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Ull Gazetteer: Ulakand the City of Horses, part 2
Posted on Sun, October 10, 2004 by Legate
mortellan writes "“In the first installment we learned much of Ulakand’s geography and how its people make a living within its environs. In the second part we will focus on who holds power in Ulakand and the many colorful customs and events to be encountered here.”

Ull Gazetteer: Ulakand the City of Horses, part 2
By: mortellan
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

Rule in Ulakand
Power Struggles
Ulakand is the principle meeting ground for the Khanate Council. This rabble gathering is composed of leaders from as many as twenty major clans both settled and nomadic throughout Ull. Only distant Kester remains conspicuously absent from these meetings since no khan can be determined there. At the head of this volatile group is the Orakhan who lords over Ulakand with a voracious dictatorial reputation. The council traditionally meets each season to intensely debate matters concerning all Uli in front of their glowering ruler. Despite the façade of government, little actually gets done at these meetings and the Orakhan’s decisions almost always result in violent solutions that the khanates are all too willing to carry out.

Given this lust for fighting, the faces on the council frequently change as dueling and assassinations happen with an accepted irreverence. Even Draske the Ferocious, the former Orakhan met his demise by the bloodied hands of his own half ogre nephew Bruzharag. Known as Bruzharag the Misbegotten, this hulking warrior of some infamy swept into Ulakand and successfully seized the title of Orakhan away from his despised uncle. Now Bruzharag commands the fear and apprehension of all within his reach. Fortunately for all of Ull, in spite of his strength in arms the new Orakhan lacks the cunning of his late uncle and seems content bullying his royal relatives and immediate subjects in Ulakand.

Warrior culture
Throughout Ulakand can be found roving bands of mace or polearm wielding warriors who are bloodthirstily loyal to the Orakhan while chaotically corrupt outside his stern view. Their staunch presence among the heights of Ulakand ensures that outsiders are always tailed and kept in line. In times of great peril Ulakand becomes the rallying point for scores of light cavalry groups that eagerly respond to the call of their illustrious leader. These wild and vicious lancers ride upon the best horses drawn from Ull. Among the corrals of Ulakand these barbaric warriors put many horsehides and scalps of enemy riders on display as evidence of their mettle. Much of this conflict comes from tribal skirmishes with neighboring Paynim clans who still cling to feuds dating back before the founding of Ulakand. In lean times these militant bands resort to banditry against merchant caravans bound for southerly Kester while others for a price will offer to protect them on their journey back north.

Spirituality and Superstitions
Practical Worship
More so than their kin to the south, Ulakand clans have a deep belief in the power of ancestor worship. Why they typically refrain from fearing and patronizing the pantheon of the West is unknown but what is known is that Uli believe in the inspiration of past deeds and with enough faith in their lineage, they too will be aided to success by their ancestors. In this way the people of Ulakand seem more practical in seeking solutions to the everyday problems of life than their more pious cousins to he north. This overconfident attitude lends itself well to their warlike tendencies, as death in combat is generally the quickest way to join the ranks of one’s ancestors. Despite the indifference or outright abhorrence for deities in the region, many worshippers of demonic cults easily find influence among the tent city of Ulakand. The most devious of these practitioners subtly use the belief in ancestors as a way to delude common Uli into furthering their unholy schemes.

Horse Customs
The clans of Ulakand revere horses with more passion and celebration than anything else. Horses are considered part of the family so their care and respect is treated accordingly. Many customs, taboos and legends typical to Baklunish are practiced in Ulakand. The naming of horses is very important and many clan elders proudly memorize the lineages of horses under their family. Taboos involving horses tend to be highly personal and become the source of many brawls throughout the town. Many Uli refuse to ride another man’s horse or even lead it to water, while it’s a common taboo all over Ull for women to first give a treat to a horse before riding it. Uli warriors are fond of exchanging locks of hair with their mounts before battle or long journeys. This fact leads warring clans to scalp or skin the hair or hides of their fallen foes believing this will give them a measure of control over their enemy’s descendents in future battles.

Ulakand itself is built on a legend regarding a gargantuan horse. This mythic story tells of the great stallion that became angered when the gods tried to tame it. In its fury it trampled down part of the Barrier Peaks creating present day Ket then rampaged wildly to the southwest where it eventually laid down and died rather than be controlled. The great stallion’s remains became the mesa on which Ulakand was founded.

Naajam Festival
Every year during mid-summer, also called Richfest in the east, there is a unique event held in Ulakand that draws folk from far and wide. Ull’s first Orakhan brought the Naajam Festival to this region long ago basing it off of ancient Paynim traditions from the far west plains. For two long weeks local clans and many curious foreigners gather under a tenuous truce to celebrate in drunken revelry and show off their horse-riding prowess. Ulakand’s size doubles around this time as sturdy tents spring up all around the mesa and herds of untrained horses are paraded into town. People wear their most colorful garments during the festival while singing and dancing to ancestral songs that usually boast the power of Ull. Each day aspiring riders from children on up to the ablest Uli warrior show off their skill on horseback for the voracious festival crowds. These performances wildly vary, ranging from high-speed acrobatic stunts to mounted archery contests.

Above all the most important event is the deadly cross-country Naajam Trials. This highly competitive race attracts arguably the best riders and best horse breeds from across the Baklunish West and infrequently even beyond Ket. On the first day of the Naajam Festival all the entrants take off at once towards the southwest, blazing through Ull’s interior until they reach the halfway checkpoint at Kester. From there the riders continue their trek around the Ulsprues, hugging the mountain range while within the inhospitable Dry Steppes until they arrive back at the familiar Plains of the Paynims where only the hardiest of horsemen remain to sprint back to Ulakand and the howling Naajam crowds. The lethality of this race comes from many factors including the sweltering climate of the Steppes, horses dying from over-exertion and several well-timed ambushes along the foothills by ogres or opportunistic dervishes. While much betting occurs between the khans and other rich patrons at the festival, the fearless competing riders do it merely for the clan honor of being titled ‘Leader of a Thousand Horses’ and having their winning horse revered in song for generations to come.



Sources: Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, The World of Greyhawk Folio, Living Greyhawk Journal #5, Greyhawk Adventures, Players Guide to Greyhawk.
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Re: Ull Gazetteer: Ulakand the City of Horses, part 2 (Score: 1)
by cwslyclgh on Wed, October 20, 2004
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that was awesome.




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