“Gabdonium: brutal, curse’d, impassible, unconquerable and beautiful … simply beautiful.”
~ Minthikxes the Lesser
Of all the lands in Erdos, Gabdonium is the most violent – there are jungles that swallow armies, seas that wrack ships and, of course, the natives who are beasts of legend. Still, no land (however harsh) is beyond the vision of Mara, nor above her Legion. Hard fought and hard won, the lands of Gabdonium now make for fertile pasture lands and lush plantations. Where once was only tribes of barbarians, there is now cultivation and civilization.
The native inhabitants of this land are the Gabdonians, called Gabos or, in their own tongue, Gnoll. They are at once canine and human, with grotesquely large forelimbs and necks like palm trees. The feast on all manner of food, but prefer meat and tough grain (given to their beastly natures). Corn they will endure, but fish is their principle sustenance. As such, they are famous fishers, catchers and sailors. They are accomplished trackers, trappers and hunters as well.
Let us contrast this with the Maran ways of cultivation – while we grow our food, the Gabo scours for it. True, we have noble hunting traditions of our own, but for these beasts it is a way of life. They will run in large packs across the wide plains of their land for days on end to bring down large game. Once caught, a feast will ensue – often on the very spot the animal was felled – culminating in dances, songs and fornication of the most base and uncivilized variety.
This of course is largely a thing of the past. After their subjugation to the Republic, Gabdonians enjoy their rightful place as subjects of the Maran people. They are dreadful house slaves, but their obscene size and strengths makes them ideal field hands – if you can control them. Many a violent slave revolt could have been avoided if only Marans properly muzzled their Gabos. In the public sector, Gabos seem to have some capacity for textile arts and works of craft, but largely stick to their primary skills of hunting and gathering. The shores of the Crimson Bay are lined with Gabo boats, whose roustabouts and dockhands fill every clearing house with their portage.
The mating and reproduction of the Gabo is as follows: when a Gabdonian reaches a mature age, he may take a wife by going into her village and abducting her. This is largely ceremonial, but females who do not make the task difficult (either through trickery, stealth, combat or some other machination) are not valued very highly. The family of the female will leave gifts and money lying about for him to “steal” as well. Once she is taken, she will live with the male in his village and give him brood. Once the welps reach maturity, the marriage is considered over and the two may part ways and even take other mates if they wish. Many choose to continue to live together, but it is no looked down upon for them to split. Powerful Gabdonians may take as many wives as they can support. This, coupled with their tradition of re-mating after marriage obviously leads to much over-breeding, obscene indiscretion and wanton lust. At his core the Gabo is, afterall, a beast.
The clan is a network of families, and where a Gabo establishes his identity. When a Gabdonian is killed, he passes all his worldly goods to another Gabo in his clan with his dying breath. THe recipient of the estate is also given his wife to do with as he pleases (adding it to any he already has) and takes responsibility for his pups. The raising of another’s brood is considered a great honor, and one that brings glory to one’s name. The surrounding clan community will offer food, money and goods to a family that takes on extra pups. This act is considered very honorable, and adds glory to the giver’s name.
Gabdonians value their ancestors and familial honor above even personal safety. Shame is a powerful thing for the Gabo, and reclaiming glory when one is shamed it paramount. To be unclean, irreverent, foolish or defeated reflects not only on the individual but on his relations, progeny and ancestors. Gabos will call on and swear by their ancestors when making promises and oaths. Pious Gabos (if there is such a thing) will consult with shamans and mediums to contact ancestors before big decisions and business deals.
Although poor in possession and station, the Gabo is rich in names. If you have never heard the tiresome recitation of a Gabo’s full name, consider yourself fortunate. One such slave I encountered was named thusly:
Bennemartinel Titaniyal Umoyumi-Circea
It is easiest to explain by starting at the end. As it was explained to me, “Umoyumi” would be this Gabo’s clan, “Circea” his family or house. The family name is passed through the male parent and is usually an honorary given to the family through deed or action. For instance, “Circea” means “crashing waves” so it is likely that this Gabo had a renowned sailor in his ancestry. Sufficiently mighty Gabdonians will be granted honoraries in their lives which will replace this name and be passed on to their children (a feat which is perhaps the most highly prized honor in Gnoll society, for this marks that they have become so great that a new line must be established to accommodate their victories). The second name, “Titaniyal” is the Gabo’s proper and personal name which he will shorten to provide a casual handle (thus this particular Gabo called himself “Niyal”). The first name is a portmanteau of the Gabo’s mother and fathers name, thought not necessarily in that order. He will share this name with all his kin born to that same mother and father. When they are joined in marriage, the couple will choose this name. Gabdonians pride themselves on finding the ideal, poetic, or most graceful combination (though there language is so guttural and harsh that these can hardly be called beautiful). This Gabo explained that his mother was Bennemujj, his father Sinartinel – hence Bennemartinel.
Religion in Gabdonium
While many Gabos (particularly those close to the City on the Hill) now worship the One God, there exists a cult that clings to ancient animism. Gabdonian shamans act as intermediary between the people and their gods. The religion is entirely based on songs passed down from parent to child. There are female songs, male songs and mixed songs. When a song is performed, it is always by two Gabos, who sit on their hunches, lock forepaws and chant into one another’s faces. The droning, wailing noise is thought to conjure the voices of all previous fallen ancestors, bringing them into a rousing chorus. Since Gabos traditionally bury their their dead, this rite is called Anagash Hrunth – “Barrow Calling” (Anagash is the name given to Gabo barrows).
The following written description comes from a recording of early treatings with the Gabo. It was taken down by a scribe working with Minthikxes the Lesser, some 500 years ago:
“When the World River was sung into being, a stream flowed into Erdos and Logren the All-Father stood before the 10,000 Ancestors. He asked each of them what they wished for. When one Ancestor said he wanted to be clear-sighted, free and full of song he gave him wings and feathers – this was Aj Muntari: Bird-Father. When another said he wished to be the strongest of all animals, Logren granted him a strong tail instead of legs and steel-strong skin – this was Aj Kundoo: Whale-Father. In time all 10,000 things presented themselves – all but one. “Who are you?,” asked Logren, “And what do you desire?” The Ancestor responded that above all, he wished to know all that the All-Father knew. The All-Father was pleased and so he granted his request. This was Aj-Gnoll, the Gnoll-Father, our first Ancestor and wisest of the 10,000."
The Gabo places heavy emphasis on his place in nature – among the “10,000 Ancestors” and asks guidance from his fore-bearers. The Gabo may evoke the name of Logren, but will never pray to him, since Gnoll believe they have been given the wisdom of the gods. This pride makes them difficult to tame and impossible to force a surrender upon. They have immovable conviction – a trait that would be noble were it not so misplaced.
The Lands of Gabdonium
Although much of the land of Gabdonium has since been cleared and is now largely tamed, there are still large portions of the place that are wild and untamed. Gabdonium can be thought of in quarters: In the Northwest, there are mighty hills that fall and give way to dry but fertile savannah, stretching down into the interior of the country. In the Northwest, there are craggy coasts and small temperate forest that clash against the ocean to the far east. Moving south from there, the middle of the land is largely jungle – dense and dangerous and cut with rich veins of spice. Finally, in the far south (where these lands meet those of the Eldar), the land begins to roll and becomes thick grassland.
While farmlands and plantations are common in the North of Gabdonium, the chief resource of the Gabo’s land is his spice. Never encountered flavors and medicines are found in the dark jungles. The careful cultivation of these spices has rendered Mara not only riches, but greatly increased quality of life. In the savannah there is also that oft-discussed weed: tobacco (or Jjena as the Gnoll calls it).
While the aristocrat in Mara may be seen dabbling in the dried leaf, and the merchant may boast floral, sweetened tastes of the plant, the custom is truly Gabdonian. The Gabo has great love of the leaf. Jjena masters among the Gnoll are prized for their knowledge of each subtle differentiation in the plant, for the curing methods and for the best vessels from which to smoke. Powerful, near-poisonous tobaccos are reserved for special celebrations and religious ceremony while common weed is taken in as we Marans take in wine. The leaf remains a luxury in Mara, especially for Gabos who are more often than not too poor to afford their own export.