What was once a territory filled with scattered and conflicted tribes has more recently become a rich and unified culture. Five tribes now make up the larger whole of Vinelocke, each with their own unique contributions. While the tribes maintain a unique name and role, phae of Vinelocke are encouraged to seek out their destiny within any of the tribes. It is not uncommon to see phae switching tribes depending on their passions and goals.
The first tribe is Blood. They are the hunters responsible for tracking and taking down dangerous predators to safeguard the main areas of the herd. They must ensure the safety of the young, the weak, and the elderly by managing the populations of predators.
The second tribe is Life. They are the gatherers responsible for keeping a safe supply of food for the herd, ensuring good grazing quality and removal of dangerous flora so no phae may accidentally eat it. They are also pathmakers and explorers, responsible for maintaining/building roads and paths around the island.
The third tribe is Horn. They are the weapons and strength of Vinelocke. These phae frequently work alongside Blood and Hoof to protect the herd, but their focus is mainly in preparedness and physical prowess. Nearly two and half centuries ago, the phae of the Jungle Isle were caught unawares by the invasion of Mirroweld. It is Horn’s job to ensure that no raiding forces come close to the heart of the herd again.
The fourth tribe is Hoof. They are the guardians of Vinelocke. Their primary goal is defense and defensive action. Similar to Hoof, much of this tribe’s preparedness comes from Mirroweld’s invasion. Needless to say, Hoof keeps a very close eye on the phae from the Shattered Isles.
The fifth tribe is Soul. They are the heart and soul of the jungle tribes. They are the spiritual leaders, the healers, and the caregivers of Vinelocke. They are perhaps the most respected tribe due to their spirituality and dedication to the gods. They are exceptionally advanced in innovative medicine and the leading minds of finding new methods and cures across all the entire archipelago.
The hearts of all Vinelocke have a strong connection to the land around them and a healthy respect for the fragility of life. This has lead them to focus greatly on the advancement of healing techniques and medicinal solutions out of deep appreciation for the value of every life. They are a deeply spiritual people and they cherish their island and all of its inhabitants. However, they tend to be wary of outsiders, which they view as healthy caution considering their history with Mirroweld. Even so, they are not ones to let their suspicions get in the way of aiding other herds where it is needed. They have been known to be of great help advising other herds on how to handle noxious gasses during mining expeditions and often receive visits from Phae from all across the isles for special medicine or advice on complex health issues.
Aside from their novel medicine and healing methods, Vinelocke is the greatest source of expert tattoo artists, having been one of the first herds to ever master the art. Whilst tattooing started as a step in a spiritual ritual, it has rapidly evolved into a completely separate art form. The act of transforming their tribe symbol from glowing paint to an actual tattoo is still a sacred ritual, the act of tattooing itself (outside of tribe symbols) has greatly detached from their spiritual practice. As such, outside of times of Callings and Provings, Inkers often are visited by outsiders or even travel themselves to commission tattoos bringing a great share of wealth to Vinelocke.
Rituals, Traditions, and Ceremonies
Coming of age night for Phae between the ages of 5-7 held once a year for Saplings to choose their Tribe. Typically they will be ceremoniously marked with the symbol of the tribe when the moon is at its highest at the end of the traditional rituals.
Phae, having chosen a herd at the Calling, then have one week to successfully complete a predetermined task. Guided by one older, more seasoned phae of the younger phae’s desired rank, they work together to ensure no one gets hurt, and most every proving succeeds. Once successful, they are welcomed into the ranks of the Tribe they chose. The glowing paint marking is then replaced with a tattoo of the Tribe symbol.
If someone wants to join the tribes, they have to pass this proving and they’re welcomed as if they were born into the tribes themselves.
Each of the five tribes has their own challenge. Usually done in groups of two to four, with the standard being three. Young phae are expected to work together, and the older phae is only there to ensure they don’t get grievously hurt or killed.
Hunters: Take down a predator together and bring back goods from their kill.
Gatherers: Find a certain amount of a specified plant. Since the biodiversity of the jungle allows for almost innumerable plants, some of these might be a bit of a trek.
Watchers: Escort two phae, with another proving watcher and one seasoned watcher, on their trials to make sure they finish them safely (2 civilians, 2 proving, and 1 seasoned watcher). The watchers are expected to be the first line of defense here, but if they get into too much trouble, the older watcher will step in.
Strikers: Last in a match against a higher ranking military member. Put skills learned into practice. The only one that doesn’t require a journey somewhere; the oversight is by the opposing older phae.
Shaman: A pilgrimage to the heart of the crater within Nectaris where they silently pray for two nights and one day. Fasting is encouraged, but if the journey has been overly hard, it isn’t required. Clerics in this same stroke might not be as devout, but are encouraged to pray as well. Clerics bring an offering for the altar of some form of plant that means something personal to the individual cleric themselves (Eg. a certain flower might remind a younger phae of their mother who passed on: they would want to bring that flower to the altar.)
Night of the Red Shroud
Coincidentally, the first night of invasion from Mirroweld occurred during one of the rarest eclipses in the Eastern Archipelago and this has created a fair bit of superstition for Vinelocke whenever it does occur. The tribes worship the moon goddesses and the rare eclipse has now become a sign of danger and warning as their forebears thought it to be an early warning sign that was missed. Thereby, every eclipse the tribes come together at a central point and stay there for the entire duration of it on high alert until it has passed.
Spirit of Terrene
A calling to nature, celebrating the tribes’ thankfulness for it and promise/request to continue to live in harmony with it. Offerings will often be made of items representing nature’s bounty and beauty. The full day celebration is finished with dancing and drinking/consuming hallucinogens to elevate the spirit to be more in touch with the earth.
Bonding of two or more individuals as mates for life. This is a very important ceremony for Vinelocke and typically lasts an entire day with ample food and drink and decorations with tropical flowers and plants all around. Only elders of each tribe, leaders of each tribe, or the chieftain are allowed to perform the binding on a couple. At the end of the ceremony, the bonded will go into the jungle accompanied by watchers and their closest family to plant a tree together to come back to each year to commemorate their growth in life alongside nature.
A gathering of all tribes every three years where a large vote occurs for all leaders. Members of each tribe vote for their leader and all herd members must vote for the chieftain to remain in their position. Phae are also free to vote for anyone that has put themself forward for the position at this time.
The dyes used in the tattooing process of the Vinelocke herd can only be created and used by high-level poison magic users, due to the presence of toxins from the local dart frog populace, diluted and mixed with naturally occuring colorings from the jungle around them. While the majority of the toxin is reduced in this process, there is still some effect – most notably a numbing of the area.
Even so, the application is not a quick or easy thing – involving the fur to be shaved and the design to be applied using thin, sharp sticks which break the skin, leaving any ink that they have been dipped in their path.
On healing, the tattoos maintain a remnant of the color used. This is much more obvious on paler phae than darker phae, although it is common for paints to be applied over the existing tattoos during ceremony.
Legends and Stories
The Five Tenets
The Five Tenets represent principles sacred to Vinelocke, the tribes believe that if something is wrong with a phae, one of these five things is out of balance.
The tribes are deeply religious, but more so in spiritualism than active worship. The soul tribe is the branch that does the most active worshiping, while a warrior might not find time, but holds the five tenets dear and sacred. So long as they abide by those, they’re fine.
They aren’t fond of their own leaving, but understand that their spirit may be calling them elsewhere, and to keep them trapped here is doing a disservice to the five tenets.
So-named for the branches of the herd that cohabitate and work together like a root system for a mighty tree, each phae is expected to hold these principles and abide by them:
Blood: Live. Hold your life and the lives of others sacred. Only kill if necessary or unavoidable. (This is part of their beef with MW; they broke this tenant and it was seen as sacrilege. Though it’s passed and they’re on slightly better terms, there is still general mistrust.)
Life: Ensure that you do not waste your body’s energy, and that you have enough to spare for kinsmen and foreigners alike. So long as they are peaceful, you are peaceful as well. Match your energy to those around you to create harmony.
Hoof: Stand firm in your beliefs and let none question them, no matter what those may be. Respect the beliefs of others, in accordance with Energy. Do not concede defeat or ground.
Horn: Defend your blood, energy, spirit, and home with your very life. Stand facing opposition; never turn your back, never flee.
Soul: Know your heart, as no one else does. Your experiences shape who you are; embrace them, acknowledge them, heal and become better for them.
Raising of Fawns
Typically, the young of the herd will either grow up in the tribe their mother resides in but some with more demanding roles will make agreements with their partners or are able to leave them in the care of a tribe elder or the Maned Wolves of the Blood tribe. Communal raising of fawns is the standard in Vinelocke as they believe it takes a community of phae working together to ensure they grow up into happy and well rounded individuals.
Dark coats with lots of markings tend to be seen as desirable. Watermarked, kudu, and rosette are seen as especially beautiful and practical, as they help phae blend in with the shadows of the deep jungle. Pale or vibrant coats aren’t as popular and phae with these coats are often encouraged to pursue safer paths, and may be seen with a measure of disappointment.
Preferred horns are singular or small tines facing backwards, as these are less likely to be caught in the dense jungle foliage. Fangs are also favored, especially among healers.
Gender and Sex Roles
Leaders of the tribes are typically female (or trans-female) as they are seen as more level-headed. However, they also believe in the wisdom of two voices, so if a doe and a stag are bonded, stags may hold a position of power alongside them. Stags may singularly hold positions of power in the tribes of Horn and Hoof, as they are more militaristic. Elders are granted the utmost respect regardless of gender.
Marriage and Romantic Relationships
The phae of Vinelocke believe in a heart bond lasting their entire life and much of their view on marriage revolves around this belief. Shotgun marriages are a faux-pas and discouraged, believing that the binding has to be a conscious decision that someone has found their partner to work out the rest of their life with. Preferably, the phae wishing to bond need to have known each other for a considerably long time but anything under a year of meeting is frowned upon. Young marriages are also discouraged but less so if the couple have known each other a while. Marrying before passing the proving is frowned upon. The Binding may take place between two or more phae, so long as all partners provide consent.
Mating may happen outside marriage as long as all those in the bond provide consent, if not this is considered cheating. Parentage of a fawn is seen as less of an issue or is barely ever a topic of discussion due to the communal raising of most fawns within Vinelocke.
Divorce is somewhat a taboo for more traditionalist Phae, but generally accepted if it is sought for good reason. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly or for any frivolous reason. If bonded phae have tried gaining support and counseling and at the end of it all simply can’t continue, such as falling out of love, it is more easily accepted though may gain some raised eyebrows from traditional elders. If there is an offense committed in the relationship to cause the divorce (i.e. commiting of a crime by a party or cheating) then the offending party will not be allowed to remarry for 2 years.
View of Other Herds
These are the general views of the average Vinelocke NPC concerning the other herds of The Eastern Archipelagoes.
Due to the events before the start of the Dark Age, Vinelocke greatly distrusts Mirroweld and keep a watchful eye over their distant neighbor. Many of the ranks within Vinelocke were created as a result of Mirroweld’s war on the archipelago, as they vowed to never be caught unawares again.
Vinelocke often finds Dawnspire’s residents to be too outwardly boastful and sometimes exceedingly stubborn. However, they bare them no ill will despite their missteps of the past as they understand the corner they had been backed into during the war in their unforgiving environment. This does not mean they will ever wholly agree with the decision that was made but they are happy enough to interact with them and work together in cases of advising other herds about their mines.
These two herds are on pretty good terms with each other. Vinelocke frequently helps out the mountain herd with their earth magic in carving and creating of new mines. Otherwise, they don’t really see eye to eye on many things, especially where religion is concerned. But, they respect each other’s hard work, strength of spirit, and have a successful trade between Vinelocke’s magic and Stonemire’s trades.
Vinelocke has a great relationship with the Lowlanders, much like that with Stonemire. They don’t fully understand they split from the mountain herd, but they don’t allow that to get in the way of their trades. Vinelocke often helps out the Lowlanders using their earth magic to rejuvenate their different settlements.
These two herds have a mutual respect for each other. With the distance, they usually only have occasional dealings. Vinelockes relationship is mostly helped by Stonemire/Lowlanders and their relationship with Helmfirth. Vinelocke is very curious about the land of snow and often inquire about their wolfdogs and history. It is not uncommon for the two herds to trade exotic pelts between themselves.
They are neither shoved away nor fully accepted by Vinelocke. They don’t mind if a renegade joins their ranks, but they do need to work harder than others to prove their worth and keep a place in the herd. If one proves to be too much of an issue or becomes a massive threat to the tribes, they will kick that phae out. They will not tolerate disrespect from an outsider. They are a bit more accepting of renegades of Mirroweld blood but will push them harder than others to prove they can be trusted and are not a spy.