The Cintran Wars
The Zerrikanians are nomadic people who live in the great grassy planes which stretch far, far to the West. They are an ancient race though they have very few written records of any kind. They live in tightly knit tribes which are entirely mobile, always on the lookout for new pastures. They have little concept of land ownership (at least among the “Sheng”).
It is said that hard conditions breed hard men and by that standard the Zerrikanians are some of the hardest in the known world. While they tend to like ostentatious displays of wealth (and alcohol of every kind) they are not drawn to the comforts of sedentary life.
In society the Zerrikanians emphasise total devotion to their Khan, they also value strength and fighting prowess above all else. Almost every member of society can in theory challenge the Khan to a ‘Mok’tai’ – single combat to the death. In practice only challengers of high repute or standing may issue such a challenge. Every Khan has a number of ‘Oath Riders’ a small (2-5) number of warriors who speak with the Khan’s voice, carry out his commands and guard his person. They are sworn to their Khan for life.
Loyalty is absolute in the in society. Perhaps it is this that makes the Imperial Zerrikanian’s so loyal: for a long time the (absent) emperor was seen as an overall figurehead. Yet not one who chafes them or interferes with them unduly. The might of the Empire and of the Imperial Military is very appealing to Zerrikanians and many return home after years of military service to boast of the victories they won in faraway lands.
Every year a tribe holds a large gathering, known as the festival of Strength and Beauty, where the tribes intermingle, trade and (mainly) intermarry in relative safety from each other. It is a great honour, and also a great expense, to host such a festival. Once in a decade there is a great meeting in the city of Kallarata far to the west, this has some great religious significance though what it is seems to be a little unclear to outsiders.
Their religion is a broad, shamanistic belief in Haven. They tend not to differentiate between the various gods but likewise they have little interest in organised religion or divine commandments. They tend to think that whatever is happening has been ordained by the Havens (that is specifically true when warring among tribes or raiding and looting neighbouring lands). Shamans or “wise men” are highly regarded in their society and they tend to put much weight in portents and prophecies – though again not so much as to ever prevent them from doing what they want to do…
The Zerrikanian military tactics rely very heavily on their peerless horsemanship and archery skills as well as their total discipline. The zerrianians divide themselves into units of 12 men including one Hanza (leader of 12). The Empire saw no need to change this, though every 8 units are led by a centurion. Their tactics are very fluid, they emphasize ride by archery attacks and luring enemies into pursuing them into ambushes. In fact they have special units called Partheans or “actors” who specialise in feinting retreat and luring enemies into pursuit.
Each rider can ride with as many as three remounts and live with and off their horses giving them absolutely incredible strategic speed.
In a Zerrikanian army discipline is total. Each Hanza has the immediate power of life or death over his superiors. Likewise a Khan has such a power over all his followers.
They fight primarily with a shortbow and an ‘ahak’ a curved blade attached to a short staff. The imperial Zerrikanians have also adopted short lances – light enough to throw a short distance from horseback.