The Tahalan people are an ethnic group of orcs originating from the jungles of Ashina. They still reside within the jungles located in the Northeastern corner of the continent. The people do not stray far from their homeland due to the unknown dangers of the evolving world of Alathra.
The name “Tahalo” means “from the river." It was originally used to describe the namesake of the people, but has since then evolved to also be used for the name of the town.
Appearance and Traits
Tahalans are humanoid in structure and are broadly built. Hulking and lumbering in physique, the orcs are almost as broad as they are tall. Of course, there are outliers to this and not all orcs are built heftily. Decorated with clothing made of bone and leather, the orcs prefer to stay nimble and bare due to the temperatures of the jungle. The complexities of Tahalans range widely with the most common skin tones being varying shades of green and blue. Rarer skin tones include that of black, gray, brown, and tan. Adults average around 6’1, or just under two meters. Tahalan orcs are not born with pointed ears, their ears are cut into shape as a rite of passage into adulthood.
One of the biggest cultural components of Tahalo is the significance that bones have. They use it for religious purposes, decoration, and weaponry. It is also used in the writing system called Alita wherein it is carved most commonly on rock, but more important teachings are carved on bone. This allows them to pass on generational traditions such as te pa uto, which means to "set the bone". In traditional households, the house must be decorated with bones on the roof. If the roof is not strong enough to hold the bone, then it must be set near the entrance. The purpose of the bones is to bless the building and to protect the inhabitants from spirits they call Aka’aka. If they are traveling into new territories, they wear bone-tooth necklaces to serve the same purpose.
Tahalan tool handles are made with wood from the Ma’a tree. Ma’a originating from the orc term for rock, the native tree was named for its immense density and inelasticity. The blades themselves use the material bu’ato. It is a slang word combining the native words buto, meaning bone, and ato which means stone. It is believed that the bones of the animal will transfer parts of their spirit into the weapon, thus enhancing the power. Bu’ato is created by a ritual process whereby the bones of a beast are buried underground until the bone hardens and is mineralized into a harder material. Due to this process being both arduous and callous, the material is used for weapons that have multiple uses as they don't have much of the material to spare. Axes, spears, and daggers are often what the material is used for. All these tools can be used in combat, but also provide uses in woodcutting, fishing, and carving respectively.
Tahalan Beast Masks
Tahalans revere the tenacity and ferocity of the wild animals found within the undergrowth. So much so that they emulate their prowess during combat. With clay and wood, they create masks that mimic the appearance of certain animals in the jungle. The masks are then charmed by a village enchantress who uses the bones of said animal to mark a spiritual connection. These masks are called anu ufi. The revered animals consist of crocodiles, water buffalo, gorillas, tigers, and lions. To obtain a beast mask is a rite of passage. First, one must slay the beast you intend to mimic. The teeth and/or horns are then taken to a village enchantress to charm the mask. Once done, the individual must bury the rest of the animal's body underground for their first cultivation of bu'ato for the future generations. This marks the end of childhood and the entrance into adulthood wherein their ears are now allowed to be cut into points.
Food is simple in this orc village. Meat and fish are eaten daily and is considered a must-have for every meal. They are often stewed with the milk of a coconut, and sometimes even the blood of the animal itself. Vegetable crops are also eaten in combination, with the main sources of fiber being a variant of sweet potato they call uvi. While they do grow other crops such as carrot, wheat, and beetroot, these are often used for feeding their livestock rather than their own people. Village elders caution against eating too much meat as it causes tikava, a common local ailment wherein the feet of an individual feels like they are broken.
Like most other communities in Alathra, Tahalan orcs are cautious of alani, the native term for outsiders, so as to keep their people safe. Once an alani is deemed friendly, however, they are treated with kindness and respect if they do not portray themselves as weak. Tahalans love to make music with singing and drums made of carved logs and hide with sticks made of bone. Singing is traditionally accompanied with food, so as to make those singing even happier.