The Chindari Plains
Of course the city dwellers do not understand. How could they? Take pity upon them, my brother, for they have spent so long packed together in their stone termite hills, they can no longer hear the beat of the earth, can no longer recall the proper steps in the dance of life. -- Katara, Chindari tongrin
The Chindari? Sure, they're nice enough folk, for savages. I've never had any trouble with 'em, myself, but y'never can be too careful. I heard they skinned a man alive, once, just for shooting more meat than he could eat. Do I believe it? Nah. Then again, you never can be too careful. They are savages, after all. - Delin Porsoth, Ertainian scout
Stretching from the Taskarren Coast all the way to the edge of the "civilized" nations of Antaron, from the northern forests to the Swamps of Kedesh, the vast expanse known as the Chindari Plains is one of the largest geographical regions on the continent. A flat, dry land carpeted in tough, calf-deep grass, the Plains are fairly featureless, lacking much in the way of trees, rocks, or other items to break up the landscape. The winds never cease on the endless grasslands, constantly caressing the inhabitants of the Plains, and whispering lullabies to the oldest race of humans in Antaron - the Chindari Plainsmen.
The People: A prideful, independent people, the Chindari value the freedom to live as they wish and move as they desire above all else. The plainsmen are very much "in tune" with nature, believing strongly that all beings have a vital part to play in life. Lifewise, they believe that each person must find his or her own path, and that no one has the right to enforce their will upon another. Chinadrin society as a whole is fairly nomadic, with home defined as the wagon one lives in while following the dalpa herds across the Plains.
The plainsmen are not a large people, usually standing several inches shy of six feet in height, and they possess lean frames that lend themselves well to their wandering lifestyle. Chindari are fair-skinned (though not as pale as the Vidarak), have sandy-colored hair, and usually have green or brown eyes.
Dress: Chindarin clothing tends to be rather loose-fitting, designed to keep out both the dust and sun that are so prevalent on the arid plains. While hides are worked for boots and other items, the vast majority of Chindarin clothing is made of camlut, a light, yet amazingly resilient cloth that is prized across Antaron. Made of thread spun from the cocoons of aldasflies (insects that spend their entire lives in the Plains grasses), camlut is durable, resists water, and breathes exceptionally well - making ideal cloth to give shade from the sun while avoiding overheating.
While a practical race, the plainsmen nonetheless possess a sense of fashion and beauty in regard to their garments. Blacks and grays are normally worn on a daily basis, but vibrant colors can be seen on special occasions. In addition, even everyday clothing is often decorated with feathers, beads, fragments of tortoise shells, and other natural adornments. Tokin, cloth head coverings that hang loosely over the back of the neck, are worn by individuals of both genders to protect their faces from the harsh sun..
Chindari warriors wear armor fashioned from leather and animal hides, but metal armor is almost unheard of in the Plains.
Culture and Society: Chindarin society is nomadic, with the people seldom staying in the same location for more than several weeks at a given time. The Plains provide abundant grazing land, but poor soil and dry summers severely limit the varieties of crops that can be cultivated there. Therefore, agriculture is impractical and virtually nonexistent; in order to survive, the Chindari must constantly move about in order to allow their horses to graze, and to follow the slow-moving herds of dalpa (a deerlike animal), which are their primary source of food.
Chindari culture is loosely tribal in nature, with individuals living in extended family groups under the guidance of a caltan - usually the most respected man in the family. These family groups, called shakri, often band together for mutual benefit and protection, and may spend their entire lives in each other's company. More often than not, these alliances are more temporary, with the various parties drifting apart or allying with other groups as immediate concerns dictate. Normally, there is no further organization beyond the shakra. Occasionally, however, a charismatic leader will arise, and unite multiple shakri under his banner. Called a caltanin, this leader exerts great influence, though his reign is often short-lived, as the independent Chindari are likely to go their own way if they become even slightly dissatisfied with his authority.
Some Chindari individuals are so independent that they feel suffocated by even the loose bonds of the shakra, and choose to shun society altogether, preferring instead to live their lives in solitude on the Plains. These individuals, called gamtani, answer to no one, and are responsible only for themselves - which is how they like it. Interestingly, many gamtani seem quite content to reside in one place for extended periods, relying on their own hunting skills to survive.
Wagons are the primary home to the Chindari. Made of durable wood from the northern forests, these wagons last for years, often being passed from father to son. As everything in Chindarin society, the wagons serve multiple uses, and can be easily disassembled, converted to more permanent shelters, then quickly reassembled into a wagon when the need to move arises. The only other structures used by the Chindari are simple huts, or gampali - literally, "resting places." These are composed of thatch, animal hides, or a combination of both, and are both cheap and easy to construct. It is interesting to note that the Chindari treat the idea of permenant structures as an alien concept.
Chindari are peerless horsemen, and their culture enjoys a symbiotic relationship with these vital animals. As much of their diet depends on hunting, these plainsmen are also expert archers, able to fire accurately even from the saddle. Only the finest Sylvari warriors are their betters when it comes to bowmanship; therefore, travelers from other parts of Antaron will sometimes venture to the Plains for the chance to study archery under a Chindarin master. In addition to their beloved horses, Chindari are prone to keep sheep, goats, and other livestock to help supplement their hunting.
As a whole, the Chindari are a fairly peaceful people, content to live their lives as they see fit, and just as happy to allow others to do the same. Disputes between shakri are almost never violent, as Chindari hold a deep belief that they - and all living things - are interconnected, and killing without necessity of survivial is simply wrong. Further, Chindari refer to themselves as the shakralani - "Those of the Great Family" - and one simply does not harm one's own family mambers.
Those that live near the Swamps of Kedesh are sometimes involved in skirmishes with the denizens of that region, particularly the Slaa'kar, and the Chindari must always be prepared for the next invasion of the bloodthirsty Arvox Collyra, who seek horses, slaves, concubines, and battle. Even so, travelers can reasonably expect to travel safely through Chindarin lands, as long as they behave peacefully and do not interfere with the plainsmen's way of life, though those who hail from Sendria may be treated with suspicion. While not being overly friendly to outsiders, Chindari are usually not hostile, either, as travelers can bring news, trade, or ideas, all of which are valuable.
Learning is mostly oral-tradition, though the Chindari do possess a rudimentary written language that consists of picture-like symbols. A few wandering gamtani known as tongrin act as loremasters, but the vast majority of teaching is done within the shakra, from parents to children.
Chindari society is patriarchal - only males may be caltani, and familial property and responsibility belongs to them. Gender roles are somewhat assigned, with women expected to care for the children and men expected to provide for the family. However, independent women are respected, even desired, as they are considered to be strong - the fact that they are female does not make them lesser. Therefore, Chindarin men are expected to treat their mates as equals, and with the love and respect that station deserves. A common Chindarin proverb states that "every great warrior listens to the wisdom of a great woman."
Trade and Commerce: Chindari trade is limited to simple barter, dictated by supply and demand. The plainsmen understand the advantage of steel, a resource that they cannot produce for themselves, and will gladly trade for it, as well as for wood, which is scare on the Plains. There is no currency, and "civilized" coinage is worthless to them aside from decorative value, though they do recognize that outsiders value it for mysterious reasons.
Camlut is the primary export of the Chindari Plains, as the fabric is prized for its unique features and ready ability to take dye, but the aldasflies that spin the thread are poorly suited for life anywhere else in Antaron.
Religion: Chindari are not an overly religious people, at least, not in the sense that many other cultures are. Above all else, they feel tied to the earth, and believe that their purpose is to play a part in the dance of life. All beings - humans, demihumans, even animals - have a part in this dance. Certainly, the role of a dalpa is somewhat limited, but this is no shame to the animal, for as it eats grass and provides meat, it is fulfilling its role. Smilarly, each person has a role to fulfil, a role that is theirs alone to discover.
As their survival is tied so closely to nature itself, the majority of Chindarin religion focuses on it. Deities themselves are not specifically worshipped, though the forces they represent are. The most commonly worshipped (or feared) include:
Awananen, the earth spirit (Kith-Jora)
Varuna, the sea spirit (Cardista)
Rajanen, the sun spirit (Solanis)
Culdesh, the storm spirit (Anskar)
Tarkasha, the spirit of darkness (Tyrannis)
Chindari do believe in an afterlife, though their accounts of it are sketchy, at best. It is viewed as a world of spirits and incorporeality, where the good and bad are divided, but not much is taught beyond these basics. People are believed to live on as spirits, and to sometimes re-enter the world in another form (usually animal), typically to help other people.
Values and Taboos: Chindari value freedom and personal choice above all else, and refuse to be bent under the rule of any against their will. Other people are to be treated with respect, as the Chindari understand that there is usually more than one correct approach to most matters in life. Eachperson has a unique path in life that they alone must find, and impeding another's journey if simply wrong.
Every person, animal, and plant has is believed to have a place in the dance of life. Everyone, everything is interconnected in this dance; even the smallest actions can start a series of major consequences. Therefore, Chindari will never spill blood unnecessarily, and they take only what they need. Those who abuse the land or its bounty are viewed with distaste, even violence, as their actions set the dance out of step.
Chindari believe that waste is another word for sin. If anything can be used in any way, it is. Meat is eaten, hides are used for clothing and coverings, bones are made into tools. Broken arrows have their heads recycled, dalpa dung is used as a substitute for firewood, and cracked wagon boards are reused in new capacities.
Thanks to Olan Suddeth for this contribution!