Tales from the Inner Sea
The Altaic clans are one people, but many tribes. They have never been conquered, but have often been at war, with their greatest enemies being the Tarmaki Horse Lords of the north who are fearsome and merciless and the Voyan threat to their south. Indeed, the Altai impressed the Armavine Empire sufficiently enough that peace was sought by both sides after a short war and a tribe of Altai became auxiliaries of the Empire, under the condition that non aggression between the 2 peoples was sworn. This happened 250 years previously, and since then the Altai have been free to contend with their mortal enemies the Tarmaki to the north and the obnoxious stain of the Voyans to the south.
Altai culture is constant though the evershifting tribal lines flow freely, with tribes raiding and bickering amongst themselves, uniting only when an external threat makes the grave error in assuming that they can invade this supposedly fractious people.
Altai culture revolves around the horse and family ties, in that order. Altai horses are famous for their strength, size and grace. Able to cover great distances with ease, the Altai horse is much sought after by those in the know.The Altai only part with horses if they respect the person or people who come to trade. This doesn’t happen often as a result.
Nobody has ever attempted a census or count of the Altai, but a good guess that amongst the 110 known tribes roaming the steppes of their lands, their numbers come close to 1.2 million. An Altai tribe is quite a sight on the move, as their massed horses and festively adorned wagons roll past with their herds of goats and cattle. They favor brightly coloured clothing, the better for their foes to see them, and tattoos are very common for men and women, denoting clan affiliations, deeds and even purely decorative. Hair is customarily worn long in a ponytail or topknot. They are egalitarian, with a woman having the same rights as a man, except when she is pregnant and only then is combat and raiding forbidden.
Their religion follows conventional Shamanistic practices, and their Shamans are treated with reverence and not a little fear, as the Altai know a little of what their Shamans face in their duties. A Shaman roused to war in defence of his or her tribe is a fearsome and unknowable foe who summons hosts of spirits both subtle and frightening to the detriment of the tribes foes. In peacetime a Shamans opinion is often sought by the great councils before any major decisions are made.
The Clan and Tribal Chieftains are approachable in peacetime and often seek the advice of their subjects and fellow clanfolk with great councils formed to debate grand policy of the tribes and clans, but in war and raiding the Clan Chieftain is obeyed without question, for refusal or delay can cause disaster.
The Altai love horsemanship and the feel of the wind on their faces, tests of strength and wisdom bring honour and happiness to them. Their music tends towards wild pipes and drums, with great dances and celebrations marking anything from weddings, treaties and funerals.
They trade for iron and steel weapons, often with the Armavines, also the folk of the so called pirate city Calvia, but never with the Voyans and occasionally with the Padihans. Their crafters work with bone, wood (when available) and leather, and their carvings and designs can prove popular with other peoples. They make excellent leather armour and saddles, with both being sought after by horsemen and cavalry of other cultures.
The Altai have a great wariness over the Dark Trolls of the Black Wastes, having fought them from time to time and knowing defeat against them as well. The Dark Troll Matriarchs wield powers the Shamans respect and their warriors are brave and in their way honourable. Would that their human enemies were so.
The Clan endures and continues, watching the rise and fall of other empires, cities and peoples around them, wishing only to be left to live as they always have. They may not get their wish for much longer as Voya continues to grow in power and the yearly battles and skirmishes with the Tarmaki escalate each passing year.