The Llaoihrr Brownie, or Vale Brownies as the Big Folk knows them, live in a clan-based society, with each clan providing a specific product or service to be traded with the other clans and thus enhancing Brownie society as a whole. Therefore each clan has its own specific task to help organize daily life in the Vale. Each Brownie contributes in the manner best suited for him or her, as a Greengrower (gardener), a Hotfinger (a cook), a Barterer (one who does the babbling with the Big People), or any other profession. Specialisation is indeed the key in Brownie life.
contrary to most other races and tribes, live in a strongly clan-based dominated
society. Questions that only affect one clan are generally decided within the
clan, and outside interference is generally not tolerated. Each clan has its own
designated power, the means, the determination, ambition and the pride to
fulfill the tasks allocated to the members to the best of their knowledge and
abilities. A clan might have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand
The single clans have a kind of topped pyramid structure. The base is formed by the apprentices and those Brownies that have not yet mastered many of the Clan’s deepest secrets. These are basically the newly accepted members and Brownies that are not likely to learn much more. As a member grows in experience, he or she climbs higher in the pyramid.
The top of the pyramid is the Clan Council, where decisions are made. Since the Council always consists of several talented and experienced Brownies adept in their own field of specialty, there is never one voice that weighs more than the others, hence the topped structure. Decisions that concern only the clan itself will be taken by this council, while decisions about more than one clan are taken by representatives of each, known as "Clan of Elders".
The Clan of Elders acts as a go-between for matters that affect more than one clan, and also makes decisions affecting all LLaoihrr, and meets year-round at the Tree Circle around the Council Tree, a magically grown, heavily populated, oversize cinnabark pine.
Joining a Clan. Every year the Vale celebrates the Feast of "Choosing Day". On this day all Brownies who have turned or will turn 15 that year choose the clan they wish to enter. They are submitted to a test to see whether they are fit to join this clan. The test varies each year.
There are many different clans to choose from (see Clan Overview section for more details), all in all about two dozen major ones and several minor ones. Once chosen and accepted, the Brownie will be trained for 15 years, and at the end of this period, another test will decide if the trainee has acquired the right skills and capacities to become an official member of the clan.
The entrance test, held on Choosing Day, is usually fairly effective in determining whether a Brownie is fit to join the clan. If he or she is not successful, he/she will get a chance to try for another clan. If a Brownie passes the test but discovers during the first years that thewrong choice was made the apprentice is allowed to change. During the next Choosing Day one can take a new test. Since ine still needs to fulfill 15 years of apprenticeship, this will Brownie be older than the other graduates.
When the apprenticeship is over and the final test is not passed, the Brownie remains apprentice for another year, and tries again the next year. Some might also take some time at this point to rethink their position in Brownie life, maybe even leave the Vale or eventually become apprentice somewhere else. Nevertheless, these occasions are extremely rare, as usually once the 15 years are over, each Brownie already has found his place in the Vale's society, is already highly respected and identifies with the role he or she has gotten accustomed to.
Brownies with a lower mental capacity or a physical disability also choose their clan, but they are given an easier test, one that is tuned to their abilities. Once accepted, these members of society will receive a little more attention than the others, but once such Brownies become full members, they will be given a certain task that they will carry out for the rest of their lives. Members with mental problems seldom rise higher, of course depending on how low their mental capacity is, and thus they are not taught many of the clan’s secrets. Nevertheless, they fulfil their own task in society, and are not treated badly by the other Brownies.
The day that the apprentices are tested and hopefully accepted is called “Naming Day”. Originally, the Brownies who were accepted as a member were given a new name, their "adult name". Later on, they picked a new name themselves. Since a few decades many of the apprentices just keep the name given to them by their parents. This day, when the Nevertheless receive a name (even if it is the name given at birth), is still called Naming Day. Like Choosing Day, Naming Day is held once a year. The date of both feasts is decided by the Clan of Elders.
Clans Overview. There exist about two dozen major clans in the Vale, and several minor ones, that we can neglect here. Most of the major ones are listed below.
The Ferretmaster Clan:
One of the best known clans outside of the Vale, because the famous Brownie General Greybark was a member. The members tame and train wild animals, from shrews to foxes, sometimes even larger beasts like the wolf, although this has not occurred much. Tamed shrews and other animals may be used in the household, while the larger animals like ferrets or foxes are used in the the Brownies’ ground army. All members are taught to fight.
The Magic Clan (also known as "Clan Maj" or "Redbark
The magic clan is the clan of the Redbarks. Other colours are allowed to enter, yet the majority are Redbarks because of their natural high affinity to Lifemagic. Trainees learn all the spells available to Brownies. It is said that in the ancient kingdom of Birn, many more powerful spells were known, but these are lost in time.
The Skydiver Clan (also known as the "Flying Militia")
Founded by Greybark, the trainees of the Skydiver Clan were at first drafted from other clans. Very soon, however, it became a clan itself and could be chosen directly. The Flying Militia can be seen as the air force of the Brownies, while part of the Ferretmaster Clan is the ground army.
The Hotfinger Clan
This is a small clan. Of course, every Brownie knows how to cook an own meal, but this clan is responsible for larger parties. Birthdays, weddings, funerals, and any other day where many Brownies need to eat at the same time, the Hotfingers take care of.
The Bubbler Clan
The Bubblers are responsible for a range of things, from healing potions over dyes to Brownie drinks, be they alcoholic or not. This clan among other stuff produces the famous Aohu'o Sweet Spice Mead, originating from the Aohu’o Brownies. Some humans have acquired a taste for this mead too. Another well-known low-alcoholic drink is called "Rroi uhLL" (lit. "fruit sap"), a kind of wine made from different fruits. This is not as well liked among humans as the spice mead, but Brownies are quite fond of it.
The dyes that the clan produces are usually bought by the Decoration Clan to dye tapestries, and the Leather Clan to give the festive garments a nice colour.
The Prowler Clan
Also a smaller clan, as every Brownie learns to hunt from a very small age. This clan will mostly hunt those animals that are not easily caught, e.g. the blackbeetle. They mostly use blowpipes or bows and arrows, with a poisoned tip. Those animals that are hardest to hunt down will usually be caught only for special occasions, for example for Choosing Day.
Equivalent of Farmers to the Big People. They provide the other Brownies with vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, etc. A small part of the Grower Clan also breeds domestic shrews, mostly to be kept as pets. They forage fruits in the forest to the south, although they do not dare to go too far, and often a few Brownies from either the Hunter Clan or the Ferretmasters accompany the Foragers to guard them from perils (such as hunting owls).
The Brightler Clan
Every house in the Vale has at least some decorations. This can range from leaves to drawings on the walls to carved wood. Every member of the Decoration Can is able to make any of these, although they mostly specialize in one sort of decorating. They also make toys for the children.
The Hamm’rer Clan
This clan makes all kinds of furniture and other wooden tools. This is the clan by the way that adopted Bluetwine, later Whisper’s father. They create toys for the Brownie children, either alone or in association with the Brightler Clan, but also for the nearby human villages. These are finely-crafted wooden playthings with movable parts.
Hamm'rers also invent all kinds of things to make everyday life in the Vale easier. The creation of the Brownie weapons (the sling-shot, the bow, the blowpipe etc.) and their ammunition (in case of the last two) is also part of their task. Poisons for the ammunition are made by the Brownie themselves or the Bubbler Clan.
Another part of their task lies in the building of Brownie dwellings, either at the foot of a tree or on its branches. Hamm'rers are quite skilled in making the latter safe places to live in, without the danger of the house crashing to the ground below.
The Imparter Clan (or
"Cunners" as the children
Before the Brownie children turn 15, they need to know the basics. There are two kinds of teachers in this clan: those that know a little bit of everything and those who know everything about a small thing. The first group of teachers give lessons to the smaller Brownie children. They impart the basics of the skills that every child should learn, e.g. hunting, the basics of Lifemagic, herb uses, reading and writing.
As the children grow older, they will receive instructions by teachers that have specialised. If they like a certain skill less, they will drop that and concentrate on those that they do like. In this way, they know in what direction lies their interest by the time they are 15.
The Drummer Clan
This is the clan of the musicians. Drummers play a variety of instruments (created by the Hamm'rers). With different kinds of drums and flutes they liven up the feasts (Choosing Day, Naming Day, birthdays…)
The Leather Clan
These are the tailors of the Brownies. For most clothing they use mouse leather skin. They tan the skin, make the threads out of fibres, and produce the clothing that most Brownies wear (boots, shirts, pants). They also weave and colour more festive clothing.
The Bartering Clan (often
called the "Babblers")
The Brownies in this clan take care of all dealings with humans, everything from taking in orders to delivering the requested items to payments. They also attend to any visitor that might come to the Vale, because they (together with the Scribbler’s Clan Brownies) know the Tharian tongue best.
The Scribbler’s Clan
The archivists and scholars of the Brownies. They scribe just about everything on barks. Births, deaths, weddings, important events in Caelereth (when they hear of them), important events in the Vale (which are numerous), nothing escapes their attention. The barks are stored in the Council Tree. They are also trained to know Tharian and Stýrash.
The Wheeler Clan
Wheelers are the ones who take care of all transport. They bring all the things ordered, such as the Aohu’o Mead or tools from the Hamm'rers, to the people who had ordered them. A member of the Bartering Clan accompanies them to discuss the payment.