Until the signing of the Blood Unity in 0 AU, the nomadic way of life was all the people of the Nur Dal knew. As such, even its oldest city – Ulaam – does not date back much more than two thousand years, and many of its other cities are more modern still. For generations, the folk of the Nur Dal called their homes whatever they could fit on their backs, settling only to graze their herds or to hibernate during the winter months, when the cold swept across the plains of the Chwor and made travel impossible. Ever since the empire took root here, the Nur-Dal has made attempts to modernise itself, which for some is seen as a betrayal of the khan life. That is why even the largest of the Nur Dal’s cities -the Numrug in the east and Mogod in the south – are seen as largely western contrivances, sparkling achievements belonging to other cultures and histories that are not its own. The oldest standing city in the Nur Dal is Ulaam, the seat of provincial power for Blood Rurik from around 100 BU.
Here the Ruriks amassed their great wealth, whilst at the same time fracturing the more democratically organised power structures that were once the staple of the Nur Dal’s bedouin system. When the Nur Dal was amalgamated into the empire in 0 AU, Blood Rurik, issuing from the region where Ulaam was eventually built, won favour for supplying the empire with a host of raw materials – from wood to coal, minerals to water – much of which lay on grounds previously held as common land amongst the khans, and with the money the Ruriks centralised their power even further. Ulaam is little more than the manifestation of this wealth and power, a city that is in fact a palace, level upon level of marble stones, of marketplaces and residential suites, of enormous, verdant gardens and white walls that shine across the arid plains of Shivtsei desert.
Millions call this palace their home, but few can ever expect to view it from the upper strata of the palace city – that right is reserved for the Ruriks and their favorites.
Whilst the cities in the Nur Dal enjoy relative stability, in recent history, ever since it parted ways with the empire in 1519 AU, it has known troubles specific to itself. After 1519, the khans tried once again to reassert themselves, claiming back the land that was taken from them by Blood Rurik and the imperial army that protected it. More recently, the same pressures have been felt, again from the clans, but now there is the additional pressure coming from the north, in the form of the Obshina, and the current Rurik leadership once again feels exposed to many of the social issues that plague Volchok in addition to the ones historically its own. Poverty exists, as does a lack of education for many, and the population, only ever partially attached to the Ruriks, have never adopted them as their leaders. For those nationals of a more militant bent, perhaps now presents the greatest opportunity to do away with this Blood system, and return to the Bedouin days of the Nur Dal’s khans.
To the north, the Nur-Dal is a vast, empty expanse of increasingly rocky terrain, until the southern side of the Zapovedni rises from the earth and forms a continuous line of vertical, jagged stone, the other side of which is the besieged kingdom of Volchok, once the lead Blood of the empire. To make access into and out of Volchok easier, and thereby increase trade between the two countries, a series of tunnels were built here between 200-400 AU, during the golden age of the empire, and, together with the construction of the Wolf’s Pass, they still offer a conduit along which folk have moved between the Nur-Dal and Volchok ever since.
The alliance between the two provinces has been relatively easy since the collapse of the empire four hundred years ago, but, on the Nur-Dal side, there has always been a deep, silent well of feeling regarding the Blood that ended up ascending when the empire was originally founded. For many in the Nur-Dal, the wrong Blood was chosen with the signing of the unity, and that had Rurik been chosen, the empire today would still exist. For others, it wouldn’t have mattered if Rurik had been the Blood to lead the empire, since the whole concept of a Blood is alien to the Nur Dal soil. These people wish for a return to the Bedouin, clan based way of life that, until the ascension of Blood Rurik, had characterised the Nur Dal for millennia.
Rebellions and small-scale wars have been waged in the name of the clans and other separatist communities ever since the Nur Dal became annexed to the empire, and they continue to make their voices heard militarily, economically and politically. But up until now, such attempts to retroactively overthrow the Ruriks have been restricted to privately financed uprisings and meagre propaganda and petitioning campaigns inside Ulaam.
In the countryside, feeling towards Blood Rurik has always been hostile, not least because the noble house is seen as little more than a western invention, and totally at odds with the more laterally organised clans that pervaded the Nur-Dal since time memorial. The Charingha, the Tengi, the Daishi, the Esens, these clans dominated the Nur Dal’s political and geographical life all the way up until shortly before the signing of the Blood Unity, when Rurik – financed some say by these western powers – began buying its way into the hearts and minds of these self-same clans, and who, when the time came, became their mouthpiece at the negotiating table. As such, Blood Rurik is seen by many in the Nur Dal as inauthentic to the khan life, a foreign imposition which then became their leader. For many, the real dream is to return to the Khan system, in which the peoples of the Nur Dal were united in a spirit of nomadic sharing.
Perhaps the most famous of these oppositions came in the shape of Ulgen Ularm, or ‘the great black goose’ as his name translated, who started a political movement in the late eleventh century that insisted that bedouism was the true way of life for the folk of the Nur Dal.
His ardent belief in the clan way of life helped alienate him from his family and the authorities of the Nur Dal, and it was intensified by his similarly ardent belief in his province’s historical exceptionalism, which was as much founded on saccharine idealism as it was on realistic historical accuracy. Ularm was influenced heavily in his thinking by a good deal of ignorance and arrogance at the same time, for at its root was the belief that the Nur-Dal was both the cradle and the grave of all life in Bratsk. From the rivers of the Nur-Dal life was born, and into the empty Nur-Dal plains of the Altai all life ended. In the end, Ularm was assassinated by Blood Rurik’s feared secret police, in 1103 AU.
It is fair to say that, whilst not as militarily powerful as Volchok, and not as wealthy as Tal’dor, the Nur-Dal is by far the most open, free thinking province in Bratsk. It has always been proud of its history of tolerance regarding religion, migration, and magic, and it has often found itself at odds with two of the three countries with which it shares its borders, esepcially with the religious orthodoxy of Tal’dor. Despite the decrees and policies of the empire between 1519 and 1720 to exterminate all necromancers in Bratsk (called colloquially the Quell), the Nur-Dal ceded from the empire in 1519, and so was under no obligation to oblige. Instead, the newly independent country, still headed by Blood Rurik, offered necromancers safe harbour, including those who had been actively working against the empire in the war with the Sakr.
In fact, it was in the Nur-Dal that the Nekromika was first established, firstly as an attaché component to a khan’s standing army, in 555 BU, and then later to Rurik’s own. As tacticians, Blood Rurik must be credited with understanding the potential a tightly bound group of necromancers could offer, and the Nekromika has always been instrumental in securing threats external and internal to the country for as long as it has existed. The role the Nekromika played after 1519 continued, and in no way and at no time did Blood Rurik ever agree to the demands of its now-competitors Blood Neprev and Blood Voron to close the Order down. After the signing of the Blood Unity, the Nekromika in fact became a signature mark in the army of the empire, much to the dissatisfaction of Tal’dor, and set up in the way Blood Rurik had worked with them for hundreds of years. Of course, Tal’dor refused to fight alongside them, but it did not prevent the Nekromika for fighting to shore up Blood Voron’s authority when they were called upon to do so.
This connection between Blood Rurik and the necromancers meant that when the pogroms against them began in 1519, the Nur-Dal resisted wherever and whenever it could their extermination. It gave them shelter, provisions, and safe passage to and from its homeland to Sakr, much to the disdain of Blood Neprev and outright hostility of Blood Voron. Still, some bonds go so deep and so far that it would be fair to say Blood Rurik’s connection with the necromancers, and its attachment to the dream of the Nekromika, outweighed its historical fellowship with the empire. The supernatural runs deep in the hearts of Nur-Dal folk and always has done, just as it does in the Sakr to the south, and it is perhaps the location of that province, tucked away in the south of Bratsk, that accounts for the cultural transmission between the two states and that makes Nur-Dal much more closely aligned to its southern neighbour than to Tal’dor in the west or Volchok in the north. Many of the Nur-Dal’s customs, its literature, its language and its art share many similarities with the Sakr – also a Bedouin culture – and the fact that both countries identify closely with the bedouin way of life has historically made them common bedfellows. Hence, when Blood Neprev’s order in 1200 AU to suppress the rebellions in the Sakr using Nur-Dal troops, Blood Rurik found itself in an almost impossible situation. To those fleeing the war, the Blood gave shelter, much to the ire of both Tal’dor and Neprev, but as with all alliances, it was the more palatable of the two possible outcomes: either tolerate the Sakr escaping, or go to war with one of its own.
In fact, things were never the same after the issuing of such orders, and even though Blood Rurik remained a part of the empire for another three hundred years, it did so increasingly out of self-interest rather than anything else. Now that Blood Neprev has fallen, many within the Nur-Dal expect their government to fulfil an ambition long since held here – to take Volchok for itself.