Guide - Sagittaries

  
Sagittary Man (Left) and Woman (Right)

The general definition of "sagittary" is "archer," or sometimes "centaur," as centaurs were traditionally expert bowmen.  In heraldry, it also refers to a creature with the torso, arms, and head of a man joined to the body of a lion.  From this obscure reference, the Skyhaven sagittary was born.

Origins
Sagittaries once existed on the main continent, but were wiped out ages ago in some unknown cataclysm.  They survive today on islands off the coast of Eoterra, and in pockets on the unexplored land of Eoterra itself.  There are unsubstantiated reports of rare subspecies of non-leonine sagittaries surviving deep in the heart of Eoterra.

Habitat
Sagittaries prefer warmer climates, such as savannahs and tropical forests, though some are known to live on highland plateaus.  Their primary source of meat is large herd animals, so where there is a sufficient food source sagittaries tend to follow.  They have little tolerance for freezing temperatures and no love of wetlands or swimming, though sagittaries on islands and in coastal regions sometimes fish in the shallows.

Feeding
As one might guess, sagittaries are primarily carnivorous, though they do eat some fruits, grains, and vegetables.  They usually hunt in gender-specific groups, either all men or all women, as it is considered bad luck for males and females to hunt together.  The men usually use bows and arrows or hurling spears to take down large animals, while the women hunt smaller animals with their spears, knives, or clubs in direct confrontation.  Sagittaries prefer taking the life of one large animal to feed their group (known often as a pride) rather than many small animals, but they will hunt smaller animals if they need to.  It is universally forbidden to eat the "unclean" meat of a scavenger or a predator, and anyone who kills a big cat, especially a lion, is considered little better than a murderer.

Life Cycle
Cubs are born in spring or summer in litters of one to three, spending their first six or seven years with their mothers at camp.  When the signs are right (roughly when they are eight or nine years old, but sometimes as early as seven, or as late as twelve), a ceremony is conducted in which the growing cubs are chased out of the camp at night by adults wearing spirit-masks, shaking rattles and drums and crying in the ancient tongues.  The boy-cubs are chased one way, the girl-cubs another.  At a certain point, the chief man and chief woman are waiting; they ritually turn back the pursuing "demons," then take the cubs into training for upwards of two weeks.  At this time, boys learn the secret ways of the male society, and girls the secret ways of the female society.  At a preordained time, the pride welcomes the new men and women back into camp with a feast and ceremony, burning their childhood clothes in a symbolic ritual.  Within the next five years, sagittaries are expected to marry or be taken on as apprentice to a healer, spirit doctor, sign reader, or herd master.  This is also the time when they leave their birth pride to find or found a new one.  Sagittaries live for roughly two hundred years under ideal conditions.

Culture
They live in prides, groups of upwards of ten core families and their offspring.  Like the animals they hunt, they are nomadic wanderers, setting up camp in one area for a few months at most before moving on.  The women build shelters of woven reeds, sticks, and leaves as the area provides, but only use them for food storage or to protect the ill; like centaurs, sagittaries prefer open air to even the most primitive of homes.  Once the shelter is built, the men head out for days or weeks at a time, following the herd animals.  Not only do the sagittaries hunt these beasts, but they act as overseers, protecting them from dangers and other predators (excepting big cats) and looking out for their well-being.  They also, by extension, keep an eye on the land, for an ill land produces ill animals, and ill animals lead to ill sagittaries.  The women defend the cubs, including the old, the infirm, and the boy-cubs who are too young to go with their fathers and uncles, also hunting smaller animals to supplement the pride food stocks.  The women and men have their own religious ceremonies and traditions, to a certain extent living separate lives.  Men learn the ways of the trail, of tracking animals and appeasing the spirits of the slain.  Women learn the ways of the hearth, of chasing off illness demons and reading omens.  Neither is considered lesser for not knowing the others' ways, as both are necessary for survival.
Sagittaries cut off from the natural world die very quickly, "withering away" as one observer wrote, in a case where a young sagittary man was accused of killing a foreigner's livestock and locked up in a neighbor's cellar.  His death nearly sparked open warfare with local sagittary prides, but the matter was resolved peacably when authorities took the unprecedented step of evicting the settlers, who had come there against international law and therefore were technically trespassers. (It could be a coincidence, but the foreigner whose accusation led to the man's death "disappeared" before he could board the boat for home; his neighbors reported a "hideous" shriek coming from his home the night before he vanished, and a roar "like a ghostly lion the size of a house." When questioned, the local prides merely shrugged and seemed to consider such a fate commonplace for a murderer, especially one who had "lost his lion soul," as they refer to two-legged humanoids.) With the rediscovery of Eoterra and its surrounding islands, Tiriallean authorites are doing their best to control contact with and settlements on this new land, for the protection of the sagittaries and other natives as well as for the well-being of foreigners.

Temperament
Some consider the sagittary brutish or savage, but in truth they simply have little love for the duplicities and trappings of what most species call "civilization." They respect the earth they walk on, the air they breathe, the animals they eat, and the waters they drink.  They appease their ancestors, worship their gods, and heal their souls with music, stories, and rituals.  Little else is worthy of their concern.  For a long time, they lived in isolation like the rest of Eoterra, and their first exposure to modern-day Tirialleans - the same sort of brash adventurers and ruthless treasure hunters who inadvertently reawakened the eodracs with their greed and violence - left them with a less than favorable impression.  Those who think to "educate" sagittaries in modern ways soon give up, though some sagittaries learn enough to serve as emmisaries and ambassadors.  It is through their efforts that the sagittaries agreed to send representatives to Skyhaven, believing that perhaps other worlds are in need of sagittary wisdom and protection.

Magical Traits
Like many so-called "primitive" people, sagittary lore and magic runs deep and powerful.  The men are perhaps the best sentient trackers known, finding prey as much through metaphysical as physical means.  A sagittary man needs only one hair from an animal to follow it for miles.  The women may not have the herbcraft of centaurs, but their healers have an excellent track record, relying more on their understanding of the spirits associated with plants, animals, illness, and health rather than the physical aspects of such things.  Sagittary women read fortunes and dreams via cast bones and other peculiar methods, with unerringly accurate results.  Sagittaries have secret ways of monitoring and maintaining the health of the land and animals they oversee, and not even the scholars baffled by their methods and cultural silence on such matters can doubt their effectiveness.

Other Notes
Sagittaries owe their appearance, according to legend, to having both a "man soul" (or "woman soul"), which gives them higher reason and connects them to the gods and ancestors, and a "lion soul," which gives them spiritual wisdom and connects them to the animal world.  By extension, they consider all big cats kin, and sometimes even hunt side by side with them.  One of the biggest puzzles to them is how or why humanoid beings gave up or lost their "animal souls."  For this reason, the best ambassadors to the sagitarries have traditionally been dragons, griffins or others who do not resemble humans.
Outsiders, especially humanoid outsiders, like to lump centaurs and sagittaries into the same category, but both species resent being classified together.  Centaurs consider sagitarries crude and unrefined, blind to the ways of the Star Maker and intolerably reliant on hunting and meat.  Sagitarries think of centaurs as arrogant and warlike, "acting against their animal soul," and historically hunted them as they believed was their right, since lions naturally hunt equines.  Some wonder if the "mysterious cataclysm" that drove mainland sagittaries to extinction wasn't in some way perpetuated by centaurs.  Today, since they don't share natural habitat and therefore pose no direct threat to one another's well being, both species are making efforts to learn mutual respect.

 

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