|Common Names||Desert Raiders, Chain Breakers|
|Social Classes||Herdsmen, Soldiers, Warlords|
The harsh climate of deserts tends to birth brutal people capable of surviving a brutal world, which is exemplified in the Ardualnaar of Califaera. Diverting from the scholarly and peaceful ways of their mainline Qadir cousins in Farah’deen, the Ardualnaar are divided into feuding warlord clans that seek only to gain military might for themselves. All of this came about when the Sariyd colony of Califaera lost contact with their mother state in the wake of the Cataclysm, an act that saw the isolated and desperate people turn to a style of society that suited this new life. This new society ultimately fully formed into the Ardualnaar, the near-slave caste of warriors rejecting the verbal bondage their leaders tried to place on them for a society of freedom but also fighting. Despite their rivalries and occasional raiding skirmishes, the warlords have a common enemy in the magical and slavery-based Songaskian Masaya. Determined to carve a bloody path with a weapon in hand, the Ardualnaar represent a violent, technology-less future of the Qadir many not from the region find disturbing.
The Ardualnaar began their lives as nothing more than colonists, far from their homeland of Farah’deen but eeking out a new existence in southern Essalonia. The landmass was harsher but open, and by the time of the Cataclysm, nearly 100,000 colonists lived there. But when the shockwave hit the region, the Qadir living there found the seas wild and unforgiving, losing three of their ports to natural disasters. Local governance broke down, and for several decades there was limited to no order in the colony. But over this time, the beginnings of the Ardualnaar began to emerge from the urban centers. Governors and magistrates leading communities slowly shifted into warlords of the harsh terrain, employing men who could use weapons versus those that worked with clockwork. During this era, clockwork technology and progress in the region declined as tribal and factional identities asserted themselves alongside physical combat as the deciding force of power. Men under warlords were essentially slaves to their leader, kept in check by a complex loyalty system that demanded their obedience. By the time the Sariyd Empire reestablished a presence in the region, they found an alien world, rapidly shaping to reject their rule. In response, the Sariyd Empire relinquished control of their former colony to the first Nkosi in a grand ceremony, though maintained contact through the port of Ashanna, which became a lone outpost of traditional Qadir values when compared to the savage landscape around them.
Things got more complicated in the wake of the Great Storm. The Ardualnaar, in their infighting and inland existence, did not realize what had occurred until almost a decade later, when Qadir refugees from the disaster and the Songaskian occupation finally reached their lands, soon followed by Songaskian refugees seeking a life away from the Masaya that was rising on Farah’deen. This information further helped to shape the Ardualnaar as the slave-esque warrior section of their society fully rejected that label in favor of free men. The third Nkosi then set down the Nkosi Code in 140 AC to maintain their society and enshrine several major concepts into their existence, while also doing it as an act of defiance against the Masaya, which was already appearing off their shoreline in vessels and scouting parties. They had soon landed and established themselves in the lands now known as Harron, their heavy military inclination being met in full force by the Ardualnaar. Over the next century, warfare between the two parties continued back and forth, the warriors gaining the power of the horse thanks to trade with Regalia which also backed them in other ways. But then the Songaskian Masaya pulled a cunning move and started using the internal factionalism of their enemy against them. They supported a tribe known as the Heraatz, largely Songaskian in background, who soon became their regional puppets. Ultimately being labeled as rebels for their practice of rejecting the Nkosi Code, the Heraatz divided their foes around them and overall served to decrease the unity of the Ardualnaar in preparation for some future offensive.
This offensive came during the First Songaskian War, with the Masaya unabashedly throwing their might behind both Heraatz and Harron, scattering the Ardualnaar before them. Fortunately, Alexander Kade came to their aid, bringing with him thousands of troops from Daen and a majority of the Imperial Fleet. They helped the Qadir crush the rebels and push Harron fully out of their territory. Fighting continued in the region for months before the conclusion of the Hadravian War, which fully ended the First Songaskian War. The Ardualnaar have been empowered ever since, and thanks to Regalia, now are better equipped than they ever were in the past. Much to the shock of Regalia; however, they have not pressed their advantage against their enemies in Harron. First, the return of Estel and her fog prompted a pact of a mutual defense to purge such a supernatural force from the world, and then, the Bone Horror Crisis saw both sides working together to kill their risen long-dead armies and beasts of burden from over a hundred years of conflict. Today, the Ardualnaar are calmer than they ever have been, their violence largely relegated to sports and killing the many Bone Horrors that still shamble through their desert land. Only time will tell where the fierce people will go next, but wherever it is should fear their arrival.
Language and Dialects
Most of the Ardualnaar speak the Faraddi of their ancestors without much divergence in their tongue due to the cultural homogeneity of the rural desert tribes. However, several southern tribes and those in Ashanna are known to speak a Sofaal-inspired dialect of Faraddi birthed from linguistic influence from the Songaskian refugees that arrived to Califaera in 177 AC, now called “Ashanna Faraddi.” The Heraatz rebels that once acted as a puppet for the Masaya had attempted to carry this new dialect by force to northern Califaera, though these attempts ended in failure after the Heraatz were shattered in the Songaskian War.
Ardualnaar names take the most inspiration from Qadir and Songaskian cultures, though this varies depending on which dialect is the majority in a particular area of Califaera. Ardualnaar living closer to Ashanna have developed a naming custom based on Ashanna Faraddi, resulting in names such as “Barekbaal” or “Urumilki.” Rural Ardualnaar living amongst the warlords contain more exclusively Faraddi names, never influenced by Songaskian immigrants that had poured into the south. An Ardualnaar’s middle name is their father’s name preceded by “ibn” that roughly translates to “son of,” even if the child is a daughter. Last names are joined to the first name through being preceded by “al” or “al-” that translates to “of/clan of” and signifies a family or tribe that an Ardualnaar belongs to. For example, if an Ardualnaar was named Farouk, was a member of the family of Najjar, and their father was named Abdul, the full name would be “Farouk ibn Abdul al-Najjar.” Some examples of names can be seen below:
While specific regional laws are determined based on which warlord an Ardualnaar lives under, almost all of the warlords have adopted the Nkosi Code, which is a set of laws created in 140 AC that was meant to regulate the rules of Ardualnaar society. The Ardualnaar have a strong sense of draconian justice and “eye for an eye,” resulting in the Code often being interpreted as harsh but highly effective in maintaining discipline in the otherwise chaotic deserts of Califaera. The Nkosi Code is followed exclusively within the warlord tribes and the rural lands of Califaera, with urban populations near Ashanna holding to more developed institutional law. While the Code contains dozens of laws covering various topics, there are several considered to be the most notable:
- In times of great danger for the Ardualnaar people, the warlords of Califaera shall come together and elect a Nkosi from amongst themselves to temporarily lead them. The Nkosi commands military authority over all present warlords until the end of the crisis. This Nkosi must surrender their position once the crisis is reasonably determined to be over, and loses the right to lead both a clan and the other Ardualnaar if they attempt to abuse the office’s powers to rule as a monarch permanently.
- Slavery and forced servitude are forbidden amongst the Ardualnaar; if any man attempts to force the status of slave onto another man, the offender will be blinded and exiled. If a warlord makes slaves of their people, they lose the right to lead a clan and may be removed from power by any means necessary.
- If someone kills the herd animals of a herdsman or warlord, they must pay compensation equal to the worth of the murdered animals. If this money cannot be paid in a reasonable time, the offender surrenders ownership of their property and assets in order to provide payment. This law extends to horses, which are even more expensive and valuable than the herd animals.
- If someone steals from another and is caught, they will be whipped.
- A guest must be treated with the utmost respect, to be provided hospitality and fair treatment during their stay. Anybody proven to mistreat or abuse a guest under their roof shall be severely beaten.
- Clan elders are allowed to issue an “equbua” upon those who violate Ardualnaar custom and law, with those marked with an equbua being known as “taqiruha.” Upon being marked, a taqiruha will be shunned and can never be touched by others, and those wishing to remove their taqiruha status must prove themselves worthy in front of the elders who previously marked them.
Lifestyle and Customs
Ardualnaar families follow the traditional model consisting of the husband, wife, and their children in one household. Ardualnaar marriages are mostly out of family duty and without much love between husband and wife, meaning it’s common for spouses of either gender to have romantic partners outside of the family unit. Adultery isn’t considered a taboo in society, though an out-of-wedlock pregnancy can result in the biological father being forced to adopt the bastard child given that the mother and her husband can prove that the child was not born to the husband. Homosexual romances can be commonplace in Ardualnaar tribes and aren’t seen as sinful or unnatural even if a same-sex couple is forbidden to marry. The society allows for romantic fulfillment of any gender in such a harsh environment, but marriage is purely intended to continue family ties and strengthen clan bonds.
Due to the war-torn and chaotic world of the Ardualnaar, the warlord tribes have broken down several gender-specific roles out of necessity. Manpower shortages from wars and droughts have forced tribes in the past to start training women in martial combat the same way as men, resulting in a society with both genders treated relatively equal in military life. Despite current progress, women still aren’t allowed to own property unless left to them by a deceased husband, and only men are able to initiate a divorce. Women are seen as the household managers and family caretakers, with men being conscripted to join the army of their ruling warlord.
Because they gained independence from the Sariyds before the old empire crumbled in the Great Storm, the Ardualnaar still keep to the Sariyds’ polytheistic religion (albeit a very modified and culturally unique interpretation) instead of adopting the Esrah Alwattah faith of the other Qadir peoples. In addition to the thousands of minor gods representing small parts of the world, it's believed that each individual Ardualnaar has a “patron god” that is specifically bound to them at birth by the forces of the universe. A patron is thought to reside within the Ardualnaar’s soul, providing a conscience and trying to guide morality and values throughout a whole lifetime. An Ardualnaar’s patron does not originally have its own name, meaning that each Ardualnaar must give their patron god a name of their choice. Ardualnaar religion does not have strict codes on religious practices and traditions, meaning each follower is free to express their faith based on the interpretation of their patron. It’s not uncommon for Ardualnaar living outside of Califaera to declare the host society’s main god as their individual patron, such as an Ardualnaar in Regalia to say that their patron is the Imperial Spirit. Magic is held with fear and distrust among the Ardualnaar, who believe that magical power is not meant to be wielded by mortals. Records and stories of the Cataclysm recall how Magic was almost the end of the world, and that this near-apocalypse was a sign that mortal beings should never tamper with the supernatural. Ardualnaar religion also subscribes heavily to aniconism, banning the visual depiction of living beings in art due to the belief that such images are profane.
Literature and Folklore
The only significant piece of literature birthed from Ardualnaar culture is the Fi Alhaya, a work written entirely in Faraddi calligraphy. It tells the story of Esmail the Great, a warrior from Ashanna that was tasked by the emperor of the Sariyd Empire to slay the Rokh, an enormous predatory bird that hunted traveling caravans in the mountains. Upon reaching the Rokh after many trials and tribulations, Esmail dueled with the great bird for hours until finally coming out victorious, taking a greatsword-sized talon as a trophy. For his accomplishment, Esmail was given the hand of the emperor’s daughter in marriage, and he moved back to Ashanna to live out a long and happy life. While the story is almost certainly fictional, it exemplifies the bravery and determination that’s valued in Ardualnaar life. Even today, an Ardualnaar may personify the need to overcome a great personal struggle or challenge by saying that they must “fight their own Rokh.”
Understanding the philosophy of the Ardualnaar requires retaining knowledge of their conditions and origins. The vast majority of Ardualnaar were once ruled by power obsessed leaders clinging to whatever they had. One of these was manpower, which they controlled fiercely, and so they were treated nearly as slave soldiers. When they finally did break free, they had developed a hatred for such central governance and all its trappings as their society formed. As a result, the Ardualnaar warlords promised long ago that tyrants shall never rule in Califaera again, and that the Ardualnaar would be born free without having to face the chains of slavery. As an expression of this, the warlords leave the single remaining city of Ashanna alone as a neutral capital of their society which none of them actually inhabit. As a result, the city largely stays out of warlord affairs, governing itself through mainline Qadir customs, with the warlords only occasionally gathering there to call Nkosi Elections and hold grand meetings. This aspect of their philosophy is what allowed the Ardualnaar to easily accept and integrate the tide of Songaskian refugees fleeing class persecution and enslavement in the Masaya years ago, as Califaera could empathize with these refugees’ similar desire to escape the upper class of a society that sought to enslave them.
However, even with freedom, the Ardualnaar understood that weak-willed and disobedient men could not survive the deserts of Califaera. Draconian justice and the harsh discipline of warlords’ armies became commonplace to prevent society from breaking apart, resulting in the idea that freedom must be protected through all means necessary. Tactics such as creating large smokescreens from tossing burning hay bundles, rounding up an enemy’s unused horses and then directing the fleeing animals at the same enemy’s camps, or riding down foes with horse and lance are all normal for the warlord armies, with efficiency on the battlefield being prioritized over the fairness of war. While their iron discipline and militaristic lifestyle has allowed the warlord tribes to be Califaera's first line of defense against neighboring Harron and other threats, it stirs resent in those Qadir seeking a more nonviolent way of life. Outsiders and even inside detractors can argue that the rigid structure of these mini-military states dotted around Califaera has ironically formed the very tyrannical society that the Ardualnaar claim to oppose, and many people have begun questioning if the warlords still truly care about ideas of freedom.
Local myths and stories tend to vary throughout Califaera, though many stories focus on unnatural monsters that stalk the deserts. Tales speak of a Great Horned Phant that roams the inner desert and bestows moral enlightenment upon those who can find it. The Phant has been associated with a few tribal stories where a hero needs to seek sage advice during a journey and is often revered as a god-spirit of wisdom. Another creature spoken of are “Sand Demons,” draconic-humanoid monsters who devour children at night. Scholars theorized that old xenophobia against the Songaskia and their Dragon roots resulted in these stories, mostly due to the Sand Demons’ description closely fitting that of the draconic Songaskians. A final creature are the Rokhs, described as enormous birds that cover entire towns in the shadow of their wingspan, are believed to exist within the mountains of Califaera. The most well known of these is the Rokh that appeared as the monster fought by Esmail the Great in the Ardualnaar epic of the “Fi Alhaya.”
Despite their reputation as warmongers, the Ardualnaar have a surprising respect for art. Because of the Ardualnaar’s cultural ban on creating visual depictions of people, art is heavily based on symmetrical geometric and floral designs, with important buildings in Ashanna often being painted with these patterns. Ardualnaar also engage with the art of calligraphy, taking advantage of the Faraddi language to create works of art and writing in calligraphy form. Geometric patterns can be found woven in clothing and fabric exported out of Califaera, though also painted on buildings and clay tablets throughout the region. While calligraphy art appears to be more common in Ashanna nowadays than in rural areas, some scholars believe that the use of Faraddi calligraphy originated from the warlord tribes and migrated to Ashanna. Some who choose to neither conform to the military lifestyle under the warlords or live as a shepherd can instead become artists dedicated to the practice.
An art style completely unique to the Ardualnaar warlords is their crafting of exquisite lances that serve as both a weapon of war and a cultural piece of the wielder. Because of a greater variety of metals in the arid Califaera environment than trees, an Ardualnaar youth will learn basic blacksmithing in order to create their own lance. These lances can come in various sizes and designs but must be able to fit properly and act as a true extension of the wielder. It is believed that a unique lance will create a stronger bond between a warrior and their weapon, therefore improving performance on the battlefield.
Ardualnaar music acts as a daily form of personal expression and artistic talent in an age of warfare, with the younger Ardualnaar generations nowadays taking a greater interest in the vocal and instrumental arts. String and wind instruments are widely used in the culture’s music, acting as the instrumental background to singing punctuated by precise enunciation and high pitch. Song topics can range from the glories of war to the passion of romance but is always based on something personal to the Ardualnaar musician.
Ardualnaar in the tribes outside of Ashanna tend to dressgo simple in comparison to other Qadir and Songaskians by wearing wrapped cloth and wool robes, often with a face scarf intended to block the eyes and mouth against desert winds. Family members of the warlords tend to be able to afford robes with more colors such as red or green due to the cost of dyes, and the only purple robes are found in Ashanna since purple dye is unnaturally expensive. Tribal men are also required to allow their beards to grow out, and it's seen as taboo to trim or cut the beard. This does not apply to mustaches, and in fact, mustaches must be kept neat and trimmed so as to not appear uncouth. Tribal clothing is often criticized for being dull and simple in comparison to the rest of Ardualnaar art, though critics tend to forget that there is a delicate practice in weaving and crafting custom cloth and wool clothes that has survived as an abstract art form. Ardualnaar areis also notable for requiring a glove to cover their left hand, only to be removed when inside a home. The glove is made of cloth or sheepskin and can be decorated with a word of calligraphy centered on the back of the hand that describes either them or their patron god.
Ardualnaar outside of Ashanna don’t have any notable architecture that could be described as a monumental wonder, as the constant state of conflict between the tribes has prevented significant architectural progress. Warlords take residence in Sariyd-age fortresses with their soldiers and family, while tribal denizens live in rustic villages dotted around the territory controlled by a warlord. These villages are made up of large cloth tents that allow people of warlord tribes to move about in the event of raids and natural disaster, being chosen for residence out of both necessity and part of the cultural significance of custom cloth items. Ashanna is a completely different story, where grand temples are decorated with minarets and geometric patterns, and Qadir coming from Farah’deen introduced copper-and-bronze extravagance to homes and temples in the city. Ashanna residents with higher social status live in elaborate residences situated in natural cliffs, while lower class citizens reside in clay-and-mud houses dotted near the harbor and the lower levels of the city. Songaskian migrants brought along extravagant monuments containing mosaic stained glass windows, resulting in the elaborate state of Ashanna architecture that could be easily mistaken for works of art. The two most famous examples of Ashanna-designed architecture are Baaliahon's Citadel and the Grand Library of Ashanna, the former used by the warlords for large meetings and Nkosi elections while the latter is a remodeled Hadritya, housing extraordinary amounts of art and knowledge.
Food in the Ardualnaar culture is derived from the cuisines of the Sariyd Empire, the Songaskians, and the Qadir all in one. Olives, dates, oranges, and figs are common fruits and vegetables while beef, mutton, and fish make up the Ardualnaar’s meat diet. A favorite cultural dish involves a local bread called bazin, which is prepared using barley flour, water, and salt, and later placed on a plate surrounded by hard-boiled eggs. Bazin is eaten exclusively with the right hand, as it’s considered offensive to eat Ardualnaar food with the left hand.
Athletic activities of the Ardualnaar are often focused on military training and the famous Ardualnaar cavalry units that form the elite core of a warlord’s army, resulting in most of the sports being militaristic or horse-centric. The most popular of these games is polo, consisting of two teams of four that all carry a mallet. In polo, each team is trying to hit a ball into the other team’s goal post, earning points for scoring through the posts. Each team member, marked by a number from One to Four, has specific roles such as the defense player or the aggressive and maneuverable player. Polo was introduced from the days of the Sariyd Empire, becoming extremely popular amongst the warlords because of its emphasis on horse-riding mastery in addition to other battlefield applications like discipline and team cooperation. More hardcore and complicated versions of polo, usually intended for older players, can include teams of up to fifty players that turn the game into a battleground. Other sports include mounted archery competitions and javelin throwing, all intended to continue training competitors into ideal warriors.
Leisure usually shares the same activities as the sports, continuing the indoctrination of the Ardualnaar into a soldier’s lifestyle. Many Ardualnaar participate in horse racing competitions, with these races usually drawing crowds in local festival events. Music has become a highly popular pastime for Ardualnaar youth, who increasingly use both vocal and instrumental talents to express their frustration at the status quo and the constant reinforcement of military lifestyle into the Ardualnaar culture.
The Ardualnaar have taken to a few symbols to represent their endurance and strength in the deserts of Califaera. The Rokh bird has become a prime symbol for Ardualnaar warlords establishing themselves as intimidating threats to their enemies. Various weapons such as swords and lances usually decorate warlord banners, the latter usually being more popular as emphasis of their horse-centered combat. As a more peaceful and scholarly focused city away from the machinations of the warlords, Ashanna took to the Great Horned Phant of Ardualnaar mythology as their personal symbol, deeming the Phant a god-patron of the whole city for its representation of wisdom and moral enlightenment.
- The first woman to have ever become an Ardualnaar warlord is Fatimah the Dragon-Eater, who was also made Nkosi by the other warlords during the Bone Horror Crisis. Her title of warlord was inherited years ago after her husband was killed by the Heraatz and had left no heir, but her nickname came about in a counter-raid where she allegedly killed several Heraatz soldiers with a spoon, “eating” their “Dragon” souls.
- Ashanna contains the only Hadritya in Essalonia, built by a nomadic group of Qadir who tried spreading their peaceful and scholarly culture to the Ardualnaar. Ironically, this fortress was soon overrun by an invading warlord who had broken Ashanna neutrality to pillage for loot, but the Hadritya was eventually restored and made into the Grand Library of Ashanna. Qadir inventors in this Hadritya provided Ashanna and indeed all Ardualnaar with the clockwork weapons necessary to fight off the Bone Horrors.