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The Guards of Alcaine
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Multibreeds have the Protectors. Multicolors have the Guild. Kaasht of only one color and breed, and the magicless minena, have the Cohort.
Begun centuries ago as separate organizations, the Cohort is a multibranched organization that provides services, organizes creatures, writes books, wages wars, steals, and wrecks havoc. Sometimes all at once, in different parts of the world. Each branch is semi-independent, with a leader of its own; different Cohort branches with conflicting functions, such as healers and mercenaries, might even be involved in opposite sides of a conflict. These branches can be anywhere from twenty to two thousand members in size, and new branches spring up every now and then, as well. The branches themselves are categorized into three larger groups, the Light Cohort, the Dark Conclave, and the Merchants Group. Each has its own leader and small council to help with clerical and organizational tasks, being the authority for the branches beneath it. Above it all is the one leader who has the final say, when he has the time and attention to say it, in important decisions.
The Cohort itself, as a unit, is steeped in secrecy at many levels, for all its actions are items of everyday discussion. The individual branches are very well known in various parts of Tryne as maasha'n, or guilds (not the Guild, but guild as in the merchant guild or tanner guild). Not everyone knows that these maasha'n are under the leadership of the three Overleaders, though that knowledge isn't difficult to learn. Most kaasht and minena in the maasha'n realize that their superiors have superiors. What very few know, even the lower-level members of the Cohort, is that, like the mythical Kingpin of crime on Earth, those superiors all report to a single kaasht or minena, when that single kaasht or minena has the time to speak with them. Only Cohort members of high level, such as leaders of branches or group councils, know of the overall connectedness. Trying to imagine the obviously conflicting Sabateurs and Harmonizers answering to the same leader is enough to baffle most kaasht, anyway; lower members might even heatedly deny having any connection with other branches whatsoever.
Authority in the Cohort follows three basic levels, though some branches add more levels of beaurocracy, and the Merchant Group is fairly complex in its heirarchy. For the most part, however, a single leader organizes and protects the interests of the individual maasha'n and the group members. These individual leaders, with different names depending on the maasha, then report to the council for their organization head, whether it be the Light Cohort, the Dark Conclave, or the Merchant Group, or directly to the Overseers of each organization if their cause is deemed too important to leave to underlings. Then these councils and Overseers report to the Cohort itself, which is run largely by a small army of scribes and a singular, almost tititular ruler.
The ruler of the Cohort himself is the most secretive part of all. His, (or her; some Cohort rulers have been female, though most have been male), face is rarely seen by the three councils, much less members of the maasha'n, and only sometimes is he approachable by the Overseers themselves; he moves constantly, and every time a new ruler comes into power, he moves the Cohort headquarters. He may or may not have strong interests in the running of the massive, multifaceted organization. Though some wanted the leadership of the Cohort out of greed or pride, most do care about how the organization is run, and when he makes a decision, that decision is supposed to be law. However, if enough of his "subjects" don't like his decision, he can be overthown and replaced by another who can recind that decision. Cohort rulers have been overthown for political, management, personal, and ambitious reasons, sometimes all four, and sometimes just for the thrill of taking such a high position. The position itself is often more difficult to keep than win, and many a ruler has spent more time defending his title than actually doing his job. Hence, the army of scribes who can handle most of the real work.
A characteristic trait of the Cohort as a whole is its mistrust and prejudice against kaasht with more than one breed or color. The level of this prejudice varies depending on the maasha; for example, the Artificers are very accepting of multibreeds and colors, while the Mercenaries are rigorous in their persecution of half-breeds in the ranks. Still, in nearly every maasha there are regular screenings for hidden multibreeds and -colors, and in most, applicants obviously of two or more breeds or colors are not allowed to join. There are always exceptions and places where one has slipped through the cracks, especially in such maasha'n as the Artificers and the Thinkers, but on the whole, multibreeds and -colors are sneered at and unwelcome.
These are the tinkerers, the investigators, the endlessly curious of Tryne. Some of Tryne's brightest minds reside in this maasha. The Artificers are the origin of many of the mechanical and mathematical breakthroughs of the last few centuries. They currently spend most of their energies designing machines, building bridges, and generally solving physical sorts of problems. This maasha is mid-sized but growing as it gains publicity. The leader, or Master Artificer, is generally chosen from among the brightest of the maasha's members, often through a contest or puzzle, through it isn't unheard of for a former Master Artificer to choose his own successor. This maasha is a part of the Light Cohort.
A smaller maasha of the Cohort, the Artists is a group full of the eclectic and creative, and is heavy in the Cave and Sky breeds of kaasht. Members of this maasha are artists of the visual or literary type or art critics, and the perks they enjoy include being introduced to a wide variety of fellow artists, given instant notice by maasha critics, and access to a massive market for his or her work. The leader of this maasha is unofficial and usually the critic with the most influence among the members, constantly in flux as statuses change, though most of the business is run by the critics en masse. This maasha is a part of the Light Cohort.
A maasha that deals in carpentry, the Builders are responsible for the newer structures Alcaine and near-by cities. The maasha works out of Taathaneev and doesn't extend its business off the continent, being a fairly new and small maasha. Members tend to be both strong and well as fairly skilled with spells that assist building or dexterity to fit, cement, and glue pieces together. The leader of this maasha, called the Designer, usually comes to the position young and has only some small experience with building, for the creative mind isn't often nurtured by the tasks of lifting beams, cutting stone, and mixing morter. And a creative mind is necessary in the Designer, for it is he who organizes and often designs the building of new structures. This maasha is a member of the Merchant Group.
"Watch out, or the Catchers may find you," some parents warn their exploring kits. The Catchers are the Cohort's nod to the profitable slave-trade industry. They are centered, predictably, in Varag and have a high Plains kaasht membership, with very low minena membership, especially lesser minenas. Catchers are organized into small parties of no more than six kaasht or minena which are mostly autonomous but which must answer to the one leader, a kaasht or minena who is usually in his or her position through strength alone, but who often rose to power through underhanded or economic means. The Catchers is a small, somewhat new maasha of the Cohort, but it is likely to start growing quickly once it gets moving. This maasha is a part of the Dark Conclave.
A popular Cohort maasha is that of the Cooks. Receiving excellent training at a large fascility outside Alcaine, members of this maasha are highly sought after at restaurants and occasionally the smaller, more remote clans to teach their own homemakers new recipies. The Master Chef is just that, the one member of the branch who can out-cook (and usually out-eat) the other senior members in the regular contests the Cooks host in Alcaine. He or she is responsible for heading up the culinary school and helping the other elders decide where to place graduates, as well as adding to the communal pool of recipes whenever he or she has the chance. This maasha is a member of the Merchant Group.
Lonely kaasht and minena who are looking for the love of their lives, or at least for a fun evening and a trophy to impress a business associate with, should look no further than the Escorts. For a price, the Escorts will either match customers with a blind date suited to a few specifications on the customer's part, or with a date-for-hire. The former will be another creature of the same species also looking for a mate, while the latter are actual members of the maasha. The employed Escorts are not available for overnight activity; that's for the Exotics to take care of. Escorts are usually beautiful in appearance or personality, but rarely both. The leader of the Escorts is not a highly sought after position, as it consists of a lot of paperwork; kaasht or minena are elected to fill it from the ranks of Escort organizers. This maasha is a member of the Merchant Cohort, oddly enough.
The Cohort has a place for everything, even the oldest profession of civilization. The Exotics are kaasht or minena who sell themselves and their expertise for a price, usually a steep one. The price is considered appropriate by many, however, for Cohort Exotics are much healthier, often prettier, and more cultured than the average street-walker. The rich and powerful are the most common patrons of the Exotics, though it is not unknown for the common, working kaasht or minena to save up for a few nights with one. They also have heavy protection under the Guardian and Mercenary maasha'n of the Cohort, so are rarely treated poorly, and after a period of time in service, usually about seventy-five years, Exotics are given a pension and officially retired, though they may still take clients if they wish. The Exotics are very heavily female, though there is a small membership of male Exotics, but the leader, called the Director, is nearly always male, his position won exclusively by battle. The current Director is a rare exception. The Exotics are one of the smallest and most exclusive Cohort maasha'n, and are a part of the Dark Conclave.
The Cohort has extended even into the quiet industry of green (or blue, or red) growing things, with a small but steadily growing maasha called the Growers. Most Growers have a small plot of land and work individually on whatever crop they specialize in, be it herbal, floral, or vegetable, though corporate, communal farms with more variety are beginning to be seen, as well. The leader of this Cohort group is usually the most productive farmer at the time the previous leader steps down or dies, who turns his or her land over to a younger generation to tend while he settles back into the comparatively easier lifestyle of organization and paperwork. This maasha is on the producing end of the Merchant Group.
The world of Tryne is not always a safe place, and to protect the weak (and usually wealthy) has risen the Guardians, a maasha of the Cohort dedicated to protection for pay. Guardians are organized under a single leader, a position usually won by battle but occasionally by vote, and into several subdivisions depending on an individual kaasht's or minena's area of expertise. Kaasht with ability specialties are under the Magical division; kaasht or minena who are more specialized in direct battle are placed under the Combat division; kaasht or minena with ranged attacks or defenses are directed to the Distance division; and kaasht or minena, though usually minena, with special weapons training are relegated to the Weapons division. Guardians are available for hire in all the major cities to protect individuals, locations, items, or livestock, and they are often also for hire for traveling positions, such as working to guard a caravan or healer en-route. This is perhaps the largest and most crucial part of the Cohort as a whole, as the Guardians are often deployed within the Cohort itself to protect Cohort members or enterprises. This maasha is a technically a member of the Dark Conclave, but works readily with members of the Light Cohort and gets much business from the Merchant Group.
Originally an offshoot of the Hunters, the Fishers maasha has recently expanded into its own maasha to cover the oceans and larger lakes of Tryne rather than the rivers and pools it used to concern itself with. Heavily dependent on Beach kaasht, Isle kaasht, and the Shipwright maasha, strange, deep-water fish and tasty seafood delicacies have often been brought into the cities and restaurants by this maasha. Leadership is scant in this maasha, for it is newly formed, and most Fishers sell directly to First Sellers or customers rather than through any organized system. Disputes are usually dealt with between Fishers or by the Sellers.
Kaasht and minena with clever paws and tails, a mind for problems, and smaller or less philosophical ideas end up in the Fixers rather than the Artificers or Builders. The Fixers are the handymen (handykaasht, handyminena, whatever ^^ ) of Tryne, performing maintenence on buildings and items when they need it in whatever town or clan they are stationed in. Most Fixers avoid large towns, for Builders and Artificers abound there, and the massive structures and complex items of the city-bred tend to beyond their skill or ambition, anyway. The leader of the Fixers is usually rather reclusive, though the one who knows how to fix the most, and often has his position shoved on him. This maasha, originally a part of the Artificers, is a member of the Light Cohort.
Tryne is full of wars, danger, and disagreements. Because of this, the Harmonizers were created. This Cohort maasha sponsors diplomats, speaks in defense of those unable to speak for themselves, organizes disaster relief forces, and performs a myriad of other good deeds. It is known all over Tryne as the helpful, though sometimes irritating, maasha. The Harmonizers are one of the largest Cohort maasha'n and also one of the most spread out. The leader is elected by more senior members or appointed by the former leader and organizes the otherwise relatively independent task force groups. This maasha is a foundational part of the Light Cohort.
Preferring the wildernesses of Tryne to its cities, members of the Hunters maasha of the Cohort spend most of their time away from civilization, tracking the wild creatures of the plains, forests, mountains, anywhere they can find them. Their purpose is decided by division: the Meat Hunters bring in rare animals for food purposes, the Fur Hunters seek out attractive and useful pelts, and the Live Hunters catch animals alive to sell later as pets or working beasts. The group has set up waystations on each continent, usually near large cities, each manned by a kaasht or minena who tallies the incoming and outgoing catches. The Hunter General organizes the sale and distribution of the fruits of the members' labor, but on the whole members are autonomous and work alone or in small groups. This maasha is a part of the Merchant Group.
The Killers is one of the smallest maasha'n of the Cohort, but it is also one of the most famous. Its members are all highly trained, very effective assassins, available for a price to any who can afford them, to kill any kaasht or minena able to be killed. Members of this Cohort maasha rarely know each other, except for the rare few who work in twos, but they all know their singular Commander and are on the whole highly loyal to them. Commanders work just as much as any other member, between often taking the most difficult and dangerous of missions and organizing his or her subordinates. Leadership changes when this kaasht or minena is killed, whether in the field or by one of the other members, discontent with his or her decisions or hired on by someone else to do the job. This maasha is a trademark member of the Dark Conclave.
The Marauders are the pirates of Tryne, called the "sea gurgans" by any who come across them. They are one of the most independent Cohort maasha'n, seeming at times a law unto themselves, even worse so than the land-bound Takers, and are not very big. They are found exclusively in the oceans of Tryne, making use of both wooden vessels and fleets of rraamaash. They will occassionally turn their skills to transporting or selling goods, but for the most part attack merchant ships, pillage small villages, and destroy whatever their leader tells them to detroy. Each ship or rraamaash fleet is autonomous under a single captain, or on occassion a cooperative pair, with their only check the orders from the central leadership, the Fleet General, a kaasht or minena with the largest ship in the Marauders and the duty to make decisions and deploy members at will. Leadership in the Marauders is rarely changed any other way than through violence. This maasha is a trademark member of the Dark Conclave.
The Menders are the healers of the Cohort, organizing Gold kaasht, kaasht with strong Healing Touch abilities, and both kaasht and minena with knowledge of herbal and physical remedies across Tryne. For the most part, the members of this maasha work independently of each other, with only a few collaborations or group practices, mainly in large cities. There is one leader for this group, with four secretaries to help organize the various healers, one for each continent. The passing of leadership here is generally peaceful, for kaasht and minena of violent temperament rarely wish to spend their time on healing others. This maasha is a trademark member of the Light Cohort.
The Mercenary maasha of the Cohort, often simply called Mercs, is a group that can be hired to fight battles for customers. They are divided into Companies of up to one hundred kaasht or minena, each Company with their own names and commanders. All of the Companies stand under one Captain and four Leutenants who regulate the actions of the semi-autonomous Companies and see to it that Companies are supplied and no rules are broken. Challenges for the position of Captain are common and the shifting of power usually involves the death of the previous Captain. This maasha is a part of the Dark Conclave.
The most spread-out of all the Cohort's maasha'n are the Messengers. Individuals are stationed all over Tryne, often with local clans or towns, to intercept and relay messages for important kaasht and minena, whether they are important to many or important to just one. Some of these Messengers are runners, to carry written or verbal messages, while others are fliers, doing the same. Nearly every Messenger, however, possesses the ability Telepathy, so as to be able to relay telepathic messages across great distances. Due to their travels, the Messengers are one of the more knowledgeable groups about the terrain and geography of Tryne. The Messenger's leader is usually appointed by the previous leader, or elected if there was no appointee or if the appointee was universally disapproved of. This maasha is a member of the Light Cohort.
The Players are a fairly small maasha of the Cohort, but one of the favorites in towns unable to support their own theatre. Troupes of between five and fifteen kaasht and minena travel Tryne putting on shows, either dramatic or humorous or sometimes both, for a modest fee. They also often act as carriers of news for more distant or isolated villages they pass through. Most major cities also have one theatre sponsored by the Players for these traveling troupes to perform in when they pass by. The Director organizes the movements of the smaller troupes, but as they are mostly autonomous and set on pre-existing routes, he or she is often free to act, as well. This group is a part of the Light Cohort.
Where there is peace, there will always come a thread of chaos to unmake it. The Sabetuers are that thread of chaos, existing only to make mayhem in the world. Most of their tricks are not dangerous, though there are those who turn their jokes into something deadly. Most of their tricks are not played on the good and upstanding in society, but there are those who have no qualms about shaming the good with the bad. Leadership of this Cohort maasha is constantly in flux, changing with the mood of the members, leaders, and respected others, and is often violent. This maasha is a foundational member of the Dark Conclave.
Minena with especially clever paws and kaasht with extraordinary tail dexterity may find themselves sought after by the Scribes maasha of the Cohort. Scribes, while not necessarily creative, are required to be careful and precise, for they are expected to reproduce failing manuscripts and parchments exactly. They are divided into four subgroups, each with its own Director, (Lyrical, Musical, Records, and Accounting), and members are kept busy during business hours copying, recording, or figuring. The Over-Director is usually chosen by the four subdivision Directors as a kaasht or minena they respect and believe would organize the branches well. This maasha is a part of the Light Cohort.
Perhaps the most common and well-known of all the Cohort groups is the Sellers: one can hardly pass through a town without meeting at least one either buying, bargaining, or selling wares. Under one Head Merchant, usually one of the richest kaasht or minena in the group, three major subgroups operate, covering the three basic steps most goods pass through: Final Sellers, who operate shops at the consumer level; Middle Sellers, who transport and refine goods; and First Sellers, who purchase and organize finished products for the Middle Sellers to transport. All Final Sellers are required to follow the procedure of purchase from First to Middle Sellers, or risk loosing their membership. This makes the goods from Seller stalls a little more pricey, but they are often high quality, as well. This maasha is a foundational member of the Merchant Group.
This is a maasha composed almost entirely of minena, for only their clever paws can piece together the complex structures of sea-faring ships. Situated largely along the coast of _____, the Shipwrights serve mainly Cohort members and a few particularly wealthy merchants. The Marauders protect these shores fiercely and destroy any rival ship-building companies they discover. The Shipwrights leader is usually a sailor, himself, and usually designs ships as well as works on them. Having risen out of a need for transportation of goods, this maasha belongs to the Merchant Group.
The Singers are the bards, minstrels, and song-makers of the Cohort. Every kaasht or minena in the Singers either sings or plays an instrument, and most do both, whether the instrument be a simple panpipe or a complicated, one-hundred-string harp. The Singers have set up music halls all over Tryne for the training and housing of musicians, as well as sponsoring wandering minstrels, so long as a portion of their earnings in the field are returned to the Singers. Leadership here is usually changed through a vote of the elder, teaching Singers representing the major music halls, and is usually quite peaceful. This maasha is a member of the Light Cohort.
The Smiths maasha has a small but increasingly influential tail on the metal production industries of Tryne. Located in the Highrock mountains, with easy access to both Taathaneev and Alcaine, the maasha is very minena- and Cave-heavy, and fairly reclusive. Not very large but producing quality work, members live together in communes of twenty to fifty, fairly far apart from each other, and their efforts are coordinated and sold by a council of commune leaders. These leaders are represented by an Elder Smith, generally chosen by vote but often one simply strong enough or charismatic enough to bully his way into a position of power. This maasha is a small part of the Merchant Group.
Simply put, the Tailors maasha takes goods from the Tanners and Weavers maasha'n and makes them into clothing, blanets, carpets, and other usable or ornamental items. It employs kaasht with quick tails and minena with quick fingers; a few are so skilled with the needle that they even embroider, making items worth small fortunes among creatures with little dexterity for such things. The maasha is fairly small, for the market for cloth goods is small, but very influential. The leader is without fail a shrewd business-kaasht or -minen, often with economic ties outside his tailoring kin. This maasha is a part of the Merchants Group.
Every world has its thieves, and Tryne is no exception. The Takers are a maasha of the Cohort that has chapters in every major city in Tryne, and more than a few minor cities. They also support bandits, roaming the wilderness of Tryne to prey upon lone kaasht or trade caravans. These bandit groups sometimes go rogue and stop sending the Takers their dues, but rogue groups are quickly supressed and disbanded. Each major city has a Collector, who organizes affairs in that city, but all Collectors look to the one Master Thief, a kaasht or minena who wins the maasha's respect through battle. This maasha is a member of the Dark Conclave.
After the Hunters catch the creatures of Tryne, and before the Tailors produce their finished pieces, the Tanners collect, cure, and distribute the furs. Tanners tend to be good with their paws (or tails), though not particularly dexterous, a little eccentric, and often have very poor senses of smell, if just because of how often they are exposed to the awful smells of curing hides. Tanners will not cure or distribute anything that originally came from a kaasht or a minena. The Tanners are not a particularly large Cohort maasha, though they are fairly spread out, with a base in the wilderness outside most of the major cities. The leader mainly handles economics, and his or her rise to power can be through battle, discussion, mutual agreement, appointment, democratic decision, or any other method of change, depending on the situation. This maasha is on the producing end of the Merchant Group.
Many of Tryne's recent scientific advances are the work of the Thinkers, a maasha of the Cohort dedicated to learning and experimenting. As one might guess, it is very Plateau-kaasht heavy. There are four major divisions of the Thinkers: the Life Thinkers, whose focus is on living things, whether in study, cataloguing, or explaining; the World Thinkers, whose focus is on the inanimate, constant laws of the world; the Small-Piece Thinkers, who study the reactions of different items together and what the uses for substances might be; and the Deep Thinkers, the philosophers and abstract theologians of Tryne. The Thinkers is unique among Cohort groups in that it has no single leader, being in fact organized by the cooperative efforts of the leaders of each of the four main divisions. This maasha is a part of the Light Cohort.
Though cloth is not in high demand on Tryne, there are some uses for it, such as blankets, cloaks, and small decorative items. The Weavers maasha of the Cohort controls most of the cloth market in the more civilized regions of the world, leaving independent cloth-spinners the remote villages and towns. The Master Weaver sends orders to the various spinning and weaving collectives in the cities as well as handling the distribution of most of the product. His or her position is usually a life-long position, as few would care to fight for it. This maasha is a part of the Merchant Group.