It’s a special form of Hell to serve a Qadiri princess. Each and every one of them is spoiled, coddled, and – most of all – indulged by their fathers and all around them from a young age. Worse yet, a Keleshite princess generally knows her way around a blade, a spell, or an incantation to Sarenrae. – Alaren Kalepopolis, Chelaxian explorer
Physical Description and Physical Outlook
Keleshites have uniformly black hair and almond or slightly yellowish eyes. The men tend to grow long beards. Clothing ranges from gauzy silks to a practical linen and cotton robes, with headdresses, veils, and turbans common to keep sun and sand out of the hair and eyes. Gold and silver decorations are popular not just for Keleshite women, but also among the men, who encrust their weaponry and top their turbans with lavish displays of wealth.
Some Keleshite nomads tattoo the space below their eyes dark blue or black as a measure against the sun’s glare in the desert, although this gives them a haunted, ghoulish appearance. Slaves and sailors among the Keleshites wear only scanty shirts and loincloths for men, long pantaloons and veiled wraps for women.
Below their necks, Keleshites favor loose-fitting clothing ideal for the hot desert days (but long enough that they can wrap themselves in their robes through cold desert nights or long sandstorms). Their caftans, tunics, and other clothing are typically made of a light and airy gaussy silk and adorned in embroidery (the wealthier the Keleshite, the more elaborate the decoration).
Far from inured to the decadent wonders of the East, Keleshites favor exoticism in all things. For the nobles, that might mean mammoths and frost drakes, and for a thief of Katheer it might mean someone who carries armor as heavy as a crab’s casing, but Keleshite curiosity is a powerful thing. Their love for novelty drives traders and slavers to seek new markets and new products, and it drives their wizards to new investigations of elemental forces.
The Keleshites are a difficult folk. Their tremendous sense of superiority grates on those unfortunate enough not to be born among their number, and the existence of the Keleshite Empire means the Keleshites’ sense of entitlement is not based purely on past glory. Their power, learning, and skill are all quite real. Yet they are also cruel slavers, jaded mystics, zealous warriors, and hot-blooded lovers – a race bred from the heat and fire of the desert.
A Keleshite, it is said, will never bore you. As a whole, they value boldness, wit, and sly tactics over caution, brute strength, and proven but unfashionable pursuits. They can be quite aggressive – quick to anger and quick to forgive. Non-Keleshites never forget the sting of their insults or the warmth of their smiles. Keleshites dare you to find someone more interesting than them.
Keleshites are great lovers of luxuries. Their various cities and settlements include populations in Absalom, Katapesh,Osirion, Nex, and (most of all) Qadira nd its capital, Katheer. Further east, the great Diamond Sultanates of interior Casmaron stretch for vast distances, and Keleshites rule in almost all of them. In all these places, the love of magic, learning, and horsemanship is great. Horse racing is an obsession with many wealthy Keleshites, who think nothing of spending chests of gold coin on a valuable racehorse for use as a sire. Likewise, the jockeys who do the racing (many of them young women, halflings, and gnomes) are treated as heroes if they can bring the best from a horse.
Much is made of the divide among men and women in Keleshite lands, but the facts are simple: Young women are treated as jewels beyond price, because thy give rise to the next generation in noble and merchant families. By contrast, young men must fight to earn a place for themselves. The Keleshites consider inheritance in the male line an invitation to infighting among the menfolk for status and position, and point to the success of their Diamond Empire as proof that female noble lineages are more stable. While probably true, behind the scenes, the raging competition between women and the outrageous deeds of men eager to make a good match are, perhaps, no less ridiculous than what happens throughout most of Golarion.
Keleshite sailors are common throughout the Inner Sea, even as far north as the Lands of the Linnorm Kings in summer, and they are both loved as the bringers of luxuries and hated as slavers. Keleshite slavers use barbed nets, poisoned cups, and bolas to capture their victims. Once they catch a victim, they use magic or heavy manacles until their merchandise can be brought to the Great Market in Katheer or to one of the slave galleys that ply the Obari Ocean. Other common professions amongst Keleshites include camel drovers, traders, weavers, scribes, architects, and hard-bitten mercenaries – especially superior light cavalry and light infantry.
The Keleshite connections to the djinn and other creatures of the desert go beyond simply borrowing words. Many Keleshites claim their people were amongst the first humans to learn agriculture and other aspects of civilization, gaining this knowledge from the deserts’ powerful djinn or as a result of deals made with powerful blue dragons. Neither djinns nor dragons deny these claims, and are more than pleased to take the credit. Today, relations between the Keleshite people and the djinn remain peaceful and profitable to both sides. In exchange for wondrous arcane secrets, the Keleshites pay their djinni mentors fabulous fees in material goods. Although Keleshites deals with blue dragons living in the deserts around Qadira, neither side savors their interactions. Many of the dragons see the encroachment of humans as a threat to their rule.
Keleshite faith is dark and dangerous. Most worship Sarenrae, the goddess of the sun, in a harsh form appropriate to their desert lands, and follow her with great zeal. All oaths among the Keleshites are sworn in Sarenrae’s name. Lesser gods of the Keleshite include corrupted, scheming forms of Abadar and his peer Irori. Travel and learning seem to come naturally to Keleshites – they are instilled in childhood as great virtues, and every Keleshite aims to own a fast horse and a rich stock of traveler’s tales.
At the same time, some Keleshites follow Rovagug, the god of wrath and destruction in many forms, in whirling cult ceremonies and in the fatalism that afflicts those who struggle against ocean and desert all their lives. Much of Qadira lies in ruins. Much of the Keleshite Empire is not what it was, although it still shines very bright. Things collapse, and Keleshites fear and respect that collapse.
Curiosity drives many a Keleshite to travel outside their hot climate and into unknown lands. Among adventurers, they are commonly fighters, clerics of Sarenrae, and rangers specialized in mounted archery. Their favorite martial style is seen as cowardly, which is only half true. A Keleshite would rather kill you from ship or horseback at a distance, not because he is a coward, but because it is a smart way to fight in the desert or at sea. Running around in heavy armor in either place is a fool’s game, and most Keleshites would laugh to see you try.
However, they are not lost in melee combat. Indeed, the proud Keleshite dervishes – twirling swordsmen equal parts warriors and dancers – represent the most iconic image of Keleshite military tradition. Dervishes – men and women – wear long kilts or skirts that twirl and spin with them, creating breathtaking splashes of color and fabric even as the dervishes themselves set about their grim work of blood and steel. Wherever Keleshite people live, dervishes live among them. Dervishes receive preferential treatment in all lands controlled by Keleshites, and in many satrapies and other satellite states of the Padishah Empire of Kelesh they operate above or outside the law. In special training temples, dervishes dedicated to Sarenrae learn to use dance and divine power simultaneously, to burn enemies in a torrent of blades and holy fire. These Dawnflower dervishes are the holy warriors of Sarenrae’s fire cults and amongst the most respected heroes of their folk.
Language and Naming
Keleshites speak Kelish first and foremost – a sonorous, phlegmatic language rich in poetry, scholarly treatises, and lore best left deep within books, unseen by human eyes. Indeed, the language is so old and has served so many generations that its twisting curling characters holds many ancient secrets of magic, betrayals, and prophecies. The language is also widely known by genies, who have close ties to the Keleshite schools of sorcery. “Scratch a Keleshite, find an aeromancer, pyromancer, slaver, or thief” is a saying among their enemies in Taldor, who consider all Keleshite folk tainted by association with djinn and less savory desert spirits.
Keleshite names derive from the cultures of interior Casmaron. Members of high culture tend to adopt names from imperial Kelesh, while the lower classes and certain distinguished warrior castes have names that express their cultural ties to the horse cultures of the unaligned nations of the north-central steppes. The latter often include surnames associated with clan and family, while the former often go by a single name. Names denoted with an asterisk are emblematic of the northern clan culture.
Male: Aakif, Akkuya, Arasmes, Bahram, Fayyaadh, Ik-Teshup, Irizati, Khair, Kobad, Ormizd, Parumartish, Quzman, Rusmanya, Warezana, Xoshak
Female: Amestri, Artazostra, Barezata, Dhabba, Iuni, Izora, Khismia, Kyra, Naadhira, Sahba, Shirin, Utana, Waajida, Xemestra, Zarishu
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting