Cyclopes are a brutish, ill-tempered carnivorous race of savages native to eastern Immoren. They dwell in caverns within the eastern mountains, with larger concentrations in the eastern reaches of the Shroudwall Mountains. Among their warbeasts, the skorne rely upon the cyclops in the greatest number and diversity. They are more likely to communicate with weapons than with speech when dealing with non-cyclopes.
Cyclopes stand up to nine feet tall, but their form otherwise closely resembles that of the more civilised races of human, elf, or skorne. Female cyclopes are somewhat smaller than males. The muted earth tone of their skin allows them to blend into the wastes where they makes their home in the wild. Cyclopes are gifted with opposable thumbs but have only four digits on each hand. Their almost complete lack of clothing — at best an uncured hide against the cold — only serves to enhance their barbaric appearance. Their single, centrally located eye, set above a pug nose and a mouth filled with sharp, incising teeth, is the focus of their unique abilities, for it allows them to perceive brief glimpses of the immediate future. If a cyclops loses its eye or is otherwise blinded, it can no longer see into the future.
The eyes of cyclops shamans are greatly developed. Its optic nerve is supported by a complex bundle of secondary nerves. Their purpose remains a mystery to skorne anatomists, but they conjecture that this structure develops as the shaman learns or gains access to his powers and presumably strengthens prescient abilities. Anatomical study of some of the most powerful shadman has also revealed enormous tumours in the occipital lobe. They do not seem to harm the shaman, despite being the size of an adult skorne’s fist.
In the wild, cyclopes form loose, nomadic clans of 10 to 50 that band together to hunt larger game and to offer protection against predators. Cyclopes have little in the way of culture, craft, or language, and the most technologically advanced object in a cyclops’ possession is likely to be a particularly well-weighted branch kept as a club. Their natural diet is entirely carnivorous, and their preferred prey are desert hydras and titans. When their preferred prey is unavailable, cyclopes will attempt to hunt anything that moves, leading to ongoing conflict with fringe skorne villages. Cyclopes caves are often carpeted with the gnawed bones of cattle, skorne, and rival cyclopes.
Cyclops 'society' (if it could be called such) is unforgiving; these brutes delight in the suffering of others and relish the infliction of pain on the defenceless. Weak cyclopes are culled by bloodthirsty clan mates, ensuring that only the strongest and cruellest survive to pass on their genes. Led by whichever male proves himself the strongest, cyclops tribes may see a rapid succession of several chiefs as survivors die of their wounds or at the brutal hands of an endless stream of rivals. Beneath the chief the other members establish their own pecking order, a hierarchy that constantly changes. The tribe grants pregnant females and those caring for their young a respectful distance, as they are extremely territorial and vicious even by cyclops standards. Cyclopes do not hesitate to engage in cannibalism, and the strongest members of a tribe will eat the bodies of the recently dead. In the wild, cyclopes live nasty, brutish lives that rarely last more than 15 years.
Female cyclopes are only nominally in charge of parental care. Cyclopes mature rapidly, as even the inherent strong maternal instinct of the mother lasts only a few short months. By then, the juvenile is, at best, tolerated by its mother, who allows it to share scraps from her own meals. Cyclopes reach adolescence within two years, adulthood within four. The majority of young do not survive for a year, either dying from cannibalism, starvation, or attacks by other tribes.
Cyclopes rely on the power of their eye in hunting as well as in combat, using its gift of foreknowledge to bring down their dangerous prey while armed with little more than heavy rocks and clubs. Able to correct a strike that would otherwise have missed or to turn aside a blade before it kills them, cyclopes regularly achieve what civilised forces with advanced equipment cannot. This power does not manifest in the same manner in all cyclopes; some have abilities that make them preternaturally gifted trackers or warriors.
Cyclopes of keener minds are able to use their unique perception and primitive rituals to evoke crude but effective primal magic. These shamans learn their tradition only in the wild and never arise in captivity. Whether shamans' sorcerous abilities are learned from elders or simply occur naturally in a small percentage of their species is a subject of ongoing (and centuries-old) debate among skorne scholars.
The skorne have enslaved cyclopes for centuries, turning them into finely honed weapons of war. Once properly conditioned and outfitted, cyclopes make exemplary warbeasts. They can carry out surprisingly complex instructions while maintaining their bloodthirsty instincts and prescient edge. In captivity cyclopes have a potential life span in excess of 40 years, though few of them last more than 10 years in the Skorne Empire.
Cyclopes can learn to wield diverse weapons to fill critical battlefield roles. A vital part of their conditioning is selective chirurgery that modifies a cyclops’ brain, allowing it to better harness its natural abilities. Cyclopes are selected to fill particular roles based on their natural talents and disposition.
Cyclopes more reactive to threats become brutes and are taught to mimic the disciplined march of skorne soldiers they serve alongside. Cyclops brutes are adept at holding the flanks or standing vigil over their masters. Their crude but undeniable cunning makes them particularly responsive to training, and they become singularly tenacious and difficult to overcome once outfitted with wide shields and armour. Armed with a heavy pole arm and taught to fight with shields interposed, brutes can protect themselves from all but the most fearsome blows and then retaliate in kind. Their precognition gives cyclops brutes tremendous longevity, and they suffer considerably fewer losses than the more aggressive savages. Many tyrants keep a brute with their personal retinue as a bodyguard - the ability to see an assassin’s killing blow before the knife is drawn serves as a powerful deterrent in the Skorne Empire’s political conflicts.
The extremely aggressive cyclopes join the ranks of the savages and are used as heavy shock troops. Captured as youths, cyclops savages are trained and conditioned to obey orders without hesitation. Unlike some beasts, they do not require much encouragement to kill; they are bloodthirsty and welcome any excuse to fight. They are so prone to violence that skorne paingivers sedate them with narcotics between battles. Much of their training is conducted when drugged, but even then they are capable of tremendous violence. Experienced beast handlers move cautiously among cyclops savages, as they can kill with a single blow. Paingivers and chirurgeons have extensively experimented on savages for centuries, refining their brains to amplify the cyclopes’ most formidable instincts and reinforce their love of battle and cruelty. Drug-addicted savages are typically killed by handlers, as they are capable of incredible violence while they seek out the drug.
Cyclops raiders are raised among captive populations, whose conditioning from infancy lessens their natural proclivity for casual violence. Raiders are outfitted with heavy reivers as heavy support to skorne cohorts. Their training is augmented by surgeries that enhance their natural prescient abilities and grant them an uncanny ability to anticipate distance and movement. A raider’s awareness of the imminent future is so great it can train its weapon on even hidden targets and annihilate them in a burst of fire. Though trained in the complexities of ranged combat, which requires a certain degree of discipline and patience, raiders are still cyclopes and exhibit the same delight as others of their species in inflicting cruelty with their bare hands. The few who survive the hail of reiver fire are crushed by the raiders’ spiked gauntlets.
Half-tamed cyclops shamans fetch a considerable price in the skorne beast-trade market. They are worth two or even three times the more numerous savages and brutes. Their evil eye can boil the blood and rot the organs of mortals unable to evade its power, leaving them quivering in pain before death claims them. Their intelligence and resistance to the lash make cyclops shamans tricky to control. They are the beasts most prone to treachery; they vindictively strike out at their masters when they believe escape is possible. Tyrants must keep a tight rein on them in battle to ensure their evil eyes always look toward the enemy. Skorne houses strong enough to capture and tame shamans value their ability to curse their enemies, to harness the inner power of beasts, and to unravel enchantments. Some mortitheurges have gone so far as to experiment with ingesting shaman tumours, which possess powerful psychotropic properties. Many mortitheurges claim the induced state enhances their powers, a claim under serious debate among practitioners.
Cyclopes deemed useless as warbeasts are sometimes lobotomised and used as strong but simple labourers, often set to tasks such as carrying heavy loads.