“We welcomed the Men of the West to these lands when war drove them here, but already they have gone from gratitude to grudging tolerance.”
–Kalkosi, Seeress of Carmel
The Carmelites, as the Elves call them, are often thought to be a sentient race of bears, but those who have seen them more closely and more frequently find them to be very similar to badgers in their appearance, except that they are upright in stature, possess opposable thumbs, and can speak. They are most often about the height of a man and tend to be somewhat fat. They are covered in fur which is usually brown or tan in color, with white or black markings, and have claws which those of their warrior class keep filed sharp.
Their society consists of family groups which travel the plains and forests west of Moregar’s Peak, spending the summers on the southern coast and wintering in the forests along the river, but they are not what one might call nomads. Each clan has one or more permanent settlements along the banks of the Assurak and Kilkoma rivers, great longhouses of rammed earth which burrow deep into the hills.
The wulkern, as they call these homes, are often very large, with numerous entrances, and are known to have secret entrances in the nearby forest. Even wulkern which are separate often share a common entrance, and in all their villages, the wulkern are built with their primary entrances facing inward in a semi-circle or circle. The common area thus formed is where much of their social and religious life takes place. Their religion is somewhat ritualistic, with its focus on the creator, whom they call Kalkamar. Their feast days are tied largely to the seasons, and to the Journey which many of them take every year.
They are not nomads, but rather a portion of their population travels throughout the region between the great rivers of the west, Assurak and Kilkoma, with this Journey coinciding with the harvest of wild berries, nuts, and fruit which form much of their diet. Those who take the Journey are given a solemn charge to observe the condition of the land, and to gather and preserve food for those who Remain. It is believed that this tradition came about during the dark centuries before the Covenant, when dragons troubled the land. Some of the Carmelites say that before the dragons came, they had been hunter-gatherers, and until the Covenant had been established, they sent out small parties to forage, hunt and fish, and built the wulkern into the earth for safety, In the many centuries since, this practice became organized and methodical, and the clans began to build wulkern on the coast for the summer fishing and kuna nut season.
Though the Covenant ended the terror of evil dragons, the Carmelites continued the practice of seasonal travel, leaving the riverside settlements defended, and it has become part of their religious practice. The Plains of Carmel are not without their dangers, however. They are home to a large bipedal reptile which the Carmelites name nekreth, which is a formidable predator. Standing about 3 meters in height, it possesses powerful jaws and will usually hunt the deer and the massive, grazing berrek, but when they begin to reproduce in large numbers they are known to form packs and can be very dangerous to travelers and settlements. It is also apparent that the continuance of this practice has prevented outsiders from settling in the plains. They are known to be a hospitable people, but have become distrustful in recent years.
Like many clan-based peoples, they are led by elders, are are sometimes thought to be matriarchal because of the prominence of female seers among them. However, their councils also often include the very young, and it has become more widely known in recent years that younger Carmelites are often made part of the counsel if they have proven to possess wisdom or exceptional courage.