Vastmark shepherds

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Multiple tribes of nomadic shepherds are the prime inhabitants of the Kelhorn Mountains in the Vastmark principality. The shepherds exist in extreme poverty, but are known for their sharp skills with a bow, a requirement for the wyvern-infested area. Tribal lore is extensive, as if elaborate customs and superstitions can replace a dearth of possessions.

The tribes winter in deep valleys, but otherwise follow their flocks in the high pastures. For ease of movement, a shepherd's possessions are generally limited to a tent, an heirloom ram's horn, and a tribal bow rack. Timber, especially yew, is considered a commodity. Shepherds stock no beer or whiskey, but drink a spirit made from wild honey and soured goat's milk.

The dogs of the Vastmark tribes are large, bred to stand against wyverns and wolves in defense of the flocks.

Customs

  • Banded patterns woven into each dwelling tent represent a generational inheritance to ward off a specific aspect of misfortune.
  • Women who have been determined to be "nandir" are considered bad luck to a tribe, and must wear bells for identification.
  • The epithet, "Druaithe!" is used to emphasize stupidity.
  • The shepherds practice archery with prized horn and lacquer recurves, but fall back on indestructible yew longbows in heavy rains.

Role in the Story

Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from multiple books in the series.

Warhost of Vastmark

Third Age 5646: When seeking a place to confront his half-brother, Arithon sees the shepherds as a people most in need of change and the likeliest to survive a war. He recruits them to stand against Lysaer's gathering armies. In exchange, Arithon sets into motion several initiatives to permanently improve the lot of the shepherds, including education, ponies, and honest trade factors.

Traitor's Knot

Third Age 5671: Arithon's influenced changes have improved the lot of shepherds so much that their daughters are no longer a reliable source of new initiates to the Koriathain.

Initiate's Trial

Third Age 5923: Arithon's changes persist through ten generations, and the Koriathain of Ithish hold a grudge for the loss of potential talent.