During the invasion on their land by the Iridinian legions, the warriors of Parcines, being more of hunters than soldiers, were forced to adapt to slaying men rather than beast. Being unable to compete toe to toe with the rank-and-file legionaries, the initial defeats left them with a need for a new way to save their land and children. As the legend says, one man excelled in combat with the heavily armored and numerous soldiers. The legend gave him no name, but as it was told from mother to daughter, father to son, brother to brother, it gave him many faces. He could walk unharmed through fire, turn aside bronze with his bare skin, run faster than the Yah'kraa flies, leap streams, and lop trees in two with a single swing. His hair was a brightly dyed crest and his blood carried in it the cries of his people, for justice. It also gave his kind a name. Wardancer.
Though the legend may be a bit dramatized, it expresses the overall purpose and attitude of the most feared stock of the Blackroot Mountains. They fight like wild beasts, letting their blood in a frenzy solely for their people. Thier dances are awe inspiring displays, often involving sacred ceremonies and lasting for days on end. This is not simply a job to them, it is a way of life. Following the example of the fabled first Wardancer, they have their hair shaved on the sides and brushed up into a tall crest that runs from their forehead to the back of their neck. It is dyed a flamboyant color, designed to catch the attention of any would be opponents when need be. Though they are experts in the ways of slaying men and combat prowess, the trials and responsibilities of the Wardancer leaves them little time to practice their old ways, such as hunting. They are, however, taught extensively about the traditions and ceremonies of all clans, and are experts in camouflage and guerilla warfare.
To become a Wardancer, a warrior must gain permission from his or her tribe and be willing to give up everything they have in honor of their people. Then they undergo a long and taxing trial to prove if they are worthy of their crest. Once a Wardancer, they eat, breath, and drink battle. Their lives revolve around it, and everything else is just time between combat. Though this makes them quite distant from the rest of their clan, and not too flowery a personality, it breeds fearsome warriors.
As was written, in regards, by an Iridinian sentry, 'These savages with the strange hair... despite their garish appearance, we never seem to see them coming until it is too late. Lost more than thirty men and three horses to but a dozen... They fight like wounded bears. I drove my spear through a downed man, he snapped it in half and continued fighting with the head still lodged in his gut... Inhuman is the only word I have for this. Ereal protect us.'
Following is roughly how a trial would appear:
After hours of collecting wood and reeds, they finally built the bonfire. From high atop the stone cliff it cast it's glow. Down in the nearby canyon, several young boys stared up at the distant speck of light, exchanging ambitions of how they to will be a Wardancer one day.
The men sat around the blaze, their cheerful faces now stern. A man stands, a large man with a crest of bright yellow. He has walked this path the longest of them all, each of their bright crests catching the firelight and casting twisted shadows on the stones behind. Along with them sat an old man, one who had seen many ceremonies. They speak in the mother tongue of Parcines.
'Today, this man wishes to shed his old shell and become a Wardancer. He will prove his worth with the following trials...'
'The following tests will take the young man to his limits', speaks the old one, 'and from this body will emerge a protector of the clans. By the time this fire burns out, we will see his worth.'
The first trial begins. The man, his hair yet to be shaved, is left alone deep in the mountains. He must sit and meditate for three days without food, shelter, or water. During this time, he ponders his reasons for becoming a Wardancer, lets go of his old life, and hones the workings of his own mind. At the end of three days the others will return and the next test will begin.
The second trial is that of combat. For two days he must travel from one end of the valley to the other with only a simple weapon of his choice. As he makes his way through the cliff ways and forests, battling against time and nature, the others hunt him. If he can make it to the other side and remain conscious, he has passed. If not, he is spurned and left to his old life. Failure, though a dishonor, is acceptable. The tests are designed to weed out those not prepared to be a Wardancer, and it is better to have failed the trial then to have failed on the battlefield later.
The third trial is decidedly that of the body. Large stones are tied to his ankles and wrists as they stand on the shore of the lake. He must swim to the other side and scale the opposing cliff before the sun falls below the hills, which will happen soon. He is given only a small knife to hold in his teeth if his body should fail. Cutting oneself free is an admittance of defeat.
They will fight one another until the following sunset.
As the sun sets on the final day of the trial, he is asked his reasons for his choice, if he is ready, and what spirit he will fight for. Then his forearms are then pierced with sharpened reeds in several places while sacred chants are recited. The reeds are left in, allowing the blood to flow down upon his hands. He thrusts them into the embers of the fire, and will hold them there until the others return the following morning. Only one is left behind to make sure his hands never leave the fire.
Upon thier return, he is hailed as a Wardancer and given food for the first time in many days. He is left weakened by hunger and thirst. However, in the long run he has been made all the stronger. His wounds are tended as his hair is shaved into the proper crest. His tribe was the serpent, and his motive was blood, so his crest is stiff, tall, and crimson red. He leaves the mountain, knowing the life that lays ahead of him. They will all disperse and await the next call to forfeit their lives for their people.
With a final whine, the fire burns out.