We are carried, that we carry in turn. We are sheltered, that we shelter in turn. We are known, that we know in turn. Dortoka-Brekh moves, that we never be still: Dortoka-Brekh watches, that we never be unguarded; Dortoka-Brekh waits, that one day again we shall dance in the sun.
The patron totem of the southern Shepherd clans, Dortoka-Brekh is part homeland, part parent, and part god. Once a tortoise of truly immense size, dead of causes unknown, it washed ashore during the early years of the construction of the Citadels. The nomadic tribes who had embarked on the Exodus, nervous about the prospect of tying themselves down beyond walls, rallied around the corpse of the great beast as a sign from the gods. For five years, in cooperation with the Temple of Urogalan, they worked to alter it: mummifying its flesh, replacing its veins with tubes thick with alchemical unguents, hollowing its shell, setting great stones into its emptied eye sockets. Its awakening, stirred into movement by the sounding of the great horn deep within its body, was the moment the Shepherds as they exist today came into being.
Dortoka-Brekh is, in effect, a small mobile Citadel in its own right. The insides of its carapace long since filled by inhabitants, the city of the Southern Shepherds has grown atop it: structures of bone and metal and treated leather pile high on its back, shuttered tightly against the sleet. Very little of its population is permanent: the bulk of the Shepherd tribes live in the fleet of caravans that surround it as it crawls slowly across the tundra. Still, most Shepherds consider it home, and every one under its protection visits it at least once yearly.
The leaders of the Southern Shepherds, the Ionco, make their home in an incense-shrouded chamber in the turtle’s heart. There, the council elder Hin spend their days in meditative trances, tended by caretakers who see to their physical needs. They awaken only to give short and often cryptic instruction to be passed on to the Shepherds. These are followed without question, as the Ionco’s meditations lend them some form of precognizance, and even the most obscure of direction eventually benefits the tribes as a whole.