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Plains Tlaxu

Physical description Plains Tlaxu have short coats of fur, generally no more than an inch in length, and of a dusty, sandy colour. The exception to this is their head hair, which can grow up to several feet long if allowed, and is a darker colour than the fur on their bodies. Males grow their hair long, and plait it into braids. The style of the plait denotes different things - an enemy slain in battle, a ritual hunt, a wife. Young males may have only a single braid whereas older, important males will have lots. Females are required to keep their hair short, as a symbol of their inferiority.

Due to some quirk, roughly four fifths of all births are female, and female Tlaxu greatly outnumber the males. Despite this, the males are considered superior, even though most of the actual work in the tribe is performed by the females.

Tlaxu are defined by family clans, held together with bizarre (to humans) incestuous kinship laws. One male Tlaxu is the centre of the tribe. He is patriarch and the clan takes its identity from him (A Tlaxu would say, "I am of the [Patriarch] clan". The patriarch has first rights to marry his own daughters. No one else may do so without his permission and this is seldom granted. One reason for this is that the number of wives and offspring that a patriarch has defines his social position. A Tlaxu with four wives is much more important than one with just a single wife. A Tlaxu may not marry his sisters if his father still lives (since the father has first rights to his daughters), but may challenge the father to a duel to the death over mating rights (and in this case the position of patriarch). If the father is dead, a Tlaxu may marry his sisters.

If a Tlaxu fathers a female child by his daughter, she is termed a "Second Daughter", and it is considered taboo to marry a Second Daughter. In fact, Tlaxu consider a father-second daughter relationship to be as abhorrent as humans would a father-daughter one. These seemingly incongruous attitudes are very confusing to humans. It may be that this incestuous kinship is the cause of the gender imbalance in Tlaxu births.

Male children, then, are able to marry second-daughters, but must do so outside of their clan. In doing so, the male moves from the clan of his father to that of his father-in-law. Since sons are considered a threat to the patriarch, there is cultural pressure to be rid of them as soon as possible. Unmarried sons are given the dangerous tasks of warrior and hunter. Other than fathering lots of offspring, the patriarch does little in the clan. Although the young males are hunters and warriors, young females sometimes take this role. It is the females who do most of the day-to-day running of the clan.

The Plains Tlaxu have the same spirit sight as their Mountain cousins. They revere a creator spirit that they call "The Whispering One" who is seen as the great patriarch of the cosmos. The Whispering One has numberless sisters (such as Mountain Sister, River Sister, Plant Sister etc.) with whom he mates and produces all the lesser spirits and people of the world.

"Long Claw"
Unlike Mountain Tlaxu, Plains Tlaxu have no particular compunction against using weaponry besides claws. Indeed, amongst the Plains Tlaxu it is considered barbaric and uncivilised to use claws in all but ritual hunts and duels. A common weapon is a pole-arm known as the "long claw". This is a spear-like weapon, featuring a slightly curved, sharpened blade on the end of a six foot pole, used mainly in a slashing fashion, like a glaive or naginata. The best blades are made of metal, but the Plains Tlaxu are a metal-poor culture and have little skill in its working. Bone or flint are more commonly used.

Rarely, the long claw may be decorated with the claws of a dead Tlaxu. These will come from either a foe defeated in duel or battle, or from a revered patriarch or skilled warrior. If the latter, it is believed that some of the skill and power of the previous owner lives on in the claw.

Relations to other races
Plains Tlaxu have had long associations with humans, not all of them good. Although the land they inhabit is hostile and holds little of interest to the Empire, human expansion has from time to time infringed their territory. In the recent past, a Tlaxu jihad ravaged the eastern borders of the Empire. At other times, Vaarta to the north of the Tlaxu Steppes has persecuted the Tlaxu. Currently, an uneasy truce exists with the Merchant's League setting up trading posts in Tlaxu territory.

Plains Tlaxu have a tendency to judge a person on the length of their hair - long hair to them denotes male, and therefore superior, whereas short hair means female and therefore inferior. Humans wishing to negotiate with Tlaxu from a strong position are advised to grow their hair!

The Tshoymar
Many young males, ousted from their clans, band together in warrior groups called Tshoymar. The Tshoymar attempt to win brides by impressing patriarchs with feats of daring and bravery. Other Tshoymar become little more than bandits, gaining mates by raiding and rapine.