In evolutionary terms, the Slow Walkers appear to be lithe cousins of the Gigantus. Their social development closely reflects old earth tribes1 in both garb and ritual, including the preferred habitat of the extreme borders of the planet’s largest, most unforgiving deserts.
Slow Walkers are supernatural desert survivalists. Their physical forms are not outwardly adapted to the harsh lands they prefer. Their fondness for light fabrics and garb also defy the “all combat, all the time” mentality the rest of Anomaly’s population share. They are experts with polearms and spears, though many would be predators also tend to be food sources depending on the victor. Slow Walkers are also versed in harvest techniques which can draw sustenance from the most inhospitable of lands. Some crops, such as the Elotta plant, are prized by The People for its medicinal properties and scarcity. Many of the vibrant dyes and supple fibers they produce are also sought by races such as the Moncs. For these reasons, the Slow Walkers have enjoyed an odd neutrality in the grander scheme of things.
The People, their closest neighbors, provide a buffer of protection from the Muties for their desert-facing territories. The Moncs offer the same for the forest-facing ones. Neither seek to dominate the Slow Walkers, and both reach out to them as active trading partners. One wonders if the sporadic Slow Walker villages scattered in the belt between The People and Moncs weren’t created expressly to prevent all-out war between them all these years.
This relative isolation and their unusually balanced relationship with their combat savvy neighbors have allowed the Slow Walkers to live in relative peace for many generations. As with most races, the arrival of Erebos has changed this dynamic. Hunting parties and prized trackers dispatched to the yet uncharted deserts have vanished without a trace, and testy flanking maneuvers by the Muties have created a sudden surge in casualties. Others simply disappear.
Should an elder be in such a group, pieces of their past are also lost. The Slow Walkers share an oral history through story and song, and the loss of seniority cannot be overstated to their cultural survival.
Slow Walkers stand shorter than the Gigantus, roughly 3m in average height. They have a word in their language, p’neh, which roughly translates to “no wasted movement.” P’neh can be found in every aspect of Slow Walker life.
Everything a Slow Walker says and does is a calculated expenditure of metabolic resources. Precise and deliberate. Moisture loss is, for example, mitigated through the prevention of perspiration where possible. Their slow, ambling movements are believed to be an adaption to the conservation of internal resources while traversing the scorching desert habitats. This exercise eventually led to the concept and refinement of p’neh.
Even their language is an exercise in brevity where, if not for our OPTI linguistic program, would have taken us years (if not decades) to properly decipher. The combination of exact, overlapping phrases with variable meanings is mindboggling. Intended meaning is dictated through subtle alterations in cadence or circumstance. It is nothing short of a miracle that their histories have been kept precise, to the word, given the oral nature of its passage. (One mispronunciation could literally throw the entirety of it askew.) All Slow Walkers learn their histories early and practice passing it on to their children in case they should one day lose their ability to speak (considered the worst of all possible fates).
The Slow Walkers are social creatures with strong, nuclear family and tribal relationships that are nurtured from birth. They are wildly berserk, explosive fighters when provoked. An action that is at first glance the furthest thing from p’neh as one can get. My thought on the subject is that p’neh is exactly what brought about this berserker combativeness.
To elaborate, the development of the entire Slow Walker mode of life is based around the absolute maximal conservation of one’s individual resources. It is such a profound theme in their lives that it has even given rise to varied breathing patterns that change with the seasons (as rainfall and food stores rise and fall or the soil is adequately charged to grow one crop or another). This hyper-conservation mode, in simplest terms, does not lend itself well to prolonged engagements. The statistical advantage is therefore in this “explosion” of force to defeat the enemy quickly…or die trying. I liken this to the comparisons one might make from old earth histories regarding Kung Fu (I think Jon called it) and Tai Chi. The movements are precise and deliberate. Only the energy expended (and the resulting speed and force) of such movements changes.
If these people had evolved on Earth, they’d have likely created some variant of Aikido or some other system of turning an opponent’s force against them by employing a number of joint locks and pressure points. (Again, Jon has proven a greater historian of martial subjects than I’d have ever given him credit.) Survivors on Anomaly live by a simple rule: the faster the kill, the longer one’s life. Slow Walkers are no exception when the chips are all on the line.
Slow Walker procreation is also directly correlated to a favorable harvest. While I am unable to ascertain how p’neh applies to Slow Walker lovemaking (God forbid it’s as furious as their berserker mode!), the biological overhead of a mother carrying a child makes this a sensible consideration.