We are the Tribe of Forgotten Waters, keepers of the mountains and the secrets passed down by our ancestors. We are small, far fewer than the infamous Clans that clutter the valley below, but we are strong. We are hardy. We are survivors.
The Tribe believes in ancestor worship, and our lives are built around this concept.
To honor our ancestors is to hunt and protect one another, to fulfill the duties given to us by the Skyteller, and to learn as much as we can while we are alive. When we die, and our bodies return to the earth, our spirits will join the others in the place beyond the stars, and our knowledge will join theirs. We become one with the past, and become guardians of the future.
Our elders are revered as much as the Skyteller. Long memories are to be honored, because life in these mountains is hard, and can be cut short at a moment's notice. Our elders eat before the others, and their passing is deeply mourned. Should - the ancestors forbid - Skyteller become infirm, the Elder Council forms to watch over us until they recover or a new one is chosen.
We do not keep 'territory' the way Clan cats do. We do not waste our time spraying trees and rubbing our pelts onto plants, when we could be out hunting or watching for danger. Instead, we mark our territory in a more tangible way. With heavy stones, we create the 'ring', and all To-Bes know better than to cross the stones. All Cave-Guard To-Bes, after their Rite of Passage, may contribute a stone onto the ring. This used to be unnecessary, but Clan cats have proven themselves untrustworthy and selfish; it is useless against predators, but it reminds our 'neighbors' that they do not own everything in the valley.
Kits are given names that honor the Tribe's connection to and reverence for nature. It is symbolic, and meant to remind them of being but one part in a large, complex world. Tribe names are typically long, and as such, Tribe cats go by a single noun out of their name.
Cloud that Chases Dawn (their common name would be either Cloud or Dawn)
Branch of Old Oak (common name would be Branch or Oak)
Den where Snakes Sleep (common name would be Den or Sleep, or even Snake)
The naming pattern is typically:
Noun that verbs (the/at/under) noun (Wolf that Howls Under Moon)
Noun/verb of adjective noun (Sprig of Wet Holly)
Noun on adjective noun (Dawn on Golden Petals)
Noun where adjective/noun verb. (Brook where Small Fish Swim)
Names often represent something memorable one or both parents have seen. They can also carry over one particular word from an ancestor's name, to create a sort of 'lineage' or pay homage to a beloved family member. Creativity is encouraged, though something too outrageous will likely cause Skyteller to gently suggest other, less extreme ideas.
The Tribe is a deeply insular community, and exposure to different sexualities and lifestyles are extremely, extremely limited. With a heavy focus on 'the next generation', they largely frown upon same sex pairings or alternate sexual preferences, but can tolerate them so long as they are the minority. They are very encouraging of new members, as the Tribe is not a thing of bloodlines, but a lifestyle that can be embraced.
Tribe Law is dictated by the Skyteller, who gains knowledge of these unspoken rules from the Ancestors. Tribe Law typically deals with minor and major offenses. Punishments can range from a privilege revoked to complete and utter 'death', in which a Tribe cat becomes Nameless and is cast out of Tribe society for an undetermined, usually permanent time. Lead Cave-Guards and Lead Prey-Hunters are able to dole out Tribe Law over minor infractions as well. Banishment typically lasts for a season or two, and the banished Tribemate is allowed to keep their name throughout. If they survive and return humbled, they are allowed to rejoin Tribe society with a clean slate.
The Knowledge of the
The Skyteller, a shorthand of their full name (Teller of the Reflected Sky), is the leader and healer of the Tribe of Forgotten Waters. They fulfill the role of medicine cat, knowing many herbs and tinctures to cure ailments. They only have one life, though it may be longer than the average Tribe cat. Because of this, they rarely leave the cave so as not to risk their valuable life to the dangers of the mountains. Even when they do leave the cave, it is never without a large patrol of Cave-Guards to protect them. The Skyteller is led by the ancestors, whose accumulated knowledge is given to him/her freely. Tribe cats are heavily encouraged to learn as much as they can, because when they die, their voice - their knowledge - will be added to the multitudes of ancestors, and this knowledge will one day benefit the next Skyteller.
The Might of the
The Tribe are pacifists, and do not freely seek war or combat for the sake of violence. However, they are not a thornless flower or a baby bird sitting vulnerable in their nest. They are protected by the mighty Cave-Guards; often the strongest and largest of Tribe cats, the Cave-Guards live up to their names. They are the protectors of the Tribe's home, the oasis. Their other primary role is to accompany Prey-Hunters on excursions, keeping careful watch for dangers that come in many shapes and sizes. The Cave-Guards do not hunt, and have not been trained to do so. They obey the Lead Cave-Guard and the Skyteller or Elder Council.
The Claw of the
The providers of the Tribe, the Prey-Hunters seek out anything that may fill the bellies of those waiting back home - whether it's an eagle or a mouse, they are trained to hunt anything. Adaptability and patience are their strongest traits. They are often the lithest, the smallest, or the fastest of their Tribemates.
The Life of the
The role of a To-Be becomes apparent the moment they begin their training. Shortly around 2 or 3 moons, a kit is told by the Skyteller what role they will train for when they come of age at 8 Moons. The mentorship of a To-Be does not typically fall to only one cat, but they do have a central figure they can rely on, called a Guide. To-Be training is the responsibility of all cats in the To-Be's future specialty (all Cave-Guards pitch in to train new Cave-Guards, all Prey-Hunters pitch in to train new Prey-Hunters). When To-Bes reach the age of 14 moons, they are allowed to undergo their Rite of Passage. Upon success, they become a full-fledged Prey-Hunter/Cave-Guard.
The Wisdom of the
The oldest of the Tribe, the elders are a plethora of knowledge. Though they no longer serve their Tribe through teeth or claws or keen eyes, they are storytellers, and living examples of a life well spent. Though they have no specific duties, there are times of great duress that calls upon them to form an Elder Council, which oversees the Tribe until Skyteller can resume their role - or a new one is found. No decisions are made without careful deliberation, and at least half must be in agreement. Unless pressed for time, deliberations can sometimes take days.
The Tenderness of the
A nurturer of life, the Kit-Mother is a role that is permanent for some cats, and a temporary aspect of life for others. The Kit-Mothers focus on the birthing and raising of litters, whether it's nursing their own or caretaking another. It is not uncommon for a Kit-Mother to nurse kits that aren't her own, while hers doze nearby and her fellow Kit-Mother is in desperate need of a break. Whether they hold this title temporarily or permanently, all Kit-Mothers are treated with the respect and awe they deserve, for without them, there would be no Tribe.
Always be generous with your prey. We are all kin in spirit, if not in blood. Our survival depends on our unity; gluttony and selfishness are not tolerated. Share with your neighbors. When food is plentiful, eat to your heart's content alongside your kin. When food is scarce, take only as much as will sustain you - and see to it that others more needy than you are taken care of.
Prey can be shared among family units, among friends, among ranked groups as you see fit. It is considered disrespectful to eat alone, your back to your Tribemates like some sort of scavenger.
The Clan cats have proven themselves untrustworthy. For this reason, we have pushed and rolled heavy stones into place along our 'border'. We do not waste our time with scent markings. The placement of the stones are obvious, and like passing through a ring of teeth - an arrogant Clan cat will find themselves bitten. Travelers have free passage and are free to hunt as they like. But the Clan cats, who have already carved out pieces of the valley for themselves, show greed by enroaching beyond the markers they put in place.
The Lead Cave-Guard inspects the Ring of Teeth. If necessary, the Lead Prey-Hunter may put other prey-hunters to the task of chasing down intruders, with a protective force of Cave-Guards in tow.
The passage of To-Be-hood into full Tribemate is called a “Rite”. The To-Be will be given a challenge, and they must overcome it or fail.
Prey-Hunter To-Bes are given a challenge in three parts. The Prey-Hunter’s role is to feed the Clan, and that means mastering all forms of territory to make the most of such a bountiful mountain home.
The Prey-Hunter To-Be must return with:
- One piece of prey from the sky
- One piece of prey from the earth
- One piece of prey from the water
They begin at sunrise, and have until the following sunrise to get it. They are accompanied by a single Cave-Guard, who cannot help them in their task. Prey-Hunter To-Bes may take their Rite together, but the requirements remain the same for each. Failure means that they will undergo another season of training, after which they will attempt the Rite again.
Cave-Guard To-Bes are tasked with protecting a nest, symbolizing their home and their Tribemates. The To-Bes are to ‘hold the line’, fending off predators (in the form of fellow Tribemates who try to get close to the nest) at sunrise, at sunhigh and at sunset. No more than two Cave-Guards/Prey-Hunters may play the role of predator at any one time.
Cave-Guard To-Bes may be tested one at a time, or they may be tested together, in which case they will have to fend off twice as many predators. Failure means that they will undergo another season of training, after which they will attempt the Rite again.
In the event that a To-Be fails their Rite more than twice, the To-Be must go before the Skyteller to have their destiny examined by the ancestors. If they deem it acceptable, the To-Be may be allowed to switch from one role to the other, as they may find it more suitable. (Cave-Guard to Prey-Hunter, or Prey-Hunter to Cave-Guard) This happens very, very rarely, and is sometimes a subject of controversy within the Tribe.
Once the Lead Cave-Guard/Lead Prey-Hunter and the Skyteller deem the To-Be's Rite a success, they are given the honor of placing their mark upon the Wall of Remembrance. The To-Be dips their paw into a special red pigment, and marks the wall with their pawprint, symbolizing their passage into full adulthood with the Tribe. They shed the rank of 'To-Be' and join their ranked group as an equal.
For Cave-Guards, they place their mark and also have the opportunity to add another stone to the Ring of Teeth at the base of the mountain.
Sometimes, nature is capable of great cruelty - but even that cruelty serves a purpose. There are two crimes of which banishment from the Tribe is certain: a murder of a Tribemate, and a rejection of Tribe ways. The Tribe is welcoming, and accepts cats of all backgrounds and creeds, however, the Tribe expects full commitment in those both born into their ways and those who find them later on in life.
To reject those ways are to reject the ancestors, and the punishment for this is to be stripped of one's name and place within the Tribe. These wretched few are called the Nameless. The Tribe then enacts an extreme form of ostracization, called the Shaming. No matter one's affiliation with the guilty cat, they are to act as though that cat is dead. Even if that cat were to stand in front of them, beseeching, Tribe Law dictates they are to behave as if the cat simply did not exist. Because, in the eyes of their ancestors, this is most certainly the case.
Maple with Red Leaves stood alone in a circle made up of cats she had known her entire life. Skyteller stood directly opposite her, and she felt her heart catch in her throat at the look of disappointment and gravity on his features. "Is it true, Maple?" demanded the Skyteller. "Did you take Frost's life?"
Maple's voice shook when she answered. "I-I don't regret what happened." The scene played again in her mind for what felt like the hundredth time. It was so fast... He was there at the edge and she just...
Maple frantically looked for Thorn, who had always been a source of comfort, of strength. The tom she loved looked at her as if he didn't know her. His expression aghast and wide-eyed. Maple's heart lurched. "No, Thorn--I did this for you, for us! Don't--!"
"A Tribemate's life was willingly taken, and Maple with Red Leaves has confessed to her crimes. The cost of such a crime is high, and now it must be paid. Maple of Red Leaves is no more. The cat you see before you is, by Tribe law, dead and forgotten." Skyteller signaled to the Lead Cave-Guard, who approached her side with the grim conviction of an executioner.
The cat formerly known as Maple trembled where she stood. "Please, Skyteller - where will I go? What's going to happen to me?" Skyteller's expression turned hard, and though his eyes were upon her, they were unwelcome. They held no answers.
Panic began to set in now as the Lead Cave-Guard began to nudge her towards the entrance. Maple's claws scratched against the cavern floor as she called out to two forms shrinking away. "Mother! Father! Don't let them do this! Mother!"
"All Nameless are forbidden from approaching our home or any members of the Tribe again. Tribemates who are caught interacting with one of the Nameless will be punished. Some may think this judgment harsh, but it is the will of our Ancestors. If we tolerate murder, if we tolerate disloyalty, it will become a sickness that will devour all that is good." Skyteller bowed his head, heart heavy as the stones at the base of their beloved mountain. "Tonight, we mourn the death of Maple with Red Leaves. Tomorrow, that name becomes dust, and none may speak of it for as long as the stars still burn."
When a decision affects the Tribe as a whole and requires more than just the Skyteller and the Elder Council, the Tribe has the option to cast stones. Each Tribe cat gets one vote, and may put their stone in the corresponding pile, or abstain from voting unless there is a tie. The Skyteller does not cast their vote, but simply observes. Majority rule wins.
Roar pawed nervously at the small stone beneath his claws. The cave was alive with voices, murmurs of discussion and speculation, fear and excitement. He heard the elders speak of danger, and that was a very wise thing to think about. But he couldn't help his curiosity. Holding his breath as well as the stone between his teeth, Roar of Rushing River placed his stone on the larger pile.
Skyteller blinked, nodding approvingly. "So it's decided. We will send a scouting party to see what lies on the other side of the mountains."
Under new leadership, the Tribe attitude towards Clan cats is one of arrogance, flaunting their lack of true border disputes and petty rivalries. Perhaps it's all that mountain air, but this 'lofty view' of themselves seems to only strengthen in tough times, many believing that the force of their faith in the Tribe and their way of life are enough to sustain them even in the bitterest of winters.
Outsiders passing through are treated with warmth and curiosity. The Tribe is always eager to expand their numbers, and as long as someone devotes themselves to the Tribe wholeheartedly, they will be welcomed without the usual pureblooded snobbery sometimes found in the Clans.
But Tribe respect and acceptance is conditional. Their home can sometimes be used as a place of rest, a waypoint for weary travelers, but those looking to join must fully commit. The Tribe does not accept weak-willed, noncommittal cats within their ranks, and the consequences for abusing their kindness are severe.
Their sense of unity, of wholeness, is their greatest strength. A small insular group, they pay special attention nurturing the bonds that tie them all together, and do not concern themselves with the behaviors of their neighbors.
The surface of the oasis pool reflected the faces and forms of the gathered cats, summoned by Skyteller's beckoning voice. "My Tribe, each day brings us new challenges and upsets. But don't let it take from you your sense of self."
First, he turned to the Cave-Guards, stocky and proud.
"You have taken your oath. You have become the claws of the Tribe, and it is through you that we are protected, defended from outside threats."
Then to the Prey-Hunters, lithe and quick.
"You are our teeth. You kill only because it is necessary, and bring back that which keeps us alive. Your Lead gives direction to those deadly fangs of yours."
Skyteller locked eyes with every youngster in the group.
"To-Bes, you are the whiskers of the Tribe. It is your job to focus and listen, to pay attention to even the smallest vibration. You are our future."
"What about the rest of us?" squeaked one of the kits, peeking from behind their mother's legs.
Skyteller smiled, looking with warmth and pride upon his Tribemates. "You are the belly that always hungers, and the heart that knows love, and loss, and every breath of life. You are the Tribe. I am your conscience. It is my role to guide you, to heal you, and to nurture in you all that you are destined to be. Just like our ancestors, we are a force made of many. Yet we are one."
* Cracked - to call someone crazy, ‘cracked like an egg’. Are you cracked, or something?
* Prey-Hunter - Tribe hunter, providing food for the Tribe.
* Cave-Guard - Tribe protector, guarding the hunters and the main cave.
* To-Be - The Tribe equivalent of an apprentice.
* Skyteller - The spiritual leader of the Tribe, known as the Teller of the Reflected Sky.
* Skypool - A special place in the back of Skyteller's den, a pool that reflects the sky through a hole in the den's roof.
* Tribe Law - The laws of Tribe society that cannot be broken without consequence.
* Ring of Teeth - A boundary marking separating Tribe land from the Valley Clans.
* Nameless - Former Tribe cats who are considered 'dead', and are forbidden to be interacted with.
* The Shaming - The ritual of banishment for those who have committed a murder or rejected Tribe ways.
* Rite of Passage - A challenge of readiness To-Bes must pass to graduate into Prey-Hunters/Cave-Guards.