The Kholos Sahar
In the deserts south of Adwa and Hamaji, a strange nomad clan walks a ceaseless circle. They are the Kholos Sahar — the desert giants. Three times the height of a human, they have craggy skin and stony dreadlocks. These features, and their nomadic ways, are not the result of their elemental blood, but rather the work of a curse. The Kholos Sahar must keep moving, for if ever they stay too long in one place, they will slowly turn to stone.
The desert giants are powerful in magic as well as body. They have gifts to shape the earth with their song, and even to transform rock into flesh. Luckless robbers have found that those who steal from the Kholos Sahar’s sacred sites can share in the giants’ curse. Such thieves are condemned to turn slowly to stone themselves as they walk the earth.
Over the years that they no longer count, the Kholos Sahar have come to walk a circular route. Those traders who deal with them — mostly the Al-Bazra clan, though some few others are permitted the privilege — do so at the Laughing Waters oasis, where mostly they offer cloth in exchange for the metals that the giants sing up. From the oasis, the giants’ route takes them south to the ruins of Tegwali, along the Silken River as it flows from the mountains, through Stone Kings Canyon where their oldest and infirm sit and surrender to petrifaction when they feel their time has come. Their route then takes them north through the Petrified Forest of Nok, and west from there to the Laughing Waters once more.
The Curse of Taliah
They were not always nomads, these giants. Once they were the Kholos Bistan, and it pleased them to dwell among the fine orchards and gardens they had raised. They were a peaceful folk, but fierce, and few of the smaller races were permitted to approach their lush green lands. To the other peoples of Khavayin, the Kholos Bistani orchards were at best a far-off vision of green like a mirage in the desert.
But with such power often comes pride. It came to pass that the chieftainship of the Kholos Bistan passed to a mighty sorceress, Taliah by name, who was exceptionally clever and willful. Taliah al-Bistan was a handsome woman, and had many suitors, but none suited her perfectly. Her pride would not permit her to suffer a consort she considered her lesser, nor would it allow her to remain alone.
So Taliah al-Bistan used the heights of the power open to her. She conjured up a mighty prince among the earthen jann, and bound him to her as her consort. By the terms of the pact, he gave her three children, each one possessed of the great power that comes of mingling the blood of giant and earth-jinn. Taliah looked upon her people, and decided that there were none strong and handsome enough to have as sons or daughters-in-law. So again she used her sorcery to bind three more jann, each one consort to one of her children.
It might have been simply an insult for the Kholos Bistan’s chieftain to reject her own people when continuing her bloodline. But to bind a jinn, even one of the callous jann, is to take a slave. The wrath of the jann consorts grew over the years, like magma beneath a crust of rock, never breaking the surface. Finally, a rebel among the giants said, “no more.” She used trickery and supernatural aid to enspell guards, mislead the blood of Taliah, and free the jann.
When the mystic shackles were loosed, the jinn’s fury erupted. So great was their anger that they cooperated without dissension to levy a tremendous curse on the Kholos Bistan. They turned the beautiful green orchard to stone, no more to nourish the giants who had permitted their chieftain to make slaves of noble jann. They cursed the giants to slowly petrify, with the only recourse to wander. And they named the curse after the sorceress who had doomed her people in her pride and folly. Even if the names of the jann themselves were forgotten, always the Kholos Sahar would remember the name of Taliah with bitterness.
A jinn’s curse is not easily lifted. This is triply so for a curse forged by three jinn in unity, for no single jinn may undo that power, perhaps not even one of the Grand and Immense Sultans. But some heroes have tried. The most famous was the hero Kabotol, who failed, but failed nobly — but that is another tale for another time.