Intelligent People & Monsters
Around the outskirts of Greek lands are various creatures with their own languages and cultures.
The famous warrior women live in far Hyperborea, well north of the Scythians. Theirs is a place of extremes, with a hot summer and biting winter, which has made them a harsh and warlike people. For this reason Ares favours them and sired two of their queens during the age of myths. The current queen is a very distant descendent of one of these queens.
Essentially classless, wealth and renown among the Amazons is gained by acts of war and courage rather than politics or inheritance. Amazons are otherwise equal in society and trained in the arts of war, hunting and farming. The Amazons rule a vassal tribe of men called the Gargareans and once a year the two tribes meet. The resulting children are brought up by the tribe matching their own gender.
Amazon woman are as athletically built as any games competitor and wear leathers or furs, but go to war in metal armour. They are capable archers and skilled swordswomen. Their preferred tactic is to advance whilst shooting volleys of arrows, until the enemy is within sword reach.
The Amazons fulfil most of their needs from their farms and the wild forests. Certain supplies such as gold, bronze or iron need to be traded or stolen. The Amazons leave their forest home and sell amber to the merchants who work the routes to the south. If trade is not sufficient they start raiding. Cities as far south as Olynthus are targets for the Amazons. Beyond these excursions Amazons are rare beyond Hyperborea, as their culture values little of the outside world. The occasional Amazon is found amongst mercenary companies or on pilgrimage to an important shrine of Ares.
Centaurs are half-civilised, half barbarian horse-people. They have the body of a horse, with the horse's head replaced by the upper torso and head of a human. Their tribes can be found across Greece and on Mediterranean islands. They rely on hunting and gathering for food so they keep to the wilder places, staying away from cities where they cannot hunt. Centaur tribes are semi-nomadic, preferring to live in simple tent villages that can be easily moved to follow the seasons and the herds.
Centaurs speak their own tongue and local human languages but lack literacy, preferring an oral tradition of teaching and history. Their minds keep to practical things and they do not dwell on the higher abstract topics of human philosophers. This does not mean they are stupid, and only a fool underestimates them.
Trade between centaur tribes and human settlements is good. When conflict occurs, it is often caused by drunken centaurs abducting human women or humans settling on a centaur tribe's hunting grounds. In combat centaurs prefer to use their speed to harry the enemy with spears and their strength to charge down opponents.
A people native to the wild mountains and highland forests of Greece and Scythia, they lack any permanent settlements and prefer to roam in small groups.
They resemble humans with goats' feet, horns and beards. Fauns take what they need from the wilds and do not trade with humans much though they can speak Greek and their own tongue. Their contact with humans is limited to travellers or shepherds and is for their own amusement rather than for serious matters. More primitive human peoples treat the fauns as nature spirits or guardians of flocks.
Travellers should be wary of Fauns although they are peaceful and not aggressive. They have a robust sense of humour and take pleasure in others' misfortunes. If threatened a faun will just move on as they consider life more important than pride and see no point in fighting.
Fauns are friendly with nymphs, satyrs and centaurs, and worship the Greek gods. Their worship is less reverential in nature and more companionable than human worship but the gods tolerate this. The gods of nature even have fauns in their trains when they walk the world.
Nymphs are minor divine beings who are the little goddesses (they are exclusively female) of natural places. Essentially these places are a nymph's realm and can be anywhere: the tallest tree in a forest, the source of a river, or even a cooling breeze. Nymphs are deities associated with nature and are responsible for the health and flourishing of these little realms.
Nymphs are welcome on Olympus and many of them populate the entourages of the gods. Poseidon's court is filled with sea nymphs whilst Demeter keeps the company of flower nymphs. Artemis travels with a band of hunting nymphs and the travelling orgy that is Dionysus' unending party attracts the more social nymphs.
There are many nymphs and they communicate freely with mortals. Often nymphs are the only divine being a mortal meets during their life. For this reason they serve as the eyes and ears of Olympus and occasionally deliver messages for the gods. Nymphs have agendas of their own and no real loyalty to the Olympians but obey out of deference for their power. The nymphs' true goal is to protect and oversee their own small parts of nature.
With mortals, a nymph's attitude depends on of the mortal. If treated with respect and deference nymphs will respond haughtily but well. A mortal who is disrespectful or dangerous will be threatened or attacked. If the nymph is feeling mischievous they may play with mortals by scaring children or sending adults on meaningless errands.
Nymphs appear as human females of any shape, size or age they choose but there will be signs of their realm. Tree nymphs have foliage for hair, a sea nymph's skin is scaly and wind nymphs have a gossamer-like transparency. Nymphs are immortal - though their physical form can apparently die, the spirit of the nymph lives on and will soon re-form its body.
Descended from several of the rustic minor gods, the free-spirited satyrs were a repeated source of antagonism and trouble for the Olympians. They lacked any responsibilities and followed no deity, instead filling their time with mischief and merrymaking. This ceased when Dionysus returned to Greece from the far east.
In the god of wine and ecstasy they found a worthy patron and are now the core of his retinue. Satyrs appear as men with a horse's legs, tail, ears and phallus. Standing, they are over seven feet tall. When not with Dionysus, satyrs may be found travelling by themselves or in small groups in search of diversion and entertainment. They are friendly to mortals but have a strong intolerance of rules and orders which makes them unpopular with some humans. Their indiscipline and partying leads many to underestimate them but satyrs are both physically strong and skilled with magic.
Shades are spirits of the dead buried without coin to pay Charon. Most remain by the banks of the Acheron but a handful revisit the mortal world. Their place among mortals is weak and only capable of invisibly observing their loved ones. Anyone with magical or divine powers can see a shade and even talk to them, but the dead are not very communicative. Dying leaves people detached and remote, though the shades talk among themselves - something a few magically-inclined mortals have used as a way of gathering information or sending messages.
More powerful shades may influence the mortal world, either by appearing as apparitions or by controlling a mortal's dreams. These are called phantasms. The rarest and most feared shades are the eidolons, which can possess a living person. These abominations subvert nature and only exist when powerful magic is at work. A god may endow a shade with power so it may fulfil an oath or seek revenge on those who failed to bury them. Alternatively, the fates may drive the eidolon to ensure prophecies are fulfilled.