CHILDREN OF GLASS
By: Lord Dermond Jaged
The desert has always been harsh; unforgiving, ever since the beginning. The Ouzquin Dremorix believe that at the beginning of their existence they were akin to the other humans that lived beyond the sands of the desert; directionless and thoughtless. Living only for the sake of living. Until the great god Axtrami threw a great, burning shaft of mirrored light onto the sands and gave them purpose - a gift. This pure shaft lasted but an instant but bore deep into the ground, and when the people saw this crater, they noticed that the sand which was touched by the ‘staff of Axtrami’ had turned into a pure, clear solid substance. Cool to the touch and smooth, the people knew that they had been blessed with a gift. Axtrami clearly wished them to awaken from their reverie and follow a calling. Throughout the next few years they studied the sands. And eventually they found that if they applied extreme heat to it, they could recreate that blessed substance. The next few decades were spent experimenting with this creation. They learned that different plant ashes mixed with the sand could lower the heat required to create it. They also learned that they could craft many useful items out of it.
Centuries passed, and their experimentations became art. Their brittle, transparent element became a way of life. They named the substance Ouzquin and they named themselves the ‘Ouzquin Dremorix’. And this is how the ‘Glass Shifters’ came to be.
Ouzquin Dremorix: General
The Glass Shifters are a curious culture. They have been around for many centuries, living in the harsh deserts. They say that in the beginning of the society, an enormous bolt of lightning struck in the middle of the desert, turning all the sand nearby to glass. They remain adamant that their god, Axtrami, passed this lightning down to earth to show the Glass Shifters a way of life to follow. From that day, they learned the art of glass-making and perfected it.
Their culture is both extremely advanced and decidedly primitive at the same time. Their perfection of mirror and Glass crafting and blowing, as well as their technical knowledge of elements and processes behind all this shows quite an advanced society, yet at the same time they are adamantly obsessed with ritual, religion and tradition.
The Glass Shifters had been in their home desert for centuries, but in the current time, there have been encounters with caravans or even settlements in other, remote deserts all across the land. They do not much care for any other sort of terrain, and rarely stay out of a desert for more than a few months. Anyone would be able to know an Ouzquin Dremorix by sight, however, due to their appearance. Physically, the Glass shifters are golden tanned from years in the harsh sun. Their skin tends to be rough and leathery and they rarely reach a height greater than 6 feet tall. They are all very thin and small-framed, and they always have black eyes and black or dark-brown hair. Ouzquin Dremorix always wear garments made from the leathered hide of their native cows, and inset in that leather are multitudes of glass and mirrored ornaments, shining and flashing different colours in every direction. Additionally, they also all wear a glass circlet wrapping their forehead, and in the middle of that circlet is always an intricately carved glass orb - the same shape of a chicken egg but about half the size. These eggs are hollow, and the craftsmanship and intricate carvings on them are first rate masterpieces; collectors would pay a fortune for something of their quality. However, these orbs are a part of the Ouzquin’s religion, and as such are not for sale.
Curiously, there seems to be very little gender differences in the society of the Glass Shifters. Where in nearly every other culture either men or women ‘lead’, the Glass Shifters are quite neutral. Women may be in armies, and men may be carers of the household. It is all quite evenly distributed.
Ouzquin Dremorix: Religion
The Glass Shifters worship the god Axtrami: God of Reflection, Light and Storms. All of them follow this same religion devoutly. The religious order of the Glass Shifters make up about twenty percent of their population, and all follow the orders way of life.
Understanding the Ouzquin Dremorix religion isn’t too difficult - they believe they should live like glass. To be smooth on the surface but firm to touch. To cut and bite back if mishandled, and to treat life as though it could shatter at any moment. Also, like the transparent glass, they believe in speaking no lies - punishment for deceit is quite severe.
From the moment of birth, the mother reveals a gift to her son or daughter; a masterwork orb of glass, hollow and about half the size of an egg. Each egg has a completely unique design on its surface, and can be used to identify the person as well as any name would. This orb represents the childs life and is taken very seriously. For the first ten years, the mother takes care of this orb for the child, but after ten years, it is passed over to the child for his or her own safekeeping. If this orb is broken, the owner will be shunned from the Ouzquin Dremorix’s society. No second orb will be made and the person - whether young child or decrepit elderly - will be exiled to wander the deserts. The reasoning the religious order has behind this is that if the person cannot take care enough to watch out for their own orb, they are not worthy to take care of their own life.
This extremely harsh lifestyle has interestingly been the main reason that the Glass Shifter society does so well: They take care of every aspect of their life with the same care they give of their orb of life. From crafting glass, to doing chores, to even eating and sleeping, the Glass Shifters work efficiently, carefully and ritually. And interestingly, there is hardly ever a case of even a child accidentally shattering their own orb.
The act of intentionally shattering someone elses orb is considered equal to murder, and the worst punishment for crimes, short of death is the shattering of the guilty’s orb.
When a Glass Shifter dies, they are buried naked in the sand. But before that happens, a Mirrored circlet is placed over the persons eyes, and their life orb is placed within their mouth. The purpose of the mirrors against the eyes is so that the deceased may look into ones-self for eternity. This in itself is the Dremorix’s version of ‘heaven or hell’: If the person did bad deeds in his life, he will lie with the reflection of that for eternity. If a person was good through his life, he will be blessed with his good deeds forever more.
Sect of the Shattered Orb
There are those exiled in the desert for having broken their orbs which have not died. Eventually these people find their way into arms of the Sect of the Shattered Orb. All of the people in this sect were once Glass blowers who have had their orbs broken somehow. Though the sect is known to exist, not much is known of their lifestyles, habits or motives, but they do occasionally perform raids into the Glass Blowers lands to steal cattle or other resources.
Ouzquin Dremorix: Warfare
The Glass Shifters rarely war with each other, but there is sometimes need to defend their lives against outsiders; those who do not live in the desert. When war must be done, the Shifters are quite efficient at it.
Armies of the Glass Shifters are generally split into two sections: Ouzquin Kraxta and Ouzqual Haix. Respectively, these are Glass Archers, Mirrored soldiers.
The Glass Archers always attack first, but stay back for the rest of the battle. As such they never wear any armour, and nor do they carry any other weapons apart from their bows. Generally the Glass archers carry half a dozen specially crafted arrows with hollowed, glass tips. These tips are designed to shatter within a persons flesh, causing massive ruptures to the flesh. Additionally, the hollowed tips are filled with poison carefully extracted from the desert scorpions. The rest of their arrows are more common, wooden, with a simple glass tip. Archers usually get off several shots before the enemy gets too close, at which time they step back allow the next group to take over: Their shock troops.
Admittedly, glass as an armour is not that effective. However, the Mirrored soldiers are extremely deadly. From head to toe they boast highly reflective mirror-plate armour including a full-faced helm. The weapons they wield are called Ouzala, and are long, spear-like objects. However all the way along one edge of these spears are inch-long glass ‘teeth’, making the spear a serrated saw-like weapon. If the Ouzala is placed alongside a person and wrenched backwards, the teeth could tear through a man with ease. People have been known to be disemboweld or decapitated in one pull, and the jagged teeth do horrid damage to ones hamstring. By the end of a battle, most of the teeth of an Ouzala will have been wrenched out or shattered, and as such much time post-battle is spent reapplying new teeth. If the teeth wear out before a battle is done, the Ouzala can be used as a spear.
In the midst of battle, the Mirrored Soldiers charge throughout the enemy. All the flashes of light and distorted images from the reflections of the armour are blinding and extremely disorienting to the foes. As if battle weren’t confusing enough in the heat of it, seeing hundreds of reflections of friends and enemies all around you will confuse even the most level-headed man. Armies have been known to slaughter more of their friends than their enemies due to the confusion. As such, the lack of effective armour more than makes up for it.
Warriors always craft their own weapons and armour, and care for them religiously. No two armour will look the same as the last pair, but all in all, looking onto an army of these glittering foes is very disconcerting. The bright shining reflection also makes it very difficult to determine exact numbers of their forces. A stunning sight is seeing the aftermath of a battle. Corpses on the ground all over create make a shining field of death. Survivors of a battle will walk through that field of cadavers and find the Life orbs of those deceased. If the orbs are whole, they will place them within the mouths of the dead.
While lost and travelling in the deserts, the group comes across a small caravan of Ouzquin Dremorix. The Dremorix point them in the correct direction, and buy and sell goods including water and food.
Eggs from a basket:
Some shady dealers have come across a large selection of beautifully crafted glass eggs which they are selling, and you’ve been asked to find out where they are getting them from. Following the dealers reveals they are graverobbing from graves in the desert, stealing these eggs from the skulls of the dead. They had better hope the Glass Shifters don’t find out about this!
A Glass Shifter has come to you, begging for help. His Life Orb has been stolen, and if he does not find it in a week, he will be sentenced to exile by his people!
And so on and so forth…
Additional Ideas (1)
The Glass Shifters, when in the lands outside of their own deserts are very reserved and formal, in general - usually rarely speaking unless spoken to. Even when they have gotten to know outside companions they hold back somewhat. This is because they view themselves as 'strangers in a strange land' and, not knowing much of the customs and way of life of these people, they tend not to interfere too much.
It is a completely different story, however, when Foreigners enter the deserts of the Glass Shifters. When faced with strangers in their cities, they tend to find the outsiders reactions to their homes quite amusing - it is known to the Ouzquin Dremorix that most outsiders believe them to be little more than savages roaming the desert, and the sight of their lovingly designed shining cities often drops a jaw or two: Especially in the huge capital of the Glass Shifters: Bareka.
When faced with people not of the Glass Shifter culture in their own lands, the Ouzquin Dremorix regard them with open curiousity and almost shameless honesty. Members of the opposite gender may comment on how attractive that person is, or some may point out the scars this one has. One may suggest that you may want to find some water to clean yourself, for your odour makes his Ouzala curl!
Though this may be taken the wrong way, comments such as these are not meant to be insulting, alluring or suggestive - they are merely signs of honesty in accordance to the Ouzquin Dremorix belief that they should be transparent as glass: Speaking no lies and sharing their views. As a note: Attempts to further something from a woman's approving words are often quickly corrected: Just because an Ouzquin Dremorix suggests that you are attractive, does not mean they wish to form or further a relationship! Of course, attempts to FORCEFULLY further this comment will almost be met with the spearhead of an Ouzala to the neck; either in warning or run straight through, depending on the Glass Shifter.
And while on the subject, Ouzquin Dremorix NEVER respond well to threats, and attempts to intimidate them into submissions usually result in open hostility. This is in accordance with their principle of 'cut and bite back if mishandled'. A phrase cultivated by foreigners, "Bully the Glassman", basically has a similar meaning as "To shoot one's self in the foot" or to "Dig your own grave".
Though the Ouzquin Dremorix treat all other races generally the same, there are some specifics which should be noted when dealing with separate mainstream races.
Elves: Elves rarely venture into the desert. As such, the Ouzquin Dremorix know the least of these creatures. When out of the deserts, Glass Shifters will often stare curiously at elves - an often unsettling experience for the elf, when this stranger is seen always peering at him from the corner of his eyes. When in the deserts, some Ouzquin Dremorix may approach the stranger and ask a question or two of the elven race before moving on. The questions are never intrusive and once the curiousity of the Glass Shifter is sated, they will offer thanks for the information and bother them no longer.
Dwarves: Dwarves are probably the most common race in the deserts, the great sands proving of little obstacle their search for minerals and ale. All Ouzquin Dremorix know what dwarves are by sight - just as most dwarves have at the very least heard of the Glass Shifters - and outside of the deserts tend to offer a nod of recognition to the smaller folk. Within the deserts, they openly speak, trade and drink with Dwarves, often matching the stulwart folk drink for drink.
Orcs and half-orcs: Orcs have sometimes ventured into the deserts both as friend and foe to the glass shifters. Usually, though, it is when raiding small villages and outposts of the glass folk - amounting to losses on both sides of a skirmish. As such, when in smaller settlements or when met on travel in the desert, the Ouzquin Dremorix tend to keep a closer eye on orcs and half-orcs than they do on other races. When in the larger cities, of course, with thousands of Ouzala-wielding warriors around them, the glass shifters are more at ease with orcs - if the creature DID try anything rash, it's death would be swift. Outside of the deserts, orcs and half-orcs are met with a sort of mutual nuetrality with the Ouzquin Dremorix: So long as they seem to be acting responsibly, there will be no sign of disrespect or threat to them from the glass men.