The Bashkers

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Created On 23 September 2007
Last Updated On 23 September 2007
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 2007

Travel through the distant and exotic land of Muskovia, heading for Asia Communista and you have several ways to go. You can cross the Yurals and risk the giants and monsters that live there, cross the Kasper Sea to the south or cross the land of the Bashkers between the two.

Bashkerland is a patchwork of hills, forests, steppe, mountains and wormwoods. It felt the brunt of the forces railed against its homeland and poison fell here from the mountains in its north and the sea to its south. Once it was the gateway to Muscovia from the East, now it is the gateway to Asia Communista to the east, as nobody returns from that fated land.

The Bashkers themselves appear to be a sullen people, but that's because of their hard work in a blasted land. As you get to know them, they become friendly and sociable, but they distrust and fear outsiders. They have deep roots and have been here almost forever, having followed their hero on a flying horse or having been led by pregnant wolves. Many Bashkers are nomads and horsemen without rival, especially those of the unending steppe that leads into Asia Communista. Other Bashkers are farmers, raising crops from the black soil and avoiding the wormwoods that cross their lands. In fact, many of their farms stop abruptly, with fields half ploughed and with tracks leading away from seemingly fertile land. These Bashkers are expert at detecting the signs of wormwoods and sometimes lead strangers into those poisoned lands to die. Still other Bashkers live off the many forests in their land. They gather honey from wild hives, drink the sap of trees and gather food from the deep dark forests. They too know which parts of the forest to avoid and which are safe, even though some wormwoods seem to be growing in size, slowly, year by year. Finally, there are Bashkers in the mountains in the north of their land. These are secretive and know the hills and mountains. Woe betides anyone who tries to cross their mountains without permission, for dwarves, giants and other strange creatures will attack them.

Technologically speaking, the Bashkers are a strange mix. Mainly, they are peasants or nomads with basic technology. However, Bashkerland swims on a lake of oil, one of the reasons it was so badly hit during the Tragic Millennium, so there are many oil-burning devices here. They even have some mechanical carts and wagons that move along the ancient iron roads that cross their land and meet in the legendary ruins of Uffa. Deep within the Yurals were scientific establishments, researching many things, and some of those have survived, so there are many Scientific Enclaves in Bashkerland. These do not often share their secrets, but their people often come out to trade with the Bashkers and to stop travellers. One of these is said to worship great pillars of metal that contain new wormwoods ready to be unleashed on the world. Others contain secrets that were not even known to their masters before the Tragic Millennium began and it is said that there are magical craft there that can fly without using coal or oil, strange disc-like craft or ones shaped like sausages. Uffa itself is a Scientific Enclave and the warriors there run on mechanical stilt-boots that give them speed and allow them to jump over walls with ease.

Bashkaan rules the bashkers and he flies on a winged steed that is whiter than the snow that covers Bashkerland each winter. He wields a sword that kills in one blow and is undefeated in combat. When Bashkaan dies, the horse flies away and waits to be tamed. The Bashker who tames the horse becomes Bashkaan and rules the other Kaans without opposition.

Some Bashkers have tamed the flying horses that nest in the Yurals and they sometimes form regiments of aerial cavalry that can out manoeuvre even the best ornithopters or flamingos. Others have tamed giants and Devs, others know the dwarves that live in the mountains and know where the hidden treasures are.

Bashkerland is never boring and never easy. Baking hot in summer, freezing cold in winter with 6 foot snowdrifts, full of mud in spring and prone to thunderstorms in autumn, it is a harsh land. But, the fields are green with wheat and other crops, some of them can be eaten, some cannot, and strangers should beware of a field full of barley with no scarecrows, for it is likely to be a wormwood.