The Children of Halim
Avg. Height: 5'10"
Shorter than most other daun.
Avg. Weight: 180 lb
Avg. Lifespan: 100
|Eyes:||Somewhat slanted, primarily hazel to rich brown in hue, often flecked with accents of russet, teal, emerald, or gold.||Hair:||Straight to naturally wavy or even tightly curled; almost uniformly dark brown or black, though reddish hair appears occasionally.||Skin:||Golden, or often darker tones ranging from warm ruddy tans to deep walnut browns.||Body Type:||Men have powerful build, women curvaceous tending toward plump.||Clothing:||Intricately patterned silk brocades and brightly printed cotton fabrics; wide-legged pants and long close-fitting jackets, tunics or vests; turbans and jewelry. Desert dwellers wear heavier clothes, headbands and scarves.||Notable:||Women are regarded as status symbols and prizes, and are lavished with jewelry.|
Languages: Common, Murkhish
Special: Bonus to Mechanisms learn rate.
Branching from the original Abraxian daun, the murkhish daun dominate the eastern half of Ziguran, their cities filled with color, light and music. They celebrate the body and revere the arts, especially dance, and it is not unusual for a man to take numerous wives. Women are regarded as status symbols and prizes, and are lavished with jewelry made of fine ivory and emeralds, both of which are harvested in the southern part of the continent. Murkhs are also noted as traders, scientists, inventors of gadgets, and masters of the magical arts.
Most murkhs live in either glittering coastal cities such as Omadurin or Athkara, or in the vast desert lands of the interior. Ruled by a dey and his kålifah (successor), the government of the murkhs is something between a monarchy and a dictatorship. A vizier, who holds counsel with the lesser adir and their kålifahs, advices the dey. The army of the murkhs is more for show than actual use and consists of one hundred soldiers for the dey and kålifah's personal use, with another three thousand designated for actual fighting. If war were to break out, the government would rely on the mercenary services of the sere gharkins and the inventive mechanical talents of the ruttle gnomes.
Though the murkhish daun share Ziguran with the Sunjo daun, the il'lthye houses of de Nox'Ascenti and xul'Abraxas, the sere gharkin, ruttle gnomes and druim'dwer of clan Teriaslin, fighting on a large scale is not an issue for the inhabitants of the huge continent. Each race has called their area home for so many generations that there are few disputes over land-owning, while religion generally encourages the strength of the group rather than the individual. The landscape of Ziguran discourages the mass movement of armies, for riding across desert or through dense jungle is expensive, slow and often times fatal. Generally, the murkhs of the desert live in pleasant harmony with the mesa-dwelling ruttle gnomes and the wandering sere gharkins. Their urban counterparts endure a somewhat less friendly relationship with the dark elves of House xul'Abraxus with whom they share an intense interest in the magical arts. Outside threats are dealt with swiftly and efficiently by the murkhish Sicarii, those called the "dagger-men." While little is known of their structure and organization, including whom they serve, it is a fact that they have worked with the dey to dispose of citizens of other countries.
Making their homes in huge colorful tents and traveling from city to city in caravans, never sojourning in one place for very long, the Brez'ah, Ugheizan and other desert dwelling murkhs are nomadic, yet most groups have long since established roots at the edges of the desert, forming communities of rabu herders, persimmon growers, and farmer of grain. Sheltered by the long narrow ridges of polished red granite which protrude from the sands of the eastern desert, Ughezian homesteads dot the landscape, shaped typically like trunkated pyramids with stucco-covered sides and topped by their distinctive swirled and pointed cone-shaped roofs.
Murkhs tend to be golden skinned, though darker skin tones ranging from warm ruddy tans to deep walnut browns are also common. The men are powerfully built, but shorter than most other daun, and the women are curvaceous tending to plumpness. Their eyes are usually somewhat slanted and primarily hazel to rich brown in hue, often flecked with accents of russet, teal, emerald, or gold. Murkhish hair is straight to naturally wavy or even tightly curled and is almost uniformly dark brown or black, though reddish hair appears occasionally.
Murkhish costume seems to blend the influence of long ago contact with the Bijapuran culture with an indigenous style all its own. In the cities, both sexes favor intricately patterned silk brocades and brightly printed cotton fabrics. Women have mastered the artful and alluring effects that can be achieved through the use of the sheerest of fabrics. Both sexes wear wide-legged pants and long close-fitting jackets, tunics or vests. Men wear turbans, while women veil their heads and faces and are fond of elaborate jewelry. Murkhs of both sexes wear colorful sandals or low slippers made of woven strips of leather or of beaded and embroidered fabrics. The toes of these shoes curl into the characteristic pointed tip utilized with such grace by their famed dancers. The costume of the desert dwellers is quite different. They favor heavier clothing woven in bright geometric patterns, both sexes adopting the practical gharkin style of wearing long hooded robes over vest coats or simple tunics. The hooded cloaks, as well as thick fabric headbands and head scarves all help the members of these hardy tribal desert cultures to resist the effects of the intense equatorial sunshine.
~The Children of Halim~
Written by Siovanhe Starsong
The Children of Halim, or the Halima, as they are usually referred to, are a tribe of nomadic pastoralists that inhabit the vast deserts of eastern Ziguran. The Halima are generally considered by the settled peoples of Ziguran to be among the most truly nomadic and thus one of the least civilized of all the tribes that roam the eastern deserts. Neither the cleverest of merchants nor the most fearsome of warriors, the Halima are most widely renowned for their sheer intransigence in the face of settled civilization. Roaming all the way from the Straits of Adamantus to the fringes of the jungle at the edge of the Naroumbi Empire, few other tribes travel so far or so frequently. The Halima have completely renounced settled life and take great pride in the fact that they are free to live as they please and are not bound to any one place, nor pledged in fealty to any ruler. While they may be found trading in village souks, dancing and playing music along city streets, or even fighting alongside Sere gharkins in the dey's own army, the Halima remain aloof from those outside their tribe and do not make any attempt to assimilate themselves into sedentary society. A Halima tribesman in the city likes to compare himself to fine oil mixed in water: moving smoothly through the crowd yet always apart and distinct from it, and sooner or later separating out to rejoin his kin.
History and Legend
The Children of Halim are the inheritors of a rich oral tradition that encompasses both the legendary origins of the tribe and the tribe's role in the larger drama of Zigurandi history. While it cannot be said with certainty how much of these stories is truth and how much fiction, or to what degree even the truth has been embroidered over time, there is no doubt that the Halima's history is both long and colorful.
The Trials of Halim
The six clans of Halim are united into one tribe by their claim of descent from a single ancestor, the near-legendary wanderer Halim. The story of Halim, known formally as The Trials of Halim, is a complex epic that spans well over a century and takes many weeks to tell fully. The basic plot concerns the travels of the eponymous character and the various trials he endures on his long wanderings. The story serves to explain not only the foundation of the tribe itself but also the origins of various cultural practices central to the Halima's way of life, while at the same time extolling the virtues of nomadic versus settled living. The tale is loosely structured around Halim's marital life, with each major section of the story centering on the relationship between Halim and one of his six wives. With the exception of the twins Zuleika and Seleta, these marriages were consecutive rather than concurrent, and in some cases decades pass between Halim's marriages. The epic is full of fantastical happenings and encounters with gods, jinn, and other supernatural beings, yet it also contains numerous situtations that any common Halima tribesman would find familiar. At the same time, the tale's exploration of the roles of men and women and the relationship between the two sexes plays a central part and continues to have as much immediacy to the present-day Halima as it did to those in whose time the story originated. Containing numerous song sequences and musical passages as well as illustrative dances, various smaller pieces of the Trials are performed as a part of everyday life among the Halima, and references to the epic are common in conversation and proverb.
The Children of Halim claim for themselves an extensive and illustrious history, believing that their origins stretch far back into the early days of daun civilization in Ziguran. According to their own oral tradition, they are not only the first true nomads of the desert, but also took part in key events throughout Zigurandi history. Legend has it that the mounted warriors of the Halima were the last to retreat in the face of the Sunjo usurpation of the Naroumbi Empire during the Age of Empires, and that the Halima were one of the first groups to volunteer for Queen Eldariana's campaign against the Sunjo over two centuries later. In fact, songs are still sung and stories told of the deeds of valiant fighters in those long-ago battles, and the exploits of the great hero Jazi ben Shamal are said to belong to Eldariana's time. Whether the existence of the Halima as a distinct cultural entity actually extends this far into the past is open to conjecture; nevertheless, it is an important part of tribal tradition.
Despite early ties with the nomadic Brezah tribes, the Halima entered into a loose alliance with the Zigur king Darmmenon in the struggle against Brezah dominion in 11,721 and had in fact been active in defying Brezah rule for many years before. Much of the conflict between the two peoples likely arose as the Brezah adopted a more settled lifestyle and began to lay exclusive claim to grazing lands that had formerly been shared with the Halima and other nomadic tribes. Stories also tell of a conflict that arose as a result of a grave insult dealt to the honor of the halim's wife (see Organization and Government) by a prominent Brezah leader. Whatever the case may be, certainly there is a lasting enmity between the Halima and the Brezah that may not be entirely explained by the present-day disputes between the two peoples. When the Naroumbi Empire finally fell to the Brezah in 11,612 the Halima cut off ties with the empire and melted back into the desert to avoid persecution from their enemies.
Though the Halima remained consistently at the periphery of settled civilization throughout their history, during the Age of Chaos they once again rose to greater prominence and maintained fairly extensive contact with their settled neighbors, becoming once more a well-known, if ephemeral, presence in village and city. At this time the tribe still possessed a stronghold in some of the less arid portions of the desert, and the breeding of fine horses had begun to flourish among tribesman resident in these more favorable climes. Many Halima were consequently able to significantly increase their wealth and thereby to obtain larger quantities of high-quality goods and materials than were previously available to them, including fine weapons and armor from both Ziguran itself and the lands beyond. Such material advantage over less prosperous neighbors encouraged more widespread raiding of both villages and other nomadic tribes, while the unpredictability of the attacks and the efficiency with which they were carried out generated in many people a deep-rooted fear out of proportion to the true numbers of the rather small tribe. This fear in itself worked to the tribe's advantage, for they could often successfully demand tribute from settlements in exchange for immunity from raiding. During this time it was also not uncommon for tribesmen to hire themselves out as mercenaries charged with the duty of protecting villages from the raids of other Halima clans – an extremely advantageous deal for the Halima, as the clans in reality cooperated closely and would never have even begun to consider actually fighting each other, any hostility between them being all a matter of show put on for the settled folk.
When the War of Hasseh'din broke out in 698 AoC, the Halima at first maintained a conspicuously neutral position, most likely as a result of their rather minimal concern with religion and an unwillingness to ally themselves in any way with the hated Brezah peoples. However, they did not remain for long at the fringes of the conflict, as they soon began hiring themselves out as mercenary warriors for the Quesalian colonists along the coast, with whom they had long shared a relatively open and friendly relationship. In doing so they not only received increased access to valued trade goods from overseas, they were also able to augment their herds with animals captured from their fellow nomads. This was a prosperous time for the Halima, but with the end of the war and subsequent loss of close ties with the Quesalians, they became increasingly subject to retaliation from their nomadic Brezah neighbors, which in turn weakened their position of power over the desert's sedentary peoples. This may have contributed to their retreat deeper into the desert and their increasing marginalization in Zigurandi society and history. In modern times the Halima retain little of their former influence, and indeed their current reputation is founded on their adherance to a seemingly wild and unfettered lifestyle lived far outside the borders of civilization.
The Six Clans
Each clan is still characterized primarily by the way of life associated with the particular wife of Halim from which a clan claims descent. This is not to say that all members of a given clan follow the same mode of occupation, but pursuit of the hereditary trade is highly encouraged among all children. Since clan identity is based almost entirely on identification with the founding ancestress, most continue the tradition with a sense of pride rather than simply feeling obligated to do so. Young adults who are highly dissatisfied with the occupation associated with their clan sometimes choose to seek adoption by another clan more suited to their tastes, and within a generation or two the children or grandchildren of the malcontents happily declare themselves descendants of the founder of their new clan. Since genealogy tends to be determined as much by association as by actual descent, this is rarely objected to or even particularly noted. However, for most Halima family ties remain of overriding importance and clan identification is a matter of great pride (and sometimes minor conflict). Additonally, in spite of the emphasis laid on occupational differences among clans, the fact remains that the separate clans possess far more commonalities than differences, and each clan engages to some degree in the pursuits seen as characteristic of their sister clans.
A note on totem animals: These are animals which members of a particular clan have come to particularly identify with over the centuries, usually because the animal in question possesses (or is at least thought to possess) certain characters highly valued within a clan. The totem animal is accorded a certain degree of respect by the clan whose totem it is, and harming the animal in any way is generally discouraged, though not explicitly forbidden. This practice may have arisen in part due to extensive contact with the shamanistic Sunjo.
Clan Intizara – The oldest of the six clans, Intizara claims descent from Halim's first wife, a renowned poet and dancer. Those belonging to the clan continue this artistic tradition by serving as wandering entertainers, showing off their mastery of song, dance, music, and storytelling to both pastoral and urban audiences. Intizarans generally have a slightly more cosmopolitan outlook than members of other clans, as they tend to interact with outsiders more as a consequence of their occupation. They are also known for picking up songs and stories from any people they happen to come in contact with and have a greater curiosity about settled life, though they still disdain it personally and have as much nomadic pride as any other clan.
Although sometimes looked down on for their tolerance of outsiders and their slightly less rigid social mores, members of Clan Intizara are still highly respected for their proficiency as entertainers as well as for their function as a repository of the tribe's history. In the more relaxed winter months when grazing is plentiful and the days are short, it is not uncommon to find members of Intizara sharing a common camp with other clans. At this time of year it is customary to relate the entire epic of The Trials of Halim, and there are none better at telling it than the trained performers of the Intizara.
Intizara's totem animal is the glittered jackal. After being derisively likened to the noisy scavenging animal that prowls around the fringes of settlements, the Intizara defiantly adopted the jackal as their patron animal.
Clan Yzon'ha – According to legend, members of this clan still carry in their veins the otherworldly blood of Yzon'ha, the enigmatic jinni who became Halim's second wife. The descendents of Yzon'ha are still noted for their skill with magic, as well as for the prevalence of flame-blue eyes within their ranks, extremely uncommon among the Murkhish peoples as a whole. This clan is by far the most insular of the six, as they have few dealings with outsiders and tend to distance themselves somewhat even from their fellow tribesmen. At the same time, the other clans maintain a certain wariness towards the Yzon'ha, though this does not prevent them from joking about them in their absence. The people of Clan Yzon'ha are also rumored to keep company with demons and spirits.
Yzon'ha's totem animal is the eagle owl, the jinni's favorite bird and a creature often considered of ill omen by the Halima generally. Superstition holds that jinn and powerful human sorcerers often take the form of an eagle owl so that they can travel long distances and work dark magic on people anonymously.
Clan Zuleika – This clan claims descent from the wily merchant's daughter Zuleika, who along with her twin sister Seleta became Halim's wife after Yzon'ha's leave-taking. Though all the clans participate in the network of trade that runs across the eastern portions of the continent, the Zuleikans are the most fully devoted to trade and bargaining of all, and their caravans can often be found wending their way across the deserts all the way from Omadurin to Dongola. They are known as ruthless hagglers as well as clever pranksters, and their reputation for cunning is second only to that of the Intizara.
Zuleika's totem animal is the raven, chosen not only for its intelligence and reputation for acquisitiveness, but also because it was a raven that was instrumental in effecting Zuleika's escape from the prankster Yalan. Members of this clan are particularly fond of their totem and often produce clothing, blankets, and other household items worked with images of ravens.
Clan Seleta – Descending from the talented craftswoman Seleta, twin sister to Zuleika, members of Clan Seleta are best known for their skill in jewel and metalwork. This clan has a particularly good relationship with the Ruttle gnomes with whom they share the desert, and the Seletans have a a great deal of admiration for the gnomes' innate skill in stonecarving and gemwork. Though the Ruttles generally prefer to keep to themselves, there have been occasions when a Ruttle master agreed to take on a promising Seletan apprentice in the trade.
Clan Seleta's totem animal is the jewelled skilk, whose brilliant coloration recalls the fine gemwork of the best Seletan work.
Clan Saqra – The next-to-last of the Halima clans, the proud and valiant Saqra continue in the warrior tradition begun by Halim's fifth wife. Members of this claim lay a special emphasis on training for combat, and their finely-honed prowess in armed combat is second to none among the clans. In addition to carrying out numerous raids against both their settled and nomadic neighbors, the Saqra occasionally offer their services as merceneries and have even been known to serve in the dey's personal army. The clan's most unusual practice is in allowing even women to fight, though in practice this occurs only infrequently as most women prefer to retain the privileges granted them as non-combatants.
Saqra's totem animal is the masked falcon, a bird known not only for its skill as a hunter but also for its habit of hunting cooperatively with other falcons of its kind. Masked falcons are often captured by the Saqra and other clans as juveniles and trained to hunt for their human masters both solo and in groups.
Clan Thurayya – The sixth and youngest of the clans, Thurayyans may possess the least prestige but are generally the best-liked among their fellow tribesman. Of a scholarly and introspective bent like the disciple of Elira'el who gave her name to the clan, the people of Clan Thurayya are often more concerned with the workings of the heavens and their effect on mankind's destiny than they are with the more mundane affairs of life. Thurayyans also tend to enjoy tinkering with mechanical devices, especially if they seem useful for observation of the stars or prediction of their movements. Thurayyans are unusual among the Halima in that a number of them are quite proficient at reading and writing and are comfortable with setting their ideas down on parchment. Those Halima who are literate typically learned the skill from a Thurayyan or from someone who had in turn been taught by one. The one true written work completed by Clan Thurayya is a catalog of all the heavenly bodies visible from the deserts of Ziguran throughout the course of the year.
Thurayya's totem animal is the stargazer scorpion, a small black scorpion that is most commonly seen on nights when light from the moons is weak or absent. These scorpions have a good reputation among the Halima because they are tend to be docile unless intentionally provoked, even being perceived as wise and referred to by the name of "little philosophers."
Organization and Government
The Halima are a relatively classless society, as the harshness and unpredictability of life in the desert makes changes in fortune common. A man who is prosperous one year may be reduced to paupery the next, as drought, disease, and other fickle natural forces take their toll on his herds. Intelligence and business acumen may favor a family's fortune, but even the most ingenious of traders is subject to the whims of gods and nature. For this reason, respect is granted more on the basis of adherence to certain admired virtues (especially courage, integrity, generosity and hospitality, and quickness of mind) than on accumulation of wealth.
All six clans are considered to be basically equal, but there are a few subtle differences in status. In disputes between clans over resources or precedence in some social affair, it is usual for the older clan to be granted preference over the others. The one exception to this is the Intizara, who have historically been regarded as somewhat less "pure" than the other clans due to the dancer Intizara's infidelity and the perceived looseness of morals among the modern Intizara clan. A clan may also be conceded special status in dealing with issues acknowledged to be particularly relevant to that clan's domain: for example, in deciding whether to go to war with another tribe, the Saqra are granted the greatest say in the matter, while discussion of the meaning of some natural portent such as a comet would be referred primarily to the Thurayya.
Governmental organization is for the most part loose and informal, and there is no fixed hierarchy either among or within the clans. The tribe does have one person who acts as a spokesperson for the tribe in negotiations with outsiders and who resolves disputes among the clans and their members. This person, called the halim after the tribe's founder, is chosen in a special meeting by the adult males of the tribe. The halim occupies a very visible position, but his authority extends only as far as the tribesmen want it to. If the halim becomes too unpopular or does too many controversial things, then his title is revoked and he is promptly replaced by the clansmen's next choice. Because he has few official powers, the halim accomplishes things primarily through use of his social influence and charisma. The halim is widely regarded by outsiders as the true leader of the tribe, but this is merely a misconception founded on ignorance. Although he often appears responsible for key decisions, especially in dealings with non-tribesmen, the fact of the matter is that these decisions are as often as not arrived at by argument among tribesmen and then conveyed to the halim. Because winter is the only season in which all the clans tend to be congregated, this is the time that most official business among clans is conducted, and at which the unresolved disputes of the year are aired in front of the halim and settled.
One person whose importance is often glossed over but who plays an integral role in the smooth functioning of the tribe is the wife of the halim. Though she has no official role at all, it is she who is often responsible for the peaceful resolution of the most serious of disputes, especially feuds that might otherwise end in bloodshed. While the men of two families considered to be in blood feud with each other cannot even honorably speak with one another without intercession from the halim, the women, being considered outside the bounds of war of any kind, can move among each other as freely as they wish. As a result, the halim's wife can make use of her extensive social network of women to resolve disputes quickly and deftly enough to avert serious retribution, while at the same time preserving the honor of either party.
The Halima are not noted for being a particularly devout people. While they certainly believe in gods, jinn, and other supernatural beings, they tend to regard them somewhat in the same light as they do the dey and his court: while they may exist, they tend to be rather removed from the day-to-day life of the average person – and when they do make their presence felt, it is usually to cause trouble in some way.
Of all the gods, the Halima feel the most affinity for Raaqil, the horse-god of nature and hooved beasts. They completely reject the idea that Raaqil allowed himself to be harnessed and put to work in the fields as the mythology tells, claiming that he would never be so cowed as to give up his freedom and tarnish his pride, even for Agenni's sake. This naturally only serves to increase the friction between the Halima and more settled peoples who believe the conventional story. The Halima also honor Unne as patron goddess of deserts, and also because camels are believed to be her personal creation.
As for the other gods, the Halima may go through the motions of worship for them, but do not generally concern themselves overmuch with them. Agenni's name is invoked in the signing of contracts and the swearing of important oaths, and prayers are sent out to Unne whenever a family member dies, but on the whole what religion the Halima do practice is performed more out of habit and tradition than from any true piety.
Culture and Custom
Relations Between the Sexes
Interactions between young people of different sexes are not as strictly curtailed among the Halima as they often are in more settled Murkhish societies, as their nomadic way of life guarantees that men and women must live and work together closely in order to prosper. However, while the sexes do mingle fairly extensively, it is still the case that men spend more time with men and women with women. Also, the structure of a Halima camp typically determines that only men and women from closely related kin groups mingle extensively, whereas clan members more distantly related tend to be camped further away or to travel in different groups entirely. Thus men and women from more distantly related groups do not often associate very closely, and mixed-sex gatherings usually only occur among close kin. A woman is not supposed to spend time unsupervised with an unrelated man, though this is not always strictly enforced and in many cases "supervision" consists only of having male kin within earshot. While relations between unrelated men and women may be somewhat strict, unrelated women from the same clan are often friends. Women's social networks are in fact usually far more extensive than the men realize, often extending to the other clans and throughout the tribe.
As might be expected, certain activities are considered solely the domain of men, while others fall exclusively within the sphere of women. Weaving and sewing, for example, are done solely by women, while raiding and other combat is carried out by men alone, except in certain unusual exceptions among the Saqra. Also, women are granted no formal voice in political affairs within the tribe, though in practice the extensive social network of women gives them more influence in such matters than is generally acknowledged. For the most part, however, duties are shared are by both sexes, though they may not participate in a given task to the same degree.
Because of women's status as noncombatants in any raids or feuds, they are able to move freely among otherwise hostile tribes or families and maintain links of communication and friendship in circumstances in which honor bars men of the conflicting groups from even being under the same tent together. In addition, because women are supposed to be immune from any ill effects of raiding and warfare, women are never purposely harmed in battle and raiders are always careful to leave the victimized tribe enough livestock and other possessions to support themselves with. Killing a woman or leaving her without provision is in fact a sure-fire way to start up a blood feud with another tribe. However, this stricture is only carefully applied to other nomadic tribes – harming women of sedentary groups is still considered generally dishonorable but not entirely unacceptable.
Courtship and Marriage
Although marriage for love is accepted by the Halima, most marriages are still arranged by a couple's parents. In such cases, the father of the prospective groom meets with the father of the bride in order to work out suitable terms of marriage, settling the amount of the bride-price as well as discussing what the bride will bring to the marriage. The two men determine exactly how much of the bride-price remains with the bride's father and how much will be granted to the bride herself, and an agreement is reached considering compensation in case of divorce. Once all of these matters are settled to the satisfaction of both parties, a contract is sworn to in Agenni's name in order to seal the deal.
If a young man and woman happen to fall in love and wish to marry, then the suitor will get his elder brother or a close friend to approach the father of the girl and ask for permission to marry. If the marriage is agreed to, then the couple's fathers will meet to discuss terms as usual. However, even in these situtations it is often the case that the young man and woman in question met due to an arrangement made between their parents. While romantic love is idealized in song and story, in practice it is a rare thing that two young people should meet by chance, fall in love, and get married without a good deal of behind-the-scenes maneuvering on the part of their parents. The decision of whom to marry is considered such an important matter, to both the couple and to their respective families, that it is rarely made without extensive consultation and consideration, some of which can appear quite dispassionate and even mercenery. Even those who fall head over heels in love with each other rarely reject more practical considerations entirely.
Although on the surface it may look as if the women themselves have very little say over the marriage process, this appearance is deceptive. It is in fact the case that the mothers are the ones who work behind the scenes in smoothing the way for an arranged marriage and also frequently are the ones who decide on a suitable partner for their child in the first place. As the final selection occurs only after thorough consideration is given to a young woman's health, family, domestic skills, upbringing, temperament, and numerous other factors with which the women of the clan are typically much more familiar than are the men, the mother of the family actually assumes most of the responsibility for deciding on a good bride for her son. As for the potential bride, both she and the prospective groom must agree to the marriage individually, and there is usually no face lost by either party if a marriage bid is turned down gracefully. In addition, it is not unheard of for a young woman to exert some influence over her marital future simply by persuading her father to alter the bride price depending on the degree of favor she feels towards a given suitor for her hand. Since neither bride nor groom is devoid of a say in the matter of marriage, and because parents usually do their best to select a mate they feel will assure the contentment of their child, most marriages tend to be reasonably happy if unspectacular.
The taking of multiple wives is condoned and is usually seen as a sign of status, but the fact is that most men cannot afford more than one wife at a time. Not only is supporting multiple wives a hardship on the average tribesman, but bride prices are often set high enough that a man cannot give up enough camels or goods to pay and still be able to make a living for himself and his family. However, most men at least dream of one day being wealthy enough to keep more than one wife, and a household with multiple wives is additionally valued for the stability it provides for the children and other family dependents, this being a highly desirable quality in a land where childbirth, illness, and accident often take the lives of wives and mothers and can thus dramatically disrupt family life.
While not encouraged, divorce is allowed and is not entirely uncommon. Formal divorce proceedings can only be initiated by the husband, and the wife is bound to accept a divorce even if it is against her will. On the other hand, a woman can often obtain a divorce when she wishes it by simply moving out of her husband's tent and returning to live with her paternal kin. The husband is powerless to get her to come back to him unless her own family agrees to it, and bonds of kinship are too strong for this to occur with any great frequency. If the wife's family is particularly anxious to retain the good opinion of the husband they may attempt to make some kind of financial settlement, but in most cases the husband is left to fume until he finally agrees to an official divorce. However, a divorce may tarnish a woman's image and make other men wary of choosing her to be a wife again.
Property and Inheritance
Although the Halima belong to a patriarchal society, ownership of property is not limited to men and inheritance does not always strictly follow the male line. Typically items that are considered "feminine," such as jewelry, clothing, blankets, and domestic tools, are handed down from a mother to her daughters, while property that is perceived to generally fall into the male sphere, particularly camels and other stock, is passed down from a father to his sons. However, every woman does lay title to her own small herd of camels, which is usually formally granted to her upon her marriage. The calves of the wife's herd are split evenly between the woman and her husband, while all the calves from the husband's own herd are considered his property. As long as the husband and wife remain together these distinctions are of little practical importance, but in the case of a divorce or the death of the wife they can have a significant effect. This is because the wife is entitled to keep her portion of the herd and return with it to her family if she is divorced, while in the case of her death all of her animals are inherited by her sons. If the woman has no male offspring at the time of her death, her entire herd becomes the property of her paternal kin and must be returned to them. If the husband has only a small herd, or if the quality of his wife's camels is significantly greater than his own, this can have a severe impact on the husband and his family. This tends to offer the woman a safety net in case of divorce, and also acts as a deterrent to divorce in the first place. Of course, if a man has more than one wife, this problem may be lessened somewhat, depending on what his other wives have brought to the marriage.
Childbirth and Children
Pregnancy and childbirth are not viewed with any particular supersition among the Halima but are rather considered just another normal part of the cycle of life. Pregnant women receive no special treatment and are expected to continue their household duties as usual until very shortly before the birth of a child. The newborn child is also not conceded a great deal of importance, and is in fact not even considered a full human being until it receives a name several days after its birth. This belief helps make allowances for the practice of infanticide, which, while not particularly common, does sometimes occur during periods of extreme drought or other hardship or simply when the birth of an additional child is perceived to adversely affect the chances for survival of a couple's previous children. Thus infanticide is not taboo among the Halima, though openly discussing the practice is frowned upon and it is only a subject of the most vicious type of gossip.
On the other hand, children who live beyond their naming-day are highly valued by their parents and other kin, and the Halima tend to be fond of children generally. The bond between parents and their children is usually quite strong, in spite of the fact that many children die well short of adulthood. Sons are valued slightly above daughters as a result of their greater ability to support their parents in their old age, but because both sexes contribute equally towards the maintenance of herds and households and because a family's social safety net usually extends even to fairly distant kin, daughters are not seen as undesirable. However, a family of daughters alone is at a distinct disadvantage in terms of property inheritance, as only the eldest son may officially inherit his mother's portion of the herds.
Since the time at which a child is given a name is considered more important than the day of birth, name-days are celebrated in place of birthdays. A few days after a child's birth it is given two names, one to be made public and used for the rest of the child's life, and one secret name whispered in the child's ear which is supposed to be its true name. Keeping the true name of an individual secret is supposed to shield it from the attention of demons and other spirits of evil influence, as knowledge of names is considered powerful among the Halima. The naming of a child is celebrated among a small circle of close kin, and songs are sung and certain types of incense burned, both of which are selected to encourage certain traits in the child, as well as good fortune generally. Subsequent name-days are fairly low-key affairs, and usually only particular name-days are conceded special significance. The seventh name-day marks the beginning of an increased level of responsibility for a young child, as well as being a joyful occasion simply because much child mortality occurs before this age and any child that survives to its seventh year is considered lucky. The fourteenth name-day is also of especial importance because children are seen to come of age at this point and are allowed to marry, although the age of first marriage for males usually occurs several years later when they have finally accumulated enough wealth to be able to afford payment of the bride-price.
Death and Funeral Practices
Death is not greatly feared among the Halima, but is accepted as a natural and inevitable part of existence. This may stem in part from the great familiarity with death that most Halima have and in part from their inherent fatalism, but in any case, death is not something most Halima spend much time worrying about. This is not to say that the Halima welcome death or that the loss of kin is not intensely felt, but death in itself is not considered particularly fearsome or awful.
Upon the death of a tribesman, the general custom is to spend two nights and a day in mourning activity for the deceased. If a person dies during the more settled summer or mid-winter periods, more time may be spent in funeral rites, but ordinarily little time can be spared for extensive rituals. The body of the deceased is carried a short distance away from the main camp and over it is erected a tent of white cloth, consisting of a thin roof but no walls. Small stones marked with a teardrop shape (symbolic of Tiferet and her prison) are laid out in a circle around the tent; these are meant to serve as a barrier against jinn and other harmful spirits as well as to keep the deceased person's restless spirit focused inward while the mourners attend the body. If no stones are available to serve as markers, then the markings are simply drawn in the sand at the cardinal directions. These mourners consist primarily of close relatives and possibly a few unrelated friends of the deceased. Typically the dead person's spouse and mother act in the role of primary mourners, which task they perform by keeping watch over the body for one full night and leading sung laments and prayers to Unne. Other mourners may come and go as they wish, joining in the lamentations or simply offering the comfort of their presence.
At the dawn after this night-long vigil, the mourners make preparations for the disposal of the body. The Halima do not bury their dead, as they believe that the spirit is tied to the body and cannot fully escape as long as the body remains. If a body were to be interred, its spirit would be trapped and would remain bound to its burial site for eternity. Instead, the body of the deceased is burned, along with the mourning tent and certain prized possessions (most frequently the deceased's camel saddle, particularly among men), and the ashes subsequently allowed to be scattered by the wind. The ring of stones is also scattered, removing the spiritual barrier. In this way the spirit is free to roam as it pleases and may one day even choose to be reborn into a new body. As an expression of mourning, the nearest kin of the deceased put on white robes, white being the color of both purity and death. In addition, children cut their hair short in mourning for their parents, while wives cut theirs upon the death of their husband. Often parents will choose to cut their hair upon the death of their eldest son as well.
The role of suicide among the Halima is of particular note as two opposing views towards it are held simultaneously. In most circumstances, suicide is heavily frowned upon, as it is considered a cowardly, irresponsible, and overall dishonorable act. On the other hand, the taking of one's own life is approved of and considered a mark of great honor and moral fortitude when it is done in order to atone for some breach of honor previously committed. Suicide can serve to expiate the sins not only of the doer but also of his or her blood relations. Thus it may in some cases become the responsibility of an individual to offer up his or her own life in order to remove the stain of dishonor on a family that was in fact created through a relative's actions. This burden falls disproportionately on the women of the tribe, as not only are their own breaches of honor considered more serious for falling as heavily on their husbands and kin, but also because the self-sacrifice of a woman to preserve her honor and that of her family is considered particularly noble. In the circumstance of grave dishonor falling on an individual or his kin, there is one other option open to this individual, as he or she can choose to preserve his life by undergoing a ceremony by which the dishonored individual is cut off from all ties with the tribe. He who endures this ritual is considered dead by the tribe, but it does allow him to go on living separate from them while at the same time erasing all stain of dishonor from his family. In practice, however, this course of action is rarely chosen, as a life alone in the desert virtually guarantees a quick death in any case, and most Halima are so closely attached to their kin and tribe that living without these is seen as a fate far worse than simple suicide.
Role of Domesticated Animals
The most important animal in Halima culture is the camel, as their entire way of life depends upon this animal. Not only does it provide a hardy and reliable means of transporting people and goods across the desert, but it also provides milk, wool, meat, and fuel, as well as allowing access to other useful items when sold in bazaars and souks across Ziguran. The Halima are considered among the best camel breeders in the entire country, and the fine wool of their special white camels is prized both within the tribe and among outsiders. However, the Halima value speed and endurance in their camels above most other qualities, so they are particularly fond of trying to breed the best camels for riding and racing. These traits are also especially sought after because they are necessary in order to successfully carry out the raids on villages and other tribes for which the Halima are so well known. Camels are not seen merely as useful tools or simple beasts of burden, however. The Children of Halim are much enamored of the animals, and they care for and cherish their camels with nearly as much devotion as they do their families. Not only does every camel have a name and often a descriptive epithet as well, but any camel herder can easily recognize his own camels from incredible distances, not to mention from simply looking at the footprints of camels left in the sand. The Halima are even quite fond of writing songs and poems about their camels, and sharing such compositions around the campfire at night is a very common pastime among both men and women.
Horses are also highly prized by the Halima, both for their grace and beauty and for the relative rarity. Unlike the camels that are perfectly adapted to the tribe's long treks across the desert wastes, horses have much more difficulty in surving without access to regular supplies of water and fodder. As a result, those few Halima who do own horses tend to be the wealthier members of the tribe who can afford the more extensive upkeep required by these animals, or those who can pay family members to remain in the vicinity of permanent wells during the year in order to look after a herd of horses.
Rabu are also less suited to the extremes of the nomadic existence and therefore usually do not last very long among the Halima's herds. However, members of the tribe often trade or barter for rabu in towns and villages and over time slaughter these small herds for meat as they continue on their travels. In general, rabu are not looked on particularly positively by the Halima as they are seen as dirty, vicious, and generally unpleasant, as well as being symbolic of settled life. Those who raise rabu for a living are subjects of great scorn and disdain among the Halima, though the tribe depends on these animals to supply a good portion of the meat in their diet.
Although the harsh and unpredictable lifestyle of the Halima does not allow much room for pampered pets, a few animals are often kept for companionship as well as utility. Chief among these is one breed of dog much valued among the Halima, a long-legged sighthound that is a skilled hunter as well as a devoted companion. Although the Halima are fond of dogs generally, this particular breed is by far the most favored by the tribe and it even has a place in tribal lore, as all modern-day representatives of the breed are thought to be descendants of a dog owned by Halim's fifth wife Saqra. The dogs can be trained to hunt hares and small gazelles such as the zharal and to bring them back uneaten to their masters, so they play a significant role in bringing fresh meat into the Halima diet.
The sandspringer is another animal frequently kept as a pet, although it lacks the utility of the saluki and exists more in the role of an indulgence granted to children. These small jumping rodents are not bred in captivity but instead are simply captured by enterprising children who set out traps and snares for the curious creatures. Even adult animals are extremely inquisitive and docile, and in addition to being easily trapped they are quickly tamed. Keeping a sandspringer as a pet is thought to promote responsibility and a sense of respect for the animals that rely on humans for their care, so adults are willing to tolerate the apparent frivolity of owning the little rodents as long as their child owners do not shirk their other duties. Many an adult has fond memories of their own childhood pets and parents are typically quite happy to see their children bring new sandspringers into the household.
Relations with Outsiders
Most cultural prejudices among the Halima are based not on race but rather on lifestyle. Thus even a half-elf who adhered to the nomadic ways of the Halima and followed their code of honor would be relatively respected, while a fellow Murkh (even a blood relative) who shuns the life of the desert and follows a settled mode of life on a farm or in the city is viewed with scorn and disdain. At the same time, some clans are more accepting of so-called "civilized" people than others, this usually being related to the amount of contact a particular clan maintains with the settled cultures. However, due to cultural differences as well as historic interactions among the many peoples inhabiting Ziguran, each race tends to be viewed and dealt with at least slightly differently, and some races are seen in a more positive light than are others.
The Halima's relations with other Murkhs outside their tribe tend to be at best casual, and at worst fraught with conflict and misunderstanding. Dealings with other nomadic tribes are on the whole reasonably amiable, and trading and other peaceful interactions with them are commonplace in spite of the raiding that habitually occurs among the desert's nomadic peoples. On the other hand, there is marked hostility between the Halima and the Brezah, a state of relations that stretches back centuries to the time at which certain branches of the Brezah people first began to adopt a settled lifestyle. Memories of slights and historical disputes being long, the two peoples remain in at least desultory opposition to each other even several hundred years after their last large-scale conflict in the War of Hasseh'din.
Sedentary and semi-nomadic groups alike are the subject of varying degrees of scorn among the Halima, and both tend to be subject to raids of larger scale and greater ruthlessness than are the purely nomadic tribes. Contrary to what might be expected, the greater derision is reserved for those partially nomadic pastoralists who still roam the desert with their herds for part of the year but have put down permanent roots in certain places on the desert's less-hostile fringes. The Halima feel that such people have shown themselves especially lacking in wisdom and honor to have allowed themselves to be assimilated into sedentary culture to any degree and are felt to give nomads a bad name generally. Rabu-herders in particular come under fire from the tribe, as the rabu is an animal for which the Halima generally have little liking.
Due to their greater numbers and better defenses, denizens of large towns and cities are typically immune to the depredations inflicted on farmers, sedentary herders, and village residents. However, city dwellers receive at least as much disparagement from the Halima as do the others, and are generally accounted decadent and soft. Any member of the tribe encountered within the city, male or female, is as likely as not to be seen with both head and face uncovered, as wearing a yashmak in the presence of unrelated individuals is considered by the Halima a demonstration of respect and civility, neither of which sedentary people are felt to merit. Most settled Murkhs being unaware of this attitude, this simply enforces the general notion of the Halima as a wild and thoroughly disreputable bunch. At the same time, the Halima do accept the utility of sedentary cultures in the propagation of trade and the provision of valued goods and services, while the citizens of village and city can likewise grudgingly admit to similar benefits of contact with the tribe. As a result, civility at least is usually managed on either side, while more amicable relationships are not unheard of.
For the most part the xul'Abraxan il'lthye are treated the same as Murkhs of equivalent lifestyle. Tribes of nomadic il'lthye are dealt with in much the same manner as their Murkhish counterparts are, while elven settlements are accorded the same general respect (or lack thereof) as any daun village. There does exist some suspicion and superstition directed towards the xul'Abraxans, mostly as a result of their proficency with Channeling and other forms of magic, which tends to be somewhat distrusted by all the clans except the Yzon'ha. This one clan, however, actually prefers dealings with the xul'Abraxans to that with any other people outside the tribe and maintains close ties with some of the smaller tribes of nomadic il'lthye. The rest of the Halima treat xul'Abraxan mages with a certain wary respect, and attacks on any group of these elves is undertaken with greater caution than is usually the case with other peoples of lesser magical reputation.
The Halima and their relatively distant nox'Ascenti neighbors encounter each other only infrequently outside the larger towns and cities. When the two do come into contact, the apathetically religious Halima and the zealous nox'Ascenti usually find they have little in common and do not waste much time in association. Because the Halima do have few very strong religious convictions, they are usually quite content to let even a Lash go on his or her way without inciting conflict, excepting in the case that the Lash does something to specifically arouse the Halima's ire. On the whole relations between il'lthye and Halima tend to adhere to the commonly-accepted wisdom of the old tribal saying: "Leave the xul'Abraxans alone as long as they leave you alone, and keep away from the nox'Ascenti as long as they keep away from you."
Though contact between the Halima and druim'dwer of the Teriaslin clan is extensive as a result of their commercial dealings, this has not produced any great concord or feelings of amicability between the two. Each side is happy to cheat the other whenever they can get away with it, the Halima rather hypocritically justifying such behavior by claiming it is the only way they stay even with the treacherous and dishonorable dwarves, who will of course stoop to any depths to put coin in their pockets. The Teriaslin, for their part, resent the Halima's patently unfair attitude towards them and express the opinion that if a tribesman consistently gets the bad end of a perfectly honest deal, then it's no more than what the ungrateful barbarian deserves anyway. Since each views the other as thoroughly untrustworthy and unpleasant, heated disputes and even outbreaks of minor violence between the two races are common. However, neither side appears willing to forego entering into trade negotiations with the other, so they continue to put up with one other however disagreeable they complain of such interaction as being.
The relationship between the Halima and the Ruttle Gnomes of the southeastern desert are generally friendly, if somewhat reserved. The Halima feel comfortable with the Ruttle social structure that emphasizes family and clan and can understand their desire for minimal contact with outsiders. As a result, while encounters between the two peoples are typically cordial, they also respect each other's wishes to be left alone and do not press their presence upon each other. Contact with Ruttle villages for purposes of trade or entertainment usually occurs at regularly scheduled and infrequent periods so that the gnomes are not surprised by visitors.
On the whole, Ruttles are very much respected by the Halima for their familiar clannish ways and for their skill in stone carving and gem work. Any traveling Ruttle who happens by a Halima encampment is greeted with that most generous degree of hospitality usually reserved for the halim or other highly-respected tribesmen. Jewelry created by Ruttle craftsmen is especially valued by the Halima. Clan Seleta probably has the most open relationship with the gnomes, and a very few members of this clan have even received the privilege of studying as apprentices under Ruttle master craftsmen.
The Halima maintain an uneasy but not necessarily openly hostile relationship with the nomadic Sere Gharkin. The Halima greatly respect the Sere for their bravery and skill in battle as well as for their supreme adaptability to desert life, but they also view the gharkins as unpredictable and not entirely trustworthy. Although the size and richness of Halima caravans are usually surpassed by those of other desert peoples, they are still sporadically subjected to the predations of Sere raider bands. There have been past incidents of relative amiability between Halima and Sere individuals in which one offered aid to another in dire need, but these generally occurred under unusual circumstances. For the most part, the two peoples maintain a wary though respectful distance.
The social structure of the Halima and the Sere also serve to discourage much interaction between them. The Halima tend to consider the Sere impossibly strange and a little foolish for the matriarchal structure of their society, as well as for their upside-down-seeming practice of allowing a woman multiple wives, while the Sere typically view Halima society in a similar light.
Though the tale is generally discredited, some Halima conjecture that the Sere are actually kin to the desert jinn because of their ability to appear seemingly out of nothing but sand and air.
The Halima maintain an overall friendly relationship with the Sunjo of central Ziguran, their amiable relations founded largely on extensive trade between the two peoples. Though the Halima are somewhat disdainful of the Sunjo's settled lifestyle, they tend to view the Sunjo more favorably than they do the sedentary Murkhs because of a wide perception that the former are braver, hardier, and live closer to the land than the latter. The Halima and the Sunjo also tend to respect each other's governing styles, although the Halima perceive the Sunjo's democratic practices as overly formal and restrictive, while the Sunjo view the Halima as being somewhat anarchic.
A few Sunjo practices have taken root among the Halima, such as the use of scarification in certain rituals. The Intizara also show a liking for the lively music and dance of the Sunjo and have adapted some of these into their own repertoire.
The Halima have minimal contact with peoples from beyond their own continent, save those few whom they occasionally encounter in the more cosmopolitan cities through trade. Even knowledge of the "northerners" and "seafolk," as people from beyond Ziguran's terrestrial and oceanic borders are respectively referred to, is very limited and much of what passes as knowledge is much more akin to myth and rumor. Interestingly, the Halima maintain some mild and rather improbable regard for the Quesalians, whom they aided in the religious war of Hasseh'din. This feeling of amiability persists in spite of the fact that extremely few Halima living today have even seen a native of Quesalia, much less had any actual interaction with one. Stories featuring clever Quesalians who outwit boorish Brezah villains have a peculiar but enduring popularity among the Halima tribes.