|Ethnic Groups:||Humans, Dwarves|
|Religion:||The Thousand Gods|
Long has Drache been a crossroads between the northern desert trade and the southern sea. But beyond bustling Taranor, beyond the desert wastes, beyond fabled Kazamki, whence do the strange goods come? Northeast of Veth, another landmass bespeaks an answer: Mwayambi, land of countless gods, black men, and rivers of gold.
Mwayambi is a continent owning a great number of strange nations and unexplored reaches, listed here are only the ones known to the learned of the south. Along the coasts and island promontories one will find the sea-going Berjeron, a tall and dark race of skirted merchants. North is the veldt empire of the black Kadut dwarves and their camel-mounted cavalry. Caught between the two empires are the inland tribes of the Bakbé, who settle around giant ziggurats and ride fearlessly upon striped horse-like creatures. Their home, the grasslands of Siombakgede, are rich with Mwayambi's most valuable resources: its giant fauna with their ivory; gold; sugar; dishanti (a type of tobacco); and coffee. The desert adds salt and the ocean, pearls, to the continent's exports. North of the human and dwarven peoples is the barren desert waste, where above lies the Land of Chimerae. Here monsters, giant insects, and inhuman creatures roam. By ancient conquests and the might of the Kadut, none are meant to be allowed south of the desert into inhabited lands. Both the Berjeron and Kadut empires have long trading relationships with the south, knowing the ports of Mashriq in Najjir and Kazamki in Rashnad best of all.
It should be noted before all else that the ecology of Mwayambi is unlike the southern countries. Although the landscapes are similar, with deserts, grasslands, lush coastal areas, and even some thick jungle near the mountains, it is in its fauna that this land differs the most.
Siombakgede, the grasslands central to Mwayambi, may be translated as "land of giants" and this is certainly accurate, if not pertaining to the human population. The majority of animals dwarf anything else found on land save perhaps dragons.
Mammoths, ground sloths, and the rocs which feed on them are among the largest land creatures, all standing larger than 15 ft. The bison-like kuut'tha, the giant camel, hippopotami and rhinos are smaller, but the smallest is larger than any creature found near Arangoth's continent, which the locals call Veth (after the Rashnad earth god). Even the smaller fauna can be deadly, with cats that rival a Vethite horse. Zebras, antelopes and other beasts dot the plains at mid-sizes. One of the smaller species is the horse itself, which barely grows above knee-height in Mwayambi. All beasts are wary of the giant crocodiles in Siombakgede's rivers, which reach lengths of thirty feet.
Because of the abundance of food, a few wingless dragons can be found in the mountains and deserts of the continent -- of dark colours and mostly evil natures. The vast majority want little to do with humans, and keep to their dens, counting their gold.
It is perhaps because of these giant, dangerous creatures that Mwayambi is more sparsely populated than Veth, especially at its core. The great empires have risen up at its fringes, and those nations within are scattered and mostly barbaric.
Still, it also means Mwayambi, and Siombakgede in particular, is a source of great wealth. The mammoths of the plains carry enormous ivory tusks -- the greatest source in the known world, and the mostly virgin soil is rich in nutrients. Coffee, pepper and dishanti crops of the Bakbé are both plentiful and of the highest quality. The rich veins of gold in the highlands are barely tapped. Furs, hides, salted delicacy meats and fish add to their exports.
Main Article: The Thousand Gods
Almost unanimously, the nations of Mwayambi worship races of Gods rather than individuals. The Bakbé call this race the Murowé, and its plane of existence Mu. The Berjeron call them simply The Thousand Gods and the Heavens.
The ‘black mariners’ of the Eastern Ocean have an Empire without much use for a centre. Islands and solitary ports throughout the vast expanse of water are populated with Berjeron colonies. More are added every day, for the Berjeron Empire is an expanding phenomenon.
Two hundred years ago, the Farfarers began a long stint in possession of the Viziership that included their beginning of Empire and institution of an Imperial University. This university invited experts from all over Mwayambi to pool knowledge of ship-building and navigation, knowledge which has propelled the Farfarers into the premiere marine force upon the Eastern Ocean. It has enabled them to sail further and faster than almost any other nation. The Berjeron pilot giant black-hulled freighters and carracks with three masts, a recent innovation of the last century or so.
Government and Politics
Ruling over the empire is a Priest-Queen known as the Suzeraine, a hereditary matriarch based in their most ancient city on the coast of Mwayambi. Serving Her Imperial Majesty is a court of nobles and four powerful Orders – remnants of what were once distinct peoples long ago assimilated: the Saints of Jomeil, the Tervagants, the Ley Savants, and the Farfarers. From among the Order’s Imams, or leaders, and the more powerful nobles (a Ras, perhaps, or a Negus), a Vizier is chosen to serve each Suzeraine as the practical head of government, and usually rules in their own faction’s interest.
- The Saints of Jomeil are paladins, wearing mail hauberks and leafy wreaths beneath their cylinder helms and often riding imported horses.
- The Tervagants are fierce amazon fighters who excel at archery and the machete.
- The Ley Savants are wizards and sages who are imminently adaptable.
- The Farfarers are merchants and sailors and form the nation's powerful navy.
The Berjeron fight with myriad weapons, but generally favour straight long-swords, hippo-hide bucklers, and bracelet daggers. The Saints of Jomeil also make use of lances. The Tervagants have adopted foreign crossbows recently, and have seen great success in combining these with their customary bow-women for devastating versatility.
Society and Peoples
The Berjeron are often considered the most diverse of Ambé nations, because in their expansion they have absorbed countless peoples, and adopted cultural and technological traits of dozens of other nations, including some of those belonging to ‘Veth’ (their name for Arangoth’s continent). Berjeron cities are marvelous places of marble and mud-brick, temple and manour, with merchants crying out the benefits of myriad delights from the huge soukhs, or market-places. The typical Berj dresses for his balmy climate in a sarong and little else. In harsher conditions, similarly draped clothing such as djellabas and swami shirts are added.
Spice and sugar-cane cultivation, pearl-fishing, and slaving are their major industries besides shipping and merchanteering. The Berjeron have grown unimaginably wealthy through trade, especially that of Pangui goods across the ocean directly, rather than the long and ponderous ‘World’s Road’ which runs partly through Mwayambi. However, Bahijan shipping has recently begun to encroach upon their monopoly. Giant Berjeron carracks are everyday sights in Najjir, Kazamki, and down the Thontaran coast to Rispith, but further on towards the southern sea they are rare enough so as to be still new to the unworldly.
An individual is a Berj, while the empire and the adjective is Berjeron. Common names for men might sound like Abasi, Zien, Benue, Touso, Delam, and Naire. For women, like Zyad, Achan, Kamaria, Masiki, Zubira, and Marjani.
Each Berj speaks several outlander tongues as well as his more native languages, and they are renowned for their worldliness.
Along the northern half of human-inhabited Mwayambi is the veldt and desert empire of The Kadut. These black-skinned dwarves are mighty warriors, seeing as how they must defend the southlands from the ‘Chimerae’ of the northern deserts.
Government and Politics
Unlike most of the Ambé, they are not ruled by their priests, but instead by a sibling pair as King and Queen, or more traditionally Kadutshah and Kadutshiste. There is no sexual congress between the two, and each keep many consorts. The Queen is somewhat inferior, and the nation is mostly patriarchal. Beneath the royal pair, noble Satraps control cities and expanses of the veldt.
Stretched far from their ports of the west and the mountain-cities of the east, with only arid grass and salt flats and the occasional oases between them, the key of these dwarves is mobility. The King’s famed ‘Méhariste’ army is charged with protecting the frontier and the roads between east and west. Each giant bactrian camel carries two dwarves (one driver, one warrior), each in side-mounted baskets. The driver’s side is well shielded with steel disks, while the warrior’s is open for combat with compound bows and bidents. The Méharistes are master warriors and tacticians, often charging at an angle with shielded-side forward, before turning swiftly to unleash a devastating attack upon their opponents. Méharistes sign on for ten year tours and are given immense legal power to search and execute. The Kadutshah, ostensibly their commander, must be very careful to retain their loyalty.
Supplementing the Méharistes in times of war are forces of mammoth cavalry, foot regiments, and small units of monks. The Kadut are also known for the Bashi-bazouk, warriors who can drive themselves into a battle-frenzy.
Warriors carry bidents, bows, and angular scimitars with enlarged tips. They also favour throwing irons (like multi-bladed tomahawks, or giant shuriken).
Society and Peoples
The Kadut tend to have the darkest skin of all Ambé races. A typical Kadut dwarf carries the racial tradition of whiskers, but styles his black beard into ringlets or, especially if a warrior, keeps it short and groomed. He drapes his body in robes and wraps his head above and below his face (often covering his beard) in a turban. A warrior will replace the cloth robe with one of knee-length chain-mail but keep the turban. The Méharistes wear pristine white as a mark of their Order, while others prefer rich blues and reds.
East in the kasbahs, or mountain-cities, the dwarves mine salt, iron and gold using scent-trained insects: dog-sized ants to help dig and carry, and fist-sized honeybees to provide feed for the ants. The extracted minerals are sent west in ox-trains with honey and Pangui goods (from unknown sources across the mountains) to the manufacturing and trading ports of the west. Ironically, though the dwarves are the most fiercely pro-humanoid of the nations, they are often looked down upon for using hated insects (which are associated with demons) as beasts of burden. It should be noted, however, that an underclass of the Kadut, the Grub-handlers, who always hide their skin with full robes and bronze masks, are the ones who raise the insects.
A single dwarf is called a Kadut, Kaduti, or Kadutian interchangeably. Common names for males include Bornu, Malal, Ako, Kalil, Koum, Odai, and Bhoke. Those for women are Kiri, Anya, Sarraka, and Makeda.
The Kadut have their own language which is entirely different from the language spoken by dwarves on Veth.
Caught between the two mighty empires, and hampered by the land’s megafauna, are the tribal Bakbé peoples who inhabit the heart of the ‘Land of Giants,’ the plains of Siombakgede. Though viewed as barbaric by their more developed neighbors, the Bakbé tribes' die-hard courage and quick thinking has kept both hostile men and beasts at bay.
A thousand years ago, the ox-mounted Bakbé migrated from the east into land formerly inhabited by a great empire of ziggurat builders that both the Kadut and the Berjeron claim were their ancestors. Some of the migrants began to settle on and around these abandoned terraced structures and create a simple life of hunting and agriculture, while in harmony with those tribes who chose to stay nomadic and hunt the great beasts.
Government and Politics
Atop the great structures are the temples wherein rule the female Matriarchs of the clan, who are, again priestesses. Each tier below the peak holds the domiciles of the tribes simple hierarchies and peoples. There are no palaces, and even ‘noble’ families live in basic huts and farm small crops, including millet, yams, dishanti, pepper and coffee, as well as keeping herds of small sheep and goats.
Though oxen are the most common mount, brave young men like to paint themselves with white stripes and compete at capturing and riding wild zebras with the help of enchanted bridles made by their Priestesses. Once reconciled, a zebra and Bakbé is devastatingly quick and skilled at both hunting and warfare. The most skilled cavalry on the continent, The Bakbe owe their freedom to this advantage, as well as their guile and mastery of the landscape. Bakbé see the mount-rider relationship as temporary, and do not keep herds of zebras.
A warrior will carry long-bladed spears, forward-curving swords, and throwing irons. For inter-tribal warfare, however, he will only ever use a club and killing is frowned upon. Shocking to most other nations, Bakbé warriors see eating a fallen foe’s heart as an honourable and strengthening act, and proof against undeath for the fallen.
Society and Peoples
A typical Bakbé wears very little besides a loin-cloth and jewelry, men and women alike. The young men function as warriors, while the women act as priestesses. The megafauna are mostly kept away from the settlements by hunters, brush-walls, and small brush fires. Common names for Bakbé men include Nbaro, Mbawa, Gweyu, Nkemakolam, Ngozi, and Chinenye. Those for women include Emeka, Eze, Ada, Uzondu, Chidebere, and Ndidi.
Once every dozen years or so, what the Bakbé call ‘wooden clouds’ will arrive atop the ziggurats carrying their masters, the Xiunlans. Trade will commence thereafter, but neither peoples remember how this practice began. It is yet another reason the northern and southern empires wish to gain Siombakgede for themselves.
Each Bakbé tribe speaks its own dialect. Tribes who live close together tend to have similar languages, and become increasingly dissimilar as geographical distance increases.
Divine magic, or ‘prayer’ is much more prevalent than any sorcery or psionics. In fact, it is commonly associated with the ruling class, as theocracies are very common in Mwayambi. There are no significant regional characteristics to Ambé divine magic, save that the greater number of Gods tends to lead to certain ‘prayers’ being associated with certain gods, and Priests tend to be devoted to entire Pantheons/Groups/Races of Gods rather than a single deity.
Sorcerous magic is rare and is used through ‘Eldritch Masks’: each different in size, appearance, and power, specially carved for certain purposes and effects. Due to the effects of the ‘ley lines’ of the continent, sorcerous magic can only be used through the use of a these artifacts. In fact, it is believed that the ceremony binds the essence of a minor demon into the mask, permitting the flow of sorcerous energies. A lesser mask might only grant the wearer one spell, while a greater one would allow the Conjurer to draw upon any number of spells.
Sorcery has dire consequences. Any use of a Mask immediately ensures that the Conjurer will rise from the grave after death, be it as ghost, ghoul, etc, depending on the power of the spell-casting and its frequency. As well, the use of sorcerous magic in the first place is a powerful beacon, attracting myriad undead. The more powerful the spell used, the more numerous and more powerful undead will awaken and seek the site out. Sorcery is thus inextricably linked with the undead, though an Ambé Conjurer cannot raise the dead directly.
Magic is understandably mistrusted, especially by the Priests, but of course mistrust must fall by the wayside on occasion for necessary or nefarious purposes. Outlander mages, too, are subject to the laws of magic in this realm, just as they are in Panguro. An outlander must wear an eldritch mask if he is to draw upon any of his spells and they will most certainly attract the same unwelcome visitors. Ambé Conjurers travelling abroad could conceivably cast outlander spells were they to study them, but would have to take along their masks to cast their own spells.
It should be noted that necromancy here is solely an ability of the highest level Priests, and not arcanists. Sorcery attracts undead, but the spells to create them are not known in Mwayambi.
The worldly Berjeron have among them a special order of mages significantly different from Ambé Conjurers. The Ley Savants are masters of divining and studying the Ley Lines which cover the world, affecting all things magical. Because the Berjeron travel over such a large space, the Ley Savants have learned to both ‘read’ and adapt to the magical geography of a certain place. For instance, a Ley Savant might carry upon his person a Mask, a spellbook and components, and various salves and charms in order to work his magic in Mwayambi, ‘Veth’ (Arangoth’s Continent) and Panguro, respectively. A Savant will always carry strange tools, including mystic sextants, to study the Ley Lines.
The Undead of Mwayambi
‘Chimerae’ (any kind of monster, but not dragons) are, by ancient conquests, not permitted to cross the northern desert and enter the civilized lands. These borders are held by the powerful Kadut dwarves and through their efforts the inhuman insects and insect-peoples, giant worms, vampiric storms, and other horrors are kept at bay.
But the clever demons who begat said monsters would not be denied all their human prey and influenced mankind to create the demon-infestation known as undeath.
Undead are unfortunately common throughout the southern lands: wights, spectres, ghosts, zombies and other terrible creatures are similar to those of Arangoth. There are, however, two types of undead that are worth noting.
The burial practices of the various peoples of Mwayambi are all mostly similar, in that those noble deceased are mummified and entombed. This springs from the practices of the pre-Bakbé empire, the Ziggurat builders. Beneath each ziggurat is the entombed bodies of hundreds of men and women, and one high priest.
When sorcerous magic is used, via the Masks (see [Magic]), it attracts the undead. The unliving thirst for magical energies, and its use is a beacon to them. The solitary cannibals known as vampires, and even those simply dead often rise up and crawl from their tombs as ghosts, zombies or ghouls to come to a magic area. The more powerful the magic, the more enchanting the beacon. A great use of sorcery, such as has only happened a few times in Mwayambi’s history, will awaken a Mumiya, an undead priest, from beneath their ziggurat. If a lich is the ultimate undead in the south, the Mumiya holds that title in the north. They are spoken of in whispers, and only the learned know that one or two are still awake and not destroyed or sleeping.
The Mumiyé (pl.) are mummified, but their wrappings are mostly invisible beneath the priest’s robes they don on awakening. Their faces, which are never wrapped, are shriveled and dried, but can be disguised if necessary. The maggots that live within their body are rarely seen unless they are injured, and a Mumiya’s flesh transforms into deadly scarab beetles upon his destruction.
An awakened Mumiya is a fearsome power, able to control divine magics of the highest orders and shape the very fabric of the world around him. Thus sorcery is feared in Mwayambi, and used…sparingly.
Vampires come in two sorts in Mwayambi. Each is created when a bite and the feeding back of blood pass on the demonic ‘blood worm’ to a living host. Most Ambé are driven mad by their descent into vampirism, and become little more than human-shaped beasts with disfigured faces and long fangs. They steal into villages at night to feed. Sometimes they travel alone, sometimes in packs. They have the mentality of animals and no capacity for speech.
Occasionally, however, one will eat the heart of a fellow vampire. These ‘Heart-Eaters’ transcend their madness and gain the horrifying aspects of their southern cousins: power, mystery, and cunning. Some live secret lives in Ambé towns, while some live by themselves and often command ‘swarms’ of the lesser vampires.
The Heart-Eaters, as their name suggests, drink not just blood from their human victims. Their cannibalistic endeavours not only sate their thirst and hunger, but can also give them insights into, and the abilities of, their meal.
Upon being staked with wood, vampire flesh bursts into a swarm of disease-carrying tsetse flies – the final form of the blood worms. The uninfected skeleton remains and the skull must be removed and buried upside down with cloves and other spices, preferably at a holy site or crossroads.