Sakkaras, Broken Lands of
by The Sultan & Carteeg Struve
From the Endless Reach through to the northwest border of the Midlands, the Sakkaran minotaurs have primary dominance of the wasteland of arid steppes and dry plateaus known as the Broken Lands, but its exact borders are ill defined at best. When the Great Wave struck, the Chôt-tang Empire was destroyed, but a sizable portion of the invading Chôt-tang military survived to become Sakkaras (Sak-kah'-ras). Tribes of the Sakkaran minotaurs roam the Broken Lands, following herds of the large, docile noceadon and making raids on bordering nations. Fresh water is a commodity over which tribal wars erupt on a regular basis. The descendants of the Chôt-tang army scarcely resemble the glory of old. The only time the tribes unite is when they stand a chance in taking land from the Oguna in the east or the Midlanders in the south.
Life and Society
Day to day life in the Broken Lands is a constant battle to survive. The once-fertile topsoil washed away by the worst of the Great Wave left only sand and rock. In the days after the Drowning, as the land struggled to heal itself, the surviving Chôt-tang minotaurs found themselves in a severe desert, barren plateaus where all life struggled to survive. Slowly the Chôt-tang evolved into who they are today, nomadic "savages" as severe the land that is both the source of their strength and their greatest curse. Young or old, male or female, all Sakkaran minotaurs have come to learn that the rule of strength – to take what you need – is the only way to stay to survive.
The vast majority of Sakkaran minotaurs live in nomadic tribes, following the herds of noceadon from oasis to oasis and raiding settlements along the borders of Bhadlum, Vjenor, Kedaltol, and Ogun all these have proven themselves more than capable of withstanding Sakkaran invasion. Sundry tribes have established settlements on the coast of Lake Borlesko to little avail. Borlesko is a salt-water lake that is both treacherous and guarded by Teusten and Bhadlum vessels.
Regardless of whether the Sakkarans live in coastal villages or fight the desert for their livelihood, all Sakkaran make annual visits to one of the Pools of Viriene. When the Great Wave washed away the thick layer of topsoil to create the Broken Lands, it exposed dozens of natural springs. At first, these fonts of fresh water were no more remarkable to the Chôt-tang minotaurs than the other fast-disappearing oases in the region. Eventually the Sakkarans discovered that the waters of some pools rejuvenated and invigorated anyone who bathed in them: healing wounds, restoring health, and dramatically increasing fertility. The pools are protected as sacred places, the secret of their power never spoken of to outsiders. Multiple tribes may compete for sovereignty of a pool, but no tribe will shed blood within sight of these sacred oases, for fear of poisoning the waters.
As living in the Broken Lands was hard, life expectancy was equally short. The first generation of Sakkaran minotaurs realized their doom would come inevitably unless measures were taken to proliferate their kind. Thus was established the Rite of Viriene, in which young males and females were made to bathe in the waters of these enchanted pools on nights when the white and red moons, Sura and Lusa, both ascended full. This ensured a generation of minotaur calves would be born as twins and triplets.
Sakkaran minotaur yokes (as twins, triples, etc. are collectively called) are raised as one person, having no name other than the order in which they were born. From the very first, a fierce competition amongst the yoke is fostered to establish a hierarchy. By name-day, usually in the yoke's tenth year, a pecking order is established that lasts until death. The strongest of the yoke chooses a name for him or herself; the others take the strongest's name as their own, with a suffix indicating their status within the yoke. From this day forward, the relationship between the self-named minotaur and his yoke-kin is that of master and slave. Few yokes survive the death of the master, as the successor can be any minotaur and is established by combat. Thus the orphaned members of a masterless yoke must constantly prove themselves.
The vast majority of minotaurs in Sakkaras will snort at the slightest mention of any god. Most believe in strength of arms, self-reliance, and survival of the fittest. Life has been too hard for too long for the Sakkaran to have any respect for the divine pantheon. This view is the most popular, but it is not unanimous.
The only god given any amount of honor to in the Sakkaran culture is Shurong (Sargonnas), the high god of wrath and inner fire. According to the teaching of the faith, Shurong battled and slew the other gods who used to reign above this world, and those priests who gain spells from other gods are only using the power of the dead gods' fading essence. As sole divine power of Krynn, the world is his by right of conquest. Unfortunately, upon striking down Arreld (Paladine), the last god to oppose Shurong, the corpse of the goddess fell to the mortal world and impacted with the ocean far away. According to the teachings the Great Wave was a result of her striking the water. The victory in the heavens led to the delay in the victory on the world.
Many had worshiped Shurong in the Canon War, but after the Drowning, the tale given to explain how such devastation occurred resulted in many turning away from their faith. If Shurong had been so victorious in the heavens, then why were they still suffering so? Most shamans and holy men point to this lack of faith as to the exact reason as to why Shurong does not assist them, but the damage was done, and the influence Shurong had on the Sakkaran's dwindled.
A druidic order of Sakkaran minotaur exists to protect the sanctity of the Pools of Viriene, but there is seldom more than one caretaker per pool, thus the entire order comprises but a handful of druids.
Select few tribes that have interactions with the Maliaru of the Harkestol Mountains have encompassed totemic or elemental worship into their cultures, but the power manifested by these soothsayers and shamans is derived from mysticism not divine grace.
There is no formal government in Sakkaras. Each individual tribe has developed its own method of determining a chieftain: lineage of blood, named successor, and ritual combat are all equally common. Indeed, the method of a tribe choosing a leader varies as often as a change in leadership occurs. Without fail, the chieftain (whether male or female) has an entourage called the cabal who acts as captains, bodyguards, and advisors. Significant gatherings of Sakkarans from multiple tribes are rare, and they often result in an invasion of Ogun or Bhadlum.
As there is no formal military in Sakkaras. Any military-grade force of minotaurs is often nothing more than a gathering of tribes bent on war and conquest, often in the hopes of gaining control of less desolate lands. The largest military force put together since the Drowning was in the 330 AD invasion of Ogun. Prior to that, the only force in the Broken Lands recognizable as military in scale was a remnant of the Chôt-tang Empire, who sacrificed themselves in a hopeless battle to invade Kedaltol in 14 AD.
Magic and Mysticism
In the aftermath of the Drowning, spell components became as scarce as farmable land, and faith in the gods dwindled to the domain of superstition and ridicule. The only tribes in Sakkaras who still practice arcane or divine magic are the faithful of Shurong or those who live near the shamanistic human tribe Maliaru. It is important to note that these few tribes are of a great minority in the overall Sakkaran population.
Mysticism is marginally more accepted among Sakkaran minotaurs, as it draws power from within, and from ambient sources, which reinforces the Sakkaran principle of self-reliance. The Pools of Viriene are often sites were spell casters of any kind are at least tolerated, if not granted a certain respected status.
Despite the superstitions nature most Sakkaran harbor toward spellcasters, it is common for chieftains to seek out a shaman or sorcerer to be part of the chieftain's cabal.
Major Geographical Features and Locations
Broken Bay: The secluded eastern bay of Lake Borlesko is ringed cliffs a hundred feet above the waterline, except the easternmost shore. Because of the unique geography, this is the only portion of Lake Borlesko over which the Sakkarans have complete control. This is also the site of the only permanent minotaur settlement, dedicated to building ships of war to dominate Borlesko. This settlement's existence is secret and unknown by even most Sakkaran tribes.
Harkestol Mountains: Between Teusten and the Endless Reach, a range of sharp tall peaks covers the often frozen landscape. Travel through this region is exceptionally difficult, as finding safe paths to walk is almost an impossibility. Yet several Maliaru tribes make their homes in the secluded valleys not often accessible to outsiders. Some ogres who had been rejected and exiled from their people in the north past the Endless Reach try to survive on their own here. Exceptionally few make it.
Lake Borlesko: With both the seafaring Teusten and the Midland ships from Tavlanor, Bhadlum, often patrolling the lake's eastern shore, few minotaurs risk forming large settlements on these shores unless they are close to the easternmost section of the lake to the north, Broken Bay. Despite the danger, the abundant fishing of the summer months outweighs the risk of attack.
Pool of Viriene: Not a single location, but one of perhaps a dozen of identical oases found sporadically in the Broken Lands, a Pool of Viriene is a sacred place to the Sakkaran. Throughout Sakkaras, minotaur tribes come to the Pools of Viriene to meet peacefully with rival tribes and perform the fertility Rite of Viriene. The locations of the pools are kept secret at all costs. Bathing a pool for one hour restores hit points and ability scores as though you had taken a full day of bedded rest and removes all non-magical disease. The magic of the pools has waned since the Drowning to the extent that they are only effective at certain points on the calendar, such as an equinox or new moon, but the fertility effects on the Sakkaran race have become permanent to the minotaurs of the region, with or without the Ritual of Viriene.
The Rotted Oasis: It is said there is a lush oasis in the heart of the Broken Lands, with colorful trees bearing fulfilling fruit. Some say this oasis is cursed by Shurong, to further punish the Sakkaran for turning their backs on the gods. Others say this was once a Pool of Viriene, and warring tribes spilled each other's blood in the oasis waters. No matter the truth of this place's origin, the Rotted Oasis is cursed. Although a peach may appear and smell perfectly ripe the interior is blackened and oily. Surrounded by long miles of arid sand with no plants or water to find, many have come to the oasis unaware of the plague here. Those that bite into the food often die horribly within minutes as their bodies decompose into an oily sludge. Within an hour, such remains seep into the ground to give nourishment to the plants of this otherwise waterless oasis.
Prior to the Canon War, several smaller nations of various races, including parts of the Hammervald Empire, covered the lands that would become Sakkaras. Some portions regions were untamed, under the control of the ill-favored Oguna tribes. When the Canon War erupted, the Oguna initially sided with the invading Chôt-tang minotaurs, but when it became clear the Oguna were being used as fodder, their allegiances quickly changed. But as time went on, more and more ground was lost. The northwestern regions fell, and the minotaur fleet began to set sail beginning strikes on the western shores.
Six months prior to the Drowning, the Chôt-tang minotaur western assault forces suffered a major setback. Many of the Oguna who had been taken as slaves after their betrayal earlier in the war revolted and took control of many settlements east of the westernmost fronts. In response, the minotaurs split their regional forces in two: one force to press the main war front further into the Midlands, and the other to take back the Oguna lands and reconnect supply lines with the east.
The Drowning prevented any advance from going much further. The eastern Empire of the minotaurs was destroyed, and the survivors in the west were on their own. In the distant east, the once-great capital city of Rhas-lac, the Verdant Provinces, and the eastern Chôt-tang forces all disappeared under the Great Wave. The entire fleet was also destroyed or forever swept away. Many tried to settle in some of the remains of the dead empire of Hammervald (Bhadlum) and what had been the northern portion of Trejor (Vjenor). But soon they were pressured out of those lands and were forced to live in the decimated territories now called the Broken Lands. With the top levels of the military gone, the remains of the army collapsed as officers of various ranks tried to take control of the overall army. Instead of unifying their efforts and supplies, everything was expended as those who had dreams of leading the great army of the Canon War waged war on each other. The seafaring people of Teusten, a former enemy in the war, took pity on them and traded supplies, weapons, and slaves with them after a non-aggression treaty was signed. But eventually the Sakkarans had little to offer and trade dried up in a matter of years, and although there was a peace treaty, many Teusten raiders have patrolled and attacked Sakkaran settlements without the permission of the Teusten government. In the end, they became nothing more than warring tribes squabbling over water holes and animals to use as food.
Generations passed as the descendants of the Chôt-tang western invasion force adapted to life in the harsh landscape. Military discipline gave way to strength of arms, old loyalties spawned bitter hatred, and regimented battalions became rival nomadic tribes.
Little is known about the internal conflicts of the land that became Sakkaras between the warring tribes. However various confrontations with other lands have often been well documented or recited.
Hordes of allied Sakkaran tribes decimated Vjenor's borders in 308 AD, hoping to penetrate into the Midlands and isolate Bhadlum from its neighbors. The people of Vjenor fought back with a tenacity the minotaurs were not expecting. The Sakkaran invasion was stopped, even as it started; the Sakkaran tribes gained control only a small swath of land that Vjenor to this day does not recognize as Sakkaran territory.
In the late 320s, two harsh winters ruined what little crops the minotaurs harvested. Desperate for more fertile land, tribes gathered together and invaded Ogun. Over the next several years, Ogun tribes fell back time and again to the Sakkaran minotaurs. Though they did not reach their ultimate goal, the lush Fertile Lands where the North Tabaran meets the Sargassi Sea, the lands gained by the Sakkarans were far more arable.
The advancement was halted in 333 AD when one Oguna Battlemaster Helris managed to rally enough of his own people together to strike back at the Sakkarans. During the counterattack, Helris successfully slew all three minotaur clan-leaders who led the assault, including Seronis who masterminded the campaign. By 334 AD, the invasion's back was broken by Helris' Army of the Unified-Blood, and the Oguna reclaimed the lands almost up to the western shore of Glisemegh Lake.
During the following years, the Sakkarans watched as Helris had a capital constructed with the hopes of unifying his own people and making Ogun a nation recognized and respected by the other political powers of Adlatum. Unwilling to be bounded by a stronger nation on their east, two Sakkaran warriors, Drogar and Kanar let two independently planned invasions into Ogun. Both groups of forces, neither aware of the other's existence, circled Glisemegh Lake with hopes of sacking Helris' capital of Zorhasic. The two forces then attacked the capital from both sides on a single night. The capital's defenses failed, and the minotaurs swept in. Helris was slain in the throne room. The desecration done to his severed head was made public during the fighting, and the shock lasted long enough for the minotaurs to finish the city off.
The reprisal was harsh and merciless. The Oguna in the east who dreamed of turning Ogun into a civilized nation raged and tore the invading tribes apart. Many minotaur villages deep in Oguna lands that had nothing to do with Zorhasic's fall were burned to ashes. Still, not all of the land gained by the two simultaneous incursions was taken back. Losses aside, more territory was gained for the Sakkarans.
In 389 AD, the High Sheriff of Bhadlum took matters for the Midlands onto the offensive. A small but strong fleet of ships was sent up the coastline of Lake Borlesko. Their mission was to destroy any boats the Sakkarans might be using or building. Since the Bhadlum capital was on the southern tip of the lake and Bhadlum had always been prone to small raids over the border from time to time, High Sheriff Mendel Haeg believed his invasion was justified. Starting thirty miles north of the Bhadlum capital, a number of minotaur villages were discovered with a variety of smaller boats, primarily used for fishing by the local Sakkarans. Haeg evaluated that they were not a danger at that time, but if all of the boats from all of those villages were used in one cohesive force, his capital might be under threat. He ordered the villages burned, and the Sakkarans were forced back inland.
The Bhadlum fleet continued up the coast destroying ships and villages where encountered. The fleet took many casualties as they traveled further and further north. But upon traveling a hundred miles, they spotted a port where the minotaurs were trying to rebuild a warship by using the remains of an ancient minotaur ship as a guide. Sakkaras's sparse land and lack of wood suitable for building a seaworthy vessel had made things slow for them, but the project was well underway.
The Bhadlum fleet destroyed both ships and razed the village. The minotaurs used several smaller boats of their own to fight back, and they even temporarily seized one of the Bhadlum vessels. The Midlanders were quick to correct the situation, and a Midland ship rammed the stolen craft, sending both under the cold waves. By the time the fighting was done, the minotaur port was completely destroyed, but the fleet was forced to turn back.
As the Midlands likely begin to head towards civil war between the Sovereignties and the Tashrama, the Sakkaran tribes are gathering again. High Sheriff Jessup Haeg is aware that minotaur activity has increased and is worried about another major siege by a horde. Those living in northern Vjenor feel the same way. But if the minotaurs are smelling weakness in the Midlands and Montegron puts too much effort into solely dealing with the Tashrama, the Sakkaran minotaurs may finally be able to move their four-century old war front along and gain the resources needed to launch a stronger raid into the heart of the Midlands and against the Oguna who have pestered them for so long.
By all accounts there are no major settlements anywhere in Sakkaras. Tribes can vary in size from a few dozen to a few thousand, but rarely do the large gatherings stay together for long. The one exception is on the eastern shore of the Broken Bay. Here allied minotaur tribes have established Sigtxan, a community of over a thousand minotaurs dedicated to gaining control of Lake Borlesko by building a fleet of war ships. What sigtxan means none know, but sigx is the Sakkaran word for the furious dust storms that plague the inner Broken Lands.