The lutrai are a race of good-natured, otter-like humanoids who dwell primarily throughout Rym's broad tropical belt. They are very friendly and cheerful by nature, with an open culture that stresses the enjoyment of life and freedom above boring rules and the need to achieve. Adult lutrai stand between four and five feet tall, with dark brown to tan fur coloration and extremely vivid eyes. They are natural swimmers, with streamlined forms, webbed fingers and toes, and heavy, rudder-like tails. Males and females are roughly the same size. Given their tropical climate, lutrai tend to wear little in the way of clothing, but are frequently decorated with elaborate patterns of body paint, talismans, bracelets, anklets, and all manner of unusual (and mysterious) junk dragged up from wrecked ships. Their dialect is simple and quite expressive, relying on a high degree of body language and posture.
While the lutrai culture may seem quite primitive on the outside, lacking such basics as metal-working and sophisticated commerce, it is actually the product tremendous evolution. Instead of developing warfare, technology, or government, they seem to have focused entirely on communal wellbeing and inner spirituality. They have achieved something that even the most enlightened races only dream of, merging culture and inherent nature as one. To them, 'progress' is meaningless, and their state of static co-existence with nature has given them deep roots, so to speak. Their bodies are naturally charged with quintessant energy - they have very strong spirits and possess a natural resistance to all things dark and corruptive.
A typical tribe is lead by a council of elders, generally five to ten of the older, wiser lutrai, including at least one shaman and healer. These elders are responsible for the wellbeing of the tribe as a whole, well-respected and heeded more often than not. There are no written laws, only a communal understanding of what's best for the whole, which is up to the elders, of course. The rest of the tribe is composed of hunters and gatherers, artisans, and children. Lutrai young are raised by the entire tribe, and thus learn a wide variety of skills at an early age, until they find and focus on a particular aptitude. Males and females are considered equals in status, as the entire tribe is essentially one large family unit.
Council Roundhouse: Although each tribe of lutrai has an informal chieftain, the majority of all important decisions are made by a tribal council. These council meetings take place in a central structure known as a roundhouse, where 5-12 elders can meet around a central fire pit or a scrying pool. Smoke and water are both used by the shamans to see distant things, receive portents, and perform other divinations, all of which may be viewed by the entire council before decisions are made. The interior of the roundhouse is fairly simple, just a covered meeting place, though it's twice as large as the average poa. Painted designs fill the inner walls, and numerous window openings allow light into the structure even at night. It is recognized as a place for elders and what the lutrai pass for 'authority', and thus avoided by the younger crowd. When not in use for gatherings, the roundhouse is kept by at least one of the elders, if not the chieftain. The structure on the left is an example of a stilt-platform roundhouse, which is often built over shallow water such as a reef or lagoon. These stilt structures are connected by rope bridges lined with soft wood planks.
Shaman's Hut: Even though they lack technical sophistication, the lutrai have some pretty wicked shamans. Most are female, due to their greater natural aptitudes, though this is by no means the rule. The shaman's lodge is somewhat larger than a poa, to make soon for the many strange natural components stored within. These include bushels of hanging herbs, colored clay for paint, exotic infusions in stoneware urns, and other oddities too numerous to describe. From these bizarre components they weave their magic, which focuses heavily on spirits and elemental forces. The lodge floor is often covered in bizarre mandalas and mystic circles drawn in colored sand, and one must watch where they step lest they disrupt some long-term project. Wards and glyphs are painted on nearly every surface, and while many look like childish nonsense, others contain awesome protective enchantments meant to drive off evil spirits. Most shamans will have from 1-3 apprentices living in the lodge at any given time, younger females who clean, gather and prepare ingredients, and assist the shaman in more complex rituals.
Healer's Pool: While most of the lutrai architecture is fairly simple in form and function, the healer's pool is truly a wonder of the ancient world. A pure spring is transformed by natural magic and quintessence into a fountain of life energy, partially-connected to the vital force of the world it. Quintessent energy gathers here, within a carved monolith sunk into the heart of the spring - a sort of filter that spreads the gathered energy into the water, suffusing it with a faint blue glow that only becomes truly appreciable at night. Older springs have more fantastic features, such as the focal crystals seen here, which rise from the spring when a dying life force approaches it banks. Drinking the water restores vitality, but actual immersion brings about miraculous restoration, gradually curing sickness and repairing injury. These springs are rare, and kept by the tribe's healer, whose responsibilties often date back for generations, if not centuries. The healer's lodge is always located nearby, with plenty of supplemental supplies such as purification herbs, balms, and tonics. The healer's magic is what renews the pool's restorative powers - in a way, their life energy is interwoven.
Tidehouse: This is a tent for the sea - a floating structure anchored to the ocean floor by a flexible tether. They serve as temporary homes, fishing or diving platforms, and even beds. As opposed to, say, floating on one’s backs tangled in kelp. They’re easy to construct, generally circular in shape, between five and ten feet across. They consist of two segments: a lower bowl constructed of wood with a sand ballast, and an upper covering made from layers of clay-steeped fabric stretched over a sturdy bamboo frame. These segments are held apart by thick struts, which can be extended or shortened, even to the point where the floating structure is sealed, like a seed pod. The rims of both segments are thoroughly coated in a rubbery, gum-like resin, and when lashed together from within, they form a water-tight seal which allows the craft to survive even the fiercest storms. If necessary, the tether can be detached as well, scattering an entire ‘encampment’ in minutes. They can be pulled along with boats, but are usually found moored in areas of shallow coastal water, often in groups.