The Tusman Hills on the border between Ket and Tusmit has always been an unknown quantity. The human-folk of the hills, reclusive but skilled warriors, have thrived in this region, independent of the petty differences and political intrigue prevalent in this corner of the Flanaess. This article describes how they came to inhabit these rugged hills and touches on their relations with the demi-humans that have lived in these hills since their creation.
History of the Tusman Hills
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The Tusman Hills mark the borderlands between Ket and Tusmit. Rugged and sparsely populated, the foothills of the Yatil Mountains have been relatively ignored by the neighboring states. Trade traffic avoids the steep bluffs and canyons of the hills in favor of the flatlands around the Tuflik River as goods move from the Baklunish states east through Lopolla and Ket and on to the central Flanaess. This rugged exterior, however, masks the vibrant life and culture that exist throughout these hills.
From the beginning of recorded history, this area has been the enclave of small groups of hardy gnomes. Their population has remained constant through time as they practiced their craft and lived a comfortable existence free from the interference of other races. The gnomes maintained trade with the dwarves of the southern Yatil Mountains, exchanging their farmed goods and wood products for raw materials the dwarves extracted from the ground. Humanoid invasions, which occurred infrequently, were dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly as none could match the gnomes? knowledge of their land.
More than a thousand years ago, life in the Tusman Hills changed. Oerid tribes, fleeing the Suloise-Baklunish wars, migrated east to leave the conflict behind. Gnomes on the southern edge of the hills began to notice a trickle of humans passing through the Tuflik Valley. The trickle became a stream over the next few years and semi-permanent encampments arose on the banks of the river.
As the camps swelled, groups of tribesman explored north through the hills. The gnomish villages welcomed the newcomers, saddened by the tales of their lost homeland. Few of the humans stayed, as most continued east with their brethren, eager to put as much distance between them and the wars to the west.
Twenty years or so passed after the first contact and the Oerid migrations were at their peak. The initial explorers had returned to tell tales of rich and fertile lands far to the east that were sparsely inhabited. The Oeridian nation moved in earnest as the escalation of the conflict that surrounded their native lands on three sides threatened their very existence.
The bank of the Tuflik was still a gathering point as the stream of refugees formed into groups to travel east. Trade with the gnomes was brisk on the borders of the Tusman Hills as the Oerid tribesman required all sorts of crafted goods to make their lives easier in their new homes.
After a decade or so, word returned that the Suloise people had crossed the Crystalmists to the south and were competing for some of the same lands the Oeridians were claiming. The fierce tribesman angered that their new home was being contested, drove the Suloise before them, pushing them to the far ends of the continent.
Attempts by the Baklunish to move east through the valley were harshly denied. A transient village had arose on the banks by this time and organized patrols spread to the west to discourage any attempt to re-ignite the problems the Oerid were trying to leave behind in the east. The Oerid nation of the west had been reduced to less than half of its original number of only decades before; such had been the pace of the migration.
Things remained in equilibrium for the next period of time. The Oerids had completed their first census of the new land, which became known as the Flanaess after the original inhabitants of the area. The village at the Tuflik became somewhat of a bureaucratic centre, directing bands of migrants to under-populated areas of the eastern lands and ensuring bands of warriors were sent to the frontier to stem the Suloise influence.
The Invoked Devastation shook the land. All who bore witness from the Tusman Hills could barely comprehend the scope of the tragedy. A dark pall hung over the ancestral home of the Baklunish, north of the Oerid homeland. The migration of refugees ground to a halt, the last few groups telling tales of horror of fire from the sky and the ground opening to swallow settlements whole.
The village shrank to a tenth of its size as those who didn?t have to stay were quick to put the desolation behind them and head east. A sizeable force of warriors remained to guard the valley from any incursions. A year or more passed before any further contact was established. Mixed groups of Oeridian and Baklunish arrived carrying little more than the clothes on their back. They told horrors of a blasted land, of foul creatures preying on the survivors, of a sun that had turned blood red.
The warriors, barely able to comprehend the terror that still existed in the eyes of these refugees, let the mixed groups pass. Small groups such as this arrived over the next few months and then ended completely. After two years with no word from the west, the commander of the village sent out patrols to gather what information they could. Groups headed northwest down the Tuflik towards the Dramidj Ocean, groups headed west into the Baklunish plains and further groups headed southwest along the boundaries of the Barrier Peaks.
The groups returned months later with the same tale. They came to the top of a cliff that extended north and south in a circular arc as far as the eye could see. The land on top of the cliff was green and pristine; the land at the base and extending west was a barren wasteland, devoid of all life. No hill rose in the landscape, no feature could be discerned. The Oerid homeland, caught on the edge of this destruction, no longer existed.
The warriors of Tuflik village took stock of their situation over the next few years. The news of the tragedy spread east through the Flanaess. Word returned that an equally devastating catastrophe had decimated the Suloise population and reduced their empire to dust, if the rumors were to be believed. The Oerid expansion was flourishing in the east and the Oerid tribesman were rising to dominance in the new land.
The settlement remained with perhaps a thousand bodies in total, the warriors, their families, and the farmers that had remained behind to provide food for the fleeing migrants. Many had been here for a generation or more, this being the only town many of the younger of them had known. The land had been heavily taxed, though, by the vast number of people who had passed since the migrations began. Wood was unattainable, the farmland was near barren and even the river itself seemed to run foul. At any one time, only a decade ago, the village at Tuflik was swelled to a city of over 10,000 people.
The villagers who remained knew they had to leave the only home for most of them. Living on the western frontier, they were loathing traveling the vast distances required to settle on the edge of the eastward expansion. Established communities to the east were forcing new migrants to continue on as they faced many of the same overcrowding problems the Tuflik village did. Instead the villagers looked north into the hills.
This area had remained relatively unexplored throughout the migration, the focus being on eastward travel. The gnomes of the hills had been friendly and helpful, but did not actively seek to interact directly with the Oerid.
Respectful of the gnomish tenure over these lands, the Oerid leaders consulted the gnome chieftains to get their blessing and advice. The gnomes were only too happy to help. They guided parties of scouts to various areas across the length and breadth of the Tusman Hills and even up to the gates of the dwarven clan-holdings in the Yatils. The Oeridians found the interior of the Tusman to be vastly different from the border areas. They found fertile valleys, small stands of ipp trees and the new beginnings they craved.
The band split up into smaller groups, each settling into a suitable area to grow a community. They interacted with the gnomes somewhat, but were generally happy to live harmoniously distant from their neighbors. The northern enclaves, as they called their villages worked more closely with the dwarves and became highly skilled in the art of weaponsmithing and amour making over the years under the tutelage of the dwarven masters. The people of the southern enclaves, where the terrain was less rugged, became masters of the horse and bow. The central area, the most fertile, was carefully farmed. Great plateaus were carved into the sides of hills to support all manner of crops and livestock. The area produced an abundance that could support itself and provide a surplus to trade with the other communities as well as the demi-human clans.
A strong community developed amongst the Oeridians. Each settlement determined its own leadership, with leaders meeting informally to discuss matters of region wide importance. Trade expanded outside of the hills into the growing areas west of Bramblewood Forest, but the Tusmans, as the Oerids now called themselves, were basically self-sufficient.
The leaders wisely realized that a great increase in their numbers would outstrip the ability of the land to provide for them. A loosely-formed armed force was raised, with the support of the gnomes, to discourage new settlers from entering the hills. Able-bodied volunteers served terms as able to bolster the patrols. Subsequent children beyond the first born were encouraged to leave the hills and ply their skills in the developing world beyond.
Thus was the beginning of the reclusive Oerid enclave in the Tusman Hills. This area continues to be relatively unknown, except that the residents are fiercely independent and capable soldiers for hire in many armies of the region.