This is the first in a series of Alternative Hominids, a family tree of human species which diverged from their common ancestor a round the same time as Homo Sapiens. Fisher-folk’s specialism makes them at catching water beasts and insects, and then tend to live in the region of lakes (particularly moorland scattered with dozens of lochan) and in cave complexes around river sources.
Sketches by Dan Sumption of Peakrill, Illustrations by Sheffield’s legendary poster artist Martin F Bedford.
Fisher-folk (or PShhrsha in their own language). are a race of hominids which followed a separate evolutionary path from homo sapiens around 223,000 years ago. They appear very much like small, lightly-built humans, apart from their wet, pale skin and their almost skeletal legs, which end in feet like those of a coot. Blood-flow to their legs is greatly reduced compared to a human’s, which lets them retain more body heat, and their feet allow them to walk easily across boggy terrain, and even to run short distances across water. They are excellent swimmers, as comfortable in water as out, and their fishing spears and tridents are also just as effective below the water’s surface.
Every fisher-folk wears a helmet made from some giant species of fish. Details of these helmets, and how they are worn, appear below.
Fisher-folk society is rigidly ordered and ethologically unique. There are very regular patterns in their ages and genders, with couples breeding every five years producing then a daughter, then a son, another daughter, and another son, before becoming infertile elders.
Prior to breeding, fisher-folk abandon their pescatarian diet for three months, eating fish maggot paté and becoming insectivorous for the duration. At the end of the three months the female becomes pregnant, and their is a six-month incubation period. For the first five years of their life the children are referred to as fry, then as smolt for the next ten years, before becoming adults at 16 years old.
Some members of the upcoming generation, soon to reach 16, take exception to the strictly assigned gender roles in PShhrsha, and are rebelling in various ways having to confirm to these stereotypes.
Fisher-folk speak in a bird-like sussurating language. Their names, impossible for a human to pronounce, appear to relate to their gender and rank, and perhaps hold a clue to the structure of their tribe, although nobody has ever taken the time to figure out how this system works. A fit topic for a future PhD. Names encountered sound something like SsShrp Fssh, Tshf Fssh, SvyrySshp Fssh, and FssSuSshs Shiyvyrysh.
|Fisher Folk temple|
All Fisher-folk helmets confer special abilities on the wearer. Non fisher-folk may struggle to put one on.
These are worn by fry and smolt fisher-folk. The youngest fry will be snuggled inside the body of the thing, while elder fry and smolts wear them with their head looking out of the mouth, the fish’s tail hanging down their back, ending anywhere between the shoulders and the waist.
Blobfish confer protection against bludgeoning attacks.
Pike are worn only by the male shaman of the tribe. The head is placed vertically over the head, with holes in the throat for the wearer’s eyes.
The fearful visage of a pike helmet causes fear in any viewers who fail to make an Intelligence saving throw.
These are worn only by the female shaman. They look somewhat like an angler fish, and are worn whole, with the wearer’s face looking out of the fish’s cavernous mouth. The fishes pulsing lure dangles before the wearer’s eyes
The pulsing fish will charm any viewer who fails to make a Charisma saving throw.
The whole fish is worn as a hat, facing forwards.
Perch helmets confer a bonus to swimming speed.
The crayfish’s head is worn vertically, with eyeholes at the front.
Crayfish helmets confer a bonus to attack.
The head is worn stretched thin over the skull, with the long tail hanging down behind, often to the floor.
Eel helmets confer increased movement speed.