Six are the Walking Ways
The Beetle Folk
The Beetle Folk of High Rock identify themselves as a distinct race apart from the Breton people, but in truth they are largely distinguished by their odd religion. Or so I thought when I first came among them. In truth they are a peculiar mishmash of influences, united by a troubled and unstable history.
The Beetle Folk first emerged with the fall of Orsinium in the First Era. They had been mannish slaves captured by Orcish raiders and put to work in the Orsimer slave professions: mining, book-keeping, tilling the soil. Over generations they had interbred with their masters, acquiring the heavy brows and snout-like noses of the Orcs. Upon liberation they found they were not welcome among the Bretons, and they settled around the lakes north of the Wrothgar range. This is a land of marshes and decaying forests but also of colourful meadows and mild weather. They made good use of the land, hunting snakes and wildfowl for food and cultivating flowers with arcane properties for export.
In the intervening millennia their fortunes have risen and fallen, and now they occupy a handful of small towns and villages in their adopted homeland and send a delegate to the Council of Princes in Daggerfall. Their towns are built over swampy lakes and flood regularly, so what are streets in summer become canals and waterways in winter. Their settlements appear drab and gloomy but are transformed at the turn of each season, when they are bedecked with flowers in a riot of colour.
They traditionally dress all in black, with only their white-painted faces exposed. Men and women wear elaborate black wimples and scorn jewellery, except for silver scarab pendants that they are given when they reach adulthood. If they appear old-fashioned it is because their style of dress was briefly fashionable throughout High Rock three centuries ago, coinciding with the short-lived flowering of the Beetle Cult across the province.
The Beetle Cult emerged among the earliest escaped slaves and has remained in existence ever since, despite occasional attempts at suppression by the Breton kings and later the Empire. They revere the nameless Scarab, who symbolises the struggle for freedom and is the offspring of Malkakh and Balthias, two opposing forces who represent good and evil, switching roles every half year. They believe that eventually the dispute between these two gods will be resolved, and the Scarab will chew a hole in the sky which will allow all to escape the world, if they so choose. I detect elements of Orcish religion at work here, and also some of the peculiar views attributed to the Dwarves. Indeed there are scattered Dwarven ruins in the region that may have provided shelter and inspiration to the earliest settlers.
The relations of the Beetle Folk with their neighbours are troubled. During the brief period when their religion grew popular in High Rock, many Bretons were sentenced to death by scaphism for denying the merit of the Scarab or the Struggle. The memory of this bloody time lives on, although the adherents of this faith are now almost completely pacifistic. The Beetle Cult is now officially proscribed throughout Tamriel as a form of illicit Daedra worship, but little effort is made to enforce this law within the lands of the cultists themselves. They are a frustratingly reserved people, and reveal little of themselves to outsiders. I found them conscientious and accommodating but never warm. It is as though they deliberately defy understanding.