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05 May 2009 @ 09:40 pm
Notes on Elvish hunting culture and weaponry  
The hunter-warrior class of Elvish society is integral to the survival of the village, as hunting is an important source of food, raw material for crafts, and spell components. Hunting parties, groups of four to eight highly-trained elves, travel days or sometimes weeks from their village to avoid depleting the local food supply; they track and transport large herbivorous prey over long distances, and must do so on a regular basis. Thus, hunting culture has a number of differences from domestic Elvish society.

In hunting as well as domestic society, gender-based vision of labor is minimal; hunters are male and female in roughly equal numbers. Hunters are always adult elves, and usually they have married by the time they go on their first real hunt, leaving their spouse and extended family to manage household affairs and care for any children. The hunt is considered top priority, even over one's family affairs, as it affects the well-being of the entire village; female hunters are expected to have children as would a female in any other profession, but must return to her duty once the infant is no longer dependent on its mother's milk for nutrition (usually at two to four years of age).

Ideal prey are large herbivorous animals such as deer, goats, boars, peccaries, and water buffalo. The most desirable of these is the water buffalo, due to its size and the powers attributed to its horns and skull; it is also extremely dangerous to subdue and drive due to its poor temperament and great strength. Delivering one to the village is a source of great honor, and an indicator of a group's superior hunting skills.

Elves typically do not take prey from the areas immediately nearby their village, and as a rule they will abstain from hunting within a few days of allied communities. This means that the hunters usually cannot kill their prey on the spot, because its meat would spoil quickly in the rainforest's high temperature and humidity, and properly drying or otherwise preserving the meat and other animal parts is difficult or impossible without the proper supplies. Instead of killing their prey immediately, the hunters subdue and carry or drive it to the village, where its slaughter and butchering is a communal activity.

All members of the hunting party carry three kinds of weapons: bolas (called kalymniŋ, "jumping panther"), several of a specialized throwing-knife called ankieh, and a dagger called ŋestaa. Bolas are used to entangle the limbs and body of prey or enemies, and typically consist of three round weights (though some use four based on personal preference) carved from horn or heavy wood, attached by interconnected cord of braided sinew. The weights - two heavier, either one or two lighter - are usually carved with geometric motifs, especially patterns with knotted designs and stylized animals. The ankieh (also the word for the fangs of rear-fanged snakes such as the coral snake) is a throwing knife with a bone handle long enough to fit in the palm and a straight, two-edged blade that is between three and five inches long. The blade, always made of steel, has a single groove that runs the length of the center of one side, no more than a sixteenth of an inch deep and wide. This groove is used as a resevoir for various toxins and drugs, which are delivered to the victim by blood-contact with the point of the knife, weighted so that it flies straight and point-first for distances of ten to twenty feet. During hunts, a sedative drug is applied to the ankieh, allowing the hunters to transport smaller prey and more easily subdue and drive larger animals. The ŋestaa (roughly translating to "moon-bird") is a large dagger with a thick, slightly curved blade, usually seven to ten inches long, with a palm-sized handle. The blade is sharp only on its convex edge, which juts out slightly from its hilt like a chef's knife, and is thick and blunt on the inner edge. The hilt follows the blade's curve and has a center hole that fits two fingers, giving the wielder a sturdy, dextrous grip. The hilt is traditionally carved to resemble a bird's body and head. The ŋestaa is as much a tool as it is a weapon; the steel blade is thick and soft in comparison to most Elvish blades, and while it needs frequent sharpening, it is as suitable for digging or cutting wood as it is for fighting.

At least one member of the party carries a large net made from plant fiber, usually weighted at its corners with horn or wood (similar to bolas), which can be thrown or used in a trap, and one or two may carry compound shortbows and a limited quantity of arrows. Some hunters also carry a straight-edged sword called kalyhuee (approximately, "panther-claws"), with a single-edged blade of hard steel usually thirty to thirty-four inches long. The blade is slightly wider at its tip than at its base, and has two points - one of roughly thirty degrees where the tip is angled off, and a second, half to three quarters of an inch long, splitting from the first. The hilt is made of horn or hard wood and is usually wrapped in thin, stretched leather; it is weighted to balance the blade and usually inlaid with precious metal. Because it requires so much metal and a precise touch to forge properly, the kalyhuee is a valuable weapon, similar to the katana; it is never used except in combat. The double-pronged tip is designed to tear flesh and increase bleeding. All hunters also carry waterskins (usually made from animal organs or certain kinds of plant husks) and basic medical supplies. They wear either very light armor made from segments of treated animal hide, or none at all, as stealth and freedom of movement is preferred to physical protection.

Professions in Elvish society are usually passed from parent to child, but a hunter almost never marries another hunter because one parent must always be available to care for the household and children. The child of a hunter is, more often than not, raised with the expectation that he or she will become a hunter as well, but unlike in other occupations, the child is not mentored by his or her parent. The young elf is usually instructed by an older hunter who has retired from active duty, and thus has both ample experience and enough time to devote to the proper training of his or her charge. Such training usually begins when the child is thirty to forty, and usually continues until he or she is around one hundred, though the exact length of time depends on the trainee's aptitude. Huge amounts of knowledge and skill must be passed on, and practice is demanding; only the mentor may decide when his or her student is ready to end training and become a full member of the village's hunting party. While long hair is valued in domestic Elvish society, mature hunters shear their hair very short or shave it entirely. Trainees keep their hair long to indicate their status, but when they are declared a mature hunter, they undergo a small ceremony with family and close friends (and, if possible, their hunter parent) in which the mentor shears off the trainee's hair and administers the trainee's first tattoo. This tattoo is shared by all members of the village's hunting party, and is the symbol chosen to represent their village and passed down since the village's founding.

Standards for social interaction are different in the hunting party than they are in domestic society. In the village, there is little evidence of social hierarchy, and levels of formality are determined by the relative ages of those interacting; the hunting band, however, has a rigid hierarchy based on hunting experience, made explicit by the hunters' tattoos. Inexperienced members or those who have not earned a certain level of respect must obey orders from the more experienced hunters, and while a few of the higher-ranked hunters may dialogue with the leader (the most experienced and most decorated hunter), insubordination is not tolerated and harshly punished; a lenient penalty might be an order to return to the village, and a strict one being physically subdued, drugged with one's own ankieh, and left in the forest to find one's way home upon regaining consciousness. Further consequences may await a rebel in his or her village, and might include exile in the worst of cases.

Still, the hierarchy in a hunting band extends only to interaction during the process of the hunt itself; much of the journey does not require this complete discipline, and most interactions between the hunters are friendly. It may take several months for a newly-initiated hunter to gain the respect of his or her fellows and be able to participate fully in their social interactions, but the key to a successful hunt - as in almost all other parts of elvish life - is group cohesion, and all parties make effort to keep the group close-knit and reliable. Most hunters become close friends with each other and maintain these friendships throughout their lives; some arrange to marry their children to each other or otherwise form family ties to reinforce their existing social bonds.

That's all for now; I may continue if I think of more things.
 
 
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