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Mountain Tlaxu

Physical description Mountain Tlaxu have a shaggy coat of hair all over (about 2 inches in length) which is a pale ginger colour when young and gradually darkens to a rich orange. Dark brown-black stripes develop with maturity, and the individual patterns of these stripes is the way most humans discern individual Tlaxu. The Mountain Tlaxu have larger ears than their cousins, often with tufted fur at the tips.

Mountain Tlaxu wear little, except for adornments. Their fur keeps them warm enough, and they have no concept of nudity. What items they do wear tend to be decorative or magical talismans. They will wear the hides, or various parts, of animals that they have killed. They are fond of jewelry, especially ear-rings.

Mountain Tlaxu are by nature solitary creatures. They live by hunting wild game. Male Tlaxu have a territory that they range within, guarding it from intruders and hunting whatever lives within its bounds. Female Tlaxu are wanderers. They will pass through the territory of several males before finding a mate, and when this happens the male and female then share the hunting grounds. Parents raise a single cub at any one time, taking turns to teach it they lore of hunting and survival. When the cub has come of age (its stripes have developed and it has successfully hunted by itself), the cub is sent away. If male, he will wander until he can establish a territory. If female, she will wander until she finds a male she wishes to marry. The parents may then decide for another child.

Mountain Tlaxu are uneasy in the presence of more than their family group, and it is unlikely to find them in a human city, or even a village. Mountain explorers, such as Vug Harvesters, learn to read the Tlaxu territory markings and avoid them. Tlaxu rarely attack without warning, but some Tlaxu consider their territory marking warning enough. These markings have a visual element (usually claw marks in tree bark) and a scent element, readable only by other Tlaxu.

Tlaxu can see partially into the spirit realm. Because of this they have an animistic religion, and revere certain places in the mountains as sacred. These locations are cared for by shaman, specialised Tlaxu who remain in one place and learn how to placate the local spirit. Shamans need to do little in the way of hunting, as the local hunting Tlaxu will bring them offerings in exchange for healing, wisdom and magical gifts. Shamans are forbidden from mating, but choose apprentices from amongst wandering Tlaxu who enter their domain. These apprentices are trained in the ways of the spirits, and takes over from the shaman when he or she dies.

Ritual Hunts
When hunting, Mountain Tlaxu tend to use their claws and natural weapons. They believe the bond between hunter and prey to be sacred, and that to place artificial tools between the two is dishonourable. They may use knives for butchery, but never for the kill. This is especially important in ritual hunts, like the coming of age hunt. In the case of ritual hunts, the claws are ritually purified beforehand.

Duels often occur between Tlaxu, usually over territory. These are always settled using claws, and normally continue until one party surrenders. They are rarely fought to the death, but accidental death can often occur. Because of this, opposing Tlaxu prefer to intimidate their opponent into backing down rather than get as far as fighting.

Relations to other races
Mountain Tlaxu tend to avoid other races. There are rare examples that can stand the company (and smell!) of humans, and these often confuse a person's clothing for their fur. Thus a Mountain Tlaxu will tend to recognise a person by the clothes they wear rather than their facial features, at least until they become more comfortable in human society. A change of clothes can lead to confusion, as can a group of people all dressed the same.

Free Shamans
Very rarely there are wandering shamans without ties to a particular place. They may be shamans who have retired and let their apprentice take over, or some disaster may have befallen the place that they are stewarding. Sometimes these individuals are merely curious - wishing to learn of as many spirits as they can. Other times they are dangerous, out for revenge or driven mad by the destruction of their spirit associate.