By Kaylenn Sand-shell, chitinous hound anthropologist
(please note: while some of this material may eventually become part of the lore of Caves of Qud, right now this is fanfiction and none of it is canon.)
One can traverse the arable lands around Moghra’yi for lifetimes without ever encountering the deer-centaur chimera who call themselves the Hindren. In numbers they are but a few hundred, and as a people they do not care to interact with other creatures when they can avoid it. In the twenty years I have actively wandered, I have met only a few Hindren, all exiles from their home and yet unwilling to tell me how to find the society that made them pariahs.
I am, however, a hunter as well as a scholar, and after several years of searching I was able to locate the Cervidian Meadows. All I will say of its location is that it is somewhere south of the Moghra’yi; I have no desire to betray the confidence of a mostly peaceful race of creatures.
My arrival was obviously not celebrated; the Meadow’s border scouts are extremely perceptive and conversant in tracking and obfuscation alike. By changing landmarks, using confusing and threatening sounds, and otherwise making my stay in the adjacent wood as obnoxious as possible, they sought to deter me from my path while avoiding notice. When I eluded the guards and made my way to the first neat row of carefully-tended watervine, the Hindren farmers who saw me at once took terrified flight.
The extreme of fear that Hindren feel toward outsiders is a strange one, in my eyes. They are large, powerful creatures with arms and legs at least as strong as a human’s, albeit all covered in dense fur that protects them from cold weather. Each individual is skilled at using and maintaining a sharp metal vinereaper. Their antlers are strong as bone and naturally quite sharp; Hindren pariahs who learn to fight live longer than most wayfarers in Qud.
Strange as this attitude may be to me, I cannot argue against its efficacy; the Cervidian Meadows have lived peacefully under informal matriarchal gerontocratic rule for generations. Their eldest or wisest woman becomes ‘Hindriarch’, and her word on most things is obeyed by every member of the tribe, who refer to her as ‘Grand-doe’.
This generation’s Hindriarch was the first Hindren to hold a conversation with me, and I will admit to a measure of anxiety being under her hawkish gaze. She was none too pleased at my presence, but intelligent enough to understand that killing me or driving me away would be a greater inconvenience and danger than offering me hospitality. We parted with an uneasy compromise, and I began my residence and observation.
I found quickly that the oral history of the Hindren is shoddy at best, perhaps with purpose. Their etymology is similarly muddy, but there are some observable patterns: ‘Dren’ is a suffix applied to sentients: ‘Hindren’, obviously, and the word for their young, ‘Faundren’. I also heard ‘Kendren’ a great deal, as it is their word for non-hostile sentients like myself.
All Hindren names end in the suffix ‘hart’ or ‘hind’. Although they do understand that these are gendered terms, a majority of male fauns are have ‘hind’ names — it seems that for quite some time, ‘hart’ was a name appendage reserved for the smallest or most ill-behaved faundren. As it is, the suffixes are considered unisex in modern day, and the Meadow’s faundren now have a much more even distribution of the suffixes than their parents.
Life for Hindren is, for the most part, uneventful to the point of extreme boredom. The watervine fields are meticulously tended day after day, never harvested late and always producing as much crop as possible. Growing up, all faundren are trained as watervine farmers, but a lucky few will become carpenters or blacksmiths in order to keep what little infrastructure they maintain running. Those who display particular aptitude and loyalty to the Hindriarch have a chance of becoming border scouts, who keep the Meadows safe and occasionally bring in wild game or starapples while patrolling, providing the only variety in the tribe’s diet. I found little else of interest from the adult Hindren; they seemed unwilling to speak with me at length.
By contrast, I learned a great deal speaking to the faundren, whose curiosity about the outside world is rapidly becoming difficult for the elders to contain. More than once I heard the term ‘Hartind’, allegedly an ancient word for Hindren who lived as both or neither gender, which the young ones take as evidence of a more egalitarian past. I can feel the wanderlust, both in their fascination with me and also in the zeal with which their elders would clamp down on any talk of lands outside of the Meadows.
The world outside the Cervidian Meadow remains an expanse of dawnglider-infested terror for the adults of the tribe. Understandable, as the Meadows have no warriors, no standing military, and only a handful of combat-trained scouts. The Hindren take their border security rather seriously, and any of their number who chooses to leave does so permanently and is erased from the tribe’s collective memory. Pariahs are even more thoroughly ostracized than I knew; any mention of their names is spoken only in whispers by the faundren, knowing that being caught speaking of the ‘dead’ means harsh punishment.
Though the Hindren of the Cervidian Meadows are considered a single tribe, they’ve grown over the generations and the my social instinct smells a swarm coming. I would not be surprised if splinter tribes were found elsewhere within a generation. I cannot imagine that it will be an easy growing pain, but few are.
By the time I left the Meadows, it was with relief; I haven’t the patience for the life these deer-people lead and I was beginning to catch cabin fever in spite of spending very little time in the Meadow’s brinestalk yurts. The Hindriarch was as happy to see me go as I was to be off; my pack was loaded with the vinewafers I had grown to loathe and I was ushered out efficiently by scouts.
By the end of the day, I realized that I had taken something else: a faundren had snuck out of the settlement behind me and refused to return to the Meadows. I have with some trepidation allowed the strange little thing to accompany me until we find a suitable place for me to be rid of it. If the Argent Fathers are merciful, it will be before I am become too attached to the cute thing.