This is a sneak preview of the land of Khoros. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.
The warrior folk of Khoros have been called, at times, barbarians, raiders, and savages. Though these northern folk are warriors, and have spent centuries raiding the southern lands, they have recently become embroiled in their own war that has distanced them from the past. The men and women of Khoros carve their fortresses from the ice of the glacier known as the Dragon’s Claw, and it is in those caves and chasms that they build their clanhouses. Once masters of the vales and forests of the land proper, the twisted servants and spawn of the Great Beast have driven the Khorosi north into the ice.
All folk of Khoros, regardless of gender, are expected to hunt, raid, and fight. The young learn these skills and arts early, for the land is harsh and everyone is needed. Where once these folk worried only about the harsh winters, natural beasts, and haunted spirits of the land, the ancient beast Wyrlok brought its children to the land almost twenty and four years ago and these powerful creatures, their spawn, and the cultists and dark priests that serve them have in that time waged a war that has brought the clans of Khoros to the brink of ruin.
The people of Khoros have a strong sense of honor and duty, which they call mettle. Mettle, to the Khorosi, means much more than tenacity; to them it is more akin to honor and the standing of their name among their peers. When a warrior asks if a rival is questioning their mettle, they are implying that there is grave insult being offered. The folk of Khoros will go to great lengths to protect their mettle. A man or woman with no mettle is not a man or woman at all, at least in the eyes of the Khorosi.
Because of their strong sense of mettle, the people of Khoros don’t like to enter into debt. “Better to raid than to borrow.” The people of Khoros don’t like to owe favors, and often seek to proactively pay back favors that do accumulate due to mistake or circumstance. People who have saved folk from Khoros often find that the Khorosi seek to pay them back twofold, sometimes with goods or services that are not asked for or necessary.
Mettle also leads to a sense of equality among the sexes; unions that are not mutually pursued are likened to a strange sort of debt and call into question mettle. Concepts such as arranged marriages or marrying for position are utterly foreign to the people of Khoros.
The largest threat to the people of Khoros are the children of Wyrlok. Something drew the attention of the Great Beast to Khoros, and the children of Wyrlok have proven to be dangerous and virtually indestructible foes. Around these beings have risen a cultish following and a host of terrible creatures that call the beast Wyrlok their god.
The war has taken a terrible toll. Led by the Children of Wyrlok, the servants of the Great Beast destroyed a number of clanhouses. The clans of Khoros were losing the ongoing war against the dark priests. Warriors and children sometimes disappeared in the night. The Khorosi were slowly driven from the valleys and forests of the land, and have found refuge in the northern glacier where the beasts cannot so easily stalk and where the Weald magic of the Wyrlok priests cannot as easily be brought to bear against the Khorosi.
In the 3015, at the height of a storm on Midwinter’s Eve, the clanlord Toric Forbearn fought with his back to the ice protecting his clanhouse. The wolf lord Kenninir, with its horde of weres and wolf shoathri, had descended upon the clanhouse to retaliate against raids made into their hunting territory. When the battle looked grim, Toric charged through the line with his sword Nightdrinker, and found the blade laid terrible wounds upon the Child of Wyrlok.
Years before, clan raiders had come before Toric’s father, clanlord Torev, and presented him with a blade of dark metal that was rumored to be of elven make. It was said that the blade was from a time before the elven lands had been emptied. The sword was strong and keen, and the clan kept it as one of its many trophies for many seasons. Torev named the blade Nightdrinker, and displayed it above his throne.
As Kenninir prowled towards the clanhouse and Toric prepared his war’shend, his armor, and his war paint, he heard the blade. The metal seemed to whisper in an unrecognizable tongue. He took up the blade, and carried it to battle. The blade was quiet as he slew the wolf shoathri that surged forward with the howls of Kenninir, but the cry of the blade rose as the clanlord attacked the Child of Wyrlok. The bite of the blade laid terrible wounds on that beast. The wolf lord staggered back in surprise, and Toric took the opportunity to end him. It had been the first time a child of Wyrlok had been slain in the north.
The wolf shoathri fell back; the hold of the wolf lord upon them was broken. Many fled, and many became Khorosi themselves. The werewolves fled into the storm. Seemingly sated, the sword went silent, and the clanlord Toric sent word of the victory to the other clans and clanlords of Khoros.
News of the destruction of one of the Children has spread, bringing new hope and ferocity to the Khorosi. The other Children have grown more cautious, it seems, in their war against the clans since the death of Kenninir. The clans of Khoros have gained a much needed reprieve, but for how long none can say.
The death of Kenninir has had another effect; many of the lycanthropes that once served Kennenir have abandoned the war. Seeking to distance themselves from their former masters, these werewolves have created their own clan and have been joined by some of the Wolf shoathri than once served the priests of Wyrlok. As the clan has uprooted the servitude to Wyrlok they have taken the name Nightharrow. While Clan Nightharrow seeks to stay free of the influence of the Great Beast, they are certainly not Khorosi. They maintain an uneasy existence, knowing they while the servants of Wyrlok are no longer their allies, are not truly free of the Great Beast. Their hold on their freedom is tenuous, and they know that the howls of the servants of Wyrlok can still drive them to frenzy and hunt other Gifted Races.
The folk of Khoros certainly look the part of the barbarian image attributed to them. They are often seen in leather and fur, with only pieces of real metal armor. They also make clothes from wool or cloth they weave or take from raids. The warriors often have exposed skin which they decorate with war-paint.
The most iconic look for the people Khoros is the war’shend. This long battle skirt in many ways resembles a long kilt or the bottom half of a robe, long enough to extend to the ankles. Warriors tend to wear the war’shend as long as they can without tripping while fighting. The war’shend is usually of solid color and the bottom is decorated with runes or symbols of the clan. Sometimes it is decorated with pictograms depicting the warrior’s great kills or deeds. The war’shend is often made of leather, although some are wool or linen. The war’shend is often matched with a wide metal or leather girdle or war belt.
Shamans outside battle sometimes wear ceremonial war’shend that train behind them as they perform their duties. The long train that drags behind them represents the spirits that follow in their wake.
Although many of the southern kingdoms scoff at the warriors of Khoros and consider their reluctance to be fully armored as a lack of protection, that is not the case. The warriors of the Khoros are protected by the spirits of the beasts that they fight and kill. These spirits, called back to the leather and fur worn by the warriors, offer mystical wards that supplement the warrior’s pieces of metal and leather armor.
The clans of Khoros do have blacksmiths, and they do make weapons and use pieces of armor in their outfits. They are rarely sheathed in metal armor. Instead, the warriors need only cover a portion of their body in metal. So long as they are also wearing prominent leather and fur, and have some war paint on exposed skin, they can get away with one third the metal armor of normal warriors and still get credit for their armor prop.
The eastern most clans and their clanhouses have fewer shaman, and these warriors rely much more on mail armor and helms for protection. These clans favor wool clothing, and padded gambesons under long chain mail.
~ A warrior with no mettle is no Khorosi.
~ If you are alive then your greatest battle is ahead of you.
~ Ancestors do not watch over the meek.
~ Complaining is not only a waste of energy, but it is a sign of weakness.
~ Books can be burned; tales passed from Skald to Skald live forever.
~ Better to die a hero than live a coward.
~ Mettle is a more important measure than clan or title or kingdom.
Shamanism is the most common religion among the clans of Khoros. There are some druids, but druidic circles tended to dwell outside the clans and the people of Khoros do not know the fate of those circles since the servants of Wyrlok have hunted the lands. There are some worshippers of the Woven Faith that have appeared to fight against the servants of the Great Beast, but they are few and far between and do not know the dangers present in the wilderness of Khoros.
Arcane practitioners are rare among the people of Khoros. The Khorosi do not value written works; they find that the telling is as important as the words and tales from paper are hollow to them. That is better left to skalds. The mages that do pursue magic tend to practice Primal or Weald magics. Other mages are rare and usually misunderstood.
The people of Khoros are divided into clans, and the clans are comprised of many families. All members of a clan swear fealty to the clanlord directly. The Khoros have a simple system of leadership involving shamans, skalds, and the skorn.
The shamans form circles and provide advice to the clanlord on matters spiritual. Some shaman belong to families, though others are solitary and serve a clanlord directly.
The skalds keep the history, inspire the warriors, and advise on tactics. Each large family generally has a skald to carry the tales of that families deeds, and the skald usually has an apprentice. The clanlord also has a small number of skalds which learn the tales of each family and record the greatest deeds and knowledge in stone. The loss of a skald is seen as tragic if there is no apprentice to take the mantle for it is a loss of history for the family and the clan.
The skorn are heroes and battle leaders. Unlike berserkers, the skorn train warriors in time of peace and direct the warriors and berserkers from the front during battles.
Although there are many minor clans, the major clans of Khoros include the following:
Clan Draklor – This clan once dwelt in the Glimmering Forest, and now make their home in caverns in the glacier to the north. The clan has taken to collecting glowing ice and bark from the Glimmering Wood, and now the cavern glows with that light. The clan wears white war paint, and many have a wide horizontal stripe across their eyes and runic symbols on exposed flesh.
Clan Stormvald – This clan has built a clanhouse on the tip of the central cliffs of the Dragon’s Claw overlooking the Crystalwood. Clan Stormvald has many members that are not human, including Elves, Shoathri, and Eurvein. Clan Stormvald is known to throw criminals off the side of the glacier to execute them. The clan favors blue war paint, and spiral patterns.
Clan Kelvyr – This clan dwells in the easternmost heights of the Dragon’s Claw. They once guarded the pass to Winterwold, but now they have retreated north away from that pass. Clan Kelvyr has many warriors that forego the war’shend that other clans wear and instead favor woolen, leather and cloth clothing and wear chain mail and scale mail armor.
Clan Firelok – This clan has built clanhouses in the cliffs and mountains in southeastern Khoros, and is the only clan that does not dwell in the ice. Clan Firelok is known for its forges, and the clan produces more metals and metallic goods than the other clans. This clan is known for their elemental shamans and have a small number of mages who wield Primal magic.
All of northern Khoros is dominated by the great glacier called the Dragon’s Claw. The towering ice slowly forged southward around eight centuries ago, and has dominated the northern horizontal since. Most of the clans of Khoros have found or carved forts, chasms, or caves from the ice to protect themselves from the servants of the Great Beast.
The westernmost reaches of Khoros are dominated by the Glimmering Forest. Magic sometimes seems to infuse the trees and forests and ice at night in this place, making parts of the forest glow. All manner of creatures and even some Fey seem to be drawn to these lights, making the wood a dangerous place.
The central region of Khoros has rolling, forested hills crossed with vales and streams. The Crystalwood lies in the crevice of the Dragon’s Claw, while the Fangwood lies to the south. The Fangwood is home to a reclusive and oft dangerous folk that appear to be lizard like, which is odd since they thrive in both warm months and cold.
The eastern border of Khoros is the territory of Clan Kelvyr, who war with the folk of Winterwold. The clan left Winterwold during an internal war with that region and now calls themselves Khorosi. They used to guard the pass against intrusions from Winterwold, but they have been forced north into the ice. The clan is more than satisfied to let the servants of Wyrlok pass into Winterwold and hunt in that place.
Clanlord Toric Forbearn. The clanlord of clan Draklor, the mettle of Toric has grown greatly since the death of Kenninir. The halls of clan Draklor have been busy since the victory, as advisors from other clans seek favor to gain Toric’s participation in their own battles against the servants of Wyrlok.
Clanlord Glyrna Ashword. The clanlord of clan Firelok, the warrior and forgemaster Glyrna is one of the most skilled smiths and runeweavers in the north. While she is extremely skilled in battle, it is said that she carries with her runes carved and inscribed from the great forge Svanil, which lies in the heart of the clanlord’s forge.
Glainvir. Once the son of the clanlord of the destroyed Clan Bloodmire, now the clanlord of Clan Nightharrow. The left hand of Glainvir is said to be stained red with the blood of his father who he slew when the rage of Wyrlok first took him. His crimson hand forms a red claw when he hunts. Glainvir has thrown off his allegiance to the servants of Wyrlok, but he knows the willpower of his clanmates is tenuous at best, and the howls of the servants of the Great Beast can drive all of them to hunt and kill.
The Khorosi have seen many foes who serve Wyrlok in this war, but these foes are particularly well known. It is rumored that these are not the only creatures with the blood of the Great Beast that roam the land.
Bloodletter. This Child of Wyrlok appears as a terrible union of man and hyena. Clawed and able to tear opponents in two, this beast feeds on the dead and seems to derive spiritual as well as physical sustenance from the act. Its chilling war cry, a terrible sound like the giggling of a madman, can be heard in the darkness as it hunts.
Lady Rakkish. In her bestial state this Child of Wyrlok appears as a winged woman sharing the features of a gold and tan hunting cat. Her wings are tipped with razor sharp feathers. She is known to fight with claws or spear as suits her mood, but is most often seen with a great hunting bow. It is said she can pluck a feather from her wing and fire it as a wicked and deadly arrow to rain destruction on her foes.
The Beastmaster Bleakhorn. This dark Ghorvok is a powerful priest of Wyrlok, and a warrior as well. The priest is said to be a favorite of the Great Beast, and a powerful speaker in the circle of priests that advise the Children and servants of the Great Beast.