There is apparently no reason for Roulk to exist. Sitting along the Elverground Road in the middle of the Huiscen Plains, without a river, stream, or visible well, it is unclear how the hundred villagers manage to survive - particularly since they appear to have no industry and absolutely no means of income. Passersby report that the fires are always smoking listlessly, the few farm animals loiter about untended, and the inhabitants seem to spend most of their days on the front stoop of their bedraggled huts, watching the sporadic traffic go by. "As lax as the folk of Roulk", goes the old saying... so perhaps what we see are merely the shadows of souls that once lived? Pass Roulk by and see for yourself...

A Roulkian Farmer

View picture in full size Picture description. A farmer of the "lax folk" of the hamlet of Roulk. Image by Bard Judith.

Description. Roulk cannot be said to serve any purpose with its existence. It is such a dreary place that one can only pity its inhabitants, though it is doubted that they would appreciate such a sentiment. Huts in various stages of decay are scattered throughout the hamlet with most seeming to be insufficient protection against the elements. Chilling winds pierce the ill constructed huts, and fierce rains trickle through thatch roofs to the ground below. Instead of a door, an opening will be left in one of the walls with a sheet hanging across it to allow for some level of privacy.

The landscape is a bleak one without any vivid hues to entice the eyes of strangers. Thick grasses extend to the waist of an average human as one approaches the village, the only exception being upon the
Elverground Road itself. The land is relatively flat with only a rare hill to be found within the general landscape. Smoke obscures the vision of a traveler as he enters the hamlet itself as it seems that the villagers cannot be bothered to properly extinguish their fires. It is not only the vision that the hamlet offends as a foul odour pervades the entire community with the stench being worse near the huts themselves. The odour is that of unwashed bodies, and one can only wonder how the villagers manage to tolerate the company of their fellow Roulkians.

Silence greets the senses as one passes through the hamlet, and many a traveler has reported a tingling of the skin as unseen eyes watched from the shadows. The few Roulkians to be seen are almost always perched upon their front stoops, unmoving for the entire day as the fierce sun scorches this world. Time itself seems to slow within the environs of the hamlet as lethargy pervades every muscle of the villagers. Every thought and deed is slowed as the heat of the sun quickly convinces the villagers that life is better spent beneath the shade of a tree or hut. Only their eyes exhibit any signs of life as they sit unmoving, that is if hatred and despair could be considered as proof that their hearts yet beat within their chests. It is rare for the inquiry of a stranger to arouse the interest of any villager, and their lack of speech indicates a disdain that is insulting to any civilized man.

It has often been speculated that such a lack of interest extends to the gods themselves, and Roulkians are believed to be agnostics by the general population of Santharia. Such reports can neither be confirmed nor denied though the hamlet’s lack of clerics and priests lends credence to them. There are even some that believe that the entire hamlet and its inhabitants are cursed by the gods, cursed to live in poverty for their indifference. Return to the top

Location. The hamlet of Roulk stands within the Santharian province of Manthria. It lies along the Elverground Road between the hamlet of Kenerum and Erthaers upon the Huiscen Plains. The Kilma Woods extend from the northeastern edge of the hamlet, almost stretching to the nearby Erthaers. It is not much more than a day’s walk northwest from the hamlet when one will find the Shield Lands and their northern neighbor, the Serenity Plains. Return to the top

People. The people of Roulk can best be described as peasants who lack the sense to recognize their own poverty. Any outside influences are greatly resented by the Roulkians, and most villagers refuse to marry anyone not of the hamlet. Incest is the indirect result of such prejudice. The very minds of the villagers have deteriorated from their heinous relations, and it is rare for any Roulkian to possess an average intelligence. Only thoughts such as the satisfaction of carnal pleasures occupy their minds, and concepts such as philosophy are beyond their ken to comprehend.

Expressions of utter despair remain forever upon their homely faces, as if the joys of life do not exist within the environs of the hamlet. Hatred of outsiders burns eternally in the eyes of the Roulkians, and one can but wonder the source of such a violent emotion. The thin lips of the villagers constantly curl into sneers at anyone passing along the road, and it is a rare sight indeed when a smile blesses their faces with a moment of beauty.

Wool garments are the most common clothing found among Roulkians, and any villager lucky enough to own a piece of linen is envied by the rest of the hamlet. Each garment is always baggy to allow for growth, and the tears and stains indicate them being passed down through the generations. The poorest of Roulkians, if such a concept could exist, dress only in rags. Boots or footwear of any kind are nonexistent within the hamlet, and the feet of the villagers are constantly covered in dust.

Filth of every kind mars their skin, whether it be dirt, mud, or even excrement. The concept of bathing is foreign to them, for they cannot conceive of wasting so much water upon one’s appearance. Dark tresses descend in unkempt masses beyond their shoulders, and beards fan across the faces of the men. They make no attempt to groom themselves and never cut their hair.

It is rare for anyone born within Roulk to remain there beyond their childhood years. Youths leave despite the curses of their elders, setting out for nearby villages even though they are strals away. They desire to experience the world for themselves and to cast aside the prejudices of their upbringing. Few youths remain in the outside world for more than a year, as they are often confused by the diverse ideals that exist within other cultures. The curses that harrowed their footsteps upon their departure from the hamlet in turn become joyful greetings upon their return.

Most of the villagers seem to be descended from the Eyelians with their dark skin and short stature. Every so often, a pale child will be born that hearkens to an Erpheronian influence, but of both proud tribes only little seems left. Malnutrition and an unhealthy lifestyle contribute to their gaunt frames, and most Roulkians weigh less than a pygge. They are unlike their parent tribes in their beliefs, and some researchers report myths where the Roulkians were betrayed by the Wat’a’kan or the “Great Spirits”

Any connection that Roulkians may have had with animals seems to have been lost in recent centuries as they cannot even obtain the loyalty of their scruffy livestock. Only disdain and indifference seem to exist within their hearts, and they do not feel compassion for those that are not of the hamlet. If joy penetrates their auras of ill content, then it does so in the shadows unseen by strangers.

Scurfy will sometimes afflict the villagers as fruit and vegetables are rarely included in their sparse diets. It is only when afflicted by the maddening disease that a Roulkian will display any emotion in the view of strangers. They seem to be upset by any and every minuscule annoyance and will often react violently to the slightest insult. Those lucky enough to find fruits and vegetables will recover in a matter of weeks, yet the misfortunate will suffer with the disease for several months before dying of starvation after the rotting of their teeth. Return to the top

Climate. The climate of Roulk is hardly hospitable for either visitors or its inhabitants. There cannot be said to be any season where the weather conditions are idyllic, as each season has aspects that worsen the living conditions of the villagers.

During the last days of Awakening Earth, constant rains fall upon the plains as they plague the villagers for days at a time. Thatch roofs are not sufficient to shelter those living beneath them, and the Roulkians suffer during the entire season of spring. It is common for both the young and elderly to perish from the slightest of illnesses during these damp months. The summer provides a respite from the rain yet its arid temperatures quickly remind the Roulkians of how pleasant a drop of rain can be. Hardly anything seems to move as the lethargic heat pervades the bones of men and animals alike. Most villagers bide their time beneath the foliage of any trees that can be found in or near the hamlet, preferring to rest beneath their shade rather than toiling under the fierce sun.

Autumn is much cooler than the seasons that precede it with light breezes blowing from the west. In the month of Passing Clouds, these light breezes become chill winds blowing from the Rimmerins Ring as the Roulkians begin to envy the fleece of their livestock. It is during the last months of autumn that sheep and goats are first herded into the villagers’ huts at night. Roulkians would rather stay warm than concern themselves with any foul odours that emanate from the animals. Winter is simply a worsening of autumn with the winds becoming fierce gales that struggle to blow men and beasts from this world. The hamlet of Roulk is spared from the blessing and bane that is snow though their lives are not any warmer without it. Return to the top

Flora. Alth’ho grass grows to an average height of a ped during the summer, providing excellent cover for the various animals that live upon the Huiscen Plains. The grass can even be found growing within the huts of the villagers. Instead of pulling up the grass, Roulkians will use its blades as bedding for both themselves and their livestock. A few vines can be seen to creep along the walls of the huts, hastening the inevitable collapse of such a frail structure. An odd tree or two exists within the hamlet, seedlings blown by the wind from the Kilma Woods. Carroots grow wild near and throughout the hamlet, Roulkians eat them despite their bitter taste. Return to the top

Fauna. A few cows can be seen scattered among the livestock of the Roulkians. Each one has a frame as gaunt as the villagers themselves, and it is unknown whether any one of them possesses meat suitable for consumption. Sheep and goats are more numerous within the hamlet and seem better suited to their meager diets. The livestock are kept in makeshift pens during the night yet they are allowed to roam the Huiscen Plains with only a few youngsters to watch them whilst the sun remains in the sky. Roulkians are not ashamed to herd sheep and goats into their huts during the coldest nights of the year, using the fleece and body warmth of the animals to fend off the chill winds.

Beasts abound within the hamlet that are not domesticated by the hand of man. Grass snakes slither through the tall grass as they seek unwary rodents. Field mice evade the snakes as they scamper from one hut to the next, feasting on anything and everything they can place within their small mouths. Flocks of aelirels often fly overhead, blocking the sunlight for a few moments as a multitude of small white bodies soar through the morning sky. A clever fox or two can be found sneaking into the hamlet at night with idle dreams of eating a few tender lambs. Return to the top

Resources. The only true resources of the Roulkians are those provided by nature. They rely upon the livestock kept in makeshift pens for sustenance. Only the fruits and vegetables that grow wild near the hamlet will be included in the diets of the villagers, as they lack the skills and equipment to farm. Even if they possessed such tools, the arid soil of the hamlet makes any effort to cultivate it futile. Water is a precious commodity for the villagers, one they collect using rain barrels during the damp season of spring. Such barrels are the prized possessions of any Roulkian, as their very survival depends upon them.

Rumors abound among those that have passed through the hamlet, stating that a concealed well exists just below the surface. Such rumors cannot be taken seriously, but researchers have often wondered about the source of the villagers' disdain for outsiders. If the Roulkians truly are protecting their precious water from greedy strangers, then perhaps they have been misjudged. There can be no doubt that the possession of water is often the only thing that separates the living from the deceased. Return to the top

Myth/Lore. Only the Roulkians themselves truly know the tale of the founding of Roulk, yet versions of it are told in taverns at nearby villages. One particular version is often repeated and seems to be accepted as truth by the inhabitants of Erthaers. The Roulkians neither confirm nor deny the tale, and it is as close as any stranger will come to the truth.

The Betrayal of the Spirits. The villagers that now inhabit Roulk once have been Eyelians of the Eagle Clan. They were known as the most devout among their tribe, worshiping the Great Spirits with their every word and deed. It would take a catastrophe of immense proportions to shatter their faith, and they were destined to experience such a disaster as they were betrayed by those they worshiped. One night, a vision granted by the Golden Eagle told its followers of where they might find peace and contentment, and a hundred Eyelians set out the next morning as they followed the directions of their dreams.

After months of wandering within a great mountain range, the assorted men and women found the place of their dreams, a beautiful flat of land next to a great river. They immediately gave thanks to the Great Spirits for their generosity and began to build huts from wood found in a nearby forest. The herds that had accompanied them on their great journey found bountiful grass to feast upon, and both man and beast was truly content. Everything they could possibly need was provided by either the river or the forest and not a single villager starved.

A few decades later, the Roulkians were betrayed by the same spirits whose blessing they had received. It seems as though the Great Spirits now favoured the people that lived to the west and the mighty river suddenly shifted course to flow strals to the west of Roulk. At first, the villagers prayed to the spirits for mercy, yet such prayers were not heard as many of the Roulkians began to die of starvation. It was only a matter of time before the villagers turned their backs on the Great Spirits, and they learned to fend for themselves and live off the land they now inhabited. Theirs was a miserable existence, but they were too stubborn and proud to even consider living somewhere other than Roulk. The villagers continue to live upon the Huiscen Plains without any source of water other than rain, living despite the betrayal of the Great Spirits.

Tales abound about a town that once existed next to a river, and it is said that many of its inhabitants perished during a drought. Whether or not Roulk is this town cannot be confirmed, though researchers wonder at the tenacity required to live upon the land where so many died. It is not a faith in any gods or spirits that holds Roulkians to their miserable piece of land, rather it is a spite of the divine that is the seed of their determination. They survive without the blessing of any gods, and Roulkians scorn those dependent upon such whimsical deities. Return to the top

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