Shadow of the Cacklefiend
“Scavengers and looters, barbarians and demon-worshipers. Its because of the Gnolls and their thrice damned god that our land went from Paradise to Hell. May they burn with their foul god. Sure there are a few that aren’t so bad, but their a rare bunch.” - Achman Rasha, Imer Herdsman
“We are the masters of this world, the strongest race, We are the divine messengers of The Destroyer made from the flesh of Demons! It is our holy task to scourge this world of the weak!” - Nezrebe, The Betrayer
What is a Gnoll?
Gnolls are intelligent bipedal humanoids with the appearance of anthropomorphic hyenas. They average anywhere from 7’-7’6” in height and 280-320 lb. in weight. They are physically strong but very lean and rarely musclebound and capable of traveling at great speed for extended periods. their eyes are typically bright green or yellow and gleam when they catch the light. Gnolls are covered in a thick coat of fur and are equipped with sharp fangs and talons. Gnolls typically have a crest or main of hair of varying length and thickness which bristles when they are angry or frightened. Gnolls mature extremely quickly but have lives almost half as short as that of a human. One human year is worth roughly two years in a Gnolls life. Gnolls remain strong and vital right up until the end of their days however, and when a Gnoll does lose its strength it is a sudden and catastrophic decline.
Gnolls claim, with good reason that demonic blood courses through their veins and this seems to indeed be the case. Many Gnolls are born with or develop certain oddities such as razor sharp talons or unusual fur or eye color. For those Gnolls that have sworn themselves to Yeenoghu and especially those that live within Iblis these abnormalities are almost common.
The Three Bloodlines
Gnolls, like humans, are not a unified race and there exist three distinct bloodlines, each with its own culture and appearance, history and destiny. The Hrozbu, Niyyat and Ohnayga.
“Those spotted devils forced me to watch as they devoured my family alive. I lead a raiding party into a gnoll encampment a year latter and gave them a taste of their own medicine. They screamed at us that they where innocent hunters, but their all demon-worshiping liars.” - Joln Komas, Wayah Tribesman
“We have forsaken our demonic ancestry for a better path. It is a hard road, but we are better for the journey.” Auralyak, Hrozbu Chieftain of the Fiery Claw tribe
The Hrozbu are easily the most numerous bloodline, with roughly 80% of all Gnolls on Eden belonging to this bloodline. The Hrozbu have a gray or light brown fur with black or dark gray spots and typically darker color face and limbs. Their ears are also rounded similar to bears. The Hrozbu are anything but unified and there are hundreds of clans with thousands of tribes and uncountable packs. Typically though the Hrozbu live a nomadic existence in the Great Savanna and Iblis, with very few tribes living in the Dune Sea.
The culture of the Hrozbu is as diverse as they are themselves numerous. A good few are harmless nomads following game trails and are more than happy to travel into cities or accept outsiders into their fires. Most however are savage demon-worshipers intent on the destruction of the entire world. All Hrozbu are highly social and maintain close family ties.
For those tribes which do not worship Yeenoghu storytelling and songs play a huge social and cultural role. Hrozbu bards are extremely respected warrior-poets and historians and their songs are considered beautiful by even non-gnolls. Yeenoghu worshiping Hrozbu have only a remnant of this tradition and are much more interested in branding their flesh or sticking very sharp objects into their flesh.
Among certain Hrozbu lines there very rarely is born what is commonly known as a ‘Dire Gnoll’. Dire Gnolls are female Hrozbu which, while far less intelligent than a normal Gnoll, is around 8 feet tall and 500 pounds of muscle. Dire Gnolls are found in both yeenoghu worshiping and free gnoll tribes, but due to their relative lack of intellect they rarely have leadership positions within the tribe.
Dire Gnoll slaying a Troll
For reasons unknown, Dire Gnolls are able to inspire extreme desire and arousal in male Hrozbu which seem to worship them as the ultimate in sex-appeal even as they devour the entrails of a month-dead corpse. It is every males dream to mate with one of these living monsters, but the experience is at the very least somewhat painful and at the worst lethal (which might be a reason for the rarity of the trait, something the rest of the civilized world is thankful for). It can only be supposed that Dire Gnolls like it rough…
“Weaklings and betrayers to Yeenoghu, they must be crucified and skinned! Let their cries of suffering be heard across the world as their dying breed plummets to extinction!” - Kkalinackt, Hrozbu demonic Scourge of Yeenoghu
“We move as the desert wind, swiftly and silently across the dunes. We live as the hyena and the krenshar, following the herds to the oasis. We strike as the scorpion, with blinding speed and deadly intent.” - Rakaats, Chieftain of the Desert Crow
The Niyyat are desert dwelling nomads and skilled hunters of the Dune Sea. Their ears are considered extremely large and taper to a fine point and they possess fur of a dark brown. Many are often born with striped coloration on their arms and legs. This is often accentuated with tribal tattoos or fur-dyeing. They are on average much shorter than the more numerous Hrozbu but much more dexterous.
The Niyyat have lived apart from their larger cousins for many centuries and have developed an altogether unique culture. As a rule they do not worship Yeenoghu and each tribe has its own religious ideologies. Many however worship the Raven Queen, goddess of death, righteous judgment and protection.
Much of Niyyat culture has been dictated by the extreme desert climate they live in. They wear little clothing due to the unmerciful heat and what they do wear is preferably of linen material, favored for its light weight compared to leather. They are skilled metalworkers and Niyyat are fond of wearing large numbers of bracelets, anklets, rings and other jewelry made from precious metals. In some tribes body piercing, tattooing and fur dyeing is a common practice. The Niyyat typically form small tribal groups that follow the few herds of game that make the Dune Sea their home. They travel light and swiftly and can disappear into the dunes with almost magical skill. They are excellent trackers and hunters and are skilled at rearing hyenas, hyenadons and krenshar.
The Niyyat are a friendly, but suspicious people. They have been on the wrong end of every conflict upon Eden and are frequently the targets of prejudice and thus are slow to trust. To those that they do accept they are respectful hosts and gracious guests. The Niyyat have a particularly friendly relationship with the tribes of nomadic Elves and the two races welcome each other into their camps.
Culturally the Niyyat are known for being excellent musicians and having a particularly fine ear for music. They also practice a form of dance known as Raqs Sharqi or ‘Belly Dancing’ to humans. Performed only by female gnolls, a special outfit made from thin dyed fabric and many metallic pieces is worn. These outfits are considered family jewels and are passed down from mother to daughter. While many human outsiders consider the dance to be a purely sexual act, in reality it serves as a link to the tribes past. Mothers teach daughters the same as their mothers taught them. It is a piece of living history that connects a scattered and nomadic people. It can also be considered a deadly martial art, as it is widely believed that the first Dervishes and the creators of Salat fashioned it from the Raqs Sharqi.
Among the Niyyat there exists a special warrior-cast known as the Dervishes. The Dervishes fallow a martial art known as Salat. This martial art takes years to fully master, but a Gnoll trained in Salat is an extremely deadly foe. The Salat martial art was created with the physically smaller but much faster Niyyat Gnolls in mind. In order to be recognized as a Dervish a trainee must be capable of making three deadly blows able to kill any creature within the space of an eye-blink. A trained Dervish is like a dancer of death, moving with astounding speed and acrobatics from one slain foe to the next. Their movements are a blur of death-passion, their music the screams of their dieing enemies and the blood flying in their face applause.
“Do I regret my betrayal? Do I regret being the cause of the curse that has doomed my people to extinction? What a foolish question. You are not my people. You turned your backs from our god. What happens now is what you deserve.” - Nezrebe the Betrayer speaking to the last known Ohnayga tribe member before administering death via torture
“My people are ghosts now. Perhaps we always where…But just like ghosts we still have the power to frighten from beyond the grave…” - Ohma, guardian of the Pool of Tranquility
The Ohnayga are virtually extinct with only a bare handful of surviving representatives of this ancient and noble bloodline. Most of what is known about them comes from a bare handful of historical accounts and Gnoll legend.
The Ohnayga where unusually muscular and barrel chested for Gnolls with powerful upper body strength. They had pointed ears and a fur color of white-grey and black stripes. They where highly reclusive and very independent. They never formed clans or even tribes, preferring to live in small family groups near forests. The fact they lived and hunted alone is probably the reason for their comparatively larger size.
Almost nothing has remained of Ohnayga culture other than a few carved artifacts and cave paintings. It is believed that they where a deeply spiritual people and intimately connected to their forest homes.
The Ohnayga where happily isolationist during the early ears of Edens history, until the Haksoon began their war against the elves. The Ohnayga where caught in the crossfire of that war with the Haksoon destroying their lands and enslaving their people. Ohnayga gnolls where considered particularly good gladiators and slaves because of their endurance and strength. The Elves, also being forced from their land where in no mood to tolerate what they considered to be squatters and on numerous occasions forced the Ohnayga out of their ancestral homes.
Divorced from their beloved land and thrust into a new environment, the Ohnayga where doomed to a slow extinction. Their numbers continued to dwindle throughout the ages, but not before they became both lauded and reviled.
For, from this bloodline arose both the savior and destroyer of the modern world. The so called White Gnoll of legend, the mortal being that dared to challenge an all powerful demon-god and so nearly triumphed was an Ohnayga gnoll. His brother hated as Nezrebe the betrayer was also the one which prevented that final salvation. Perhaps it was jealousy of his brother, some strange religious zeal or simple insanity that made him turn his back on his brother. A stranger question would be: Why did the White Gnoll stand before the furry of a god to save races and peoples that had virtually destroyed his own?
Yeenoghu never had any love for the Ohnayga in his black heart as none of them worshiped him. Instead they kept to the Old Gods of nature especially Kord, lord of the Storm and Battle. However, ever since he was so nearly destroyed by one of their number he has held a festering hatred and, if it dare be voiced, fear of their race. While the world thought the threat of the Ruler of Ruin passed, in reality Yeenoghu was hunting down the last of the Ohnayga, slaying them and defiling their secret places. All of his malice and power was bent to the eradication of this wayward band of his people. As long as a single one of this race lives on, doubt however small forever gnaws at the Destroyers mind.
If a mortal gnoll was so close to defeating him, what could several heroes courageous enough to stand agaisnt him do?