The Nomadi are the original human inhabitants of the floodplain of the great river who once roamed the entirety of the riverlands in a time known as the Vagrant Age. Worshiping the river itself, the Nomadi have a deep respect and admiration for both it and the lands it nourishes and have always done what they must to preserve not only their connection to the plains but to their ancient ways, moving with the shifting sands and changing winds. Ultimately a peaceful people, the Nomadi try to maintain cordial relations with all others in order to continue on as they desire. Many Nomadi still travel the lands in accordance with their customs, while others have integrated with the rest of the floodplain’s population. Having long intermingled with the Pharosi, the existence of the Nomadi has been entwined with their once-conquerors.
The Nomadi have traveled the floodplain of the river for eons – long before the Pharosi made their long journey from Pharos. Chronologists refer to this period of pre-Pharosi involvement as the Vagrant Age. The Nomadi roamed the vast lands of the river, following the migrations of the game and the growth of flora through the seasonal cycles of the river, hunting and gathering and never calling any one place home for long. Throughout their travels they met with other races but were always keen on keeping relations peaceful. To the Nomadi the river was life and mother and this land was her gift and they saw no need to squander it on conflict nor soil it with blood. The Nomadi first met the Halflings who shared their views on peace and cooperation, which would lead to a millennia-long friendship. The Halflings were never content with staying just in the floodplain, however, and they would regularly migrate to the lands beyond the fecund cradle, leaving the Nomadi to themselves more often than not. The Nomadi spent centuries expanding their travels, finding the borders of the great riverland. To the north they met the cautious Azrak who would not let the Nomadi cross into their great sea of grass but agreed to trade with them along the border. To the west they met the Raperean flights who dwelt in the mountainous ridges that formed the border with the Scablands. To the south they met the shamanistic Shuka who first introduced the Nomadi to druidism. However, for all of their peaceful interactions, there were dangers in the floodplain and wastes as well. Belligerent creatures such as manitcores, sphinxes, efreeti, and basilisks preyed upon the tribes, and marauding bands of militant humanoids would launch raids from neighboring lands to pillage and enslave. Thus, the Nomadi crafted weapons and armor and trained to defend themselves when the need arose.
As the Nomadi expanded, certain groups favored certain regions. They splintered and adapted to their chosen areas differently, leading to divergent physical characteristics that persist to modern times. The Nomadi of the eastern plains became tan-skinned, brown-haired herdsmen who were the first to employ local agriculture. The western plains near the mountains became home to another group of rugged Nomadi, dark-eyed and brown-fleshed hunter-gatherer warriors of the rocky regions. The Nomadi who went south became the dusky Nomadi of the swamps with their pale hair and sunken features. These separations caused a minor rift among the once-untied peoples, and though they now identified with their own groups more than their race as a whole, they were far enough removed to avoid conflict and remained peaceful and cooperative when they did cross paths. The Nomadi continued on as such for centuries, paying homage to the land and the river and their goddess Makah-Nihr, who they worshiped as the river in her personified, matronly form.
The Nomadi way of life was suddenly endangered when the Pharosi appeared in the southern regions of the riverlands. These outsiders were no war party content with stealing livestock and a slave or two – they were an army of people set on conquest and colonization. The Shuka and the southern Nomadi were the first to try and drive the newcomers away and protect their lands, but the Pharosi had superior weaponry and more unified numbers. After the first years of struggle, the Nomadi eased significantly in their resistance, helped in part by the Pharosi’s recognition of them as fellow humans. The Shuka, however, were steadfast in their defense and to the proud Pharosi, the small desert-folk were insignificant. The Nomadi stood by and witnessed the Shuka people beaten and broken, destroyed on both numerical and spiritual levels. The Pharosi forces drove the remaining Shuka people westward into the Dead Wastes and continued northward, allowing the Nomadi their continued existence if they would recognize the Pharaohs as their new kings. Married to the land, the first southern Nomadi agreed. As the Pharosi moved north, the same ultimatum was granted to the other groups of Nomadi. Scattered and without the stomach for war nor the will to abandon their ancient homeland, the Nomadi allowed the Pharosi to fulfill their conquests. When the Pharosi had finished dealing with their enemies and set to building cities and cultivating farmland, most Nomadi simply drifted away into the unpopulated areas of the floodplain, content to return to their lifestyles outside of the reach of the Pharaohs. Other Nomadi stayed with the Pharosi to both learn from and teach them. The Pharosi’s ability to control the river and implement irrigation was rather polarizing to the Nomadi, with some finding it blasphemous and others seeing it as a gift from the goddess. These rifts never resulted in any bloodshed, however; the riverlands were certainly large enough to allow the different groups to exist comfortably in their own space.
The Nomadi of the eastern plains were the quickest and easiest to adapt to the Pharosi influence, for they had already begun to settle down and move away from the nomadic lifestyle, having achieved certain levels of agriculture and animal husbandry. Some of their tiny thorps became the first Pharosi villages east of the river and grew into cities that stand strong to this day. The southern Nomadi were much more cautious and resistant to the Pharosi influence. The dusky swamp folk had been friends and allies to the Shuka and still harbored resentment for their exile and guilt for letting it happen. They were also the staunchest supporters of the true nature of the land and the river and recoiled against the farms, cities, quarries, and walls that the Pharosi would spend the next millennium building.
The Nomadi to the north were able to keep clear of the Pharosi and their outward expansion, for it would be hundreds of years before such sprawl would reach them. They continued on with their ancient vagrancy without interference for centuries, even continuing to trade with the Azrak and the Halflings. The Western Nomadi were integrated more quickly as well, due to the dangers of the western borders of the floodplain where orcs, goblinoids, trolls, and ogres would prey upon the human tribes. The farther west they would go, the more dangerous it would become, until they found themselves moving back east into the reign of the Pharaohs.
In these first centuries, when the Pharosi’s pride was at a high and the Pharaohs were eager to reclaim their ancient glory and reign, the independence of the Nomadi was uncertain. Some Pharaohs sought to put an end to these lesser groups roaming around Pharosi land who did nothing to elevate Pharosi life or to add to their own coffers. Some Nomadi were corralled and put to work on farms or in quarries – not quite slaves as they were paid for their labors and afforded the general rights of Pharosi citizens, but prisoners nonetheless as they were unable to leave and return to their nomadic lives. Other Pharaohs simply tried to push the Nomadi further and further away to the borders of the floodplain. Many Pharaohs and Pharosi were particularly fanatically religious at this time and made grand attempts to convert the Nomadi to their own faith and implant them as true Pharosi citizens. The Pharosi had already succeeded in ousting most of the indigenous deities to the river folk, but the Nomadi stood strong in their reverence of Makah-Nihr. It was not long before the Pharosi realized that these Nomadi would sooner die than give up the mother of the river, so they were allowed the continued worship of that deity and eventually Makah-Nihr was adopted into the faith of the Pharaohs.
As time went on, lines between the Nomadi and the Pharaohs became less concrete, especially after the actions of one particular Pharaoh, Ramak-Abim VI in 1117 PA decreed that large swaths of his land in Abim-Arrak would be forever designated as Nomadi’ai – Nomadi Land. On this land the Nomadi would be free to maintain their ancient ways without any interference from the Pharosi nor the Pharaohs for the price of a small tithe that would be used only for the betterment of the Pharosi and Nomadi people. This act did much to help integrate the two peoples and relations improved vastly in the following years. Nomadi soon were making the cities and towns of the Pharosi stopping points on their travels, moving in and out of Nomadi’ai quite comfortably. It was then that more Nomadi began to adopt city life. Some Pharosi even left the cities to join the Nomadi. So effective was this decree that it was soon enacted by other Pharaohs, until by 1240 PA virtually every kingdom at the time had designated Nomadi’ai.
Notably, though there are indeed lands set aside as Nomadi’ai in the marshy southern regions of the river, these lands are much more rural and undeveloped than the rest of the floodplain. Nomadi of these regions have more freedom to roam here and do not stay exclusively in the Nomadi’ai.
Due to these many years of cultural exchange, the Nomadi and the Pharosi have generally come to be regarded as a single people by many. The two peoples have been intermarrying for a thousand years, blurring the bloodlines between them. Many who are of Nomadi ancestry now dwell in cities and villages, living as merchants, sailors, farmers, and miners. Likewise, some of Pharosi lineage now roam the Nomadi’ai with tribes of cultural Nomadi and consider themselves part of it. To an outsider, the difference between ‘Pharosi’ and ‘Nomadi’ is as simple as which race the individual looks more like. In many cases, however, especially in the cities, it can be difficult to determine, so a Pharosi might be someone who speaks Pharosi first and foremost. Those who roam the Nomadi’ai are almost universally referred to as Nomadi, even if the person in question is obviously of Pharosi stock.
Among the Nomadi themselves, those who remain true to the old ways of the Vagrant Age are much more discerning. Even the Nomadi who have spent generations in the cities will identify as Nomadi, for cultural identity and lineage is very important to them, just as it is to the upper classes of the Pharosi. Ultimately, in modern times, a Nomadi is a Nomadi if he or she identifies as one.
Nomadi do not have a uniform array of physical characteristics like the Pharosi or the Dwahani. As different tribes moved away from one another thousands of years ago, they diversified in their appearance and traits in relation to the area of the floodplain that they roamed. Such physical divergence is still evident in modern times, particularly around the Nomadi that still roam. Generally, these appearances can be divided into Eastern Nomadi, Western Nomadi, and Southern Nomadi.
The Nomadi to the east of the river tend towards tan skin and brown hair with light eyes in brown green. Facial hair is more prominent among these Nomadi, used as a buffer against the strong desert winds and harsh sands blown in from the Sandwaste and Dunes of Endless Sun. These Eastern Nomadi (also called Field or Plains Nomadi) are of middling height, men usually around 5’8" and women 5’3" with average builds. Historically, these Nomadi were shepherds and farmers, the first of their people to employ agriculture and animal husbandry.
The Western Nomadi, also called Crag Nomadi, stand taller than those east of the river, on par with the Pharosi. They tend to be more muscularly lean with dark brown skin, black hair, and predominantly brown eyes. These Nomadi were warrior-hunters, fighting for their livelihood against marauders from the foothills and mountains such as orcs and hobgoblins.
The Southern Nomadi or Marsh Nomadi dwell in the wetlands and swamps of the southern reaches of the floodplain. The smallest of the Nomadi, they rarely exceed five and a half feet, and usually tend to be closer to the five mark. Their skin is dusky, a smoky grey-brown, and they have pale hair and grey or green eyes.
While these physical traits persist today, many are blended either amongst one another or with Pharosi attributes. Those Nomadi who have kept to the ancient ways are usually more attuned to these patterns, having mainly propagated amongst their own tribes and people.
Clothing norms vary among the Nomadi depending on region, but simple, functional attire is common across their culture. Lightweight, airy clothing that allows for mobility and durability are preferred, with robes and sandals being the most common article. Robes are usually roughspun of plant fibers or made of animal hair, usually goat and sheep or camel. Robes often have hoods and are belted at the waist with rope, while sandals are made of rope and hide. Treated hides are used for jerkins and other protective garb. Jewelry and accessories are not common amongst the Nomadi, for material wealth means little to them on the open plain and displays of it mean less. Icons of the natural world, however, may be worn out of respect for the land and its creatures – feathers, carved bone and horn, and the like.
The Nomadi are a thoughtful, pensive people. They think in the long-term, of how their actions and decisions will affect not only future generations, but the lands they roam as well. As such, they tend to be slow, yet wise, in thought and action. Nomadi prefer to make friends instead of enemies, and do their best to be cooperative with those they come across. Largely a peaceful people, they resort to violence often only when necessary to defend themselves. If the Nomadi find that they cannot cooperate with someone, they would sooner simply travel on and put distance between themselves and the other party. They are slow to anger but have long memories, and though they are often cooperative they are usually not prone to giving second chances. Nomadi have deep respect for the natural world, for the river especially but also the land that it nourishes and the beasts the roam the land with them; a respect for life in general.
Nomadi value freedom – freedom from oppression, freedom from the trappings of “civilized life,” freedom from societies and politics that squander life and foster death. The vagrancy they cling to is not born of primitiveness or inability to adapt, but of this sense of freedom and openness. They see things that are not needed for survival as frivolous and unnecessary, only present to cause problems, create chaos and disharmony. Communal and supportive, the Nomadi value harmony – harmony with one another and with the world. They have a strong sense of friendship and kinship, and bonds they make are not easily broken.
Those traits are instilled in the Nomadi who travel the Nomadi’ai, those who hold dear to their ancient lifestyle. There are other Nomadi who have long integrated with the Pharosi, however, with city life and civilization. These Nomadi, who are Nomadi by lineage but not by culture, are as varied as any other human, their identities and ideals cultivated by the area in which they live. Such Nomadi can be as similar to the local Pharosi in one area as they are to the Dwahani in another.
Society and Government
For the Nomadi of the Nomadi’ai, society remains much as it was during the Vagrant Age. People are divided into peaceful tribes that cooperate with one another when they meet, but rarely actively seek each other out. Tribes are led by a “sidu” (elder), the eldest man or woman of the tribe who is capable enough to make decisions. The sidu has the ultimate authority of the tribe, deciding where it will travel, how to deal with a threat, and how disputes are to be settled. Despite their power, any good sidu knows that only by seeking the counsel of his or her people can correct decisions be made, so a sidu will often walk about the tribe and question the adults of the tribe and ask for opinions regarding matters at hand, using this input to help shape a decision. The sidu is also advised by the “apkallu” (shaman), who serves as the chief conduit to the forces of the land and the river. Usually a divine practitioner of some sort, the apkallu seeks answers, guidance, and opinions through his or her magic to assist the tribe. Sometimes, the apkallu of the tribe also becomes the elder by default, but must appoint a new apkallu in his or her stead, and thusly always have an apprentice. Other divine mages might be present in a tribe, but the apkallu always chooses one apprentice.
Another role in Nomadi tribes is that of the “dubgara” (hunter). Dubgaras serve as both advance scouts for the tribe and game hunters. In times of conflict, dubgara are also warriors, protecting the tribe from attack. The lead hunter of a tribe is called a talbanu and serves as the most experienced and skilled of the hunters. The talbanu is afforded some manner of authority, and is often the representative of the tribe to outsiders or other tribes.
Tribes roam the Nomadi’ai and follow game and growth. Though the lands designated as Nomadi’ai are large, they are not near as large as the whole of the floodplain that the Nomadi traveled in the Vagrant age, before the populations of Pharosi, Dwahani, and other folk came. This leads to some issues of overcrowding in certain Nomadi’ai. Space and range is seen differently by the Nomadi than it is to others, so two tribes being four days away from one another might seem widespread to an outsider, but uncomfortable close for the Nomadi. Further, influence of the people and the technology and the passing of time does not go unnoticed. Game travels differently, growth changes, cities grow, populations expand. Much of the Nomadi’ai is far enough removed to remain relatively uncontested, but it is an inevitability that that Nomadi are well aware of.
The Nomadi’ai also splinter their tribes when they begin to grow too large. Certain families will offer, or will be selected, to break off from the tribe and start their own. Tribes will also offer marriages to one another so that both tribes can stabilize their numbers, sometimes with the families of both spouses joining the creation of the new tribe. With the knowledge that their sacred lands now have borders, Nomadi are often slow to grow, with most families only having one child to ensure the longevity of their resources. This can be extreme in certain tribes or in certain regions where the Nomadi’ai is more threatened, and couples must have consent of the sidu to have multiple children, or must agree to leave the tribe if they have more children. In the worst of scenarios, having multiple children can be met with exile from the tribe, which is a terrible thing for the Nomadi. If one is exiled from a tribe, it is often for a crime relating to degradation of the Nomadi people or lifestyle or threatening the sanctity of these things. What constitutes these crimes varies by region and tribe, but when an exile is removed from a tribe, they are also removed from the Nomadi’ai. Exiles are marked by the apkallu so that all other tribes will know that the exile is a threat to the Nomadi culture, and they are not welcome in any tribe.
Marriage is very important amongst the Nomadi, both from a political tribal sense and from an emotional one. Weddings are among the most important events for the Nomadi, and the occasions are always very festive. Marriages always take place along the edge of the great river, so when a marriage is announced, the whole of the tribe will make the trip to the river’s edge from wherever they are. This journey is referred to as “rama’padanus” (Path of Joining) and is a sacred event.
To Nomadi, Makah-Nihr is life. She is their only deity, but her status as a divine entity is different than that of deities in other religions. Makah-Nihr is the personification of Do’ol set Maradha, the great river, the physical and spiritual manifestation of the water that was and is so integral to life in the desert lands. As such, Makah-Nihr is more of a force than a goddess, personified to give the Nomadi a deeper and more associable connection to the waters. She is often called simply ‘The Mother’ by the Nomadi people, just as they refer to the river as the Lifeblood of the Mother. Makah-Nihr is not just a force of the river or water in a religious context, but to the land as well, for the water slakes the thirst of the land and makes it fertile, allowing growth. She is revered as a goddess of life and healing, fertility and bounty, hunting and protection. So strong is the reverence of Makah-Nihr amongst the Nomadi that the Pharosi incorporated her into their own pantheon to make for easier transitions when assimilating the Nomadi during their conquests. The inclusion of Makah-Nihr into the faith of the Pharaohs means little to the Nomadi in a religious sense – where the Pharosi felt that they should feel honored, the Nomadi just believed that everyone should revere the River Mother first and foremost. The assimilation at least made things easier for Nomadi during the conquest in a religious sense, for they were free to practice their reverence without reprisal.
Beyond Makah-Nihr, Nomadi hold reverence to nature in general – for the plants and animals that give them food, for the winds, for the soil – as well as ancestral spirits. Rather than revering specific ancestors, Nomadi embrace a broader idea in paying homage to all of those that came before them. Nomadi have little written history, and tracing lineages is difficult with the migration, assimilation, and dissolution of tribes and families. As the Nomadi strive to continue the life that their ancestors began in the Vagrant Age, they deem it only proper to grant reverence and respect to their ancient forebears.
The Nomadi language is called Nomadi as a formality, but in truth has no specific name. It is rarely spoken these days outside of the Nomadi’ai, where it is spoken widely. Nomadi is a soft slow, pensive language, nothing like the speedy Dwahani tongue or the abrasive Pharosi. Its words run together, making speech sound fluid and constant. Like most other customs, the Nomadi tongue is very important to the cultural Nomadi of the Nomadi’ai, and they are not keen on sharing it with outsiders other than the halflings, with which it shares many loanwords.
Among the Nomadi who still roam the Nomadi’ai, classes that represent their connection to travel and the land and the river are common. Druids, Rangers, Hunters, Shamans, and Bards are all prevalent among them. Though they tend to see violence as a last resort, they have warriors among them as well, with Rangers serving as their primary forces. Though slow to anger and fury, Barbarians can be seen in their ranks as well as warriors who venerate the harsh side of the land and the speed and movement of nomad life.