The Zayin People

The Zayin people are a powerful tribe of semi-nomadic humans. They are proud warriors who elevate their heroes to extreme heights, almost worshipping the greatest among them as gods. They are obsessed with metal items, with weapons and armor prized above all else. They do not know the secrets of forging metal, and get what they can through trading and raiding. They supplement this with stone, wood, hide, and bone when needed.

The Zayin live mostly in small bands, which follow their herds through most of the year, although there are several cities within their traditional lands. These cities are simple and open, with a small population for most of the year, with bands wintering there and returning for the summer solstice holiday. Otherwise, most Zayin follow their herds, hunting and gathering along the way. They are masters of drying and preserving meat and plants, and much of their diet while on the road consists of this simple food.

They are also masters of storytelling, and those who cannot fight any longer still command respect with the telling of tales. So enamored are the Zayin of the spoken word that they have rejected all attempts to introduce writing into their culture. Many see writing as a sort of death for words; like a bird, a word that is pinned down cannot truly live. They do not have the same concerns about other languages, and there are those Zayin that learn to read for trade purposes, but they wouldn’t think of writing down their own stories.

Men and women are equal in all things, and can be warriors or herders or storytellers in equal measure. Children are raised on the move, and older Zayin who have retired from hunting and raiding do the bulk of the childrearing. Until they are old enough to hunt, gather, herd, and fight for themselves, children stay in camps or walk in the center of the group, learning the stories and ways of their band.

Unlike some nomadic groups, the Zayin are not horse lords; they have no tradition of horsemanship, and it is rare that a Zayin ever learns to ride, or spends much time around horses. They are a people who prefer to move along on foot and use sledges to drag their goods too. Different groups herd different animals, but these tend to be cows or goats, the former of which are sometimes enlisted as beasts of burden. They also make use of falconry to hunt, and keep dogs around as guards and sometimes for hunting.

Because they lack the combat mobility of mounted warriors, the Zayin favor spears, shields, and javelins in battle, which they can use to devastating effect in defensive lines. The rare combat between two Zayin groups is usually short, with champions meeting on the field of battle to wrestle or box, and rarely to the death. Other peoples and creatures are treated with much more deadly force. When hunting, they prefer the sling and shortspear to the bow.


Artwork: “Shepherd with His Flock” by Jean-François Millet, from J.F. Millet: souvenirs de Barbizon, by Alexandre Piedagnel, 1876.

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