The Keshai or Sand Marud tribes claim to be the oldest nomadic culture on Maruzar, dating back to even before the First Empire. Their tribes, they say, survived intact through the Shattering and the following Age of Chaos, retaining their old names, languages and ways. This history makes the Keshai extremely proud, even arrogant.
The Nine Tribes
Only nine tribes of Keshai survive, but all of them, save one, claim to descend in continuous line from their forebears of the same name. The tribes are: the Shanur, which defeated and absorbed two other tribes to become the largest tribe, but is riven with feuds between its member clans; the Zoai, who nurse an ancient feud with the Shanur; the Ammatar, who have taken over the dead city of that name, wiping out the Irajin who lived there; the Illuar, who occupy and farm the Jerafan Sinkholes; the Jerafa, who were driven from their homes by the Illuar; the Zikandar, who claim their leaders used to be high kings over all the tribes; the Keshvar, who are notorious marauders; the Isali, who say their ancestors used to live by a great lake, and were pirates; and the Gozashtar, a ‘new’ tribe that took shape only after the Shattering.
All the nine tribes have some variant of the basic Keshai culture, which is based on pastoral nomadism, matriarchal clans, and equestrian warfare. All Keshai wear white robes and headcloths when outside their tents, each tribe differentiating its members by the color of their sashes. Every Keshai wears up to five finely-made knives, Honor Blades, which are given as signs of accomplishment and respect.
The tribes are notorious for their propensity to raid settled folk, caravans, and each other, and for their long-burning feuds, some of which have lasted more than a thousand years. Keshai tribes are extremely territorial, jealously guarding their precious wells and water caves and demanding tributes for safe passage.
Keshai warriors are always in high demand as mercenary light cavalry. They are excellent riders, often with some of the best gannors, masters of the lance and javelin, adept at scouting and ambush, and loyal as long as they’re paid. Their great weakness however is their tribal feuds, which seem to follow them wherever they go. Keshai mercenaries of feuding tribes will often fight inspite of orders, and Imperial patrols have been ambushed merely because they passed through the land of a tribe who had a feud with one of their nomad scouts.
The tribes are ruled by councils of Clan Mothers, who between them own all the herds and tents. Each Clan Mother appoints a warchief for their clan, who may be of either sex.