Unlike the normally dusky and dark headed Falhathian, the typical Zehini is tall and pale of complexion with red hair. Their eyes are blue, green, or gray, but never brown. In fact, being called a brown-eyed Zehin is the same as being called a flagrant liar. They are a healthy and robust people despite being lean, though scarring, accidental and ritual alike are very common among them. Some even consider some types of scars to be attractive, though this is not the norm.
What Once Was
Nothing can be said about Zehin without first looking to the past. In an age now lost, before the Nightmare war, and before the Old World rose in power, even before Falha and the Sea Kings, there was another great power. The Zehin Ascendancy ruled across much of the continent, facing the long fallen Fomorian empires of Himloth and Kyraesh, Lomar, and Stratia. The Zehini were a mighty people, with great magics and many weapons, and caused a great amount of grief for those who opposed them. But how far fall the mighty? In an act of great hubris the Zehin challenged the rule of the gods and for that trangression their lands were flooded and swallowed by the Eastern sea.
According to local history, the modern land of Zehin was shielded from this ruin by the power of a great demon. This demon dwelt in the very stone of a broken mountain known as the Ogre, its consort an equally large but weaker white she-devil of ice and snow. From these two flows the waters of the Ogre’s Tears, the central river of the Zehin Valley. from this comes the Zehin reverence for the Black Devil of the Mountain, and the White Devil of the Glacier.
Worshipping the Devil of the Mountain
Procession of Whips - Held in the spring, the Procession of Whips generally overlaps with springtime festivals like the Feast of the Vine, Imbolc, and the like. It is a time to celebrate the new growing season and the end of winter. Ale is consumed in large amounts, there are celebratory bonfires, but the central sight is the procession. Supplicants, usually the young and comely, march through the town centers stripped to the waist. they swing their corded whips in rhythm, singing and chanting paens to the devil of the mountain. Children are encouraged to wait until they are old enough to endure a self administered flailing before joining the procession. Men and women alike march and shed their blood for their distant patron.
Feast of Compassion
Following the Procession is the feast where the finest of the spring is offered on the altars, with the left-overs being made into a worthy bounty. The supplicants are granted first choice and seating after the white clad Virgins of the Mountain clean and bind their wounds as the White Devil did soothe the grevious wounds of the Black Demon after his fall.
Rite of the Mountain
Under the autumn moon, a procession of supplicants, each chosen for their intelligence and fair appearance climb the Ogre to the mountain shrine. Once there, under the direction of the VotM, the supplicants engage in a ritual feast in honor of the mountain. Then they invite the spirit of the mountain within them. The resulting devil fueled baccanal leaves all but the barren females pregnant, and 9 out of 10 males dead from frenzied exhaustion. Nine months later, the children born are consecrated to the mountain as its children, those mothers often becoming the feared Zehini witches. The rare men who survive and gain the respect of the mountain become the all but unknown Zehin Warlocks.
Rite of the Saining
Infant mortality in Zehin is high, conditions are primitive and the people are stark in nature. A child isnt given a name until they reach a full year of age and are officially sained, ritually named. Those consecrated to the mountain must be carried to the Mountain Shrine for their Saining. Near the shrine is a second shrine, the Hill of the Cold, where mothers leave infants that do not survive the climb to the shrine. It is a site of prayer that many prospective mothers voyage to to pray for strong children.
Of the Virgins of the Mountain
While the Witches and Warlocks are the clergy of the Black Devil, the VotM are the clergy of the white devil, the female devil of the Glacier. While seemingly cold and uncaring, they are among the best healers in all of Falhath.
Of Witches and Warlocks
Magic is a living thing in Zehin, it is part of the earth, it is part of their blood. The Zehin are most commonly villified by the actions of the Zehini Witch, a proud and arrogant female figure who defies local wisdom and law to bring down the forces of the earth and the burning hells upon her foes. This is mainly fiction generated by the male dominated Falhathian and Trinitine factions. The Zehini witches are indeed capable magic users, but they are as varigated as normal people, they just have a stronger propensity for magic. Zehin Warlocks, male witches, are considerably more rare. They are the militant side of Zehin and protect the small nation from those who would seek to destroy it. Surprisingly, the Warlocks have a great hatred for elves, as they claim to know the elves dark secret.
The most potent of the Zehini witches are those sorceresses who have borne children in the Rite of the Mountain, and have had their children perish and left on the Hill of the Cold. After the passage of a year, these uncommon sorceresses are called back to the hill by the Black Devil where they are guided to the now skeletal remains of their child. The bones are carefully gathered and placed in a special pouch worn around the mother’s neck. This fetish, a sacred bond and conduit between the mother and the Black Devil, can be used to enhance the magic spells cast by the Sorceress.
Dreams and Nigthmares
Zehini, and those who have a good percentage of Zehin blood, 1/4 or better, have a chance of feeling the mountain’s call. This manifests when the person in question has moved beyond the Devil’s demense. The Black Devil is a jealous power and doesnt like his worshippers wandering off, and will use dreams and nightmares to remind them of their home.
The Malazar Coast
The eastern coast of Zehin, centered around the small trade town of Malazar, is only known for the amphora of peppers and aromatic spices harvested from the forests north of the Great Woses. The Zehini traders will on occassion load down a Coaster, a coast hugging ship with a rather round shape, with the fired clay vessels and trade them at the market in Soixane.
The Province of the Ogre
The location of the main, and only real ‘city’ in Zehin, the Ogre province is the seat of the nation as well as the seat of the Black Devil’s veneration. The terrain is rough and high in elevation with the mountains in the area being craggy and broken. Zehini steel is forged here in the shadow of the broken mountain.
The northern most river of the Great Woses forms the southern boundary of Zehin, and the general region is known as the Folly. The waters are deep and cold, ogres lurk about, and other things thrive in the area that are not friendly to humans. This also marks the end of the Black Devil’s demense.
The Teufel-Grün Forest
Forming the northern boundary, this forest is named for its dusky color rather than any particular tree. Teufel-Grün is within the demense of the Black Devil, and the spirits and devils therein pay homage to that greater devil and grant passage to his chosen. PCs will not be so lucky.
For Spice - The PCs are hired by a merchant to find a way north, be it by sea or land to find the source of the Zehini spices which command such a high price. The PCs have to face a region that isnt going to like them poking about, especially if they have any sort of strong Faith backing.
For King - As part of a royal back venture, the PCs and others are sent to chart the expanses of the Great Woses and lands north. The royalty, backed by the Faith are willing to grant these new lands to those who claim them in the name of the Kingdom and Falhath. The occupants might not be interested in joining either.
A Common Foe - The Ogres of the Great Woses have become belligerent and organized, becoming a threat to Soixane and Falhath, but also to Zehin as they muster their strength. The avoid another wave of ogre wars, the two parties who have never really seen eye to eye must work together or see each other torn apart by the new kid on the block.
Mail Order Bride - It isnt uncommon for Zehini women to find their way south, especially those who have lost faith in the mountain devil, lost a child, etc. It is a harsh and unforgiving land, and many seek more verdant pastures elsewhere. Sometimes these folk and their half blooded offspring are drawn back to the land of the blood…for good or ill.