The Hoeton Barbarians
So, you're heading for the Northlands are you? Well sit down, let me tell you a few things you'll be glad to know, and I'm not talking about the white behemoths or the ice trolls. Everyone who's ever heard a nursery rhyme knows plenty about all that. I'm talking about the toughest people you'll ever have the pleasure of meeting. It's a tribe from the furthest Northwoods, as told by a veteran of the troll wars (and a character for GURPS 3rd edition).
We had been chasing a particularly nasty demon for a couple of months. Just when we thought we had him, he'd get away. Anyways, he led us deep into the Northlands. Now, we didn't go the way the explorers go, following the easy terrain, looking for a way over the top of the world. No sir, we went straight, our wizard was able to locate him, but not a navigable path, so we followed our noses, so to speak. Long story short, we caught up to him and took care of business, if you know what I mean, but it cost us plenty. For the next four days we stumbled about that frozen waste, hoping to find a safer way back than the way we'd come, and the conversations started turning to which of us would become food for the others. We didn't get quite that desperate, not on that expedition anyways, but we were considering it.
Big ugly brutes, strong as horses, fast like cats...
So anyway, there we were stumbling about the tundra when we come across this tribe of warriors. Big ugly brutes, strong as horses, fast like cats, but stump ugly, I'm telling you. Now this one, name of Toivo, he sees us and waves for us to enter the camp. Now as we get closer, I can see that they've got ice troll hanging next to caribou waiting to be butchered, and we see that every one of them has an axe or a great sword, even the children, 'though we later found out that the kids swords were pretty dull, but they're swords are odd, they're bent about a foot from the tip. And I don't mean bent like slammed in a door, but bent across the blade, like a scimitar, but much more drastically.
So anyway, as we get closer to this guy, we see he's wearing a mask, not decorated like for masquerade, but thick leather. Anyway, he points at Sir Roger and Zurn and then to a woman. Now she wasn't as big as this Toivo fellow, but I'm telling you she was nearly as ugly, missing teeth, broken nose, and scars. Now when I say missing teeth, I don't mean rotted falling out, I mean the teeth she had looked good and healthy, but half of them were missing. Anyways, she takes them into one of the tents, and I didn't see those guys again for about 2 days, but when I did, they said that they weren't going to lose any toes to the frostbite.
Anyway, no one has said anything up to this point, and then this guy says "We go pub now." Just like that, no introductions, no how-do-you-dos, just, here's our camp, let's get to drinking. Anyway, we realized that they spoke our language, although a bit differently than we do, for instance they don't use words like "to" or "the", at least not very often. But this was good, because Zurn was the only one that knew spells for understanding strangers, and he was with that trainer. That's what they call their healers, trainers, ain't that odd. Anyway, we're drinking and throwing darts and generally having a good time when 2 guys start getting loud and I swear I'm not making this up, they were arguing about which bridge was designed better. I guess one was a lot easier to cross but the other could hold more and there was a lot of gesturing and the words wind shear and harmonics kept popping up. Then they both left. I found out later that they went to a nearby ravine and they each built a bridge across it in order to show the other one how wrong he was. Now both bridges looked plenty safe to me and last time I saw them they were looking for more stuff to pile on them to see which one broke first.
This was how they worshipped their god who they call Hockey.
Anyway, I'm off track again. So this Toivo, he tells us that tomorrow "we go church" and I'm thinking, "no way is there a church way up here at the top of the world." Well, I was right, the next morning the whole tribe walks down to the lake, but kind of casually, like there's no hurry to get there, but there's no thought of going anywheres else. Now, I said they went down to the lake, but keep in mind the lake is frozen solid, and I expected that they were going to pray to the god of the lake or of ice or some such, but instead, they line up in two rows and play a game with this piece of behemoth hide. This was how they worshipped their god who they call Hockey. I asked them later about this Hockey, if he or she helps with harvest or hunt, but they said no, that Hockey was a lifestyle of always trying to win regardless of pain or overwhelming odds. Then they explained that the game they played at the church was sort of symbolic of life. If you fought and lost you got taken to the penalty box, that's their word for hell, by the referees. And I said played a game, but playing isn't really the best word for it, fighting a game is more like it, and it wasn't just the men who did this. There must have been six or seven games, women, children, even the elderly, but they were grouped by health and age. I reckon this was to keep the injuries low, that being a relative term, they seemed like they wanted to kill each other, but as soon as the game ended they were like friends again drinking and joking and carrying on.
So anyway, I stayed there for a couple of months, you know, to learn their customs and more of this religion. While I was there, I learned that they were smart but insane. Do you know that they think the world is like these meat pies they eat, that the center of the world is hot and loose, but the crust keeps it together. And when someone dies in battle, they call it a penalty, and when they make a kill, they yell "goal". Now this Toivo, he was like a priest, but they call him a "golee", and their chief was "cotche".
Now, while I was there, one of those expeditionary caravans came through and I got to thinking, I'll bet these guys know a way across the ice, and if I can get them to tell me, I could be make some serious coin, so one day I asked cotche if there was a way and do you know what he told me. He said there was. Can you believe it? And I said, "How come you don't tell these expeditions about the way?" and he says "I tell them, and then they go and die." So I asked "why do they die?" Is the path treacherous? He says no, that a blind man could follow the path, but it runs close to Trollholm which he says is where trolls originally came from and the place is still thick with them. And do you know that when one of them barbarians gets really old he "retires". He takes his sword and walks to Trollholm killing as many as can. They say those folks don't get penalized, they just fight to the end of time. They never come back, but they think that one day, enough of these retired folks will destroy Trollholm so they feel honored to go do that and apparently it's a great shame to be "ejected" which means dying of age.
So anyway, I asked him why he doesn't warn the expeditions about Trollholm and he says, "They don't ask." And that's really the way they are, they don't bother nobody with information they don't want. They don't lie, if they know the answer, they'll tell you, but make sure you ask if there's any doubt in your mind about what they've told you.
Well, I reckon that's enough of my blathering for the night. If you want to loot those lost expeditions, you'll find them at Trollholm, but keep in mind why it's called that, and if you meet any of the Hockey tribes, keep a civil tongue about you.
Golee Toivo of the Hockey Barbarians, Hoeton tribe
Male; Age 38; 6'-2", 190 lbs.; Hair: Blonde, Eyes:Blue, Skin: White
Advantages: Combat Reflexes,High Pain Threshold,Clerical Investment,Magic Resistance5,Toughness 2,Charisma: +2,Weapon Master (2-handed sword)
Disadvantages: Appearance: Ugly, Missing teeth, broken nose[-10],Compulsive Carousing[-5],Fanatic:Hockey[-15],Overconfident[-10]
Quirks[-5]: Prefers Pasties to any other food (with Ketchup, not gravy);Says "Yassir, yubetcha";Doesn't care about wealth or possessions beyond armor or weapons;Quiet, except at pub;"Ices up playing field" before battle
Animal Handling (Dogs)-10
Total Points: 230
Equipment of Note:
Lizardman Hide Armor
Mask of Jason (Holy Symbol/helm)
Zamboni (curved great sword. Ice Slick)
The Biscuit (3 inch diameter disk of behemoth hide, MR 5)
Disclaimers, apologies and appreciation: There are only some similarities between the persons depicted in this article and those of Houghton, MI. I apologize to the people that cannot tell what is jest. Thanks to Don Alley for his contribution to the concept.