Sàlve, my friends! Following in the footsteps of Heknusret the Temerarious and his Nine Chthonic Papyri, I did spend a marvelous season among the Ratatosk of Yggdrasil. A curious and mischievous race, the squirrel-folk exhibit a carefree existence based on guiding travelers, collecting and spreading gossip, and feasting. Yet for all they delight in sharing the secrets of others, I suspect they harbor deep mysteries beneath their adorable exteriors. (—Lucano Volpe)
Ratatosk Culture and Society
Unlike the common Midgardian squirrel, ratatosk are not solitary creatures, and they live in close matriarchal family groups called scurries. The squirrel-folk are proud of their heritage, and each ratatosk can proudly recite tales of their scurry back to the first squirrel, Ratatosk the Clever. The eldest female of each scurry sits on a council, maintaining order and resolving disputes within their dray, or ratatosk settlement. Occasionally the council will appoint a warleader to lead a raid against a nearby threat, but its most important duty is to host the sakmoot, a daily gathering (usually in the morning) where the ratatosk gather to exchange news and gossip. Information from across the planes filters down to the sakmoot. A common ratatosk adage states, “The softest whisper in the farthest nook of the endless void will eventually be repeated in the smallest sakmoot.”
There are no secrets for the ratatosk. The exchange of news and gossip is routine and expected between individuals, and indeed, no real business is ever conducted by a ratatosk before secrets are shared. Personal property is more of a vague guideline to the ratatosk rather than any established law. They think nothing of “borrowing” something shiny or interesting, which they fully intend to return if they do not get distracted.
Visitors to a dray may feel bombarded with intrusive questions from the ever-curious squirrel-folk. Older ratatosk try not to “borrow” items from non-ratatosk, but the younger members of a dray may not be so restrained.
Life in a ratatosk dray is a boisterous, chittering place, providing warm hearths, food, music, and stories to their friends—and death by a thousand sharp teeth to their enemies. The drays themselves are small affairs, consisting of a dozen scurries, and are hidden in scattered locations up and down the length of Yggdrasil. The tradvakt (ratatosk warlord, see Creature Codex) provide protection for each dray while the majority of the community is made up of the smaller ekorre (ratatosk, see Tome of Beasts) and a few members of other planar races.
Typical settlements consist of a few exterior, free-standing buildings fashioned out of discarded World Tree bark and tucked into the crook of two or more massive branches. These structures are cleverly camouflaged and require a DC 15 Perception check to spot. A stout wall of woven vines and branches gives the squirrel-folk a protective barrier against the occasional monster or raider. The exterior buildings provide accommodations for visiting guests and a marketplace to trade. Beyond these structures, the squirrel-folk live in a network of halls, domiciles, burrows, storerooms, workshops, and public spaces carved out of the World Tree. They take great care to keep their tunnels within the outermost layer of Yggdrasil’s bark so as not to harm the great tree. Each dray has two buildings in common: a feasting hall to host the sakmoot, and a temple or shrine dedicated to Ratatosk the Clever.
When ratatosk children reach adulthood, they exhibit a wanderlust few other races understand. Most simply explore Yggdrasil, gathering rumors and secrets from the Vedfolnir in the Eyrie, Nidhogg in the roots (see Warlock 9: World Tree) or those they encounter. Ratatosk often offer their services as guides to planar travelers, seeing it as an easy way to learn more gossip.
The largest ratatosk dray is Grenstad, home to 4,000 ratatosk and a smattering of aasimar, tieflings, ravenfolk, and planar humans. The city rests at the heart of the Great Branching, a union of five World Tree segments, and hosts the Squirrel Court of Yggdrasil, the Acorn Palace of Queen Clarahekkarina, as well as the famed Ekollon Halle feast hall (see Warlock 9: World Tree for more detail).
Another famous dray is Orypel. This magically hidden stronghold of 500 is situated near the Well of Urd and sends scouts who risk obliteration to spy upon the Norns. The Three Sisters are well aware of the ratatosk interlopers and occasionally use their eavesdropping to unofficially pass on information.
Food and Drink
Ratatosk are omnivores, though their diet is primarily vegetarian. The main foodstuff of the squirrel-folk is gryta, a rich nut stew made from the acorns of the World Tree and sweetened with honey and spices. They also eat berries and flower bulbs grown in vertical gardens set into Yggdrasil’s trunk. Ratatosk love the sweets and foods of Midgard and will often exchange goods or services for pies, candies, or sweetmeats.
Blessed Gryta Mead
Potion, very rare
Enhanced by ratatosk brewer-clerics, this thick, golden-brown liquid is brewed from the acorns of the World Tree and smells of honey and oak. When you drink a pint of this elixir, you gain the benefits of a heroes’ feast spell for 1 hour. In addition, you have advantage on Dexterity checks and saving throws for the same duration.
Until next time, my friends, stay squirrelly!