East of the Empire, across the isthmus that once connected the bottom of Venisia's crescent. Sits a land of vast desert and mountain ranges. Its people are as ancient and storied as the Empire itself. Natural travelers and explorers, they've traded with the Empire and the lands beyond since the days of its conception. Unique to Avsolom, they've never had an official unified government or ruling body aside from when they were under Imperial control. Home to diverse groups of primarily nomadic people, the power structure is in a constant state of upheaval and the lands have been dubbed The Cathwa Nation.
Life among the peoples of Cathwa is uniquely free. People choose their own families and vocations. Without government there are no written laws or enforcement that hold sway across the continent. Criminal activities, such as theft and murder, are dealt with accordingly from community to community. Though certain groups may choose not to take from or inflict harm upon one another, they hold no expectations of others. Any existence you can make for yourself is an acceptable one, some choose lives of servitude in exchange for protection and sustenance among the desert people.
With the second surge of the Myst the people of the Cathwa Nation have been rattled. The division of the land they call home has lead to new creatures spewing from the ground. Making the desert their new home the creatures known as Orcs have come to stay in Avsolom. Skirmishing has been reported on the outskirts of the oases and settlements but so far the Orcs seem to be more interested in fighting one another. Some Cathwa people have decided to take up arms against the Orcs, others approach their new neighbors with more friendly intentions.
Once a land of true freedom and mobility, the Cathwa of ancient lived as they do today. Nomads and caravans traversed the desert to bring goods and stories from oasis to oasis. Before the time of established settlements in the desert the natives lived under the watchful eyes of Ozai. One of the three ancient dragons of Avsolom who was the defacto ruler of this swath of desert. Once long ago he scourged the sands of all who opposed his territorial claim over the land. For a time there was relative quiet among the nomadic people, who enjoyed a life of freedom. Allowing them to construct the first permanent settlement in the desert, Tonoyana. Luckily for the merchants who called Tonoyana home, the conquest that was to come would not effect their way of life.
This age of peace was short lived however, for the mighty Empire to the West was ever growing. Seeing these backward nomadic types as an easy target for conquest; the vast legions of the Empire began the march East. Establishing a foothold on the continent and building the mighty fortress at the isthmus. The thin stretch of land that at low tide provided a land bridge between the mainland of Venisia. From there the Imperials would send legion after legion into the desert to gain rulership over the small and varied oasis based settlements. With relative ease due to the lack of centralization in the region Imperial forces gained control over the region and managed to solidify their grasp on the desert peoples.
This era of lording brought about several fundamental changes to the people of the desert. The Empire began by building several small settlements in key locations to facilitate the collection of natural resources in the area. This also meant the construction of a larger settlement, Setasut. Setasut which in time would grow to become the trade capital of the Cathwa Nation. It has to this day outlived the small production centers and even the great fortress at the isthmus. As the years turned into decades the people of the desert began to adopt a more sedentary life. Clans that once roamed the deserts now found refuge in the settlements of sandstone and walls. The exchange of goods and ideas between the desert and the rest of the world flourished, merchants became richer than they could have imagined. The spread of organized religion found it's way into the hearts and minds of the Cathwa people as Imperial citizens frequented the ports of Setasut and Tonoyana.
This is not to say the root of the Cathwa was lost, many retained their nomadic lifestyles and spirituality found in the sands. But as all things do, the grip of the Empire over these people began to slip. As the decline of the ever growing Empire finally reached the sandy banks of the Cathwa Nation. Those native to the desert found their rulers slowly loosening their grasp on the subjects, some claim it was corruption in the capitol some claim it was that resources in the desert dried up. Others claim the Empire bit off more than it could chew but after decades under Imperial rule the Cathwa were left in a dire state.
The colonial style of government left a power void upon it's dissolving. The established settlements and even the oases now had to figure out how to rule themselves. The code of law meant nothing, and those who had been repressed by a large standing military presence stood free to act as they pleased. This lead to a time of internal conflict where the most affluent merchants raised armies of mercenary warriors to battle for rulership of the lands. Clans fought against clans and blood was spilled in the name of ownership for another century after the freedom the continent had gained. The result was mostly predictable from an outsiders view, those who had the coin to raise armies defeated those who did not. The victor gained the spoils and quickly established themselves as lords in their own rite. Controlling every commercial aspect of the settlements they had made their fortunes in, which can still be observed today. Merchants with the coin to do so often attempt to dethrone the cabal or singular family that runs the show.
The cycle is constant and those who choose not to involve themselves stay in the desert. Roaming and trading, herding or prospecting for natural resources is the truest form of life in the desert. But all of that could change in an instant, especially with the fracturing of the desert and the emergence of a new race in the dunes...
The Cathwa Nation benefits from a Darwinist balance keeping everyone in check.
The communities consist of many groups of warlord, mystic, and merchant-led families that function similar to cooperatives. These are referred to by outsiders as tribes, although the interplay of their politics is sometimes referred to as The Cathwa Nation. Nomadic, they often travel from oasis to oasis, fighting or bargaining over the ground they cover.
No two groups of people are the same, and how each is governed differs greatly from community to community. Some rely on a singular leader (often the best suited for leadership, protection, or simply someone who exemplifies the family's values the most). These can be great warriors, enlightened thinkers, spiritual leaders, or those suited to the administrative/managerial duties required by the family. Other families lead collectively as equals, while others leave their leadership to chance, hoping their chosen leader(s) will rise to the occasion.
Though each community is unique, a place among them must be earned. Those who cannot find ways to contribute to the group are left to fend for themselves. Though life on one's own is perilous, many of the desert folk are strong-willed and self reliant, and it is not uncommon to see lone travelers or partners making a life for themselves.
On a grander scale, the various groups of the Cathwa have been known to band together out of opportunity or necessity. In more recent years, this has led to the absorption of many war-like tribes of raiders and corsairs working alongside merchants to make a bid for land and resources in the archipelago. Such cohesion among the Cathwa has not been seen since the days of the Empire, when they first won their freedom.
Religion in the Cathwa Nation can be easily divided between two camps. The more traditional side of the people retain a general sense of spirituality, feeling a connection to the land they reside in. Taking time to praise the Myst for all of it's blessings and usually crediting it for good fortune; while cursing it when things go awry. They hold this form of faith close to their hearts, and it is believed to have been adopted during the great cataclysm, the first myst surge.
The other camp of beliefs has adopted the Empire's belief structure. Years of occupation and the spread of ideas brought their religion into the Cathwa lands. Many value a structured understanding of what they believe in over the idea that the Myst is all mighty and the root of everything. But who is to say what the right answer is, it is just another thing that divides the people of the desert.
The Cathwa Nation is home to people of many different cultures, faiths, and ideologies. Though it is home to the most diverse population in Avsolom, over the years its people have come to share a similar set of values. The philosophy at the core of the desert people is one of enlightenment through adversity. Life's pursuits are fraught with challenges to be overcome, and for the most part the people take them in stride. The many perils of daily life have led many to favor simplicity over extravagance.
Because each day could be their last, many of the people have no time for politics or bureaucracy. There is little pride and fewer egos to hide behind in their struggle for survival. Thus, what free-formed governance does occur tends to be meritocratic. The best person or idea is valued far more than any sense of tradition. This has also engendered a culture of free thinking and vigorous debate. The people don't just talk of their ideas though, the freedom offered by The Cathwa Nation leaves them in a unique position to live those ideas, should they so choose.
1. The Three Oases. There are three (3) oases on the desert continent of which are larger and more prominent stops in the sands. Though several minor stops can be found between settlements and the major stops they do not retain names. The major three are Binwi, Abori, and Cobul. While the nomadic tribes fight over minor oases and watering holes, the three major ones are typically held as neutral ground. That doesn't mean fighting does not occur there, only that it is unlikely to. Some of the most magnificent architectural structures are built among these oases, many products of the Empire during the height of its glory.
2. The Shifting State. A city in a constant motion, It is a large caravan moving across the desert. Serving as a place of respite for lone wanderers, outcasts, and smaller troupes. Occasionally visited by larger groups in need of supplies or people with particular skills. The main portion of the caravan is magically imbued amalgamations of and technology, consisting of self-propelled floats and large wheeled carts that allow them to navigate across the sands quickly.
3. Setasut. A coastal city at the eastern most point of the continent. One of the most bustling cities in Avsolom, full of trade from all over the world. Here merchants and warriors not suited to the harsher life of a raider cut out an existence for themselves. Merchants with the most power and influence tend to run the show. They hire mercenaries to protect themselves and allow for trade to flow mostly unhindered. This loose governing body is kept stable by a desire for trade and wealth. The city itself consists of multiple eras of architecture built atop of one another.
4. Tonoyana. The northern most of the settlements in the desert, flanked by mountains that separate it from the new orcish settlement. It is one of the few places in Avsolom where the original architecture of the desert people can be found, undisturbed by the Empire. Here the influence of the Myst is weak, an entryway hidden within. For reasons unknown, those who stay in the city are visited with great fortune and insight. Many mystics call this place home, and through their joint efforts it is one of the most well-guarded places in all of Avsolom.