Life and Being in the Sea of Fire

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Life and Being in the Sea of Fire is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

An Extended Discussion of the Tehir

The Tehir - A Primer

Foreword

This document is a broad collection of both learned and overheard aspects of the Tehir. It spans nearly every aspect of the Tehir's life, from birth, to sand, to death. It is riddled with song and poetry, for they are the basis of Tehir history and lore.

Extended Lessons

The Sea of Fire: Geography, Flora, and Fauna

Geography

The Sea of Fire is bordered by Mestanir and Jantalar to the north, Mensyl Keep and Nydds to the east, New Myssar to the south, and Solhaven and Vornavis to the west. It is a vast wasteland surrounded by mountains and verdant wood except in the south-southwest portion, which is primarily rolling hills leading to Brisker's Cove and the sea.

Predominantly a desert, the Sea of Fire is sparsely dotted with oases fed by underground springs. There are areas of massive sand dunes that shift with the frequent sandstorms, making it difficult to plot a map. Generalizations are made by triangulating (with crude navigational instruments) stars either by using objects on the horizon -- peaks of distant mountains, for example -- or with the great ancient monoliths found in the expanse. A system utilizing the position of the constellations at night during the various seasonal skies is also favored.

Much of the dune sand is a deep tawny hue overall, a result of the iron ore and feldspar content contributed from eons of weathering and ancient river deposits. A handful examined closely reveals grains that are milky, clear, and black. The area gets its name from the desert wind effect that occurs twice a day. Because of the angle of the light at those hours, and the translucence of the sand grains as they capture and intensify the sun's rays, a fiery aura is created. The shifting wisps of sand appear like dancing flames, hence the name "Sea of Fire."

Another phenomenon of the sand dune area is the "singing" sands. They produce a low, thrumming "boom" sound -- not caused by the wind, but due to the lighter and more uniform grains of sand rubbing against heavier grains beneath them as they drift.

Aside from the crumbling ruins rumored to be found near the center of the region, there are a handful of Imperial outposts near oases in the desert, established to support the Imperial copper mines. The only other buildings found in the desert consist of ceilingless walls of sun-baked mud bricks surrounding smaller oases. Built to provide communal shelter for traveling caravans, each corner or point (as some compounds are polygons) features a watchtower. Inside, a variety of colorful tents and lean-tos take up much of the available space, and as permitting, anywhere else will be filled with livestock.

Ringing the vast expanse in those areas where the mountains kneel at the edge of the Sea of Fire, stand cliffs of pale limestone and earthy sandstone. Wind erosion has carved deep, horizontal gashes, creating natural ledges. Within some of these recesses, earth and stone box-shaped shelters attach to each other like cells in a hive, open at the top and fashioned with crude doorways and windows. Rock overhangs serve as a roof for the entire community. The complexes are accessed by a series of tree-branch or rope ladders that zigzag from one outcropping to the next, alighting at the common areas frequently used for cooking and ceremonial activities. Cliff dwellers enjoy some protection from the harsh winds, sand storms, and heat at this protected elevation, and ladders can be removed as one climbs up, to thwart enemies.

Fauna

In general, snakes, reptiles, scorpions, and other scaled or hard-carapaced creatures fare well in the desert climate. Rodents, arachnids, moths, butterflies, worms, kangaroo rats, and birds of prey also populate the area. Their ability to camouflage themselves in the desert is key for survival.

Though not an exhaustive guide by any means, the following information is provided mainly to shed some light upon the more noteworthy creatures that share the Sea of Fire with the Tehir. These brief accountings relate information passed down through myth and legend about some of the creatures unique to this inhospitable region.

Morduska

Surely first and foremost among the fauna of the Sea of Fire is the morduska. Known by outlanders as the dune glider or sand ray, the morduska is a reptilian carnivore that lives strictly within the part of the Sea of Fire that is filled with vast, windswept dunes. Strongly resembling the aquatic manta ray or stingray, the morduska ranges in size from a mere handspan to the length and breadth of a large cottage or even a barn. Markedly dissimilar from its aquatic namesake, the sand ray's mouth is positioned in almost the very center of its dorsal surface. Hiding beneath the sand, the ray waits unmoving until its prey has wandered across its surface and near to its hidden maw. Then, with a strong, concentric rippling of its muscles, it pushes its victim into its suddenly yawning mouth, filled with inward-curving fangs. Once the morduska has chosen to reveal itself, the luckless victim stands little chance of escape. The "ground" beneath becomes unstable and the struggle to remain upright causes the prey's brief progress towards the morduska's maw to go unnoticed until it is much too late.

Small dune gliders can often be observed devouring insects or desert rodents, while the largest of morduska have been witnessed enveloping a full-grown yierka or even a Tehir rider and his mount. Indeed, Tehir legends tell of morduska which span several banks of sand dunes, but go unseen by all but their victims, because they only change location during sand storms. The largest of all morduska is named Tosak'dusalla, which means Father of Storms. It is claimed that the beast not only masks its movements within sand storms, but also is able to trigger them by the undulations of its vast breadth. Because the Tehir are quite capable of weathering sand storms of all but the fiercest intensity, the infrequent disappearances of entire groups of Tehir warriors during sand storms are often attributed to the gargantuan appetite and inescapable breadth of Tosak'dusalla.

Selshis/Sand Slider

Another reptilian carnivore of the sand dunes is the sand slider, known as the selshis. The sand slider is a quite conventional serpent, its body emulating the side-winding action of some of its serpentine cousins but in a vertical orientation, hence its name. The other noteworthy aspect of the creature's chosen form of locomotion is that it appears able to reach surprising rates of speed due to the minimized amount of contact it makes with the surface it is traveling over. The combination of its coloring, which closely resembles that of the sand in which it lives, its deceptive speed, and powerful venom makes the selshis a serpent to be taken seriously by any who travel the dunes of the Sea of Fire. Moreover, those who have survived an encounter with this foe often point out that their own survival hinged upon their ability to spot the second and often third sliders. Those which were poised on other quarters when the first slider openly attacked, enabling the survivor to limit their wounds to a single dose of venom, rather than perishing to two or even three bites.

Sand fleas

Allegedly as large as a halfling’s fist, the sand flea is destructive due to its numbers and relative size. If caught while still well fed, a sand flea is often drowned in spirits and later sun-dried with a sticky rum or brandy glaze. Some Tehir tribes regard candied sand fleas an expected cornerstone of any sumptuous repast. It should be noted that the civilized diner will invariably remove the sand flea's barbed legs, mandibles, and thick wing casings before biting into the sizable spirit-soaked morsel that remains, whereas a Tehir warrior intent upon signaling his rise above his peers will consume it whole or "dine upon a tangle of brambles washed down with his own mouth's blood," as it was once likened by an outland observer. The degree to which a warrior foregoes peeling a sand flea before he eats it, therefore, signals the warrior's "kiete bukazd," or "robustness." Following the successful devouring, he may yell out "euliemomgi," or "dominance!"

Qahzumar

These arachnids, rumored to originate from Bir Mahallah, somewhat resemble scorpions and whiptails found in other Elanthian locales. Unlike those two, however, the qahzumar is unique in that in place of claws it exhibits suckered tentacles, completely at odds with the rest of its anatomy. Due to this aberrant admixture of bodily forms, the qahzumar's origin is unnatural and doubtlessly entwined with the legends of dark magic that are part and parcel of Bir Mahallah's doom.

Sikuust/ Desert Earwig

The sikuust is in many ways similar to the several species of giant earwigs found in other terrain types. The sikuust differs in that while its length is often equivalent to the height of a giantman, its ventral-to-dorsal thickness is rarely more than a handspan, making it the flattest species of giant earwig yet documented. Also unique to the desert earwig is its ability to bite and inject its acidic venom from either its anterior or posterior mandibles. The subsequently liquefied innards of its victim are then drawn into the earwig through the same hollow portions of the mandibles that conducted the acid to the victim in the first place. Although this liquefaction and extraction method appears intended to function primarily upon insectoid prey, the process can produce quite painful and debilitating effects upon mammalian victims as well. Commonly encountered along the edges of the dunes and among the rockier expanses of the Sea of Fire, the sikuust appears more sinister than its cousins due to its uniformly ebon coloring and the extreme flatness of the creature.

Ridgeweavers

Ridgeweavers are small spiders that travel from one dune ridge to another by casting out gauzy strands of gossamer silk that catch the predawn breezes and waft the dainty creatures aloft. A source of sustenance for many of the larger desert insects, rodents and birds, the ridgeweavers are considered good luck by some of the Tehir tribes. They are also rumored to be "herded" and protected by an underground society of craftsmen, who harvest the silk for use in weaving cloth and braiding rope. Tales have been told of the Tasig-heqi, or "weaver witches," who wield such control over these herds that they rise high within the ranking of their tribe - if not for the substantial resources which they control, then out of local fear that the mass of silk-spinners could descend upon and enshroud the Tasig-heq's enemy within a matter of heartbeats. Whether or not a Tasig-heq will eventually be assumed a sorcerer is a matter of debate.

Yierka

A yierka is an omnivorous reptilian quadruped with the manners of a camel and the attitude of a perpetually angry feline. Considered to be the mount of choice by most desert warriors, lesser specimens are commonly used as beasts of burden by those Tehir who frequent areas of the Sea of Fire that are too inhospitable for camels. It should be noted that dominance over the yierka by its handler is key to its prolonged use within the waterless regions of the Sea of Fire. Unless dominance is clearly and repeatedly demonstrated, a protracted sojourn across an arid and lifeless tract may result in the yierka completing the journey with only bloodied tatters of boots tangled in the stirrups as mute evidence of a momentary lapse in the rider's domination over his mount. It goes without saying that, among the Tehir, you can gauge a warrior by his mount, for the fiercer the yierka, the fiercer the rider.

Bessho Lizard

Extinct. Thin and small, no longer than a halfling's thighbone, each had a distinctive hump on the back and was sand-hued in color, often with rosy or purple blushes. Hunting the bessho lizard was considered a men's ritual among certain tribes of the Tehir. Women were left to skin and dissect the small lizard, which was especially prized for the small spurs on its hind legs.

Flora

Native

Cactus, groundcover plants, and scrubby brush are the most common forms of vegetation found in the Sea of Fire desert -- more prevalent in areas where water sources are closer to the surface, such as oases. This includes vines that sprout small, round melons and wild cucumbers, gathered for their water or liquid content. As the land transitions to verdant (oasis), grasses and trees (date palm, yucca, pepper trees, mesquite, cassia, olive trees, creosote, bur sage) transform the landscape and provide a little shelter from the sun and heat.

Non-Native & Cultivated

Once land has become arable, the Tehir can use seeds from other regions and cultures to grow small patches of bulgar wheat, millet, corn, legumes, squashes, and pumpkins to augment their food stores. The grains and corn can be ground down into meal or flour for breads and cakes, although most breads are flatbreads due to a lack of yeast. Beans can be dried for travel, and the same can be done to chunks or slices of squash, which can be reconstituted in stews.

Weather

Due to the mountains along the periphery, the resulting convection zone contributes to the extraordinarily hot, dry weather experienced in this part of the continent, and little rainfall is seen throughout the year. For three months of the year (Eoantos, Eorgaen, and Lormesta), rare, light rains can sweep the area in the afternoon, but they are short-lived and leave very little moisture behind as they rapidly evaporate.

Actual weather is somewhat non-existent, in the sense that the only seasons are "dry" and "less dry". The water table is predominantly deep below the surface and inaccessible for sustaining life. Even in the sparse locations where the water table does come near the surface, life will only flourish if the water is fresh. In many cases, the water is too salty to be drinkable. The oases where fresh water can be found, though, are the gathering places of the desert. These rest stops along travel routes provide help with mapping, as once firmly established these outposts are no longer prone to being buried in sandstorms. The Tehir have dug shallow wells at most of the oases to ensure water is accessible even in drier years.

Sandstorms bring a two-fold hardship -- blinding, stinging sand that drives along the flesh, abrading it, and a fierce, heated wind that scalds the skin. This is why dressing in layers is important for the nomads. Yierkas and other beasts of transportation have thick, protective hides, and as part of their "dress" they have faceguards -- highly decorative -- but very protective for the sudden elements.

In general, any remaining winds are gentle breezes, except for the phenomenon occurring twice a day, at sunrise and sunset, when for a period of an hour the winds increase in strength.

In the morning, the sunrise casts mostly deep golden hues, chasing away the dusky blue of dawn, paling out as it climbs to a mid-day peak. The washed-out sky changes again with sunset, which is much more colorful as the rose-gold tone deepens to carmine streaked with wisps of orange and purple. Seldom is there a cloud in the sky, except during monsoon season, when towering clouds build up with the threat of impending rain.

Nights initially provide a welcome relief from the extremely high temperature, but quickly become unbearably cold and uncomfortable. Any radiant heat bleeds off into the atmosphere soon after nightfall, and it remains downright chilly until dawn's first light. Within half an hour of the sun climbing up from the horizon, the desert grows hot again.

Language

According to Imperial Turamzzyrian histories, the origin of the name Tehir comes from the name of their language, Tehir. The language was a closely guarded secret for ages, and was seldom spoken in the presence of non-Tehir. Those who befriended the mostly nomadic culture had to take a blood oath before being taught even the most basic nouns. Today though, with an increase of trade and socialization with other races, this is no longer the case. Both vowels and consonants are softer in pronunciation than the more precise Common, relying more on tone to decipher the various meanings behind what is being said -- be it a compliment or an insult. For this reason, it is still quite difficult for most non-Tehir to fully understand the language.

Often, while out on hunts or during raids and war, the Tehir use a secondary language -- a guttural, animalistic pattern of sounds and whistles that imitate nature. For example, bird cries and animal growls will sound natural in their environment, but the trained Tehir will use combinations of them as commands or signals. The Tehir are masters of mimicry. This allows them to stalk their prey, be it animal or humanoid -- discreetly and quickly -- and has contributed to their reputation as a stealthy people.

There are female and male variations for several of the Tehir words, often only with a single consonant difference, which can imply ownership, verb activity, or preciousness. Below is a small list of examples, though the complex grammatical structure makes precise translation difficult:

A selection of common words:

Common Tehir fem/masc
hello tiu
goodbye qaiteke
farewell vobriqi
I am uodi / iebri
Thank you zomjii
him tiel
her tid
he ti
she tzi
mother luzhid
father vozhib
sister zevid
brother kruzhib
child gtuy / gtiere
baby qoqa / koka
girl tudy
boy koa
name moni
master lovid / lovib
rite duri / biedi
power huid / huieb
wrist ubrav
leg rite
body qua / kua
blood qyeke / keke
skin vyitz
mouth luazh
drink edumj / ebiemj
tea rio
eat ior / iod
see fizum
love [lover] yafi [rafir]
marriage lodduoji
godless teuriz
death eizh
dying air / ime
bleeding qyekeir / kekeir
riding golbuir
raiding teddir
wish qietz
make loji
life yuvi / rievi
fire vubri
wet qir / uir
water qorit
day [sun] uo [zom]
night [moon] muttd [lekem]
wild dog gojor
hunting dog tuame
she-goat / goat tzaor / teuod
camel golir
seat zurib / zori
spider zkoub / zkoieb
home tuli
trade tufi / in-gtomtei
land yome / rome
heavens zhi zja / mu teur
sand (yellow) zome
blue krai
black gir
veil fiier

A few sample phrases:

We went to the park | Qi ru-teumi zhi huuj
My wife is strong | La uvi uz vur
Girls belong at home | Tudy qirur od tuli
I hold a big knife | Uture o qut meiv
I have a huge blade | Utofi o tate qyo
Kill those who escaped! | Ju zhim otu ru-izgohi!

The Sea of Fire itself goes by many names among the Tehir, though most common is Zhi’vieba. Others include Zhizio, Zhudurqua, Turmeda, Latduame, and Zhifiier. Landmarks, territories, and oases are given practical names, such as Edaqorit, known for unusually warm water. The series of arching stone protuberances about a day’s hike south of Bir’Mahallah is called Fovgroq, or Vast Claw.

The moons of the night sky possess unique names, including Tzou Lekem (Lornon), Ufura (Liabo) and Zlo (Tilaok). The satellite Makiri is not recognized among the Tehir.

In recent years, and with the increase of transient populations in Vornavis and the Eastern Nations, the Tehir have become somewhat less protective of their language. They now allow merchants to converse with them directly, instead of forcing the Tehir to use Common in their own lands. When traveling beyond the Sea of Fire though, most Tehir speak fluent Common seldom using their own language, except when alone with each other or in trusted company. Personal names are also used exclusively in private, with many Tehir families and couples using pet names almost exclusively, to ward off any possibility of enchantment, theft of essence, or attraction of the dead.

Whether welcomed or not, even the name of the Tehir has been subjugated by the influx of Imperial troops within the Sea of Fire. The official pronunciation sounds like "tih-fearee," and means "He-Veiled," which implies "Speaker of the Veil." The misconstrued pronunciation also leads to the usage of "Tehiri" to imply craftsmanship. Incidentally, the Shakat often reinforce this misconception and use the name Tehiri with flagrant disdain, including further mispronunciations to the extent of sometimes calling them (as a whole) Teuriz, or "godless."

Wide swaths of common Tehir words, from the names of clothing to animals, are similarly unpronounceable by the Common-speaking tongue. These include the Tehir woman's tabard, called (by the common tongue) "hudor", and the "ayr," or Tehir lute. The yierka was once known as the "yursbe" and the selshis, as "zirtziez." The takouba has undergone a similar fate. The special songs -- zamads -- are often misheard by Common-speakers as "sonnets."

Prehistory

The emergence of the Tehir, by most standards, occurred around their discovery in 4486 by the Hendorans. Written history of the Tehir does not exist except by the hand of the Empire. It is best followed through the tales and songs of the bards, some of which can be deciphered into literal events. Below is a selection of those tales, including their interpretations.

Three on three, small moon so red
Left the wood, once fertile bed
Years they walked, 'cross mountain's crag
Til she turned, to withered hag.
Noontide burned, the withered flesh
As they went, to north and west
Sun did set, 'cross darkened face
Stop they did, in land of waste.
Six on nine, no moon to see
Tired was, the family
Rest and wait, in desert's heat
Free and clear, from enemy.

Precisely why the Tehir came to the Sea of Fire is lost in time. As referenced in this poem however, the Tehir may have fled an enemy located in a forested region southeast of the Sea of Fire, possibly over a mountain range. It is quite likely they chose the Sea of Fire based not on its attributes, but because of its emptiness. Who or what enemy they ran from is not described here, but is mentioned in another tale:

Rotting wood of color green
Blood did run in the stream
Women ranting in cacophony
Such madness from the mastery
Wooded respite destroyed in spite
Potsherds splintered trunks with might
When the ghost chose to fight
He laid us to waste with a wight
Five on five, the master said
No more Tehir in my bed
Water gushing with our dead
For their lives they had fled

This tale indicates some sort of strife involving water, wood, and wights and the eventual abandonment of the area by the Tehir. Whether or not the "master" in question is an Arkati, Great Elemental, or some other deity is uncertain though the following tale indicates the Tehir believed they were godless or somehow no longer relevant in terms of deities:

Into the sea
Out of the cold
Our people fled
The old green way
And now our people
Of golden desert
We tend our goats
We serve no one
The Tehir tribes
Called godless ones
And our old people
Fled to fields of green
They watch our ways
From far away
Those evil spirits
Of our dead seeds.

The fourth verse of this relatively new poem references the expatriate Tehir, known as Shakat. In 4678, after successive years of terrible drought and unrelenting heat that caused terrible losses in lives and livestock, a small number of tribes fled the desert. Based on the next song, it is believed their subsequent attempt to return years later was not met kindly:

Throughout the desert, a single song:
Gather our daughters, gather your sons
For tomorrow is the festival
Throughout the desert they sing in throngs
Gather your goats and yierka hides
For tomorrow we will wed!
Morning came in winter so cool
Together they made their way
In central wasteland mystery
The ones who came were fools!
Together they brought their sons
To wed our girls so lovely
Dawn did break, they strode right in
Ready we were with our pride and strength
Split them in two, dagger and sword
Morning rose, they'd never been
Together dying with their sons
To the sand their skin did melt.
Out of the Sea they came to us
And right back in we placed them!
Shakat, Shakat! You go away!
Shakat, Shakat! COWARDICE!
Shakat, Shakat! You go away!
And come here ne'er more!

A point of mention in the above song is "to the sand their skin did melt." Another story, one of the ancient city Bir Mahallah, also indicates a similar concept. In Tehir belief, if a body were left unburied after death, its spirit would be left to roam the world:

Walking cross the desert wide
Upon a golden rock I spied
Whispers white and ethereal
Its form hazy and immaterial!
Near the rock, a bone did stick
From the sand, and colored sick
With its claws extended wide
Right toward me it did glide!
Ran away, with prayer on my lip
Saved my hide, gave it a slip
Words on words I thanked the sand
Amulets I rubbed in my hand
And along I came to walls of stone
And piles of sand stuck with bone
A horrid noise bounced from the walls
As sandstorms built into sand squalls
Banshee rose amid the sound
Fall I did onto the ground
With one ear covered and amulet rubbed
On the head I was clubbed!
Wake I did with missing hand
All I saw were piles of sand
Crawl I did from cursed place
A look of terror on my face
And when I crawled back to our site
Amazed they were, for I was white
So stay away from spirits wrong
'Lest you want to be just a song.

Internally, the color of skin is occasionally a point of contention among the Tehir. The perception of class and status being dictated by skin tone is mostly inaccurate, but as described by the following song, has used between squabbling tribes to mock and deride.

Inanij, you're far too proud
Inanij, like none have found
Inanij, with palest skin
Inanij, of blood so thin!

Some seven hundred years ago during the height of Tehir slave trade, Hendorans made first contact in the Sea of Fire. Some tribes were quite receptive to the opportunity of new trade for foods and meat, while others remained wary of the pale-skinned traders, considering them invaders instead. Between the discovery of copper sources and the first failed attempts to excavate them, a variety of Imperial troops and explorers disappeared. Occasional rumors trickled into the Empire of witnessing pale-skinned Tehir among the tribes. Whether the troops were taken captive and had offspring with other Tehir slaves has never been verified.

The Imperial caravans have become favored targets for the Tehir over the many years due to the caravans’ wealth in equipment and goods, despite the raids being only marginally successful most of the time and not uncommonly resulting in heavy casualties for the Tehir. Hit-and-run raids are the Tehir’s preferred battle tactic. Death is constant. The Tehir raider knows he will die, and so before engaging he may pray for success, or at least a quick death.

Three Tehir Raiders' Verses

Goats and grain for mother old
We Tehir walk on sand!
In the water's destiny
I will not roam the land!
Lay my bones with veil of gold
We will wilt for our brides!
With her name upon my breath
From death I cannot hide!
Amulet of power bold
Let their caravans collapse!
Give us strength and silent feet
So our women may grow fat!

Structures

A single tribe typically consists of one extended noble family, and a host of smaller servant families. The reliance on the servile classes is greater in the south, where the semi-nomadic Tehir pause in the warm months to sow the land with minor grain, which is later traded with tribes to the north. The noble family is composed of a single male leader, his wife, and the families of his daughters. Due to matters of marriage, sons typically go to the family of a woman to whom he marries. The servile family is nuclear in nature and is also designated on the matrilineal line.

New tribe formation typically does not occur at the moment of marriage; rather, the newlyweds will stay with the wife's family for up to ten years before leaving to form their own, though in the interim they will amass significant wealth, land, and/or livestock. A new tribe will pay tribute to the mother of the head woman until they deliver a grandchild for the head woman. As a result, her father receives significant bounty. New tribes formed from political or familial conflict may find themselves targeted by raids and squabbles over oases rights by their former kin. This can be costly and deadly for both parties. Conflict resolution is highly sought-after and favored -- for everyone involved.

Classes and Professions

The Nobles

Above all, the nobleman is a merchant. He tends to matters of money and trade and takes a secondary profession, such as warrior or scourge, to ensure he is savvy in the ways of the raid. The noblewoman commands a bevy of household servant women and is known to have a diplomatic hand in prearranged marriages between tribes. Common nobleman titles include Murkilom, Zhifiier, and Lovib. The noblewoman’s titles include Zdurtzi, Livebiz, and Tzimurqi. In company, a noblewoman refers to her husband as Lafiier, or “My Veil,” while he would refer to her as Layafi.

Raiders and Warfare

Warfare brings with it death. The Tehir know that beyond it there is nothing; death equalizes all. In no other facet of life is the Tehir birth status ultimately irrelevant. Tehir combat is composed primarily of small bands of raiders who see warfare as a matter of economic prosperity. On occasion they may war between the tribes, though this practice has diminished somewhat with the influx of the Turamzzyrian Empire into the Sea of Fire, and the imperial drive for copper. Presently the Tehir do not defend the copper mines, but rather, their local oases and wells. When successful, the hits upon the Imperial forces typically yield decent stores of grain, livestock, beasts of burden, swords, and metal. The leader, often a tactician of noble class (the noble will bow to another if his skills are insufficient), will lead a group of ten to fifteen men to scout a passage considered lucrative. If necessary, they will follow a caravan for up to eight days, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. The desert holds room for a variety of other types of Tehir warriors, and the reasons for aggression are commonly born out of a need for resources or revenge for past raiding. Those who do not trade with the Empire are often resigned to raiding the tribes of their neighbors, which in turn sparks ongoing conflict.

Spanning all classes, fighters employ a variety of weaponry. No fighter would go out without a takouba by his side and a small dagger strapped to his wrist. His weapons were once exclusively iron, though this has changed in more recent times. The pommel of his takouba is often made of wood and carved quite intricately, just like its long and slender blade. His dagger may be ivory, bone, or mineral and is often scribed with verse and script. The Tehir can be quite fine lancers, sporting a slender pole barbed quiet fearsomely on its last foot.

Ranged and thrown weaponry are usually employed by the servile classes. The dagger that may be used by takouba-bearing fighters is rarely employed by these people. They prefer the yierka-spur, the origins of which stem from a servile revolt against their upper-class, yierka-riding masters. The saddle and tack craftsmen who concocted this close-contact brawling weapon are said to have made quite a literal impact upon their masters, following the hybridization of said spur.

A female may become a soldier, raider, or mercenary if her mother, daughters, or sisters died in an egregious manner to one of another tribe or culture. Her mission would be to avenge those deaths and bring blood money in for the family. A woman in war is given allowances due to the factor of vengeance and thus, receives the best weaponry and rations. She is often sent in as a spy during initial scouting missions and dressed richly. Her status is elevated, and while she is at war, she will wear only the finest silver accoutrements about her neck and forearms.

Shamans and Healers

Performing rites for all, these holy men oversee matters of everyday life. They are called upon to settle minor squabbles, dictate ownership of goods, bless the ways of the warriors, and cleanse the flesh of the Tehir. The male shaman is often forced to marry at or down from their own status, as a noble woman would not want to marry one who tends to a lower class. A female healer or priest is particularly special, for she can choose her mate from any class and thus, elevate his status.

An armed priest is best utilized during times of heightened spiritual energy. He is a master of harnessing these spiritual powers in his favor, allowing his kilij or takouba and those of his companions to strike without fear of the forces of evil. Found almost exclusively among tribes near the ancient site of Bir Mahallah, a martial cleric may be brought on the raid to ensure success. He is typically called to duty during the rite of adulthood, and rarely marries, for an early death is imminent. His sign is a pair of crossed takouba beneath an inverted crescent moon.

Gold carries a striking taboo for many of the spiritual realm. Believed to be the most impure mineral found in the Sea of Fire, it is said a shaman can lose his essence merely by gazing upon a gold nugget.

Unique among the Tehir is a hot-cold method of internal injury diagnosis. The healer will ask the injured man where he feels most hot or cold. If the patient is unable to respond, a conduit will be used to "sense the heat" of the injury. If a human conduit is not available, a copper disk may be cupped in the palm of the healer's hand as she touches the patient.

Craftsmen

Tehir craftsmen are masters of working with their slender fingers, thus an entire class is devoted to them. They are, in essence, servants to the noble class and create at the whims of their masters. The craftsmen are however, held to a completely different set of rules: A craftsman may only marry within his tribe of birth; if he is sold to another tribe during the dowry process of a noble, he is then absolved of that responsibility. He is open to marry a noble or servile spouse, and his mate receives his status. It is most common for a craftsman to marry within his own class, as he will wish to ensure his spouse can rival the expectation of the master.

Known as the singers, bards and other performing artists are held in particular esteem. A singer eats with the leader and acts as a diplomat by proxy when necessary. She may have once been a female warrior, now completed in her trial for vengeance and filled with wisdom. The singer passes on the tradition of the oratory, the poem, and the drum, but does so with more gusto and precision than your typical matron. A bard of the masculine persuasion may well find similar benefits and results. He is often quite wealthy, given his vast collections of songs and dances, which can be sold and traded.

Herdsmen and Farmers

Herdsmen make up the largest population of the Tehir servile classes. The herdsmen control the path of the tribe through their constant milling and shuffling of animals across the desert. In sedentary tribes, there are herdsmen and farmers, and their duty is to produce food for the tribe's leader. During times of war, the herdsmen or farmers may take up arms to assist in the defense of goats, land, or oases. Special reverence is paid by the upper classes when water is needed: a noblewoman may offer the herdsman of another tribe a dinner with her son or daughter in exchange for the discovery of a water source during dire times. Additionally, it would be an astute business decision for a herdsman to shower the craftsmen class with gifts of grain and meat, in the hopes his children will marry up and out of this lowly class.

Wizardry

Those of elemental strength hold a curious position among Tehir society. Harnessing the elements is a highly revered craft, typically reserved for nobility. Yet the opportunity for wizardry spans all classes, and a wizard may have the opportunity to amass great power and wealth. Additionally, there have been instances where the wizard has fallen to the seduction of dark magic.

Among the servile classes, if a young girl appears to be quite adept at the ways of the elements, she may be purchased or adopted by a noble family. A young male wizard of the noble class may be taught to harness wind, and with that skill, provide safe passage for his people during what would otherwise be inhospitable times of day and season. The mage adept in parting and manipulating the earth may be may be sought to clear the overrun oasis abode of sand.

Fire has little function in the most extreme regions of the Sea of Fire, yet the mage of such power may be kept to ensure the evening dinners may be made. Among these nomads, fire-alignment is most typically found among women. Should a semi-sedent farmer's family be graced with a fire mage, the babe will undoubtedly be a boy, and he will be kept from normal duties to ensure the fields are not accidentally set aflame.

Among the craftsmen, a mage practicing fire is quite beneficial. With the ability to meld heat and flame, the craftsman fire mage may create a fine assortment of small glassware, including beads, jewelry, and inlays for weaponry and utilitarian trinkets.

A Tehir of the water alignment is almost unheard of, but should he manage such pure and awesome power, it is quite likely he can break class and rank completely. For him, it creates almost total independence from what may have been his noble owners or masters. With this power, he can feed livestock and field with surety; many will follow him.

Hexers

Sorcerers are uncommon among the Tehir, given their superstition regarding the powers of darkness. The plaguebringer is seen as a bane, a scourge, and a bad omen for nearly all. When a sorcerer does arise, he is typically married off to a shaman -- the only one who may be able to keep him in check. A healer and a sorcerous mate also make a particularly strong couple, and they may be called upon to deal with signs of plague or recurring infection. Tehir aren’t known to deal in poisons or curses, but should such suspicions break out in a tribe, the local sorcerer is the first accused. He is killed swiftly and his parts flung to the wind without significant deliberation. No goats would be sacrificed after such a burial.

Physical Characteristics and Clothing

Skin and Bone

The skin tone of the Tehir varies somewhat, though they are primarily of darker complexion. The central, most nomadic Tehir tribes represent the darkest groups, whose skin tones range from almost pure ebon to deep chestnut. In the exterior and cooler regions, the populace typically displays tones including sun-tanned olive hues, nut browns, and dark browns. Members outside the tribes typically claim a Tehir's class can be surmised by the color of his skin. Due to cross-tribal marriages and the introduction of lighter-toned slaves some centuries ago, this is an over-generalized representation at best.

Facial shapes among the Tehir vary, ranging from faces with sharp angles and fleshy cheeks to those that are sunken, round, flat, and broad. In kind, the nose shapes also vary from flat, broad, flared, and wide, to small, hooked, and beak-like. Eye color is nearly always black to brown, though it is rumored that the amber-eyed man can see excellently at night. A blue-eyed baby is usually assumed sickly.

Hair color among the Tehir remains mostly dark, ranging from dark brown to black. A rare occurrence, a red-haired and dark-skinned child is usually looked upon with scrutiny and suspicion, for it is believed the babe may have been exposed too long after its birth and thus, be influenced by spirits. Some Tehir possess spongy, curly locks, while others are born with straight hair. The quirks of hair vary a surprising amount, though nearly all heads of hair are thick among these people.

Hairstyle for the female Tehir is a prime way to display her place and age in society. Unmarried and young women will take to segmenting the back half of their hair into long, knotted sections, occasionally decorated with a variety of beads. Those who are married, while scarved, will straighten and gloss their front locks, occasionally creating sculpted curls out of the loose strands near the ears. Parting down the center is common for both married and unmarried women. For the laboring woman, she may have no time for such vanity and as a result, may take to wearing her hair shorn or nearly bald.

As a veil nearly always covers a man’s head, his hairstyle is rarely a matter of concern. To keep cool under the wrap, men usually wear their hair nearly bald, very short, or in a mass of tiny, matted braids.

Tehir tend to be fairly tall and narrow, though attempted classification of the nomadic tribes by the Turamzzyrian traders based on appearance has been the source of some conflict. The exterior tribes represent a curious mix of body types, ranging from short and stocky among the richest nobles, to leaner, wiry forms among the servile classes. Overall, traders of the Empire often assume the leaner peoples are richest because of their atypically colored clothing and thus tend to ignore the most noble among the tribes. In doing so, the tribes' leaders often get irritated and may, later on, make raids on the imperial trade caravans. It is most common to find the stockiest people in the semi-sedent populations, with leaner people in the interior and nomadic groups.

Some say a man's wealth is represented not by the number of his goats, but by the girth of his wife. During the Great Gatherings, or Hujuura, the nomads may hail a sedentary man for his perceived wealth, but when his wife's size is overcome by the nomad's wife's speed, the man will give up a few goats to the nomad in deference. Size is beauty, but speed also has its place.

Clothing and Fashion

Varying widely by location and class, the clothing of the Tehir maintains a common theme: airy fabric and more airy fabric. The reason for this open-weave layering is simple: the layers of cloth keep sweat close to the body, which conserves moisture and keeps the body cool in extreme heat.

The veil, or veiled turban, is the centerpiece of a Tehir man's attire. Consisting of a wide swath of loosely woven gauze upward of eight arm lengths, there are a few different methods for wrapping this special head covering.

The most decorative type may incorporate thin ribbons of multicolored cloth twined with the gauze. First, the fabric is situated with its center upon the dome of the Tehir man's head with equal lengths hanging to either side of his ears. Both lengths are twisted slowly and brought before his brow to cross at the front of his forehead. A continually loose twist is maintained, as the lengths are brought around to the back and to the front again. After a sufficient series of layers are concocted (five is about the maximum), the Tehir man will bring each side around his muzzle and then flip them around behind his neck, leaving the loose, billowy ends to trail before or behind him.

The second method of veil wrapping is slightly less complex and produces a sturdier veil. Beginning with the gauze and a small quilted cap, the man drapes one end of the fabric across the top of his head starting just above the right ear. Next, he brings the fabric down over his left ear and across his face, then back up over the right ear and behind his head. He continues this process no less than three times and finally places the small cap atop it, on the crown of his head. Each rotation can be arranged to layer higher upon his face, finally concealing his nose completely. The remaining loose end is tucked into a fold of one of the layers.

Coloring of the Tehir veil is of particular note, coming in a variety of colors – and with each color a new meaning. A Tehir will take the veil as a marker of his passage out of boyhood. He often wears this veil for upward of ten years before receiving another from his wife.

The most amazing of the veil colors is blue. It is a telltale sign of a nobleman, for his is the color of the water, of the night, of turquoise, and of the sky. The highpoint of Tehir fashion is a dye called ahmdir blue. There are two methods of application for the ahmdir root. First and most common is a rubbed-dying process for heavy and sturdy fabrics, which begins with rubbing and pounding of the partially dried and crushed root right into the weave. Over a series of many applications, the textile will take on a very deep, dark blue shade. As the item is washed, worn, and faded, its color may shift to a vivid cyan, drab pale blue, or even a pale purple. The variability of the dye in its later stages is a result not only of the minerals in which it was planted, but also based on the composition of its wearer's perspiration.

Incidentally, legend holds that a Tehir man whose ahmdir veil remains as dark as night until the night of his first child's birth will be graced with a daughter. Occasionally, the ahmdir-dyed fabric will shift toward a drab green color. In some tribes, this is an indication of a man who lies with another man's wife. Since he is typically bound to keep the veil for quite some time, this may be a time for him to consider parting ways with his wife's tribe.

Another powerful color, red, is the sign of the successful non-noble raider. He has proven he needs no camouflage to hide his head above the dunes. Indeed not, for his brazen and tactical surety is exemplified in the color of blood, that which is spilled at his every strike.

Treated white fabric is quite unusual for these people, but when it is found, it is a may an indicator of a man of great elemental power. He may have any number of small stones stitched deep within such a veil, believing they aid and strengthen his power.

By the time of his dotage, a Tehir man has endured many, many things. Those of great wisdom, who have many tales to pass on, such as an elder bard with many offspring, quite often sport any number of hues in their veil, though the veil is always of the finest cloth. To his trader the man may state: his head, his mouth, they must be kept comfortable, should his patron or customers continue to wish his powerful song. In his extreme age, he is beyond worry from the majority of nobility and may in fact have outlived most of his peers. As a result, the wise, old bard may wear the digs of his master, and no one much will question this. It is, after all, possible that he received it by way of a noble son's poor trade.

While black is not a color with a symbolic meaning, it is often worn by those Tehir who live closest to the western reaches of the Sea of Fire, where night travel is often necessary.

Although the poorest Tehir male will don colorful clothing for a special occasion, his normal garb is typically quite bland and muted, including undyed fabrics, hues of brown, and dingy black. The poorer females may dress up a dingy black shawl by accenting it with a variety of brightly colored glass beads. Her headscarf is usually her signature garment. She will paint and repaint the cloth by hand, over time creating a convoluted series of geometric designs in a myriad of color combinations.

Men of greater esteem or position may choose to take a shorter tunic, reaching no lower than the buttocks. When combined with loose trousers, this functional outfit conceals the modest flesh quite nicely. His tunic may have a notched or drawstring neckline and may have very short sleeves, though it is more likely to have none at all. As always, his turban and veil will be present. Atop the tunic, most Tehir men will often wear large and billowy robes. These vary in quality from open-weave linen to simple cottons, thin silks for the richest men, and on occasion, a heavy yierka-hide burnoose.

Southern farming men of the poorest families may wear no trousers at all, in favor of knee-length tunics held by a belt of hide or goat's wool. His legs would be bare, allowing greater ventilation during the extreme heat. Although he still retains his veil and turban, he may continue without shoes. Even the slave who dons a mere loincloth will still cover his face, if his master permits.

Like men, Tehir women also layer their clothing. The items worn by various classes do not vary so much, but instead, the amount of additional adornment is what typically indicates a woman's status. For everyday wear, the woman will wear a shawl as her outermost garment. This item is made almost exclusively of cotton, linen, or silk and may possess decorative, painted designs along its hem. When inclement weather arises, a woman will take the shawl about her face and head, and add upon her shoulders a burnoose, usually of natural to dark-hued kidskin.

The woman's tabard is typically knee-length and split up the side, allowing billowy pants to show underneath. This garment is not constricting, but may vary in its cut, fit, and adornment. It may be cut like a smock with little width variation from top to bottom. Should its cut include a yoke, this section may be brightly embroidered, leaving the draping portions of the garment to include a mass of billowy, solid-colored fabric. The neckline is often rounded and its height varies quite broadly, allowing the clothing and jewelry beneath to be exposed.

The blouses of Tehir women go mostly unseen except during times of rest, as the harsh climate demands full coverage. When coupled with additional torso coverings, the blouse is joined with another blouse of a different cut (layers truly are a necessity). It may be mildly fitted, or it may be wide and then bunched at the waist with a belt. A chain-link girdle may also be worn, as well as a host of other intricate jewelry to adorn her chest. Bracelets and bangles of silver are also commonly found about a woman's forearms, wrists, and hands.

Most Tehir women cover their legs with many layers of cotton or silk skirts. These are another outlet for artistic creativity for the Tehir woman. Ranging from rich solid colors to painted patterns of many-hued geometrics, the skirts are sometimes bustled by tying one up, leaving another layer to hang loose. In doing this, the woman can regulate the amount of protection from the elements her clothing may afford. She may also choose billowy or blousy silk pants. The Tehir silversmiths find decent business in making anklets and other adornments for the ankles of noble women. Ranging from a short "stocking" of chain mail to a many-layered series of bells, these anklets are typically quite flashy.

Shoes of the Tehir are not a widely elaborate item, but do contain some variety. The most common footwear is the sandal, worn either ankle-tied or loose, possessing a simple bifurcated strap that begins between the toes and extends across the top of the foot. Tehir sandals are formed on rush, wood, or hide soles. Some women take fancy to intricately braiding the leather commonly used in their construction.

High boots are rarely worn except by bridegrooms and riders of the yierka. The former will likely wear a pair of supple, undyed leather boots, with a fair amount of painted or beaded decoration across the bridge of the foot and at the cuff. The yierka-rider generally wears a protective, knee-high boot of goat, camel, or yierka hide, to guard against leg sores.

Low boots may be used as slippers when at an oasis or in a sedent dwelling, but are not commonly used outdoors due to the propensity for sand to accumulate within. On occasion, a woman of high standing may receive belled or beaded slippers as a gift. The decoration will likely be quite colorful, including chevrons and other organic or geometric patterns.

Religion and Tradition

Religion among the Tehir is a matter of multi-layered superstitions. Being a transient people of the sand, the Tehir have little interest in praying to the gods of fully sedent men. Whether or not the hushed rumors of deity-abandonment are true, the Tehir are of the elements and thus reverence for the things of earth -- and fear of those things not of this world -- are commonplace. While trade relations outside the Sea of Fire have blossomed over the past seven hundred years, the minimal religious design has persisted among the Tehir. The most basic tenet among the Tehir is that everything that comes from the sand returns to the sand.

Tehir spirituality is based on distinctions between the sacred and the profane, typically illustrated through oral tradition, dance, and above all, reverence for life. Like all things in the wild, it is a gradual process. These carefully woven tales of life and being among the Tehir help reinforce the cultural norms by driving home the moral codes necessary to survive in this harsh climate. Those who grievously fail to adhere may no longer be considered Tehir. They may be seen as dead to the tribes and cast out as such. Yet, even death is not immediate for the dead. The malevolence of the spirits dominates Tehir life and ritual. Whether through the blessing of a child or the avoidance of certain objects, the Tehir’s belief in the power of the spirits to thwart them is very strong.

Birth

The Qoqa, the babe, the spring of life, sits at the dividing line between sacred and profane. The newborn babe is quite vulnerable to death, but also immersed in life. It is believed the sand and sun struggle for ownership of a new baby; one wishing to devour the body, the other wishing to scorch it. For this reason any new child born to the Tehir will not be shown to the world for its first many days, and it is kept wrapped at its mother's side beneath cloth to protect it from the elements, as illustrated by the following rhyme:

Keep my baby from the sun
Lest my works be soon undone
Seven days beneath the hide
Little girl held at my side.

Midwifery is a revered profession.. The midwife is a skilled healer and a master of local plants and totems. She uses her knowledge and experience to ease the woman’s pain during childbirth. She also commonly leads the other servant women in the singing of quiet, soothing zamads as the birth progresses. A noblewoman of childbearing age often employs a midwife among her servants. A woman of the servile classes will commonly pay for the assistance of a noblewoman’s midwife during the actual childbirth. These payments may be in the forms of hides or grain and millet.

Nameday rituals are held many days after the birth to sanctify and bless the life of a new girl. For the noble female, a pair of semi-precious metal bangles or oversized silver neck rings will be given to the babe shortly after birth and worn until her adult name is chosen. The tradition is a display of economic pride and prowess, exclusive to the Tehir nobility.

She was given the name Ahibe
Silver wrapping her arm's girth
At one-on-three she was called Ankinabe
On her chin the sign of her birth.

Coming of Age

At the time of a girl's first menstruation, she may visit the hut of her grandmother. Within the hut she spends her days sweating out the pollutants and learning about the responsibilities of the womenfolk in her tribe. The time is not spent undergoing any sort of arduous rituals, though the young woman will take the mark of her mother upon her chin. It is at this point that her matrilineal ties become most important, as the young woman proceeds toward finding herself a mate. When the time comes, the woman will mark her own daughters with her personal symbol, at the first full Zlo, or red moon, following the coming of their own adulthoods. The new name she receives is typically a conglomerate of her birth name and some portion of her mother's name. Only her tribe would know her original name, and its use is strictly private, never to be used again in public.

Upon thirteen to fifteen years of age, the boy will be tested by either his father or uncles in a series of laboring tasks based on his caste and proposed profession. Famous among them, is the hunt for the bessho, held in the fall. The boy’s task might also include heading a raiding party, preparing weaponry, or proving skilled mastery of his technical craft. Twins might be set to duel one another. The diplomatic boy might be set to arrange his own marriage or those of others in his family. If the boy succeeds during the year of the Hujuura, he will be paraded about the festival as an eligible bachelor— and undoubtedly will find a family excited to take him.

If the boy fails, he won’t be allowed to prove himself again for another year. Curiously, not many fail; whether the ability of the boy and the difficulty of the task are carefully considered by his family has not been established. Another possibility is that the lure of the economic benefit of marriage is a great incentive for success.

Marriage

The Tehir are not polygamous, but separation is common. Given the ease of travel during the cooler months, weddings are typically held during this time. The greatest reasons for marriage among the Tehir are based in economic prowess and tribal alliances. Exchanges and dowries are an integral portion of the Tehir life. In a nomadic culture, a man who can afford to bestow gifts upon another truly exhibits his own wealth. When he can walk away from a failed marriage with a herd and significant wealth, it only solidifies his esteem, making him more desirable to the next bride. Below is a small selection of marriage traditions within the Tehir classes, each of which indicates the importance of trade, gifting, and reciprocity.

The noble marriage ceremony lasts seven days and for a woman's first wedding, the seventh evening is spent in song and dance, the air filled with beating drums played by the servants of her betrothed. This is the final moment for the woman to be without attachments; once she is married, she will have a slew of people to look after within the household, regardless of her marital status down the road. She will dance like never before -- and never again.

A song from a sister to the bride:

May our mother live longer than your husband
And your daughters outnumber your sons
May the yierka hide bend under your touch
And your man's mischief soon be undone.

As a woman prepares for her wedding, the other women of her tribe will sing her the zamads. Upon completion of a woman's first marriage ceremony, she will take a headscarf.

The man who marries a female diplomat will bring with him goods from his own tribe. This exchange is a matter of formality and is meant to orient the new family with that of his old who, by way of this marriage, will solidify a trade or war alliance.

The ceremonies of the craftsmen are few, as their primary responsibilities come to the head of the tribe. Theirs is not the time to dally with rites and ceremonies in the name of their own joy.

A few small traditions for exchange with craftsmen still exist, including attempts at besting the bride's family: the bridegroom's family will try to outdo any feat to prove they've no need for the man (the proceeds are typically reserved for the newlyweds at a later date). The male songweaver will create for each of his new bride's male relatives a song of power, protection, warding, or wealth. The chant will be "owned" by this new relative and, should the opposite result come after singing such a song, it would be suitable grounds for immediate termination of the marriage. For the Tehir these songs are not just pretty sounds, but are the audible recitation of magic, much akin to a protective amulet.

A song from the bridegroom to his wife's uncle:

May the yierka not eat your herds
And the sand lay still and flat
May your every oasis be refreshing
And wife grow rich and fat.

Within the context of the laborer, traditions of dowry have formed based on the agricultural or herding tendencies. The sedentary farmers are less apt to trade brides and bridegrooms between full tribes and thus, the swapping goes mostly from family to family. It is most common for the servile bridegroom to bring his farming implements to his new family, while the remaining stores of his new father-in-law’s last harvest will follow the bride into her new home. The man’s family is given a sum for him by the wife's family, though they likely celebrate the wealth and welcome having fewer mouths to feed. They will return the favor to the wife's family by sending with the man a set of hides for the wife to make a new yurt. The father of the bride relinquishes his claim over the bride's livestock, which was given to her years earlier.

Silver rings are common gifts of affection between men and women, and may contain semi-precious stones of malachite, agate, turquoise, and more. Typically speaking, the laid stones are opaque in nature, though may contain some shimmer or translucence. It is said the duller the stone, the more solidified their commitment.

War

Warfare is a way of life among the Tehir. While their raiding can be viewed as ruthless, it has become a source of economic stability for a number of tribes. The practice, once held primarily between tribes, is now more common against Imperial forces despite overwhelming odds. Many Tehir die in such raids, though when the bounty is good, it merely encourages additional attacks. Whole raiding parties have been summarily decimated in such brazen attempts. A small selection of the rites and rules of conduct are presented below in varying forms of clarity.

Twice on our bellies
Watch them pass
Thrice on our bellies
They've met their match.

The typical raiding party will scope out an Imperial caravan for a few days before striking. During this time, an attending shaman will bless the raiders and scouts. Upon their return, he will wash each man's face or arms, careful not to expose the flesh too much. This ritual washing not only bonds the men, but prepares the flesh for modification: depending on the outcome, the raider may take a new lash or tattoo upon his arms and cheeks.

A man who slays his enemy shall cover him in sand; the sand consumes all. A legend among the Zofitul tribe holds that should the man not cover his enemy, he must know that spirit may haunt him forever.

The woman whose spouse has not returned from a raid with the party will seek the gown of her husband's mother's adolescence. Should it remain unlocated, the man will be presumed dead and the tribe resumes their trek. Incidentally, the inability to locate the gown is most common in situations where the marriage was arranged cross-tribe: the mother of the groom cannot give her adolescent clothing to her son for the benefit of the daughter-in-law, for the garment itself is sacred to the mother as well and she may require it to help ease her passage out of her childbearing age.

The man whose dagger is lost on a raid will spend three days following a raid in the service of another. At the end of this time, it is customary for the man to receive a new (and often more finely crafted) blade.

Death

The withered old man says to the newborn babe, "My poor child, you must not mention my name when I am gone. Because if your mother hears, she may think you are calling her instead. And she will come take you because she is lonely."

In dying, the Tehir leaves his flesh immediately, but the spirit lingers for a brief time. The flesh must be buried at once, deep in the sand, and never looked upon again for fear of being possessed by evil spirits. If he is killed by another of his tribe or commits suicide, it is believed the spirit will travel independent of the flesh for many moons, seeking vengeance, solace, or respite.

The darkened morn
Her tears unseen
The babe unborn
Its birth obscene

Rumor says any babe born at the hour of midnight during the simultaneous silent phases of Ufura, Tzou, and Zlo must be put to death. Without the purity of the moonlight, the new flesh is otherwise feeble, absorbing contamination that will later bring famine and sickness to its family. The minuscule corpse is then buried eight thousand paces to the east of the nearest oasis, wrapped only in its mother's headscarf. Should the mother ever find the carcass intact, a perceived reanimation of the baby would likely drive her to suicide. Theories and applications vary widely.

There is little pomp or circumstance surrounding the actual death of a Tehir, though women of all classes typically join to sing their zamads to comfort one another. Superstition about death is quite prevalent in the Tehir life. Whether acting out of fear or reverence, the Tehir will rarely meddle with a carcass. The possessions of the dead are distributed to the family and servants or buried if no taker is found. The Tehir take heed not to disturb the recently buried corpse in the discarding of materials. It is curious to note that, should a Tehir gravely wrong another, he may be expelled from the tribe and "written off," referred to as dead, and subsequently assumed to be an evil spirit by any that sees him. Such Tehir are easily noticeable by their terrible scarring and disfigurements.

A verse about death; tribe unknown:

They came to us
All dead and white
Stories of death
They came to us.
Where wraiths do lie
And blood runs free
Ruined buildings
Where wraiths do lie.
Ruined buildings
Spirits of death
Keep 'way your evil
Keep mine breath.
Where wraiths do lie
The blood is dead
That evil breathes
Where wraiths do lie.
They came to us
All dead and white
Stories of death
They came to us.
Gifting

An aspect where beliefs among the Tehir differ greatly is on the matter of gifting. Women typically hold that a gift is a gift, meant for her and not another. While some may view it as selfish, when considered within the scope of matrilineality and wealth distribution, the concept is wholly logical. As will be described later on, the gifting during weddings can be quite extensive and the bride may grow quite wealthy in the successive offering of goods. Her new husband's family is typically given a fine gift, but not so fine that it would require them to give up more than the son just offered! For men, this is a reciprocal process, which accounts not only for their accumulation of wealth, but also as a tool for the procurement of songs and dances. In some tribes, should an elder give a younger man a gift and he be unable to match it in kind, the younger of the two would be forced to compose a song or gift specially crafted for the elder. In doing this, the accumulation of material wealth can be scattered among the younger men, while the old continue to grow more and more wise.

It must be noted, some tribes have taken the opposite view of this subversive tactic: the younger man will try to outdo his father in gifting and should the father be unable to reciprocate equally, he is forced to give up some of his knowledge (hopefully in the form of a totem or sand painting). In doing this, a son may be able to secure some level of standing in the tribe. Ultimate care must be taken not to offend his elder, lest the father become the subject of ribbing by his wife for making such a poor attempt at trading.

The reciprocal gifting comes to a spearhead at the gathering of tribes, once every nine years. The gathering includes an unimaginable amount of gifting. It is said that any tribe that cannot hold its own at the Hujuura is scorned severely.

Seasonal Events

Each season has special events, some of which vary by nomadic tendency. It is common for women to gather during the most special times and sing secret songs, called zamads.

A directional verse:

Move three paces toward the sun
Five closer to Hujuura
Past blue rocks, red boulders ten
Much closer to Hujuura
Beyond Oasis Izamgir
So close to the Hujuura

A great gathering of tribes occurs once per nine years for two months in the winter. For this festival, every tribe will gather somewhere in the Sea of Fire. Word of the gathering's location passes between the tribes by way of caravan, sometimes taking four years before word fully circulates. The preparations for this gathering are very extensive, and usually a pair of tribes will join for a few years prior to collaborate. Called the Hujuura, it is a common time for trading, marriages, and alliances. Gift reciprocity is of paramount importance during this lengthy event.

The cool months between Eoantos and Fashanos are prime traveling time for the Tehir. This period signals a peak in trade and a lull in farming and thus is a frequent time for marriage. The winter solstice is typically spent only with immediate family to ensure no evil spirits bring ill will. They will not sing and dance this night.

Nomadic tribes are known to find spring a powerful time of year. Their herds give birth, and they prepare for the wretched heat of summer. During this time, the semi-sedent tribes of the south traditionally perform a variety of cleansing rites, and the young men will often court women with newly created songs and dance. The farming women of the south tend to craft new songs each spring to carry themselves in a methodic rhythm, perfect for a long day of planting. These songs may vary from inspirational themes to mindful prayers for bountiful harvest.

A song from the Halqlia tribe of the southeast quadrant:

We bend and sweep
With our long blades
Drop and then move
To the next glade
Along comes Sister
She, covering seed
Move along quickly
And do it again.

The summer solstice is a day of prime importance for nearly all Tehir. It is the most sacred time to create an amulet to ward off evils. Rites explicitly for prosperity and good health are never held during this time.

For the farmers, autumn is a busy time, but it is also one of great festivity. Any male suitor will surely spend his time in the field rather than dancing, should he hope to win a bride that season. It is not uncommon for male herders in the north to leave on mass hunting trips mid-season. As autumn wanes to winter, rites for prosperity in the coming year are common. If a woman desires to become pregnant, she will likely consume a goodly amount of goat lard -- old tales claim the lard of a she-goat killed in heat will make a woman's flesh irresistible.

Celestial Activity

The silent phase of Ufura, or "ivory" moon, is a favored time to conduct raids. Without its shining radiance over the desert, the Tehir may move in relative darkness. The whole phase of Ufura, however, is said to be strongest for withdrawing spirits from possessed bodies. If a Tehir wishes to call the moon in spite or rage (though doing so may bring additional bad luck), he might scream out, "Gabziz horilekem!"

Tzou Lekem, the dark moon, is believed to house the unwanted spirits who have been vanquished from the Sea of Fire. On the night when it turns crimson, the Tehir will hide themselves from the moon's gaze, fearful that its bloody hue will slough off and possess them with the utmost of terrible spirits. Suicide, while not common among the Tehir, is most prevalent during the new phase of Tzou. The deceased's relatives may claim Tzou let go of her spirits to consume the recently departed. When the next full phase of the dark moon comes, each family member will undergo a cleansing ritual.

Kekelekem, Ureluzhid, Dielekem, Vyoli, and Zlo, these are a handful of names the little red satellite that precariously orbits Ufura. If a girl comes of age during Zlo's fullest time, it is believed she will live a very long, active and independent life, teetering about even in old age like the little moon around Ufura. This woman will have many daughters, each of whom will grow stronger than she, which will impart the old woman with great wealth.

Constellations in the night sky determine the passage of time for most Tehir, and help the shaman predict coming patterns in luck, health, and prosperity. The beliefs of the constellation's weight upon a child's being and fate vary from tribe to tribe, and even family to family. For example, Lovidz Hid Gtierem, or Mistress's Children, is a constellation known to the Empire as the Handmaidens. For the Juunuj tribe, girls born under this sign are thought to be obedient -- until the time of their mother's death, at which point they are destined to slowly lose their minds, may become abnormally aggressive, depressed, or even commit suicide. Among the Qir Golir tribe, boys born of this sign are thought to be restless and rarely deserving of roles of high responsibility, though they may end up quite successful at vov golbuir, or camel racing.

When a child is born as the Yierka Spur graces the sky, he will be sure-footed and strong, though his cunning and ruthlessness, like that of the yierka, may make him suspicious and cruel. Like the spur used to control the beast, one born of this phase may be likewise domineering. Known as the Cat’s Paw in the Empire, some Tehir families regard Yierka Spurs to be ineffectual parents due to apparent disregard for the well being of others.

The end of Phoenatos through the middle of Imaerasta is known as the time of the Takouba. Each of its five points represents a key element of the weapon. It a common time for raiding on the far reaches of the Sea of Fire as caravans gear up for travel in the coming cool season. Additionally, boys born during the month of the Takouba (or Wagon, in other parts of Elanthia) are said to be best with the weapon that bears its name

If a child is born to a semi-sedent family during the time of Boji-tu, or Rake (called the Trident by the Empire), he might grow up with the nickname "kabeim," or burden, for his birth caused hardship during the important harvesting season.

Girls born while Zlo is full and the Morduska (known in the empire as the Arachne constellation) is most prevalent in the sky may well be beautiful, but their tenacity and greed may cause financial or marital trouble later in life. Each will require an equally beautiful, yet devoted mate to keep her in check and well entertained.

Symbolism

A Tehir man could find meaning in nearly any item, if given the time. Thankfully however, the Tehir rarely have such time on their hands.

Amulets

Small trinkets Tehir men wear around their necks are vast in their function. Among them, a man will always possess a stone amulet bearing the symbol of his mother, whose familial ties are most important. It is quite common for the amulet pouch to be created by the man's favorite uncle, who participated in the man's adulthood rites. Typical amulet compositions include nuggets of copper, sandstone, filigreed silver, turquoise, and sand-fired glass. Small bits of just about anything in which a man finds comfort or power may be added to the pouch throughout his lifetime (such as the scrap of a brother's veil or even a ragged finger nail). These amulets do not represent the totem spirit, which is discussed later.

In generations past, a tradition of bessho hunting heralded the male's entry into adulthood. Given the perceived extinction of this prized creature in recent times, a symbolic hide-and-seek now takes its place. The boy's uncles drape his father in freshly-retrieved goat hide to ensure him blindfolded. An hour later, the boy is set loose to track the father down. He takes with him the goat's meat and a single bladder of water. When the pair returns by sundown unharmed, the boy is called a man. He receives an amulet with the notches of his mother and a small pouch filled with deserved charms.

Ahmdir

A famed root of the Sea of Fire, this unique plant is responsible for the blue color common in Tehir clothing. Its origins are obscure, but rumor claims the root is actually a frightening and sometimes fatal psychedelic.

She ate her clothes
That senile woman
She died all alone
The blue-skinned woman.
Do not mash the ahmdir
Within your black face
It will make you feared
You'll see the dead place.
You'll hear dead places
Within your black face
Do not mash the ahmdir
It will make you hear.
The blue-skinned woman
That senile woman
She ate her clothes
And died all alone

Body Modification

Quite popular among the Tehir, body modification is practiced across age, status, gender, and class lines. The symbolism varies between each, however. Should one possess extremely dark skin, he or she may opt for inserting tiny objects (typically beads) under the skin to create raised and occasionally paler bumps. Known as beading, this unique Tehir form of body modification is applied by only the most skilled artisans. Beading may also be used to "kill" the power or identity of an existing tattoo.

When coming of age, a young woman will take the mark of her mother upon her chin in the blackest ink possible. Typically speaking, the mother will mark her daughters with her personal symbol, at first full red moon following the coming of their adulthoods. Locations for women's tattoos typically include the cheeks, neck, jaw line, and forehead. Men usually sport markings on the arms and around the eyes as symbols of glory or sometimes scorn.

Slaves of either sex may be marked by a wide tattoo or linear, beaded marking stretching from one temple to the opposite jaw. It is usually quite conspicuous and utterly restricts the slave from any attempted social climbing, post-freedom.

Markings of Men

The elder man of a tribe may take a small crescent near the eye. A mystic or wizard is often marked with lines radiating from the eye sockets and may include, based on elemental focus, rows of diamonds, undulated lines, bolts, or chevrons upon the arms. A rogue, raider, or warrior may take horizontal bands near the eyes, curved lines from cheekbone to jaw for each successful raid, or a series of slash-like marks across the forearm for each foe he has killed. A laborer may have the tops of his hands or feet tattooed with a stylized yierka spur. A healer or cleric would likely be marked by the sign of the eye, which can range from a simple circle with an off-center dot, to an elaborate representation with brows and lashes. The bard, diplomat, or craftsman can take a myriad of symbols, including bars, bands, frond tendrils, and the adopted symbols of their lovers. An extended lip filled with a wooden wedge may indicate a man who has lived to see his grandson grow to adulthood. Ragged coiled markings spiraling about the forearm would be a personal sign of scorn, showing a man whose wife left him for a non-Tehir. A foolhardy, young male that failed his first attempt into manhood may be adorned by a wide mark in his brow.

An expelled Tehir will be beaten senseless, his teeth may be removed and his body terribly wounded or burned in an attempt to remove or "kill" any former markings of prestige. Should he survive the ordeal and get close enough to another tribe, they will see the scars across his face and arms and send him away.

Women's Symbols

The placement of the woman's birth sign takes precedence over the following imagery. It is not atypical to find the mark worked right into the overall design. The elder woman of a tribe would likely take the image of a sun disk (varying from simple to elaborate) upon her wattle or high on the brow. Large or heavy earplugs may indicate a rich woman, or one who doesn't have to work hard. Should a woman choose the role of the healer, she would be marked with small ribbons of dots, called "bloodscrolls" around her jaw or collarbone. Should the female become a warrior, she will take one or many curvilinear lines from cheek to jaw. Snake-like or circular markings may be made upon the cheeks of a clerical or spiritual woman, though she may also be identified by a crescent or eye between the brows. Of the most grandiose imagery is the female bard, whose geometric tattoos may spiral from one cheekbone to the adjacent collarbone, frequently splitting off into wispy trails which lick at the eye and breast.

Sandstorms

The only times a Tehir would wish for a sandstorm are during a raid or during a burial. In this, he would draw a bidirectional spiral in the sand and murmur a variety of guttural verses. Any other sandstorm would likely be cause for concern.

Sand Painting

A men's ritual held within a special hut and typically crafted when the moon of Tzou Lekem is full, sand painting is a very old and lasting tradition. The literal imagery is too sacred to describe, and it is said a painting never lasts more than a single day once it is completed. Regional sands are often traded between tribes and make fine, even prized gifts during weddings.

Snakestones

The humans of the Empire believe the snakestone to cure afflictions of the eye. The origin of its magic has come to the Empire by way of Tehir traders who swear of its powers (certainly, the Tehir would not outwardly explain the snakestone's other uses). It is claimed the spirits of the snakes, powerful totems representing inconspicuous travel, join in fits of rage to secure spiritual "routes" through the desert. When the battle is through, and their frothing spittle has dried, all that remains is a curious stone, cold as death. Internally, a Tehir shaman may use this stone not necessarily to cure physical afflictions, but to sense the aforementioned spiritual routes throughout the desert. His insight, when used by a tribe's scout, may yield safe passage through a barren wasteland of bodies buried in the sand.

Songs

Both men and women compose verse. Their usage and power vary greatly. Women have specially crafted zamads, which they sing for births, weddings, deaths, and a variety of special occasions. These are sung only by women and are never taught to men. Young men, on the other hand, form their own songs and poetry meant to inspire one another and coax women nearer after the sun has gone down around the campfires. Married women do not perform the dances accompanying men’s songs, unless the woman is devoid of social status or has become possessed by spirits.

Spirit Totems

Upon his birth, the male babe is wrapped in a swath of blue linen and kept out of public view for twenty-eight days. A patron animal or spirit is chosen for him during these twenty-eight days by his uncles. The decision of which totem to choose for a child will include consideration of the physical strength of the child early in life, the resolve of his parents, and extenuating factors limiting success in their region. For example, a boy whose mother is exceedingly short in stature might find his totem among the winds, as his uncles want to ensure the boy grows taller than she. A dual interpretation of the totem could lead the boy to take flight, beginning a tribe of his own near a more forgiving environment.

The totem is initially alluded to by selectively color-coordinating the beads of a single string necklace. The boy will wear this necklace into adulthood and seek to appease this spirit in return for its guidance and favor. Some claim the small necklaces of young boys ward off the burdens associated with adulthood - most commonly represented in the symbolic stones, pouches, and turbans of the Tehir man. It should be noted, the same symbolic colors used in men's veils are layered in the boy's necklace as he ages. The totem is a man’s most sacred possession and most important consideration throughout all aspects of his life.

Failure to respect his given totem (not to mention those of others) can bring a grave fate upon a man and his tribe. The importance of this reverence is played upon in a handful of traditional tales. A story called Dzinet and the Feather, illustrates the danger of this irreverence: great tragedy struck the boy’s family after he scorned his totem, the vulture. Dzinet viewed the vulture as a pest and danger. When a vulture followed him on his first solo hunt, he shooed it away, thinking it would draw the attention of Imperial soldiers rumored to be in the area. Instead of leaving an offering for his totem, he buried the entrails of his first kill. The vulture however, never stopped following Dzinet that day. On its final departure, a single dirty feather fell from the vulture’s belly and landed in Dzinet’s knapsack, unbeknownst to the young boy. He later returned to his people and brought with him its scourge. Each of his siblings became insatiably hungry. Having eaten all the stores of grain and every goat, the boys and girls turned to eating carrion. The children soon died, their bellies bloated with worms and rancid flesh.

Veil

The veil is a symbol indicating manhood for the Tehir. Beyond acting as a spiritual shield to ward off evil, it represents his ability to withstand both the heat and elements. Check the Clothing section for more information on these unique Tehir garments.

Water

A semi-sedent shaman may lay "magic stones" in circles throughout a field; this is believed to attract rain. The nomadic tribes use such stones in a more logical way. A departing tribe will ring the oasis with stones to capture and retain water, ensuring moisture stability for the next time. The "magic stones" vary in composition, from turquoise in the semi-sedent and cliff regions to sand-fired glass in the bowels of the Sea of Fire.

Music, Song, and Instruments

The incorporation of music, song, and poetry is of utmost importance among the Tehir tribes. An unwavering consistency among a people whose lives are in a continual state of change, poetry and song are used as both instruments of entertainment and as mediums to enforce and promote social standards, tradition, and the ways of the tribes. Chanting or song is very popular during ceremony and ritual, and the Tehir language lends itself handsomely to both, especially during the sustaining notes of their instrumentations. While the language can sound very musical, song and chanting is fairly rhythmic with atonal accents on the extreme notes (high and low).

The composition of various songs and poetic works is seen as the sphere of both men and women, although each may use them in varying ways. The people of the Tehir tribes are renowned for their intense poetry and songs, their mysterious and passionate works seen as strength of character and mind. Men (especially those with great power and influence within the tribe) compose long, intense poetic pieces, which they recite around the campfire in the late evenings while staring intently into the fire with a near trance-like gaze. The subjects of these pieces usually include tones of strength, honor, trust and an unyielding dedication to the tribe. Such works of poetry are designed to inspire the young of the tribe, while instilling a sense of pride and loyalty.

The women of the Tehir tribes often take quite a different approach to song and poetry then that of the men. The elderly women often weave great stories and songs of past travels to far off lands riddled with wild excerpts and fantastic adventures, while instilling a sense of tradition and humility. All the women of the tribes have their very own set of songs, which are passed down through the lines from grandmother, to mother, to daughter. Zamads are songs of great importance, with great meaning to the tribe, sung by the women only at pinnacle tribal events such as weddings, deaths and births.

There is one unique to the women of each individual tribe, which has never touched the ears of a man, and never will. Such a zamad is a rare song that is sung only by a mother on the night her daughter becomes a woman. Rumor holds, the woman’s new name is realized through her mother’s zamad. On this night the mother and daughter enter a tent alone. Within the tent the mother and daughter sit facing each other the entire night, the mother whispering a constant repetition of the special zamad she has prepared for this one night. In the morning the mother and daughter emerge from the tent together, the mother presenting her daughter as no longer a child, but as a woman of the tribe with a new name to match.

Much like song and poetry, the playing of musical instruments is an integral part of the daily life of people in the Tehir tribes. The most commonly used instrument among the tribes is the ayr. The ayr is much like a lute and is crafted of fine, thin wood with a rounded pear-shaped frame. The strings of the ayr are different from any other musical instrument as they are set in a double-string pattern with five sets of two strings each. These strings are often crafted from the tough, fibrous intestinal material of goats or sheep. The combination of the unique double-string pattern and the material used for the strings allows for a haunting, mysterious sound from the ayr. This sound is not replicable by many other instruments and is conducive to the complex and often layered harmonies played by the Tehir tribes. In addition to the ayr, which is overwhelmingly the most common instrument of the people, the Tehir have also been known to often use tambourines and a variety of percussion instruments.

Food and Cooking

Many years ago, the only source of many grains was from outside the Sea of Fire. Through trade and instruction from a variety of sources, some tribes have learned an adequate (albeit short-reaching) means of farming the barren lands. Additionally, the most powerful of pastoral tribes have taken to cultivating and preserving the regions around their oases to effectively create sustainable points of origin and rest between travels. Rights over these oases have been the basis of much internal strife, especially during times of significant drought, for a Tehir tribe will not seek food assistance from its neighbors or sister tribes. Instead, raiding often increases (whether the targets be of the empire or other tribes) dramatically. It is believed such dire times are the basis of the revolt (or abandonment) that led to the rise of the Shakat, or Those Who Fled.

There have been a number of benefits of raiding for sustenance and diet of the Tehir. In the years since first contact with the Turamzzyrian Empire, Tehir raiders have grown fond of some imperial foods. Turamzzyrian caravans may be selectively targeted for their food supplies. Among these, sugar is considered very special. While its use in food is sparing at best, sugar has become a common additive to tea. Most wild birds, including vultures, are largely ignored as a food source, but the feathers or quills of these and other birds may be used for decoration of clothing and ceremonial items. The Tehir believe these carrion-eaters are tainted with the spirits of their dead and will cause disease when consumed.

When it comes time to trade with another tribe for food, the male diplomat will go, typically followed by a woman. They will bring with them jewelry and fineries of their tribe along with dairy products, dyes, hides, and swords. He will trade for household goods or raw metal, while she with fabrics or hides, for vegetables and grain. Typically speaking, the ultimate goal of trade is to accumulate sufficient foodstuffs to last a small amount of time. In Tehir society, every scrap of life is used for something. Goat manure may be used to start evening fires, the hair and hide is made into clothing, and the milk and meat are eaten or stored for later production. Even the fruit of a precious squash may be carefully extracted to preserve the gourd's potentially water-holding form later on.

Hunting for food is a necessity. Among the native creatures still cultivated for food is the massive sand flea, whose innards are soaked with imported rum or brandy. Some tribes ceremonially consume the whole insect without removal of the carapace during the passages toward adulthood. For the young man, his ability to chew and swallow the entire flea without hesitation indicates his fearlessness. A young woman will not swallow the flea, but rather, take it live and whole within her mouth and try to squish it with her tongue. When the beast is dead, the wounds inflicted may be "read" by a healer or shaman for a glimpse of the upcoming woman's future. Tactics for this game are rumored, but never revealed.

There are two ways a goat is cooked: spitted and roasted, or quartered and preserved. Once the goat's hide and horns have been removed, and the goat meat has been dressed, a large stake is drawn through one side and out the other. It is placed over a large fire pit and roasted for many hours. The resulting meat is traditionally coupled with a grain-and-vegetable porridge, served either in a bowl or wrapped in doughy bread. When quartered, the ultimate intent for the meat is to be eaten another day. The by-products are divided up: stomach used for water skins; hide and hair for clothing, mats, and packs; the bones for tools and decoration; and the hooves for personal food consumption or ceremonial teacups (akin to a spoon). The meat of the quartered goat may be laid to dry and stamped with spices, resulting in poignant jerky (a prime traveling food). The intestines will be packed with shreds of boiled goat meat, heavy spices, vegetables, and millet to create a fine main dish when special guests are about. Among some women, the fat of the goat may be used to straighten and gloss their hair or to build strength for elaborate coiffures. The An-Gahrad tribe is said to make beautiful but crude instruments from their goats, whose horns are semi-curvilinear and tightly spiraled (it is best thought of as a lysard).

Eating camel meat, except during the highest of ceremonies, is considered taboo among the Tehir. The camel does not represent a means of meat for these desert-dwellers, though its sweet milk is a fine delicacy. Dairy has a special (though scant) place in their cuisine. Through marriage, southern pastoral tribes may occasionally join in partnership with the semi-sedent millet farmers near the cliffs, relying on their ability to store products for many weeks. This joint effort allows for a small production of cheese, butter, and samya (a clarified and herbed butter product), which is traded to other tribes for tea, bulgur, and other staples. A fine delicacy, the samya is produced by kneading goat's butter with various concoctions of herbs. The mixture is then cooked, salted, and strained, then poured into pots and jugs. The containers are then buried in small underground cairns for many months or even years. The samya is served over wheat dishes with seared vegetables or spread on flatbreads. It is reserved only for the finest occasions, such as weddings and any festivals held in the spring months. Gifting an entire pot of samya at the Hujuura is a blatant, but silent statement of superiority.

Millet and bulgur wheat were once the primary grains for the Tehir, though recent developments in southern agriculture have shown corn to be a potentially viable resource. Grains are typically ground into coarse flour for use in making unleavened dough for flatbread. Flatbread is eaten at nearly all meals and may be served with a spread of porridge, dried fruit, vegetable, or bean paste, olive oil, or during special occasions, samya. A regional dish unique to the Sea of Fire, couscous is usually served in combination with goat meat and dried vegetables. When in an oasis, a nomadic Tehir woman may serve the couscous stuffed within a roasted pepper.

Available chiefly around carefully cultivated oases and in the southeast, wild vegetables are a necessary but often difficult to come by item of the Tehir diet, and control over an oasis is a matter of survivability. The semi-sedent, southern tribes have made a living gathering a variety of wild vegetables, including wild potatoes and other tubers, and nuts and other legumes.

The oases of the north are known more for their spices and flavor enhancers such as anise, caraway, cassia, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, a variety of warm-weather mints, olives, saffron, sesame, and turmeric. Rumor holds that an elder noblewoman of each tribe protects the secrets of its valued spices, and the lesser women will have to pay her greatly for anything more than a pinch of the blend. The southwestern oases are revered for their unique selection of very hot peppers, which are often blended with garlic and other spices and served over a bland couscous. Dates, figs, limes, and palm hearts are also prized crops of the oases and give colorful variation in dishes of couscous or spread on the breakfast flatbread. A tasty morsel for Tehir children is the candied date, though caution must be taken, for eating too many sweets is said to reduce a young Tehir man's vitality. Tehir women quite enjoy dates and other sumptuous treats, but their consumption is not much regulated, for a large woman is considered an example of Tehir wealth.

It is believed the evil creatures dislike the smell of certain plants and for this reason, the Tehir dose their water. Whether or not a sulfuric smell and taste of some oases in the far eastern desert is also a factor for this tradition is purely speculation. It stands to reason however, that tea has become a foundation within the Tehir tribes. It is traded both internally and out, for a variety of staple goods including grains and vegetables. A serving of tea is typically accompanied by mint, anise, licorice, cinnamon, or nutmeg (valerian is a favored ingredient for the shaman) with a small bit of sugar to enhance the natural flavors. Some tribes have taken to adding a hint of goat's milk to further enrich the taste.

A special creation of Tehir craftsmen is the teacup. It may vary in size, material, and shape, though the overall elaborate nature of the inlaid design bespeaks its creator's skill and thus its owner's wealth. Some Imperial traders claim there are ritual instructions inscribed in these cups. If asked however, no Tehir readily admits or denies the charge.

Another beverage of recent development among the Tehir is the millet beer. Stiff and sweet, the brew is made and consumed almost exclusively by the semi-sedent agriculturists of the southern Sea of Fire. The northern tribes simply have no way of storing or moving the massive casks this brew is made in. In all tribes, this beer's consumption is heavily controlled, as the Tehir believe intoxication to be an invitation to spirit possession. Grape products are almost universally despised due to the texture of the grape skin and resulting pasty sensation in the mouth when dregs are consumed.

Salt has earned a special and vibrant place among the Tehir in recent centuries. The water in some oases within the desert has high salt content, making it unsuitable for drinking or irrigation but offering an ideal location for gathering salt. The cultivation of salt requires significant human labor to begin, as they must dig a pit deep enough to reach the water table. Natural salts in the soil or sand are caught up in the water and drawn toward the hole. The heat of the sun evaporates the water, leaving crusts suitable for harvest. The sweltering heat of the desert makes salt an integral aspect of survival, for both a Tehir and his stock. It is typically the man's role to harvest and distribute the salt, whether during trade relations or when administering to the tribe's animal herds.

The late summer harvest of salt carries with it many rituals, including the Ghashza, or Making of the Food. A pair of goats is slaughtered, their hides shorn of hair and tattooed to make decorative tunics worn for the evening dance. The meat is cured or smoked by the men, while women render the fat and combine it with honeyed millet and gathered berries, bundling it to make stout, nutrient-cakes for the year's long, arduous travel.

Smoking meat (and even the occasional fish) in small huts filled with mesquite is a common practice for those in the southwest. Mere solar drying of food in the intense, arid heat is another method of preservation utilized by the Tehir. It is the chief method by which to distribute fruits and vegetables across the vast, desert wasteland. Women are usually in charge of this task, which consists of weaving mats of palm, upon which a host of fruits and vegetables are then left uninterrupted (though guarded fiercely from animals) for three to five days. Women may take this time to bond with one another, weave additional mats for household use, or to craft their zamads. These verses may be recited quietly, late into the night and even the early morning as the women take sleepless shifts to guard over the precious food.

The Tehir breakfast is typically quite sparse, including a mere serving of flatbread, paired with a cup of tea. It is believed the sun is at its weakest during this time, so the need to solidify the body with nutrients is not nearly as important until after noon. Incidentally, the morning is when the pastoral nomads are most busy, as they tend their flocks or migrate between oases before the heat is unbearable.

A typical lunch may include a heavy serving of tea, served with jerked goat meat and dried vegetables wrapped in a pliable flatbread.

The basis for an early-evening porridge is often the slaggy leftovers from lunch's tea, combined with dried and cured mixtures of vegetables and meat. As such, the porridge is quite salty, though surprisingly tasty with a whole host of underlying herbal flavors. As available, it is finished by sweet creamy goat or camel milk.

Trade and External Relations

Among the items imported by the Tehir in the low-volume trading are iron for daggers; bronze for jewelry and small storage devices; silver for jewelry and divining items; glass and ceramic beads; non-native woods including the light and flexible balsam; seashells, which are commonly used as high-value currency; linen thread for weaving; herbs for preserving and preparing food; a variety of dried fruits, wheat, and grains; rawhide and leather for clothing and yierka saddles; and domesticated livestock such as goats.

Exports from the Sea of Fire (trade of which is at times dominated by Imperial caravans) include copper, gold (very limited), turquoise, clothing, exotic rodents and lizards, skins, olives and olive oil, mesquite for cooking, salt, spices, millet, palm hearts, avocadoes, aloe, acacia, jewelry, snakestones and other magic items, and a host of native stones favored throughout the empire for embellishing reliquaries.

Internal trade will include all items listed as import and export. Favored bundles passed between healers and shaman may contain a broad variety of cacti needles (some exclusive to specific oases), each of which is used for a different application. Of the less tangible trades, Tehir have a distinct way of passing song and verse between the tribes: it is common for servile songsmiths to be traded during noble marriages. As a result, legends and myths continue to be passed about. The craftsmen and jewelry smiths may barter for fire opals and exotic gems for their fine and elaborate pieces.

In centuries past, the Tehir had a solid network of slave labor and slave trade that supported the noble class. As transitory and sedent life became much easier, the tribes grew from the bottom up and the need for slave labor decreased to the point where most tribes no longer rely on the old way. Despite the relinquishing of power over their slaves, distinct social classes still remain. The most noble continue to control most trade alliances, and with control comes the power to decide to expand their markets. Relations with the Empire are slim at best, though a few tribes have eked out prime markets with exclusive traders.

Additional sources of power for the Tehir come in the way of supposed taxes over land dominance: some tribes may claim to provide safe passage for a caravan of trade goods from one side of the Sea of Fire to another. This toll comes at a very steep price of silver, animals, and grain. Incidentally, it is not wholly uncommon for those same travelers to be raided during moments of arrogance or naivety. It is also not unheard of for the tax and the raid to be carefully orchestrated between two tribes.

Through these outlying and often overlooked alliances, the practice took a surprising turn in the last century: The most adaptable and economically tenacious of tribes, formerly associated with slave trade (some of which are supported by the offspring of Imperial troops taken into slavery) found a common venture between themselves. Assisting in negotiations for safe passage through the desert, these quick-witted tribes carved a path not only for Emperor Yarrowe and his copper mining, but also for their own exile from the barrens! In a series of concerted assaults by their disapproving brethren, three tribes of Tehir were effectively driven from the Sea of Fire. Once out of the desert, the displaced Tehir found fortune in securing carefully timed trade routes on the western edge of the Sea of Fire. This assistance helped to solidify matters of identity for the Shakat of Solhaven and River's Rest, though it increased the Tehir-Shakat resentment.

The Shakat

Past and Present

Tehir tradition holds that a great gathering of tribes occurs every nine years. In 4674 the heat was beyond tolerable, even for the Sea of Fire. It affected some tribes so greatly that they were unable to support their festival duties, including hosting of the Hujuura. Sister tribes Ha'lah and Ayin were devastated and put to shame by the sprawling drought. Other tribes came with only meager offerings, stirring additional unrest among the Tehir. The droughts continued on and off for some years, affecting the tribes to varying degrees. Two months of hosting was enough to leave the Ayin in a desperate situation: their already bleak resources were depleted. They could not last another season. The Ayin tribe was consumed by the Ha'lah tribe (though it didn't fare much better). Three more seasons for this bloated population barely supported by sickened herds was more than it could handle. In an effort to minimize human and herd losses, the Ha'lah left the Sea of Fire in 4678 toward the cooler coastlines and valleys of Vornavis.

Fat, domesticated animals in the hills outside Vornavis were spied and quickly raided upon, though each man who was caught was quickly sent to work picking fruit. After it became clear the families had no other choice, they approached the local farmers and took up the work of grape picking. Through hard work in the vineyards, the people of Ha'lah – even the nobles -- managed to survive.

Concurrent with the flight from the desert by the Ha'lah, Phannus saw considerably greater settlement in its outlying land. The villages, while small, were decent in number. Nine tribes settled outside Phannus, bringing with them a small handful of special trades. One common theme was present: the desire to dominate the growing marketplace and trade center. Each had been amazed in some form by the prowess of the Empire, and most had been put off, derided or mocked at the last Hujuura. The Far'Ghani and the Tanaszig tribes warred while in the desert in an attempt to monopolize a very tight and decorative weaving pattern. As it happens, the pattern was designed by the son of Far'Ghani's principal craftsman and, when he was given to the Tanaszig during marriage trade two Hujuura prior, the pattern followed. When the Far'Ghani left the Sea of Fire with the famed weave, animosity swelled.

The next such gathering to come after the flight from the Sea of Fire was in 4683. All of the tribes returned to the desert in that same year, though many of the tribes' unmarried stayed in the camps to trade and get rich (clearly consumed by materialistic notions). The married families went bearing only cheap trinkets; it was all they could muster, as their hopes of grandeur had not been met.

Once at the Hujuura, the existing Tehir tribes would not let these expatriate Tehir stay! The Ha'lah again failed to produce any worthwhile goods for trade save for very fresh wine (the Tehir were not used to the feel of grape tannins on the palate and found the sensation quite unappealing), while others involved brought few bridegrooms to offer for new alliances! The complete lack of respect for reciprocal trade, met with the preexisting resentment from the last Hujuura was enough to set the Tehir to all-out battle. Fighting between the Far'Ghani and Tanaszig was explosive to a literal degree, resulting in the death of many.

Nearly all of the expatriates were slaughtered on sight. Those who remained were branded, tortured, and enslaved -- few escaped. After a time, even the slaves were discarded, their disgrace bearing on their owners so heavily that they were blamed for the spoiling wells, infectious diseases, and a rash of mysteriously disappearing raiding parties. The Tehir believed the expatriates had angered the spirits of the desert to the very core of their essences. Any further aid or goodwill for them could bring an ill fate at the hands of the shifting winds of the desert.

The expatriate tribes were broken apart by this mayhem and all were left disheartened, firmly believing they had been once again, disowned and betrayed by the spirits of the Sea of Fire – not to mention their brethren. Those who survived slinked back to their settlements near Vornavis and Phannus. This marked the end of the former tribes, as few of the Shakat, or Those Who Fled, ever again returned.

Over the next several generations, a slow but continual shift away from the original Tehir culture occurred. As Solhaven gained influence within the Empire, the Shakat began utilizing its merchant trade options. Both at Solhaven and Phannus, the loose-knit band of survivors strove to continue on -- the power of will in their Tehir blood was not totally deadened. Formerly a slur meaning "Those Who Fled," Shakat became a welcomed moniker professing survivability and cunning.

The host locales had particular and somewhat confusing influences on the development of unique culture. Near Phannus, the practice of divination and prophecy cropped up (whether this is due to interaction with the Sisters of the Hidden Eye is unknown) and with it, a belief in the ability to more greatly influence life by calling upon the spirits. Their own name, formerly a crude slur, became a source of great personal strength. By the wayside went the way of fearing the dead: the Shakat realized the power of a name and strove to harness it completely.

In this realization, the way for sorcerers, shamans, and wizards was opened. For each family, it was common to take on a "host" shaman from another family. The shaman would pray for them, calling upon all nature of spirits he could identify, including names of the dead, local Imperial deities, or the elements themselves. Most notably, the rite involved quiet chanting of known names in successive order, until the shaman could no longer utter or scream one name separately from the next. The garbled syllables that resulted became a family's personal name, personal deity -- its source of power, now referred to as the Ha'an. The payment for this divination was mild, including a mere request that, should a new family arise in the wake of a powerful Ha'an, they make the new family's host shaman partake of the old shaman's name. In exacting this request, the first shaman's name is immortalized by the second, and his power survives beyond the mere scope of his physical life. As the number of families grew, it should come as no surprise that over time, the Ha'an began to sound quite similar.

In the early half of the 50th century, the Tehir relinquished much of their control over their slaves. As the former slaves moved to make sense of the newfound freedom, many realized they could no longer return to their homelands. Many stayed with the Tehir, while some chose to seek respite among the outskirt settlements of Phannus and Solhaven. They were poor, like the Shakat, having nothing to offer. This mattered little for the Shakat, as the reciprocal, materialistic sense of societal dominance had not lasted. It is worth noting that what little slavery existed among the Shakat abruptly ceased when these sedent people were met with the descendants of their own family members, who had been enslaved by the Tehir in 4683. The emigration of the Shakat slaves was the last straw in a quickly dwindling similarity to the Tehir way of life.

Trade relations between the Turamzzyrians and the loose-knit Shakat became quite tenuous in the end of the 50th century when copper was found in the Sea of Fire. As conflict increased within the desert, tension increased between imperial citizens and the Shakat. At times this tension led to local citizens taking their aggressions out on the Shakati settlements (seeing no difference between the Shakat and Tehir), burning crops and razing huts. This conflict came to a climax when, in 5015, some fifty settlers were slaughtered in the outskirts of Phannus. Fearing for their lives, the Shakat abruptly fled southward, away from the military oppression of the Empire. Some three years later, the small band settled near River's Rest, eventually merging with a tiny community of similar Sea of Fire ancestry, where they remain today.

In recent decades, with assistance from the newly arrived, the Shakat have managed to skirt around the Sea of Fire to trade with one another while mostly avoiding the Tehir. The trek is slow because the Shakat will scout far and wide to avoid the Tehir marauders, occasionally going many miles off course. Once the destination is reached, the caravan will stay for ten months, setting back out for home the following summer.

This method of trade has helped to solidify a bond between the settlements, though neither Shakat settlement has attempted to unify fully. Due to explosive population growth since the route was opened, settlements of Shakat have popped up once again near Phannus. A single family moved south to Idolone some fifteen years ago and has gained quite a nice niche market for hawking so-called exotic wares from the Sea of Fire.

On the whole, the Shakat possess no sole judicial format save for conflict resolution for minor issues between fellow Shakat. Unlike the Tehir, inheritance and marriage no longer favor matrilineal ties. Between men holding control over the tradegoods, and women’s relatively low life expectancy, any wealth accumulated ends up residing with the former. These disparities in age and sex in relation to socio-economic status have exacerbated yet another shift away from the Tehir.

The societal importance of material gifting did not last beyond the debacle at the Hujuura, to the extent a Shakat will be very uncomfortable and quite irritated should he be presented with a physical offering. Pride is a characteristic that did not die in their blood: such gestures would be taken to imply the man is in need of charity, for his survivability is lacking. Certainly, no Shakat needs a handout and he would not ask even if he did.

Like everything Shakat, their religion is also a curious conglomerate of a myriad of trends. Combining the monistic and polytheistic beliefs of those from which they are born may seem a feat, but the Shakat have managed this as another adaptation to blending in to their surrounding environment. The Ha'an, or patron spirits of a family come as a result of meditative, trance-like chanting from a host shaman. Recent migration among the Shakat mingled with outside influences has helped to meld these powerful names into a tight-knit series of spirits (and some even now consider them deities). Their names are far too sacred to mention here.

In yet another example of ignorance, some outsiders confuse the names of the Ha'an with the rumored gods of the forsaken Tehir or for local deities of mysterious realms.

A variety of customs have been adopted by the Shakat and then twisted to their own needs, including the Rite of Spring, a local time of importance for the Shakat of River's Rest. The third week of Ivaestan is usually spent devouring whatever food stores are left from the prior year. This cleansing of the closets is combined with layered prayer and dance, as each Shakat hopes the coming year's bounty is better than the last. Not surprisingly, half the week is spent eating and feasting. The other half is spent recovering. It is not uncommon for drownings in the river to occur during this time, as imbibing is almost certain. In a twist from the custom of New Myssar, babies born during this time are also gorged and overfed, under the belief it will make their mouths and tongues grow into mechanisms fitting for a powerful shaman.

All in all, the level of influence from the Empire varies depending on the overall "age" of the family and community as a whole. Newer families tend to be less welcoming of the mysterious ways of the Shakat, while older ones are typically quite accustomed to ever-changing surroundings and a constant influx of new ideas, concepts, and beings.

In modern times the Shakat family is not burdensome in the number of offspring because childbirth has become a true labor: the Shakati frame is changing and babies are being born larger. As a result, women die younger due to strain on the body. It is most common for women to marry young and usually have their first child between the ages of fourteen and nineteen.

It is of import to note that although there is a distinct difference in dress and other exterior markers, most outside the Tehir and Shakat cultures, especially those not local to the regions inhabited by the Shakat, still fail to recognize the difference between the two. The reason for this indistinction is at times willful and at times, sheer ignorance. Not only have few outside the Sea of Fire ever seen a Tehir, those who have, may simply fail to distinguish the idiosyncrasies in the face of such similar appearances.

Changing Skin and Bone

Due to centuries out of the harsh desert (including some child rearing with pale-skinned mates), the Shakati skin tones have broadened beyond those of their former cousins. Of those described in this document, they typically possess the palest tones, ranging from an olivine to caramel, though it is not impossible to find a member of the Shakat (perhaps even an entire family) whose flesh is as dark as night, or as pale as sand. Typically speaking, the further-removed from the Sea of Fire one is, the lighter his tone will eventually become. It cannot go without mention that, also in their sedentary lives, the Shakat have consistently grown shorter and stockier (though some would claim more curvaceous).

Members born of the Shakat commonly possess brown eyes, though the blue- or green-eyed baby is becoming less of a rarity. The orientation of the eyes varies greatly. Rhinal patterns also vary, from small and hawk-nosed, right through to the flat and flared nostrils of their Tehir cousins.

Shakati women have become adept at a myriad of braiding styles. For local festivals, it is quite common to find a horde of young, unmarried women, each sporting elaborate coiffures of minuscule braids with every section segmented by ribbon or beads. The working woman will often bind her hair in a headscarf or tie it in a bun. Women beyond childbearing age may forgo hairstyling in exchange for the easily managed, shorn head. In the regions around Solhaven, some men have taken to letting their hair grow out, while adopting some of the plaiting and matting techniques of the women. Male hairstyles in River's Rest are mostly non-existent or merely shaven, due to the oppressive heat in combination with the humidity. All in all, the color scheme is still quite similar to the Tehir. Hair colors include black and dark browns; a dark red tone is extremely infrequent at best.

The practice of tattooing has survived, albeit somewhat modified: Women are often the sole bearers of tattoos. Additionally, instead of using only black ink, the Shakat have concocted a unique mixture of permanent and semi-permanent red inks. Unlike the Tehir, elaborate and writhing designs on unwrapped hands, arms, and feet of women has become a fine tradition. It is quite common for women to sport tattoos on their chests, thighs, and abdomens as well. Body modification for men is rare, and usually limited to enlarging of the lobes through stretching, in addition to beading techniques.

Textiles, Trade, and Cuisine

Linen is a beloved fabric of the Shakat, and many skilled weavers hawk their wares in local marketplaces. It is light in the heat, and easily layered in the cool evening. Linen is highly susceptible to elaborate dying and embroidery, which the Shakat have also taken a great fondness for. The typical garb for a Shakati woman may include a loose, sleeveless robe and a side-split skirt. Her feet likely remain bare, though she carries a set of leather sandals in the shoulder-strapped, wrapped linen satchel. She may choose a wrapped bodice over the robe. The man's garments are not wholly spectacular and include a definite influence from the imperial working-class. Loose-fitting linen robes are most common, though in the southern settlements near River's Rest, some men have taken to wearing mere wrapped skirts in avoidance of the humid weather. Shoe usage varies based on duty, though it remains true that a Shakat loves to wiggle his toes in moist, clean sand when given the chance. The Shakat man may don a turban for headwear, and rarely some still take the veil.

Named after the tribes of its designer, Farszig, the textiles of the same name are particularly prized. Although the fabric was once blue and white, the color scheme has shifted. In modern times, Farszig fabric consists of a base layer of crimson or teal linen, upon which single-string threads of yellow or ivory are knotted into patterns with selected tails hanging loose. The resulting textile bears a partly "furry" or layered look, while the bare and knotted sections complete the fabric's tapestry weave with floral imagery. In present day, the Farszig textiles are not produced by a single person or family. The highly variable and sometimes symbolic imagery represented within tends to vary by location. A fine weave of Farszig fabric from River's Rest would likely be teal linen with gold-hued script or imagery referencing the Ha'an spirits. The Farszig textile is worn only for the most special occasions, including weddings and funerals. After a wedding for example, it would be common for the Shakat woman to rip the garment's seams and make a wall hanging for display in her shop or home. When death is near, her children or husband will restitch the blanket into a loose shift, in which she will be buried.

Coffee is a specialty of the Shakat near River's Rest, where a small, but pointedly rich selection is produced. Akin to their brethren in the north, the southern Shakati people have taken to the fields to harvest coffee. It is quite common to find a row of merchants in the Bazaar hawking whole bags of coffee beans, each with a distinct aroma and flavor. The beans are often exported to Solhaven and used in drink and dessert.

A restaurant in Solhaven, called Pasha's Pavilion, claims to sell authentic Tehir cuisine. The food is not precisely Tehir, but gives the fascinated locals of Solhaven a good run for their money. A fascination for the exotic is common in some portions of the Turamzzyrian Empire, and as a result, the famed cook Pasha has blended a unique selection of foods commonly found on the outskirts of the Sea of Fire where much of her family resides, despite the fear of Tehir. The charred meat and seared vegetables have become quite popular with the residents of Solhaven, helping Pasha's people to explore additional means of entrepreneurship.

Another palatable delight of Vornavis, wine, saw quite a boom with the emergence of the Shakat. Through their work in the vineyards, the Shakat became known for their excellent palate and knowledge of flavors. The Shakat near Solhaven have even become famed for their selection of steeped and flavored beverages. Ranging from anise to cinnamon, the liquors produced by Solhaven's Shakat pack a powerful punch. Milk is a favored delicacy and is often served with honey in tiny cups. Imported coffee from River's Rest is typically re-roasted or brewed with additional flavors, including cinnamon, almond, and vanilla.

The Shakat of Solhaven also have unique textiles for trade. Ranging from fine to heavy, the silk garments crafted by the Shakati weavers sometimes bear a unique dye scheme: a process of dipping the fabric in one dye, then water over and over again, produces a layered appearance, sometimes including a variety of hues in a range of values. These summery garments are quite popular with their cousins in River's Rest, where warmth and humidity are common nearly year-round. Undyed silk textiles woven by the Shakat are among Solhaven's many exports to other territories of the Turamzzyrian Empire.

Lastly, this recent development of trade between north and south has opened the door to the possibility of great wealth in the future: old Tehir tales told of stores of deadly golden nuggets in the Sea of Fire, though presently no Shakat explorations have returned with the goods -- much less, returned alive. The resentment and fear of gold, like most of the superstitions of the Tehir, are much lost on the Shakat. To be sure, they have made a decent sum from crafting fine golden jewelry, buckles, brooches, and other accoutrements for their neighbors. Most uncertain however, is the question of what effect these tales, if truly deciphered by the Turamzzyrian Empire, will have on everyone involved.