The eloko (eh-LOH-ko) are tall, herbivorous beastborn that resemble horned mammals such as kudu, gemsbok, gazelle, wildebeest and water buffalos. Like the makniki, eloko can be found throughout the continent as citizens of every Moduin polity. The two majority-eloko Moduin cultures are the Loom and the Finback Holdouts.
The priest emerged from the closet, the small green bells hanging from his horns tinkling gently. He threw an armful of clothing down on the ornate table, removed his blindfold, and turned his large black eyes towards me.
“Now. What do you see here?”
I picked up the largest piece, a somber dark robe with a funerary air. “Death? A funeral?”
He smiled. “A little simple. Let’s see if we can go deeper. Look at the cut – a bit adventurous for a funeral, wouldn’t you say? And the subtle pattern in the material – quiet enough to be tasteful, not too eye-catching, but opulent, nonetheless. Not something one would wear to the funeral of a friend – but perhaps to that of a rival. I might interpret the message thus: another’s misfortune will prove your windfall. Now, the addition of this saucy green ascot makes the message decidedly murkier…”
— From A Caravan of No Cars by the Repentant and Reformed Bandit Deadtongue Taal yub-sar-Taal
Between the jagged peaks of the Jukodoti mountains and the glittering waters of the Sapphire Veil Sea lies the Loom, the ancestral home of the eloko. Their society is largely agrarian, and they consume no meat or animal products; however, they do raise sheep and alpaca for their wool and harvest fiber from the cocoons of giant silkworms, using these resources to make the finest textiles in all of Modui. These exports have brought them into close commercial association with the Lodosi colonies of the Western Scratch, where Loom fabrics are used in the ritual garb of Khartophanism, the state religion. In return, Lodosi ingenuity has provided eloko weavers with clever spring-powered autolooms, greatly increasing their output.
As in Lodos, clothing and fashion play an outsize role in the cultural practices of the Loom. The principle god of the Silk Coast is Atunpako, who is said to have raised the first eloko up from the beasts of the veld by clothing them in magical garments. For this reason, even the poorest eloko strive to maintain a respectably-stocked closet, while the aristocracy of Herdheart fight a never ending war of wardrobes, their tailors crafting outfits of exquisite, baroque impracticality that will be worn for a single event and then retired. The Loom priesthood is the highest authority on fashion, practicing a form of divination wherein meaning is read out of the color, material and cut of random selections from their Divine Closets.
The Silk Coast generally avoids violence as uncivilized, and the diplomats of the Loom are sought after for their nuance, equanimity and sophistication. Every pivotal peace negotiation or political realignment in Moduin history has benefitted in some way from the involvement of these functionaries, who seem to have a preternatural ability to bring opposing parties into accord.
Of course, when war becomes necessary, the Herdhost armies are formidable. Loom archers favor huge longbows that would be unwieldy in smaller human hands, able to match a Lodosi farpiercer ballista in range. The knights of the Silk Coast go to war on huge, four-horned miwubeasts, driving them forward in devastating charges that smash apart enemy formations.
The Loom navy is second only to that of Hacik, their fleets ranging up and down the western coast of the continent, exchanging fine eloko textiles for all manner of goods. The Loom capital of Herdheart is the terminus of several Kutubi caravan lines, where the caravanners’ wares are transferred to the holds of the Loom’s merchant marine and sent to every corner of Modui and beyond. As a result, Herdheart has grown into a bustling, prosperous metropolis, surpassed only by Queen’s Cloak in wealth and population.
“That is not the wind. That is the screaming of our dead, demanding to know when we will take back our land.”
— Vital Able, Scarpking of Tribe Surehoof
The first Moduin natives to be displaced by the Empire of Hacik were the makniki who lived in a network of fishing villages along the coast of the Greenmantle Gulf. After winning the so-called Whisker War, the Haciki turned their eyes on the rich pampas heartlands along their young empire’s western border — lands held by the eloko polity of Khota-Madjo.
Recognizing the eloko as more formidable opponents then the peaceful fishermice, Hacik went looking for allies, eventually cultivating ties with the mabish state of Ato to the north. Ato and Khota-Madjo were ancient rivals, and the mab were all too willing to coordinate an attack with the fledgling human empire, in exchange for promises of territory.
Soon, the herdhosts of Khota-Madjo found themselves fighting a desperate war on two fronts, attacked from the north and east simultaneously. The eloko armies lost a series of disastrous battles, and pushing them inexorably back into the Finback mountains which ran along the polity’s western border.
Surehoof Scarpking Vital Able. Art by Peter “Rojo” Parkinson
The war over, Hacik and Ato split the conquered territory, with the humans taking the south and the mab taking the north. Eloko in the Haciki-occupied territory were encouraged to join the empire by swearing fealty to the Queen-Navarch. In the north, the Khota-Madjo were given no such option, and were simply displaced en masse. (Of course, the Ato would not be able to enjoy their winnings for long: in a quarter-century it would be their turn to fight the Haciki, after their one-time allies launched the Third Expansion).
The Khota-Madjo who were unwilling or unable to join the Empire or who were driven from Ato were forced to flee across the Finback Mountains. Thousands of refugees died making the dangerous journey through the treacherous passes, and thousands more succumbed to famine as they tried to wrest the first meager harvests from the unforgiving soil of their new home, the Western Scratch.
Eventually even this sorry excuse for a homeland would be taken from the displaced Khota-Madjo, following the arrival of new colonizers: the Lodosi. The archipelago nation of Lodos, looking to expand into Modui, ignored the Khoto-Madjo claims to the land and established port cities along the Western Scratch. Fed by the riches and population of the Hagiocracy, these cities eventually grew into significant holdings. Once again, rapacious land grabs led to war, and after putting up a cursory resistance, the Khoto-Madjo found themselves faced with a familiar ultimatum: convert to the Lodosi state religion of Khartophanism and become subjects of the Hagiocracy, or flee back into the mountains.
Those that chose to flee joined the Holdouts, tribes of eloko who had been living there since the end of the war with Hacik. After the war, a defiant contingent of veterans from the splintered Khota-Madjo army had established a network of camps in the mountains from which they could launch raids on the newly-formed Haciki province of Pliako. These camps eventually grew into small communities, and the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those first veterans had continued the fight, burning farms and sacking towns along the border and rebuffing periodic attempts made by the Haciki legions to clear them out.
Today there are several loosely-affiliated eloko mountain tribes that are collectively referred to as the Holdouts. The two largest are the Komayanga in the north and the Surehoof in the south. In the spring and summer Holdout tribes cultivate vertical farms of mosses, sedge-grasses and mushrooms, storing a portion of the harvest to get them through the snow-locked winter months. They are expert climbers, able to scale sheer cliff-faces that would stymie most veteran mountaineers. They know every rock, tree and stream of the mountains, and fighting them in their own territory is a foolhardy, costly undertaking.
During the Birdeater War, the various Holdout tribes were united under the authority of Vital Able, the Scarpking of the Surehoof, and joined Ibi Falki’s Clayshaper Army in the fight against Bloody Tildy. During Ibi’s short tenure as Imperial Regent, the Holdouts began moving into Pliako, seizing farms that had been taken from their ancestors centuries ago and visiting violent retribution on the current owners. However, after the Restorer’s War and Ibi’s ouster, the Holdouts were driven back up into the mountains, their dreams of a reclaimed homeland once again deferred.