Having thought some more about the world of my last post, here are some ideas of the beasts of Greenbank. First things first, we have the settlement of Retreat: capital settlement of the rodents, centre of masonry, built on the corpses of countless voles and shrews.
When the first beasts became thinkers, it was decided by the mice that they needed a strong homeland to call their own, as well as to protect them from the beasts beyond their bramble patches and burrows. Out of this fear of the unknown and determination to survive, Retreat was born. Built out of parts of trees, rocks, and other found materials, Retreat is designed to protect its inhabitants first and to accommodate their lifestyles second.
Buildings are connected with a variety of different sized tunnels, segregating different beast sections for safety and privacy. Homes are built out of plants and mud, whilst more important/communal buildings are made out of pebbles and small stones. Manufacturing buildings are built underground, with their chimneys sticking out of the ground and high above homes. In general, the settlement is designed to be sturdy- individuals that aren’t native to Retreat may feel that it feels more like a bunker than a home.
Retreat’s foundations were dug by rabbits and moles; rabbits pulled logs and stones to the site to build; shrews worked tirelessly to construct buildings, and when it was all done the mice hid the corpses away and welcomed their people in with open arms whilst shunning the shrews and moles away. This has been mostly forgotten, but the long lived beasts may still remember what sacrifices are made to get to where they are- and, of course, The Watchers of the Woods see everything…
Mice (including harvest mice, dormice, wood mice)
The founders of Retreat, the mice like to present themselves as righteous beasts, working hard on their berry farms and living humble lives in their villages. However, their history is built on the exploitation of other beasts, and even to this day the leaders of Retreat continue to push boundaries in trying to get the most out of its residents. Times have changed to a degree, and alliances are forming again with their fellow beasts. Mice are also becoming more independent and are trying to find their own talents, such as pottery, metallurgy, woodwork, and horticulture.
Voles (primarily common voles, also including water & bank voles)
Short lived and just as timid as the mice, voles are characterised as being cowardly beasts. They often find themselves conflicted due to their short lifespans: they want to live life to the fullest, but are also worried about wasting their lives on something that won’t mean anything or bring them happiness. This doesn’t stop some voles from going out into the woods to work amongst their fellow beasts, gathering food and protecting their settlements from invaders. Voles can be strong leaders and planners, as their minds often think to the future, where their actions will be the most significant.
The moles were elusive when they were mere dumb beasts, and since the creation of Retreat they have been debating whether they should join the surface dwellers or not. Moles build extensive tunnel systems, creating their own civilisations beneath those of other beasts. Moles typically have a mentality of being prepared for any situation, which leads them to look down on those that rush into action. Moles of retreat are hired as builders and workers, as their large hands make intricate work difficult, and their vision is poor.
Amongst the largest of the small beasts, hedgehogs allied themselves with the mice in search for protection, in return for eating pests that affect Retreat’s farmlands. The hedgehogs aren’t as sociable as other beasts, but will happily live in small family groups with one another. Hedgehog spines are valued for their many uses, though living hedgehogs are often quite reluctant to give them away. The spines of hedgehogs are used extensively in body language, meaning that it is easy to tell how they feel once you know the signs- but only from behind.
Ermines (stoats & weasels)
Called ‘snakes in fur’ as an insult, the ermines and weasels have found integration hard due to their carnivorous nature. To accommodate this issue, ermines of Retreat agree to only eat dumb beasts, to butcher the meat outside of (or beneath) Retreat where it cannot be seen by the locals, and that they can also eat the meat of the deceased. Because of this, ermines often find work as undertakers, scouts, and other jobs that allow them easy access to the outside world. The ermines are valued as fighters of Retreat, which upsets those that do not wish to fight- often ermines are forced to protect the settlement in return for being allowed to live there.
Rabbits (European Rabbit)
Rabbits are used as mounts and beasts of burden, ranging from digging the foundations of Retreat to being ridden on long journeys. Though the rabbits are considered thinking beasts, they speak little and are typically willing to go along with whatever they are told to do. They do however still flee at the sight of danger, meaning that rabbit mounts have to be trained from birth to be tolerant of loud noises and obey their riders entirely. This hasn’t yet led to a breed of ‘tame rabbit’, but it is likely that this is what the people of Retreat mostly want to happen. Others meanwhile still see their usage as being akin to slavery, and as such guards must be on lookout for individuals trying to free the rabbits from their harnesses.
Birds (primarily passerines)
Whilst more detail on the birds will be given in another post, birds are used as mounts and guards of the berry farms and surrounding territories. Their fast movement and sharp beaks act as strong deterrents of neighbouring settlements, and in return they are given some of the berries as well as full access to any insects they catch during their work shifts.