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Northern Occupations: Rangers - Culture
Written By: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer), Ellen Million (Editor)
These are some of the things that rangers do.

Rangers work primarily outside the village, and often take long trips. They herd snow-unicorns, hunt game, and keep watch over the wilderness. They observe and manage the natural resources. It is their job to respond to dangerous situations. In general, rangers need to be physically fit, mentally alert, and knowledgeable about their environment. On rare occasions, someone with an exceptional talent -- such as hearing Others -- might become a ranger even if handicapped in some way.

Plenty of people declare as "ranger" and do not develop any specialty beyond that. They tend to be pretty good at a wide variety of wilderness skills, without excelling at any one in particular. People who can't abide village life often become rangers if they are at least adequate in the field. There are always simple things that need to be done, such as tending snow-unicorns while hunters sneak up on game; and that frees up experts for more demanding work. Although there are few firm gender roles in the North, rangers include slightly more men than women.

Fishers are skilled in multiple ways of catching fish. They understand the habits and needs of fish, making it easier to catch some. They organize and lead fishing trips and teach people how to catch fish. They often make and repair fishing equipment, too, especially when it's not a good time to catch fish. Fishing can be a ranger or domestic specialty, depending on how much the person likes to travel. Each village usually has a handful of expert fishers.

However, note that everyone able-bodied is expected to be able to fish at least adequately. Most of the population participates in the summer fish runs, when they gather a great deal of meat very quickly. Specialized fishers are people who fish outside that time as well, and whose expertise goes beyond the average -- which is quite good because fish is a staple food.

Although everyone is introduced to all the methods of fishing, some of them entail greater risk and/or require more skill. Therefore, these are usually the domain of experts. Ice-fishing comes with risks of falling through the ice or getting caught out in severe winter weather. Fishing from canoes on the Northern sound is a great way to get a tremendous amount of meat very quickly, but is extremely risky because of sea monsters; and it requires the use of harpoons as well as ordinary fishing gear. (Ice-fishing on the sound combines the risks and benefits of both categories.) Fly fishing is not hazardous, just requires a lot of practice and dexterity; people also enjoy this as a spectator sport. From Itakith: Amaqor, and Dorom. From Itrelir: Vlaran.

Guides lead people on expeditions. This includes hunting or gathering trips, visits to other villages, and wilderness exploration. Guides know both local and long-distance routes. They are familiar with the major destinations. They understand how to interpret signs to find game, forage, or other desired goals. They also need an excellent sense of weather to know when it is safe to travel, or not; at least basic first aid and preferably more than that; and other things to keep the party safe.

Unlike scouts (see below), guides require strong leadership ability in addition to woodslore. Most guides begin as scouts and then refine their skills further. However, older children and young adults with a knack for finding good places may become popular with their peers, and this can carry forward into a specialty. While guiding is not an officially recognized occupation like childbearer or furshirt, it is significantly influenced by other people's choices. Guides are the ones that are often asked to take charge on the trail.

This is a rare specialty; each village typically has one or two guides. Most trips are simply led by someone with topical expertise or familiarity with the specific terrain, so for instance, hunting trips get organized by the more experienced hunters, a gathering trip may be led by someone who knows the area best. When the weather is too harsh to travel, guides are often involved in discussions of resource management or work at resolving interpersonal issues. From Itadesh, Tiren and Fala. From Itrelir, Fala's father Alvardu

Hunters track and kill animals. They not only bring in food animals, but also hunt for fur and to keep predator populations in check. If dangerous animals, such as bears, pose a threat, the hunters drive away or kill the offenders. Hunters need to be strong and fast, preferably also smart. They must be adept with at least one weapon, but can usually use several. They must move quietly so as not to spook their prey. Hunters may further specialize in large game or small game. Hunting small game can be a domestic specialty as well. This is a moderately common specialty. In Itadesh, Anler, Enlaar (in training), and Tekoth. In Itrelir, Brem, Tarron, Yarleda.

Messengers carry verbal or, more rarely, written messages at short to long range. Older children routinely carry ordinary messages within the village. Those who do well may be entrusted with slightly more important messages and gradually increasing distances. After passing the adulthood tests, they pair up with experienced messengers and learn the routes between villages, along with special techniques for handling snow-unicorns alone.

Short-to-medium range messages are usually carried on foot, so a messenger needs both speed and endurance. Long-range messages usually involve riding, so a messenger needs to handle snow-unicorns well. In order to specialize, a messenger must also be exceptionally trustworthy. The job requires focus, a good memory, the ability to keep one's mouth shut, resistance to peer pressure, and comfort working alone. The Council of Elders typically provides extra training for memory and responsibility, because the messages they send can be extremely sensitive and need to be accurate. This is a rare but vital specialty, and it appeals to people who like to gossip but understand the need for discretion, as they are often asked for news about the other villages and groups of people. Itadesh usually has 1-2, Itakith 2-3, and Itrelir 4-5 messengers. From Itrelir: Tikite. From Itakith: Tirthono.

Scouts are not a specialty, but a job assigned to skilled rangers for large traveling parties, such as the summer migrations to the gather spots. Scouts are used as trail guards, or sent ahead to find safe routes, desired game or forage, comfortable campsites, fresh water, or other things a party needs while traveling. They also watch for shifts in the natural patterns: more or fewer animals, unusual behavior, weather warnings, and so forth. They report back, usually to a senior ranger or guide in charge of the trip.

Trail guard is broken into the following positions: Point is the position ahead of the party, charged with finding a safe route and dealing with any dangers. Flankers ride to the sides, or within the train if the terrain doesn't allow parallel trails; they may fend off predators or hunt opportunistically. Tail is the position behind the party, responsible for picking up stragglers or lost objects. It is the least desirable of the trail guard positions and thus usually taken in rotation; but any request to guard the trail is an honor for rangers. Rangers who are frequently assigned as scouts and demonstrate skill in woodslore often go on to become guides.

Snow-unicorn herders take care of the precious snowies. Herders may further specialize in a particular aspect of care, such as breeding, feeding, grooming, healing, milking, or training them. Herders need to be in good physical shape, but ideally they should also have a calm disposition to manage their charges. In general, herding is a very popular and very useful skill, so many people do this.

This is both a domestic and ranger specialty, as a small herd of snow-unicorns are kept locally at each village. Due to to their large size and appetites, however, the majority of the snowies are led away from the area to browse and graze elsewhere, and are moved frequently to minimize the damage that they cause. This requires a group of herders to take them out into the wilderness, protecting them and determining which areas are good eating, making sure they don't over-graze or over-browse the spot before they move on. They generally travel out from 2 to 4 tendays at a time, setting up several basecamps along the way, and will often bring a trapper or hunter and do basic gathering at the same time.

Another sub-specialty is tending pregnant mares and foals. It takes a lot of careful attention to get even one foal to yearling age. These rangers must understand snow-unicorn reproduction and problems. They need a very patient personality. Each herd typically has one experienced person in charge of this, plus their junior assistants. In Itadesh, the herders include: Kativa, Kether, Eshra, Jrilii (very newly an adult), and Beqash. In Itrelir: Jeruq, Barvo.

Trappers make and set traps to catch a variety of animals. They spend a lot of time in the wilderness observing and tracking their prey to learn the best places to lay traps. They need to know all about the different kinds of traps and snares. Unlike hunters, they don't have to be good at moving quietly, just good at hiding their tracks. Less physical prowess is needed in general, especially if the trapper brings a friend to carry any captured prey. Trapping is a slightly less common specialty than hunting, because one trapper can lay traps over a wide area. Rangers sometimes switch from hunting to trapping as they grow older. In Itadesh: Anler, In Itakith: Naraliin.

Water-rangers focus on water and watercraft. They study the ponds and lakes, navigable rivers, and the northern sound. They build and operate watercraft, a more demanding skill than ordinary woodworking because it must always produce watertight results. The primary watercraft of the North is a birchbark canoe. Although occasionally people build rafts or wider boats, they don't have a good pattern for larger watercraft.

Water-rangers require enough strength to manipulate watercraft, deep knowledge of navigation and hazards, and exceptional courage. Boating in the sound is extremely dangerous because of the sea monsters; on smaller bodies of water, only environmental risks apply. This is a rare specialty, and very seasonal; villages like to have 1-2 experts if possible.

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