Scales of War
The Bloodsand Circle
In high summer, when war cries echo across the Golden Plains on the hot, dry breath of the wind, the Bloodsand Circle come to raid. Amid the noisome horde of fur-clad human braves, the blood of the tiger advances. Proud heirs of a primal spirit’s legacy, the golden-eyed and sharp-fanged razorclaw shifters of the Bloodsand Circle hunt astride their mighty saber-toothed tigers.
The Bloodsand Circle mercenaries claim to be direct descendants of the primal spirit Hunter of Winter, a powerful sabertooth tiger that placed its mark upon them in the savage dawn of the world, eons before the first human empire rose from the dust. Part human and part hunting cat, the Bloodsand razorclaws hold fast to the brutal way of life that has sustained them beyond the rise and fall of civilizations.
As the lorekeepers tell it, the barbarian chieftain Hota Swiftstripe was hunting near a glacier when he encountered the biggest sabertooth he had ever seen.
Taller than a white dragon and ten times as fearsome, the creature roared, challenging Hota. The creature lashed out and tore out Rota’s eye before he could blink, leaving four long claw scars in its place. But Hota tricked the beast into charging, and the ice broke beneath its weight. As the great cat thrashed in the freezing water, Hota realized he could not let it die, for it was the mightiest hunter he had ever known.
He reached out with his spear and helped the sabertooth to shore.
“I am the spirit Hunter of Winter, whom no mortal had ever bested,” the mighty beast said. “Now we are kin, for you bear the mark of my claw and live. As long as you roam free and hunt the wilds, the strongest of your descendants shall bear my spirit within them so that they might overcome all challenges as you have overcome me.”
The Bloodsand Circle have remained wild ever since, marking their faces with four red lines to honour their spirit brother.
When Hunter of Winter made Hota his kin, the human chieftain took on the outer aspect of a hunting cat and became the tribe’s first razorclaw shifter. These traits he passed to his children and their descendants. Thus the shifters of the Bloodsand Circle can trace their lineage directly back to Hota and the primal spirit.
Shifters form the base of the tribe’s Tigerblood caste, which includes the chieftain, shamans, elite warriors, sabertooth riders, and others who have passed the caste’s initiation rites. Tigerblood warriors wield curved picks of metal and bone to symbolize the fangs of the sabertooth. They comprise about one-third of the tribe. The remaining two-thirds are called the Tamed, consisting mainly of human and dwarf gatherers, artisans, and warriors eager to prove themselves worthy of the Tigerbloods. Although some Tigerblood also occupy such roles, all Tigerblood are considered warriors. When a Tamed has proven themselves worthy, the chieftain invokes the rite of initiation, in which the candidate hunts and attempts to subdue a wild sabertooth in the manner of Hota Swiftstripe. Slaying the sacred beast is seen as a bad omen, and a Tamed that does so is put to death. Those who tame the sabertooth are elevated to the Tigerblood caste and mated to a shifter. Henceforth, all their descendants are born Tigerblood.
The Bloodsand Circle refuse to submit to any authority beyond their own. When Rhest’s influence expanded, the Tigerclaw were pushed into the sparse eastern reaches of the world. But in the decades since Rhest’s fall, the mercenaries have thrived, forging their way into the Golden Plains. The Circle regard all outsiders the same way they regard other wild predators – with respect and caution. The lorekeepers remember well the greedy cruelty of the empires that rose from the dust and conquered half the world, only to fall apart under their own weight.
The Bloodsand Circle currently functions as a mercenary guild, taking the harsh and brutal contracts that other, more civilised, mercenary guilds pass up.