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The Nyueng Bao De Duang (typically shortened to just Nyueng Bao) are a race in the southern continent of the homeworld which featured prominently in all four Books of Glittering Stone. Their homeland is the giant swampy river delta where the great river empties into the western ocean. Though their swamps are claimed by nearby Taglios, they speak a different language than Taglian and are treated as a detested minority. The Nyueng Bao are the descendants of a band of fugitives from the entirely different world known as Hsien.

Many Nyueng Bao – most prominently Ky Sahra, Uncle Doj, Thai Dei, and Banh Do Trang – would become key allies of the Black Company beginning with the Siege of Dejagore and lasting for about 25 years afterward. Sahra's biracial son Tobo, fathered by Company officer Murgen, would grow to become an immensely powerful sorcerer.

Overview[]

Appearance and dress[]

Nyueng Bao are brown-skinned like the other people of Taglios and the surrounding areas, but their skin has a notably grey cast to it. Their eyes are generally black, although rarely some have green eyes, a trait which is considered very desirable (a divergence from the Hsien belief that green eyes were associated with demons).

Except for their priests, Nyueng Bao wear black almost exclusively. They will occasionally wear other colors during the rare times they mingle with other cultures. Nyueng Bao who are recently widowed typically wear white for up to a year, during which they may not officially be pursued as a marriage prospect.

Population[]

The Nyueng Bao were abhorred and perceived as primitive, untrustworthy thieves by the majority Gunni, Shadar, and Vehdna religious-ethnic groups surrounding them, each of which vastly outnumbered them. They were always a minuscule minority, even before the genocide they suffered during the Siege of Dejagore (recounted in the flashbacks of Bleak Seasons) which reduced their pilgrimage of 1,800 to one-third of its original population. The 600 remaining pilgrims survived only with the aid of Murgen's Old Crew of the Black Company.

Murgen, the Company Annalist, would make two conflicting statements about the relationship of this pilgrim group to the population of the Nyueng Bao as a whole. In the beginning of Bleak Seasons, he asserted:

The whole Nyueng Bao people makes the pilgrimage. And the whole people got caught right in the deep shit here in Dejagore.

But later in She Is the Darkness, he made a contrasting statement:

She might have had aunts who stayed behind, too. The party of pilgrims had included only a fraction of the delta population.

The second statement is the accurate one, as Murgen recorded it after a long period of intense exposure to the group, whereas the first was written before he became intimate with the Nyueng Bao.

Language[]

Main article: Nyueng Bao language

Whereas the Gunni, Shadar, and Vehdna share a common language (Taglian), the Nyueng Bao language evolved from the language of Hsien, which was a completely different world than the homeworld. As such, their speech did not resemble any of the other languages or dialects from Taglios or even the Shadowlands. Few people outside the Nyueng Bao ever learned the language, although several members of the Black Company as well as Cordy Mather knew it. Certain Nyueng Bao were also capable of speaking the Taglian language conversationally, but most rarely did so, as it was part of their culture to avoid speaking with outsiders.

Religion[]

The Nyueng Bao were notoriously tight-lipped about their own culture, history, and religion around outsiders. Murgen and Sleepy had an extremely difficult time learning about their beliefs despite many years of intimate association.

Though modern Nyueng Bao are polytheistic, their ancestors of centuries past in Hsien were all originally Kina worshipers. Following their settlement in the swamps of the great river delta west of Taglios, Gunni hermits would occasionally enter Nyueng Bao society. These ascetics were considered mad by the Nyueng Bao, but eventually the worship of the Gunni god Ghanghesha took root. One of the primary temples was the Vinh Gao Ghang Temple of Ghanghesha, an ancient structure that had formerly belonged to the Gunni, the Stranglers, and others. The Nyueng Bao also came to believe in the Wheel of Life, a Gunni reincarnation doctrine. This included cao gnum, a place or state of being where a soul would await its next reincarnation if it had not accumulated enough good karma to get off the Wheel of Life. Cao gnum was a derivative of the Gunni concept of Swegah.

Path of the Sword[]

A subset of the Nyueng Bao also practiced the Path of the Sword, a semi-religious martial art originating with a warrior caste in Hsien which had been eradicated by the Shadowmasters. It was typically reserved for men, with the notable exception of Ky Gota, the daughter of Speaker Ky Dam. These were the swordsmen who became the unofficial bodyguards for the Old Crew. By the time of the Black Company's return to the south, few practitioners remained. After Soulcatcher's murderous invasion of their primary temple (when she stole "the Key"), Uncle Doj may have been the last remaining master of the style. The Path was a highly-stylized form of combat that prioritized fighting as a lone warrior with a two-handed sword rather than as a soldier in a unit.

Disposal of the dead[]

The Nyueng Bao had two different funeral traditions, both likely borrowed from homeworld cultures rather than brought with them from Hsien, where standard burials were practiced. Cremation on ghats (like Gunni funerals) was common and was the preferred method in most cases. For masters of the Path of the Sword, many believed that a sky burial was the only acceptable method. This entailed leaving the body on an elevated platform till exposure to the elements and scavengers cleaned the bones. This practice was likely picked up when passing through Kiaulune on their way north.

Pilgrimage[]

At some point during their lives, all adult Nyueng Bao were expected to make a pilgrimage to the Shadowgate. A large group would travel from the swamps southward, through Jaicur, and all the way through what would become the Shadowlands to just short of the ruins of the Shadowgate, which lay nearby to the south of the ancient city of Kiaulune. Originally this was meant to allow the Nyueng Bao the chance to wait for their kinfolk and religious contemporaries in Hsien. Modern Nyueng Bao had largely forgotten the purpose of the journey and would wait at the gate for ten days, looking for an unknown sign. If no sign was seen, the pilgrims would return to the swamps. This journey generally took a little over a year. At some point, the pilgrims began carrying a false copy of their "Key" with them when they traveled, spelled with a few enchantments to make it appear to be the real thing to those with the knowledge to detect it.

The time between these pilgrimages varied by source. Prior to the Shadowmasters' failed attempt to open the Shadowgate, Doj stated that the pilgrimage was made once a decade. Sahra said that it was performed every four years. Following the massacre of the Nyueng Bao pilgrims during the Siege of Dejagore, the pilgrimages were put on hold for several years due to the wars being waged in the Shadowlands. However, after Soulcatcher became the Protector of Taglios, she denied the Nyueng Bao the right to resume their pilgrimages, meaning that no major pilgrimages had been performed in decades.

Naming conventions[]

Nyueng Bao family names are given first, followed by personal names. For example, Ky Sahra's family name is Ky. However the Nyueng Bao almost always used their full names when talking with outsiders. Only family members regularly refer to one another by their personal names.

It is unspecified in the Annals how family names are chosen or transmitted. For example, if Thai Dei was truly the full name of Sahra's brother, he had a different family name than his sister Ky Sahra and his son To Tan. It is conceivable that his full name could have been "Ky Thai Dei", with the family name being omitted when spoken for unspecified reasons, but there is no evidence from the Annals to support this.

Women may or may not retain their family name when married. While Ky Sahra's first husband was Sam Danh Qu, she kept her family name with her mother Ky Gota and Gota's father Ky Dam. A contrasting example would be Gota's own mother, typically referred to as Hong Tray, who was specifically named "Ky Hong Tray" one single time in Bleak Seasons.

Young Nyueng Bao are typically given "baby names" which are replaced with adult names in a ceremony held once they reach a certain age. In the special case of the biracial Tobo, the baby name was retained long past the usual time. "To Tan" may also have been the baby name for Thai Dei's son, explaining the absence of the family name "Ky".

History before the Annals[]

Origins[]

The Nyueng Bao were originally a subset of the population of Hsien, an entirely different world than the homeworld. There, they worshiped the goddess Kina, unlike the other populations around them. After Hsien was invaded and conquered by a race of sorcerers (a group of all-male Shadowmasters including Longshadow), the subjugated peoples began to refer to themselves collectively as the Children of the Dead, including the Nyueng Bao. According to Tobo, the Nyueng Bao were persecuted and were given an ultimatum to give up their religion. Instead of submitting, they manufactured a Shadowgate key in secret – the Nyueng Bao ancestor key – and escaped Hsien entirely, fleeing across the shadow-infested glittering plain and passing through the homeworld Shadowgate. Some of them were members of the Path of the Sword.

Flight from Hsien[]

Two differing stories exist describing the flight of the Nyueng Bao. Nyueng Bao presumed to be knowledgeable about the subject said that the Nyueng Bao were essentially another Free Company of Khatovar, although unlike other Free Companies the Nyueng Bao brought their families with them due to the religious persecution of the Shadowmasters on Hsien. According to Uncle Doj, Ky Dam was the last elected captain of the Nyueng Bao company, while his wife Hong Tray was the last priestess. Following their deaths, there were none qualified to replace them, with only Uncle Doj being aware of the full truth. This left the Nyeung Bao essentially defunct as a Free Company.

However, upon studying extensively in Hsien, Tobo and Master Santaraksita determined that the Nyueng Bao were neither a group of Deceivers nor a group related to the Free Companies of Khatovar, rather they were simply a large group of Kina-worshipers fleeing religious persecution. Tobo theorized that the former story was created to make them seem more impressive as they wandered the homeworld, as such a story would both frighten any Taglians who remembered the Black Company's passage north and impress the descendants of the Deceiver fugitives the Nyueng Bao found in the swamps of the great river west of Taglios where they finally settled.

Regardless of the veracity of either story, they were originally meant to be the first of several waves of refugees. At least one of them returned to Hsien with their original key so that more refugees could follow them. But since no more Nyueng Bao arrived later, they were presumably caught by the Shadowmasters, and their Shadowgate key disappeared. This prompted the continuing pilgrimages to the Shadowgate that the Nyueng Bao practiced into the modern day. It is possible that their mysterious Shadowgate key which they returned to Hsien was the one that later became Longshadow's lost key. Tobo stated that the golden pickax was not the Shadowgate key used by the Nyuen Bao's ancestors, despite that relic's subsequent association with them.

Religious evolution[]

The Nyueng Bao abandoned their worship of Kina over the next few centuries, although some memory of their origins remained. Uncle Doj stated that many of the older Nyueng Bao still knew where their people originated from until a few decades prior to the Black Company's return, although Tobo said that he likely exaggerated how common the knowledge was. The Gunni god Ghanghesha eventually replaced Kina.

At some point while renovating the Vinh Gao Ghang temple, Nyueng Bao priests discovered a strange hammer stored there by the ancient Deceivers who had been chased away centuries ago (during the lifetimes of Rhaydreynak and Mahtnahan dan Jakel). They recognized the sorcery within it, and hid it after realizing that it must be a holy object. They even referred to it as "the Key" since the belief soon arose that it must be the same talisman as the Nyueng Bao ancestor key, whereas Tobo asserted unequivocally that they were two different talismans.

Longshadow's ambush at the Shadowgate[]

When Uncle Doj was very young, Shadowspinner arrived at the Vinh Gao Ghang temple searching for the Shadowgate key he had determined the Nyueng Bao must own, claiming to be a student wishing to study the temple's texts. Because of his appearance (white skin and blonde hair), his assumed name (which implied he was a righteous spiritual entity), and his vague claims to be from beyond the Shadowgate, the Nyueng Bao feared that he had been sent to bring them back to Hsien and allowed him to do as he wished without questioning him very much. He eventually became a confidante of the senior priests and confirmed that "the Key" still existed. He then invited his mentor Longshadow (also under an assumed name), who became equally popular among the Nyueng Bao. Both men set out to ambush the next Nyueng Bao pilgrimage with six other sorcerers and take the key from them. However, not knowing that the key was false, the sorcerers damaged the Shadowgate, killing three of their number, severely injuring the Howler, and forcing Longshadow to bind the gate closed using the power of his true name.

Bleak Seasons[]

Before the events of Bleak Seasons, approximately 1,800 Nyueng Bao departed their hamlets in the river delta swamps west of Taglios for a "once-in-a-generation" pilgrimage. These pilgrims wound up in Dejagore shortly before the horrible Siege of Dejagore began. They almost never interacted with people outside their race, except through their Speaker, Ky Dam, who spoke the Taglian language fluently. Another exception was Banh Do Trang, their most prominent merchant, who would later become a key ally of the Black Company.

During the notorious siege, the Nyueng Bao pilgrim community was targeted by Pal Subhir's Taglian soldiers, who were in league with Mogaba. Roughly two-thirds of the Nyueng Bao, including their Speaker Ky Dam and his wife Hong Tray (their high priestess), were killed during horrific urban fighting.

The 600 Nyueng Bao survivors were given indispensable help by the Black Company standard-bearer, Murgen, and his "Old Crew" brethren. They escaped the city and named a new temporary Speaker, Tam Dak. Afterward, many Nyueng Bao swordsmen of the Path of the Sword swore oaths of honor to become bodyguards for Company Old Crew who saved them. Uncle Doj was the leader of this group, and the most well-known bodyguard in the Annals was Murgen's own bodyguard, Thai Dei. Because the Nyueng Bao bodyguards did not become sworn brothers of the Company, they were never fully trusted by Croaker, who had not been inside the historic crucible of the Siege of Dejagore.

While not mentioned until a later volume of the Annals, around the time of the siege Soulcatcher was informed of a real Shadowgate key by the Howler. Shortly after the majority of the Nyueng Bao returned to the swamps, she raided the Vinh Gao Ghang temple, slaughtered the masters of the Path of the Sword, and tortured the priests. Being ignorant of the Key's true purpose, the priests surrendered it, and she departed with it.

Water Sleeps[]

The Nyueng Bao neighborhood in Taglios became the home of the underground Black Company after the Kiaulune wars. The Company's headquarters was located within the warehouse of Banh Do Trang. The Company Annalist and ranking officer, Sleepy, was deeply indebted to Do Trang and Ky Sahra for their indispensable help. Soulcatcher correctly surmised that the Nyueng Bao were associated with the urban chaos sewn during Water Sleeps. But instead of investigating Do Trang's waterfront warehouse within Taglios, she terrorized the Nyueng Bao in their home swamps west of Taglios.

When Do Trang died of natural causes during Water Sleeps, the Company and some of their Nyueng Bao allies began their secret journey south to the Shadowgate.

Soldiers Live[]

Many Nyueng Bao accompanied the Black Company into Hsien – the home of their ancestors – at the end of Water Sleeps. In the 4-year gap between then and the beginning of Soldiers Live, those Nyueng Bao split into three groups: some enlisted in the Company and finally became sworn brothers; some made new futures for themselves in Hsien and disappeared among the Children of the Dead; and others formed the "Community", an ethnic enclave at the Abode of Ravens which was closely associated with, but not technically a part of, the Black Company. The Community was proud of Tobo but custom demanded that they look down on him for his mixed blood and lack of respect for their traditions.

The Nyueng Bao Community followed Sleepy when she finally led the reconstituted Company out of Hsien and back into the homeworld. During the Battle of the Middle Ground, two of the Community's most prominent members, Uncle Doj and Thai Dei, were killed in combat against the Khadidas. The Community split into factions and bickered among themselves on how to dispose of the two men's bodies.

By the end of Soldiers Live, the "handful" of the Nyueng Bao Community who had remained with the Company upon reaching Taglios had finally stolen away to their native swamps in the great river delta.

Nyueng Bao individuals[]

For a list of Nyueng Bao individuals appearing in the Annals, see: Category:Nyueng Bao.

Bodyguards for the Black Company[]

Only a small subset of the Nyueng Bao were disciples of the Path of the Sword. This group is over-represented in the Annals because of their extended proximity to the Black Company throughout the Books of Glittering Stone.

A handful of the Path swordsmen who became bodyguards for the Black Company Old Crew were named in the Annals. This group was most active during She Is the Darkness, the Kiaulune wars, and Water Sleeps. Their leader, Uncle Doj, was not a bodyguard to any specific Black Company individual. The most prominent bodyguard by far was Thai Dei, who was partnered with Murgen the Company Annalist and became his brother-in-law. By the time of Soldiers Live, Thai Dei was "one of very few Nyueng Bao still dedicating himself to bodyguarding".

Nyueng Bao bodyguard Black Company soldier
Thai Dei Murgen
Suyen Dinh Duc Big Bucket
"JoJo" (Cho Dai Cho) One-Eye
Thien Duc Goblin
Pham Quang unspecified
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