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The Picts

  The Pictish Wilderness, or Pictland, was the last remnant of the great uncivilized West which remained after the Hyborian invasions. This region, which once stretched from the Western Sea to the borders of the ancient Stygian Empire of Acheron, was reduced in the Hyborian Age to a strip of  wilderness a tenth its original size. Even so, the coast of Pictland was well over 1,000 miles long, yet was devoid of even a single port city or a real city of any kind. Along the Pictish coast of the Western Ocean, there existed only the rude huts and villages of the fierce Picts, who were not seamen of any kind. It is said that the Picts of the coast lands were on an even lower cultural and technological level than the Stone Age hunters and gatherers of the clans who dwelt in the densely forested interior of the Pictish Wilderness.

Pictland was bounded on the north by the Eiglophian Mountains, on the east by the Black River, on the west by the ocean, and on the south by Zingara. The Pictish Wilderness was virgin forest, filled with oaks and maples, and haunted by creatures thought long extinct by the rest of the Hyborian world. Hyborian scouts reported saber-tooth tigers, giant pythons, giant apes and stegosaurs, as well as the more usual wolves, bears and elk. Nearly any forest creature (either modern or prehistoric) might be found somewhere in Pictland and the Pictish forests could conceal anything.

In addition to the wide variety of normal animals, there were many creatures in the Pictish  Wilderness who “remembered” the worship of Jhebbal Sag, the Lord of Beasts. Such animals were generally slightly larger and more intelligent than normal, and were more easily controlled by Pictish shamans. The Picts were a primitive people, short and swarthy, with broad shoulders, deep chests, and black eyes and hair. Their Stone Age culture was very primitive, and only possessed occasional “modern”  weapons of poor quality metals like copper, tin or iron either bought from the Zingarans or stolen from  Aquilonian troops.

 The Pictish tribes were very independent of one another. Each tribe was named for its totem animal: there were thus tribes named for the Eagle, Hawk, Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Wildcat and Raven. The tribe was ruled by a chief, who was usually the best warrior, with the cooperation and support of the tribal shaman. Pictish life did not provide for those who could not defend themselves, so rarely was the chief position held by an “elder.”

The Picts were consummate hunters and trackers. They had no agriculture or animal husbandry; their dinners were brought in through their hunting skill alone. They were also nearly invisible in the  woods; western Aquilonian border fortresses possessed a large ring of bare “killing ground” around their bases to prevent a Pictish ambush. Picts had no understanding of Hyborian chivalry. To a Pict, there was nothing wrong with sneaking up on your enemy and slitting his throat before he knew you were there. On the other hand, Picts in pursuit of an intruder ran screaming through the forest as they got close, to bring fear to their enemies. It is no wonder that the Aquilonians never managed to conquer Pictland despite the Picts’ general lack of civilization.

Pictish weapons were the bow and the cast spear, the stone-headed war club and the stone-bladed hatchet. They had little use for Hyborian swords and battle axes, although they prized iron or steel daggers and hatchet heads above all other possessions. They wore no armor save for cured animal skins. Pictish chieftains usually dressed themselves in saber-tooth tiger skins as a mark of their office and killing one of the great cats was usually a requirement for ascending to the chieftainship of a Pict tribe. Not all Pictish relations with other peoples were hostile. Zingarans occasionally sailed north, trading Kushite ostrich plumes, jewelry, and weapons for animal skins, copper ore, and gold dust. Such trading was not without risk. A careless captain could quickly find himself on a sacrificial altar with Pictish hands at his ship’s tiller.

The Picts worshiped the animal gods of the pantheon that was subservient to Jhebbal Sag and each tribe’s shaman usually took the animal spirit of his tribe’s patron animal as his primary guide to the Spirit  World. Picts took heads for trophies; they hung them inside their huts or bound them to the shamanistic altars of their villages. The Picts believed that if they brought the head of their enemy home, the spirit of that enemy would be forced to serve them in the afterlife. Several orders of druids, who worshiped and drew upon the power of nature itself rather than Jhebbal Sag, were also found wandering the forests of the Pictish Wilderness. The Picts feared the druids’ power and viewed their stone circles as taboo places to be avoided

Names: Pictish names take two forms: they are either Iroquois style names or descriptive names like ‘Hawk.’ Tribal names are also based on the tribal animal totems, for example the Wolf Clan. Examples: (male) Gorm, Sagayetha, Teyanoga, Zogar Sag. Suggestions: (male) Akando, Akonni; (female) Cara, Oheo, Orenda.