Thieves & Kings
The Hordelands - The Shining Horseclans
The Hordelands, also known as “The Shining Lands” or “The Sea of Grass”, are a vast region of dry grasslands, dominating the northeastern quarter of Argoth. It is bound by mountains everywhere except the south, where it connects to the River Kingdoms, and its denizens are a loose confederation of nearly 100 tribes, known collectively as the Horseclans.
The most populous barbarian nation on Argoth, the Horseclans are a nomadic tribal culture, who graze their herds in the north in Summer and winter in the upper river regions of the northern Siresha Valley.
Originally rising some two thousand years, the tribes adapted the horse in the western edge of the Ketarh Stepes. Forced further west by the strength of Ketari tribal militarism, eventually ranging further and further into the Quarphor, Shorkyne and Trierzon regions. Around 270 BT, the original tribes of the Horseclans migrated to the lightly wooded plains at the mouth of the Siresha River Valley, and quickly adapted to the new region, growing wealthy.
The Horseclans are seldom unified. The last true K’ron (High Chief) was *Tohkta during the Migration Wars. Tohkta’s federation ravaged southern Brak before its defeat at the gates of the capital in TR 557. With the death of Tohkta, his federation fell apart. A chieftain named Arrak unified a few dozen tribes about two hundred years ago, and styled himself K’ron, but his murder in TR 770 due to internal dissent led to the dissolving of his web of alliances.
The Horseclans measure their wealth in the strength of their livestock herds. Warriors breed and train their own horses. Standing only 14 hands high, the Horseclans horse is strong and fast, though Horseclans are not very careful about keeping their bloodlines traced. They have been known to set forest fires in the western fringes, in an effort to create new grasslands for their herds.
Although fond of their horses, the Horseclans are very pragmatic. They drink mare’s milk and are known to slit a vein of their horses to drink their blood in need. They are also known to slay their horses to form a breastwork from which they might hide behind. When a warrior dies, his horse is usually slain and eaten by the family. Horse theft is a great sport practiced among them, although getting caught can prove fatal. The Horseclans are never tolerant of outsiders who are caught stealing their horses. A favored form of execution for horse theft, is to rope the victim and drag them behind the horse, while the tribal warriors try to spear them to death.
The Horseclans periodically raid caravans that pass near their ranges, but this is not common, as they are more likely to trade with travelers than kill them. Accidents, however, have been known to occur, and despite what some think, they are shrewd bargainers, well aware of the value of their goods. Each family prizes its “Gur”, a wide shallow cart drawn by oxen. Atop this gur is the “Taga”, a tent made of felt or buckram that serves as home and the holder of the family possessions. Some wealthy families own two or three gurs.
The typical Horseclans warrior is armed with dagger and handaxe, leather shield, spear and their infamous “Hornbows”, a descendant of the infamous composite shortbow of the central Lythian plains. Of the same weight and size as a typical shortbow, the weapon has much greater range and accuracy, making them prized masterwork weapons, but rare to acquire, as their manufacture is a closely held secret among the clans. Some rare tribes will trade them to passing caravans for horses of unusual color or size, and this is often the only way for them to part with the prized weapons.
Most Horseclans follow no known religion, though they acknowledge the stars, moon and sun, and the great open sky, often praying to the rising and setting sun before and after battle. There is, however, no organized religion nor are their tribal shamans, though tribal bards can hold a position of some power among them, repeating the almost holy “Couplets of the Law”, by which every tribe measures its traditions and tribal lineages.
They are unimpressed by magicians and clerics, claiming their mystical powers to be ticks and illusions. They are generally tolerant of other folk who express their own beliefs, and listen to missionary clerics of other faiths with great amusement. They are known to readily accept “conversion”, simply to get other clerics to shut up, however, and will not take such blessings as true faithful observance. Some missionaries report great successes among them, only to have them convert to an opposing religion the following month.