Tales From the Fallen Empire
Description: The folk of the walking market of Shesh were originally (like the Zhou and so many others) slaves of the Atevans in the ancient days of Urd. Descended from the folk who would become the Kesh and the Zhou, they adapted to a nomadic lifestyle in the plateaus and deserts of the far north of Zhou where they worked as herdsmen, horsemen, soothsayers, peddlers, tinkers, and tin miners. They wandered from settlement to settlement in the north, selling their wares and eking out a meager living while avoiding bandits, barbarians, and the hairy Yzgyri-descended giants who settled in the Helviti range and even worse horrors. But that was not to last.
The Sheshani came into their own when they found the Lost City of the Horse Goddess at the foot of the Urdhirn and claimed her legacy as their inheritance. The witchborn women of the Sheshani came to power as the new hereditary rulers of their people, claiming that they shared blood with the people of the Horse Goddess and were simply inheriting that which was their birthright. Control over the golems of the Lost City, terrible weapons left over from the First Age, made it hard to argue with this rationale or their meteoric rise as a force to be reckoned with.
Today, the Sheshani people are a mercantile and political force in the world of Urd, powerful enough to hold their own against the bandits, brigands, and barbarians who bedeviled their ancestors and possibly even the great armies of the eastern powers of Kesh, Zhou, and Mahajanna, though none have put this to the test as of yet. To be truthful, while the Sheshani are affable, gregarious, and more than ready to trade and make deals with anyone, no one wants to put their mettle to the test.
Physically, the average Sheshani is dark of complexion with long black hair for both the men and the women and eyes predominantly brown and green, though among the witchborn Market Queens and their families, gold is predominant. They tend to lean and muscular forms with the men growing beards which they braid with beads and coins, and the women growing long hair which is intricately bound into fanciful designs. They are a graceful people with dancing and acrobatics as well as martial arts being practiced by both men and women. Both women and men dress in loose, flowing garments with bright colors, intricate headdresses, scarves, veils, and jewelry common except among the outriders and caravan folk who prefer colors which blend with their surroundings. The Market Queens and their families go cloaked in public in their house colors and proudly wear the symbol of the Horse Goddess among their garments.
Culture: The Sheshani are first and foremost merchants at heart; from the wealthiest of the Market Queens to the most miserable of beggars, the mercantile industry is in their blood. They tend to be outgoing, gregarious and generous, all in the interest of making that sale. The Sheshani consider it a matter of pride that they can determine what a person wants and needs (as well as what they can be convinced they want and need) just by observing them browse the raucous market stalls of the walking market.
Love of life and love of living are a central core of the people of Shesh; they like their colors bright, their songs and art vibrant, and their food and drink spicy and strong respectively. They also like to share this largess (often in hopes of making a profit, of course) and will ply complete strangers with the infamously potent Sheshani red wine and the volatile spirit known as hirnshao. They love to tell stories, read fortunes, and sing long and loud.
In a Sheshani home, it is the women who rule, much like among the market stalls; inheritance is through the mother’s line; and sons are there to be married off in alliances and for profit, and to protect the tribe. Mothers choose their daughters’ husbands from among the eligible sons of successful merchants and businessmen of Shesh, or from the households of those to whom they owe favors or expect favors of. Among the folk of Shesh, there are fewer taboos than one finds in more conservative cultures, and marriage is used to cement alliances.
But there is a secret heart among the Sheshani, a mysterious edge that adds that secret scent of danger to all interactions with them. The heart of Shesh has been the practice of dark magics: necromancy, golem-crafting, homunculi, and the summoning and binding of Djinn to name but a few things. No matter how well an outsider is accepted, they will never hope to plumb all the mysteries of these mysterious people and their nomad city.
Religion: Among the folk of Shesh, there exists two separate religions; among the common Sheshani, worship of what are known as the “House Gods” is most prevalent. The House Gods are concerned mostly with items of home, hearth, and wealth; nameless spirits attached to each clan who are venerated in order to bring luck and prosperity to a household. Typically, the House Gods are represented by a shrine or series of shrines located in a family dwelling or business; these shrines typically contain a series of small statues of fanciful human or animal figures. These are worshiped through prayers and offerings of food and wine to them in return for blessings or relief from hardships. There are no priests dedicated to the House Gods, but some witches offer their services in order to address issues within a family by performing rites to appease the House Gods during times of stress and hardships.
Beyond these, there exists the Cult of the Horse Goddess, the benefactor of the Sheshani people through the ruins of the Lost City. This cult exists most predominantly among the Market Queens and their daughters. The Market Queens are the heads of the cult, leading worship and veneration of their nameless goddess in order to gain their power and to gain insights into the secrets that still lay hidden among the ruins of her ancient northern city and from the wisps of forgotten spirits that still cling to the sepulchral empire of the Horse Goddess. The Market Queens determine who will and who will not be admitted into the secrets of the cult and given access to the powers bestowed by pacts with the Horse Goddess. The cult is never spoken of with outsiders, and other than the ubiquitous symbol of the Horse Goddess, no sign of its veneration exists save the temples where the Horse Goddess is worshiped by the Market Queens. The current head of the cult is Liura, the Vulture Queen, oldest and wisest of the currently seated Market Queens.
Secret Heart of Shesh: Human Sheshani start with +1 INT or PER, player’s choice.
Common Male Names: Kesseoh, Murian, Lonas, Koles, Opher, Erede, Klor, Bethen, Das, Nhen, Sdal, Glun, Hohs, Samna, Shtra, Gyatar, Fshend, Calib, Gsord, Dwen, Lniess, Tel, Egabn, Ypoc, Undas
Common Female Names: Dliara, Kenna, Lurya, Marilla, Ionas, Nanias, Ciaveh, Rassiah, Yyne, Olia, Modiara, Liura, Kalashi, Juna, Mirrowa, Nunes, Ywesa, Lonassa, Aol, Khuli, Ossa, Mnaw, Jhunni, Yvre, Hjadwa
Cultural Traits: Crafty, Horseborn, Independent
Language: The Sheshani speak a bastard variant of the Zhou language called Sheshim.
Restricted Classes: Barbarian, Cleric