The grandparents of your grandparents congregated around Great Mother River, traveling tribes of various peoples that ceased to travel. Crops and beasts were tamed, and the permanent camps swelled, becoming villages, then towns, and even cities where thousands of people live. Towns and cities waged war on one another, and the defeated became the property of the victorious. Small empires grew, and the kingship was handed down from father to son. The kingdoms of River-Man grew.
But outside the city walls, away from the relative safety of Great Mother River's banks, danger lurks. Villages dot the region, acutely aware that they are surrounded by dangers. Giant bears, long-tooth cats and tyrant lizards are terrifying to even behold, but packs of wolves, lions and tearclaw lizards are all able to take down a small party, or even risk an attack on a village if times are hard. Worse still are the Wood-Men, like River-Men, but not, with their own villages and ways. As River-Man expands further and further inland, he and Wood-Man come into more and more contact. Scuffles and skirmishes seem to be as common as early trade and peaceful interaction, as the two learn more about one another, at the feasting table, or on the field of battle (or for a few particularly barbaric groups on either side, both).The shriek of a tearclaw woke Malay with a start. In seconds, she was up, dagger in hand and leather armour hanging loosely around her, being secured as another shriek sounded, closer. Once the armour was on, Malay glanced at her companions. Narska, as usual, had slept in his armour, while Rennor was still struggling with heavy suit, even aided by Shell. Malay grabbed some of the special torches with spiked bases, lit them from the campfire, and shoved the pointed end into the ground, to give them just a little light to see by.
Deggir bolted, dragging Lellelle through the woods. Up ahead, light indicated a campfire - other people might either help, or at least give the beasts distraction while Deggir and his sister escaped. Hearing the beasts right behind them, Deggir pulled up strength from deep within himself and moved even faster, bursting from the trees into the campfire.
Malay crouched down, ready to spring as the thudding creature burst from the trees. Narska readied his giant sword. But, to her shock, it was not a tearclaw - people! No! Another bolt of shock went through her - Wood-Men! This close to Cutter Rock? She shook of her surprise as the first tearclaw burst into view, leaping through the air only to find itself rendered neatly headless by Narska. The second and third burst through the undergrowth, and met with Rennor's metal hide - he was the only person Malay had ever seen wrestle a tearclaw.
Deggir crouched, sheltering Lellelle as the Waterriders clashed with the rip-feet. He'd never seen one this close before. They were impressive in battle - the big one had cleaved the beast's head straight off! Amazing. As the third rip-foot darted around the big man's sword, Deggir saw it prepare for a strike. Without thinking, he leapt up, dagger in hand, and slashed at the thing's tendons. It squealed, a high-pitched noise that made Deggir's head spin. Waterridder took the opportunity to slash, shattering the beast's spine, then again, felling it. It lay there, twitching erratically. The man lifted up a booted foot and snapped its neck, muttered something to a smaller woman who stood somewhere around his elbows.
The threat of the battle over, Malay stared with open-mouthed awe at the Wood-Man. Young, she thought. She glanced down at the other form. And another one, even younger! She looked back to the boy. "Are you h--" her query was interrupted by the boy snatching his sister and racing into the woods.
"Do we go after them?" Narska asked. Malay thought. "No. Let them go. They'll not be back." Narska grunted, but accepted the woman's wisdom as greater than his own. "Alright, turn in." Malay said. "Rennor and I will take dual watch. Get a few hours, then you two can take over. We leave at first light." Narska grunted again, and was asleep before his head hit his bedroll.