Rhennee Bargefolk

The Rhennee bargefold of the Lake of the Unknown Depths lead a life that is at once perilous and prosaic. Nothing can be more tranquil than a Rhennee barge caravan gently riding the waters for days on end; at times the meditative stillness even becomes monotonous, so that children complain to their mothers of boredom. Rhennee mothers have become quite adept at contriving small diversions for their children in the cramped confines of the barges they call home.

A typical barge is about 12 to 18 feet wide and 30 to 45 feet long. Each has a lug sail, and the larger usually have an aft rigged gaff sail as well. They also can be propelled by sweeps and poles. Although these craft have a relatively shallow draft, the hull is deep enough to be decked over, and a small cabin usually is built just abaft of the beam. Rails are planked over for protection, and many heavy crossbow mounts are stationed along them. Some barges carry scorpions at bow and stern. Each is crewed by a “lord” who dwells with his family in the cabin, and “cousins,”servitors who may or may not be related, who find living space on or below deck. A typical barge is thus home to 15 to 20 souls. All adults and able youngsters work and are trained in defense. When “camped,” the bargefolk chain their vessels together; this device also is used in defense. Most barges carry a small boat for use in communications, fishing, or shuttle. It is said that the bargees have developed a sophisticated communication system which uses flags in daylight, colored lanterns at night, and sometimes even smoke. Similarly, it is reported that they use a special speech whose cant is understood only by others of the Rhennee. If the bargees are as rich in gold, jewelry, and prized fresh water pearls as stories tell, it cannot be determined from their dwellings, dress, or habits.

On the other hand, at any moment the life of a Rhennee can change drastically, and sheer survival becomes the order of the day. Danger abounds on the Nyr Dyv, not only on the water, but aboard the barges as well. Rhennee society is a rich with treacherous intriguing as the court of any king. Alliances are made and broken, plans hatched, loves united and betrayed. Currently sailing the Nyr Dyv and her tributaries are nearly 5,000 Rhennee. Theirs is a closely knit yet loosely organized culture. They are merchants, peerless fishermen, incorrigible gossips, warriors, smugglers, consummate revelers and occasional thieves. Above all the Rhennee bargemen are itinerant gypsy fold whose love of freedom is equaled only by their love for the waters they sail.

Societal Structure
The Rhennee bargefolk are “governed” by approximately 100 leaders known as “nobles” or “lords.” These nobles oversee the common welfare of the various families in their care. A Rhennee “family” consists of one or more barges under the direct command of the bargewright, who is usually the strongest or oldest male of the family. The people inhabiting each barge are usually members of an extended family. It is each noble’s task to keep his families at peace, their vessels operating more or less in cooperation with one another, so that certain areas of the lake aren’t over-fished. Any conflict between family members is settled by the bargewright and often involves some kind of martial contest, perhaps a test of hunting skills or possibly even a knife fight. All Rhennee males are clever close-quarter combatants. Disputes between bargewrights are taken before the presiding noble, who usually exacts a swift, if not altogether humane, justice. Lashings are not uncommon.

The Darkhagard
Among the tools the nobles have at their disposal is the elite Darkhagard, or “spear guard.” The men of the Darkhagard are expert naviagors and vicious warriors.

Only those Rhennee men who have exhibited a high degree of skill an vigor are considered for membership in the Darkhagard. A Darkhagard has devoted himself to defending the Rhennee way of life. He sees all land-folk as threat to his continued existence, and has left behind his mundane duties aboard the barge to keep a constant vigil against outside forces. To this end, he pursues weapon mastery and seamanship with equal ardor, honing his dual crafts so that his people will not have to fear giving up their nomadic lifestyle at the demand of a foreign prince. Being bound by any sovereign rule would be tantamount to death.

The Darkha
Members of the Darkhagard are seldom far from their special two-pronged harpoon, the darkha. The darkha is considered a large exotic melee weapon with the following statistics: Cost: 4 gp, Damage: 1d8, Range: 30 ft, Weight: 4 lbs, Type: piercing. A Darkhagard takes great pride in his weapon, which has been individually crafted to his personal specifications. Some warriors prefer shorter, heavier darkhas for more effective hand-to-hand combat. Other affix iron rings to the butts of their weapons in order to use the darkhas as harpoons, with ropes attached to draw the darkha once its been thrown (this counts as a partial action, and assumes the darkha is free to be pulled back). Certain Darkhagard have been known to conceal slender daggers, potions vials, or lockpicks in the shafts of their darkhas. Handling a warrior’s darkha without permission is considered an insult to the weapon’s owner.

Rhennee Bargefolk

Greyhawk Samaryllis Samaryllis