“The anpur and the desert gnolls will fight each other to the death for the right to torture you to death. If you're unlucky, they'll kill each other. Then the zendiqi will find you.” - Ali ben Ali, desert guide
DESERTS OF SIWATH
Capital: The Tent City of the Grand Wazir (2,000)
Major Settlements: Buktu (600), Ar'Rak (300), City of Tombs (500?)
Ruler: Grand Wazir of the Siwathu Zendiqi, Ha'aroun al-Rashid
Government: Tribal Magocracy
Races: Zendiqi, anpur, gnolls
Faiths: Shankhil (anpur only) The zendiqi are *extremely* anti-clerical
Resources: Dates, camels, cactus products, elemental gems
Languages: Old Porphyran, gnoll, elemental tongues
Contrary to the romance of many deserts in the multiverse, the Siwath was always a crucible of sand, gravel, wadis and mesas, with scant shade, little water, and hard-bitten inhabitants. The ancient Porphyrans, when the word 'zendiqi' meant no more than the word 'orthodox', found it a place of testing, of holy pilgrimage to sites of elemental relevance, but no more than that. In the aftermath of the NewGod Wars, the Deserts of Siwath became the final, ironic, line in the sand. A nameless treaty was drawn up by Gerana, Yolana and Aleria that allowed the survival of the remnants of the elemental forces, and the reservation of the Siwath to them in perpetuity. The bulk of the actual elementals were sealed into gems, and scattered to the sands, sacred 'jewels of the fallen' to the zendiqi, and not to be molested. The border was drawn at the Oliti river, and the zendiqi were discouraged from crossing the porphyrite borders to the east and west, with the sea-bound south being known as the 'Coast of Bones' In the 800 years since, the zendiqi have stewed in the Siwath's dry juices, waxing and waning in their undying hatred of muhartik, the divine heretics, and gaining a reputation for deadliness in combat and increasing alienness of behavior. Due to intertribal friction and famines, there are occasional bands of zendiqi that emigrate from the Siwath, notable in other lands for their blinders, earmuffs and mouthscarves, so as to avoid corruption among the muhartik; most outsiders think of the Siwath as a land of hard life and harder people. They are mostly right.
The pilgrimage sites still remain, and expatriate zendiqi return when they can, or by summons of the Grand Wazir, especially when a new one is chosen; by arcane duel. Famines come and go, as well as issues with non-humans from time to time, but the Siwath, say the zendiqi, is a teacher, a mother- and a sword.
Though their reigns tend to last longer than kings, grand wazirs of the zendiqi rarely leave dynasties, and succession is seldom smooth. The current grand wazir, Ha'aroun al-Rashid, is a noted progressive, and relations have improved greatly, with no more than a handful of ritual immolations of intruders each year. Al-Rashid is 94, however, and not as spry as he used to be. Courtesy and patience have typically kept challenges from being issued to one so venerable, but any desert mahlana could walk in at any moment and change the face of Siwathu-Porphyran relations in a troublesome way.
Though house warriors do seek outlander work from time to time, especially at succession time, a dismaying number have crossed the eastern border into XXX, camping in their four-colored tents. The implication is either that they be hired, or they will extract payment from the good people of the land.
The mysterious relationship between the anpur and the gnolls of the desert is a topic best studied in books, as neither race is particularly friendly, to outsiders or each other. The why have gnolls been raiding the border, with beautiful weapons of anpuri make? Are they stolen, or have they joined forces? And how did they get across the river/border?
The Tent City of the Grand Wazir is the mobile seat of government and throne of the Grand Wazir, the highest ranking arcane magic-user in the land. The tents bear the color of the four bayit and each philosophical faction, as well as visiting tribal elders, compete for the ear of the wazir. Visiting tribal factions must, of course, bring gifts of supplies, which keeps the city supplied, in turn. Spellcasters of all arcane types are found here in concentration, and it is not unusual to see various races of the genie species among its bazaars and pavilions. A properly vetted and marked outsider could visit this place, though proper chaperones would, of course, be required. It rarely moves north of Buktu; when it does is not a good sign.
Buktu stands in the northern reaches of the Siwath, a necessary watchpost and rally-point against the anpur settlements and roaming bands of gnolls. Its walls are thick, its towers tall, and it people of a decidedly bunker mentality. A sure way to gain entrance and a modicum of acceptance is to bring trade goods useful for manufacturing, as the Buktuni excel at recycling and crafting useful items on a shoestring. No Wathisi may pass by Buktu without permission of the Grand Wazir (or so he would like to think).
Ar'Rak is the largest of the ramshackle villages of the southern Siwath, somewhat more clement than the north. It is well-watered but in a badly defensible valley, and living there makes for jittery citizens. Non-hostile outsiders are usually treated fairly here, unless there are numbers of desert zendiqi in town. Either way, the villagers are entertained.
City of Tombs is the best translation of the anpuri phrase, referring to the ancient construction of pyramids and fortified walls of the Oliti river in northern Siwath. As the river comes from the mysterious north of New Wathis, and disappears in the porphyrite wall, the anpur see it as a divine highway, and Lord Ankh (as they call Shankhil) is their patron. The lands north of the City are the domain of the sphinxes, and it is their alliance that balances power between the zendiqi and the anpur, though there is said to be a brisk border-crossing business between mercantile zendiqi and less-than-pious anpur.
- Ha'roun al-Rashid grows old, and the Simooni are rightfully concerned over his replacement. Smuggle an enhanced potion of longevity to the ancient sorcerer, and keep the sands blood-free a little longer.
- Gnolls, of all beings, have found an elemental gem as large as a horse, in a particularly barren corner of the desert, or so says the scruffy dwarf. They just can't stay out of the Siwath! And what the Rajuk is a 'quartz elder'?
- A caravaneer has brought a weapon from Buktu, made by a zendiqi smith. So what? It is a masterwork pepperbox rifle, scoped to 30 yards, with black powder made out of camel dung! Maybe that Buktuni artisan could stand a visit from some foreigners.
Sandspeaker: You have learned the complicated rituals required to interact with the zendiqi nomads. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (nobility), +4 with zendiqi.
Superstitious Buktuni: Heretics from the north speak deceptive words- don't trust them! Once per day you may roll two dice when making a Will save, and take the best roll.
Zendiqi Nomad: You can sleep when you are beneath the sand; for now, stand wary. When outdoors, you gain a +1 trait bonus to initiative, and a +1 trait bonus to Perception to avoid being surprised.