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Mud People

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Among the Mud People, being the best, winning, means you have a responsibility to those you have beaten. You must teach them to be better.
―Savidlin[src]

Mud People village Edit

The Mud People village is set on a rise that passes for a hill in the western portion of the grasslands of the Wilds, south of the Rang'Shada Mountains, and out of reach of the troubles of most of the peoples of the Midlands. The village is set in a rough circle around an open area. It is a collection of buildings constructed of mud brick, surfaced with a tan clay plaster and topped with grass roofs that leak as they become dry, and have to be replaced constantly to keep the rain at bay (although a few of the buildings have been replaced with better clay tiled roofs that don't leak). There are wood doors, but no glass in the windows of the thick walls, only cloth hanging in some to keep out the weather. The buildings are mostly one-room family homes clustered tightly on the south side, most sharing at least one common wall, narrow walkways passing between the homes here and there, and communal buildings grouped together on the north. A variety of structures placed loosely on the east and west separate them. Some of these are nothing more than four poles with grass roofs, used as places to eat, or as work areas for making weapons and pottery, or as food preparation and cooking areas. In dry times the whole village is shrouded in a fog of dust that clogs the eyes, nose and tongue. In times of rain the buildings are washed clean by the rain, and on the ground a thousand footprints are turned to puddles that reflect the drab buildings above. Chickens scatter constantly around the Mud People in their village.

The Mud People's spirit house is a smaller building with no windows in the back of the larger communal buildings, set away from the others. The spirit house is where the elders hold the gathering of seers. A small fire burns in a pit at the back end, offering a little light to the otherwise dark room. Pottery bowls left from past meals typically lay about the floor, and a plank shelf along one wall holds a good two dozen ancestral skulls. Otherwise the room is empty.

Foreign relations Edit

The Mud People live in a remote part of the Midlands called the Wilds. They are not used to dealing with outsiders. Their customs are very different from most of the other peoples of the Midlands. In general, they do not care about the problems of others and wish only to be left alone. They can be dangerous. They speak their own language different from the majority of people in the Midlands. Adult Mud People never smile at outsiders until greetings have been exchanged, lest their souls be stolen.

The presence of strangers in the village always brought excitement, especially the presence of the Mother Confessor. Children would run from every corner of the village to see what manner of strangers had arrived. Often when a hunting party would return, they would crowd around the hunters, squealing with excitement, stomping their bare feet in the mud, splashing the men. Normally they would be interested in the deer, boar or other catch the hunters had, but they ignored these if there were strangers with them. The Mother Confessor was of great interest to the shy young girls of the village. She was a traveler who had been to strange places and seen all sorts of things, as well as a woman whom men feared and respected. The older women would abide the distraction with understanding indulgence.

The Mud People never requested a confessor, although they had been occasionally visited by confessors. They were polite enough, out of fear, but they made it clear that they handled their own affairs, and did not want outside involvement. They were not a people who would respond to threats.

It is possible (although rare) for an outsider to be made into an honorary Mud Person if he does something that helps and benefits the Mud People with no advantage to himself and that proves him to be a man of good intentions towards the Mud People. He would have to do so without any promise of compensation or reward. In addition, he would need the final approval of the elders and the Bird Man. Once a Mud Person, he must choose a mate from within the village and give the Mud People his child, so that he will be joined to them by blood.

Culture & customs Edit

The Mud People place poles to the sides of the trails into their territory, wrapped in skins dyed with red stripes, with skulls fixed atop them. These are the skulls of honored ancestors, meant to watch over their lands and remind the people of their wisdom. Only the most respected are accorded such recognition. It is not meant as a threat to others, it is simply a tradition of honor among themselves. However, one of the ways you get to be revered by the Mud People is by killing outsiders. The skulls of Mud People elders were almost always placed on the poles. One of the worst dishonors to an elder was to bury the skull. It meant his life had mattered for nothing.

Mud People children are tolerated with good-natured smiles; little children are never scolded. When they are older, they are put into strict training where they are taught the disciplines of the Mud People - of hunting, food gathering, and the ways of spirits - but when young they are allowed to be children, with almost free rein to play.

All Mud People eat with their right hand, believing that evil spirits eat with their left hand. They also take great honor in their words and live by them. According to Mud People law, they can not make false offers, false promises, or false threats.

In the Mud People territory, it is customary to greet someone by hitting them and wishing them strength. This is meant to show respect for the other's strength, and the power of the hit also indicates the degree of respect. A closed-fisted strike is common among warrior males, while an open-palmed slap is more common towards and from females. While in the village proper, the slaps are soft, hardly more than a pat. Heartier ones are reserved for chance meetings out on the plain, away from the village. The gentler custom preserves order, and teeth. To kiss someone in greeting is considered disrespectful to the highest degree.

Banquets and festivities are rare in the Mud People village, and they are greatly enjoyed. They usually last 3 days, going strong through the night and into the day. Torches light the platforms of the pole buildings, and large fires are set about the village. It is a lot of work for the Mud People to haul in wood for cooking and kiln fires, and most are usually kept small. Banquets are an extravagance the Mud People rarely witness, reserved primarily for preparing for a gathering. Under grass roofs, musicians pound drums and scrape paddles up and down ripples carved on boldas, long bell-shaped hollow tubes. The eerie strains, music meant to call ancestors' spirits to the banquet, carry far out into the grasslands. Musicians sit on both sides of the open area, the sounds of the two groups sometimes joining, sometimes separating, calling to one another in haunting and occasionally frantic beats and knells. Men in costume, some dressed as animals, others painted as stylized hunters, jump and dance, acting out stories of Mud People legends. To be a man among the Mud People, to be one of them, you must eat the flesh of your enemies, so you will have the knowledge of your enemies. It is the main purpose of the banquets. That, and to call the ancestors' spirits.

Among the Mud People, Richard is known as Richard With The Temper, due to his over-abundant show of respect for the first Mud Person he met (Savidlin).

Clothing Edit

The hunters typically wear animal skins over most of their bodies. Sticky mud that doesn't wash away in the rain is smeared over the rest of their skin and faces, and their hair is smoothed down with it. Clumps of grass are tied to their arms and to the skins, and stuffed under headbands, making them invisible when they squat down in the tall grass of the Wilds. They typically carry spears and bows and arrows that are poison-tipped. Hunting parties typically travel in groups of 8.

Women are wrapped in simple dresses of brightly colored cloth and often sit in work areas, grinding tava root, from which they make the flat (and flat-tasting) tava bread that is the staple of the Mud People. Sweet-smelling smoke rises from the cooking fires. Adolescent girls with short-cropped hair smoothed down by sticky mud often sit by the women, helping.

The elders typically wear deerskin pants, and are bare-chested. When official events are taking place, they each wear a coyote hide draped around their shoulders.

During banquets, women dress in their brightest dresses and men wear their finest skins, with ceremonial knives at their waists. Their hair is slicked down with sticky mud in traditional fashion.

Government Edit

The Mud People defer to the wisdom and advice of its six elders, who meet under the leaky protection of one of the open pole structures with a wooden floor. Business among the Mud People is conducted in the open, for all to see. The elders are old men, firm in the ways of their past, with grim faces, although they are more friendly than they appear. However, the elders are mostly for show. They are respected, and so are put on display for others to see, like the skulls on the poles. They have authority because they are esteemed, but they are not really in charge. The real power belongs to the Bird Man.

The elders and the Bird Man occasionally hold a gathering, called a council of seers in their spirit house, that no outsider or woman is allowed to attend, except in rare circumstances. It normally requires three days to prepare for the gathering, however in special circumstances the preparations can be reduced to two - one night for the banquet which lasts throughout the night and through the next day, and one night for the gathering itself. Only certain women are allowed to prepare the banquet on the day of the gathering. The council of seers divines the answers to questions that affect the village by talking with the spirits of their ancestors in the Underworld.

Mud People Edit

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