Desert Raiders – Ki Sh’oufe (Ki Shue-fee) called The Cursed in their own language are the human inhabitants of the Deserts they lie beyond the fertile banks of the River Halit and Lake Hali.
Physical Characteristics: The majority of the ‘Raiders are short women typically around 5’ and men 5’6″with sharp features, tawny skin, dark wiry or smooth hair and grey, hazel or blue eyes. Some regressive genes in their heritage produce occasional giants of almost eight foot in height with chinless faces with thick lips, large-pored, yellowish skin, coarse crinkly hair, and oddly elongated ears who are seen as favoured by the gods. These occasional exceptions are known as Wetans and are usually respected as Shamen. Normal raiders tend to be wiry and slender. Wetans on the other hand are broad-shouldered and barrel chested. Most ‘Raiders have exceptional endurance in the deserts and bush around Drakesdoom but this is more a consequence of learning survival skills from infancy than an inherited trait. The life of a Raider is harsh and one reaching 40 is revered as an elder.
Culture & Lifestyle: Many tales exist of the origins of the Ki Sh’oufe – Some say they are the survivors of the ruined city of Caracosa driven from their home by the Drake Seljford, others that they were refugees fleeing the advancing armies of a Dark Lord beyond the Black Alps that sailed Lake Hali and made the desert their home and yet others believe they were travellers on a comet than crashed into the desert creating the great lake. It is not shared which or what combination of these the Ki Sh’oufe believe but some dark tragedy must have shaped their culture of suspicion.
A widely quoted ‘Raider saying is “I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers.’ Teh basic unit of their society are small family groups typically three or four adults (a married couple plus siblings or parents) and any number of children .
When resources are plentiful, several tents travel together as a zulam (‘clan’). These groups were sometimes linked by patriarchal lineage, but were just as likely linked by marriage (new wives were especially likely to have close male relatives join them), acquaintance, or no clearly defined relation but a simple shared membership in the tribe.
A particular zulam is the zulam a’Kret (clan of bulls or bucks) commonly known to settled people as a war party this is made of single unmarried men which engage in slave raiding and banditry for the good of their tribe. Triumph in the service of a zulam a’Kret is a common requirement for permission to marry. Where a tribe has many daughters a particular a zulam a’Quat (clan of virgins) of unmarried female warriors can according to legend be formed. No settler had reported encountering an all female warband.
Meritah (tribe or literally “sons of an uncle”) commonly of three to five generations. These were often linked to zulam, but where a zulam would generally consist of people all with the same herd type, Meritah were frequently split up over several economic activities, thus allowing a degree of ‘risk management’; should one group of members of a descent group suffer economically, the other members of the descent group would be able to support them. Whilst the phrase “descent group” suggests purely a lineage-based arrangement, in reality these groups were fluid and adapted their genealogies to take in new members.
The ‘Raiders prime activity is nomadic herding of camels, goats, horses and sheep depending on the terrain they roam on the fringes of fertile land. This brings them into conflict with settlers from Drakesdoom. The caravans to and from Drakesdoom have opened a new economic lifeline to the Ki Sh’oufe, the raiding, ‘protection’ and escort of caravans. Furthermore slave trading and breeding is illegal in Drakesdoom but importing slaves is not, therefore the Ki Sh’oufe raid caravans (and isolated settlements) and sell their captives to unscrupulous magnates of the land s of Drakesdoom and the Midmark.
The ‘Raiders have a great love of poetry and family and larger groups will often pit their best bards against each other in great improvisational boasting contests. Percussive music is very popular and often provides the rythum for bardic challenges. Falconry and pigsticking are favoured sports though the prince of sports is rhino hunting undertaken by zulam a’Kret in the absence of war by unarmored unmarried men on horseback armed only with javelins who must down a rhino unaided to win a bride.
Horses are prized animals but very expensive as most Meritah roams lands where suitable feed needs to be imported. They are only kept for highly respected elders and warriors. Camels are the utility beasts of the ‘Raiders and no Meritah would waste resources on something as hard to keep as an elephant. Dogs are unpopular (they react badly to Wetans) though cats are popular pets.
Ki Sh’oufe culture is shaped by strong honour codes. Caravan masters and other settlers who have taken time to learn these can make lasting alliances with the ‘Raiders.
Clothing and Decoration:Usual dress is simple desert robes with a hood and a mask over the lower face. Sometimes a close fitting skull cap will be worn. Most ‘Raiders will own two sets of robe one in a undyed or sandy colour and another black. A Djerah or over cloak which is thick woolen loose-fitting with a baggy hood and typically woven in a stripped pattern which forms effective camouflage in the bush. Jewelry and tattoos are shunned.
Marriage Pattern: Ki Sh’oufe are generally monogamous outside of certain very specific religious practices. Young unmarried women can be given over to an elders pleasure but it usually ruins their prospects for marriage and the families change of finding a suitable son-in-law. The brides family also have to pay a bride price in livestock to the groom’s family based on this accomplishments and the desirability of their daughter.
Religion: Little is known of Ki Sh’oufe religion Wetans are normally shamen and can serve several Meritah travelling with impunity even between blood-enemies. What little has been garnered is that they contract deals with entities that exist beyond space and time in the form of sacrifice (including exceptionally human sacrifice) for tightly worded results. An entity which does not deliver on its contractual obligations is likely to be shunned as is the shamen who negotiated the deal.
The prime weapons of the Ki Sh’oufe are the compound bow, the ‘Ilert’ a light spear or javelin and the sling. Everyone carried daggers and there are cases of women warriors though they tend to be rare. ‘Raiders favour the night attack, ambush and bretrayal (where their honour system allows) than anything resembling a stand up fight. Armour is very rare. The ‘Raiders are adept at stealthy movement in the bush in particular using dead ground.
Demeanour: While warm and generous amongst their own family or extended groups the general perception of the raiders is of a suspicious, tight mouthed, hard bargaining barbarians who would sooner cut your throat they give you a sip of water.
Language: Ksh’ofa the accursed tounge is a language of fluidity and brilliance that naturally lends itself to subtleties of metaphor that the common argot cannot equal. It is also extremely hard to learn having 38 noun-classes system which is still largely semantically motivated, However, the classes cannot be understood as simplistic categories such as ‘people’ or ‘trees’. Rather, there are extensions of meaning, words similar to those extensions, and then extensions again from these. The end result is a semantic net that made sense at the time, and often still does make sense, but which can be confusing to a non-speaker. Applying noun-classes to words for irony and effect is a facet of Ki Sh’oufe poetry. There is an alphabet for Ksh’ofa but only shamen learn it as it implicated in the fall of the people.
Prejudices: It is commonly understood that all ‘Raiders hate all settled people. This may be an exaggeration. Most of them hate rival ‘Raider communities and several blood-feuds exist between Meritah and zulam.