"We are a mongrel people—birthed by the east wind which carried us here. And yet we have carved our history into this stone. It is in the Shayan's blood to persist. That is why we call ourselves the children of the storm."
The Shayan are one of the Sandbender Tribes of the Si Wong Desert. Like all sandbenders, they were originally descendants of the Beetle-headed people, the first inhabitants of the desert, but were rejected as outcasts due to their racially-mixed blood or criminal status. Unlike their rival clan, the Hami, the Shayan are far less nomadic desert dwellers, as they only live outside their sandstone basin shelter during the rainy season. They also primarily rely on camelephants as opposed to sand-sailers for cross-desert transportation.
The sandbenders of the Shayan are descended from the Beetle-headed merchants—the first inhabitants of the Si Wong Desert. The Shayan were originally a group of criminals and outcasts who were shunned by the Beetle-heads due to racial tension, as the people who formed the sandbender tribes were mixed breeds, having intermarried with earthbender refugees from outside the desert whom they had allowed into their communities. Over time, as the Beetle-heads settled in walled trading towns such as the Misty Palms Oasis, they lost the art of wilderness living. As such, the sandbenders consider themselves to be the "true" inhabitants of the desert. Rather than seeing the Bettle-heads as their ancestors, the Shayan consider them to be a weak and parasitic people: compromised by civilization and only concerned with economic profit as opposed to the ancient codes of honor that guide the sandbenders.
At some point in the Shayan's past, a bitter enmity arose between them and the Hami tribe. It is believed that the contention began when the Hami ignored the magnetic leylines that connect to Si Wong Rock and demarcate each sandbender tribe's territory. The Shayan claim that the Hami have ignored these boundaries as they scavenge over wider ranges and intrude into the Shayan's territory, thereby depriving the latter of resources.
Unlike the Hami, who are nomadic and live in tents or loose sand-formed structures, the Shayan live in a sunken cave complex formed out of red sandstone. There is a small aquifer deep beneath the sandstone formation, with smalls pools that rise to the surface within the caves. However, the sandbenders have found that they are forced to carve deeper into the stone in order to tap into the spring as the water table continues to sink. In the bottom of the natural rock basin there is a vestigial rain water pool that typically remains throughout almost the entire year, drying up completely just before the rainy season. Once a year, the rains come and recharge the aquifer: but they also cause the entire village within the caves to flood. The flooding has been exasperated in recent years, and the villagers are forced to live outside their protected village for increasingly longer amounts of time. This also leaves the water in the sunken cliffs exposed to evaporation, which means it dries up before the end of the year. The Shayan's prediction of the rain is becoming skewed as well, as for unknown reasons it is becoming harder to gauge when the rains will come. Thus, they run the risk of losing all their stored rations in a surprise deluge.
While the rock formation provides the Shayan with water and protection from the outside elements, one of its disadvantages is that the tribe itself less mobile. Because of this, the Shayan are highly patriarchal, as they must send out their men to hunt and, in certain cases, ward off enemies as far away from their shelter as possible. Over the centuries, hunting sand sharks (the juvenile male members of the species are small enough to be killed by humans) has evolved into the Shayan's rite of passage for its young warriors, as it forces them to rely both on individual ingenuity and the collective strength of their group—vital skills in the harsh desert environment. Needless to say, the typical lifespan for the Shayan is extremely short, averaging at 40-45 years. As such, any person who lives beyond the age of 60 (a rarity since skin cancer tends to claim those who manage to escape the dangers of desert life) is considered to be an elder of the tribe. Interestingly, this consideration applies for women as well, although their voices in the tribe's council have less weight than those of the men.
Code of Honor
Like all sandbender tribes, the Shayan place a high value on hospitality and will not refuse a desert traveller food or refuge. However, this hospitality is held rather loosely as the Shayan are distrustful of outsiders. Thus, should any injury or offense be committed by the visitor, the Shayan do not consider continued hospitality to be an obligation.
Food and Customs