Crafting Motif 94: Ancestral Reach Style

Author (in-game): Lieutenant Abrienna Nestoro

By Lieutenant Abrienna Nestoro, Imperial Legion

Reachman warriors are known far and wide for their ferocity in battle and the primitiveness of their arms and armor. Few Reachmen smelt iron, let alone steel, and at its best Reachman metalwork is poorly made. Instead, Reachman rely on materials provided by nature to fashion their weapons: wood, stone, hide, and bone. During Empress Hestra’s recent campaign to establish Imperial rule in the Reach, we learned that a Reachman’s hide shield can stop a hard-driven arrow just as well as steel-bossed birchwood, and an axe fashioned from the shoulderblade of a Druadach bear can part the links of light mail. Primitive, yes—but effective as well.

Reachman metalwork is primitive, but hammering out a heavy axehead of sharpened iron is not difficult. This jagged and poorly balanced blade is then lashed to a strong wooden haft with thick rawhide wrappings to make a crude but effective weapon.

If there is one craft in which Reachmen match the workmanship of Tamriel’s civilized peoples, it is leatherworking. Most of a Reach warrior’s clothing is purely functional, but sturdy leather belts are intended to last for many years. They are usually tooled with stylized images of beasts the wearer holds in high esteem. Bear, elk, wolf, and raven images are most common.

The steep terrain and harsh weather of the Reach quickly ruin all but the sturdiest footwear. Reachmen take great care with their boots. Most are made from fleece-lined elk hide, secured with tough rawhide thongs. Some feature studded soles for traction in snow, ice, and steep hillsides.

A Reachman’s bow is a hunting tool first and foremost. It is usually lightly built from glued-together layers of wood, horn, and bone, but surprisingly powerful for its small size and weight. Arrowheads are usually flaked stone or carved bone. The light arrow doesn’t carry well for distance shooting, but at close range it can pierce heavy mail.

Hide and leather are the armor of a Reachman. For light protection, a single layer of toughened leather suffices, while heavier armor consists of multiple layers of boiled leather and thick, cured hide.

Reachmen often craft small daggers from stone, chipping and flaking the right sort of rock to expose a razor-sharp, if brittle, edge; almost every Reachman carries a skinning-stone of this sort. Daggers suitable for battle, however, are almost always blades obtained in trade from other lands and finished with grips of sturdy Reach leatherwork.

Reachmen prefer open-fingered hand wrappings to full gloves. Gloves are simply tedious and time-consuming to sew, and hide or fleece mittens are easy enough to put on in cold weather. Supple, well-cured leather is preferred for handwear, although some warriors add studs or spikes of carved bone across the knuckles. One never knows when a fist in the face might be called for.

Most Reachman helmets are fashioned from heavy leather, with interior cushioning of fleece. When more protection is called for, the hollowed-out skull of a large and fearsome animal such as a bear or dire wolf is preferred. Skull and antler motifs are common. Skull designs are intended for intimidation, while antlers honor Hircine, Lord of the Hunt and chief among the Reachman gods.

Few warriors in the Reach choose to wear greaves. Long wandering over hard terrain quickly teaches one to value a light step. When a pitched battle is anticipated, a warrior may strap a curved piece of ironwood or hardened leather across the shin. Greaves are usually decorated with the same sort of beast icons found in well-made belts.

Given the materials at hand, clubs of different types are among the easiest weapons for Reachmen to manufacture. A typical Reachman mace is made from a hefty piece of ironwood, to which sharpened flakes of stone are secured by rawhide thongs.

Few trees in the Reach grow to the stature needed to produce stout, sawn planks, so Reachman shields are made from multiple layers of cured hide. Bristleback hide is favored, but elk hide is easier to come by and just as tough when glued together in sufficient layers. The best shields are made with sharpened bone spikes that allow for a deadly edge-bash, and look fierce as well.

For the most part, Reachman clothing and armor are practical in the extreme, with little decoration or detail. Shoulderpieces, however, are where a Reachman embellishes their outfit with decorative elements. Rib-bones, rare furs, small animal skulls, or wooden ailettes carved into fierce faces are typical, and no two are alike.

In the Reach, the staff is considered a witch’s weapon. Most staves are fashioned from ash, hawthorn, or ironwood, and decorated with various charms and fetishes. Despite their simple appearances, Reachman staves produce highly destructive spells and evocations. There is nothing backwards about a Reach witch’s magic.

Reachmen lack the metalworking skill to produce a sword worth the name. Instead, they trade for their blades or claim swords as trophies from defeated warriors of other lands. These foreign-made blades are then finished or refitted with Reach-made hilts, grips, and pommels.

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