What My Father Told Me

A Personal View of Grazer Culture

by David Dunham

Who are you?

I am Jalorast Shining Arm, son of Yaranrast Night Gallop, son of Jalorast Bright Lance, descended from Yu-kargzant the Imperial Sun.

Who are we?

We are the Pure Horse People, tenders of the sacred herds which are descended from the Great Horse. Outsiders call us the Grazers.

We belong to the Hoof-Dancer Clan. Our horses are branded with two horseshoes, and are renowned for their nimbleness and speed. You can recognize the men of our clan by our beaded anklets, and you can recognize the women of our clan by the same beadwork in their hair.

What makes us great?

We are the only people who still follow the example of Hyalor Horsebreaker, and care for and worship Horse. Others may ride horses, but they do not know the forms of worship, and pollute themselves by herding other beasts.

Where do we live?

We live in the Grazelands, territory granted to us by Ironhoof the Centaur generations ago. Each spring the clan splits up, and takes the herds into the hills above Maregraze Vale or to the banks of Jaldon's Wrong River. In winter, we reassemble in the valley.

The Feathered Horse Queen lives in North Post, but frequently travels among the clans.

How do we live?

We live off Arandayla's bounty. We drink the milk and blood of our herds. We eat their flesh at our most important ceremonies, and women make cheese, yogurt, and koumiss. In addition, we eat the wild animals hunted by our men, and plants gathered by women or grown by the vendref. The vendref also make bread, wine and beer. And we receive exotic foods, cloth, and gold from the traders who wish to pass through our territory.

Our herds provide for us in many other ways. Our tents are sewn from the hides of many horses. Our pants and women's dresses are also made from their hide, and the hair from their mane and tail is woven into ropes and rugs.

But most of all, the herds carry us and our possessions, so that we don't have to live in one place forever, which is a sign of poverty.

What is important in my life?

You are now a Rider, and have moved from my tent to those of the Riders along the edge of the camp. You are responsible for tending the herd and bringing home game, and for learning the skills of the Warrior.

In eight years, your age group will be initiated as Warriors, and will be responsible for bearing arms in the defense of the clan. You will live in the Warriors' tents by the entrance to the camp. Once you gather sufficient wealth for a gift to a girl's father, you may marry, and set up your own tent. Your gift should be generous, for this helps bind her clan and ours together.

My own age group is the Leader. Leaders are chosen to direct slaves, lead small bands or for special functions, as I led a delegation to the Sun Dome last Storm Season.

In time, you will attain the Elder age group. These men speak with the voice of experience, and lead larger groups, even the clan. Their advice is sought and revered.

When you die your body will be burned in a great pyre. The sparks will carry your soul to Yu-kargzant, who will judge if you are ready to be reborn, or must spend time in the Underworld until you are purified.

Who rules us?

Bandroste Brave Charge leads the Hoof-Dancer clan. Like all clan chieftains, he wears a band of feathers on his right arm to indicate his descent from Yu-kargzant, and carries the Five Stars Whip. He appoints men of other noble families from the Chief age group to advise him. Dinalish Mighty Leap also gives advice, consulting with the spirits and requesting their aid when necessary. My cousin Taradarin Ten Day Run leads the clan into war; his bravery is noted throughout the Grazelands.

Bandroste is loyal to the Feathered Horse Queen, Bearer of the Head, who incarnates the powers of the Feathered Horse Goddess. Her magic unites all of us, even the women and vendref, and she appoints the rulers of the trading posts. Bearer of the Head rules the tribe in times of peace.

Bandroste also owes allegiance to Jarsandron Ten-Herds, whom he helped elect as Chief. Jarsandron rules the Grazers in times of war.

What makes a man great?

A great man owns many horses and slaves, and wears glittering gold. Bravery, Honesty, Generosity, and Obedience are the mark of a great warrior, as are the many scalps he's taken in battle.

What is evil?

Chaos is evil. It was let into the world when the Rebel Gods slew the Sun, and ever since, we've had to fight it.

Failure to follow Yu-kargzant's rules always takes a heavy price, if not in this life, then after death.

Never commit the folly of adding beasts to your herd. They might fill your belly, but they can't nourish your soul.

What is my lot in life?

You show much promise in target practice, and I think you may someday qualify to join the Brotherhood of the Golden Bow. You will then be able to win much glory by participating in the most daring raids.

Strive to become prosperous, increasing your herd through raiding and careful breeding. Maybe you will become wealthy enough to take a second wife.

When I become an Elder or die, I will divide my herds among my sons. As the eldest, you will receive the most, Jalasdral half as much, and Melipolti half that.

What is the difference between men and women?

Men are the protectors, providers, and leaders. Women are gifted with the powers of life, bearing children and caring for mares during foaling. They're in charge of the herds, and decide when it's time to move to a new pasture. When you are married, your wife will do your bidding, but in turn you must care for her and be kind to her with words and deeds.

I know your sister thinks she will grow up and become a shaman in the service of the Feathered Horse Queen, but I asked Dinalish about this, and he believes she is not blessed by the spirits.

How do we deal with others?

We can always trust everyone in our clan. If your herd sickens or is stolen, or if you are wounded, our clan will help you. You must always offer what aid you can to a member of our clan.

Other Grazers may help you as well, but you will then owe them a favor. If you ever need to seek their aid, go first to your mother's Sun Ring clan, and avoid the greedy Sky Bows.

The vendref, our slaves, should be treated strictly but fairly. For the most part, they are hard-working and loyal, but they are prone to temptation from their cousins in Sartar or Tarsh.

Ironhoof aided us long ago, and the people of Beast Valley are our friends. But be warned: minotaurs mean well, but they can easily forget who their friends are, especially when they drink.

Dragonewt cities are located to the east and north of the Grazelands. They sometimes act as our intermediaries with other lands, but you would do well to avoid them, because none can truly predict their actions.

Years ago, Sartar came to challenge the Feathered Horse Queen, but ended up marrying her. For a while, his kingdom was on good terms with ours. However, the Orlanthi are an unruly lot, and some tribes have raided us.

Other foreigners should be treated with suspicion until they perform some act to earn your trust. If you offer your friendship, be sure it is as constant as the Sun.

Our war bands often serve in the armies of other lands. The Feathered Horse Queen makes sure that our employer will be trustworthy and generous. If she is unable to find to find such an employer, our war bands make swift raids deep into foreign lands and carry off great treasure to glorify her and Yu-kargzant.

Who are our enemies?

The tribesmen of Prax, who ride unworthy beasts and long ago sought to enslave our entire tribe, are our enemies. Our shamans set up altars in the Guardian Hills to keep the beast-riders out of Dragon Pass.

Trolls, who skulk in darkness and eat our horses, are always our foes.

Who are my gods?

Emperor Yu-kargzant is our god, as well as our ancestor, and we follow his laws. Men worship his sons Dastal the Hunter, Jardan the Warrior, Henird the Leader, and Josad the Elder, depending on their age group. Men who cannot trace their ancestry to Yu-kargzant worship Hyalor. Most women worship Arandayla, the Horse Mother. Our shamans contact spirits of Light such as Morning Star and Evening Star. And never forget that our herds are holy, too.

The vendref have their own gods: Kenkacho the loyal slave, Kanestal One-hand who runs the trading posts, Ernalda the earth mother, Barntar the plower of barley, Hiia Swordsman who serves the Feathered Horse Queen, and Lodril the plower of wheat.

What is there to do around here?

In the winter when the entire clan camps in Maregraze Vale, we hold feasts and dances; compete in horse races, hare-spearing, chadash, and archery contests; play Horse-and-Vulture; arrange marriages; and tell stories and listen to songs.
Last updated 4 Feb 01.

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