Sand and Sorcery
The Ssurrans are reptilian humanoids, whose appearance is similar to that of heavy-set lizard men. They roam Athas, living their lives as traders, raiders, hunters and scavengers. While some Ssurrans are markedly more primitive than others, they have spread throughout the Tablelands. Those that dwell in the region of Lava Gorge, on the Scorched Plateau, have benefited from the seclusion and attendant safety that has allowed their tribes flourish, and they often join into great Ssurran nations that sweep across the Plateau.
While they are viewed as brutal savages or leery scavengers by many other races of the Tablelands – and even hunted as beasts by some – the Ssurrans boast a complex culture that is quite visible in the way they live their lives. For the Ssurran, the conceit that places “civilized” races above the beasts does not exist. To the Ssurran we are all beasts and we all must all do what we can to survive. Those who have land, have safety. Those who have safety can prosper. Those who prosper can create better tools. Those with the best tools can claim the best land…
Intertwined with this simple philosophy is a rich body of religious belief and legend. Thanks to this body of common tribal knowledge, the Ssurrans display great practicality. Life is a struggle and each Ssurran must learn the skills needed to endure. Ssurrans are no-nonsense, individualistic survivors – traits that make them valued as scouts and guides amongst their fellow races.
Despite their individualism, Ssurrans are most comfortable when surrounded by their allies. When outnumbered or threatened, they are cautious, even cowardly. They will seek to flee or bargain their way out of most over-matched contests, only fighting if cornered. When forced to fight, however, they are savage, rending and biting until an opening to flee presents itself.
Ssurrans range from 4 to 6 feet in height, weighing anything from 180 to 225 pounds. They are reptilian, even crocodilian in appearance, with pronounced toothy snouts, scales and a long tail. A Ssurran’s mouth seems perpetually curved in a slight, sly smile. The Ssurran tail is not prehensile and is used for balance, posture and communication. A Ssurran’s claws are extremely sharp, hardened from long years of tramping across rugged lava flows and the blasted terrain of the Scorched Plateau. They also have a snapping bite, but use of this is considered threatening behavior in Ssurran society. A Ssurran who bites means business.
Ssurran hide is thick and heavy and protects the creatures from the heat of the Athasian sun. Their natural resistance to heat even allows the Ssurrans to thrive in the immediate surrounds of Lava Gorge.
The Ssurrans are seen as savages, raiders or poor traders by most other species. For their part, the Ssurrans view most civilized races as pretentious fools, lost in their tools and forgetful of their kinship with the beasts of the wilderness. The Ssurrans dominate those whom they can and will seek to forge cordial relationships with those they cannot. If threatened, Ssurran tend to leave, only to return later and strike from ambush, usually with gruesome results. Ssurrans are carnivores and will eat anything that they think will taste good and fill their bellies. The less civilized among them will eat intelligent life and have a particular fondness for halfling flesh, claiming it is soft, sweet and ever so spicy. These Ssurrans mark their food, either with claw marks or urine, and have been known to do this to foes they slay in battle, only to return and eat them later.
The Ssurrans are a nomadic people, who live as hunter-gatherers when they are not raiding or trading. Each tribe claims an area as its own, and roams throughout that area during the year, herding its kwilit and fortress beetles with it as it moves. Through their amassed practical lore, the Ssurrans know how to preserve their ecosystem and will move on before the land itself begins to suffer. Because of their natural resistance to heat and fire, the Ssurrans favour terrain that other races find uncomfortable, or even deadly. The craters of volcanoes, shores of lava seas and the hearts of blazing wastes are all sanctuaries for these creatures, and they have learned to make the most of such environments. Ssurrans who dwell in these locations tend to have a greater degree of sophistication than their brethren do elsewhere and will go to great lengths to defend their homes.
Those Ssurrans of a more ancient heritage believe in ancient gods that they claim watch over them. The Ssurran’s oldest legends hold that their progenitors were hatched from the World Egg, which they equate with Athas herself. They baked for aeons within the egg, until they were ready to hatch. The Egg cracked and the first Ssurrans came forth. They found a baked and burned world waiting for them and, slipping across the surface between the sand and the shadows, they began to make a new home for themselves in the world their gods had prepared.
Are the Ssurrans really subterranean in origin, as their tales claim? Beginnings amidst geothermal wellsprings might explain their unusual resistance to heat. Furthermore, they have no record of the Cleansing Wars and if their stories are to be believed, they did not emerge from the world below until the devastation of those conflicts were complete.
The Ssurran language is an elegant one, composed of sibilant tones, counterpoised with basso rumblings from the chest cavity. Tail posture and attitude add depth and texture, resulting in a language that is quite impossible for creatures without tails to learn properly.