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The Sound of Drums - Public Bluesheets
(no spoilers here! everybody in game gets these)


The Leyanti - Their Lives and Customs

Extracts from the Writings of Anders the Wanderer

The People of the Cat

In the center of this great continent, hidden in lushly forested valleys amongst high and cruel mountains, live a most extraordinary people. They call themselves the Leyanti, or the People of the Cat. They are generally tall in stature, with great strength and swift reflexes, men and women alike; they grow to old age in very good health. Their tribe is quite small, no more than twenty-five adults and children, though they say it has been larger at times. They say their ways are very ancient, that they have lived as they do now for dozens of generations.

Also hidden in these mountains, and rarely mentioned in other traveler's bestiaries, are the beasts that the Leyanti call their cats. They appear as enormous wildcats, almost the size of a small pony, with stocky frames, small ears, and fur that is short but quite thick. They possess a pair of enormous fangs, set in the front of their upper jaw, each the length of a man's hand, and are powerful hunters. They live in packs, like wolves, and the Leyanti live closely with them. The Leyanti hunt with their cats, share food and water and shelter, and seem to consider them members of the tribe in many ways. The cats in return are very affectionate and protective, and as loyal as the finest hound. They will even wrestle together, beast and human, like kittens at play, the one taking great care not to hurt the other.

Every Leyanti, child or adult, will form a close bond with a particular cat, from kittenhood to death. Children often bond with a newborn cat soon after they can walk. The cats live about twenty to thirty years, and a tribesman will usually bond with two or three over the course of a lifetime. The death of one's bonded cat is cause for great mourning, for the animal is a constant companion, guardian, and playmate, and will often allow their human friend to ride about on their back. And those cats can run quite quickly for their size, even with a rider, and make formidable war-mounts.

A Leyanti on cat-back can cover great distances in a single day, and though they live in an isolated and difficult-to-reach village, they can explore and hunt over wide areas. The Leyanti live off the land, gathering roots and plants and a wide variety of game, either alone or, when chasing larger prey, in hunting parties. They have no concept of agriculture, but live an easy life, for the surrounding land, as far as they can ride, is bountiful enough to support their small tribe.

They know the arts of tanning, weaving, basketry, and pottery, and build huts for themselves in the hollow trunks of massive trees; they know how to render fat into candles to light their way in the night. Their command of medicines and healing is extraordinary, and they say it is the magic of their gods at work. Their music is voice and drum, and they are very fond of the dance. They do not have wheeled machines, nor the written word, and do only the simplest of metalwork, sometimes trading far afield for finer weapons, though their stone-chipped tools are very handy. They hunt primarily with the bow and the spear, with short knives to finish the kill.

The Leyanti keep largely to themselves, and most shun contact with outsiders except to trade. Some seem to fear, mistrust, or look down upon those from other lands, though that is not unanimous amongst them--for they are generally highly independent people, quick to form their own opinions and speak their minds. But they will always, if possible, help children or the sick, Leyanti or no.

The chief of the tribe, though respected, is by no means a lord or sovereign. The chief has the final say in council and the general right to command the rest of the tribe in times of danger, but she is otherwise treated much like the rest of the tribesfolk, as a friend and equal, and her people are not afraid to question her if they think she is wrong. Her only crown is a strip of red leather in her hair. Her partner in leadership is the shaman, the tribe's priest and keeper of lore. It is said that the chief guards the tribe's bodies and the shaman their spirits.

Both the chief and the shaman may be either a man or a woman, as the Leyanti make little distinction between the two. And both chose their successor themselves, though the chief is usually expected to chose her own child. The shaman may chose whoever best fills the role, but the chief's family is expected to inherit--though it matters not whether it is the eldest or any other child, unlike the inheritance of princes.

Concerning Their Gods

The Leyanti worship seven gods, though they keep no altars or sacrifices. Their gods are often spoken of as personal friends, even family members, and tales will be told of divine exploits just as they are told of fellow tribesmen. The gods are mentioned as walking and living amongst the people some time ago, but never recently or within living memory, except in a few tales where a tribesman is so devoted to and like unto a particular god that he is called a Great Cat, as if the god rides him.

Their gods and their symbols are as follows:

The Sun, Somra-Yeli. Often called Brother Sun. A brave and kind hero, a heavenly leader, bringing light and life, yet rarely spoken of as personally as some.

The Moon, Moyira-Yosa. The sister of the Sun, and called Sister by her devotees. She is the goddess of mysticism, insight, and divine wisdom, though not of madness, as the moon is elsewhere.

The Earth, Ola-Zhen. The Leyanti call her the Grandmother of All, and she rules the forests, plants, animals, and the natural world as a whole, as well as mothers and childbirth.

The Hunter, Azha-Atli. He is the son of the Earth, perhaps the most human in fellowship of all the Leyanti gods. He both honors his mother and reaps her bounty, embodied in the act of the hunt.

The Trickster, Tala-Kay. Neither man nor woman, sometimes honored and sometimes a laughingstock. He-she-it-they are a shape-shifting creature of mischief who can bring both fortune and disaster.

The Warrior, Khai-Uls. A fearsome and powerful goddess of battle, the guardian spirit of the tribe. Her devotees are often unusually close to her, speaking of her almost as a lover.

There is a seventh god of whom the Leyanti rarely speak. He is called the Warrior's husband, and seems to be a figure of death.

Every adult Leyanti is dedicated to one of their gods, and wears a bone disk strung round their neck at all times, day and night, carved with the symbol of that god. They call this a godsign.

When a child reaches sexual maturity, the shaman cuts a branch and begins to mark it, one cut for each full moon, until there are three marks for each god, or twenty-one months. That child can then request to be initiated as an adult, though they may also wait as long as they like. They stand during council, announce the god which they wish to dedicate themself to, and if the chief and shaman approve, the shaman will paint the sign of that god upon them and send them forth, alone, into the wilderness.

The wilderness is a test of strength and survival, a quest for the gods, and a hunt. Within three days, the child must kill an elk--large and difficult prey--and is expected to return with the shoulderblade, from which they will carve their godsign. They may stay out for longer than three days if they wish, to prove their strength. A chief's child is expected to stay at least five. If all goes well, they return triumphant with their trophy and is accepted into the tribe as an adult. They may also change their name if they wish. Failure is rare, and death rarer, but both do occur.

If, in the course of time, a Leyanti adult wishes to re-dedicate themself to a different god, they need only to announce their intent, meet with the shaman's approval, and make a new godsign. The ordeal need not be repeated. They may also change their name at will, then or at any other time, though it seems customary to not change one's name unless one is also changing godsign, except when a name has been given by the shaman or other authority as some sort of honor. Changing one's godsign seems to be done in times of great personal upheaval.

A Leyanti elder dedicated to a particular god will often make themself available as an advisor to a youth seeking initiation under that godsign.

The dead are said to camp and hunt amongst the stars, or live in peaceful lands beyond shadow. They have no concept of hell.

Marriage and the Liberties Taken

Amongst the Leyanti, a man and a woman marry for one express purpose: that of bearing and raising children together. Though even when their children are grown, they will usually stay together for their lives. Leyanti women seem to have the peculiar ability to only conceive a child when they wish to and with the man they chose. This is also said to be a gift from their gods. Most women do not have many children, and some never have any, but each babe--or kitling, as they're often fondly called--is welcomed and loved. The whole tribe, as well as the child's own parents, will lend a hand in upbringing, passing on their knowledge, taking turns watching and caring for the children. Leyanti children often run wild exploring, and are rarely scolded and never beaten.

But marriage seems to exist only for the sake of children, for it places no limits on the faithfulness of man and wife. The Leyanti are sexually liberal to an extreme, often taking many lovers, regardless of who is or is not wedded. Some of those bonds seem as close and as lasting as marriage, but are not given that name; others are far more casual or transient. A man may have a wife and another lover, who he cares for as much as his wife, who he will love until their deaths, who may even help raise his children, but who is not his wife. And these matters are all spoken of freely; this man's lover and his wife will know each other, might well be close friends, and have no care whatsoever about sharing him.

A man lying with a man, or a woman with a woman, or three or four or five people all at once--all of these are common and considered natural and healthy, where they might be taboo elsewhere. The Leyanti do forbid incest, between parent and child or siblings, but rarely bat an eye if the same person has, for example, taken both a brother and a sister to bed at different times. They also forbid anyone to lie with a child who is not yet mature; youths between sexual maturity and the age at which they can take initiation are forbidden to lie with anyone but each other. A youth who has reached that age but not taken initiation is in a peculiar sort of limbo, when it comes to romantic entanglements, for it is neither taboo nor fully accepted for an older adult to lie with them. In time, though, if an adult does not become initiated, there is no care for that limbo left.

Aside from those, the Leyanti have one other great taboo in matters of love: jealousy. Merely wishing to abstain from lying with more than one partner is looked upon with bewildered acceptance, but expecting such restraint from another, or to grow too possessive of one's lover, married or otherwise, is considered distasteful or even wicked. To demand that a lover spurn another partner for your sake, or restrict themselves only to you, is thought a terrible thing to do, and to grow angry or jealous is despicable. Leyanti are stubbornly independent people, after all, and will accept no such restriction upon their liberties, even from their own lovers.

The Full Moon Council

Every month, on the night of the full moon, the tribe meets in a special clearing, near the center of their village, to discuss any matters that may have arisen since the last council. If a tribesman has a serious concern or dispute with another, it is considered proper to save it for the council and to discuss it publicly, lest resentment fester. Any matters that concern the entire tribe--such as an outsider who has sought shelter in the village, or any question of leadership--are also resolved at the council. And it is at council that a youth who has come of age may declare their godsign and request initiation; they will leave for their ordeal at dawn.

The chief calls all to council, and the shaman invokes the gods. Once everyone is settled, those who wish may raise matters that they believe need to be discussed. Any outsiders will be asked to tell their story, and must ask for permission to stay beyond the morning. The chief may choose what is discussed when, though she may not silence a matter unilaterally; during weighty arguments, she may break the council circle regularly, allowing for private discussion or relaxation. If there is a request for initiation or some other major community event, such as a declaration of marriage, that is saved until other matters have been discussed, for it is a joyous way to end the evening. There may also be interludes of drumming or the telling of stories, especially if one is considered relevant to the matters at hand.

Only initiated adults and those youths who are old enough to request initiation may attend the council. The younger children are left in the village for the night, and one of the adults will always abstain from council to watch them, as they make much mischief at night with their parents away. The uninitiated youths may speak in council, but can be silenced if their words are unwelcome; the adults are subject to no such restrictions. The chief and shaman will always attend council, and preside and arbitrate as necessary. The word of the eldest of the tribe is also given much weight.

The Leyanti as a whole have a curious relationship with those from outside, a mixture of curiosity and distrust, yet they also have their own laws of hospitality. The rare traveler who passes through these mountains is generally welcomed and fed, and doctored if ill or injured, but if they are with the tribe for any time at all, it seems expected that they will stay until the next council, attend, and speak, for the tribe will expect to hear their story and their reasons for coming to these mountains before sending them on their way.

Though they can be fierce and dangerous people, the Leyanti are not quick to anger when it comes to disputes amongst themselves. And though the word of the chief or the other leaders can force a matter to be settled, the tribe prefers to arrive at consensus, for any settlement against somebody's will can lead to trouble in the future. This can sometimes lead to very long arguments and many concessions, but they think it better than the alternative.

When a grievance or dispute cannot be settled with words, however, there can be a challenge to Asumi, a sort of ritual duel. The two parties, or a single representative from each if many are involved, step forth, still unarmed, and select a third tribesman, one neutral in the matter, to serve as the arbiter. This arbiter keeps the drumbeat while the duelists do battle, often arguing or insulting each other as they do. Asumi means Test of the Heart, and the drummer's word on who seems stronger and more determined carries much weight. During matters of particular solemnity, the shaman may be the drummer.

Though Asumi can apparently be a spectacular sight, and quite satisfying for the winner, it is rarely performed trivially. It is instead considered the ultimate test and proof of a tribesman's force of will and devotion to his side of whatever matter is at hand. If the dispute was only between the two duelists, it is generally expected that the matter will be settled in the winner's favor. If those two represent larger parties, the side whose duelist won earns considerable traction.

Asumi may also be used, however, to clear the air when a matter is highly emotional. The rite is also called, at times, the Breaking Storm. If dark clouds are in the minds of those involved, a bout of Asumi is considered to give the necessary violent outlet for the tension, the inevitable thunderstorm, so that the people involved may rest in the bright, clear air after a storm passes. The performance of Asumi is considered to be an undeniable right, even to one who is uninitiated, and the council at large has no sanction to interfere in a duel unless it is about to end in fatal wounds. If a challenge has been issued due to purely personal and painful matters, it might even be thought offensive to pry overmuch into the reasons for the duel.

If there are no great issues at council, or if what matters have been raised are resolved, it will often become a general revel, or even scatter into groups for love-making, particularly on pleasant nights.


The Characters - Dramatis Personae

Anders, an outsider from the north.

A wanderer from far away, with the rare and foreign knowledge of reading and writing, who has been living with the tribe for the better part of a month. He is soft-spoken and often seems haunted, but Nightshade, the chief, is fond of him.

Bloodmark, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Warrior.

A powerful young hunter, son of Eagle and Fireheart. He is rash and aggressive, but his strong arm has proved invaluable to the tribe. He and Hawkeye have a long-standing friendly rivalry.

Bluebell, an uninitated Leyanti.

Daughter of Stormlight and younger sister of Dewsong. She is far more outgoing than the rest of her family, and has been Stonefleck's protege in hunting and woodcraft. She has just come of age for initiation, and may begin the ritual tonight.

Dewsong, an uninitated Leyanti.

Daughter of Stormlight and elder sister of Bluebell. She is sweet, shy, and withdrawn, and has remained uninitiated for several years, despite her coming of age, though the beauty of her voice and her vast memory for songs and stories are remarkable.

Eagle, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Sun.

A clever and seasoned hunter, wed to Fireheart, father of Bloodmark, and lovers with Redcrest. He is fearless and cunning on the hunt, and respected for his clear insights and even temper.

Earthwise, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Earth.

The mother of Hawkeye, Rabbit, and several other children too young to attend council. Her husband Branch is not here tonight, for he is watching the children; she has a lover's triad with Ivywater and Redcrest. Originally named Beesbalm, she was given the name Earthwise by Rushlight, in honor of her nurturing wisdom.

Fireheart, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Trickster.

A fierce and impulsive woman, full of enthusiasm and lust, wed to Eagle, mother of Bloodmark, and lovers with Patch. She tends the flames of the council fire, and sometimes stirs up trouble in their embers.

Fox, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Hunter.

A solemn and withdrawn young woman, immensely strong and capable, yet often strangely melancholy. She is the daughter of Stonefleck and Redcrest.

Greenleaf, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Trickster.

A charming and outspoken woman, daughter of Rushlight and Reed, younger sister of Windblossom, and lovers with Nightshade. She has long been fascinated by outsiders and their ways, and will often travel to make trades of goods and stories with those she meets over the mountains.

Hawkeye, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Sun.

A brave young hunter with drive for accomplishment and a forceful and heroic streak, son of Earthwise and twin brother of Rabbit. He and Bloodmark have a long-standing friendly rivalry.

Ivywater, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Moon.

A quiet scout and explorer who often spends time apart from the tribe, though she is far more sociable than her younger brother Silence. She has a lover's triad with Earthwise and Redcrest.

Kasimir, an outsider from the east.

A richly-dressed stranger who came to the tribe only a few days ago. He was badly injured, but is recovering under Rushlight's care. He has been curious and friendly, though alarmed by some Leyanti customs.

Lucius, an outsider from the south.

A charming and charismatic man, traveling with his sister, Umbra; they sought refuge here when she fell ill on the road. They have been with the tribe for several weeks, a little longer than expected, but he has made friends here, especially with Hawkeye.

Nightshade, Chief of the Leyanti, initiated under the sign of the Warrior.

Tough, resourceful, and possessing enormous strength of will, she's been leading the tribe for many years. She has harmonious partnerships with the other tribal leaders, Rushlight and Stonefleck, and her closest friend and lover is Greenleaf. Despite her odd appearance, far darker-skinned than the rest of her tribe, she seems to be a well-loved and respected chief.

Patch, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Trickster.

An eccentric fellow, often cracking jokes and dancing about like a fool, who seems disliked and accepted at once, and who often takes the drums during Asumi. He is kind to the children, and always oddly subdued around Eagle. Fireheart is his lover.

Rabbit, an uninitated Leyanti.

A flighty and distractable young man, often staring into the distance or chattering wildly. He is the son of Earthwise and the twin brother of Hawkeye. He has been of age for initiation for almost a year, but has yet to take it up, and he has never before bothered to attend council.

Redcrest, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Warrior.

A gruff and aloof elder, wedded to Stonefleck, mother of Fox, and lovers with Eagle, Earthwise, and Ivywater. She has been noticeably displeased with the number of outsiders living with the tribe this moon.

Reed, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Earth.

A quiet older man, wed to Rushlight and father of Windblossom and Greenleaf. He is a craftsman without parallel, mostly of baskets and nets, and a kind and gentle fellow, rarely without a stick of sweetspire, an herb with soothing effects.

Rushlight, Shaman of the Leyanti, initiated under the sign of the Moon.

She is the keeper of stories, the bridge to the gods, and the advisor of troubled hearts. Wife to Reed, elder sister to Stormlight, and mother to Windblossom and Greenleaf, she is respected and beloved by the tribe.

Silence, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Seventh God.

A withdrawn loner, younger brother to Ivywater. He often disappears for weeks at a time, traveling alone through the forests; he has been away all month, and only returned here today to attend council.

Stonefleck, Eldest of the Leyanti, initiated under the sign of the Hunter.

A wise, wry old man, by turns gruff and kindly, wed to Redcrest and father to Fox. Unwearied by his age, he leads hunts with his vast knowledge and experience, and he is highly respected.

Stormlight, an uninitated Leyanti.

A soft-spoken and dreamy-eyed elder, younger sister of Rushlight, and mother of Dewsong and Bluebell. Despite her age and her ability on the hunt, she has never chosen to be initiated, living halfway between childhood and adulthood.

Umbra, an outsider from the south.

A strange and withdrawn girl, traveling with her brother Lucius. She fell ill on the road, and they sought help from the tribe. They have been here for several weeks, longer than expected.

Windblossom, a Leyanti initiated under the sign of the Earth.

Daughter of Reed and Rushlight, and elder sister of Greenleaf. She is friendly and cheerful, but also flighty and scatterbrained, highly forgetful. Despite this, she studies herb-lore with her mother.