Ancestor to all Tsalal. A fisherman from Australia, Tsa, and two other fishermen sailed too far out to sea and were caught up in the equatorial current that caused them to drift to Antarctica. While the other two did not survive the winter, Tsa lived for ten more years until he encountered five shipwrecked Aboriginals, three of them women.
- Adam and Eve Plot: He is the ancestor of all Tsalal. Unlike in most uses of this trope, the incest and the lack of genetic diversity of his descendants play major parts in the story.
- Combat Pragmatist: Tsa doesn't have the strength to beat the Warrior in a fair fight, so he enlists the help of the youth and attacks the warrior behind.
- No Party Like a Donner Party: Tsa resorts to cannibalism to survive the Antarctic winter.
- Start of Darkness: One for an entire race. Tsa's cannibalism, murder and implied incest and rape become common traits of all Tsalal.
- We Can Rule Together: Shares the women with the Youth, as he's smart enough to avoid making the mistakes of the Warrior.
Inventor of Agriculture in Antarctica. Gyorl and his family are the only survivors of their tribe after it was attacked. Fleeing there attackers they are driven into a resourless land. Facing starvation, he uses his tribe's extensive awareness of plants to cultivate a plant called Kulka root, creating Agriculture.
- Evil Makes You Ugly: Gyorl is thirty years old, but due to the harsh conditions of Antarctica he looks sixty. The harsh lifestyle also makes him a brutal pragmatist who kills his son for food without emotion.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Gyorl kills his son for food. The rest of his family joins in to eat the child.
- Sole Survivor: He's the patriarch of a small family who were the only survivors of an attack.
- Villainous Incest: He intends to father children with his daughter.
- Would Hurt a Child: Gyorl kills his son, and has every intention of molesting his daughter.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Kills his son, as he is the least useful of the survivors.
Headman of a Tsalal village. He mortally wounds a small child for the crime of playing with the corpse of a seagull. His role in the story is to exposit on the Tsalal superstition to whiteness.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Considers murder an acceptable consequence for the crime of playing with a dead bird. The other children also delight at the idea of eating and playing with the body of their former playmate. Khotthu finds their actions endearing.
- Knight Templar: Kills a child because he touched a dead seagull. He considers killing all the children for the crime, but his famous "soft heart" stopped him.
- Light Is Not Good: He explains the Tsalal hatred of the color white.
- Mr. Exposition: His purpose in the story is to fill in the reader on the Tsalal superstition of whiteness.
- Would Harm A Child: Kills a child for exposing himself to whiteness.
First to discover coal in Antarctica. A member of a Tsalal tribe facing starvation and freezing during the winter, he part of a band sent to find firewood. While camped, he throws a rock into the campfire and discovers the properties of coal. He goes on to found what would become the Coal Kingdoms.
- Green Aesop: Played With. Xytok laments that the need for firewood led his tribe to cut down all the trees, which lead to smaller harvests and colder winters. But the erosion of the land due to over foresting is what reveal coal, which leads to a coal age. Not technically an Aesop, as nothing about the Tsalal is moral.
- No Party Like a Donner Party: Due to the cold winter, Xytok's tribe has already eaten many of their weaker members, including all of the children.
- Power Source: A notable example. The discovery of coal allows Xytok's tribe to survive the winter. It also provides a less direct source of power by causing Xytok's rise to power, as well as the rise of the Coal Kingdoms.
- Villain Protagonist: Xytok idly considers murdering the rest of the band and letting his tribe freeze to death. In the end he decides to kill the rest of the band, but rule his tribe with an iron fist.
A Calendar Man for the Tsalal nation of Yag. His role in his village was to predict the times and places of seasonal floods to allow for cultivation of the Yag Berry.
- Bamboo Technology: The Calendar Poles are incredibly complex devices for a civilization that hasn't invented writing.
- Best Friend: To Ka-Teth.
- Broken Pedestal: A young Tulu once idolized a Calendar Man for saving his village from a flood. When he grows up, he realizes that the Calendar Man's techniques were embarrassingly primitive.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Tulu thinks nothing of killing slaves, and can't imagine why any of them would have a problem with being sacrificed to spring floods.
- Insufferable Genius: Tulu is a gifted Calendar Man, but he also hates debates with other Calendar Men and wishes everyone would do as he told them.
A member of the nation of Yag and friend of Tulu.
A Yag Chief who fought in the Water Kings War, which was a conflict between the Water Kings, upriver Yag tribes who had disrupted the flow of the rivers with their dams, and the Calendar Men downriver, whose lives were threatened by the Water King's tampering. Urtulu witnessed the end of Calendar Man culture when a massive surge destroyed the Water King Dams and flooded everything downriver.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: When Urtulu hears about a rival chief killing his slaves to spite his invaders, Urtulu is horrified... at the idea of killing slaves out of season.
- End of an Age: Urtulu witnessed the end of his own age when a massive surge wiped out his civilization.
- Hope Spot: For all their slave killing ways, the Pre-Surge Yag culture was one of the nicest Tsalal cultures around. They had advanced technology and an almost democratic system of government. They also abstained from cannibalism. And they were wiped out.
- Start of Darkness: Post-Surge Yag culture was much darker and more violent then before.
A Yag Warlord. Post surge the Yag culture transformed from a semi-democratic and relatively pleasant civilization into a number of warring city states run by strongmen. Karsh was the first warlord to unite all the Yag cities and bring an end to the Yag civil war. He was also the one to invent the Yag tradition of Ritual Necrophilia.
- Badass Boast:Karsh: By the time the stars stand opposite their paths, this city will be either of the dead or of those who use them.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Even Karsh's army, which has participated in massacres and genocides, is stunned by what he does to the queen's corpse.
- Famed in Story: Karsh is considered to be an important cultural figure among the Yag.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: The captured warriors of Kth are given a choice, execution, or prove that you're on Karth's side by raping your former queen's corpse.
- Oh, My Gods!: Karsh prays to a "Black Toad God of Night".
- Pragmatic Villainy: Karsh will kill all the citizens of Yth that aren't useful to him, and intends to torture the royal family, but only because the Yag don't have enough resources to let everyone survive, and because he believes that torturing the Royals is the fastest way to break the Yth spirit and control them.
- Karsh's punishment to the Yth is even quite generous for the Yag, as simply working the population of a conquered territory till they die out is quite common.
- Even his decision to rape the corpse of the queen is pragmatic, as he considered it a better alternative to simply killing everyone in the city.
A Chief of the Tsalal Culture of Zhu. Azaphi's tribe were forced into becoming a sea based culture, as they and other Zhu tribes were driven out of the inland by more developed cultures. The Zhu survived on the edges of their former territory until the Qys, a semi-nomadic tribe, decided to invade their territory. Azaphi's tribe and some others were forced to flee, traveling along the coast of Antarctica, barely warding off starvation.
- Butt-Monkey: The Zhu have been driven from their land so many times that pain is a part of their culture.
- Character Death: Azaphi is killed by the people in the forest as they wage an all out attack on the Zhu.
- Cold Equation: Azaphi kills a member of his tribe suffering from a debilitating but short lived illness. They couldn't afford to support her for the few days she needed to survive it.
- Fire-Forged Friends: The leaders of two other tribes, Khufu and Nyshr, were once Azaphi's worst enemies. Now after everything they've been through, he considers them the closest things he has to friends.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Azaphi's tribe has landed on a coast inhabited by a hostile Tsalal tribe. They've only been seen from a distance, but women and children have been disappearing. Azaphi also mentions a camp they sailed past nearby:"The people in the woods were not the Qys. But they were just as bad. Before they'd come to this shore, his people had sailed past another beach - seeing only burnt out campfires, abandoned boats, torn tents, and many bloodstains. No sign of the people, only drag marks into the woods."
A Chief of the Zhu. Nyshr led the remaining Zhu to what would become their new homeland, Zhudan Lul. By combining the Zhu tribes into one people, Nyshr created what would become the first year round Tsalal society, as well as a terrifying naval power.
- Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Nyshr united the Zhu survivors into one nation, believing that tribal infighting was what had allowed the Suffering Path to happen. This allowed the Zhu to share their techniques and technology with each other which allowed them to survive the harsh winter.
- Moral Myopia: Nyshr intends to wipe out the natives of Zhudan Lul, despite being a member of a people who were nearly wiped out by hostile tribes. Possibly justified in that Nyshr didn't condemn the Zhu's enemies or their actions as evil, he just tried to survive.
- Start of Darkness: The united Zhu go on to wipe out the native people of Zhudan Lul, and then become a terrifying naval power.Nyshr: No more. The Zhu would no longer be their own worst enemies. They would be everyone elses.