The people of the endless plain call themselves by the same name they call the land, Oh’Danai. It is the name in their ancient tongue, although that is reserved now for special names & religious vows. They believe that they are and always will be a part of the land. Their legends say that the first Oh’Danai was formed from the mud in their valley home when the land wanted someone to talk to and to see for her. With the eyes and hands of man and the legs and lungs of horses these ancient roamers lived where they pleased around the endless plain. They say that over time many began to forget their mother’s voice and in her grief she forgot the progress of the seasons. A year of spring storms gave way to a year of endless heat and sun. This was followed by a year of whipping winds and a year of endless snows. In desperation the Oh’Danai remembered the valley they had come from and returned. They found a deep fissure where the warm mud had been and in their grief at forgetting their mother the families of each chieftain threw themselves into the fissure. The shamans still tell the story of the land crying as she washed away the snow and how her tears formed two streams running to the fissure. They say that is when the other Oh’Danai were born. The ones who are all man or all horse. It doesn’t matter though, they all know each other so well you can’t tell the horsemen from the men on horses.
Society & Culture- Edit
The centaurs, humans, and horses of the Oh’Danai live as brothers. From the human perspective, centaurs are ‘older brothers’ and horses are ‘younger brothers’. The horses are cared for as children and often young children are left to play and talk with them. The constant talking and interaction means the Oh’Danai horses are renowned for their intelligence often reacting in the hunt or battle before their rider is aware. The human riders are so familiar with their brothers that these sudden movements, and the riders reactions, seem to happen simultaneously.
The ten tribes spread around the great plain live cyclical lives based on sacred stories. Each tribe is named for some aspect of the land in the area they live. They move around the plain sticking mostly to their respective areas, but small bands visit between tribes regularly, hunters and news runners mostly. The tribes live primarily by hunting bison, aurochs, elk, and other large herbivores. They also gather berries, certain wild grains, and roots (medicinal and otherwise) from naturally occurring copses of small trees and waterholes where they occur around the plain. They respect the powerful natural boundaries of the plain, but do not fear to cross them if it is required. Each of the ten tribes numbers somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 members currently. Altogether there are perhaps 80,000 Oh’Danai currently, about 62,000 of which are adult (another 2,500 are elders either amongst the tribes or in the Mare’s Mouth and the rest are children before the age of maturity). Children are given names at birth, but a new name is chosen for them at the age of maturity in a special ceremony. This ceremony does not happen at a specific age, but rather once they have demonstrated their personality and where they fit in the tribe.
Every four years all the tribes return to the Mare’s Mouth for summer games, exchanging news, deciding important issues, and making matches and marriages. They leave behind a few young warrior families as eyes and ears in their territories. At the ritual meetings, the wise mothers suggest matches and new guardians are appointed. The guardians and their families from each tribe will live in the valley for the next four years along with any youngsters showing a connection to the land’s spirit. Women are revered for their connection to the spiritual (bringing life between worlds) and are almost always the shamans of each tribe. Men are respected as the physical leaders and protectors of the people. Either sex can fill either role and often do, but the majority fit into their historic roles. Every ten years each tribe selects a new married couple of warriors (fighters, cavaliers, & hunters mostly) and spiritualists (druids, oracles, & shamans mostly) to lead them. The old leaders ‘retire’ to the Mare’s Mouth as part of the elder council (wise mothers and their husbands).
When the four year and ten year cycles align (every twenty years) the tribes hold a special summer games to choose a warleader. The spiritualists support their respective warriors in an unarmed grand melee. The winning team of this challenge is given the role of leading all the tribes in the event of a war. They also join the elder council and can lead grand raids outside of the plain if the council supports them. Almost all of the leadership positions are usually filled by centaurs due to the advantage their imposing physique provides in this event. It is reasoned that since they are older siblings their connection to the land is stronger. When a human and horse pair of couples take leadership of a tribe it is an auspicious event. It has been more than 300 years since a human and horse team has won the war leader’s seat (right around the start of the war of races).
The stories say that each time a human and horse takes the seat of the war leader that it is the lands voice saying that the people must carry the land with them to keep the land and the people fresh and strong. The people always carry small sachets around their necks with some dirt, bone meal, and some grass seeds. They believe that when they die their blood awakens these seeds and they return to the land. To go and fight under the call of the war leader in another land and to die in battle is a great honor for them. They believe they are spreading the spirit of their homeland when they do so. After great battles, their druids can be seen walking among the dead laying them out and encouraging the seeds to grow. They leave their dead where they fall (it is the land’s will), but they arrange them peacefully and collect their belongings for return to the tribe.
The endless plain is dominated by a rolling grassland with an almost dune or ocean like appearance in summer. The mixture of native grains is thick and grows from two feet tall in some areas to over eight feet tall in others (taller grasses more to the north of the plain nearer the Vale). Irregular waterholes with surrounding small copses of trees and bushes dot the semi-valleys of the rolling landscape, but the streams feeding them and the waterholes are scarce for travellers who don’t know where they are (perhaps one in every 75-100 square miles which is around 400 sites total in the plains).The southwest portion of the plains mounts to foothills with some evergreen & mixed hardwood forests. The southeast areas also grow to foothills, but much rockier and scrubbier. The far eastern shore is lined with sand dunes and saw grass which can fray to wickedly serrated lashes in high winds. The northwest becomes a fertile river valley as the river approaches the Vale. The northeast is the land of clay and silt marshes fading from the coast into the plains..
Anwa’Amai (Mare’s Mouth): Edit
In the center of the large plain, a domed mesa with a valley in the crown, takes at least a day to ride up it and the valley walls are relatively steep so the descent in is along only two paths if by horse. Anwa’Amai has two springs on opposite sides running down to a permanent lake. This is the religious center of the people and has a small permanent encampment of around 600 people. The 3 oldest mothers of each tribe and their husbands (if alive) live there as a wisdom council. The rest of the population is made up of visiting shamans, druids, and other spiritualists from the tribes, young people in training to be the same, and a contingent of people tasked with taking care of those people (hunters, guardians, and some gatherers/farmers). This place has a small amount of permanent agriculture, but mostly the natural bounty of the valley and the surrounding plain is selectively gathered to sustain the spiritual village. Great warriors, shamans, and leaders are remembered by small cairns on the sides of the mesa. Each tribe has one.
Anwa’Zakai (dragon’s mouth): Edit
The gap in the southern mountain range is know as a place of death and regret. The tribes will send dishonored members and criminals south to die. The mouth is actually the caldera of an ancient volcanic eruption that took the top half of the massive mountain off and collapsed several smaller surrounding mountains, leaving an incredibly difficult to traverse land of boulders, steam & sulfur vents, mud pots, and geysers. Life has crept up the slopes of the ancient mountain wreckage, but the caldera center itself is permanently wreathed in steam and noxious emissions preventing any significant flora or fauna from establishing. Legend says that when the dragon’s mouth breathes as far as the mare’s mouth (a new eruption would be visible to the mare’s mouth) the sky death will come again to the land.
Iso’u’Hev (the eyes & ears): Edit
Four sites at roughly cardinal points around the mare’s mouth near the geographic boundaries of the plain. Each one is little more than a cave dug into a sheltered hill reinforced with rough stonework and marked on the hilltop by an upright stone. These serve as campsites for hunting bands that patrol and watch their respective borders. They watch the vale (dark wood/dark wall), the dragon’s mouth, the western river border, and the eastern coastland. They are also the first point of contact for outside visitors (rare) as they are usually visited every few days by their respective patrols. Finding the mounted nomads main camps is difficult at best (unannounced or stealthy visitors may meet with immediate, violent rebuke).