Curse of the Crimson Throne
The Shoanti are a barbaric, often nomadic people native to harsh regions of northwest Varisia. Chelaxian colonists drove the Shoanti from their lands in southern Varisian centuries ago, an old wound that has never fully healed.
Shoanti typically have a ruddy complexion and dark hair. However, most adult men and women of fighting age shave their heads bald, as hair is considered a dangerous weakness in combat. All Shoanti receive a tattoo upon completing their clan’s rite of passage into adulthood. These tattoos have important cultural and spiritual meaning. Shoanti receive a birth name which they use until adulthood, when their rite of passage bestows them with an honorific that is used with all but the closest of friends.
The Shoanti are divided into seven major clans or “Quahs” that differ greatly in their territories, traditions, and outlook on the world. However, they are bound together by a common heritage and several shared rituals, such as resolving disputes between clans through a contest of champions rather than open warfare.
By tradition, the Shoanti are seasonally nomadic hunter-gatherers, following the great herds of aurochs on the Storval Plateau. In the past, the Shoanti had established fixed settlements in the south, mostly forts and trading posts, but when those holdings were overrun by the Chelaxians the Quahs abandoned the sedentary lifestyle entirely.
The Shoanti practice a mixture of animism, ancestor worship, and druidism, with a focus on spiritual totems unique to each clan. Shoanti shamans hold a revered role in each Quah due to their powerful connection to the totem spirit and the ancestors. A clan has only one shaman at a time, though he may take multiple apprentices. The rituals and tradition that guide Shoanti life are often impenetrable to outsiders, making communications between cultures difficult.
Chelaxian and Korvosan scholars believe that the Shoanti are descended from the warrior caste of ancient Thassilon, but the barbarians have little interest in sharing their history with outsiders. The Shoanti coexisted relatively peacefully with their Varisian cousins for many centuries, warring instead with the orcish tribes of Belkzen. But the arrival of Chelaxian conquerors saw the Shoanti driven from many of their ancient hunting grounds. While the Varisians adapted to the invaders’ way of life, the Shoanti rejected it entirely and continue to regard the Chelish as tshamek, hated outsiders on the same level as orcs. The Shoanti typically lump all other civilized races not native to Varisia in with the Chelish, viewing them all as invaders of Shoanti lands.
The Shoanti and Korvosa
For three hundred years, the Shoanti have nurtured a special hatred for Korvosa. Not only was it the beachhead of Chelaxian conquest, but the city was literally built over a sacred Shoanti settlement inhabited by the Skoan-Quah, the Clan of the Skull. It took eighty years of intermittent warfare to fully dislodge the barbarians from the present site of Korvosa and frequent border skirmishes continued as the city’s influence spread deeper and deeper into the mainland. Eventually, the clans retreated to the harsh volcanic plain known as the Cinderlands, where they make their home to this day.
At present, apart from the occasional small raid by brash warriors, the Shoanti have ceded the land south of the Storval Rise to Korvosa. However, the threat of war remains ever present as the Shoanti have not renounced their claim to the southern lands and especially the Grand Mastaba on which Castle Korvosa sits.
Strangely, the clan on the best terms with the city is the one most wronged by it, the Skoan-Quah, who once inhabited the land and whose burial tunnels now serve as the city’s sewers. The Skoan-Quah shaman, Thousand Bones, is presently in the city with a small delegation attempting to craft a lasting peace.
The other nearby clan, the warlike Sklar-Quah, do not share the Skoan-Quah’s willingness to negotiate and continue to probe Korvosa’s defenses with small scale raids, waiting for the first sign of weakness to strike again.
Despite the mutual hatred, Korvosa does have a small Shoanti population. Many of them are exiles who have chosen to abandon their traditional ways, making them honorless tshamek in the eyes of the Quahs. Others are temporary visitors, come to trade wares or sometimes attempt to break into the Grand Mastaba. So long as they don’t cause trouble, they are tolerated by the Korvosan authorities, but the average citizen prefers to avoid them if at all possible.