Monday, September 19, 2011

Tazitta death cults

As one leaves the Garriga Mountains to the north of the Terrasan lands, and enters the high ground of the Shutruk plateau, one finds the massive, landlocked Indash Salt Sea, a kind of Lake Bonneville.  While the Indash Sea has a number of civilized city-states on its shores, including Tahrah and glittering Simashki, in many ways it is most well-known to outsiders of the Hamazi region as the homeland of the Tazitta tribes.  The Tazitta are nestled between the sea and the Dagan Mountains in a long, vertically oriented chimney.  Their homeland is rocky and hilly, but not nearly as dramatic as the carved and sculpted canyonlands to the north and west.  Pinyon-juniper woodlands cover much of the area, while more open territory is home to sagebruch, rabbitbrush, ephedra and golden bunchgrasses, forming a dry prairie.

While there are many interesting things to be said about the Tazitta tribes, their most memorable trait, at least to those from outside, is there devotion to what is usually referred to as a "death cult."  Visually striking, death cult fanatics paint themselves with white and black, to make themselves look like stylized representations of a human skeleton.  The beginnings of the cult date back to the heyday of the Baal Hamazi Empire, when the Tazitta tribes did not live free in the woodlands, but were either in hiding in the mountains, or enslaved by the hamazin on the high prairie.  The hamazin treated them a bit like game; hunting them for sport or pleasure, in those days.  The Shazada of Pnakot, a colonial holding of Baal Hamazi on the other side of the mountains, at the shores of Lake Kidin, in particular made use of the Tazitta for sport, and the city-state of Shushun was a small pit-stop at the time.  He was rumored to have had an advisor from the black land of Tarush Noptii--either a vampire or an expert on vampirism of some sorts.  Whether true or not, the Shazada was a notorious necromancer, and rather than utilize his own people for his dark experimentation--they were far too valuable--he rounded up Tazitta tribesmen as much as possible.  Thousands of the Tazitta were taken into horrible unlife.  And the Tazitta death-cults were formed as the remaining tribesmen swore fell oaths to never let themselves fall into the same trap; to die cleanly.  They celebrated a clean death.  They grew to revere, even to worship the force of death itself.

Of course, the Shazada didn't last forever.  Neither did the Baal Hamazi empire, and the rule of the hamazin over the area.  Pnakoth still exists, a shadow of its former self, a back-water mouldering fishing town on the shores of Lake Kidin, slowly falling into disrepair, decripitude and haunted empty buildings.  No longer are the Tazitta at threat from Pnakoth.  Yet, the death cults remain, evolved--or perhaps corrupted--from their former purpose into a fanatical obsession with death and dying.  Many Death Pilgrims wander the world, traveling far from their homelands to bring death to those who unnaturally cling to life--especially undead.  Despite this noble appearing mission, most Death Pilgrims are truly little more than brutal, psychotic killers for hire--mercenaries or assassins.

Despite the prominant role the death cults have in Tazitta culture, not all tribesmen belong to the cults, and many who do are just normal folks, of course, following their cultural traditions without the wild-eyed appearance or manners of a zealot.  In fact, Tazitta who do not use the body paint are often mistaken by outsiders as Untash or even Haltash tribesmen--they have the same look, accent, and manner of dressing.

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