The Erroim

A distinct people from the Sharshah steppe, the Erroim are a nomadic tribe that has long encroached on the frontiers of Sol-Fatara and the Azalani Empire. They are best known today for their large and treasure-heavy burial mounds, and for their horses, which are said to be the finest steeds in the world. Once a complex dynasty with a ruling Kan, the Erroim were eventually disrupted by Alirajan, King of the Fatarim, and forced into a simple life of nomadism.
The Erroim people have never held an independent state of their own; they are, in fact, the largest Cįladan tribe without it's own homeland.

History

Dates and attributions concerning the Erroim are questionable. What is known of their history comes from the records of the great civilizations on the periphery of the steppe, namely Azalan and Sol-Fatara. The Erroim were known to the court of Arkarna in ancient Sol-Nor, who regarded them as savage people—goat thieves who liked the sight of blood and the smell of burning towns.
The Erroim hero Kidara-Kan pushed his people out of northern Aenor and into the Sharshah Plateau, where they became a vast tribal conderation (called the Botaim T'valan, or "Ten Arrows") that at times stretched from the Pzond Peninsula, across the Sharshah and Limekiln steppes, to as far north as the Luz watershed. Normally they were organized by septs and clans, each headed by one of Kidara-Kan's numerous sons, with little in the way of overall cohesion. A warlike people, they fought incessantly against the Azalani emperors, but just as often involved themselves with various internecine clans against others. They developed a reputation as mercenaries highly developed in warfare, whose loyalties could be bought and sold. Others regarded them as vagabonds and drifters, who accepted renegades and exiles from other tribes. None could dispute their mastery of the art of horsemanship, and their ferocity and mobility became legendary because of it.
The Erroim were seldom if ever completely unified, but they never lost all tribal cohension, even after the catastrophic schism of the Godswar. The Erroim hero Lashna (of the Muradi clan) united his people under their common god, Ozian, and led them into the Godswar that erupted in Aenor in 19 A.L. Lashna held the title Geng (prince) of the Erroim and rode an unusually beautiful windhorse (asperi) into battle. Lashna-Geng was able to muster (reputedly) 20,000 mounted archers and 1,000 elite windriders for the Godswar, and was greatly feared for his swiftness and skill in arms, but ultimately the horde was defeated by Ybolden's legions in the prairie country of northern Sol-Fatara. In an encounter that became known as the Battle of Ten Feathers, the Erroim were put to rout, and those that survived fled back to their northern domains and faded from view.
Inter-tribal strife pitted various regional clans against one another for the next three centuries. No real mastery by any one individual or clan from circa 100 A.L.—410 A.L. is noted in official records, but the Erroim (loosely defined) remained a source of terror for the civilized societies of Azalan and Sol-Fatara. Around 410 A.L., the warlord Mansur-Dīn (-Dīn = "warrior") united several clans in the Sharshah steppe and even minted debased gold and copper coins until the end of the 5th century. Erroim raids into Sol-Fatara became annual events under Mansur, himself an Adasi clansman, who ruled from a hidden fortress in the Raurin highlands. His army was called the Horde of the Sky, for the windriders' custom of roaming the skies upon the prevailing winds. Mansur himself is said to have tamed a roc for his personal mount. For most of the early 5th century, the Fatarim were held in terror by Mansur-Dīn, and the very weather became a portent of their invasion. The Horde of the Sky entombed their wealth in burial cysts high above the Sharshah slopes, a practice which still draws adventurers to the steppe. Mansur's era ended with a sweep of conquests by the Dathrasi hordes (another Erroim clan) of Enoreth, led by Hazar-Tor.
The Erroim enjoyed their greatest conquests under Hazar, who used the title -Tor, "Lord of the Mountains," to inspire fear in the Azalim. The Dathrasi had long existed as pasturalists following their herds on horseback across the Limekiln steppe. Dathrasi aggression was usually staged to control access to watering rights in the Intad Bay region. The Bay was nourished by spring floods from the Luz River and associated streams—a stroke of geographical largess which enabled the Azalim to build a great civilization in that region. During Hazar's time, this wetland was prosperous and networks of great stone aqueducts filled the water tanks of Szass Tam, Aba-Intad, and other Azalani cities. Hazar sacked Aba-Intad in 566 A.L. and destroyed the irrigation infrastructure of Szass Tam—a major transshipment point for the frankincense trade in ancient times. Although the Erroim never took Szass Tam, they razed the nut plantations, plundered its cattle farms, and disrupted the frankincense trade from the highlands. The place has been in precarious circumstances ever since. The Azalim overthrew Hazar in 576 A.L. but Szass Tam never quite recovered from the Erroim raids. After the gum market collapsed in Enoreth the following decade, Azalim control of the region deteriorated. By the 7th century, the emperors were increasingly isolated from any real control over their lands in Enoreth, and by the 8th century Szass Tam was a half-ruined edifice at the mercy of whatever conqueror was strong enough to take it. (Today it is a lawless city held by robber barons and would-be politicians, many of Erroim extraction.)
Another era of disunity followed for the Erroim, as Hazar's Empire lost cohesion and competing local dynasts established their own spheres of influence. The legacy of the Hantili clan bears mention here. Another horse-clan from the Sharshah steppe, the Hantili were nearly obliterated by the Wartash clan during a period of inter-tribal conflict. During one infamous battle, the Wartash, whose conquests and massacres were almost entirely directed against fellow Erroim, drove the Hantili outriders into a narrow ravine. An avalanche was triggered by Wartash irregulars on the precipice, and the few Hantili survivors were put to the sword. Exasperated at this unprovoked and deceptive attack, the women of the Hantili clan took up their own swords, and launched a series of counterattacks to avenge their clansmen. One by one the Wartash strongholds fell to the Hantili battle maidens, as they became known, each one delivered in turn to the flames. No one was spared in this act of vengeance, and those found hiding were murdered. The Hantili became a matriarchal clan controlled by a female warrior elite. The Wartash were disrupted in the Sharshah plateau and moved east onto the Pzond Peninsula.
In the 7th-8th centuries A.L., Azalan held a tenuous and largely unpursued claim to the Pzond Peninsula. Several Erroim clans (namely the Mitani and Wartash clans) became vassals of the Azalim and were utilized by them as frontier guards against the Inquisitor-kings of Sol-Fatara. In dispute were the sister cities of Penda-Ybotha, which controlled the camel and elephant trades from Aenor. Long immune to Azalan's domination, Penda was finally occupied in 623 A.L. after little resistance. Ybotha quickly moved to secure Fatarim protection and became a nominal dependency of Sol-Fatara for the next sixty years. The Fatarim built a naval fortress at Drintis-Trage, a small cape town on the Pzond promontory, and began policing the Eavon coast. The inquisitors extracted a large tax from Azalim merchants in Ybotha and asserted regulatory powers over elephant-drivers leaving the city. Under increasing pressure from Azalan, the Erroim raided this traffic but were disrupted by their erstwhile patrons at the beginning of the 8th century to avoid war with the Fatarim. The weakened Pzond frontier presented a ripe target for pirates (and many outraged Erroim) and remains under brigand threat in modern times.
Many Erroim of the Pzond peninsula turned to piracy in the early-8th century. The combination of rich trade and a geography abounding in safe harbors for swift raiding ships, made piracy irresistible and inevitable. The force of Azalani civilization, which by now had become unstoppable, and the more or less constant warfare between the various city-states of the Crowded Sea, created a class of veteran soldiers and mercenaries whose skills were particularly suited to piracy. In addition, whether at war or peace, many towns were quite willing to enrich their treasuries by accepting pirate loot with no questions asked. At this period no great stigma was attached to piracy and the free lifestyle afforded to pirates suited many Erroim, particularly those of the Mitanni clan who were dispossessed after the Penda-Ybotha conflict. Pirates found their most suitable bases of operation in the Endae archipelago—the so-called "Pirate Isles"—that offered shelter together with proximity to trade routes. Most famous of the Erroim pirates was Harymbat-Usur, who preyed on shipping and coastal settlements of the Endae archipelago from 862 A.L. to modern times. Notorious for his cruelty, Harymbat sacked the fortress of Drintis-Trage in 874 A.L. (where he acquired a fleet of sixteen Fatarim warships) and established the pirate haven of Imgar-Morn. His operations were always marked by brutality and debauchery, but were sometimes executed with skill against great odds. Although an Erroim of the Mitanni clan by birth, Harymabat (who took the title -Usur, for "Despoiler") had little in common with the tent-dwelling nomads of the Nirari and Temti clans, or the goatherders of the Adasi. The heroic mythology of Lashna-Geng and Kidara-Kan, their forefathers, is not lost on these nomadic Erroim, who continue to live in small pastoral societies in the Sharshah steppe. They are Ozian's true people.

Physical Description

Most Erroim are short and stocky, with high, straight noses and downward sloping eyes. Many wear beards, but some are clean-shaven. They have great physical strength, disproportionate to their small frame, and nearly limitless endurance. (The prodigious power of the famous Erroim recurved bow, with a draw weight of over 50 pounds, testifies to their strength.) They have keen physical senses trained to their utmost in a life spent surveying the endless grassland steppes. Hair is usually worn long and flowing, to feel Ozian's spirit upon the neck, but there are exceptions. The battle maidens of the Hantili clan, for instance, whose members comprise the single greatest cavalry force of the Erroim, are bald with a small knot of hair being left uncut on the crown, and allowed to fall in a plait down the back. (Males of the Hantili may not join the battle maidens. In fact, they are forbidden to ride the fine steeds of the Hantili.)
Erroim dress is as varied as the tribe. Fleece and finely woven wool are worn by the pasturalists and wandering clans. Those who live in tents in the lower plains, and among the hills, such as the Nirari and Tempti, wear variegated turbans and black robes. Women wear small embroidered skull-caps, from beneath which their hair falls loose. The pirate clans, such as the Mitani and Wartash, are more showily dressed, their jackets richly embroidered with pearls and other plunder. Round their necks are often hung Azalani coins strung together as trophies.

Geography

The geography of the Sharshah plateau is extremely harsh. The weather is severe and there is little protection from the harsh winds and cold on these plains. Large scale agriculture is not possible. Endless expanses of grass cover much of the steppe. Although the steppes are large and open, they are not empty; much of this area is grazed by livestock owned by nomadic herders. Few wetlands are available to the Erroim during winter months, and watering rights are fiercely guarded. During the spring when the runoff is high, thousands of broad and shallow channels meander down the steppe to the Eavon Ocean, or to seasonal oases in the deserts north and east. The steppe country becomes increasingly arid toward the Raurin Desert in the east. Some Erroim maintain herds in the Raurin during spring months, and a few clans even hunt gazelle on the lower steppe.
Trees are scarce on the steppe and only grow along rivers and flood plains. The impassable mountains and rugged valleys of the Sharshah range (together with the Raurin wastes) isolate Aenor from the untamed lands of Enoreth and protect the Erroim from large-scale aggression.

Culture and Industry

The Erroim are rugged and independent. They believe in actions, not words, and find the court politics of Azalan and Sol-Fatara offensive to their nature, preferring to find peace in the wilderness. By Azalim standards, they are bold, brash, and fierce, amounting to little more than pirates and gypsies. The Erroim are extraordinarily loyal to their clansmen, but are condemning of outsiders and view most intrusions as hostile. Most Erroim have been exposed to great extortions in their history, and many were put to death by Azalim Emperors. A continuous struggle for respect and acceptance confronts the Erroim in their dealings with outsiders, even other Erroim. As a result, it is rare for outsiders to be admitted into their camps.
Erroim tribespeople today live in much the same way as their ancestors. The structure of their society is informal. The clans are linked by blood ties to Kidara-Kan; family and kinship are the primary bases of loyalty. The Erroim base their survival on their hardiness and adaptability. Clan elders are chosen for their warrior ability, and the ability to command the respect and loyalty of the warrior elite. The shared traditions of the Erroim warrior culture, and their informal religion, are all that bind them together.
The Sharshah horses, widely regarded as the finest and most difficult to tame in the world, are distinguished by extremely heavy manes and an unusual coloring that allows them to blend into steppe terrain. In winter, the horses are white on their bellies and light-tan colored on their backs; in summer, the light coloring darkens as snow cover on the steppe melts. Tail hair is distinctively black. The Erroim depend upon their horses for mobility—essential for survival on the harsh Sharshah steppes—as well as for milk and alcoholic potions. Able to survive on the worst scrub grass, the horses are inured to the steppe's hardships. In winter, they know to dig down through the snow to eat the frozen grass beneath. And the Erroim themselves can subsist in dire moments on blood taken from a slash in the horse's neck, which the warriors are skilled in sewing shut before death occurs. Hunting and herding, most Erroim grow up in the saddle, and learn to shoot accurately at full speed across long distances (a necessary skill for hunting people).
The Erroim live under a constant threat of drought, harsh winters and diseases among their herds. Cursed by a short growing season and sporadic access to water, they have never grown populous. Like many impoverished mountain peoples, their best-known export is their young men, as mercenaries. The lengthy history of the Erroim tribe has seen them ally with and oppose virtually every tribe in Edion. They control few resources of their own, save their herds, horses, and a few salt mining operations in Dathrasi territory. Horse tail hair is used to make an excellent rope. Woven carpets are a product of the Nirari clan occasionally sold in Azalan.
The highland steppe has proven ungovernable to the Azalani Emperors. It belongs to the tribal warlords of the Erroim, who are divided into eight clans (shown below).

Erroim Clans Titles of Nobility
Adasi -Bey Rider
Dathrasi -Dīn Warrior
Hantili -Erra the Swift
Mitanni -Geng Prince
Muradi -Iddin the Wise
Nirari -Kan King
Tempti -Sin Slayer
Wartash -Tor Mountain Lord
-Usur Despoiler

Religion

The Erroim carry a rich spiritual heritage stemmed from their long exile in the harsh, outstandingly changeable and unpredictable steppe existence. They do not have a formal, structured religion. Ozian, their god, is not visualized as a person, but is worshipped for what he is, the timeless and infinite blue sky. He is the wielder of invincible destructive and transforming powers, the sender of comets (called war arrows), and the master spirit of birds, which are forbidden to the Erroim as food or pets. The weather is seen as a direct manifestation of Ozian's disposition. The wind is the breath of Ozian; being a persistent feature of the Sharshah step, its absence is regarded with fear by the Erroim. Lightning is a sign of Ozian's displeasure and a call to battle. Rainbows are portents of great significance, when the spirits of the dead are called from their earthen graves to return to Hibernus, Ozian's heavenly realm. Ozian's role in determining fate is acknowledged in everyday speech in phrases such as "Ozanii-At" (Ozian's will).
The earth is polluted and evil in Erroim belief. Mountains, however, are spiritually powerful places in nature and serve as holy lands. The Erroim religion is presided over by the shaman, whose special relationship with Ozian brings good fortune to the clan. Shamans serve as folk doctors, oracles, and clan protectors. They coordinate the hunt and interpret the weather. When lightning strikes the earth, the shaman must venture to the place where it touched ground, and perform a ritual, sending it back to Ozian. Such places are sacred and serve as ritual grounds for many days after the lightning storm passes. The earth from these spots is mixed with mare's milk to create a powerful haste potion, inciting the horde to frenzy.
Traditionally, the separate Erroim clans had an annual gathering during which inter-tribal transactions took place, including the business of trade and marriage arrangements. This practice was established by the Muradi clan after the Godswar to ensure the survival of Ozian's people. At these gatherings, the tradition was to choose a head Erroim warlord for the purpose of mutual defense from neighboring tribes. The charisma and loyalty generated by one man was seldom enough to unite the clans, however, though Mansur-Dīn and Hazar-Tor made effective use of this office during their reigns. The Muradi clan became the caretakers of Ozian's spiritual treasury. They are distinguished from other clans in that they possess and guard the Ozanii-Tįri or "Feather of Ozian," which is given to the chosen leader ("-Geng") during times of war. The Elves refer to this object as Inzur-Angaenir, the Node of Hibernus. It is the source of Ozian's power on Edion.

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