Long ago, perhaps as far back as the Shrouded Age, the Mehrdahd’i tribes claimed the hostile Byse Desert as their home. Braving sandstorms and navigating secret routes between oases, the tribes make their living through trade and the transportation of goods between the regencies of Volbrecht, Anbara, and Shiara. They guard knowledge of their routes jealously, as the impassable nature of the mountains leaves the desert as the fastest way for goods to move between these regencies. Benefiting the Mehrdahd’i, too, is access to one of the few trading posts with the Ereskial and the Alved of the Underholme, giving the clans a near-monopoly on the trade of gem and mineral wealth. While their trade-relations are generally good, the relationship with their nearest neighbor, Anbara, is often strained.
Each Mehrdahd’i tribe covers one or more trade routes over the course of a year, and is usually composed of three to five large extended families, and guided by the eldest members. Elders who are too old to travel retire to the Vahas - small settlements at the six largest oases - and serve by negotiating disputes between tribes. These settlements are tended and guarded from the forces of the Plagued by young Mehrdahd’i who have not completed their passage to full adulthood.
The desert nomads are easily recognized by their long, lightweight robes, headdresses, and veils. Men and women both stay fully covered to protect their skin from sun and sand. In addition, the desert folk mark their tribal origins in tattoos on the backs of their hands. The right hand is tattooed at a naming ceremony shortly after birth, the left hand at adulthood (men) or marriage (women).
At any one time, there are between ten and fifteen tribes on the sand. New tribes are most often formed when an existing tribe is growing too big. These small offshoot tribes either take in more members from other tribes and grow, or disband to reabsorb into one or many existing tribes. This, and the sad truth that any group can be wiped out by a fierce and unexpected sandstorm, account for the fluid number of tribes on the sands.
The seven largest tribes are the Kanli Dogan, the Chimm’in Gul, the Zarr’in Gul, the Bishak Shir, the Cesret Ylan, the Azar Kan, and the Shani Khurshid.