Those Who Came Before, The Old Ones and The Others
Many Albanni will tell tales of strange folk, outsiders and the odd beings who dwell in ths lands of Alba alongside them, but they fall, generally into three broad categories.
Those Who Came Before
Those Who Came Before seem mostly like Albanni in form and figure, though they do not know the arts of metalworking and they are often driven off to the very edges of civilisation. Some, who have spent too long living in the deep caves or the dark forests, have begun to change; to be more like their environment.
They tend to wear clothes made of hide and fur, or bone; they mark themselves with colours like Albanni woad, though it seems to be of different puprose to them. Some have the basics of spoken communication whereas others seem to communicate between themselves in an unknown tongue or in animalistic grunts.
They hold the old stone alignments in awe, and often seek to protect them or prevent disturbance of them – sometimes the markings they bear resemble those seen on the old stones.
Their relationships with the Albanni are situational; while they dislike the Albanni as a default state, they are not implacably hostile and largely their behaviour will be a response to Albanni behaviour. Since Albanni behaviour often seems to offend against their inexplicable codes of conduct, misunderstandings are common. In the Summerlands where the Albanni often move great stones to access farmland, they are implacably hostile; in the Old Country and the Greenwood they tend to be more standoffish and wary. In any case, they are never overtly friendly. They may be prepared to tolerate an occasional hunter, but they dislike villages and communities.
You can use Those Who Came Before in your tales and stories as antagonists or as mysterious figures, but avoid using them as friends or allies.
Inspirations: The Picts from 13th Warrior; Arthur Machen’s “Little People”; Neolithic cultures; the “Original Britons” – Those Who Came Before are intended as primitive survivials of a previous culture – one that has been almost completely marginalised and displaced by the Albanni, driven into the wilderness and the fringes of the land. They hold no love for their brutal conquerors, but flint, bone and horn is in the final analysis, no match for bronze. This information is provided for context – you cannot play one of Those Who Came Before as a character.
The Old Ones
Nobody is entirely sure who or what the Old Ones are. That they seem to be somehow interlinked with, or allied to, Those Who Came Before seems obvious, but equally in some cases open hostility occurs between the two. Often Those Who Came Before will call on an Old One to protect them or act as a weapon against an Albanni enclave; in other cases an Old One will mediate and seek to defuse tensions. There does not seem to be a consistent pattern.
The Old Ones do not, as a rule, appear very human. They are intelligent creatures of legend – some believe them to be Children of the Spirits, given fleshy form; others that they are the voice of Nature given form. They may take human-animal hybrid forms, or they may appear humanoid but somehow misshapen or odd. Some act in mimicry of the Albanni, like the giant Ysbadadden and his court in the mountains of the Old Country or the Huntsman who rides with his retinue through the Greenwood; others roam wild and free and do not care for human interaction like the Stag King or the Great White Bear of the Ice.
The Old Ones seem to be part of a great plan or cycle unclear to the Albanni; their movements and actions often seem to fall to a cycle or pattern. Some seek out interactions with the Albanni; others shun them.
They can be found both in Alba and in the fringes of The Other Place; though as a rule they will avoid all but the very fringes of an Albanni settlement at a stone.
Inspirations; Monstrous and inhuman creatures from myth and legend; giants; totemic beasts and animals, figures like the Wild Hunt, Celtic godforms like the Horned Man or the woman made of flowers. Giant boars with magical combs between their horns. This category is “anything that is not Those Who Came Before and not obviously The Others”
Those few Albanni who have ventured deep into The Other Place and have returned alive and sane speak of their strange experiences in the mists and the darkness; they speak of other lands and other places, islands in the fog like Alba, but different and strange.
In these places they find things beyond even the strangeness of the Old Ones – living islands, mountains that walk and talk, forests which dance, entire courts of fair nobility that compete with one another for a signle night and then are gone. They seem to treat Albanni as guests in their realms but understand little of them; sometimes their touch can be death and sometimes they can guide a lost traveller home.
Little to nothing is truly known of The Others, of who they are really, of what their aims are, and of how they fit in with everything else. They are encountered only in The Other Place, and even then, rarely and never the same way twice.
Inspirations: other worlds, faerie courts, truly alien things. Who knows what lies in the depths of The Other Place? Use these things in your stories very sparingly, and always check with the organisers first.