Azrak

Beyond Rekkar-Sarrat there is a land even more bountiful than the floodplain of the great river. It is here in The Empty Sea that the Azrak roam, and to them the land is called Ghitu Azrak. An ancient people, the Azrak have populated the Empty Sea for thousands of years, some say even before the Vagrant Age. Despite their long history and proximity to the peoples of the floodplain, little is known about them or their land. Fiercely territorial and untrusting, the Azrak repel any attempts of encroachment upon Ghitu Azrak. In the Vagrant Age, even the peaceful and cooperative Nomadi could not cross the threshold into the expansive grassland. The two groups did trade along their borders from time to time, but the Azrak revealed nothing about their land, their customs, or their people. The only gleanings to be had were that the land of the Azrak provided ample food, and that they were masters of the horse, a beast not native to the floodplain.

When the Pharosi arrived, they eventually set their sights on Ghitu Azrak and launched a campaign to conquer it. They were met with a resistance much stronger than they had encountered in the floodplain, and the first battles saw swift Pharosi defeats. Though the Pharosi employed cavalry, utilizing camels, both their numbers and skills paled in comparison to the vast Azrak horsemen. Indeed, it appeared as though every Azrak warrior rode upon a mighty steed. The campaign lasted less than a year, culminating in a pair of decisive battles that forever poisoned Azrak-human relations.

The Pharosi noticed that the Azrak never attacked by night. Scouts eventually reported that the Azrak bore no weapons by moonlight, nor did they employ scouts or sentries of their own. Their nights were full of communion and ritual. The Pharosi exploited this and attacked a camped tribe by night, slaughtering each and every Azrak present. Strange above all else was the fact that the Azrak people did not even attempt to fight back. Though this victory was a grand morale boost to the Pharosi, Azrak retribution was swift and final, resulting in a mustering of Azrak warriors so large that the combined Pharosi armies stood no chance against them. Slain or routed, the Pharosi retreated, fully realizing the capabilities of the horselords. Never again did the Pharosi make an attempt on Ghitu Azrak, but the damage was done. In all of the years since that battle, the Azrak have frequently raided the outskirts of Rekkar-Sarrat in endless vengeance.

Despite a year of forays into Ghitu Azrak, still little was learned of the Azrak beyond battle tactics. Several scholars of the time and historians since have made many assumptions about the Azrak, but few things are certain. Surely, their numbers are great, as evidence by records of their decisive battle, in which “the whole of the Empty Sea was painted with the copper of Azrak skin and the brown, black, and red of horseflesh, so that not a single blade of grass or mark of green could be seen beneath their onslaught.” Such numbers implies that the Empty Sea is certainly a bountiful and fecund area, capable of sustaining such great hosts of both Azrak and beast.

The Azrak do not appear to build permanent structures, at least not within hundreds of miles of the border, nor do they even erect tents when they camp, sleeping in full view of the sky. Without settlements, and possessing so many horses, it is widely believed that the Azrak roam the Empty Sea, and must have some sort of inherent protection to the unkindness of nature to have no need for habitat.

Obviously, night is of sacred or spiritual importance to the horselords, and a time of peace as they carried no weapons nor fought the Pharosi in that twilit massacre. Horses, in their great importance to the Azrak, seem to be of a sacred nature to them as well, suggesting some form of totemic spiritualism, and perhaps a moon-god. Azrak have never been observed in the company of any other beast and no crops nor farmland has ever been observed, so their domestication of other creatures or plants is uncertain. They wear little clothing, and what has been observed and collected from them after battles appear to be skins or hides of some sort, certainly not horses, but alien to the Pharosi. They wear no armor but do wield weapons, though they are of strange composition in both shape and material, but suggest that they have mines or nodes of ore that they extract and work.

Whether their warrior culture and warlike nature was born out of defensive need or aggression is unknown, and the only other recorded conflict with the Azrak is a great war that was fought between them and the orcs of the Scablands some 400 years ago which resulted in devastation so grand that it physically altered the lands on which the battles were fought. No evidence of magic has ever been witnessed among the Azrak, nor have they ever fought with anything but blades, clubs, bows, and horses.

Azrak stand well over six feet tall and both men and women can exceed seven. They are a toned and muscular people, weighing in the mid-200s on average. Their flesh is a deep, burnished copper that almost seems to glow in the light of the sun and their hair is a vibrant, inky black. It is equally common for both genders to grow their hair long and to shave it off. Those who wear it long often braid it as well. Notably, Azrak have bony horn-like protrusions that can be found almost anywhere on the body – on the head, shoulders, back, wrists, or knees. They usually are only a few inches long but can grant a certain amount of protection to the areas they grow from.

Azrak virtually have never been seen wearing armor, and even their clothing is minimal – both genders often wear only coverings on their lower half, spun or hide leggings or skirts. They do not seem to wear much in the way of ornamentation or decoration, either – no jewelry or accessories are common, but they do sometimes adorn themselves with mud designs and handprints, though the reason behind this practice is uncertain.

Azrak continue to raid the northern reaches of Rekkar-Sarrat, attacking the border between it and Ghitu Azrak. For the past three centuries, it has been the Dwahani that have met them in defense rather than the Pharosi, but the Azrak seem not to care what culture of humans they attack. Such battles usually see swift ends, with the Azrak forces only probing and prodding at the borders, seemingly testing defenses and tactics. Only a decade ago, the Azrak launched a surprise attack on the northern frontier of Tartasif, successfully seizing a swath of land being built up by the Dwahani. This was the first major attack on human lands in almost a thousand years, and the Dwahani have yet to mount a retaliation.

After all this time, all that remains known about the Azrak is what has been observed and assumed. The only true mark the Azrak have made on Rekkar-Sarrat beyond their raids and attacks has been the introduction of horses to the Pharosi and the floodplain, though this was not of Azrak design. In the initial campaign into Ghitu Azrak, the Pharosi captured many horses and brought them back, and the descendants of these steeds live on today, hundreds of generations passed. Though much of their stock has been mixed with that of other imported horses, true pureblood Azrak warhorses remain, and they are most rare and prized. Azrak equipment – bows and blades and the like – were also brought into Rekkar-Sarrat by Pharosi soldiers, and some of them, such as the Azrak Tulwar, still see fabrication and use this day.

Azrak

Rekkar-Sarrat ForestWoodsmoke