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The Salsham'ai live on a large island close to the main continent, which is about 55% woodland. The non-wooded areas suitable for farming are populated with human settlements and the two communities have enjoyed good relations for most of their history. Their forest homeland has obviously had a major influence on their society.

Communities are based on tree-villages, with houses etc. built up off the ground in the hollow trunks and branches of massive ancient braashak trees, connected by rope bridges and swing ropes. These communities are mostly village-sized but the regional capitals are fairly substantial and the capital Thalsa is an ancient place with largish wooden roads in places, and even stone-built structures.

Highways - major trails that use both the trees and the ground depending on the terrain - connect Thalsa to the regional capitals and trader-towns on the edges of the forests. The highways are fairly easy for non-treefolk to traverse but on many of the internal trails one would need to be extremely dextrous so most humans would need a riding-matoo.

Salsham'ai who live in human settlements either buy local wooded areas or in major cities build round houses on stilts, and use the area below the house for storage and animal pens. A large percentage of Salsham'ai are agoraphobic to some degree, those that are not or who conquer it often travel abroad and there are quite a lot of ex-patriot communities. Indeed they make excellent sailors being perfectly adapted for working amongst the rigging.

The sexes are pretty much equal in ordinary life but political leadership is considered a strictly female preserve - mother of a family. The whole culture is based on an extended family type organisation i.e. everyone in the same village are "trunk-cousins" to each other, so a term of respect to an older person would be Aunt or Uncle, to one younger or the same age: Cousin. Obviously, like in our cities, the capital, being so much bigger would not be so close knit.

Art and Costume
They tend to plait feathers and carved beads into their long hair, and wear necklaces with wooden charms and symbols of their status. Clothing tends to be simple linen tunics or a loin cloth, leather and fur hooded ponchos, with swirling patterns in natural dyes. Woodcarving, weaving and tapestry work are their major art forms.

They enjoy storytelling, singing and music and as well as a formal literature have a rich oral tradition.

Children will start lessons with the Loremaster at around 3 years old, these will probably be part-time as they will also have chores for their families and begin to learn the family trade or craft. When they are 10 they will look for an opportunity to start an apprenticeship in the craft of their choosing. This lasts for about 5 years. If however they excel at their studies the Loremaster may recommend that they be sent to study at one of the Libraries in the major towns, or even the Great Library itself. Here they will study part-time and also work part-time as an apprentice clerk for the local Trunk Mother. These candidates would go on to become the administrators and advisors to those in authority.

They control rich amber deposits and hunt for rare animal pelts and skins and use these as a basis for trade with the human agrarian communities on the island. They are also hunter/gatherers and are experts at exploiting the forests for their needs without ruining the ecology, to such a degree that they might be said to "farm" the forest but they don't like the term as it is rather pejorative to their mind. They are expert woodworkers and iron is a fairly scarce commodity, so is reserved for the military, but bone, antler and flint are common amongst civilians. A valuable commodity is Shoka beans - a sort of chocolate/coffee combination.

The trader-towns combine both tree folk and human architecture and are places where caravans change from matoo to mule, horse, or cart and vice versa. Taxes are are paid either in kind or in cash.

While they are officially in the Iron Age, the metal is rather scarce so wood, bone, flint and antler are still used extensively, copper and bronze is somewhat more readily available. They excel at woodworking and carpentry and using gears, cogs, pulleys and matoo-power they have come up with ingenious methods of providing running water, removing sewage and waste, transporting heavy loads etc. Thalsa and the major regional towns even have rather impressive "lifts", which have saved the dignity of many visiting ambassadors. Traps and defences are also highly advanced.

Physical Nature
One and a half feet to three feet tall their skin colour ranges from pale white to light brown. They are slender, with long hair and males don't grow beards. They have an instinctive ability to camouflage themselves and are extremely agile climbers with their prehensile "chimp" feet. The live to about 40 human years average, with 50 being quite unusual.

They have similar physiology to humans and have been interacting with their neighbours for a very long time so have experienced most of the diseases that group of humans has. Living so close to their environment everyone has a pretty good knowledge of basic plant medicines and first aid. Those Loremasters whose speciality is healing would have more refined knowledge about diagnoses, medicines, surgery and other healing techniques, including using Pas at. Loremasters who live in the trader towns have a responsibility to inspect incoming caravans for possible contagion. In Thalsa there is the healing library with adjoining royal hospital where advanced Loremasters pass on their knowledge and investigate new diseases and treatments.

They have a much stronger sense of community and collective responsibility than humans, as a result of (or maybe the reason for) their strong familial organisation, so in the villages there are very few crimes where the community is very close knit. Salsham'ai who are or may feel rejected by their local community either go off and live in the wild, where they sometimes form bandit groups to prey on the commercial caravans; or go to the capital or regional capitals where its easier to be anonymous and where there is more conspicuous portable wealth for the stealing of. Law enforcement is part of the military's remit, with the Mothers of the village judging cases.

It is of course more formalised and sophisticated in the larger towns and the capital. Punishment tends to be on the "eye for an eye" basis, with the culprit and his family having to re-imburse those she or he has stolen from. Physical assault, depending on the seriousness of the crime can either be fined and/or imprisonment or forced labour. Murder, treason, rape and other such serious crimes often result in the death penalty, although repentance and remorse are taken into account.

The Salsham'ai are pretty tolerant people, outsiders are expected to respect the laws and are protected equally by them. There is of course some prejudice in the more outlying areas.

Salsham'ai Index
Places of Interest


They were never truly conquered by the old Empire, the forests being extremely difficult to penetrate and easily defended. The only way to have totally defeated them would have been to cut each tree down, a lengthy and expensive process. Equally the Salsham'ai found themselves completely encircled by the Empires forces and unable to move beyond their own borders. The two sides came to a compromise whereby the Salsham'ai were invited to become vassals and thereby have the freedom to trade with other nations. They retained a certain amount of autonomy, hence they (with their human neighbours) were eager to break from the Empire as it degraded.

However this surrender was not popular with many and several thousand, under the leadership of Great Trunk Daughter Merlassa (the heir to the Great Trunk Mother) left to find a new land where they could live without interference from the Empire. Although there was much sorrow at their going the Great Mother decreed, partly to prevent massive civil unrest, that they had the right to choose this path and they were given substantial assistance in preparing for the journey.

They have not been heard of since and the Day of Parting is an annual day of fasting (signifying how many gave up their own food to ensure supplies for the travellers) to remember them with sorrow and prayers for their safety.

You might ask why the Imperial forces didn't merely burn the homelands to the ground. The Salsham'ai are extremely good at covert night attacks and the commanders who tried this approach often ended up with their throats slit in the morning. It probably could have been achieved but it would have taken a considerable time and effort. The Empire's General being a pragmatic and it must be said, humane man, did his research and found out from the human inhabitants of the island that the Salsham'ai were reasonable people and so negotiations were opened. The Empire would have preferred total domination and the Salsham'ai would have preferred to remain totally independent but this was the most expedient solution, the General no doubt wanted to get on to more easily conquered territory.