The Plainfolk are so-called as they inhabit most of the Great Plains beyond the Amtrak Federation's borders. However, this is something of a misnomer, as their area of habitation extends considerably eastwards from the Mississippi River and in the north-west extends to the Pacific coast of Washington State and Oregon. The northern limits of Mute settlement have not yet been established, save that their influence extends into south-central Canada as well as some parts north of the Great Lakes.
Whilst the Federation uses navrefs to name locations, the Mutes use colloquial descriptions. 'Big White Running Water' is their name for navref Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for example, whilst Twin Forks is the area in Nebraska where the River Platte divides into its northern and southern tributaries.
The Plainfolk are divided into six distinct bloodlines, each comprising dozens or hundreds of clans. The bloodlines are named after the ancestral homelands where the largest groups of the survivors of the War of a Thousand Suns congregated after the war. The Iron Masters have conducted a rough survey of the Plainfolk from the annual meetings at the trading posts of Du-aruta and Bei-sita and concluded that, in order of size from largest to smallest, the bloodlines are ranked thusly:
The She-Kargo, M'Waukee and San'Paul traded almost exclusively at Du-aruta, fielding approximately 242, 103 and 38 clans respectively. The sizes of the D'Troit, C'Natti and San'Louis bloodlines are unknown, except that they had a combined strength of 506 clans represented at the two trading posts (92 D'Troit clans were represented at Bei-sita, for example). The discrepency in sizes may be due to the fact that the other three bloodlines are spread across a much vaster area, extending north into Canada and west to the Pacific, and many more clans from those groups simply did not attend the annual trading fairs prior to the Battle of the Trading Post ending that tradition for good.
Internal relations and divisionsEdit
The bloodlines are supposedly all equal, but in practice the She-Kargo and D'Troit are regarded as the 'superpowers' of the Plainfolk, and the M'Waukee and San'Paul are predisposed to favour the She-Kargo, whilst the C'Natti and San'Louis are inclined towards the D'Troit position. This is, however, a very rough simplification of the situation. In practice, clans from within the same bloodline will happily shed blood over food supplies, water or simple matters of turf or honour.
This situation abruptly changed with the Battle of the Trading Post at Du-aruta in May 2991. A vast engagement between the two sides took place, which ended in over a hundred thousand deaths and the destruction of many clans belonging to the D'Troit, C'Natti and San'Louis bloodlines. In the aftermath of this conflict, it was decided by the 'victors' (who themselves had sustained significant losses) that they would need to pull together and cooperate as never before in preperation for the coming of Talisman. As a result, a Plainfolk Council was established, made up of representatives of the She-Kargo, M'Waukee and San'Paul, which would see the clans exchange knowledge and assist one another against the Federation, the rival clans and the Iron Masters. The Council was later expanded when numerous C'Natti and San'Louis clans decided to join them, although the D'Troit largely refused to take part and remained in a state of war with the other clans.
The establishment of the Council was a serious blow to the Federation, who had been counting on the clans' divisiveness to aid their advance into Plainfolk territory. The effectiveness of this alliance was proven just a few months later when several clans working in concert helped the M'Calls, a She-Kargo clan, destroy the Lady from Louisiana wagon-train at the Battle of Twin Forks, and inflict damage on four others coming to its relief.
The Plainfolk are united by their belief in the Talisman Prophecy, which promises that a saviour-figure known as the Talisman will one day unite the Plainfolk under his or her leadership and destroy the Amtrak Federation. Although some D'Troit have wavered in their belief of the prophecy (since seven centuries after it was first uttered, there was still no sign of it being fulfilled), most of the Plainfolk retain their faith in it. The Talisman Prophecy is repeatedly taught by the clan wordsmiths to the members of each clan, so it will not be forgotten.
The Plainfolk are a warrior race whose culture is divided into several groupings:
- Elders are the eldest members of both sexes of the clan, defined as those over fifty years of age. The most experienced members of the clan, they lead and offer advice to the younger clan-members.
- Bears are adult males over the age of fourteen. They operate as hunters, warriors, guards and guardians.
- She-wolves are adult females over the age of fourteen. They typically serve as a reserve force, for the clan will not endanger its reproductive capability lightly.
- Den mothers are female warriors who have borne children and usually act as a home defence force, guarding the clan's village and young ones. They typically remain in the village until their children are five, when they return to the ranks of the she-wolves.
- Cubs are Plainfolk children aged six to fourteen who have not yet come of age. Though still trained to fight, they are usually only expected to do so in defence of the village itself and as a last-ditch measure.
All Plainfolk Mutes are expected to cook, clean and do menial tasks as required. Each clan also has a 'paramount warrior' who represents the clan in negotiations or sometimes in single combat, usually with the paramount warrior of a rival clan. Paramount warriors reach their position through the number of heads of enemies they have taken in battle. Intercine rivalries within the clan are not unknown, but is discouraged by the elders. If the paramount warrior has a rival, the rival is expected to prove his greater worth in battle with the enemy and better the clan's fortunes rather than challenge his rival directly, which would damage clan morale and risk splitting the clan in extreme cases.
All Plainfolk take a Name of Power, the name of a great hero of the Old Time. According to the Federation, the names they take are actually just names of varying origin, from vehicles (such as Cadillac or Thunderbird) to song lyrics (Mr Snow) to locations (Carnegie Hall).
Practioners of Mute magic stand outside the traditional clan hierarchy and are regarded in awe by other clan-members. Wordsmiths have superior memories to the average Mute and are expected to educate the younger members of the clan and recount great stories and legends to keep morale high. Summoners can use their magical powers to awesome effect on the battlefield, whilst seers can read the seeing stones and see glimpses of the future. Most, but not all, clans have a wordsmith of varying skill and usefulness. Very few have summoners or seers. The She-Kargo are regarded with jealousy as they have a disproportionately high number of all three types, and the Clan M'Call was noted for having three: Mr Snow (a wordsmith and summoner), Clearwater (a summoner) and Cadillac (a wordsmith and seer).