Horse Clans

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The Horse Clans are the obvious inhabitants of the Lupaus Plains. Nomadic, horse-riding wind elves, they range across the plain during three seasons, returning to a "holy" place for the winter. Extremely closed-off and xenophobic, they only allow others on the outskirts of the plain, and that by sufferance and treaty only.

In reality, the Horse Clans (Hevonen, in their dialect) are but one element of a much more complex society. They serve as the outriders and warders, the disposable buffer between the core clans and the "evil" outside world. As such, they are the lowest-class group. The other groups are the Karja (Cattle Clans) and the Puuha (Sacred Ones). Together, they call themselves the Seraaja Vetelaja (Ser-AA-zha Ve-tel-AH-zha), the Followers of Vetel. The name "Vetel" does not translate further.

Within the three groups there are cross-cutting family groups that also have importance. But very little is known about these groups.

Hevonen

Making up about 20% of the population, the Hevonen gather in small, non-family-based bands and range across the entire Lupaus Plains. They are nomadic hunter-gatherers and live in tents with very little in the way of possessions beyond personal weapons and tools. The horses they ride are the best on the continent, and fetch extremely high prices in the rare instances where they are sold. Only geldings are ever sold, with one exception[0].

Each band has a Speaker, who is the external face of the clan. While others may learn Common, only the Speaker is allowed to hold trade or eat with outsiders without ritual contamination. For those bands operating near the Outside, the Speaker acts as the leader of the band.

One oddity is that the society is somewhat segregated by age--the Hevonen are almost all young adults (between the ages of 15 and 30), with an older priestess or shaman attached to the larger bands. They use the word "sibling" to describe others of their bands.Those who reach the "age of ripeness" transfer to the Karja and settle down, while Karja children are often sent to join the Hevonen. Hevonen have families/mates/children as well, but generally there is very little jealousy or partnering within a band--everyone sleeps with whomever they like and pregnant women who can't keep up with the fast-riding bands join the nearest Karja band and leave their children (post-weaning) with members of their family group there. Pregnant Hevonen are considered "unclean"--a pregnant woman and her escorts fly a "curse flag"[1] granting them passage with impunity through any band's territory. Family group membership follows the mother--fathers are not considered important, and many women can't even identify which band-sib was the father. Pregnancy, however, is quite rare as there are reliable contraceptives available from the herb-masters of the bands.

Individual bands are in competition with each other for the best range and breeding stock. These competitions are rarely fatal, but elaborate raids are conducted. Bands are generally not welcome in each others' territory unless they're flying an appropriate curse flag.

Bands range in size from 20 to 100 individuals, but average around 30 in number. Each rider has between 3 and 6 horses that are used as remounts and baggage haulers. They subsist on maltazh, a pemmican-like dish of dried and pounded meat and fat mixed with berries and other gathered vegetables. This nutrient-dense food keeps very well, and a small amount satisfies a lot of energy and nutrient needs. It doesn't, however, taste very good. They also carry small amounts of dream liquor, an incredibly potent alcoholic drink made by the Karja.

Karja

The Karja (Cattle Clans) are much more slowly-moving and more pastoral than truly nomadic. Like the Hevonen, these are non-family-based groups. Much larger than Hevonen bands, Karja bands range in size from 150 to nearly 1000 adults. They herd sheep and cattle. Although they also ride horses (which come from the Hevonen), they are significantly more settled. They will stay in place in a camp for weeks. Each band usually has 3 seasonal camp zones and moves to available fodder within those zones. Like the Hevonen, they winter elsewhere. They live in brightly-painted wagons of unusual design and materials. Since outsiders only have ever seen them from a distance (and that rarely), not much is known about them.

With many (~50%) of the young adults sent to the Hevonen, the Karja are much older populations. They have stable tribe organizations (with a chief and usually a shaman as leaders). Unlike the Hevonen bands, they cooperate and coordinate efforts. Much of this is done via the priestesses of Vetel. These women (always women) are chosen as young girls (around age 8) from the Karja and sent to Pyhin. Many never return; the ones that do come back as distant shadows. All the chosen priestess-candidates fit the same physical mold--slim, ash-grey hair (uncommon among the wind elves), and with the promise of much beauty.

The Karja create much of the gear that the Hevonen use, receiving horses in exchange (which they use to pull their wagons and run the herds). They are not known for being metal workers, though. Which raises the question as to where they obtain their metal tools.

Puuha

These peoples are only known from phrases mentioned by drunk Horse Clan. They are supposedly the "holy" people who stay in Pyhin year round, nearest the goddess Vetel. Very little else is known, except that they have a reputation as being fine (if odd) craftsmen. Horse clan will sometimes say that a piece is "almost worthy of the Puuha" when praising it.