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Nehep

With heat, clarity;
With sand, secrets;
With men, ruin.
-Nanabhai’s The Palms of Nehep

Nehep flag

Capital: Nekhet
Languages: Nehepi, Common, Subinese
Demonym: Nehepi
Government: Formerly Theocratic Aristocracy / Currently Contested Imperial subject
Ruler: Phraeds
Example Names: Samanbar Shir-Del, Meherzad Gain, Parizad Vir, Malya Sarush, Sakarbai Ghaisa, Kaikobad Khorasani, Shahi Cahya
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Formation: The land of Nehep is well known as a harsh and barren desert, spanning an enormous swath of territory in the southwest of Aeldos. A desolate expanse rivaled in severity and cruelty only by the Badlands and the Chillwaste. Stories of the first and second ages however speak of a very different Nehep. According to legend this was once a land of plenty, with rolling hills and verdant fields, home to a vast agrarian civilization fortunate enough to survive the fall of the Urul Imperium. Sometime in the second era this fortune failed and the land was irrevocably changed by the opening of a Urul Vault located in the west. The folklore of Nehep speaks of the clever Phraed Neyek who opened the vault and for his efforts was rewarded with a wealth of resources and technology… and three vials of red sand. Ever curious, the now cursed Phraed opened one of the vials, unleashing the scouring sands, a first age calamity that would be the ruin of his civilization. The red sands crawled across the land, rendering fruitful soil desolate and consuming the Phraed’s city, then the territory surrounding it and, over the course of the following two centuries, the vast majority of the western reach. Forests, plains, lakes, and hills of rock were all turned to dune, rendering the once bountiful land into an expanse of lifeless sand baked by the heat of its own consumption. A civilization of a hundred cities was reduced to only fifteen, and the unified rule of the culture was fragmented. Those places which survived did so only through cunning and use of first age Barrier relics, preserving small oases in an otherwise barren land. A more recent ruin has come upon the Nehepi in the form of a brutal war and decades of occupation by Ossandria, an event known by most simply as ‘the Harrowing of the West’.

Advanced Callings
Dervish: A religious order turned to deadly desert warriors as a result of the Ossandrian occupation, Dervishes are known for their use of the dangerous first age technology of Thorns.
Sandweaver: Specialist outcast mechanists who delve into the forbidden technology of the red sands, learning to use the scourge of the south as a tool and weapon.

Summary
Nehep is a fragmented and besieged culture composed of fortress cities clinging to life in the depths of a pitiless desert. This scorching land of highly skilled and relentlessly practical people struggles daily to hold on to the last shreds of a dying history in the face of occupation by the Legions of Ossandria. Nehep is a land of spiritual and joyful people laid low by desperation and ruin, and first age secrets hidden beneath scouring sand.

Description
Nehep is an embattled culture, having been the target of Ossandrian invasion and occupation for nearly thirty years. To justify the war Ossandrian propaganda portrayed the Phraed’s as sorcerers who had turned a lush land into a barren desert, necessitating a military campaign to prevent the Phraeds from releasing other horrors. The first Ossandrian expeditions into Nehep fared poorly as the Legions were unprepared for the grueling heat of the sands and the tenacity of the Nehepi fighters. But time and a nearly endless supply of slave legions have worn the Nehepi down.

The result is a modern Nehep where one culture has three rulers. The Phraeds of Nehep are Ubaid-Nakhti (The Loyal), Akeperenez (The Free), and Khasekhemez (The Obedient).

Ubaid-Nakhti, whose name means ‘Loyal to Truth’, rules in the east from his bastion in Soleb. He has control over the conquered cities of Sira, Asesh, Iuhet, and Menda. Ubaid willingly serves the Ossandrian occupiers, having readily turned on the other Phraeds during the war. To most Nehepi beyond the east, Ubaid has abandoned all claim to be a true Nehep, employing an Ossandrian Loremaster and served by Ossandrian legions. Each of his cities barracks at least one legion supplemented by his own Tariq (warriors). Ubaid has crafted a fledgling theocracy, diminishing the Ayr and encouraging worship of the Imperator or himself as a representative of the Imperator. His cities are well supplied by the Ossandrians using the newly established mountain road from Isirli to Soleb.

Akeperenehz, whose name means ‘Great is the form of Ehz’, rules the south controlling the cities of Nekhet, Tobruk, Udvari, and Semna. Akep and his subjects claim the title of Free, seeing themselves as unsullied by the conquest of Ossandria. Akep can claim this because he rules from historical capital of Nekhet. Unfortunately Akep is weakened by trade blockades established by Ubaid. Rumor has it that Akeps cities survive by secret assistance from Selene, the Lord Rit of Victra, and trade with Subin. The need to rely on trade with the latter has put Akep in considerable debt to the Subinese Nerqoun who have used that debt to establish Ecstatic cults in Akeps cities. By all accounts this chafes at Akep as he is known to be a devout worshipper of Ehz, the Vox. Akep’s Loremaster comes from a long line, unbroken from before the scouring, and wields nearly as much power as Akep himself.

Khasekhemehz, whose name means ‘Powerful is the Soul of Ehz’ rules in the northwest, over the cities of Kufra, Nety, Aris, Kalah, and Meyra. Of all the Phraeds, Khasek is most mysterious. While he is considered loyal to the Imperator, and trades with Ubaid and Ossandria, his actual position on Ossandrian occupation is less clear. For one, Khasek has permitted only two legions in his domain and only Meyra and Nety house those legions. His other cities are defended by his Sayd riders and militias. Further, Khasek openly snubs Ubaid and often acts far more independently than any Ossandrian would prefer. Khasek rules without an appointed Loremaster, apparently having lost his a decade ago under mysterious circumstances.

Both Khasek and Ubaid are known to send troops against Akep however there is also a clear tension between Khasek and Ubaid and many speculate that Khasek does not wish to serve and hates Ubaid for his collusion. In this interpretation, Khasek is in secret rebellion against Ossandria, subverting the will of the occupiers in numerous subtle ways; just subtle enough to avoid being replaced.

While the war between Nehep and Ossandria never officially ended, it is widely known that the Ossandrian push into the deserts of Nehep has long since faltered and the Imperium has been content to entrench itself in the northern parts of the country. Many Nehepi continue the fight, using guerrilla tactics against the legions encamped in the north and the small forces that push south. These attacks on scouts, labour teams, and supply trains have helped check the Ossandrian impulse towards expansion while also creating a bitter enmity between the two cultures.

The southern Phraed Akeperenehz fields his own forces but many of the guerrilla fighters of Nehep consider themselves unaligned, and there are more than a few foreigners who have joined the fight. Selenians, Subinese, Tollam, and even run-away Ossandrian slaves have all taken up arms in the desert to fight the Imperium. These figures often take on local names with the ‘-wen” suffix to denote their status as “friends” of Nehep,

The capital of Free Nehep is Nekhet, a desert fortress built into a rocky plateau and surrounded by seemingly endless dunes and stone edifices. The city survives on the preserved remnants of an underground aquifer but water is a valued commodity. The nearest open water is weeks distant and Akeperenehz is funding an impressive aqueduct system to connect the two. Nekhets structures are primarily sandstone and aged brick and like its population are well worn by an age of disasters. Nekhet is known for producing the finest melee weapons on the continent, with several major metal works equipped with first age forges and worked by master smiths possessed of ancient craft secrets. The value of the arms trade to the cities survival cannot be understated.

By many measures, Nehep is a fading power, its glory diminished due to three key factors: cultural stagnation and traditionalism; over-reliance on failing first age tech; the constant assault and continuing growth of the creeping sands.

The Scouring Sands
There is a saying in Nehep; do not dig too deep in sand. It is both a metaphorical and practical direction; Digging deep enough in the desert often reveals veins of red sands, the source of the scouring and these sands can dissolve rock, metal, and flesh with ease. Indeed the heat of Nehep rises from below and many have speculated that the heat is generated by the scouring sands as they consume the land itself. Certainly, while the expansion of the desert has slowed it has not ceased. Each year the borders of the desert grow, and many among the wise worry that given sufficient time the sands will consume all Aeldos.

Bladesmiths
Nehep has always been known for their keen swords and the secrets of Nehepi steel are closely guarded. By most accounts the Nehepi are the only culture in Aeldos other than Selene to have maintained and continued the construction of first age foundries. These foundries allow them to craft arms to a higher grade than others, but this does not fully explain the nature of Nehepi blades which are able to pierce armour with ease. The truth, hidden to all but the great smiths themselves is the use of red sand in the forging process. When carefully and precisely alloyed in a foundry the scouring sand produces sharper, lighter, and more durable blades capable of cutting through armour with grisly ease.

Lorekeepers and Librarians
The Nehepi have always valued the written word highly. Prior to the scouring Nehepi libraries were known to be on par with the libraries of Selene. Even in the aftermath of the calamity of sand, with limited space and a hard-edged practicality seeping into the general consciousness, the need to retain knowledge (at least in part in hopes of finding a solution to the sands) was recognized. All cities of Nehep house at least one Loremaster who is responsible for the cities library. These libraries contain books, artifacts, and all manner of curiosity from the first age and the Loremaster is responsible for understanding and contextualizing them. The position of Loremaster is a venerated one and each Phraed has their own to act as respected advisers. They are also much loved by the population for their role as storytellers; the Loremaster opens all official ceremonies with a “Telling” which recounts some relevant historical story related to the ceremony.

Military
The Nehepi have never maintained a permanent professional soldiering class, instead relying on militias and conscription in times of conflict. With Ossandrian conquest the Legions became the de-facto guards in many, now Ossandrian, cities. Some effort was made by the Ossandrians to recruit from the Nehepi population but there is still great animosity towards Nehepi Legionaries from the general population and from their elitist martial cohorts. To most the martial prowess among of the Nehepi is exemplified not by soliders but by Nomads and Wanderers, also known as Tariq and Dervishes.

Customs & Culture
Nehepvara: An ancient code of conduct or virtues once considered inviolable and now often forgotten by modern Nehepi, Nehepvara translates roughly as ‘the way of the people’.
Nehepvara consists of the tenets of hospitality, asylum, justice, bravery, loyalty, righteousness, respect, and honour.
Hospitality: Those who follow Nehepvara are expected to show hospitality and respect for all guests and visitors without consideration of race, religion, creed, or renumeration. It is the duty of the honourable Nehepi to ensure the safety of all guests.
Asylum: Any person can surrender and request protection, and the true Nehepvar must provide it. The requester must be protected at all costs. Sanctuary has few limits, and he who requests it is seen to be ‘behind the skirt’ of the Nehepvar and must show appropriate deference and obedience in return.
Justice: All Nehepvar are responsible for the execution of justice and the balancing of the scales. It is the duty of all true Nehepi to see wrongs righted, regardless the cost.
Bravery: A Nehepvar must rigorously defend his property and family from threats, be they mundane or mystic. Cowardice is a terminal offense.
Loyalty: To family, friends, and leaders, loyalty is expected.
Righteousness: To follow right thought, right speaking, and right action by showing respect for people, animals and the environment.
Respect: Woven into all the other tenets, respect is speaking with due honour to others, regardless of their offenses or origins. Showing a lack of respect is offensive to Nehepi and can lead to exclusion.
Honour: A Nehepvar is expected to defend the weak, and the truth. To do less is a dishonour.

Gear:
The heat of the Nehepi desert necessitates light equipment, lest the warrior cook in their own gear. As a result, most Nehepi eschew armour entirely, preferring to allow their mobility and shields to protect them. Those who do wear armour tend to favour leather backed armour with plates or rings sewn in. Nehepi weapons include scimitars, khopesh, spears, various polearms, short bows, crossbows. Nehepi warriors often utilize hit and run cavalry tactics against enemies, preferring to inflict lingering damage rather than face them head on.

Values: Virtues including Hospitality, Justice, Bravery, Loyalty, Righteousness, Respect, and Honour.

Term: Ecophagy – the consumption of a natural ecosystem.

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Broken is not Lost