**A/N: My husband and I FINALLY got around to watching Game of Thrones (only the first 2 seasons, and I haven't read the books; don't judge). The show (and included maps with the DVD sets) really re-inspired me to work on my own world building.
I was most inspired by the Dothraki people from Game of Thrones. Aside from the raping and pillaging of conquered towns, they're the ones I enjoy the most (as a people).
So the Sandikir are my version of the Dothraki - a war-like nomadic people with a strong animal companionship.**
THE LAND OF THE SANDIKIR
Welcome, brave traveler. You managed to find the strong Sandikir people. Something tells me you know not what you have done, Rikmahja. Oh, you do not even know that much, do you? Here. Walk with me.
I will start simple. Rikmahja is Sandikir for anyone not of their tribe. It is a combination of their words for "Lost" - Rikvu - and "Outsider" - Mahmurja. It is not intended as an insult, simply a fact. Please understand, they are a very proud race; almost to a fault. All proof of that may be found in what they call themselves. You see, Sandikir means "Children of Konir"; a name they take quite literally.
Yes, that is correct. Konir, as in the God of Chaos. Fascinating story, really. Here, have something to drink. You must be parched after crossing so much desert. You may have your fill whilst I tell the tale of how the people came to be.
Long ago when Gyateara was still new and the other gods freshly finished creating their people, the God of Chaos slipped away from his mother's side and into the world. He came upon the land in the same spot he and his twin Borath were born - just a few klicks from where we are now, actually. Well, Konir roamed the planet for a few months, but he was always drawn back to his birthplace.
While there, he noticed an odd-colored wolf; a dusty brown that matched the burnt sand of the desert. She was wiry, like him. She was more sinew than muscle, but this did not stop her from being able to take down any who opposed her existence. Her strength and resilience impressed the god. Her mere existence seemed to counter the order of nature; a quality Konir also greatly favored.
He felt bad that she was left alone; cast out from her pack for her ill-suiting. He wanted to gift the she-wolf with her own pack, and so he came to her in the form of a giant dog; as large as a horse. The she-wolf fought him at first, fearing he meant for her death; just as all other creatures seemed to want. He subdued her easily enough, and then she submitted to him. When she did, he named the she-wolf Narezlar, meaning "Mother Wolf".
As the god Konir mated with the she-wolf, a young woman wandered by on her way back to her village. Terrified to see a five-foot wolf, the woman hid in the nearby bushes. She knew she needed to make it to the village as soon as possible, but she also feared being spotted by the wolves and hunted by them.
While huddled under the shrubbery, she locked eyes with Konir's wolf form. Her heart raced, but she stayed more still than a human could ever manage. She studied his eyes as he continued to mate with Narezlar.
Once he was finished with the she-wolf, Konir went over to the hiding woman. She was no longer afraid and offered herself to him. He grinned and transformed back into his human form before having the woman as well.
He sent the woman back to her village with a son in her belly and the new name Varounir, meaning "Wife of Konir". The God of Chaos tasked the impregnated she-wolf to keep watch over Varounir.
Unlike most litters, Narezlar's pups stayed in her belly for three seasons. Once birthed, the litter only contained three - Briskitar, Jiinana, and Quinzil - but these pups would grow to stand four feet tall and each weigh over three hundred pounds; the first Dire Wolves. It was were weeks later that Varounir brought her son into the world. She named him Konsirph, meaning "Konir's First Son". He was a sandy color with charcoal hair and eyes grey like a storm. The same look that all true-blood Sandikir share.
Due to his mother's temperament, the boy's anger matched the desert storm trapped behind his eyes. It was very rare that it showed up, but once it erupted it caused great turmoil. Between his rages and the assistance of Narezlar's pups, it wasn't long before Konsirph proved himself both a threat and a courageous leader.
When offered chieftain of his mother's tribe, Konsirph decided to instead take his mother and siblings, and start his own tribe under the protection of Narezlar's new pack. For Konir had made many trips back to the land of his birth, and laid with both Varounir and the she-wolf Narezlar each time. Months later, both of Konir's desert wives would birth their children weeks apart, joining their children as siblings.
This is why the Sandikir people take the Dire Wolf as their sigil, and why there are so many roaming around this encampment. Wolf and human are kin here; both godlings of the great Konir, God of Chaos. Both new races created by his divine desire.
Have you your fill of drink? Good. Follow me; there is still much to learn.
Do you see that gated area over there, in the corner of the camp? That is a makeshift den that the Sandikir build for their pregnant wolves. That tent a few yards away from it is the birthing ward. The she-wolves and women of the Sandikir bring their young into the world mere feet from each other.
Once a child has lived a month, he or she is brought to the den and laid among the pups in a choosing ceremony known as Khoutisch. Once a pup has chosen the babe, both are joined in a ritual called Zitaraac, meaning "We are forever blood". They are eternal companions - "Quiso" - and symbolize the union with the collars everyone here wears.
The parents of the matched babe are tasked to collect the pup's milking teeth as they fall from its muzzle, and thread them in to the necklace their child will wear. Once the wolf is full grown it is then presented with a collar made by its quiso's family. These collars show equal dominance over the other, and equal respect. To the Sandikir people, the wolf is more than a mount and a pet. It is a sibling in the truest sense. This does, unfortunately, also bring the greatest tragedy to these people.
Go ahead into that blood-red tent. All of these bone charms hanging in here? These all bear the name of a lost companion; human and wolf alike. Upon death, the body is burned, and the largest remaining piece of bone is carved in to a charm and has his or her name chiseled in to it. These are all the names of lost Sandikir throughout the past fifty-years. Once a generation, the tribe makes a pilgrimage to Konir's and Borath's birthplace and bury the bones. Those that would have known the actual body have themselves most likely passed, and it is time for the next generation to honor their own dead.
Touch the bones of the dead this generation mourns. There is more grief contained in this tent than most churches. Keep in mind that once a babe and pup are joined in Zitaraac they are bound for all eternity. Unfortunately, the body cannot be as considerate as the spirit. It is almost guaranteed that one of the pair shall pass before the other one does. The choosing process happens close to birth so the pair can be together nearly all their days. Therefore, any babe older than a month and any pup no longer nursing is far too old for Khoutisch.
The surviving quiso carries a grief that matches that of a mourning spouse or parent. Their heart is shattered, and they no longer feel complete; as if a limb or an eye has been lost to them. Because of this grief, a Sandikir - whether human or wolf - is known as Likjun, or "Broken".
Now, look around at the Sandikir here. You see the ones with the red collars? Those are all Likjun. They stain their collars red as a symbol that their blood is broken.
Oh, you've noticed the wolves without collars at all. Have you also spotted a few Sandikir without collars as well? That is the sign of non-pairings. See, aside from Narezlar, Dire Wolves tend to give birth in only six months. Which means some pups may stop nursing without any new babies being born to the women of the tribe. No babies means no way to pair up in Zitaraac. Wolves also birth litters, while humans tend to only bring forth one child at a time. This could mean that a litter of five all must fight over but one babe with which to pair. Four siblings remain unmatched.
It is a shame, and these incomplete wolves are called Plinva - "Waiting" - for they are still waiting for their quiso, and may wait their whole lives. While there is dishonor in being unmatched, it is rarely within a plinva's control. Because of this, the plinvas are given a choice. They may roam free throughout the world as a wild Dire; starting their own packs. Or they may stay with the Sandikir, and be honored for deciding to protect the people as they wait.
Those who choose to stay with the people are tasked to be the border guards and scouts. Their job is to keep the tribe safe. That being said, the plinva stationed at the gate must have seen something special about you to allow you into the camp.
Now, for the humans without the tribe's wolf-fang collars. These tend to be more tragic and carry much more shame. It is a very rare occurrence that a baby is born to the Sandikir with no litter to match, when this happens, the child is then brought to the plinva pups still under a year old. However, either during true Khoutisch, or through this plinva perversion of it, there is still a chance that the pups see nothing of value in the babe. None choose the child as its quiso. The parents bring the babe home, all now disgraced. The babe is given the title Miknar, or "incomplete" and is doomed to spend his or her days as a second-class citizen of the Sandikir. Some even become slaves of the chieftain.
It is unfair, but this unfairness can still bring hope. There are times that an adult plinva may see worthiness in a miknar through his or her actions. They become quiso, but without the Zitaraac ritual. Instead, the miknar creates the wolf's collar alone, and creates a necklace using the teeth of their first joint kill. The miknar and plinva also bear hope for the likjun of the tribe. A wolf likjun may choose a miknar that it feels is worthy, just as a likjun human may be chosen by a plinva. Likjun may also select each other. In all fairness, it is more likely that a likjun would be re-paired with a plinva than a miknar be paired off. Human likjuns tend to have already proven their worthiness when they have lost their original quiso.
Ah, finally at the center of camp. Now you can see the regalness of the chieftain's tent. That one over there made of silk, and adorned with large bones and gold. The head of the Sandikir lives in there. Yet another case of a likjun being made, but this time in a more disheartening manner than with a death.
See, the chieftain is the one paired with the pack leader, but it is a bit more complicated than that. Both the chieftain and pack leader positions are always challengeable. If a Sandikir wishes to take control of the tribe, he may challenge the chieftain in a duel. If the challenger loses, he is forced to become the chieftain's slave for a full season. Now, no matched Sandikir may be a slave to another - as is law - and so while the challenger is enslaved his quiso is banished. Once the season debt of punishment is paid the wolf may return.
If the chieftain is the one who falls in the duel for rulership, he is stripped of all power and the pack leader breaks Zitaraac; feeling the quiso is no longer a worthy sibling. The former chieftain goes from having everything to nothing; becoming a likjun rarely chosen by plinva, and most likely enslaved by the new chieftain.
Because of this threat, and because it shows far more dominance, most duels for chieftain are deemed "to the death" instead of allowing the defeated to submit. This therefore creates likjun if the challenger is killed while battling the chieftain. However, there is another benefit to being chieftain aside from the normal spoils of ruling over a people. The Sandikir chieftain may form a second Zitaraac. If the Sandikir was already chieftain, he may choose the new likjun wolf as his second companion; usually an honor bestowed if the wolf's former quiso fought bravely and honorably. Now, if the challenger managed to dethrone the former chieftain, he will perform Zitaraac with the pack leader to prove his rule of his people, but he may also keep Zitaraac with the quiso he had already. Most do; both as a sign of honor, love, and respect towards the wolf that originally chose them, and also as a way to show dominance by having two quiso.
As I mentioned, the wolves also have an opportunity to challenge for pack leader. These rarely end in death. Most cast the losing wolf either to the bottom standing of the pack - typically below plinvas - or completely banish the wolf - a typical practice for a usurped leader. The former tends to also lower the standing of the human Sandikir, while the later creates a likjun that tends to be chosen quickly by a plinva.
There is a cruelty to the wolves, however. While their packmate may not be killed, they clearly show little care for their human counterparts when considering dominance; creating likjun in more ways than one. Yes, a likjun may be made through one wolf dying or being banished, but one may be formed even if the quiso won leadership of the pack. A challenging wolf that has won pack leader tends to give its quiso a moon-cycle to become chieftain - or chieftain's wife if the quiso is female. If the human does not follow the wolf's ambition to rule over its kin, than the wolf tends to break Zitaraac in order to form it with the chieftain. While chieftains may have two wolf quisos, a wolf will never take a second human as its companion.
It may all seem like a rough fate, but the Sandikir are a rough people. Strong, brave, and war-like. They take what they need to survive here in the desert, and fight any who threaten the tribe, the pack, or their homeland where Varounir's village resided.
They also consider their women near-equals; a way to honor the fact that the original pack leader - Narezlar - was female, and that they were all descended from the brave and strong Varounir. There is a surprisingly large amount of order and tradition held by a people who claim Konir, God of Chaos, as their original ancestor, but that could be blamed on the rikmahja being married into the tribe.
So, please enjoy the hospitality, but do not test your luck with the Sandikir if you value the thought of leaving this place while still intact, and breathing.
**A/N: I tried something new with this whole "narrator talking directly to the reader" thing. Not terribly sure it works. Thoughts?
I will eventually move the "origin story" of the people to the Divine Legends tale for Gyateara. I wasn't sure if I wanted to expand more than just that origin story for the Divine Legends anthology, but I just had this drive to get the cultural skeleton down on paper. I found it fascinating, and I knew it would be something I would really need to know for any story/D&D campaign I write/run with them involved.
Now to go back through and figure out the other cultures (at least, the other COUNTRIES) of Gyateara...**