A nomadic people who dwell on the Infinite Steppe, the Marju are famous horsemen, archers, and lancers. Their tribes roam the endless fields and hills of their homeland, and from time to time they raid the civilized lands in Vosca, seeking plunder, slaves, and adventure.
The Marju are not an advanced people, technologically, but they are skilled craftsmen, though not primarily in metalworking.
Marju bows are some of the finest in the world, rivaled only by Karthack and Zellish designs. These bows are short enough to use on horseback, but strong enough to penetrate armor at some range. Their weight is such that they are often drawn using a thumb wrapped around the string instead of the fingers. Most Marju, including women, spend a great deal of their time practicing with the bow, both for hunting and for war or raids.
Marju armor runs the gamut, but aside from their ceremonial helmets, are frequently made of rawhide scales intermixed with bronze or iron. The wealthier warriors wear thick silk undershirts that can stop, or at least slow incoming arrows. Some wear heavier all-metal armor, and a few, usually warlords or the elite bodyguards of Khans, wear breastplates.
Marju helmets are considered family treasures, and each is adorned with feathers, horsehair or bones. Each family has only one helmet, which traditionally passes to the eldest son and heir, while the younger sons are expected to make or steal their own. The helm bears the identity, the history, and the dignity of the family, and to lose the helmet is to incur the wrath of the spirits.
The Marju religion is largely animistic and totemistic. It venerates ancestor spirits, a nebulous sky-god, and spirits that occupy and represent everything from the mountains to individual grains of sand. Clans have patron spirits, or totems, that they venerate as their protectors and kin. This leads to the naming of tribes after their totems, and families within tribes often base their names off of permutations of the totem.
The Marju do not often organize above the tribal level, but it has happened. This is called a Horde, or an “Ordu” (plural: Orda), and it generally only occurs when a Marju tribal leader successfully unites multiple Tribes under his rulership. Since Marju tribes generally do not ally with each other except through conquest, a Khan can quickly gather a huge confederation of tribes in this way, and swell his numbers to gargantuan proportions.
When the Marju Horde assembles, it poses an enormous threat to all sedentary kingdoms that neighbor the Steppe. Huge raids to secure slaves, booty, submission and tribute are the usual order of the day, and these invasions are often marked by excessive cruelty and massacre for those invaded. However, by this same token, the Marju Horde quickly collapses when its leader dies, and when it does, the victims of the last Horde usually harden themselves against the next. This means that each great Marju invasion is more difficult than the last, and the raids must become more and more massive as time goes on, to overcome the defenses that the border-folk of Vosca have developed against their sorts of raids.
The most recent Marju invasion resulted in a disastrous defeat by the Alandi, Osterbs and Dacians, and through the subtle manipulations of the Ruscovites, also resulted in their liberation from an era of being yoked to the Marju.
Now the shattered Marju have returned to their homeland to elect a new Khan, but for the first time, the Voscans are not content to simply watch them go – Armies have been raised to pursue the Marju and kick them while they are down, the foremost of these being the Volkodavs. Still, despite their audacity, the Voscans are still only scratching the outer periphery of Marju strength. If (when) a new Khan arrives, there will be a terrible reckoning for the "sheep-folk" of Vosca.
It was a three-pronged war. The Alandi suffered the most, but simply refused to be defeated and continually drained Marju resources despite having no right to still be fighting. This greatly eased the burden on the other parties in the war, facilitating their victories.
The Osterbs holed up behind Tenja, and endured one of the most brutal sieges in Voscan history, suffering through rockets, plague, explosives, and assaults by hundreds of thousands of troops marched from conquered provinces across the Infinite Steppe to their doorstep.
The Marju repeatedly defeated and slaughtered Dacian armies, until finally, after sacking the city of Vedrim, their horses began to die from the toxic environment, and they were beset upon by Taphonomy Bay's assembled army. They attempted a feigned retreat with their remaining horses, but were cut off at Shaitan Pass by a Wagon Train full of arquebusiers. Exhausted, dehydrated, and cornered, two full Tumans were captured.
The Dacians blinded nine men out of every ten, and allowed the tenth to lead the rest home. Tsubokai was burned alive on a pile of wagon wheels, and two of the Great Khan's sons were forced to fight to the death barehanded for the privilege of being ransomed to their father. The victor was killed and eaten by Racoco and his staff.
Gunsukh had a heart attack when the survivors of Tsubokai's army returned, ending the war.