Against other mountain tlaxu they defend it in ritual combat using only their claws (which are purified before the fight). These fights are usually until one party surrenders but accidental death can occur. Claws are also used for ritual hunts where the tlaxu feel that it is wrong to place tools between the hunter and prey. Otherwise mountain tlaxu use stone knives, spears and bows with flint-tipped arrows, mainly against aggressive humans.
The tlaxu nation of Mopendor lies on the eastern part of the Continent of Perfection. It is old and powerful, ruled by hereditary queens and stratified into a caste system. Higher caste Mopendine tlaxu have sleek dark fur whereas the lower castes have mottled fur. Even the landscape of Mopendor is divisive. Inner Mopendor stands atop a vast plateau, reachable only by steep narrow roads. Here the tlaxu have a huge stone city centred on the Queen's palace and temple complexes. Outer Mopendor is a lowland rainforest with settlements clinging to the riversides in stilt-buildings.
Mopendor was once a vassal state of the Empire of Splendour, acquired by ambassadors offering gifts and flattery to the queen rather than force. Now it is independent again and Inner Mopendor has little contact with the outside world except for Merchant League Ambassadors doing a brisk trade in the precious metals and hardwoods of which Mopendor has plenty. The low caste sailors are prolific travellers and these are probably the type of tlaxu most people, particularly those in port cities, will have seen.
Mopendine society is in a decline, partly due to the rise of the funerary cult of Daxa. The doctrines of Daxa venerate the dead and the afterlife, and an obsession with immortality amongst the Mopendine nobles has diverted funds and tlaxu-power away from developing the nation and towards building elaborate tombs. The absolute power of the Queen and her court translates into boredom and cruelty, and it is a regular occurence for the lower caste tlaxu or captives to be hunted through the jungle as sport. The tlaxu of Mopendor use metal weapons and in particular have developed the klai dagger, a two-bladed dagger of great complexity to wield.
(c) 2006 The Creative Conclave.