The deserts are a harsh and barren place to those that are not used to life there, but for the Ashken, they are teeming with life, beauty and danger.
The days are scorchingly hot and the nights glacially cold, and yet life finds a way to thrive. The Ashken lived in tribal communities, sometimes taking residence in the giant forges found hidden under sands, sometimes living nomadically and following the seasons.
Also native to these sandy deserts are the Caelif, giant insect-like creatures that communicate through clicks and snaps. Although they are alien and reclusive to most Valenthians, the Ashken have learned to live in peace with them, often trading goods and services with little bloodshed. However, it is not unusual for disputes to break out over miscommunications or arguments about who is encroaching upon whose territory, but these conflicts are generally short-lived.
When the Ashken lost the war to Valenthia, however, much of what they had was taken, and large parts of their culture was forgotten. Since the end of the Demon War, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Tianise, many Ashken have returned to their homelands, finding them but shadows of their former glory.
As they rebuild and retake their lands, they are finding that the Caelif were not idle in their absence and now land disputes are more common than ever, sometimes escalating beyond mere arguments.
The differences between the traditions of the many varied Ashken tribes is also a source of strife and the Ashken deserts drink blood once again. Unless something is done to quell this mounting pressure, there is talk of the Ashken culture dying out completely, vanishing with the dying light of the setting sun...
The forges found beneath the sands of the Ashken deserts are as old as the dunes themselves, inhabited by the Ashken for as long as history can remember.
There is no question that these forges have, over countless ages, produced the finest weapons the land has ever seen. The care and craft placed into the creation of weapons is, to the Ashken, a religion in itself, and there is no greater honor than striking an anvil with a hammer.
Each forge is designed for a specific purpose, inhabited by a tribe that has passed down its secrets over generations so that only a very few can ever fully understand a single forge's operation. In this way, too, the forges are like nations in and of themselves, obeying different laws and customs than the next forge.
Legends tell that the forges were originally built by fire giants, cousins to the ice giant Kenashi, who roamed the desert sands and all but vanished as humans began to spread. Some say the Ashken are descended from these giants, and the fire that ran through their veins flows still today. Whatever the truth, no one can doubt the fire that burns within each and every Ashken, especially when it comes to the matter of crafting the perfect sword.