The Nyueng Bao De Duang (often shortened to Nyueng Bao) is 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 claimed by Taglios where the great river empties into the western ocean. They 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.
Nyueng Bao were brown-skinned like the other people of Taglios and the surrounding areas, but their skin had a notably grey cast to it. Their eyes were generally black, although rarely some had green eyes, a trait which was considered very desirable (a divergence from the Hsien belief that green eyes were associated with demons). Nyueng Bao wore black almost exclusively, particularly the priests. They would occasionally wear other colors during the rare times they mingled with other cultures. Nyueng Bao who were recently widowed could optionally wear white for a period of time up to a year, during which they could not officially be pursued as a marriage prospect.
- Main article: Nyueng Bao language
The Nyueng Bao language evolved from the language of Hsien, which was a completely different world than the homeworld. As such, the language did not resemble any of the other languages or dialects from Taglios or 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. Many Nyueng Bao also spoke Taglian quite well, although they would often pretend otherwise when they did not wish to speak to outsiders.
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.
In centuries past, the Nyueng Bao were originally Kina worshipers. Following their settlement in the swamps, 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.
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 became the unofficial bodyguards or the Old Crew. By the time of the Black Company's return to the south, few practitioners remained, with Uncle Doj being the last remaining master of the style. It 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.
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 (in which the body is left on an elevated platform till exposure to the elements and scavengers cleaned the bones) was the only acceptable method. This practice was likely picked up when passing through Kiaulune on their way north.
The Nyueng Bao were abhorred and perceived as primitive, untrustworthy thieves by the majority Gunni, Shadar, and Vehdna religious-ethnic groups of Taglios, 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 the 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.
Naming conventions Edit
Young Nyueng Bao were often given "baby names" which were replaced with adult names in a ceremony held once they reach a certain age, although in some cases such as Tobo the baby name was retained long past the usual time. Family names were given before personal names (for example, Sahra's family name was Ky, making her full name Ky Sahra), however Nyueng Bao almost always used their full names when talking with outsiders. Only family members regularly referred to them by their personal names. It is unknown how family names were chosen or transmitted. For example, Thai Dei had a different family name than his sister Ky Sahra or his son To Tan. Sahra shared her family name with her mother Ky Gota, who shared her family name with her father Ky Dam. Regardless, women appear to retain their family name when married.
At some point during their life, all adult Nyueng Bao were required to make a pilgrimage to the Shadowgate. A large group would travel from the swamps southward through Jaicur on to the gate. Originally this was meant to allow the Nyueng Bao to maintain contact with their kinfolk and religious contemporaries in Hsien, but when the Shadowmasters of Hsien found out they put a stop to the pilgrimages from 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 Shadowgate 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.
The Nyueng Bao were originally from Hsien, an entirely different world than the homeworld. There, they worshiped the goddess Kina. When Hsien was conquered by a race of outsider sorcerers (a group of Shadowmasters including Longshadow), they were given an ultimatum to give up their religion. Instead of submitting, they manufactured a Shadowgate key in secret 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.
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 in Hsien, Tobo and Master Santaraksita determined that the the Nyueng Bao weren't really organized like the Stranglers or the Free Companies of Khatovar, rather they were simply a large group of people 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 terrify 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. The Nyueng Bao sent their original Shadowgate key back to Hsien so that more refugees could follow them, but those whoe were sent back never returned, presumably being caught by the Shadowmasters. This prompted the continuing pilgrimages that the Nyueng Bao practiced into the modern day.
The Nyueng Bao largely forgot their own relationship to 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. At some point while renovating the Vinh Gao Ghang temple, they discovered the golden pickax buried there by the Deceivers hunted centuries ago, hiding it again after recognizing that it must be a holy object.
When Uncle Doj was very young, Shadowspinner arrived at the 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 with his name.
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 were targeted by Pal Subhir's Taglian soldiers, who were in league with Mogaba. Roughly two-thirds of the Nyueng Bao pilgrims, 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. 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 the 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 and tortured the priests. Being ignorant of the key's true purpose, the priests quickly told her where it was and she stole it.
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 harboring the Company, but, she incorrectly guessed their location. Instead of uncovering their location within Taglios, she terrorized the Nyueng Bao swamps west of Taglios.
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; 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.
Bodyguards for the Black CompanyEdit
A handful of the Nyueng Bao 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. The most prominent of these by far was Thai Dei, who, by the time of Soldiers Live, was "one of very few Nyueng Bao still dedicating himself to bodyguarding".
|Nyueng Bao bodyguard||Black Company soldier|
|Suyen Dinh Duc||Big Bucket|
|"JoJo" (Cho Dai Cho)||One-Eye|