The Children of Shama

To the south and west of the Center of the World lies the Desert. Few would cross its expanse alone, as no roads may survive the winds that wash them away in waves of sand, scouring every footprint to nothing. To those from the Center of the World, it is a vast sea of sand and rock, untouched by rain, populated with ferocious wild donkeys, herds of camel, and little else but the unpredictable Desertmen.

The Desertmen, though, know it as their home, Nagash-Ayat, She who Hides Treasure. They call themselves the People of Shama and their many tribes know its wadi, its oases, its seasons and tides, its monsters, its hidden delights.

The tribes meet at each year’s first Full Moon — the Open Left Eye of the Sky of Nagash-Ayat — in the convocation they call Barash-Teb. The Barash-Teb gathers at a location chosen by the Nagash-Ayat, itself, told to the Namedealers of the tribes of the Children of Shama. While they convene, Shama, the seasonal northwest wind, returns, telling tales from its travels to the tribes’ many speakers of the Language of Names, called Voices of the Wind.

While the Shama speaks with the Voices of the Wind, the tribes join in their festival. The most highly-honored of the tribes slaughter goats, sheep, ktesh, and even camels, seasoning them with the oils and spices gathered from the furthest reaches of each of the tribes’ travels. Those who are so inclined propose marriages according to the traditions of each tribe, while Voices of the Wind negotiate on their behalf.

During Barash-Teb, none may do violence to another, and those who fear each other’s vengeance will often choose this moment to sooth one another’s wounds to their honor, rather than redden the desert and in doing so bring its wrath.

Each tribe of the People of Shama carries with it a secret history, known only to initiates within the tribe. Their traditions are unique among the tribes, though perhaps imperceptibly so to the “Farmers”, as they call all those who live in cities or villages.

Most tribes’ people cover their faces with when among strangers, particularly when negotiating. To reveal one’s face is to show trust — or, among strangers, to show contempt by asserting that one is unafraid.
Most of the Children of Shama dress in loose cotton, wool, or linen. Many tribes dye their clothes in patterns with indigo, though the tribe that touches the Western Sea uses a dark purple dye, the secret of which they hold close; and the Ubab tribe dyes their turbans in patterns using the blood-red river from which their tribe takes its name, and whose location deep in the desert is know to them, alone.

The People of Shama wear their wealth on their bodies. They weave gold, silver, copper, and glass beads into their hair clothing and saddles, often displaying most prominently payment from the extreme limits of their trade routes. They proudly display their most darkly-dyed cloth, and they lead their flocks and herds with the fattest, strongest animals standing proudly at the front, their fur brushed, oiled, and beaded.

All initiates of the People of Shama know the name of Shama, though it speaks only to the Voices of the Wind. The mightiest warriors perform their great feats in its name and the Voices of the Wind learn it first, and of its desires, whims, and tides, before they learn the name of even Nagash-Ayat.

Shama, itself, demands that its children deal honorably, and that all take pride in their tribe. Even in mortal peril, a child of Shama will proudly tell any who ask the name of their tribe. To fail to do so is to forsake Shama, who will abandon or punish according to its whim; it is better to descend to the Waters of the Underworld with pride, met by one’s ancestors, than to defy the word of Shama and enter alone.

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