Najjir

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Najjir
Country Information
Motto: Menxiyeh dhallam ir-rahad.
Capital: Najjir has no capital, but major cities include Qarsythe and the ruins of Amas'kyaa,
Language: Najjira
Ethnic Groups: Various Native Najji races, Dwarves, and Shushan Elves
Religion: Primarily Menxiyeh, among others.
Government: Independent City-States and Domains.



North of Kahlahra and Rashnad lie the dunes of Najjir – a desert land bordering the Long Sea. Najjir is not a country, but a culture shared among multiple sovereign city-states throughout the region. Most Najjira civilization is situated around the life-giving rivers, streams and oases: islands of life in an ocean of drifting sand.

Many centuries ago, the mighty Amas'kyaa empire spanned the area, but it has long since been destroyed by a magical cataclysm, permanently fracturing Najjir into balkanized domains. Thousands of relics of the Old Kingdom remain scattered throughout the land.

Modern Najjir, though divided among different city-states, is united culturally and linguistically. Dialects vary all throughout the land but the Qarsythian sheikh, the Buhuchan poppy farmer and the Emshi wanderer can all understand each other. The brown people of the deserts share a common identity as traders, scholars and survivalists.

History

Amas'kyaa

The shining jewel of the sands was built on the vast Siham River that ran from the Sh'hazridi aquifer towards the sea. The unknown architects of the central eponymous city-state utilized rock from the nearby ridges as their materials, making the city comprised almost one third out of glimmering translucent crystal of varying hues and coloration. Gargantuan towers and statues of the old gods loomed over the landshaft. From his throne, the Malik administered bureaucracy, construction, taxes, life, and death. The Malik's army, which had been used to conquer much of the region, simultaneously protected the empire from largely insignificant external threats and also policed on the inside. When warriors died, they were sometimes resurrected as glyph-bound, mummified warriors known as “Hollow Men.”

People close to the central city lived in relative prosperity; however, the individual was worth very little in those days, and the Pharaoh had absolute control. Amas'kyaa had developed language early, and surviving records say that laws, poems, and bureaucratic records could be found on most walls of the city. They also discovered the linguistic magic of glyphs and sigils, which were used for many things, including gateways between different cities and a magical field around the Pharaoh’s palace. They were also used to create special control tattoos, etched into certain slaves and prisoners to rob them of their ability to carry out their free will. This art has mostly been lost to modern generations.

Near the center of the capital city, priests of the pantheon had worked for centuries on a massive inter-dimensional star gate that would connect their world to the realm of gods, but they were never quite successful at making it work. The unfinished gateway sat atop a large ziggurat to Akhthon, the god of gods.

The Psionic Gift

Every so often, a child was born with extraordinarily vibrant eyes, usually colored blue, purple, or aquamarine. As these children matured, they found themselves developing various psychic abilities such as psychokinesis, telepathy, or biofeedback. While early specimens of the gift were either killed or feared as sorcerers, later leaders found that it was better to utilize these people in service of the kingdom. The dispersal of psionics among the population helped shape its magical tradition, which leaned away from direct arcane manipulation. After discovering that the local crystal resonates with mental thought forms, a great deal of Amas'kyaan supernaturalism and technology developed from these psi-crystals. Some of the more powerful psions became the Pharaoh’s psychic advisers, known as Thinkers.

Ankenahotep and the Amas'madeen

Following a barely-thwarted internal plot against the throne, the Thinker Ankenahotep suggested to the Pharaoh that the empire needed an elite force of psionic guardians that could swiftly respond to any threat with stealth and power. The pharaoh gave consent, and Ankenahotep handpicked fifteen psychic disciples, gradually developing a comprehensive fighting system augmented with mental energy. He called his warriors the Amas'madeen, or Guardians of Amas'kyaa, and charged them with teaching other carefully-selected recruits.

In only one generation, they became legendary. Their vibrant eyes and spooky mental powers made this small but well-trained force renowned throughout the empire. The primary weapon of the Amas'madeen were specially made and psychically encoded crystal knives called the Ekri-nam or "weaponized self." The warriors' will to fight and protect the empire charged the knife, giving it supernatural sharpness and striking power on top of the capability to contain more substantial abilities. When Ankenahotep died, his successors took over leadership, doing such diverse tasks as discovering malicious plots, hunting Goliath scorpions, or even serving as diplomats to administrate relations between provinces.

Iznagar and the Anathema - Amas'kyaa Falls

Akhthon's father, the time-squid Zxulth, was not just a legend. Eventually, the mind flayer Iznagar and his Cult of Anathema came to Amas'kyaa in disguise. The faraway star-spawn worshiping alienists quickly infiltrated the city and the priesthood. Under an assumed name, Iznagar consulted them on how to complete and open the star gate, which supposedly would lead to the realm of the gods. The Anathema cult's embrace of things zodiacal enabled them to make friends in the Ankenah circles, with only a few people realizing--too late--the endpoint of all this intrigue: that the portal lead somewhere else entirely.

Under a seven-star conjunction, Iznagar reconstructed an old artifact that shredded the sky over the city into a massive vortex. As the forces of Amas'kyaa battled for survival, the vortex stabilized into a gateway through which a crawled a tentacled megafiend. There were no survivors. The crystal walls of the city turned sickly shades of black, and the soil itself became cursed and unholy. What was once the center of an ancient civilization had become a cancer on the face of the land. While fighting for their lives, the last of the Amas'madeen made a final desperate attack against the star gate, closing it before the cosmic demon fully emerged. The demon remained trapped there for centuries, weakened but subsisting on the souls of pilgrims and adventurers that came to the ruin to investigate.

Time of Troubles

With the fall of the capital city, the rest of Amas'kyaa soon fractured and fell apart into various city-states and wandering tribes. Without having to pay tribute to the Malik, nobles in the Eretz and in Qarsythe moved quickly to consolidate their positions. As the most powerful domains, the two promptly entered into a conflict. Qarsythe tried unsuccessfully to annex Eretziyeh lands, using sorcery which darkened the sky temporarily. It was henceforth known as Twilight War. Mashriq also cracked down on the Shushan elves at the behest of the growing trade guilds. The Arcanists consolidated power in Qarsythe at the same time, using the drums of war to slowly take over the functions of government.

Around this time, Sh'hazrid was founded, when a Qarsythian master architect escaped with the help of his lover, a palace vizier named Kamil. The two conceived of the city, gathered the crews, and built Sh'hazrid over decades, one single building of a city, with irrigation and gardens built right in. Kamil became its first Sultan. Over on the east, Khorzem was building its confederation out of alliances and assassinations.

The Rise of Menxism, Guilds, City-states

Goxal and later, Igmerind missionaries tried to bring Menxism to Najjir but had little luck until Rashid al-Mahiyat, a Buhucha commoner, decided to reinterpret Menxism and use his local connections along with Templar gifts to conquer most of Najjir and convert it to his faith. The crusade was partly successful because rulers were allowed to keep their positions in exchange for enforcing the new religion. The prophet suffered a heart attack shortly after his conquest, in the city of Ul'habad, the highest point in Najjir. A giant church was instantly built around his body and that remains the center of Menxist faith to this day. Over the next few hundred years, Najjira people got used to Menxism as a way of life, which fostered greater communication and thus, trade between domains.

Geographical Features

Map of the region showing the area of influence of the various city-states.

Najjir is a region bounded by Kahlahra in the south, Taj Jahan in the east, and the Long Sea to the north. Its heart is the smoldering Fareedah desert, and its periphery is full of burgeoning life.

The Eretz is the name of a long, crescent-shaped peninsula sticking out of the north coast of Najjir. While close to the desert, the hilly Eretz experiences a milder climate and more frequent rainfalls, making it a fertile breadbasket. The peninsula and the land around it are renowned throughout Najjir as a paradise and, throughout the centuries, control of the area has shifted often as various powers vied for control of Najjir's prime real estate.

The area known as Buhucha encompasses southern Najjir, including the lands that border Kahlahra and Rashnad. There is less open desert here so much as rolling hills of scrubland and trees suited to grow in rocky places. Occasionally, the hills dip into fields of crimson poppies tended to by Shushan minders.

The Crystal Frontier

Northwest of Sh'hazrid lie the sparkling dunes of the Fareedah desert. The area is littered with natural crystal formations large and small, their glassy multicolored facets making the desert glow eerily in the moonlight. Monstrous Goliath scorpions lurk under the surface, and a dried out riverbed snakes its way through the shifting sands, running past ruins and relics of ancient societies.

Once the axis of Najjir, the Fareedah is now a single impenetrable obstacle, and all Najjira travelers must move in a circle around it. Crossing the crystal frontier means entering a warped and cursed ground where the air is thick with congealed time, and everything is covered in destructive astral fallout. Going deeper, travelers experience hallucinations and risk losing their minds. In the heart of it all sits the haunted ruins of Amas'kyaa, alive and driven mad by memories. To date, only a handful of adventurers have ever survived the city. Once every several decades, a swarm of mutated pestilence covers the Fareedah, seeming to come from the very bowels of the accursed ruin itself. To travel there during this time is suicide. Neighboring domains go on high alert, deploying mages to their borders to help drive off the alien threat.

Recent studies by Qarsythian scholars into rock fragments brought back from the dead zone suggest that the crystal formations growing in the desert may be a type of living creature, with extremely fine silica nerve strands woven through the hard rock. A live 'thinking crystal' continually generates a mental field, similar to a psychically gifted creature. It can explain the presence of this gift among early Amas'madeen and modern Emshi nomads, who are the only ones who live anywhere close enough to the crystal frontier to receive the effect. Scholars speculate that the scorpions may be involved in a symbiotic relationship with the crystals but are unsure of its nature.

Government, Politics and People

Individual city-states within the region operate their own governments.

Military

No organized military force exists; however, individual domains may have their own soldiers. The Qarsythians field the strongest army overall but the Eretziyeh men at arms have also been regarded as well-trained and capable.

Religion

Menxism is the predominant religion across Najjir. In some domains, it’s the official state religion, while others are more permissive of other belief systems. The worship of Menxvan (often spelled Menxwan or Menqs’wan) originally came from what is now Arangoth, but the Najjira interpretation of the faith differs from its counterpart. Most Najjira people are Menxists, though not everyone practices. Other people may worship the old gods of the Amas’kyaa empire or adhere to other faiths entirely.

Menxiyeh

Much of the tenets of Najjira Menxiyeh come from the prophet Rashid Mahiyat, who radically re-envisioned the religion brought by the Templars of the south. It was he who took the faith from isolated Templar outposts, interpreted it from a Najjira perspective, and amassed a crusade that swept through Najjir, converting a majority of the population. Historians have linked the rise of Menxism to Najjir’s cultural renaissance after the collapse of the ancient empire of Amas’kyaa.

The tenets of the faith are enumerated in a tome called the "Menxiyeh Mahiyati," penned by Rashid Mahiyat shortly before his death. Much like in the Arangothian version, there once existed but a single mind, Nehed, the god of gods. It pleased Him to create the universe, but since He was all that ever had been, he split his consciousness into millions of fragments in order to create "soul-templates" for all that exists. Two of Nehed’s greatest souls contained the seeds of their father’s wisdom: the elder Al-Menxwan and the younger Al-Menxruk.

The twins became the caretakers of creation until the day when all souls would re-coalesce into perfect one-ness. Since Nehed was greater than the sum of His parts, His constituent souls needed to grow in wisdom and goodness before they could rejoin with one another. Menxwan created The Empyreann, where noble souls come together to dwell in bliss, awaiting the eventual apotheosis. His brother Menxruk, however, became seduced by matter and grew unwilling to return to singularity. Menxruk employed his army of Djinn and Demons to lead sentient-kind astray and stave off apotheosis, and now he seeks to seize control and remake creation in his image. Menxruk is often known as Al-Shaitan – The Adversary. Any action that supports The Adversary prevents the rest of creation from achieving its purpose; therefore heretics, Menxrukians, and other sinners are seen as holding everyone else back.

Observance

Observing the Menxiyeh involves keeping a spiritually pure lifestyle and helping advance Menxwan’s agenda. Those who follow Menxruk are seen as heretics and often not accepted openly in society. Prayer is essential to maintain the spiritual link to Menwan’s Empyreann. In large cities, Menxwanite clerics let people know when and how to pray by singing from tall towers in the morning, at noon, and at sunset. The First, Second and Evening songs are also often used to tell time. In smaller settlements with no tower, traveling clerics perform the functions of both human prayerbook and almanac.

As an orderly god, Menxwan prescribes keeping one’s affairs in order. The Holy Book contains a description of the ideal family life, a section on resolving disputes, and a list of rules for an orderly society. The laws of most domains are influenced by these rules. Menxism also calls for charity, acts of kindness, and being a good citizen. At the same time, the dogma forbids harboring those who would spread the will of Menxruk. In the hands of some clerics, this passage has turned into a witch hunt.

There is currently a schism among the churches related to two interpretations of the Menxiyeh Mahiyati. The more hardline Mahadi Faction believes in strict retribution against heretics, whereas the more peaceful Salafi Sect strives to embrace them "because Menxwan’s wisdom will inevitably win." Both the truly righteous and the corrupt can be found on either side of the debate.

The Old Gods

Long before Menxism came to Najjir, during the time of Amas'kyaa, people worshiped an entirely different system of gods. The pantheon consisted of rebels from monstrous cosmic star-spawn that once controlled this plane. The original tales are said to have passed down to proto-Najjira people from extra-planar travelers. This polytheistic faith still has followers today, though in far fewer numbers.

Despite Menxism’s initial success, many people continued to combine the two religions in their mind, looking to Menxvan for the future of their souls, but turning to the old ones for lesser things. Shrines to the old gods can be found here and there throughout the land, and some have formed secret sects around the worship of one old god or another. Sect members usually don’t discuss it in mixed company for fear of ostracism. The nomadic tribes of Najjir are the biggest worshipers of the old gods. All that’s known of these deities has been recovered by historians from the ruins and records of the former empire. The following is an incomplete list:

  • Akhthon – The Prime Mover, god of the sun and wielder of lightning. This leader of the gods' insurrection slew his mother, the she-wyrm Attu, and drove his father, the time-squid Zxulh, to exile beyond the gate of stars. Akhthon’s will keeps the chariot of the sun circling and the world heated and lit. He always watches from his golden observatory to see whether cosmic danger approaches and if all is well in the universe.
  • Nadah – The Winnower. As a spiritual gardener of the gods’ realm, she is in charge of weeding out the bad souls from the good after their death. The good souls get to stay in the realm of the gods. Bad or unwanted souls end up in Tepemkau’s vault.
  • Ahmose – The Lanterner, god of the moon, time, and agriculture. This reclusive insomniac deity carries the lunar lantern around the sky while Akhthon’s chariot is underground. As the pantheon’s calendar keeper, he is responsible for watching over the proper flow of time, and his lantern is always present to inform everyone of the passage of days and seasons.
  • Inash – The Master Healer. This is a god of life, alchemy and healing. The sacred profession of medicine falls under his purview. Inash empowers followers who ease the suffering of others and take on the stresses of the world. On the other hand, he is also the god of poisons and various other alchemical combinations. People pray to Inash for the health of their families, crops and livestock, and the removal of blights, both biological and societal.
  • Matathu – The Dreamer. She is nocturnal goddess who presides over the court of dream and nightmare. She knows all the hopes and fears of sentient-kind and is most in touch with the pulse of humanity, rewarding either with bliss or punishing with insanity. Amas’kyaan psychics and astral travelers try to appease Matathu in exchange for the soundness and safety of their minds.
  • Tukkul – The Manifold. He is the four-headed, multiple-personality god of the winds, weather, change, and erosion. Praying to him is complicated because one needs to know which of his personae dominate his mind at any one time.
  • Siamah – The Laughing Conqueress, goddess of warfare, passion, and love. People in Amas’kyaa believed that love and strife are two sides of the same coin and that Siamah represents them both. No god but Akhthon can best her in single combat, though one or two have tricked her in order to defeat her in a spar and get in her bed.
  • Nedresh – Siamah’s younger brother, the god of art, music and revelry. Though he is among the weakest gods of the pantheon, everyone loves him because he makes life worth living.
  • Tepemkau – The Great Death. He is a deity of sun-bleached skin and sand-blasted bones who walks through the deserts collecting the dead. Tepemkau is the keymaster of the vault where all unworthy souls are kept. His vault has eight compartments, the last of which opens up into the pit unto the star-gate to beyond, where star-spawn languish in their squamous exile. The worst souls go through the gate to feed them.
  • Khamesh – The Fateweaver, trickster-deity of fate, roads and information. The great manipulator is so enigmatic that no one is really sure whether Khamesh is male or female. The Fateweaver alone can see the multicolored strands of information that comprise the lives of mortals and gods, and as such, possesses the gift of divination. Khamesh is the patron deity of couriers, travelers and magicians. The Fateweaver’s sacred animal is the Fennec fox. The wandering Shushan elves place Khamesh the highest in their pantheon.

Other Faiths

Other faiths can be found among Najjir in smaller numbers. Pockets of foreigners in coastal cities typically retain their earlier beliefs, and cultural diffusion bleeds over from neighboring lands. As Najjir relies on trade, foreigners are free to practice any religion they wish without too much ostracism - followers of Menxruk are one major exception.

Society and People

Etymology:

Najjir (noun) - refers either to the region or the entire body of people living there.

Najjira (adjective) – refers to the Najjira language or to a person’s background, i.e. “A Najjira man.”

Najj, Najji (slang) – an informal, occidental way to refer to someone from Najjir.

Common Culture

Najjira populations cluster around city-states that sit on rivers, crossroads, or oases. Usually, a city has a satellite of villages and farmland spread out around it. The city’s ruler exerts a sphere of influence over the surrounding land to the extent that he can protect it. These spheres of influence are commonly called domains. Some domains like Qarsythe, are enormous, containing many towns and cities, while others, like Dastarkhan, are tiny in comparison. Most people, with the exception of some tribes, are patriarchal and polygamous. Marriages are usually arranged, and the number of wives a man has is often a sign of his social status. Other status symbols include the amount of land or livestock a man has, whether he was born as a noble or a commoner, and his level of education. Slavery is an accepted practice in Najjir, and free people always have more rights than slaves.

The Najjira are a trading people, but they are also a people of letters. Najjira scholars try to translate as many cultures’ written works as they can, and a handful of the larger cities boast public libraries. Najjira natural philosophers have made some important breakthroughs in astronomy, mathematics, and linguistics (see Ankenah). Customs vary, but most free Najjira value piety, hospitality, and eloquence. Poetry is a national pastime, to the point where all educated people are expected to be able to speak and write in verse. Family is of paramount importance to any Najjira, and family honor and reputation is worth more than material wealth. Young men like to declare blood feuds against people who have brought dishonor to their families.

When a Najjira household entertains guests, the host is expected to share his best food, wine, and lodging, and guests should accept it without question. It is expected of the guest, the traveler, to regale the host with road tales and news from abroad. A guest should never hesitate to follow the host in prayer, even if they worship a different deity; if they pray silently, their thoughts are their own. Most Najjira dwellings have two sections--one for men and one for women--and depending on a guest's gender, they must make sure to sleep on the appropriate side of the house.

Social Status

Rulers, their advisers, and high nobility stand at the top of society. They live in palaces or manor-houses with lush gardens and sizable harems of up to dozens of women. Usually, such powerful people have their own private guards or command detachments of the domain’s soldiers. The powerful love to bask in ostentatious displays of their wealth, hiring artists and decorating everything they own with jewels and precious metals. No less wealthy are the top merchants and guild masters. They enjoy a very high standard of living but tend to invest their money into more liquid assets than expensive palaces. Because they command not only great wealth but also the means of trade that fills their ruler’s coffers, they enjoy a great deal of influence in society. A powerful merchant’s reach may extend across many domains, where Emirs and Princes eat out of the palm of his hand. Smaller merchants, master craftsmen, plantation farmers, and educated scholars are next on the social ladder. They are comfortably well-off but lack the opulence of their wealthier counterparts. They might have only a handful of wives, a nice house, and a plot of land that brings in a decent income. Journeymen crafters, small farmers, and semi-skilled laborers usually have only one wife and a small house. Though they have the means to make their daily bread, they won’t always be comfortable. On Bazaar days, their likes clog the market stalls, hoping to sell enough to maintain their meager lifestyle. Most low-ranking guards and soldiers also fall into this category. Unskilled laborers, dervishes, beggars, and subsistence farmers have it worst of all. They rarely go a day without experiencing hunger pangs. Sometimes these poor souls turn to a life of crime out of desperation. Slaves are at the bottom of Najjira society and are entirely at their master’s disposal, though they sometimes eat better than the free poor.

Economy

The economy in the big cities and their surrounding areas is structured around the concept of the bazaar – a huge marketplace in the very center of town that forms daily, except on religious holidays. Everything is bought, sold, and traded at the bazaar, including the administration of most social functions, making it the nexus of Najjira life. The bargaining tradition is deeply embedded in the bazaar culture; expect to haggle for everything except food and tea. In some cities, bargaining is an art of competing in eloquence, while in others, haggling fulfills a more practical role. If a prospective buyer doesn’t haggle for their goods, most vendors will lose respect for them and drastically inflate their prices.

Traders intersect the desert in camel and mule-drawn caravans, banding together for protection and hiring guides to lead them along the treacherous roads. Heat, the lack of water, and banditry are all common threats to any caravan. Caravans can either be conglomerates of various traders, belong to a single merchant, or consist of professional transporters with their own camels and guards who hire themselves out to people for safe passage. Traders often cross national boundaries to do business with Rashnad and more recently, Arangoth. Animal breeders often make mercantile forays into Kahlahra to purchase the prized Khalar horses for the upper crust of society. The port cities of Mashriq, Bassij and Khorzem receive ships from all over the world.

Guilds are the biggest players in the Najjira economy. In any given city, large and small guilds devoted to all sorts of crafts and professions can be found. Some guilds are local, while others are spread out across Najjir. Membership often equates to a more favorable place in a bazaar; high-ranking guild officers can control supply and thus, prices. In some cities, guilds have de-facto taken over the functions of government (see Qarsythe and Khorzem). There are some special types of guilds, such as the shipwright cartels in the port cities and the pan-Najjira association of scribes, described in greater depth in the language section.

The City-States

Mashriq

Najjir’s largest port sitting on a fertile breadbasket and Najjir's second-most powerful domain. The locals consider themselves worldly, cosmopolitan and practical. Maritime access to the world is often choked by a guild of rapacious merchants.

Qarsythe

The largest, most powerful domain in Najjir, ruled over by a guild of mages, who attempt to find magical solutions to a big percentage of their problems. Qarsythe is a big center of learning and a top producer of magic items.

Sh'hazrid

Sh’hazrid is an architectural marvel – entirely planned out and constructed as a single sprawling building with aqueducts, hanging gardens, dwelling spaces and walkways woven right into it. Major coffee exporter.

Bassij

The second largest port in Najjir, quickly becoming just as important as Mashriq. Bassij sits in the Silver Sea, which means it has access to Kazamki and Drache, and it's a big exporter of silver, iron and copper.

Khorzem

A confederacy of merchant houses banded together in a loose and spread-out "city", dotted with farmers growing opium poppies and other drugs.

Dastarkhan

Originally a demilitarized zone between Mashriq and Qarsythe, now a thriving little domain and home of the land's best musicians and chefs.

Ul'habad

The mountains of Bassij open up onto a vast plateau that dead-ends into a two mile vertical drop into the prairie below. Perched on this shelf are the towers of Ul’habad, the worshipful home of priests and mystics from the east of Najjir.

Unsettled Tribes

Shushan Travelers

They call themselves Shushan, but the rest of Najjir refers to them as Travelers or Dune Elves. At one time, they dominated northern Najjir but have since been reduced to disconnected nomadic tribes traveling along the circumference of civilization as herders and traders. Though once more numerous, the wandering Shushan fell victim to Najjira's military, economic, and political wrangling as the Najjira spread northward from the desert's heart. As a result, they were steadily displaced or, in some cases, violently put down by human tribes.

Shushan are often stereotyped as simple camel and sheep herders, but in reality, the dune elves have a culture as old as Amas'kyaa itself. Though they have a shorter lifespan than other elves, it still exceeds that of humans three times over. Their tribes have an intricate system of interconnections and politics, prompting the Traveler expression: “Myself against my brothers; my brothers and I against my cousins; my brothers, cousins and I against the world.” How the Shushan are regarded varies widely depending upon where in the Salt Desert one happens to find them. Some cities have banned them from entering on pain of immediate execution, while others have small Shushan cantons. Mashriq especially has seen violent clashes in the past, and the emir of the city has only recently re-admitted the elves into his city. In the south, some settled Shushan communities exist, tending to the vast poppy fields which are a major producer of the area’s opium.

Emshi Nomads

Cresting the dunes of Fareedah are the xenophobic tribes of the nomadic Emshi, an old word that literally means "windblown." Descendants of the final defenders of Amas'kyaa, they have never reconciled with the new Najjir and remain nomadic and insular to this day. They are divided into tribes of about thirty to fifty people, and all tribes congregate once a year in one oasis for a spiritual holiday.

Unlike the Shushan, the Emshi dwell almost exclusively in Najjir’s unforgiving interior. Among the hardiest people in Najjir, the Emshi have adapted to the rigors of surviving in the open desert. They know every oasis like the back of their hand, know the signs to a sandstorm, and are taught from an early age tips for surviving in a harsh and unforgiving climate. They freely wander outside the frontier of the cursed ground and make use of relics from the old civilization. A curious cultural custom of the nomads is the fact that men wear headscarves and occasionally veils, but the women do not. Their clothing tends to be of a deep indigo color.

The attitude of people in settled lands regarding the Emshi varies, but it is mostly one of mistrust and grudging acceptance. Emshi tribesmen are superior guides through Najjir's unforgiving interior and are often paid by caravaners to escort them through the desert safely. There is a high demand for relics from Amas'kyaa and for desert crystal harvested by the Emshi and sold at city bazaars where they make temporary rest stops. Aside from this, their livelihood depends on herding hardy animals such as jilab sand hoppers and camels. The Emshi have simple gardens set up in some oases and collect crops as needed, with a strict understanding that each tribe may only take what is needed and to not let food and water go to waste.

The Emshi are the only ethnic group in Najjir which has psychics occasionally born into it at a rate of one to one hundred. Scholars think that this may be due to how close the nomads live to the crystal formations that are the source of their power. Emshi psychics who travel outside the Fareedah lose access to their powers unless they carry a focusing device made out of the local gems.

Buhucha

The Najjira people of Buhucha have a more rustic lifestyle than the city-state dwellers of the more northern regions. Yurts are a common structure, and most families have at least several animals that they raise. The traditional wool robes, often brown or off-red, protect against the nighttime cold. Often, families have more than one dwelling, made in different places, for different seasons, even though most dwellers of Buhucha are not truly nomadic. There is agriculture here as well as multiple trading towns that resupply caravans on their long trek south. Many have called Buhucha a blend between Khalar, Rashnaditz and Najjira cultures. Most villages or towns tend to be dominated by members of a single tribe. The tribes of Buhucha have a tradition of cattle rustling and bride-stealing as a facet of inter-village rivalry, and stolen brides often get absorbed into their husbands’ clan.

Language

Ankenah

Of all the mystical and scholarly movements in Najjir, none have broader a reach than the philosophy of Ankenah, which unites scribes, linguists, and scientists, even across the deserts. Originally introduced in ancient Amas'kyaa, modern Najjira people have rediscovered the discipline and expanded upon it.

Tekhem "Ankenahotep" as-Tyrakhon was perhaps one of the famous Thinkers ever to advise the Pharaoh of Amas'kyaa. Over twelve years of his life, he worked out a system to synthesize the linguistic magic of glyphs, the zodiacal priesthood, and natural philosophy. He gave the system the name "Ankenah," which means roughly "The Insight," and wrote a very large book by the same name. Shortly thereafter, people began calling him Ankenahotep or "Great Insight/Source of Insight."

Scholars in Amas'kyaa had already discovered the magical properties of glyphs and sigils long ago, but Tyrakhon was the first to propose a “system of everything” based on them. He realized that human beings interface with each other and the world around them using abstract concepts turned into symbols – language, in other words. Everything that humans have created, from pies to pyramids, has started from an abstract mental blueprint that could be translated into linguistic forms. Extrapolating this idea, he decided that the minds of gods must function in the same manner, and that all of creation can be abstracted to an interlocking series of concepts which could then be turned into symbols and translated. Going even further, Tyrakhon realized that there must be a universal language somewhere, the words and sentences of which spell entire world-phenomena and whose rules of grammar define universal laws and magic as it is known. The patterns of the constellations, the wavy arrangement of sand, and the blueprint of the human body were all different encryptions for one master key. The goal became to find this key and translate it into a language that could be used by humans.

With Amas’kyaa’s collapse, the Ankenah movement fell into obscurity. However, a group of practicing Thinkers retreated to the plateau of Ul'habad, taking with them as much from the imperial archives as they could. There, they formed a quasi-monastic order dedicated to preserving and expanding the Ankenah so that humanity didn’t have to start from scratch in the coming years. Eventually, the Ul’habadi School came to be known as the preeminent authority on Ankenah.

Modern Day

Najjir changed over the years, and the Ankenah discipline changed with it. Newer generations of linguists are almost all Menxist. Deity-neutral Ankenah fit very well into Menxism; people saw it as a way to understand the mind of Nehed, who embodies the universal blueprint. More importantly, the alphabetic Najjira language replaced the old glyph language of Amas'kyaa.

As language became increasingly standardized throughout Najjir and Ankenah gained popularity, most scholars and domain rulers agreed that Najjira should become the universal tongue of art and science. A grand summit was held in Ul'habad where scholars established the official form of High Najjira, and rulers agreed to enforce the purity of the language in an official capacity. Most domains instituted a law that all working scribes and teachers be language-certified from accredited Ankenah institutions in order to practice their trade. The law is not uniformly enforced, however, and many dropouts from Ankenah institutions become illegal scribes who subsist mainly on things like forgery, illegal across nearly all domains (unless the forger works secretly for a nobleman).

International trade brought Najjira scholars in touch with their counterparts in foreign lands. Since Ankenah values the cumulative insight of sentient-kind, interest in international discoveries swelled. Scribes throughout Najjir mobilized a massive movement to acquire and translate as many foreign works of magical and natural theory as they could obtain. Ankenah mystics have pioneered linguistic magic in order to make learning foreign tongues as efficient as possible. Najjir's ravenous appetite for foreign texts is ever on the rise, and today, Ankenah scholars take all forms. Some are individual, knowledge-obsessed hermits, while others belong to lavish societies of noble figures. Some hold a quill all day, translating texts, and some perform new research and write original treatises. All rulers employ at least one advisor who is discerning in the Language of the Stars.