Monday, July 22, 2013

Lash-ti-Nowish: An Overview

By John Belliston

Lash-ti-Nowish (The Night Wind) Overview

When the Goddess Ssita looked upon the lonely beauty of the Dragon Sands she sighed.  From the ripples in the sand came the Lash-ti-nowish, the Night Wind, the Snakemen. Though legless and not known for their brawn, the Lash are renowned for their indomitable personalities and the powerful pheromones at their disposal. It is often said a Lash could convince a stone to buy sand and sweet talk the ocean to drink a sip of water.

Since their creation by Ssita, they have spread out across the desert and beyond, across much of the world. Though not as numerous as other races the Lash have the most long-reaching and powerful influence.  From the Steps of the Library to the furthest points of the Southern Islands the Lash either have direct power or whispers in the ears of the mighty. With a few words they can tear lives apart or sow the seeds of new nations. 

All their power links back to their most important belief. In their own tongue, “Lash lok Shamshar,” or "the Wind Moves the Sand." Empires and coinage, the life and death of man and nation,  all things are ripples in sand. The Lash-ti-nowish aspire to be the wind which creates them. They seek wealth and power, and don't care if they have the appearance of it. They become advisers to manipulate the powerful. They don't horde coin, they control commodities. They let others drown in coins and claim crowns and thrones, instead moving in small and subtle ways. They always know how to make others into the enemy. They moved from Imperial slaves to glass and southern spices without a drop of blood being shed - at least according to their records. 

The Lash have the most complete historical records in the known world. Stretching from almost the mythic beginnings of their race to the present day. The Kindred, Krishtog and other barbaric races see this as pointless, and the Dwarves, Abira and other civilized folk see this as excessive. However the records serve an important purpose in Lash-ti-nowish culture, keeping them informed once they awaken from the long sleep of 'Harshtar'. Every five to ten years each snake falls into a trance like state during which they will shed their skin. It can last for a few hours or days but grows a little each occurrence. For older Lash, 'Harshtar' can even last for years. This state is such a fact of their life that many plan their lives around it. The Old Ones and wealthy even create elaborate tombs for themselves to serve as comfortable places while they drift into the “skin sleep”. The lower castes do as best as they can. They find trusted friends to watch over them, or at worst bury themselves in the sand and trust to the repulsive pheromones to protect them. This consistent loss of time drives the Lash toward their fastidious records, thereby assuring that no matter how long the sleep, the Awoken can know what happened while they slept. 

Within the Dragon Sands there are ten Shamshars, each one corresponding to one of the colors of dragon and having their own quirks and local customs. The Gold are known for their immaculate diplomacy; the Silver for their impenetrable bank vaults and overly complex laws of politeness; the Iron for their profound secrecy and creation of miraculous works of magical glass. Each Shamshar holds to the deep rooted caste system which controls the lives of them all. At the top is the Congress of the Old Ones, who rule without question and live a life of utter opulence. Below them are the Sacred Bankers and Bureaucrats, a priest caste who live in accordance with their holy book “The Ripples of Worth”.  At the very bottom lie the Ecdy who are given the tasks that none other are willing. They are treated as less than slaves, as slaves at least once had economic value. 

Though there is a great inequality between castes, there is none between the sexes. There are almost no physical differences between the two and it is immensely difficult to tell the difference. It is considered the height of rude behavior to even speculate on which sex a Lash is. The one exception to this is during the mating process when it is considered a necessity to know, and is handled as quickly as possible.  

Each of the ten Shamshars has a different choice for the order of those between the Ecdy and the Sacred Bankers. Warrior, merchant, artisan, hunter, scholar, and laborer all vie for position within the different sands. This arrangement causes much of the conflict between the different Shamshars. If it weren't for the absolute authority of the Old Ones, the Children of Ssita would have long ago torn themselves apart. 

This system creates some of the most blatant inequality across all of Desylinn. However even the lowest of the Lash endure their hard lives because eventually they become Old Ones. At a particular age, which varies by the individual, when they go into Harshtar they shed their skin and turn a vibrant white which grows more translucent with age. Then all they need to do is present themselves to the Congress and accept their new place. Though many of the most desperate and mistreated try, it is almost impossible to fake the transformation, and those that do tend to suffer swift and brutal consequences.