Vernor, or Rashnad
|Motto:||Family is our tradition!|
|Capital:||The Sacred Oasis of Vonth|
|Ethnic Group:||Rashnaditz and other outside races,|
|Religion:||Semziz, the Supreme Sky Goddess|
|Current Ruler:||The Lineage of the Golden Tent|
The region known as Rashnad is bounded on the west by Kahlahra, the Silver Sea to the east, and Lonrath and Taranor to the south. Most of Rashnad is desert, inhabited by the nomadic Rashnaditz people - swarthy humanoids with webbed feet. Unlike many neighboring nomads, the Rashnaditz focus on commerce and land-based trade. They are infamous for capturing foreigners and absorbing them as fictive kin into their clans.
In the eastern region of Rashnad lie some of the wealthiest cities in the east of Veth, such as near-mythical Kazamki. The traders and expats in these cities are largely responsible for the westward flow of goods such as tea and fine weapons from Mwayambi and The Far East.
Rashnad is the country's own name for itself, but it is sometimes called Vernor in Arangothek.
Rashnad is bordered to the west by Kahlahra, mountains and the Salt Desert to the north; the Silver Sea lays to the east, and the Imke River and Thontaran to the south. The city-state of Taranor touches the very far southwestern corner.
Rashnad is known as a most inhospitable desert region where temperatures soar by day and plummet at night. Once a river passed through these parts, but all that remains of it today is a parched bed strewn with the bones of unfortunate beasts of burden and the disintegrating hulks of abandoned caravans. Those who now inhabit Rashnad (they are called "Rashnaditz" instead of "Rashnadian") refer to it in their tongue as the Baevthe Vinthegon, the Dead River, but those who pass along it with their wagons and oxen and camels know it instead as the Great Desert Road, for this is the long and tiring route by which, since ancient times, luxury goods have passed between parts of the easterly lands and Arangoth. The eastern regions of the land north of the River Imke in the vicinity of Kazamki has a much more pleasant climate.
Government and Politics
There is no formal "leader" of a Rashnaditz family-group, but the most charismatic person generally assumes this role in decision-making and in dealings with other groups. They have what is in theory a sort of democratic tradition: all members of the family-group are supposed to have a say in decision-making. However, they understand "all members of the family-group" to include deceased members too. Since the total number of the members of the family who have died over the years is greater than the number living today, those living today can be "out-voted" by the "vote" of their ancestors. The ancestral vote is usually determined in some ritualistic fashion that varies from group to group -- some roll a die or a pair of dice, while others have a "mizthedar" (an unofficial "priest" or "shaman") who they believe can communicate with the dead.
There is one supreme authority over the Rashnaditz: the lineage of the Golden Tent. This is simply whichever family or group of families has possession of a particular ancient and wonderful tent made of golden cloth and covered with fabulous gemstones. This family inhabits the pleasant (and sacred) oasis of Vonth, about halfway along the road, the main "checkpoint" for caravans passing through Rashnad. The lineage of the Golden Tent has not always been the same family throughout history: whenever a rival group has grown more powerful than the current lineage of the Golden Tent, it has taken the tent away for itself, preferably without bloodshed. The tent is said originally to have been the gift to humankind of the supreme sky-goddess, Semziz.
Notable Government Officials
If the Rashnaditz go to war, they rally behind the lineage of the Golden Tent and go forth in contingents based on a decimal system (tens, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands), the able-bodied members of each family participating in the campaign. Men and women alike go to war, while the elderly of both sexes remain behind to care for the young. Although the southern desert is sparsely inhabited, the more fertile north has a fairly large population, so this nation could--if they wanted to--put a good number of people into the field. Their main force consists of light cavalry armed with bows. They are known for mutilating the bodies of their fallen enemies. The Rashnaditz do not consider a death in battle to be more honorable than any other sort of death, but they tend to be relatively unafraid of dying because of their general view of the afterlife. The Rashnaditz have hardly ever gone to war as a "nation" over the centuries.
The Rashnaditz view the afterlife accordingly: they think the dead continue to inhabit the earth in ghostly fashion, and that they gain such powers as the ability to influence the weather and the outcomes of illnesses. If the ancestors' will is disobeyed (as determined by the dice or the "mizthedar"), then these same ancestors might use these powers to blight their descendants. They also try to exact promises from their dying relatives, asking them to remember (as soon as they are dead) to cure their sick camels, keep the women from miscarrying their children, etc, offering them lavish gifts of "vezk" (their smelly and strongly alcoholic beverage made from fermented mare's milk) as a deathbed bribe. They are very reluctant to feud among themselves, because they believe that any Rashnaditz killed in warfare, or even by accident, will continue after death to curse and afflict his or her killer. They are relatively unafraid of death, but they fear pain so much that they will not even inflict it on their enemies. Torture, for example, is unthinkable to them. On the other hand, they do enjoy the sport of stealing from one another; "the milk of a stolen goat," they like to say, "is sweeter than any other." The Rashnaditz do not believe that non-Rashnaditz people have any sort of afterlife, and so--although they do not hate or avoid foreigners--they have no qualms about killing them if necessary. Or perhaps their idea is that foreigners do live after death, but that their souls have homes elsewhere, in their home countries, and are therefore harmless since they can have little effect on weather or plagues or childbirth in Rashnad! Using similar logic, if a Rashnaditz family does something it knows will offend its ancestors, it often relocates far away from its usual stomping-grounds in order to remove itself from harm's way. By doing this, the family also frees itself from the need to consult its ancestors about anything. Thus their idea seems to be that an ancestral ghost is tied to a particular place; although if you ask a Rashnaditz person, chances are he or she won't really have thought much about the issue.
Beyond this, they believe in a supreme sky-goddess called Semziz and an earth-goddess called Vethe, along with the rain-god Terpun who mediates between them. They are awe-struck whenever they happen to catch sight of a dragon, because dragons closely fit their traditional image of Terpun. They do not worship Semziz or Veth or Terpun directly, leaving this task to their family ancestors (who they hope do whatever is necessary).
Society and Peoples
Most (but not all) Rashnaditz adults range between five and six feet in height and tend to have dark black hair, ruddy skin, and gray or brown eyes. Even very old people seem to have black hair, and the average life expectancy among them is roughly thirty years. Their most striking peculiarity is that most of them have floppy, large feet with "webbed" toes that enable them to walk barefoot across desert terrain (those who travel abroad are probably either very proud or very embarrassed about this). They live mainly off the milk of their animals (goats, mares, sheep, oxen, camels), often in the form of cheeses, or fermented into liquor. They eat meat when their animals die, or when they want to celebrate something special. They are usually somewhat gaunt and bony, though few are weak. Males tend to sport long, curled mustaches, but otherwise to keep their faces clean-shaven.
Males and females alike keep their hair cut quite short, because it is a tradition for family groups to gather once a week for an intimate hair-cutting and hair-burning ceremony. The Rashnaditz people are very superstitious about their hair, believing that a skilled sorcerer can use it to inflict harm on the person from whose head it came; therefore, they don't want it to get into the wrong hands. Toenails, fingernails, baby teeth, and so forth are also disposed of very carefully. By day the Rashnaditz go about very scantily clad because of the heat. At night they wear furs to fend off the chill, usually the furs of the cute li'l desert skritters of Rashnad, though the fur of the man-eating Sand Bear is highly prized.
Other than this, the Rashnaditz people like to live in round hide-covered houses which are lightweight and easy to collapse and move around on ox-back: the name for one of these in their language is a "gan." The lineage of the Golden Tent sells large, flat, oval-shaped iron "passports" inscribed in the Rashnaditz language which protect caravans from being molested along the road. These can be bought in Telemenx, or maybe even in Drache. Pretty much all families and groups honor these "passports," but they are expensive (a third of the goods being transported, or their equivalent in cash) and are only good for one year. Otherwise, a caravan might try to protect itself by hiring guards, but this is obviously risky. The Rashnaditz very much enjoy raiding caravans, both for sport and for profit. In any event, a caravan that shows up at the central oasis of Vonth without a "passport" will be forced to forfeit a third of its goods anyway, without the security of having a "passport" for the rest of the journey (so it might be attacked again later on). It's possible to try to avoid Vonth altogether, passing around the oasis on either side, but anyone who tries is likely to die of thirst. Usually caravans from Arangoth or Taranor go only as far as Vonth, and there turn over their goods to eastern merchants who pay for and transport the goods the rest of the way--or vice versa. Travelers also need to watch out for sand bears.
The Rashnaditz family is defined matrilineally--that is, you're Rashnaditz if your mother was a Rashnaditz, and your family name is whatever your mother's family name is (or was). The family is also exogamous; once a son reaches the age of thirteen, he has to leave to find another family which will take him in, and which will then give him a new name in a ceremony of induction (which varies from family to family). There is no official "marriage" among the Rashnaditz people, and although children usually know who their fathers are, this is not considered a significant detail of kinship. Homosexuality is accepted within the Rashnaditz culture. Nor is there any such thing as "illegitimacy." Any daughter born to a woman in the family is a member of the family, and so is any son (until the age of thirteen). This does not mean that sexual relations are completely open among the Rashnaditz; it only means that they are governed by emotions and conventions, and not by ceremony or law. If any member of a family "runs away" from the group, that member is hunted down and forcibly returned, and if necessary, kept in irons for the rest of his or her life.
What happens to a person who is captured by the Rashnaditz? Menfolk are likely to find themselves adopted into the family that captured them through the same "ceremony of induction" that native Rashnaditz boys go through at the age of thirteen. Families are very proud to have exotic foreigners as members, because in a sense this shows their strength: they either captured or "won over" someone from the outside. Be forewarned: many Rashnaditz families will take the fact that a (male) outsider has joined them for a meal--however small--as an excuse to adopt him. On the other hand, foreign women have no place in the Rashnaditz world. They are therefore sent on as tribute to the lineage of the Golden Tent, which ransoms the wealthy ones and sells the poor ones into slavery in Taranor or other places where slavery is legal. Or, if these women seem to be "valueless," they are killed on the spot. Since the Rashnaditz do not have a clear understanding of "marriage," they will split up a married couple without a second thought. Due to this eagerness to adopt outsiders, there are many Rashnaditz mutts with unusual characteristics: for example, travelers have reported seeing people among this race who were ten feet tall, or who had naturally purple hair.
The people of Rashnad speak a mixture of Arangothek and their own language, Rashnadii.