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The Bedine were a proud, warlike race that inhabited the southern Anauroch regions but were concentrated in the region known as the Sword. Most folk of the Realms had no idea that the Bedine even existed, and those who did rarely could understand the difficult conditions of survival that drove them to live the way that they did.
They had brown-hued skin, brown eyes, and black or brown hair and were of average height and weight for a humanoid creature of Faerun. Those rare instances of blue eyes or blond hair were a product of "outlander blood".
Bedine had lived for so many centuries in the desert that their bodies had adapted to its extremes of hot and cold more so than typical humans.
Some clothing played a symbolic role in Bedine culture. Most Bedine men and women wore keffiyeh, or kufiya, scarves on their head. These were usually white to soak up as little heat as possible and were worn when outside. An igal, a brow band, held the keffiyeh on the head and indicated a person's status and tribe; it could be made of camel hair and precious gems.
A type of loose, sleeveless robe called an aba, which protected from the suns rays, was worn by both men and women, but some men deviated from this traditional style and wore loose shirts and vests instead. Over the aba was worn a dark jellaba at night, to provide warmth.
The women of Bedine tribes were covered from head to ankle with even veiled faces in public. Only their hands, feet, and eyes were visible. They wore their veils upon reaching child-bearing age and sometimes earlier.
Honor was prime among the Bedine's beliefs—more important than life itself. This included both personal honor and the honor of one's family. Their harsh existence, full of death and hardship, molded their culture to believe the gods would measure them based on their behavior in life. A typical Bedine man lived his life seeking to defend his family, to serve his sheikh, and to win honor. Killing was not looked down upon as harshly as by other cultures. Life was harsh and death was common; thus, if it were pragmatic to do so, killing another human might be little different than killing an animal.
To the Bedine, no one had the right to claim ownership of food or water; such items belonged to whoever needed them at the time. Thus, hoarding and gluttony were highly offensive to the Bedine.
Despite their violence amongst each other, the Bedine tended toward law and goodness; they stood stoically against evil and chaos. On the one hand, Bedine would freely share food and water with those in need; yet on the other hand, they carried on perpetual and violent rivalries with Bedine from other tribes. These rivalries occurred primarily because the number-one concern of a typical Bedine individual was survival—daily existence in the harsh desert was not a guarantee, and tribes thus often survived by raiding each other, stealing camels, food, or other needs. A victory meant another day to survive.
Another source of long-standing feuds was the insulting of a Bedine or his family's honor. Such feuds might last for more than a generation until honor was restored. Restoration of honor often meant the execution of the offender or one of the descendants.
Most Bedine had never left the Sword, much less the greater desert. They knew that the land to the north was even drier and more barren. They would be utterly astonished to experience life outside the wasteland that they know as home.
Because the very few outsiders a Bedine might meet were most likely to have been escaped criminals, risk-taking adventurers, or Zhentarim traders, the Bedine did not have a favorable view of those of the outside world around the desert, considering them dishonest "jackals" or naming them "paleskins" or "bonehides", in reference to their usually far lighter skin tones, or simply "outlanders" or berrani. Bedine would usually offer a chance to surrender to an outlander enemy, not out of mercy, but because of a belief that men without honor could not lose it. Despite there initial opinions, it was possible to change most Bedine's minds by demonstrating one's honor through both word and action.
Another common trait of the Bedine was their love of freedom. A warrior would rather die than be enslaved.
A typical Bedine feared all things magical, considering it both dishonorable and to be feared. In fact, tribes would outcast anyone casting magic, with a minor exception for small divine healing spells, which were seen as "favor of the gods." To even approach a magic item was considered crazy. Exiled magic users were called "witches". It might be possible, however, to convince a Bedine of an exception to this avoidance of magic items with the argument that a defensive weapon or armor was a special gift from the gods.
Outlanders often considered the Bedine to be lazy. Rather, they were wise in their use of energy during daylight hours. It was pure stupidity to lose precious water to excessive sweating or to risk "the heat faints" of sun-stroke by running during the heat of the day.
Like many peoples, the Bedine loved luxury and had a desire for many offspring. Most important, however, was the desire to die having lived an honorable life.
The Bedine were once divided into over 100 tribes with the largest having more than 300 members. Some of the tribes had never even heard of each other, and even more had never encountered one another in the vast wilderness of the desert. One tribe met only an average of two others in a year of nomadic travels. Rarely, more than a few tribes would temporarily unite under an "oversheikh" or "emir" against a common foe, such as lamias or asabi. Known tribe names included: Alaii, Artinn Ruabi, Bai Kabor, Bait Mahwa, Binwabi, Bordjia, Clelarra, Desai, Dakawa, Dursalai, Felfaarin, Goldor, Iriphawa, Ju'ur Dai, Kellordrai, Lalajar, Lilithai, Mtair Dhafir, Mahlajai, Qahtan, Raz'hadi, Ruwaldi, Shaara, Shremala, Ulaarjar, Yethtai, and Zazalaar.
The Bedine were a nomadic, tent-dwelling society. Most sites in the Sword could not support permanent settlements, and those few oases that could were considered sacred land to the Bedine and not the property of any one tribe. Moreover, a tribe that stayed in a single location was often a target for rivals or predators.
A tribe at rest arranged its tents in a circle, with the openings facing inwards, for protection against the desert's dangers. A few tribes had alternative arrangements for their tents, such as the Ruwaldi, who pitched theirs in parallel rows. In any case, a camp was always highly guarded.
The tents themselves were roughly shaped like cones or flattened pyramids. They had triangular floor plans. The walls were fashioned from thick-woven camel hair supported by wooden poles. Three poles lay on the ground, three extended up from each corner, and three more supported the ceiling in another triangle. Richer Bedine tents had one or more tent flies, called rihba'id by the Bedine, which were erected over the main tent for shade and protection from blowing sand. The tents were decorated with henna, coffee-grinds, or other colored juices, either in artistic patterns or in tribal symbols.
Within a tent, the sandy ground was covered with carpet, attached to the floor-poles, which could be intricate—such as for the sheikh—or simple. Tents were surround on the inside by "thorn-girdles", or nabat-shef-habl, which were clusters of thorns, shards, and other sharp things woven into a string of vines, straps, or rope. A thorn-girdle kept small desert animals and vermin, such as scorpions, from entering one's tent. Cushions were used for sitting and reclining, and a low table was typically present. Other items usually found inside a Bedine tent were the packs for traveling and the women's ground-looms and cooking pots. Weapons were hung from the tent poles within reach, while extra clothes were hung on the outer poles and high off the ground. Clothes and blankets were sometimes used to divide the tent into separate rooms. A tent could shelter six persons, if they slept with their heads to the center.
The sheikh's tent was much larger, with multiple rooms walled by tapestries. There were separate rooms for the council, for cooking, for the women, for storage, for dressing, for private discussions, etc. Some sheikhs had smoke-holes in the center of their tents for entertaining important guests with freshly roasted meat within the tent.
Tents were lighted by lamps fueled with butter. Richer Bedine might instead use scented oils or perfumes for fuel or might even own oil lanterns with tinted glass.
At night in the Sword, it was cold. If there was no time to pitch a tent, a Bedine might dig a temporary shelter into a sand dune and use a shield as a roof. Such a sand-shelter was called an asan-shurr in their language.
When camped at a pool of water, the Bedine submerged skins of milk and water to keep them cool and the skins damp. Otherwise, these were hung from the ceiling of a tent. Such skins were one of the most precious belongings of a Bedine.
At the center of an encampment was a campfire, which was kept burning at night for warmth and light.
In the winter, each tribe had to find shelter from the Snowwinds, powerful snowstorms that fell on Anauroch. They found such shelter for the winter underground, in one of the many "buried kingdoms" of ancient past. Unfortunately, most of these subterranean ruins were infested with monsters and other predators—including beholders and worse creatures. A Bedine tribe would usually survive, but at great yearly loss of life, and this was one of the factors preventing the Bedine from swelling to great numbers.
The Bedine were a strongly male-dominated society. Men were allowed to have more than one wife, provided they could care for all of them. A successful man was strong in battle and owned many camels or wives.
The men took turns on watch, posted at a good distance from the tents out of sight from each other. They carried signal horns for this task. Those men not on watch could serve the sheikh or the elders on errands or practice with their weapons. Other men were considered "waiting warrior"—those sleeping after their watch or those too sick or injured for other tasks. Waiting warriors might spend their time in gambling games or telling stories; however, even the waiting warriors were ready to help defend the tribe if the call came.
There were a few tribes that were the exception to the rule of male-control. The Lilithai and Shaara tribes were both small all-female tribes who enslaved men and raided camels from the other tribes. They were both located in the northern Sword.
A common musical instrument of the Bedine was called a rebaba. It was a sort of long, thin, triangular lute. After dark, Bedine men often sat outside their tents and sang ballads together while plucking these rebabas and drinking coffee served by their wives.
For animals, the Bedine kept camels and dogs. These dogs were splay-footed, which allowed them to run better on sand. The dogs fought off jackals and snakes and would bark if intruders arrived. They were also used to herd the camels. The Bedine did not consider the dogs pets. Wild animals and desert predators were not feared but were instead treated with respect.
Each tribe was ruled by a sheikh, whose word was law. A sheikh's wealth was determined by the size and quality of his herds. A good sheikh always put the welfare of his tribe above his own. He would lead his tribe in battle like a general. The primary punishment used by a sheikh to ensure control over his tribe was banishment. Obviously, if the sheikh banished too many people, he would no longer have a tribe to lead! This put a limit on his power.
The sheikh's ultimate power was further limited by tradition and important decisions made by the tribe's council of elders. The elders were composed of male warriors of the tribe, although older women could exert influence through their husbands. The council of elders could have about six elders on average, but larger tribes could have as many as a dozen. The council usually met in the tent of the sheikh, which was strongly guarded so that strangers and women could not hear the happenings within. The usual council meeting involved a good deal of arguing. If an agreement could not be found, the sheikh had the final word.
All warriors were bound to obey the commands of the sheikh, and only the most battle-hardened veterans would consider challenging such orders. Despite the sheikh's power, he was not altogether unapproachable; in fact, any warrior was permitted to enter a sheikh's tent without appointment to speak with him. (Women and guests could not do so, however, unless accompanied by a warrior.)
Some of the traditions followed by all Bedine tribes included always giving water to the thirsty and always honoring one's oath. A sheikh might provide an exemption to some of these traditions to an outsider; for example, a guest might not be required to fight to the death if someone challenged the guest for the possession of the guest's wife.
Marriage & Family
The status of a woman was connected to that of her husband, but she could improve it through other areas of influence, such as knowledge. Thus, many older wise women might be sought out by even the sheikh himself if she knows more about a particular matter. A woman who dared even to appear unveiled was considered "brazen". So too was any woman who approached a man from another family, whether on foot or on camelback. (A man, however, was free to approach a woman, though he was at risk of angering her family.) A woman was not allowed even to speak with a man from another family either, unless a group of other men or a male family member was present.
While a married woman had few freedoms, no woman was ever forced to marry. Both a woman and her father could refuse any marriage proposal. Since women rarely had any opportunity to meet a man outside their family, cousins and other distant relatives frequenly married each other. Otherwise, a woman would have to accept the marriage proposal of a man she had never had a chance to get to know.
Fathers usually tried to find matches for their daughters. Bedine men were in fact forbidden to court a woman without her family's permission. Doign so would result in a challenge of honor and a fight to the death. If the courter wins, he was allowed to marry the woman. If he dies, the woman, obviously, remained with her family.
When a marriage arrangement was accepted, the groom or his family paid a bidal price to the woman's father, usually in camels. A wedding feast was held, and the bride and groom drank honeyed camel's milk from a special cup as part of the ceremony. The wedding was followed by a period known as the purdah, during which the new bride was forbidden to leave her husband's tent without his permission or to speak to another man. This was sometimes called the "seven days of bliss", but its actual length differed, depending on the tribe. (Some scholars believed that the purdah was a means of preventing new brides from fleeing back to thier fathers.)
Marriages were not without romance, and many Bedine youth dreamed of someday finding perfect love with a partner created especially for them by the gods.
If a man died, his brother was bound by honor to take care of the widow for at least two years. After two years, he was permitted to marry her himself.
Children could be found in peaceful Bedine camps running amongst the tents or wrestling within the circle. Young boys would practice hunting or caring for weapons. Older daughters watched over the younger children or helped their mothers in domestic chores. Older sons would actively hunt for game and scout outside the camp and would serve as a watch for intruders. They were trained from a very early age to follow orders, to fight with weapons, and to understand the ways of the desert. Boys were even taken along on raids to keep watch or to deliver messages. If a tribe were attacked, the boys would defend the women and the camels.
After first killing another man in a raid, a boy went through a rite of passage to become a full adult, where he was sent to capture a camel from another tribe alone.
Historically, the Bedine avoided interacting with those outside their desert. They commonly did trade with D'tarig caravan cities, however, and the D'tarig acted as a sort of go-between for the Bedine tribes and the "outside world".
The Bedine drank a dark, salted coffee that they called qaw, a shorted form of qahwa, brewed from Anaurian beans. The D'tarig used to trade Bedine qaw with Zhentil Keep, but after the re-appearance of Thultanthar, the Bedine mostly kept their qaw to themselves.
The Bedine also harvested sap from the trees of the desert, which they used to make incense and unguents. These made their ways into the exotic markets of Faerûn, along with more mundane Bedine goods.
Food and water were not considered trade items; in the eyes of the Bedine, food and water were fundamental necessities of life that no one could claim to own.
If a stranger ever entered a Bedine encampment, the women would whistle loudly as a signal to the whole camp. Only men were allowed to let a visitor enter their tent; women were not allowed to speak with visitors at all. (Some women were known to get around this rule by singing songs with obvious messages to the vistor instead or pretending to speak loudly to themselves.)
Only the sheikh had the authority to permit a stranger to spend the night as a guest in the encampment. If they were accepted as guests, strangers were treated with great hospitality, always being offered black tea. In the evening, especially favored guests would be served hot, salted coffee. Anyone who attacked the guest of a sheikh was required by honor to be executed or exiled.
The Bedine spoke a dialect of Midani, the language of Zakhara, a dialect known as Uloushinn by some scholars, although the Bedine themselves did not have a word for their own language. They used the Thorass alphabet, but were not often literate.
Bedine did not use surnames. If necessary, patronyms ("son of…") and andronyms ("wife of…") were sometimes used. Alternatively, the suffixes "the Young" or "the Old" might be added.
The Bedine worshiped several variations of old Netherese gods: A'tar, Elah, Kozah, N'asr, and Shaundakul. Scholars, however, agreed that these deities were in fact Lathander, Selûne, Talos, Cyric or Kelemvor, and Beshaba, respectively. "Shaundakul" was actually Beshaba using the old god's name in a personal plot to annoy him. In addition, they worshiped many other lesser deities and had a fear of the djinn, whom they considered evil desert spirits to be avoided at all costs.
As a rule, the Bedine were superstitious, attributing many natural events, such as storms and desert hazards, to the gods that they worshiped.
The worship of the gods consisted of prayer and blood sacrifices of camels or other animals. They feared their gods and primarily sought to appease them. Holy men guided the tribes in "favored behavior" to the gods, taught the god's lore, and made predictions and divinations; however, the Bedine had no clerics or any use of divine magic.
The Bedine cared for their own dead by bathing the bodies so that the departed could meet the gods clean. The bodies were then buried deep in the sand with rocks piled atop the site. The families kept also useful possessions. Non-Bedine were simply left to the vultures.
A few days of the year were feast days, but only a few of these were dedicated to the gods; instead, they were held in memory of famous battles, the birthday or ascension day of the current sheikh, or the founding of the tribe.
The Bedine were trained camel-riders and were adept at combat in the darkness of night. They were trained in combat from before they are even adolescents. Women, of course, were not supposed to fight as warriors, whoever those who did often found themselves respected by male warriors, provided that this honor does not exceed the role she has as her husband's wife.
A typical Bedine scouting party might include one to three warriors and one to two rangers. A patrol group might have between five and eight warriors with a healer and a leader. All of these combatants would be on camelback.
The Bedine primarily fought with scimitars, lances, daggers, and bows and arrows—all of which were made to some degree from camel parts. Metal was very rare in the desert, so only hide and leather armor were worn, if worn at all, nor were there any metal shields.
While they did use archery, because of the desert wind and the shimmer caused by the intense desert sunlight, most battles were determined in melee range. Similarly, most fighting and raids occurred during the cool of the night.
During a raid, the Bedine were stealthy and deathly swift; during an all out battle, they filled the air with their loud battle-cries. The Bedine often carried an amarat, a horn used to signal warnings to other Bedine. If they needed light at night, they bore torches, made from resin-covered branches. Bedine were skilled at throwing these torches as weapons at robed enemies.
In battle, the Bedine would usually fight to the death, even against overwhelming odds, so great was the shame that they would feel in defeat. Sometimes, a winning party of Bedine would offer a losing warrior a chance to join their tribe in reward for bravery in the face of such defeat. Requesting such an offer was a disgrace, but it was never disgraceful to accept. Acceptance of such an offer was ceremonialized by the losing warrior kissing his weapon and laying it at the feet of his new sheikh. In response, the sheikh kissed the new warrior's forehead. They would then share a glass of wine mixed with a few drops of blood from both of them.
For many years, the Zhentarim had tried to fight against the Bedine, but they found this problematic, for the Bedine only held land that they occupied at any particular moment.
The Bedine feared the lamia, the asabis, and "the Evil Ones Below". These latter creatures were, in fact, the phaerimm, though the Bedine did not know that name. They knew only that they were all taught as children never to dig too deeply.
After the Fall of Netheril, the surviving cities, known as the Lost Kingdoms lasted for a time, until eventually the desert consumed them as well. Then, in −339 DR, a group of humans emigrated from Zakhara using a portal. They intermingled with the populace of the ancient Netherese cities, and over time the combined culture became what was called the Bedine. They maintained knowledge of their spoken language, Midani, or Uloushinn, but had all but forgotten their native written language. Over the centuries since, traders introduced them to the Thorass alphabet. Throughout this time, the Bedine somehow resisted the mind-controlling magics of the phaerimm who were imprisoned in the sands beneathe them.
In the 1350s DR, the Zhentarim strove hard to establish a trade route across the desert. To do this, they needed to either exterminate the Bedine or subject them to slavery. They could do neither. In 1360 DR, the Bedine tribes were temporarily united against the threat of the Zhentarim by the Harper Lander and the exiled Bedine witch Ruha.
After the second rise of the Netherese Empire at the end of the 14th century DR, when the Spellplague restored the Anauroch to the fertile lands it once was, the Bedine were subjugated by the Netherese and forcefully integrated into their society, making up the new middle class of the Empire. Over the next few generations, they gradually became city dwellers, abandoning their nomadic ways, and living in such cities as restored Oreme, Orofin, or Rasilith. Some of the Bedine, however, formed a separatist group called the Sand Kings, who sought to overthrow the Netherese..
In 1485 DR, the Bedine rebelled against the Netherese, after a war with Cormyr had thinned out Netheril's forces. Within a few years, the Netherese Empire had been destroyed for the second time in history, and in 1488 DR, the Bedine battled with Netheril's surviving forces over a site known as Memory Spire. This conflict accidentally unleashed a horde of phaerimm, who once again wreaked havoc on the lands below with their life-draining magics.
The Bedine are likely inspired by the Bedouin people of north Africa and the Middle East.
- "The Spiral Gate", Dungeon #180
- Video games
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- Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 85. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
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Maztica: Azuposi • Dog People • Green Folk • Metahel • Nahopaca • Nexalan • Payit (Itza)
Taan: Commani, Dalat, Fankiang, Gur, Guychiang, Igidujin, Kashghun, Khassidi, Naican, Oigur, Pazruki, Quirish, T'aghur, Tsu-tsu, Tuigan, Zamogedi
Kara-Tur & Malatra: Bavanese & Bertanese • Bawani • Han • Issacortae • Koryoan • Kozakuran • Kuong • Nubari • Pazruki • Purang • Seng • Shou • Tabotan • Tayanulchi • Wanese • Wu-haltai