“The mask of a primitive existence hides the arcane power of the Nagan Zhai.”
“Trading with the Nagan Zhai, don't, unless it's with those desert folk. Most are about as friendly as a cactus and some even less. They're not barbarians though, sure they don't build great walls and monuments, or anything like that. No they have a civilization alright, a fairly sophisticated one in its own right. Rather I would say that they're satisfied, they have no need or desire for the grand material wealth of those who consider themselves more elevated. In a way I can admire them.”
- - Merchant from the Refuge Union
Inhabitants of the Nagan archiplegao located in eastern Narazen, off the coast of the continent of Graennarune, the Nàagànįxhlaçma'nå Żhàinaghlaçxama-kå'n (Gànįxh: Moon-People of the Long Islands), shortened to Nagan Zhai and also known as the Wild Men, are an ancient and tribal culture of humans adhering to a common shamanistic and hunter-gathering lifestyle. The Nagan Zhai are known as one of the oldest surviving cultures on Graennarune, having migrated to the islands tens of thousands of years before the current age and living in relative isolation from those on the islands. The history of the Nagan Zhai is poorly understood and attempts to divine their history have all but failed without the usage of special divination magic - the Nagan Zhai have long shared their history from generation to generation through the method of oral legends, cave art, and handcrafted heirlooms passed from parent to child over generations. Compared to other, more “civilized”, peoples and civilizations the Nagan Zhai are comparatively primitive in technology and housing, though have had no need to advance further than they already have due to the nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the various cultures. The Nagan Zhai are separated into several tribes and bands ranging from only a handful of individuals in close and tight-knit communities to large kingdoms made from thousands of Nagan Zhai. Interactions between these tribes are often peaceful, though certain more aggressive cultures will often war as individual warriors seek glory or to steal crops and supplies from other tribes. Many of these tribes practice a shamanistic approach to magic but others - such as the elusive and feared Animal-Blood tribe - practice black magic and voodoo, and are feared by their Nagan Zhai brethren and often left alone.
Society and CultureEdit
SocietyEditThe Nagan Zhai are a hunter-gatherer society that is primarily nomadic in nature. The Nagan Zhai often move from island to island in the archipelago every few months, and never settle in one place due to the lack of plants or generally food that can efficiently cultivated in the archipelago’s environment. The Nagan Zhai’s 30,000 members are divided into various separate tribes - while there are only a handful on known tribes, scholars often make educated guesses that indicate the true number of Nagan Zhai tribes number in the several hundreds. The Nagan Zhai are a primarily peaceful people, though many tribes will often war with one another for reasons including glory, scarcity of resources, disagreements, or simply animosity between the tribes. Nagan Zhai are highly spiritual, and have a connection to nature that few can match - the Nagan Zhai highly respect nature, and their religious beliefs are that all living beings are connected through magic and nature. Because of their connection to nature and their high spirituality, the Nagan Zhai tribespeople are entirely capable of using magic to varying degrees of success. The Nagan Zhai tribes all follow a similar structure - the smaller tribes elect a leader known as the war chief in times of war, but will otherwise have no leader and rely on each other for direction in an anarchic tribal society. The larger tribes have a more hierarchical structure, with slaves and serfs and a permanent chief directing the politics and society of the tribe in a more traditional imperial system. Nagan Zhai tribes all have at least one shaman or healer (referred to as a many-faces man), which serves as the tribal religious leader and the magic expert. The shamans of the tribe are the ones responsible for the training of younger generations in magic and hydrokinesis. Nagan Zhai elders are held in great respect and seen as wise, and oftentimes are the “brains” of the tribes, where the tribespeople seek the wise council of old men and women.
Technology-wise, the Nagan Zhai are considered to be far less advanced than much of the world. The Nagan Zhai are in a period of technological stagnation, due to the fact that to them they do not need modern technology, or at least to advance their technology further. Technological developments that occur are often the result of a tribesperson learning to augment their architecture, or weapons, or clothing further but will often die without imparting the knowledge to other members of the tribe. Nagan Zhai live in leather tents, wooden huts, or even caves lit by torches often holding coal, charcoal, or most commonly, whale oil collected from fishing or spearing expeditions to the ocean. The Nagan Zhai mark their territory with flags, skulls, or paintings on wood and stone, and every tribe has a specific painting or flag that denotes their territory. Due to the diversity of languages across the Archipelago, the Nagan Zhai primarily communicate to each other with hand signals - and every tribe has a hand signal unique to them that identifies who they are to each other and other tribespeople. The Nagan Zhai primarily subsist on hunting and fishing, and as such many tribes have a naval culture and possess several boats for their usage. Social status among the Nagan Zhai depends on how much they actually have and how they have earned their status - the “nobles” of the Nagan Zhai tribes often hunt the best and bring in the most food, are the most courageous during wartime, or otherwise possess the most weapons or artifacts brought in from offshore. The Nagan Zhai’s music is primarily focused around the application of chanting, percussion, and woodwind instruments. Nagan Zhai are known to have flutes, clarinets, and didgeridoos for their music. Drums of varying sizes and notes are made from the hides of land animals on the islands, and Nagan Zhai music is focused around tales, legends, or stories of valor in battle against other tribes. Usually, tribes will sing songs on certain nights where good fortune has occurred - namely, on nights where battles have been won, or a good haul of food has been brought in, the Nagan Zhai tribe in question will all sing together around a fireplace.
The Nagan Zhai’s clothing holds a special focus on the usage of skulls, bones, leather, leaves, and seashells in the construction of their armor and clothes. Chiefs, both in war and in peacetime, will wear a carved deer skull engraved with ornate designs and with holes drilled through the eye sockets for the wearer to see. Warriors and hunters of particular respute will wear a band made from from the skulls of either slain victims or slain prey, and Nagan Zhai wearing both the deer skull and the skull band are often known to be feared or respected by the other members of their community. Nagan Zhai, both males and females, rarely conceal their chest in peacetime and in domestic situations - women wear a leather bra only meant for protecting the breast from injury, while men forego chest clothing entirely. In wartime, warriors don a complete leather and leaf outfit that's often painted grey. While the chest of the male warrior is still exposed, it is far less and is meant to define potential scars and musculature of the warrior as to intimidate their enemies. The language of the Nagan Zhai is primarily divided into several regional dialects each spoken by a single tribe. The most common is known as Gànįxh, a dialect spoken by the Painted-Earth tribe. Due to the expanse of the Painted-Earth tribe, the language is the widest spoken and is the origin of the terms Nagan Zhai and Navash Tarali. As a rule of thumb, the Nagan Zhai have a calender of their own - tribes typically have speciallized hide shields, and starting from the center and spiralling outwards, tribes will make a single drawing every winter. This drawing serves to commemorate the most memorable moment of the year.
MagicEditOne of the few universal aspects between the cultures of each of the Nagan Zhai tribes is their application of the magic arts. The Nagan Zhai tribes often have a spiritual connection with the element of water - and as such, the tribespeople of the Nagan Zhai practice a form of hydromancy. The Nagan Zhai utilize a hydrokinetic fashion of water manipulation that they have adapted into a martial art, of which the most often used name for is Nàvaarishânirktálárį, meaning Force-Water, though more simply called hydrokinesis. The Nagan Zhai art of hydrokinesis is applied through the usage of their limbs in slow, methodical movements that evoke the movement of flowing water, and by using their innate spiritual magic, the Nagan Zhai project their movements onto the water that they target, and can physically manipulate varying degrees of water that depends on their skill. Nagan Zhai hydrokinesis relies on various flowing movements and acrobatic skills to utilize this ability to its greatest potential, and Nagan Zhai act as if their limbs are an extension of the water itself. Nagan Zhai that are somewhat experienced in the usage of this can find themselves capable of freezing or thawing water on command and forming various objects out of the water, as well as channeling the innate magic of the Archipelago into the water to form a powerful healing solution. Nagan Zhai hydrokinesis has been used as a tool of warfare, a meditation device, and most commonly, as a form of movement - Nagan Zhai propel their skiffs and canoes rapidly between islands and on the open ocean through the usage of hydrokinesis, manipulating water into waves to propel the vessels forward. Nagan Zhai warfare between tribes will often employ hydrokinesis, with certain hydrokinetic warriors pulling water from either the ocean or the surrounding plant life to form large boulders made entirely from ice, and propelling them at the target tribe. Nagan Zhai of particular respute are capable of utilizing their hydrokinesis to manipulate the bodily fluids of their target, though is an exceedingly rare ability. Many war chiefs of the tribes are known to be capable of this specialized hydrokinesis, however - fitting as their position as the strongest.
Nagan Zhai magic is not limited only to their hydrokinetic abilities, despite it being the more well-known ability. The Nagan Zhai are extremely spiritual and connected to nature, and their magic usage is not inherently destructive like many magical institutions of the world. Nagan Zhai magic is considered an artisan and rare magic on Narazen, and as such studies on the method of the magic and replication of it are considered valuable and hard to come by. Magic in Nagan Zhai society is primarily shamanistic in nature, and relies on various “mediums” to focus the magics of the Archipelago, and these “mediums” include incantations, sacrifices, and incenses. Nagan Zhai shamanism is most often practiced by the tribal shamans and healers, and is a core component in the religious worship of the Nagan Zhai tribes. Nagan Zhai magics are considered more primal and destructive than most other of Narazen's magic systems, and when successfully used, can manipulate terrain, plant-life, resurrect, heal grevious wounds, and other such powers. Shamanistic magic focuses primarily on the creation of boons and other such positive reinforcements - from enchanting weapons to empowering warriors, it is a shamans job to act as the spiritual soul of a tribe using his or her powers over magic. The most infamous aspect of the magic of the Nagan Zhai is the far rarer Nagan Zhai voodoo and other black magics. The Nagan Zhai tribes that utilize the darker powers of the darker areas of the Archipelago are feared by all other Nagan Zhai tribes. Voodoo primarily relies on human sacrificial rituals, utilizing the parts of humans to channel dark magic - dwarven, orcish, and especially Elven and draconic sacrifices are especially valued by the Nagan Zhai warlocks and witches for the magical properties of their blood. Nagan Zhai voodoo is capable of raising the dead as legions of undead, bestowing curses upon individuals or even entire tribes, communicating with the dead, conjuring demons, and causing mass death and decay in an area. Practitioners of the dark arts of Nagan Zhai shamanism are often extraordinarily powerful, and rightfully feared. The Animal-Blood tribe is one example of a tribe that has utilized the dark arts - and using the sacrifice of a dragon, the tribe transformed themselves into werebeasts.
The religion of the Nagan Zhai tribes varies with every tribe, but each religion usually is a variation of the same basic structure - the Nagan Zhai are a shamanistic and totemistic people who have a belief in spirits. The primary focus f worship is on various animal spirits that represent the qualities of life in nature - such as the spirit wolf, deer, or dolphin. Due to the Archipelago’s highly magical nature, these spirits do exist, though rarely appear to the Nagan Zhai themselves despite being fully aware that they are the subject of worship. The totem poles that the Nagan Zhai build are religious objects, which various images of spirits are carved into the wood. When these totem poles mark a tribe or a leader, great accomplishments are commemorated by having spirits carved into the wood, the spirit chosen would be the spirit most closely associated with that accomplishment. The Nagan Zhai believe that all life is connected through magic, and often meditate beside the largest island trees. The Nagan Zhai have a religious focus on the usage of animal skulls in their aesthetic - animal skulls are symbolic of the spirit associated with the animal, and as such perfectly preserved animal skulls are viewed as sacred.
The Nagan Zhai tribes have no organized military forces, as they have had no need of any. The Nagan Zhai have never waged war for solely expansion, rather, wars are waged based on honor, hunting territory, and to steal both people and possessions. For the most part, the Nagan Zhai’s population are all trained warriors who are expected to pick up arms to defend their people when it is required; men from the ages of 13 and up are trained by their fathers, uncles, and acting warchiefs to utilize weapons and to kill. Young men are taught to wield various weapons, and most often these take the forms of stone axes (kílaxhinàlash), stone lances (arùshaloklànał), and the ubiquitous bow and arrow. Nagan Zhai weapons are typically decorated with eagle feathers depending on the prestige and rank of the warrior in question; experienced warriors who have fought their first raid and killed their first enemy are given an eagle feather by their tribal many-faces man to decorate the weapon whose final blow killed the opponent, and more experienced warriors are given further eagle feathers for every successful raid. Nagan Zhai are taught to craft their weapons out of the basic elements, and every Nagan Zhai weapon first used by a warrior has been made by hand by their warrior, and only after are warriors allowed to accept weapon and armor inheritances from their parents. Nagan Zhai females are trained to fight from age 16 by their siblings and parents, but do not go through the same rigorous training that the males do; females are only expected to fight in the defense of the tribe, and always have weapons of their own on hand.One of the universal aspects of the Nagan Zhai’s warriors is their unique and ubiquitous shields that have become integral to their culture and the stereotypes viewed by other people. These shields are known to be extremely strong, and the cost of making these shields make them so valuable and sacred that even other tribes will generally refuse to disrespect a fallen warrior’s honor by taking his shield, an act considered heinous by the cultures of the Nagan Zhai. The Nagan Zhai use a mystical stone they refer to as shànumákalu (spirit rock), which they use in the construction of these shields. Hide shields made from various tanned hides are created first to give support to the shields of the Nagan Zhai. Spirit rock is gathered from river beds and forcefully grounded up, before being mixed with a magical water solution that dissolved the rock entirely and gives the water a dull grey, opaque look and thickens the water somewhere between liquid and cream. A many-faces man spreads the mixture across the shield, and before it gets the chance to dry, wipes the heart of a dead animal (oftentimes the heart would belong to a particularly voracious or tough animal) as part of a ritualistic ceremony to imbue the shield with the ferocity of the elements, before using magic to generate fire to dry the shield. The result is an abnormally strong shield capable of even deflecting musket bullets. These shields are inscribed with the markings of a particular tribe, and are often dressed with eagle feathers or sentimental details for the user’s preference.
To prepare themselves for battle, the Nagan Zhai tribes have many different methods to ensure a warrior's morale is kept intact. The many tribes of the Nagan Zhai have various "war songs" and "war dances" that are sung and executed before a battle, and often these songs have various prayers to animals and personifications of nature to ensure victory. Oftentimes, these war dances have a powerful effect on warriors who become imbued with a passion and energy that is equivalated to an "inner fire". Nagan Zhai paint themselves before and after a battle, the former is often done to invoke intimidating designs and identify whatever military society they may hail from within a tribal band. Such paints are generally white, black, red, and yellow in color due to the materials available to make it, and are made out of materials such as clay, chalk, ash, dandelion flowers, and grounded bone. Occasionally, some tribes use a musical instrument to intimidate enemies. Most notably, this is present in the They-Who-Wake-Sleepers and Black Rock peoples, who use skull-shaped bone instruments called "death whistles" that emit an extremely disturbing, blood-curdling scream that causes a considerably psychological effect on enemy warriors.