A Chittiki's First Caravan

Take care, my little jewel, and remember... stay alert, but trust your mount.
— Chittiki father to his child as she departs for her First Caravan journey
The Sandrunner Folk of the Chittiki like to celebrate. They have feasts to mark the embarkations of their caravans across the desert from the Warrens to the enclave of the Elves. They have feasts that mark the successful returns of these caravans - regardless of the profits or losses achieved. Families have feasts to celebrate the arrivals of new litters, and feasts to send off children who decide find their fortune somewhere other than the desert routes of the Sandrunners. But of all these, feasts, the one every Sandrunner remembers is the feast that marks the completion of their First Caravan - their passage from childhood to adulthood within the Sandrunner society.
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The Sandrunner Culture goes back far into the Chittiki past. Of course the Caravan routes for trading with the small Elven enclaves in the Basin's western forests were much easier then. The terrain that is now arid desert was grasslands dotted with small forests in the time just after the Chittiki were Awakened in the Warrens. Both Elves and Dwarves of the Delve now called the Sandhold were eager partners willing to trade goods to the Chittiki in exchange for the exquisite gems and semiprecious stones they gathered from the hills and mountains around the Warrens. The very term "Sandrunner" did not exist; the Chittiki who chose a life of traveling by large beast between the Warrens and their trading partners in the west were simply "Fartrader Chittiki".

The The Great Strife changed all that. The deserts of the northern basin overran the grasslands of the south. The basin lake became poisonous. The beasts the Sandrunners used to carry themselves and their goods across the grasslands died out. And the elves with which they traded disappeared. (The Chittiki did not know whether they left, or died off, or just mysteriously disappeared.)

But the Chittiki carried on. The Fartraders learned to domesticate the Sandrunner Lizards that came down from the north with the desert's encroachment. These beasts became both mount and pack animal - and gave the culture its new name. The Caravan Journeys themselves were far more dangerous. This meant that departures were more notable, for they could be the last a family saw of its trading members. Successful returns became something worth celebrating. And the time for a child to become an adult by actively managing a beast on the journey and performing the bartering to provide for their family became an event worth marking as well.

Key Participants

There are several key participants in a Chittiki First Caravan observance, beginning of course with the Chittiki youth who is about to embark on a trade journey that will mark their passage into adulthood. This will be a Chittiki youth that is at least 10 years old; that is the minimum age at which most Chittiki cultures recognize adulthood in their offspring. It is quite likely that this youth will have made the caravan journey with parents at least once before undertaking their First Caravan.

The next most important participants are the parents of the candidate youth. Perhaps the most trying time of any Sandrunner Chittiki parent's
life is when a child undertakes their First Caravan because they are not permitted to travel along with the caravan. Thus, a trader whose life and livelihood are shaped by their regular traversing of the Great Basin desert and their shrewd trading with the Dwarves of the Sandhold Delve must sit at home. They fret not only about whether their child is safe, but also whether their child is earning profits for the family.

A typical Chittiki family can have as many as 40 or 50 children, so it is fortunate for parents that it is likely that only 4 or 5 will choose the nomadic merchant life of the Sandrunners and make the First Caravan Passage.
The last participant of note is the Caravan Master. This position of honor is given to experienced merchants who have made the passage many times. It is a position of responsibility in that the safety of the entire caravan is their responsibility. Almost every caravan across the Basin Desert will includes at least one or two First Caravaners - these require special attention and instruction by the Caravan Master. (It has been said that, as difficult as it is for an merchant parent to sit out a caravan as their child undergoes their First, it is even harder on a merchant used to being the Caravan Master. Their child - and all of their associates and friends - will be under the care of somebody else.

The Observances

The evening before any Caravan departure is a time of celebration among the Sandrunners, but for a family with a member about to embark on their First Caravan, it is especially important. The youth's favorite foods will be served. Extended family will be invited, and the evening after the meal will consist of family members recounting the "adventures" of the young Chittiki who soon will no longer be a child.

The Caravan journey itself is not remarkable. It travels like any other caravan, making the same stops. Apart from the Caravan Master taking a few opportunities along the way to visit with those undertaking their First Journey and imparting bits of knowledge and lore about the route, it is no different from any other quarterly caravan.

There is a celebration dinner among the caravan merchants on the first evening after arriving at their destination and beginning their bargaining. Any notable trades made by the First Caravaner are highlighted and praised. During this feast, the First Caravaner will be called upon to make three toasts: one to their parents for raising them, one to their Caravan Master for getting them to their destination, and one to the success of the trading and the safe return of all to their homes in the Warrens.

The largest of the feasts is the one held when the Caravan returns to the Warrens after completing its trading. During this feast, the parents will make toasts to their no-longer-child honoring their success as a trader. Invitees will include others who were on the Caravan journey so they can recount any interesting "adventures" that the First Caravaner may have encountered.

There is one custom regarding the Return Feast that can sometimes prove challenging to maintain, nevertheless any Chittiki Sandrunner worthy of honor will do their best to keep up the tradition. The Return Feast must be a happy, celebratory time. It is a time to remember that dangers have passed, and trading has been done - and trading is the lifeblood of the Sandrunner Folk. The Return Feast is never a time to publicly "call out" poor performance by the First Caravaner. Should the candidate have proven terribly skilled as a trader, the toasts to the "success" of their bartering will be worded so as not to be accusatory. Should the candidate have proven cowardly or inept during the journey, the tales and toasts will not ridicule them for it; there will always be something positive to say. All Sandrunners wil understand the nuance here, and a youth whose First Caravan went disastrously will certainly be aware of this.


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