Yoremba is a desert nation far to the south of Velloren. It is comprised mainly of city-states built around permanent oases, and nomadic trader clans. Yoremba’s primary exports are glassware, salt, rare spices and alchemical components, and minerals. They also export rare poisons extracted from desert plants and blooms, and the very rare manticore venom.
Two thousand years ago, Yoremba was a country of tribal bands moving across the desert in slow migration. They traded and warred, merged and separated. Though men and women had separate duties within the community, they were equal in status. Most tribes were governed by a council of elders, both men and women.
Then there came a shift in ideology. Gradually, over decades, women lost their status. Eventually they became second-class citizens, little more than property to their fathers and husbands. The open relationships the tribes had enjoyed gave way to closed marriages and the harim.
The tribes had always had slaves: people taken in raids against other, rival tribes. These slaves had always had the possibility of earning their freedom and becoming full members of the tribes. Their children were born free, as full members of the tribe. With the shift in attitudes toward women came a shift in attitudes toward slaves. They could no longer earn their way into the tribe. Their children were slaves as well and often sold. In addition, the Yorembans started raiding far to the north, bringing home northern slaves.
When captive northern women began supplanting Yoremban women in the bedroom, the Yoremban women had finally had enough.
It took the women several years to plan and coordinate their action. There were many failures, and small rebellions met with vicious reprisals. There were women who could not steel themselves to do what needed to be done, and these had to be eliminated. Then, when all was ready, on the night of the winter solstice the women rose up. They slit the throats of their husbands and masters. They poisoned brothers and fathers. They murdered their own sons, every boy down to the age of five.
Of course some of the women failed. Some were captured and tortured to death as examples and warnings. Others were slain outright. Still others simply could not carry through when the time came.
Many more succeeded than failed, and the country that was Yoremba essentially ceased to be.
The women gathered their clothes and necessities. They took their husbands’ jewels and gold and silks. They gathered all the food and water. They loaded everything onto the camels, and took their daughters and their surviving sons and left. That night became known as the Night of Red Sand and, by the time Yoremba had recovered, a new and powerful nation had risen between Yoremba and Velloren.
Yoremba has remained a patriarchy. Some places are governed by a council of old men. Others, like Mawali, have a hereditary monarchy. Slavery was abandoned and eventually outlawed. Women have their unique place within society and, though in most places they still have no political power, they are treated with care and respect. As the Yorembans say, “Never underestimate the Flowers of the Desert.”
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.