Previous surveys of the religious practices of the bondpacks have unfairly characterized much of it as a kind of “death worship.” Scholars have projected a culture of endemic and fatal nihilism onto the crocotta, claiming that the veldrunners do not care whether their families live or die, or even that they consider death preferable to life. Some have taken these currents of thought even further, speculating that the species somehow lack the basic intellectual faculties which allow a rational creature to determine whether it is alive or dead. One wonders if these eminent intellectuals ever bothered to actually engage the subjects of their “studies” in conversation.
These criminal “theories” (if one can even call them that) could not be further from the truth. The bondpacks of the Swaying Veld have an extremely nuanced view of life and death – they see the two not as diametrically opposed states, but rather place them on a shifting continuum of being. One can be more or less alive, and one can be more or less dead. We might say a sickly loved one is “close to death,” and a bondpack shaman would agree with that statement – once that loved one passed on, however, he would also claim that they are “close to life,” occupying the same liminal place as an unborn child.
– From Observations on the Cultural Mores and Societal Characteristics of the Croccotta Bondpacks of the Swaying Veld
Crocotta (cro-KAH-tah) are found primarily in the Swaying Veld, their massive bondpacks following the migrations of wildebeest and antelope herds, erecting and breaking down sprawling tent-cities of bone and hide as they go.
They are perhaps one of the more unfairly maligned races on Modui, with a reputation as uncivilized savages. However, their religious practices – a hierarchical system of ancestor worship – are surprisingly complex. Crocotta who have died are mummified and carried by immediate families (or kinpacks) in specially-made papoose-like backpacks, then set up in shrines outside their temporary homes. Powerful or influential pack members are carried in palanquin-like reliquaries, and may eventually be elevated to the status of minor gods, joining the constantly-evolving pantheon of their particular bondpack.
Crocotta clothing is simple, usually consisting of a loincloth made of strips of fabric or hide. Their warriors favor inelegant but well-made weapons, such as clubs or axes of bone or wood, as well as lightweight, circular shields covered in several layers of tough hide. Crocotta hunting parties are legendarily patient, spending hours slowly creeping into advantageous positions from which to launch their ambushes, then felling their prey with several expertly-placed javelins or sling-stones.
Some crocotta do leave their bondpacks, though it is relatively rare. These exiles usually end up in Owangru, where they can find work as guides due to their specialized knowledge of the veld. Many become agents of the New Owangru Society of Exploration and Adventure.