Written by Neujack, and first published on 2023-10-22
The Athasian Survey Project travels to the Forest Ridge.
Good evening everyone. I was not planning on stopping to send a message, but I felt this image ought to be shared. So in the name of the Athasian Survey Project, I’m sending you a clairvoyant missive.
We headed west-northwest out of Celik, making a wide pass around the western side of Celik in order to avoid the undead controlled districts of the city. Once we passed the southern edge of the Ringing Mountains, we made our way up north again towards Pterran Vale.
The Forest Ridge is easily the largest and best known verdant belt on the continent. It is host to many types of flora and fauna which cannot be seen anywhere else, not to mention the home of several sentient races. The most well-known inhabitants of the Forest Ridge (at least as far as the Tablelands are concerned) would of course be the halfling tribes, but further south you start to see another, somewhat more reclusive race - the jozhal.
When most humanoid races think of the jozhal they think of desert-dwelling thieves and scavengers of the wastes. Only the few who have travelled as far as I have would know there is another subspecies less frequently seen - the forest jozhal. They are a shy and guarded species at the best of times, and for good reason: they are seldom the dominant hunters in the area, and are often the prey being stalked.
As we approach the southern tip of the Forest Ridge, I have been reaching out with the Way to contact an old acquaintance of mine. Those few jozhal who manage to evade predators and detection often live to be a fair bit older than humans, and presuming my contact was still alive, this is where she would be found…
Success! He has responded, and it seems my travelling companions and I will be guests of a forest jozhal clan for the evening.
My old contact is a rare example of a jozhal who has lived to old age, long enough to see the hatchlings of his own children come of age. In spite of his limited understanding of the trade language, I have always enjoyed our talks, as his clarity of thought and natural sagacity have only grown better with age. I have found our conversations have always provided a wonderfully different perspective on life on Athas. The jozhals are sentient beings with their own tribal civilization, but many other creatures would consider them to be little better than thieves and scavengers, existing near the bottom of the food chain. This underestimation explains their seemingly permanent outsider status when it comes to relations with other humanoid species, with perhaps only species like the tari or gith being held in lower regard. But it also explains the culture they have built– few other races on Athas work harder to conserve and reuse everything than the jozhal. Most of their tools are fashioned from the bones of their ancestors. My friend, for example, carries an impressive ancestral staff as a mark of his chieftainship. This staff is made from the bones and sinews of his own ancestors, featuring finger bones from all from previous leaders of their tribe.
Seeing the world from his perspective gives me hope that there are people and cultures which not only want to better this world, but actively find ways to do so even with their modest means.
We are now only two days’ ride to the twin towns of Pterran Vale and Lost Scale. I expect to be seeing the pterrax nests very soon. Until then, may the moons guide you.
To anyone who guesses the equivalent location of this image on Earth, I have a prize from the jozhal themselves– a family staff… made of parts from their…erm…family…