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Sarducaa Stories

About Kamin Mara

Most men stay far away from Kamin Mara but the great Tindremic poet Carolus Pingue described the area with the following words:

Over the sea far to the west
there is a place of wonder
unknown how it came to be
the great mysterious Kamin Mara

Is it sculpted from the sky
or sprung from the ground
it brought heat from the gods
that melted the sand into glass

On a clear desert night
One might see it glisten
Beyond the high dunes and rock
deep in the south of Sarducaa

from the ridges to the petrified valley
the most hateful of dangers finds you
if you venture without eyes on your back
only the fool treads with heavy steps

an oasis without life
a salvation without hope
in what beauty and evil lie
and vipers come to die

No soul is alive to tell the tale
of what secrets that dwelles in the center
fortune or death awaits the brave
the burning agony of a thousand suns

The elements dance like mirages
guarding the greedy mens desires
where your blood will boil
in the gleaming cauldron of Kamin Mara

About The Cultists

There are whispers coming from the ancient ruins in the mountain. Incoherent chanting and mumbling joins the sharp cracks of whips that echo through the broken stone walls. Then there is a sound that travels over the dunes and sends chills down the spine. A tortured cry from a beast in agony silences the desert night life. The warm blood flowing in the veins freezes to ice. Anyone who enters the fallen monastery stands in imminent peril. For therein reside the infamous Sarducaa cultists.
Known throughout Nave as being a tribe of deeply sadistic believers with a far more extreme conviction of religion than most of the Sarducaans. Devout followers that are recruited as children and raised with hate for the heretics. They suffer long periods of starvation and chastise themselves to rise in the ranks. Only the most hateful and sinister can become curators, which is the highest of honors. But they all strive to die for the cause.

By pain and bloodshed they are preparing the desert for the end of times. According to their prophecy it will happen when the sun is darkened by a moon with the colour of pure blood. The prophecy is called Lona Macta and they praise it by cutting the limbs of their enemies and leaving them to bleed out in the sand. To bleed is a sacred act, according to the cultists whom also cut their own skin in meditation.
The ruins are guarded by mutilated Goriax and Intrepredius. Young troll spawns are taken and tortured to submission until they are fully grown. Through the gruesome procedure of Val Gora their limbs severed by the cultist curators and replaced with blades. They are kept both as slaves or pets and ruthless ruin guards that crave blood of intruders. Although mostly keeping to the ruins the cultists also have a thousand eyes in the desert. Young tribesmen on trial are sent on long missions throughout the continent. One would be wise to stay clear of their path. Other could be soon to follow. Cultists are ever watching the sands.

Ever craving the bloodshed of the nonbelievers. Ever waiting for the rising red moon.

The Balar Elü

There are circles around a certain paths in the desert. The merchant nomads take great caution around these areas and walk silently between the winds struck dunes. Even the camels stride with the head closer to the ground. A screeching sound follows the line as they grind their front teeth in suspense. The foam from their lips drags along the sand as they listen with weary ears. The nomads know no horror worse than these parts of the desert. The slightest shiver of the ground strikes great fear in their hearts as the know what resides deep down beneath the sand. Weak hearted riders have been known to be struck by such terror that they became blind. It is called Glas Haka and can only be the result of the sheer fright of the great desert snakes named Balar Elü.

They say that the snakes are older than the desert and have been dwelling in the ground since the dawn of creation. One might say that they are as gods but are so greatly feared that they have never been worshiped. Even the evil and blood thirsty cultists will not speak their names. In ancient times, before the division of the continents it was said that they roamed the surface and jumped from their burrows high into the sky and swallowed everything in their path on their way down. Even though they seem to be immortal there are Balar Elü that are dead or dormant, but their insides still pulsate. Big enough to create tunnels through its digestive system.

A scroll was found buried in sand by nomads long ago. The dried up leather scroll was written in blood by a blunt instrument. Possibly a finger. It is unknown how that scroll found its way to the surface but it told the story of a wanderer that got lost in the desert and suddenly fell into a hole. It reads:

“My hands clawed and digged in the sand trying to stop the fall down the steep hole. My struggle was futile. The gaping mouth swallowed me whole and by grace of the Queens my body was spared from being torn apart by the enormous sharp teeth that shone to the sky above. I got a last glance at the sun as I rolled down to the deep of the Balar Elü. After brief disorientation I found myself in the deep tunnel of its body. My leg was broken after the fall and I was not able to climb up its oesophagus. I had no choice but to try my luck by wandering down the snake. Hoping it would end in another part of the Saarduca surface. My first intuition was that the snake was dead since it did not chew or swallow me as I fell. But under my horse skin boots I could feel a pulse and the walls of its inside moved slightly as I placed my hand upon it. I tried to follow the narrow network of the spine and ribcage. But after many days of limping down its dark and damp insides I realized that I was going to die here like many other simple minded wanderers that got lost in the desert. Mother forgive me. You did not raise me well enough. My boots corroded by the acid that flowed under my feet. Soon I felt my skin and flesh started to slowly decay and fall off my bones. When I fell to my knees, no longer able to walk, I felt the bone residue of others like me that were doomed to be slowly consumed by this damned creature. I suspect that my death will take weeks in horrible pain until my whole person is one with the snake. Dearest mother, forgive me as I choose my dagger to my heart to end my simple life quickly. Who knows if this creature ever ends or continues into eternity as the god of evil it is.”


Krrft

The red glazed eyes of the Sarducaa people are not only the result of dry dusty winds from the desert, but also from a drug with a sinister origin. This drug is not farmed and harvested by farmers. It is not a mysterious potion concocted by a druid or spell maker. No, it can only be hunted and extracted with a method suited for those born without fear or nerves. You see, buried in shallow sand in the Sarducaa desert lays giant Akreps waiting for the next meal to pass by. The scorpions do not have a preference of food and will kill and devour anything with a beating heart passing by. Their sensitive leg feels the vibration in the sands even from the smallest snake or spider. Faster than a blinking eye it strikes the target with its heavy pincers. It clasps the target by the body and then strikes with the stinger and injects the target with its poison. When stung the heartbeat slows down and causes paralysation of the limbs. By the time the heart finally stops the body is already halfway consumed by the scorpion. This, of course is the case for its intended victims, greater beasts like the Goriax. For smaller humanoid victims the fate is far more terrifying. The sheer force of the pincers could easily cut a person in half like a twig. In panic the victim tries to move away from the scorpion, leaving the lower body behind with a trail of intestines. The swift eight legs of the Akrep would quickly scurry after the crawling upper body and crush its head with its strong jaws. And if, by skill or luck, one dodges the pincers and only get struck by the stinger, wearing no body armor, the telson will smash into the ribcage cracking it open and then force its way through the torso and shoot out the spine from the back, with the heart hanging from the tip of the stinger. The latter death is considered to be the preferred and most painless.

There are Sarducaan hunting guilds called The Wardaki that are specialized in hunting these horrible creatures. They wear a golden talisman of a scorpion on their capes. Their main reason for hunting the scorpions is the poison from the stinger called Krrft which is the source of the drug with the same name. Armored with scorpion breastplate and a zahato, a goatskin bottle attached to the breastplate, the hunter must lure the scorpion to strike its stinger into the zahato and inject the poison. After a successful gathering of poison the other hunters kill the scorpion with spears to harvest the hard shell from the body and meat from the pincers. The meat is regarded as a delicacy and the shell is a good material for making strong armor. It is forbidden for anyone other than the Wardaki to carry these items and those who do will be hunted themselves if caught. But if one escapes it could be worth the effort.

After the daring extraction of the fluorescent oily poison, it is hardened to resin and smoked in long iron oak pipes. Krrf is a big part of the Sarducaa culture and is used by most adults recreationally. The user is said to experience the sensation of warm milk coursing through the veins. All worries leave the mind and the head feels light as a feather at same time the body feels as heavy as gold. Horse mounted warriors are known to smoke before battle for taking the edge off fear and pain. But on foot one is not encouraged to smoke before fighting as it slows down the reflexes and movement. Heavy users are usually disoriented and paranoid under abstinence. Most elderly Sarducaans have these conditions permanently due to a lifetime of smoking.

There is a saying among the Wardaki, “If you taste the Akrep beast once, you will ride it for life. Mind and body become as slow and glowing as the oil itself”

The Wardaki

The Wardaki, or Wardaki-el-Akrep (Scorpion Dancers) hunt the Akrep and other desert creatures by ritual dancing, often leading to a type of trance. The dances and songs are called Horoi, most of them are performed by the group forming a loose circle with the animal in the middle. There are many various types of Horoi for different animals and different situations, and most have rather complex and unusual meters (Usuls) such as 9/8 or 21/16, which are believed to confuse the animals or bring them out of balance.

The Horoi music mainly consists of rhythms, deep throat singing and hums. A low droning tone is often played on a Huchir, a special hunting bow which has a small resonator. Melodic instruments such as flutes are only used for specific creatures. The main instrument is the Dhol, a rather large double-sided drum which requires two hands. The hunters use Daf, their small round shields, which often have small cymbals attached that can be loosened to act like tambourines.

Ibn Kazar

Not more than five generations ago the desert was a disarray of nomadic tribes and small settlements. Warlords had roamed the land longer than anyone could remember. With bands of mounted thieves and murderers they tried to gain control of the Krrft trade through ruthless violence and terror. And terror begat terror as the vendettas spiraled into a vortex of blood and punishment. The tribes drifted further and further apart and became more isolated. Fear, hate and suspicion were passed on to the children and the children’s children. The sound of thumping hooves still makes Sarducaans uneasy to this day.

In the middle of it all was Zanthenes, the one city the raiding bands avoided. Since ancient times the city was ruled by Labbah Madar – Mother of the Flame – who governed this isolated sanctuary which was protected by huge walls and the strange magis in the nearby oasis of Yesil. This alliance seemed to have little or no intention of peacemaking, gathering tribes or ruling the lands outside of the small region – which probably would have been impossible anyway, should they have tried. The war of Krrft brought the prices down and the treasure chests slowly grew with the trade, however at the same time a high price had to be paid in blood and money by the caravans to and from the city.

When times seemed most dire there was a humble man in the north desert. Born a bastard child of a raped mother, he was orphaned at the young age of seven by raiding thieves led by the warlord Luz the Hideous. A saddle maker found him homeless in dirty rags and begging in the village and took him on as an apprentice of his trade. The saddler raised him as his own and taught him all that a man should know, but for one thing, hate. The saddler was a pure pacifist and a believer. He saw it as his mission to end the vengeance blood thirst in the younger generations, and his young apprentice followed the peaceful code as he grew up to become a master of the craft himself and saw his teacher die of old age.

He was a quiet and gentle man with the burly physique of a stone-cutter. Whenever the raiders came to his settlement he would shy away and stay out of trouble. He did what he was supposed to and spent the nights smoking the Krrft and praying to the gods. Then one day he found a little girl begging in the settlement. She was an orphan due to raiders just as he, and he adopted her and raised her to become a craftsman as well. There was something special about the girl he adopted her as his daughter. She made him smile and he began to greet his neighbors and sing when he tanned camel skin to leather in his shop. But his singing stopped when the raiders rode in to the settlement, one silver moon. They took all the women and bound them to their horses and rode off. No one heard from them for many days until a carriage dragged by a mule came back. The bodies were beaten and mutilated almost beyond recognition and the little girl whom the saddler loved lay on top of the pile. Her blue lifeless eyes pierced his soul as he lifted her off the carriage and carried her slowly through the settlement and out to the open desert. The tribe followed him and carried their own dead women and children. He finally stopped by the stone arch of Bos Talia and buried the girl by the eastern post.
On the back of his camel he spoke to the tribe with a sword in his hand, “I, Ibn Kazar, son of a murdered mother and father to a murdered child will not rest until I have sought repentance from these thieves, murderers and rapists. And all of you will go home and wait for the next full moon and then return to this place. You may not seek blood for blood on your own.”

The tribesmen wondered who he was to give such an order. They all wanted revenge for the raiders’ savage actions and cried for the heads of the guilty to be placed on spears. Ibn Kazar looked upon them and calmed the troubled tribe to silence.
“I am the chosen one and will be the last in this tribe to sully my soul in vengeance. If you feel your blood boil in hate and you reach for the sword in anger, I urge you to reach for your pipe instead. To forget is divine and to smoke the Akreps oil is godly.”
And so Ibn Kazar rode off to the next settlement and told them what has happened and what he intended to do. He learned that they too were mourning their women who had fallen by the hands of the raiders. With haste he rode from tribe to tribe, all over the Sarducaan desert and they were all victims of one and the same warlord, Luz the Hideous. The tribes wanted to follow Ibn Kazar and seek revenge, but he told them as he told his own tribe, to meet him under the arch of Bos Talia the following full moon and they agreed under the Krrft smoke cloud.

It was close to dusk when he rode into the raiders’ camp on his camel. The sun was setting behind the ridges of Bos Kamin. In sheer confusion the savage raiders just watched him ride all the way up to the warlord’s tent. Luz the hideous stormed out from his tent in rage and screamed for the raiders’ attention. Within seconds Ibn Kazar was surrounded by a hundred raiders with swords and spears pointed at him. He calmly stepped off his camel and gazed into Luz the Hideous eyes.
What is the meaning of this? Are you a mad man who wishes to die?” said Luz the Hideous and drew his sword.
“I have come to seek your repentance. Ask the gods for forgiveness and promise to stop your wicked ways and your life will be spared. I give you three chances to repent”, said Ibn Kazar with his empty hands in the air. “Repent!” he shouted. “You truly are mad. The Krrft oil must have rotted your mind!” laughed Luz the Hideous and the raiders joined in, pointing and laughing. Ibn Kazar steadily lowered his hands.

“Repent!” he shouted again. They stopped laughing and moved closer. The tension rose and they could feel the vibrations in the air.
“Repent!” he shouted a third time.
Luz the Hideous pointed at him a screamed, “Archer!”, and a single arrow flew through the camp and burrowed its iron in the camels head. The camel fell to the ground instantly with a thud and thick dust blew up in the air. Quicker than the akrep stinger Ibn Kazar drew his sword and swung it through the dust cutting one raider after another. With his swift feet he danced with his sword around the disoriented bunch. He slashed off a limb for every life they had on their hands. There were no raiders left standing when the dust finally settled, just hands, feet and heads spread all over the sand. Luz the hideous dropped his sword and fell to his knees crying. Begging for his life and promising that he would repent. Ibn Kazar kicked him to the ground and said that the time for repentance was too late and bound him on the back of a donkey.
It was the night of the following full moon when they arrived on the donkey to the arch of Bos Talia. All the Sarducaan tribes had gathered and stood in silence as Ibn Kazar rode up a hill. He placed Luz on the ground and told him to stretch his arms to the sky.
“This is Luz the Hideous. He is the one who has plagued us with fear and blood in the desert. His followers have already been punished, he is the only one left”, said Ibn Kazar and let his blade sever the reaching hands of Luz the hideous.
“If you have a stone in your heart, take that stone and throw it at his head so there will be peace” he said and one by one the tribesmen picked up a stone and hurled it at Luz the hideous. Soon his body was only a broken pile of flesh, blood and bone.
The march of the thousand nomads began and within days they arrived in Zanthenes. The Labbah Madar met them outside the city gates. Ibn Kazar knelt before her asked for her forgiveness.
“My queen, for too many generations have we been spilling blood in the desert, separated by hate and greed, all because of the wealth from Zanthenes pouring into the chests of warlords. This ends today if you accept my unified army of nomads as yours. Then will we be united as one single tribe under the Labbah Madars’ rule and keep peace in the desert. My requests are that the trade of Krrft is solely handled by the desert tribes and that we have the right to live our lives in peace.”

The Labbah Madar agreed and exclaimed the nation of Sarducaa to be born. The city of Zanthanes became Beth Jeddah, “Home of the mother”. She gave Ibn Kazar the title of Protector of the desert, which he kept for the remainder of his years.

The songs of the brave saddler Ibn Kazar are still sung to this day in the tents and huts of the desert.

Labbah Quarachath

More than three decades passed, and during what would become the final chapter of the Invasion of Nordveld, Zanthenes caught the eye of the Empire yet again. At this time the city had become a known sanctuary for deserters and radicals, and as the army desperately needed every man and weapon (and Huergar prospector) a full legion was sent to its gates with the orders to “…seize every Tindremic traitor – nay, every wretched being walking on two feet – and herd them headfirst into Rimfrost’s Gorge. Pile them high.”
To their surprise the emissaries of the legion met with a blooming city, rather well fortified walls, and of course the former Procurator, which no one seemed to have remembered, now going by the name Labbah Madar. Although heavily outnumbered and facing total annihilation of the city unless she surrendered, she blatantly refused to give up any citizen. According to the notes of the emissaries, to demonstrate the fierceness with which her people would defend their jewel, she lit her head on fire by sticking it into a brazier, firmly eyeing them until the flames had consumed her every hair curl. This clearly insane act apparently made such an impact on the Tindremenes that they turned the legion on its heels and left Zanthenes to a different destiny. To be continued

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