Paynims, Plains of the
Proper Name: None (commonly called the Paynims, for the nomadic tribes of the Plains of the Paynims and Dry Steppes)
Ruler: No central authority; various nomadic leaders
Government: Many petty tribal nobles (khans or amirs) ruled by progressively more powerful nobles (ilkhan, orakhan, or shah) and royalty (tarkhan, padishah, or kha-khan); great variation between nomadic bands in particulars of government
Major Towns: Kanak (pop. 12,900)
Provinces: None (nomadic tribes)
Resources: Horses, livestock, hides and furs, medicinal herbs, mercenaries
Coinage: None; barter used exclusively except by nomads near towns and cities
Population: 500,000—Human 96% (Bos), Centaur 2%, Halfling 1%, Other 1%
Languages: Baklunish (Ancient and various dialects), Common
Alignments: CN*, N, all others sparsely represented
Religions: Istus, Geshtai, Mouqol, Al’Akbar, Xan Yae, other Baklunish gods
Allies: Other Baklunish states (occasionally)
Enemies: Other Baklunish states (occasionally), Knights of the Watch, Ull
Overview: The great plains of western Flanaess are the home of the numerous tribes of the Paynims. In the north are endless leagues of grassland bordering the territories of Zeif and Ket. South of this region, and to the east, are the desert lands under the shadow of the Ulsprue and Crystalmist Mountains, while the vast central plains are more fertile, ending in the lush valleys of the western Sulhauts. Summers are brutally hot in the southern desert, and little better in the grasslands to the west and north. Winter brings rain, and the seasonal migration of the Paynims and their herds to their southern pasturage.
Paynim warriors are lightly armored, the weight and confinement of metallic armor being more of a burden than a blessing in the heat of the day, but they are supremely mobile. Perhaps one quarter of the Paynims ply the light lance, as well as the mace or flail. The rest wield scimitars, and short, horned bows. Most are willing to serve as mercenaries for short periods, though the dervishes of the Dry Steppes and the lands surrounding Lake Udrukankar will normally go to war only under the leadership of their clergy, or for causes they see as righteous.
The city of Kanak on the shores of Lake Udrukankar is the nearest thing the Paynims have to a capital, though the Amir of Kanak claims no authority beyond the lake and the ground within his city’s brick walls. Tents are more common in and around Kanak than fixed buildings. Smaller settlements are found near wells or oases in the Dry Steppes, or on strategic spots of high ground on the Plains. Throughout, the Paynims roam at will, alternately warring and trading with one another in a cycle that is unpredictable to outsiders. They count their wealth in horses and livestock, as well as slaves in some cases, but hold their freedom on the Plains to be their greatest treasure.
History: For over one thousand years, the Paynims have been the masters of those territories that once formed the central estate of the Baklunish Empire. When the abundance of the empire was turned to ruin by the Invoked Devastation, only these hardy nomads survived in the wasteland. Tales from the days following the destruction of the empire are few, though it is remembered with pride that the Paynims were the first to receive the divine favor of Al’Akbar. It is clear that the nomads prospered, after their fashion, even as the Baklunish to the north and west organized themselves into settled states.
The Paynims preferred to dwell in tents and to carry their belongings with them as they moved. They were always willing to share their lifestyle with their neighbors, so they gladly raided and plundered not only their fellow nomads, but also those unfortunates living in the reemerging cities. Unfortunately, it would seem that the sedentary folk failed to understand that a thing is yours only as long as you can keep it, and fiercely resisted the nomad’s forays. This set the pattern for the years that followed, as raiding bands of Paynim horsemen would do battle with the armies of the settled nations. Oft times they found themselves opposed by their nomadic brethren as well, for the Paynims would as readily serve as mercenaries in the civilized armies, if not always reliable ones.
Inevitably, as contact with civilized peoples increased, so too did trade. Caravans crossed the plains and the desert, bringing merchants with their wares deep into the territory of the nomads. The first group of traders to make a complete circuit of the Paynim lands returned to Zeif with little in material wealth, but possessing a great store of information. The mighty works and monuments of the empire were gone, except for scattered, fragmentary ruins. Only the stone circles of Tovag Baragu stood unmarred, by the waters of Udrukankar. Within the lake itself, the Shah of the Waters appeared and asked these merchants for the name of the new emperor. At first they made no response, but finally they gave the name of the sultan rather than earn the ire of the mighty marid of Udrukankar. They reported that the marid granted his blessing to the great sultan, then departed.
The Paynims remember the tale differently, saying that the marid shah gave, in addition to his blessing, a rare and legendary jacinth. It would identify the sultan as the heir to the imperial Baklunish line. Had the sultan returned with it to Udrukankar, the Paynim allege, he would have become the new emperor and founder of the 12th Dynasty of the Baklunish. Yet, only merchants returned in the years that followed, for the jacinth was lost and with it the imperial inheritance. The city of Kanak, on the southern shores of Udrukankar, was founded on this tale, and its amirs have ever since ruled in the name of the Shah of the Waters.
Elsewhere on the plains, Paynim tribes became numerous over the years, and ever more bold. As always, they raided the lands of their more civilized Baklunish neighbors. Now they made war on the tribes of the Ulsprue and the plains to the east as well. Among these peoples, primarily of Oeridian descent, were a few of the magnificent horses beloved of the Paynims. It was inevitable that the Baklunish should attack them, and many non-Paynims were enslaved by the merciless tribes of Ull. Those who escaped to the desert lands and foothills have never ceased warring against the hated Uli.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the Paynims’ mastery of the plains was advanced by Zeif, when a nation of nomads called the Brazen Horde were incited to emigrate from their distant homes beyond the coastal realm called Mur and take possession of the plains south of the sultanate. These nomads of western lineage, whose leaders did not use the title of khan, were no less warlike than the indigenous Paynims. In addition, they had an even finer stock of horse—swifter, stronger, and no less enduring. Combined with the support of Zeif, these western nomads soon conquered the lands bordering the sultanate.
Once secure in their new territory, the Brazen Horde turned its attention to its eastern neighbors in Ket and Tusmit. The Tusmites, under Ekbiri leadership, repelled the nomads, but Ket was successfully invaded. Recklessly, the nomads plundered Ket’s districts, then moved south through the Bramblewood Pass, pursuing rumors of Velunese riches. They despoiled isolated villages in Veluna’s outlying possessions, always retreating back into Ket when faced with significant military opposition. Only after Keoland assumed control of the Bramblewood Gap were these depredations brought to an end. The Paynims were soon forced out of Ket by Keoish forces.
The solidarity of the Brazen Horde was fractured by the loss of Ket, and the khan-led Paynims challenged their dominance of the plains. Intertribal warfare remained the rule among the Paynims for most of two centuries. Only recently has there been any move to unify the Paynims, this time under the leadership of the enigmatic Mahdi of the Steppes. He has gathered together all the nomads of the Dry Steppes, and some of the dervish tribes have followed him as well. The Amir of Kanak still claims neutrality, but before long it may be impossible for any Paynim to avoid swearing loyalty to the Mahdi.
Conflicts and Intrigues: The Mahdi of the Steppes is being hailed as a true son of Al’Akbar. Dervishes speak of the Prophecy of the Phoenix, the rekindling of war between Good and Evil. Hostilities with Ull are on the rise. The lucrative slave trade might be halted by Al’Akbar’s righteous clerics.