A powerful presence across the rustling waves of the Foxloft, the Hunting Families are a collection of semi-nomadic groups working toward a singular purpose; the conquering of the Wildsea’s most dangerous beasts. Family kin are often found trading pelts, bone and meat at ports, or encountered sailing the canopy in pursuit of whatever quarry has caught their attention.
Despite their name, the blood-bonds of the Hunting Families have as much to do with co-operation and challenge as they do direct lineage. Anyone can become a member of one of the Hunting Families if they’re driven enough, regardless of their species or origin, and those born into the families do not attain the title of kin merely through circumstance. To become a recognized member you need to provide the meat for your own induction feast – a prodigious task, as the feast requires every existing member of the family be fed and the hunt to supply it must be a solo venture.
Hunting Family settlements are nebulous, consisting of a single solid port (traditionally built onto the carcass of a leviathan) and a huge network of widely-spread outposts that shift with the tides of season and prey-migration. Each of the central solid ports contains a throne, a ragged affair of skins and bones from a variety of kills. Each inductee into the family sets a trophy into the throne, but in the absence of recognized leaders it remains empty by tradition. In this way the throne is a symbol of what has been conquered, not of who conquered it.
Culture & law
Though each of the families has their own traditions, laws and cultural quirks, some traditions are universal.
- The hunt is a thing of glory, but also practicality.
- Providing food and trade materials for the family is a duty, but you take the first cuts of whatever you kill or capture.
- Post-induction, effort is rewarded almost as well as success – a member that has provided for the feast has nothing left to prove.
- Scars and injuries are a cause for celebration, both of the hunter and their quarry.
- Your choice of target is your own, but it must be something that can challenge you. An easy hunt is no hunt at all.
Sun-Divers and the Bravest Few
The moment you judge yourself as too old for the hunt, your place in the family is in question. Some elders, those that were particularly skilled in their early years, are allowed to remain to train the younger generations of hunters. Most, however, take the sun-dive – a final feast provided for by blood-relatives or friends, which ends with a fatal leap into the nearest rift holding a piece of the sun (represented by anything which glows under its own power, such as a firefly bulb or luminous shroom-cap). The sun-dive is a raucous occassion, a celebration of skill and passion.
Some, however, choose to take the path of the Bravest Few. These elderly hunters dress themselves as in pelts and horns and slip away into the waves without a ship, believing (perhaps) that this act will allow them to live as a quarry for their fellows, a continuation of the great circle of predator and prey.
The most venerated of the Hunting Families are the Leviathaneers, those driven to dash themselves against impossible odds again and again. Leviathaneers hunt the largest creatures of the waves, squirrels and wolves and serro-squid grown to impossible sizes. While the successful kill or capture of such prey is almost unfathomably rare, leviathaneers operate under different metrics of success – the snagging of a feather or tooth is cause for massive celebration, and counts as a successful hunt.
Every hunter is expected to carry a knife, traditionally carved from the bones of their first official kill. Most hunters use it to strip and butcher prey rather than as a true weapon, relying instead on whatever they feel most comfortable with. For some that’s sabres and axes, for others bows and carbines. Much like choice of quarry, the weapons a hunter uses are for them to decide.
Hunting Family Ships
Though most Hunting Family ships are made of bones and wood, this is due more to practicality than tradition. Hulls made from the skulls of larger beasts, or the chitinous shells of monstrous insects, are common. Many of the ships are powered by chemical engines, mechanisms that can take their fuel straight from the waves. The most confident hunters outfit their ships with an iron heart, a quasi-living engine powered (it is said) by the love of the hunt itself.