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The Hidden People

 

In the water, the woods, beneath the earth and through the sky, monsters have passed unseen for eons. Every corner of the planet Earth has its share of mysterious beasts, shadowy things half-glimpsed beyond the firelight, something that someone saw glide beneath their boat or through the night sky. Some became immortalized, like the dragons or shapeshifters, others became lost to time or revealed as frauds. By the 21st century there was hardly an inch of the planet's surface that might still hide fantastical creatures, and most of them either become superheroes or fight them on the evening news. 

 

But in the rocky, mountainous, half-wild gorge of the Columbia River, an army of monsters has survived. These are the Cryptid Clans.

 

The Beast People are humanoids with some other animal's quality or affinity, most are leftover experiments of the Preservers.

The Changed Ones were normal people, until someone or something irrevocably transformed them.

The Forsaken are creatures of myth and legend from the days before the Pact barred divine realms.

The Unhumans are an open-minded tributary of humanity whose genes are magically destabilized, creating creatures whose every member is totally unique.

The Visitors are beings from other worlds, even other realities, who have found a new home on Earth but don't wish to join human society.

 

A Brief History of Tribes

 

The Cryptid Clans were originally a loose confederation of people who survived the Great Cataclysm that destroyed the continents of Atlantis and Lemuria. North America, while its own scars from the war took millennia to heal, was rich in food and water and places to hide, especially near the mountain ranges. What is now called the Atlas Range of Washington and Oregon quickly became home to many kinds of creatures who either hadn't been on either side or had no place in the understandably-fearful human communities. 

 

Around 15,000 years ago humans of the Chinook nation settled in the Columbia River valley, including the river delta claimed by the Cryptids. Despite initial clashes the humans and inhumans found common ground and developed a guarded yet respectful relationship, a few even having children with each other. Thanks to the humans the Cryptids grew out of their fear and mistrust of the strange new world the mortals had inherited.

 

In 1809, when the Charles Hogarth Stanley and Steven Rüber Malory-headed expedition to map the interior reached the Columbia River mouth, there was a sharp turning point. A day after the expedition turned back home, leaving in its wake Fort Emerald as a supply and defense center for future American settlers, Stanley was horribly murdered. The expedition had been guests of the local Chinook people who demanded, were given and executed the guilty party. But the Cryptids had seen enough, both from latent divination talents and simple pattern-recognition: this was the end of them, countless more Americans would be coming. If found they would be exploited and killed. To escape that fate the Clans decided to recede into legend, becoming ghosts and rumors at the edge of human civilization.

 

The biggest change in recent history was the crash-landing of several Grue xeno-pods from laboratory ships forced to jettison their cargo while in Earth's atmosphere, coincidentally directly above the Atlas Range. The paranoia of 1950's America meant the few real sightings and close encounters with the experiments, mutated local life and prisoners in the pods led to a thankfully short-lived hysteria about alien invasion and dozens of "cryptid hunts" into the wilderness around the Emerald Cities. By the time the Clans had absorbed the new members they had acquired their longest-lived and most powerful enemy: a secret organization dedicated to fighting alien subversion in the aftermath of the Grue "secret" invasion earlier that decade, the tenacious and unyielding Majestic-20.

 

The Cryptid Clans have struggled to survive in the midst of unchecked human expansion, becoming one of the many peoples severely harmed by ocean depopulation, deforestation and industrial pollution. They are adaptable and powerful but they need to find a new path in an unpredictable world.

 

The Clans

 

Traditionally there are only five Clans recognized as wholly independent bodies, the oldest and with the most rules are:

 

River: The River Clan lives in the Columbia and its local tributaries, the Red and Bronze rivers. Its members are mostly amphibious sorts who can't handle the rigors of the Sea Clan, or who have some close tie to the rivers or Lake Valleé. In general the River Clan works as go-betweens or discreet messengers for the other Clans, moving through the waterways, sewers, water pipes and flooded sections of the Undercity with speed and discretion. Their members have a deserved reputation as the most subtle and tactically-minded of the Clans, able to go almost anywhere without being seen. Their leader is Otter, an ancient Changed One shapeshifter, whose days of irresponsible hell-raising are over but not forgotten. Their home is the drowned mining town of Astoria at the bottom of Lake Valleé. Some of them have started journeying further upriver to help carve paths for the yearly-depleting salmon runs. While the Rock Clan is ubiquitous the River Clan is privy to many secrets even they aren't aware of including the true source of the Changed Ones called Monsters, the finer ebbs and flows of power within the Chamber, the Shadow Academy hidden within the Elysian Academy and countless smaller but no less obscure facts. Otter has a habit of sitting on this information until he can use it to make himself look good, which severely undercuts his real skill as a spymaster.

 

Rock: The Rock Clan has tunnels running everywhere under, through and around the Emerald Cities. The Rock Clan makes up the principle merchant and industrial class, their generally sedentary society and large numbers(easily the largest of the Clans) placing them ideally for making the house other Clans do business in. While the richest of the Clans in goods and technology, the Rock Clan's real wealth lies in its skilled and solid people. They can be found in the territory of almost any other Clan helping to make or repair almost anything, not to mention in the abandoned mines in Mt. Stanley. Their leader is Finnegal the Dwarf, despite his name an Unhuman who resembles a brawny 3-foot high hair-covered humanoid. His power to mold stone and earth and translate vibrations from miles distant has guided the Rock Clan safely through many dangers. Many of the Rock Clan's most recent members are exiles from the Kingdom of the Chasm in Sub-Terra, or those who fear its master, the Igneous Lord Quake. Their home is in the abandoned Undercity beneath Upper Emerald on the southern shore.

 

Sea: The Sea Clan has the widest range of the Cryptids, travelling both along the coast and to other shores. They deal with outsiders almost as much as the Wood Clan, coming before the Pacific strongholds of peoples as varied as the Atlanteans, Umiquan and Deep Ones, not to mention handling the roving bands of triton mercenaries and even occasionally assisting human sailors crossing the Columbia Bar or in other perils. By tradition the Sea Clan serves as the spiritual leaders and otherworldly intercessors of the Clans, dealing with mysteries and monsters the others are ill-equipped to handle. The leader of the Sea Clan is Merr-Ell, a Piscean Lor Visitor and aged matriarch of a sprawling adopted family, the only one who remembers her old home. The Sea Clan is especially unusual in its conflict-free populations of Atlanteans and Deep Ones. This is partly because the Sea Clan has been speaking ever louder about the need to stop humanity's destruction of the Earth's ecosystems, especially the eradication of vital sea life both Lemurians and Atlanteans need to survive. Encouraged by Atlantis' success gaining diplomatic status, Merr-Ell is attempting to rally the sea-peoples of the Pacific to speak with a united voice. 

 

Sky: The Sky Clan darts through the air above the Columbia river mouth, an airborne kingdom with its throne on Mt. Stanley. It has changed the most in recent years, with the ascension of the new Clan chief Vohl-Turr, the Black Vulture. While long-dominated by a majority of Avian Beast People, it was only in the last few centuries that the winged race began to prey on outsiders, especially humans. The Sky Clan has been the sentinels of the Atlas Range for thousands of years, scouting the world and reporting on its changes. But since the Black Vulture killed and ate his predecessor in accordance with custom the Sky Clan has become warlike and vicious, preaching the inferiority of non-flying life and how Avians are the rightful rulers of the Earth. Now the Clan is considered outcast and anathema, the other Hidden People searching for a swift and discreet way to end this colossal risk to their own secrecy, thwarted by the speed and airborne nature of their foe. Some of the Sky Clan's members, especially the non-Avian minority, are doing what they can to subvert and defeat the far-stronger leadership.

 

Wood: The Wood Clan patrols the forests on either side of the Columbia, protecting humans and their home. These are the "best-known" of the Cryptids, the shadows in the forest and the faces at the window, the shapeless monsters and saviors of countless stories dating from long before European arrival. Like the Sea Clan the Wood Clan contains some of the best fighters in the Clans. However, their(from Cryptid perspective) constant interaction with humans has changed their tactics radically. The Wood Clan has been slowly revealing its existence to humans in order to better help the weak and vulnerable in the Emeralds. While the Rock Clan keeps themselves hidden from the homeless population they share the Undercity with, but the Wood Clan actively protects them from the cities' criminals and police. Some people are even raised in the Wood Clan and slowly integrated into human society. However, they also have some of the most dangerous and violent Cryptids, even the targeted hate of the Sky Clan doesn't match the bloodthirst of Wood Clan's worst monsters. Despite the dangers posed by each party to the other, loudest voices for revealing themselves to the world come from the Wood Clan. This is not encouraged by its leader, the Forsaken immortal Brolan the Satyr, whose murky past is apparently full of regrets involving humanity and much of his life spent atoning for them. Their home is nowhere, the nomadic Clan having no permanent settlements to reduce chances of accidental encounters.

 

More recently two new groups have become established, largely outsiders even to the other Clans:

 

Fire: The Fire Clan has carved homes into the volcanic interiors of Mt. Forge and Mt. Stanley.

 

Metal: The Metal Clan is the only one to live entirely within the Emeralds, a parallel secret society to the humans. 

 

The Culture

 

 

The Current Problems

 

 

Edited by Ari

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