V. Physical Characteristics and Clothing
The skin tone of the Tehir varies somewhat, though they are primarily of darker complexion. The central, most nomadic Tehir tribes represent the darkest groups, whose skin tones range from almost pure ebon to deep chestnut. In the exterior and cooler regions, the populace typically displays tones including sun-tanned olive hues, nut browns, and dark browns. Members outside the tribes typically claim a Tehir's class can be surmised by the color of his skin. Due to cross-tribal marriages and the introduction of lighter-toned slaves some centuries ago, this is an over-generalized representation at best.
Facial shapes among the Tehir vary, ranging from faces with sharp angles and fleshy cheeks to those that are sunken, round, flat, and broad. In kind, the nose shapes also vary from flat, broad, flared, and wide, to small, hooked, and beak-like. Eye color is nearly always black to brown, though it is rumored that the amber-eyed man can see excellently at night. A blue-eyed baby is usually assumed sickly.
Hair color among the Tehir remains mostly dark, ranging from dark brown to black. A rare occurrence, a red-haired and dark-skinned child is usually looked upon with scrutiny and suspicion, for it is believed the babe may have been exposed too long after its birth and thus, be influenced by spirits. Some Tehir possess spongy, curly locks, while others are born with straight hair. The quirks of hair vary a surprising amount, though nearly all heads of hair are thick among these people.
Hairstyle for the female Tehir is a prime way to display her place and age in society. Unmarried and young women will take to segmenting the back half of their hair into long, knotted sections, occasionally decorated with a variety of beads. Those who are married, while scarved, will straighten and gloss their front locks, occasionally creating sculpted curls out of the loose strands near the ears. Parting down the center is common for both married and unmarried women. For the laboring woman, she may have no time for such vanity and as a result, may take to wearing her hair shorn or nearly bald.
As a veil nearly always covers a manís head, his hairstyle is rarely a matter of concern. To keep cool under the wrap, men usually wear their hair nearly bald, very short, or in a mass of tiny, matted braids.
Tehir tend to be fairly tall and narrow, though attempted classification of the nomadic tribes by the Turamzzyrian traders based on appearance has been the source of some conflict. The exterior tribes represent a curious mix of body types, ranging from short and stocky among the richest nobles, to leaner, wiry forms among the servile classes. Overall, traders of the Empire often assume the leaner peoples are richest because of their atypically colored clothing and thus tend to ignore the most noble among the tribes. In doing so, the tribes' leaders often get irritated and may, later on, make raids on the imperial trade caravans. It is most common to find the stockiest people in the semi-sedent populations, with leaner people in the interior and nomadic groups.
Some say a man's wealth is represented not by the number of his goats, but by the girth of his wife. During the Great Gatherings, or Hujuura, the nomads may hail a sedentary man for his perceived wealth, but when his wife's size is overcome by the nomad's wife's speed, the man will give up a few goats to the nomad in deference. Size is beauty, but speed also has its place.
Varying widely by location and class, the clothing of the Tehir maintains a common theme: airy fabric and more airy fabric. The reason for this open-weave layering is simple: the layers of cloth keep sweat close to the body, which conserves moisture and keeps the body cool in extreme heat.
The veil, or veiled turban, is the centerpiece of a Tehir man's attire. Consisting of a wide swath of loosely woven gauze upward of eight arm lengths, there are a few different methods for wrapping this special head covering.
The most decorative type may incorporate thin ribbons of multicolored cloth twined with the gauze. First, the fabric is situated with its center upon the dome of the Tehir man's head with equal lengths hanging to either side of his ears. Both lengths are twisted slowly and brought before his brow to cross at the front of his forehead. A continually loose twist is maintained, as the lengths are brought around to the back and to the front again. After a sufficient series of layers are concocted (five is about the maximum), the Tehir man will bring each side around his muzzle and then flip them around behind his neck, leaving the loose, billowy ends to trail before or behind him.
The second method of veil wrapping is slightly less complex and produces a sturdier veil. Beginning with the gauze and a small quilted cap, the man drapes one end of the fabric across the top of his head starting just above the right ear. Next, he brings the fabric down over his left ear and across his face, then back up over the right ear and behind his head. He continues this process no less than three times and finally places the small cap atop it, on the crown of his head. Each rotation can be arranged to layer higher upon his face, finally concealing his nose completely. The remaining loose end is tucked into a fold of one of the layers.
Coloring of the Tehir veil is of particular note, coming in a variety of colors Ė and with each color a new meaning. A Tehir will take the veil as a marker of his passage out of boyhood. He often wears this veil for upward of ten years before receiving another from his wife.
The most amazing of the veil colors is blue. It is a telltale sign of a nobleman, for his is the color of the water, of the night, of turquoise, and of the sky. The highpoint of Tehir fashion is a dye called ahmdir blue. There are two methods of application for the ahmdir root. First and most common is a rubbed-dying process for heavy and sturdy fabrics, which begins with rubbing and pounding of the partially dried and crushed root right into the weave. Over a series of many applications, the textile will take on a very deep, dark blue shade. As the item is washed, worn, and faded, its color may shift to a vivid cyan, drab pale blue, or even a pale purple. The variability of the dye in its later stages is a result not only of the minerals in which it was planted, but also based on the composition of its wearer's perspiration.
Incidentally, legend holds that a Tehir man whose ahmdir veil remains as dark as night until the night of his first child's birth will be graced with a daughter. Occasionally, the ahmdir-dyed fabric will shift toward a drab green color. In some tribes, this is an indication of a man who lies with another man's wife. Since he is typically bound to keep the veil for quite some time, this may be a time for him to consider parting ways with his wife's tribe.
Another powerful color, red, is the sign of the successful non-noble raider. He has proven he needs no camouflage to hide his head above the dunes. Indeed not, for his brazen and tactical surety is exemplified in the color of blood, that which is spilled at his every strike.
Treated white fabric is quite unusual for these people, but when it is found, it is a may an indicator of a man of great elemental power. He may have any number of small stones stitched deep within such a veil, believing they aid and strengthen his power.
By the time of his dotage, a Tehir man has endured many, many things. Those of great wisdom, who have many tales to pass on, such as an elder bard with many offspring, quite often sport any number of hues in their veil, though the veil is always of the finest cloth. To his trader the man may state: his head, his mouth, they must be kept comfortable, should his patron or customers continue to wish his powerful song. In his extreme age, he is beyond worry from the majority of nobility and may in fact have outlived most of his peers. As a result, the wise, old bard may wear the digs of his master, and no one much will question this. It is, after all, possible that he received it by way of a noble son's poor trade.
While black is not a color with a symbolic meaning, it is often worn by those Tehir who live closest to the western reaches of the Sea of Fire, where night travel is often necessary.
Although the poorest Tehir male will don colorful clothing for a special occasion, his normal garb is typically quite bland and muted, including undyed fabrics, hues of brown, and dingy black. The poorer females may dress up a dingy black shawl by accenting it with a variety of brightly colored glass beads. Her headscarf is usually her signature garment. She will paint and repaint the cloth by hand, over time creating a convoluted series of geometric designs in a myriad of color combinations.
Men of greater esteem or position may choose to take a shorter tunic, reaching no lower than the buttocks. When combined with loose trousers, this functional outfit conceals the modest flesh quite nicely. His tunic may have a notched or drawstring neckline and may have very short sleeves, though it is more likely to have none at all. As always, his turban and veil will be present. Atop the tunic, most Tehir men will often wear large and billowy robes. These vary in quality from open-weave linen to simple cottons, thin silks for the richest men, and on occasion, a heavy yierka-hide burnoose.
Southern farming men of the poorest families may wear no trousers at all, in favor of knee-length tunics held by a belt of hide or goat's wool. His legs would be bare, allowing greater ventilation during the extreme heat. Although he still retains his veil and turban, he may continue without shoes. Even the slave who dons a mere loincloth will still cover his face, if his master permits.
Like men, Tehir women also layer their clothing. The items worn by various classes do not vary so much, but instead, the amount of additional adornment is what typically indicates a woman's status. For everyday wear, the woman will wear a shawl as her outermost garment. This item is made almost exclusively of cotton, linen, or silk and may possess decorative, painted designs along its hem. When inclement weather arises, a woman will take the shawl about her face and head, and add upon her shoulders a burnoose, usually of natural to dark-hued kidskin.
The woman's tabard is typically knee-length and split up the side, allowing billowy pants to show underneath. This garment is not constricting, but may vary in its cut, fit, and adornment. It may be cut like a smock with little width variation from top to bottom. Should its cut include a yoke, this section may be brightly embroidered, leaving the draping portions of the garment to include a mass of billowy, solid-colored fabric. The neckline is often rounded and its height varies quite broadly, allowing the clothing and jewelry beneath to be exposed.
The blouses of Tehir women go mostly unseen except during times of rest, as the harsh climate demands full coverage. When coupled with additional torso coverings, the blouse is joined with another blouse of a different cut (layers truly are a necessity). It may be mildly fitted, or it may be wide and then bunched at the waist with a belt. A chain-link girdle may also be worn, as well as a host of other intricate jewelry to adorn her chest. Bracelets and bangles of silver are also commonly found about a woman's forearms, wrists, and hands.
Most Tehir women cover their legs with many layers of cotton or silk skirts. These are another outlet for artistic creativity for the Tehir woman. Ranging from rich solid colors to painted patterns of many-hued geometrics, the skirts are sometimes bustled by tying one up, leaving another layer to hang loose. In doing this, the woman can regulate the amount of protection from the elements her clothing may afford. She may also choose billowy or blousy silk pants. The Tehir silversmiths find decent business in making anklets and other adornments for the ankles of noble women. Ranging from a short "stocking" of chain mail to a many-layered series of bells, these anklets are typically quite flashy.
Shoes of the Tehir are not a widely elaborate item, but do contain some variety. The most common footwear is the sandal, worn either ankle-tied or loose, possessing a simple bifurcated strap that begins between the toes and extends across the top of the foot. Tehir sandals are formed on rush, wood, or hide soles. Some women take fancy to intricately braiding the leather commonly used in their construction.
High boots are rarely worn except by bridegrooms and riders of the yierka. The former will likely wear a pair of supple, undyed leather boots, with a fair amount of painted or beaded decoration across the bridge of the foot and at the cuff. The yierka-rider generally wears a protective, knee-high boot of goat, camel, or yierka hide, to guard against leg sores.
Low boots may be used as slippers when at an oasis or in a sedent dwelling, but are not commonly used outdoors due to the propensity for sand to accumulate within. On occasion, a woman of high standing may receive belled or beaded slippers as a gift. The decoration will likely be quite colorful, including chevrons and other organic or geometric patterns.