[YC126 NECWC] The Cavekin, Explained

Note from the Author: I first met the Cavekin during the Uprising on Irdan 388-5216 earlier this year. Having been warned of them by my gracious hosts, I was wary of them at first. But with assassins hot on my trail, and much of my entourage slain, I was forced to rely on them for shelter and aid. During my time with them, I learned much about their culture, and how they are misunderstood by the people around them. It is my hope that this treatise will educate people about the Cavekin, and help mend relations with this tragic people.

The Cavekin:
The Cavekin, also commonly known as the Tunnel Dwellers, are a nomadic, clan-based culture reviled and feared by mining colonies in Eugales as a plague upon their society. The story of the Kin has become well known as a warning of the misfortune that can fall without warning on the unprepared.

The stories told of the Kin paint them as heartless bandits who raid, pillage, and murder without remorse. According to the tales, the Kin were once miners driven away for the sins of laziness and greed. As told, the Kin are now emotionless killers who lack compassion and empathy, robbing and killing their comrades for scraps to feed their lust for wealth. Nothing could be further from the truth.

At their simplest, the Cavekin are homeless wanderers, attempting to build a good life for themselves before they are forced to move on. With little access to tech and little time for formal education, the Kin rarely chronicle their stories, instead relying on oral tales. As these often differ from teller to teller, it is difficult to piece together the Cavekin’s history. The most oft repeated tales appear to indicate that the Cavekin were once miners, living on an asteroid colony in the outskirts of the Eugales system, whose name has since been lost to time. One day, a catastrophe forced the ancestors of the Cavekin to flee by hijacking a small squadron of transport shuttles to carry them away. Inexperienced with spacefaring technology, the Cavekin ancestors crashed into a neighboring lunar colony.

Fortunately for the future Cavekin, their crash zone was near a rich vein of ore, and the survivors of the crash quickly set out to exploit it. However, it didn’t take long for the residents of the colony to stumble upon the newcomers, and fighting soon broke out. While not trained for war, the Cavekin quickly adapted. Enterprising mechanics among the Cavekin quickly repurposed mining lasers into makeshift laser rifles. While they were far less effective than even civilian-grade weaponry, they served their purpose well and the Cavekin quickly drove out the hapless miners. However, the miners hired mercenaries, whose arrival quickly turned the tide. Dozens of Cavekin were cut down by gunfire in disadvantageous firefights as the Cavekin grossly underestimated the strength of arms of their new foe. Within days, the Cavekin had been pushed back to their homes surrounding the crash zone, with three battalions of mercenaries quickly closing in. Defeat seemed imminent, until one Cavekin leader proposed a radical strategy - withdraw into the crash zone and rely on their superior knowledge of the area to pick off mercenary patrols until the forces were forced to withdraw. Once again, the Cavekin adapted. Now, using pickaxes and utility knives, bands of Cavekin lured mercenary patrols deep into the wreckage and struck in devastating ambushes. With casualties exceeding projections, the mercenaries decided to cut their losses and withdraw. Abandoned by the mercenaries they hired, the miners, too, were forced to broker a deal. Their engineers were lent to help the Cavekin rebuild their ships and return to space.

Of course, the miners still bore a grudge, and did not intend to let the Cavekin off easily. Their ships were sabotaged, and they were quickly forced to crash land yet again. War broke out, yet again, and the Cavekin were once more on the brink of defeat, when they adopted yet another strategy. The Kin had one last resource that had not yet been tapped - the slowly growing stockpile of ore hoarded in the cargo holds of their ships. In a last ditch bid for survival, they sold the ore in exchange for repairs. Yet just when it seemed the Cavekin had staved off defeat, disaster struck. Mercenary ships in orbit quickly fell upon the fleeing Cavekin squadron, damaging them and forcing them to crash land yet again.

Now on Irdan 388-5216, the Cavekin sought to lay the foundation for a fleet that would finally take them to a new home. The Cavekin soon learned to stick to the shadows, never exploiting the same pocket of ore twice. While this was less efficient, it allowed them to escape suspicion. Disguised Cavekin infiltrated the colony itself, seeking out unscrupulous ore dealers to sell ore to. In many colonies, this would have been a difficult task, but on Irdan, with the strict quotas and harsh penalties for failure, the Cavekin found it easy to find struggling rockborn miners looking to secure some extra ore. Other Cavekin attempted to use the proceeds of these sales to procure equipment and recruit engineers. While the latter was far more difficult and risky, the Cavekin made good progress with their repairs.

Additionally, the Cavekin developed a warrior caste while on Irdan. Previously, the Cavekin had operated as an ad-hoc militia where all were expected to fight. While this worked well when the Cavekin were fighting for their survival, this structure quickly became a liability during the Cavekin’s secret war and the Cavekin were forced to reconsider. Through a series of trials, the stealthiest, most martially talented Cavekin were chosen from the Cavekin population. These Mu’ad, or Tunnel Mice in the Cavekin dialect, would quickly become the bane of rockborn miners and Ironguard guards alike. Striking from the shadows, they were quickly gone with their booty before reinforcements were even alerted, leaving broken and bleeding bodies in their wake.

Over the years, the Mu’ad have developed a uniform, and a triumphant culture to go with it. Over their miner suits, helmet, and mask, they wear a hooded cloak woven from tan fabric - a rare luxury for any mining society, especially one so isolated as the Cavekin. Through often fatal trial and error, the Mu’ad have also turned the mining equipment of their fellows into distinctive weapons of war. Every Mu’ad carries an ax and knife, practical weapons that still bear a passing resemblance to the pickax and utility knife that were their inspiration. The best marksmen in the Mu’ad are also gifted one of the few miner-las rifles that remain, painstakingly refined to be accurate and deadly even at distant ranges. As a close-knit unit that spends weeks at a time far from home, the Mu’ad have developed a distinctive culture, and even an air of superiority over the fellow Cavekin that they protect. While this has nearly brought the Cavekin to blows amongst themselves at times, the Mu’ad perform an important role. As the sentinels of the Cavekin, they protect their home from potential trespassers while striking out to perpetuate the air of mystery that surrounds the Cavekin.

Of the over two hundred Cavekin who live in the depths of Irdan, fewer than fifty serve as Mu’ad, yet they have an extremely disproportionate impact on the perception of the Cavekin by their neighbors. The bloody raids of the Mu’ad cause the rockborn to tremble at the softest sound, the faintest flicker of movement in the shadows. Hundreds of thousands of man-hours have been spent by Ironguard patrols combing the tunnels under Irdan in futile searches. Ultimately, this fear forms the Cavekin’s greatest shield against intrusion.

However, past the marauding Mu’ad, is a society that yearns to find a true home. Deep within Irdan, the Cavekin have worked to rebuild their ships and prepared for their latest, greatest migration. With the chaos of the Uprising and its aftermath, however, it is likely that the plans of the Cavekin have been disrupted, and how the Cavekin will adapt has yet to be seen.