Of the Aiphe who eventually came to settle within Kal Azul, one group chose to reconsider their ethos. Not long after the first settlement within the Blasted Steppes, a once-in-a-hundred-years tornado formed in the desert, its interference stirring the winds of the region and pushing them randomly in every which way. In accordance with their culture, the Aiphe travelled from place to place, rapidly and erratically. Most did so until the winds settled, ten years later, but one group tired of the constant movement and took a different path. They came to believe that to travel against the wind - being the path of greater resistance, at least in relative terms - was the more rewarding path for them, and so they boldly marched into the center of the great windstorm.
Most of them died - marching into a freak tornado is unwise at the best of times, let alone when one is so small - but those that survived largely fared little better, the fell influence of such proximity to the corpse of a demon - not to mention the rising of their dead - driving them mad. In their shared trauma they found community, and thrived as they could as 'Those Against Windless Times', 'TAWT' for short.
The ‘Taut’ - originally a joke derived from the phonetic pronunciation of the full title of their people’s acronym, and their ironically remarkably relaxed demeanours - have wandered the Steppes ever since.
Society and Culture
A specific divergence from the Aiphe culture that preceded the Taut is the belief that regardless of what trouble the wind brings, it is fundamentally better to experience it than ‘flee’ it, as the early Aiphan Taut viewed the movements of their ancestors and contemporaries. In a contradictory sense, the Taut view the end goal of following the wind to be the seeking of a ‘Windless place’ where it no longer blows, hence the term by which they refer to themselves.
Taut culture retains some aspects of nomadic life familiar to the Aiphe, but does not denigrate permanent settlement given their own thoughts as to the nature of the wind. It is not uncommon for groups to live in a set location, and individuals to wander whenever the drive takes them; one such term used for this act is ‘go(ing) walkabout’. Some derive spiritual value from this, while others simply use it as a way to get away from less pleasant members of their community.
The Taut are remarkably untroubled by adversity, with the burning of an individual’s caravan typically responded to with a curse and a shrug, before beginning to rebuild. In adversity, they hold, comes purpose and drive, and in a world with so little that may be controlled, why should they overly concern themselves with weeping over impediments? For a people in such a inhospitable place, this is arguably a way of staying sane, and yet almost to a fault the Taut are utterly ridiculous in their thought patterns; one of the Taut might decide the best way to avoid the sight of something ugly is to blind themselves, or that lopping off a hand is the best way to ensure an itch upon it remains thoroughly scratched. It is not unheard of for one of the Taut to paint themselves a lighter shade of their usual green hue, stick leaves to their head, and claim to be a Hedera to the point they believe it themselves. Taut culture is so relaxed that it is likewise not unheard of for the community to which this ‘Hedera’ belongs to accept that belief to be true, and act accordingly.
While a Taut community is difficult to ruffle, on the rare occasion they are pushed to combative action they excel with ambushes and guerilla tactics, popping out of extensive tunnels dug throughout their territory for lightning raids before fleeing unseen back to their settlement. For this purpose it is expected that each Taut community has at least two or three skilled geomancers among them; indeed, among them geomancy and aeromancy tend to be culturally desirable forms of magic.
The Taut share a cultural language that they rarely teach outsiders, and those few who attempt to learn it are often left befuddled, as the tongue consists significantly of hand and feet movements, as well as several dozen whistles.
Tautan clothing varies from community to community, with light fabrics that are easily to move in. Lighter colours are preferred, both to ensure the reflection of heat and to allow for effective camouflage when necessary. Individual Tautans tend to express quite a few eccentric fashions, from wearing the skulls of their kills to pieces of wood to - in the less friendly communities - the tanned skin of other humanoids. Both male and female Tautans wear bright colours for courting rituals, though exactly what said rituals consist of varies from community to community.
Their weaponry tends towards the eccentric, including such strange designs as ‘whacking sticks’, spears with the points placed on the side facing the Tautan that in combat are thrust in a non-lethal place and then used to strike their foe using body movements, and ‘sting slings’, traditional slings that use stingers from an assortment of insects as ammunition. Armour typically consists of leather or - more rarely - several metal plates or bones attached to leather armour.
The Azulans of the Taut - Term of Reference: Tautan, or ‘Goblin’ in a derogatory sense, though some individuals pride themselves of 'reclaiming' the word - are primarily of Aiphe ancestry, though on rare occasions those humans who live upon the Steppes and happen to be mad enough to willingly live among them have been found to join the communities. To these individuals, little racism is shown.
Tautans tend towards the shorter side, with an individual more than three feet tall being rare. They share the typical green hues of other Kal Azulans, though their noses tend to protrude more. Their voices are shrill and their teeth sharp, owing to a mostly carnivorous diet - on occasions Taut communities are known to fall even further into madness through the consumption of the Void-touched monsters of the region, though whether they actually gain any sustenance from them is debateable. Still, Tautans tend to be mesocarnivores, supplementing their meat-based diets with what little vegetation they can forage.
Despite their small stature, Tautans tend to be wiry and quite strong, possibly as a result of slightly increased muscle density. They’re known to be capable warriors; despite the relaxed nature of their culture, they still commonly tend to defend their territory from monsters, and their teeth and claws have evolved to be useful in such matters.