Omai

Note: these guys aren't meant to make slavery look cool. They're supposed to be an NPC race that can add some color and social complexity to your setting. They don't think they're doing anything wrong, of course, but most other societies would likely find them fairly disgusting, especially if said civilizations are mostly good-aligned.

The Omai are a nomadic clan of traders. Rumored to have originated on the plains, they were once a race of herders and warriors. Some still follow the ancient practice of animal trading. However, having long ago discovered the profitability of slave-trading, most of them have turned from the simple life. Some Omai families can be found clinging to the old ways on the plains, but most travel through the civilized lands, capturing, buying, and selling their ‘wares.’

Description:
The Omay are brown-skinned and tan easily, so that they range from a warm nutty complexion to deep mahogany. Blunt, rounded features and large eyes often make them look deceptively gentle and open. Their hair is dark and thick, and usually somewhat curly. In all, they are a fairly handsome people in a down-to-earth way. Standing at an average height, men typically range from 5’6” to 5’10” and women between 5’ and 5’6”.

Omai are fond of bright colors, and traditionally wear headbands or kerchiefs over their hair. They enjoy dancing and have a highly developed form of percussive music. They tend to be active and cheerful, but have an instinctive distrust of others, which is usually returned.

Society: Omai society was originally tribal. To this day they keep strong bonds and tend to travel in extended family groups, called ‘hadeen.’ They move constantly, never staying anywhere for more than a couple of weeks at a time. This is partly for business reasons, and partly because they are seldom tolerated for much longer than that.

The sexes are fairly egalitarian, gravitating toward their natural talents. Omai men tend to be impatient, so the women often end up doing the actual trading and book-keeping. Older members of the group act as witnesses and advisors. There will be at least one trained cleric in each hadeen, and often an apprentice as well. Each hadeen also has at least one trained healer, who is never the cleric—although the cleric will provide assistance in emergencies.

Hadeen travel by horse and wagon. When on the move, they make camp each night in heavy painted cloth tents. In cities, they will stay in whatever accommodations present themselves, or find a place to pitch their tents if nothing is available.

The Omai as a race have no structure. Some hadeen are friendly with one another, while others are hostile upon meeting. When hadeen encounter one another in their travels, they each send out a representative to talk. The result may be that the two groups simply pass one another, stop and chat, or possibly do a bit of trading. Rarely, a fight may break out, though it seldom results in fatality. When hadeen encounter one another in a city, however, the matter is different. The hadeen who got there first gets to stay, and any others must leave. It is considered impolite to infringe upon one another’s business, and more to the point it makes the inhabitants nervous.

Omai see nothing wrong with dealing in slaves. To them, it is simply business. They do not mistreat people, and have no responsibility for what happens after the person passes from their hands. In fact, they consider it more humane than leaving poor people on the streets to starve. Such unfortunates are at least taken care of, they gain an education, and depending on where they end up, may even win their freedom.

Furthermore, Omai have a mild contempt for most other races. An Omai would die before surrendering his freedom, and they feel that slaves who don’t make every effort to escape must not care that much. A slave who does manage to escape is chased until one dawn and one sunset have passed. If they manage to evade the Omai, then they are free.

Business: Omai trade in all sorts of flesh, both animal and humanoid. They raise, buy and sell goats, sheep, chickens, cows, and horses. Occasionally an individual may specialize in something exotic, such as hawks, or the truly outré, like griffins. A person searching for an unusual animal may do well to speak with the Omai, since they can probably point you in the right direction if they don’t know someone personally.

However, their specialty is human, demihuman, and humanoid slaves. Strange as it sounds, most Omai are obsessed with the ‘respectability’ of their business. For the most part, Omai take pains to acquire slaves ‘legally.’ They buy children from parents (prostitutes are a prime source), trade indentured servants (in this case, all documentation is kept and papers are signed promising prompt release), buy debtors sold off by courts to pay debts, and trade for slaves taken in war and other such ‘legitimate’ sources. Although there are always exceptions, Omai do not usually abuse their slaves. They are fed, clothed, and not beaten unless they step out of line. Omai sometimes train slaves in useful skills such as reading, cooking, animal husbandry, and so forth.

Even so, Omai are seldom welcomed. Only a few societies deal with them openly (such as Lacon). In most cities, Omai are dealt with secretively, and tossed out as soon as possible. In some (especially good) places, they face laws and sanctions, or are sometimes forbidden completely. Many stories are told about Omai kidnapping innocent people off the streets, and almost everywhere they go, they face persecution and fear.

The Omai have become used to this, however, and care little for what others think of them. In cities where slave trade is banned, they leave slaves behind and simply trade their animals. Undeniably, the Omai’s biggest protection is the fact that they tend to be quite wealthy. As unpleasant as it is, slave trading is a very lucrative business.