The Fluters are grey-skinned hunters that live in the Flutelands of the southern Esterteng. Many characters in Vattu are Fluters, including the titular Vattu. The word "Fluter" is an exonym; it is unknown whether their endonym is Nomad (as on p001), or something else.
The white-marked tribe of Fluters are migrant hunters, who follow the Torgut as they move up and down the banks of the River Tarria. They live in tents arranged around a central bonfire, which is used for ceremonies and as a central meeting area. As per their name, Fluters play a distinctive flute, which has four holes and appears to be made of bone (like the prehistoric Chinese gǔdí). They subsist on Torgut-meat as well as root vegetables native to the Flutelands.<ref>http://www.formspring.me/evndahm/q/177602994144050231</ref>
Worldview and Terminology
The Fluters do not account for "years", and are likely unaware of Overside's common calendar. Rather, their system of time is built around the two seasons (warm and cold), and the "cycle", a generation of Fluters. There is also the "circuit", which is one full rotation of their nomadic migration (as in, moving upriver, and then back downriver, following the Torgut). The most difficult time of the Fluter calendar may be the "turning", which is when the Fluters must move from the southernmost camp on their circuit to the northernmost one, before the end of the warm season.
Fluters do not use the cardinal directions-- north, south, east, and west-- but rather speak of things as occurring "upriver", "downriver", and "riverside" (which may be a "west" analog). This is similar to existing non-compass directional systems, such as the ones that exist in some Austronesian languages.<ref>http://books.google.com/books?id=nkkXN4NuZ9QC&pg=PA73#v=onepage&q&f=false</ref>
Each of the Fluters in a tribe plays a certain role, which is generally determined by sex. Male Fluters are usually hunters, while female Fluters watch children and stay in the camp (presumably performing other duties there). An exception to this is Aro, who, while male, acts as a midwife<ref>http://www.rice-boy.com/vattu/index.php?c=007</ref> and sleeps in the female Fluters' shared tent.<ref>http://www.rice-boy.com/vattu/index.php?c=047</ref>
The clearest roles in the Fluter tribe are those of the Hunter and Priestess, as is clear by the fact that these Fluters are referred to only occupationally, instead of by the names associated with their marks. They can be clearly distinguished from other Fluters by the clothes they wear (as described in Clothing)
Beliefs & Rituals
Fluter beliefs center on the god Ata, a deity associated with the River Tarria (also called "Ata" by the Fluters). Ata is seen as a powerful force guiding the natural cycles of the Fluters, such as birth and migration circuit.
Fluters have a birth ritual which takes place directly after a newborn Fluter's birth. This practice involves tossing the just-born infant over and across a large communal bonfire, which is altered by a powder to produce green flames. Considering that the matter of biological parentage is not considered important to Fluters, this ritual may represent the establishment of a communal responsibility for the newborn child. During this ceremony, the Priestess wears a necklace made of teeth from an unidentified animal.<ref>http://www.rice-boy.com/vattu/index.php?c=004</ref>
Fluters also have a death ritual, which involves setting the deceased Fluter adrift on the River Tarria in a boat grave. Since the River is the center of their cosmology, this may indicate a return to Ata for the dead Fluter. During this ritual, the Priestess wears a necklace made of Torgut spinal plates, as seen on the ground on p011.
Since dead Fluters are carried south down the River Tarria, this may explain why Fluters talk of the unmarked tribe of the Dead as coming from "downriver". This is both literal, as the Dead live to the south of the white-marked tribe's southernmost camp, but it could also indicate that the marked Fluters believe the Dead are actually reanimated corpses who have traveled back "upriver".
The Stones of the Dead, short rocks carved (presumably) with the forehead-marks of dead Fluters, exist to the south of the Fluters' normal hunting range, and may mark a boundary between the lands of the marked and unmarked (or "living" and "dead").<ref>http://www.rice-boy.com/vattu/index.php?c=028</ref> It is unknown whether these stones were crafted by the white-marked tribe, the Dead, or some other group. They may be like headstones for dead Fluters (recording their name for posterity), or, if made by the Dead, they could be some kind of physical stand-in for the marking/naming process.
Fluters are notable for the marks on their elongated foreheads, which can be used to determine the Fluter's sex and, to some extent, their name. These marks are drawn on with some kind of paint.<ref>http://www.rice-boy.com/vattu/index.php?c=070</ref> Very young Fluters and unmarked tribes do not possess them.
The sex of the Fluter is shown by the shape of the mark: male Fluters have angular, contiguous symbols, while females have more rounded, segmented shapes. The number of syllables in the Fluter's name is also shown by the shape of the mark, although the way it is encoded differs by sex:
- For female Fluters, simply count the number of separate marks. This number is equal to the number of syllables in the female Fluter's name.
- For males it is a bit more difficult, as the number comes the number of bends the mark takes, plus one (as in, if the mark changes direction once, the name has two syllables). This could also be conceptualized as the number of straight "segments" that make up the mark, which is equal to the number of syllables.
Marks can also be used to label the tent that belongs to a particular Fluter, although in the case of the white-marked tribe, only Priestess has her tent marked in this way (as the other tents are shared).<ref>http://www.rice-boy.com/vattu/index.php?c=007</ref>
The mark, for those Fluters who possess it, is extremely important. It represents not only one's name, but also one's personhood and role in the tribe. The Priestess of a tribe first draws the mark on a Fluter's forehead, when they are an infant. This may occur after a significant event in the young Fluter's life, such as their first turning (as in Vattu's case).
A Fluter without a mark is seen to be dead (e.g. The Dead), although marked Fluters who die do not have their marks erased during the funeral. When a Fluter is banished from their tribe, however, they are taken to the River Tarria where their mark is forcibly washed away.
Fluters have three fingers and three toes. Their skin varies from light to dark grey, although their hands and toes are a lighter color than the rest of their body. Their skin is rough to the touch. The Dead have paler skin than other Fluters.
Fluter clothing is light, and consists of a short cape worn over a tunic (for men) or dress (for women). While the men's clothing usually sticks to one shade, female Fluters have capes and dresses that differ in color. Very young children do not wear clothing, but as they get older they might wear only the cape or tunic.
Priestesses dress in heavy furs, which are decorated with small skulls and bones. They also incorporate Shira feathers, which stick out from the Priestess' collar. Hunters wrap some kind of string or wire around their foreheads, and use Shira feathers to decorate the bottoms of their spears.