The Feni are human barbarians most commonly encountered in wild places of the Marches and occasionally other parts of the north-western Empire. They lived in much of the area that is now the Marches since before the first Marchers arrived in those lands and drove the orcs out. History suggests that some of the Feni tribes were once the subject people of the orcs who occupied this area. They seem to have a clannish structure, with individual groups of Feni being geographically and socially separated from others.
The Feni dress primarily in leather and fur, and use spears and bows where they can get them and javelins where they cannot. They paint or tattoo their bodies with bands of colour and intricate spiral designs, almost always in muted greens and yellows. They make extensive use of camouflage, which makes it easy for them to hide and to attack from ambush.
Culture and Customs
The Feni are considered inbred and backwards. They mostly keep to themselves, but at semi-regular intervals they raid into parts of the Marches, southern Wintermark and the northern Brass Coast. These raids are primarily concerned with thieving goods and produce - they kill anyone who gets in their way, and anyone with a weapon or armour is fair game, but they do not go out of their way to murder non-combatants.
Sometimes the Feni are more destructive, killing every person in a village, and burning the place to the ground. Some circumstantial evidence suggests that they do this when they are launching revenge attacks against people they believe have wronged them in some serious way.
The Feni are skilled scouts who excel at hiding and attacking from ambush. They make regular use of herbal potions and poisons, but they seem deficient in battlefield magic - few magicians have ever been encountered among their number. They seem to have access to some magic that makes it hard to track them or locate their settlements, most likely suggesting that they have a number of ritualists specialized in the magic of Night, or that their settlements are built in areas that are naturally warded in some fashion.
Like all humans, they have at least a little lineage. There are reliable accounts of Draughir and Briar among their raiding groups. They appear to have an absolute hatred for orcs. There have been numerous incidents where entire orc patrols have been encountered butchered and their corpses horribly mutilated, clearly the victims of the Feni. Unfortunately, they seem to lack either the ability or inclination to differentiate between the barbarian orcs and the Imperial Orcs, and at least one legion of orcs has been lost to Feni while on manoeuvres in the northern Marches.
Their primitive appearance is highlighted by what seems to be a lack of indigenous metalwork - they use stolen weapons and armour when they can acquire it, but many have been encountered using bronze or even flint weapons. Items recovered from dead Feni, or occasionally thrown up for trade by peddlers, have been simple and functional, suggesting that improvements in crafting techniques over the last six centuries have largely passed them by.
Occasional efforts to make peaceful contact have not gone well; while some beaters and itinerant merchants are able to arrange a meeting with one or two representatives of a Feni tribe, they describe them as uncommunicative, suspicious bordering on paranoid, and uncooperative.
The Feni in Play
The Feni are barbarians. They raid Imperial villages and farmsteads, then melt back into the wilderness. They build around themes of border raiders and operate in a similar manner to the cattle raiders of Irish myth, a stereotypical view of the border reivers in the north of England, and a little of the raiding vikings that plagued the British coastline in the middle-ages. There are also elements of the fictional hillbillies that appear in movies such as Southern Comfort. These are a people that want no part of the wider world. They are an insular and paranoid people who view strangers merely as both a threat and a source of resources.
It should be noted that they are primarily thieves - they steal and don't go out of their way to commit atrocities unless they are doing so as part of a vengeance raid.
The Feni are more likely to be encountered as enemies during a skirmish or small-scale encounter than they are in a pitched battle. Their thieving ways may lead to complications, especially for Marcher characters, but it is easy to see how they could feature in the backgrounds of Navarr, Wintermark and Freeborn characters.
It is not unknown for a village or hall to have cautious peaceful relations with the Feni; there may be a neutral location near a settlement where occasional trades take place, for example. Such trade is illegal in the Empire. The Feni do not have anything to trade that is not available in the Empire, and have no use for money, but seem to be quite good with herbs. Contact with the Feni could serve as an interesting source explanation for a character's herb garden personal resource.
You cannot have a Feni as a character because they are considered enemies of the Empire. A background in which you spend extensive time among the Feni is likely to be rejected; part of the point of the Feni is that they are outside the Empire and not especially understood by its citizens.