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IN DEPTH

     Here Barbara Hambly, author of Icefalcon's Quest, lets us inside the mind (and written notes)
     of one of her characters. 

For more about Icefalcon's Quest, including reader reviews, see our Featured Author area for Barbara
Hambly. 

THE WHITE RAIDERS
From the notes of Gil Patterson 

Those who dwell there call it the Real World. 

You have to understand it, if you're to understand its people. There's been a lot of silliness written and
rumored about the so-called White Raiders--though the Icefalcon himself gets on his high horse if you dare to
hint that he has any connection to the Twisted Hills People or the Earthsnake People or any one of the other
hundred-odd Peoples who occupy the lands between the Snowy Mountains and the Seaward Mountains,
between the Alketch jungles and the Ice In the North. The Icefalcon will tell you that his people, the Talking
Stars People, are vastly superior to any of them. I assure him that it's obvious that this is so. 

The White Raiders as a culture are the logical outgrowth of the Real World. Their way seems incredibly
harsh--they don't think twice about leaving behind anyone who can't keep up with their bands, and I'm told
it's considered good manners for the old to drink hemlock when they start to feel themselves slowing
down--but the Real World is harsh. The soil is thin and the herds are constantly on the move, following the
summer rains; in the winters everything is locked down under snow and starvation. Survival depends on
physical strength, speed, silence, and an almost superhuman eye for details: the difference between day-old
sabertooth claw-marks on a tree-trunk and fresh ones can mean a lot. Children are taught to observe the
growth of grass, the level of streams, the presence or absence or age of tracks, the smell of the wind. In the
longhouses at their winter steadings they trade this kind of information constantly, to ascertain where the
hunting will be good in the spring. It's like a combination of Sherlock Holmes and the steamboat pilots Mark
Twain describes in Life on the Mississippi: incredibly focused and exact, without room for deviation or
extraneous things. As a rule they all dress very plainly, in wolf or antelope skins, tailored close to the body.
Nothing that will catch the eye or give a hair's-breadth disadvantage in the hunt or in war. 

You'd have to be an anthropologist to explain the origins of White Raider religion, which involves propitiation
of ancestors by torture sacrifices at set times of the year. It seems wasteful to me. The Icefalcon assures me
that the Stars ordered his people to do this and that all the other peoples of the Real World are just copycats
out of envy. I don't think this is true. Some of the southern Peoples believe in gods and demons, but this may
be influenced by the beliefs of the Alketch. Mostly, the White Raiders--and this is true of any of the various
Peoples as far as I can tell--believe that their world is the Real World: that civilization, and agriculture, and
having enough surplus food to take care of those who can't care for themselves are frivolous notions at best.
They are deeply attached to their world and their way of life. In that case, I've asked the Icefalcon, why did
he leave it? 

He won't tell me. 

--Copyright 1997 by Barbara Hambly 

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