By Jakub Wisz
It’s been a while since the previous Aurorae development blog – and so here we are. I think the best next step in bringing the game a bit closer to you will be through a series of articles describing the lore and rules of the game interchangeably. In this first one of the series, I’ll describe (mostly quoting the current Core Rule Book draft) one of the playable Kinships in the game – the adventurous sailors known throughout the void as the Khradi.
The Khradi peoples mostly live in a loose alliance known as the Khradin League, in the far, frozen reaches away from the massive planetoid of Maer. Khradin League is an informal alliance of city-states located on six large islands and several smaller outposts in the outer rim of the Auroran Mists. The semi-nomadic Khradi don’t hold much regard for the land unless their ancestors are buried there – in which case they will do everything in their power to stay there and defend it, moving the ancestor mummies only in most dire circumstances. They’re clans of sailors, living off the mists – fishing, braving the mist storms in search of precious crystals, or living the life of piracy, especially if they can prey on their traditional foes, the Nväldi. Their culture and technology haven’t changed much in a thousand years, but that doesn’t mean they’re backward and behind the times. They meet the evolution of trade head-on, adapting ancient traditions to best fit modern challenges.
The Khradi were always sailors, dwelling in the Domains for ages, perhaps even during the Lost Era. They warred against the Patrish Hegemony and never yielded to the conquest, even after centuries of strife and persecution by the powerful empire. Even though the Khradi were said to be hunted like animals by the Patrish, their hit-and-run tactics and in-depth knowledge of the Domains allowed them to survive. Their society in these ancient times became almost entirely militaristic and self-reliant to face the rigors of constant combat and travel.
After the destruction of Maer over a thousand years ago, the Khradi took to massive resettling of Patrish lands, taking revenge on their former oppressors. The short-lived Khradi empire disintegrated in one generation, however, as the clans splintered when the decentralized rulership stretched thin. One clan in particular – the Nväldi – took drastic measures to keep control of their islands. Even though their methods were anathema to their kin, that splinter clan proved successful and obliterated the would-be empire. The rest of the Khradi organized and formed the Khradin League to combat their former brethren. There is no war more draining than a civil war, and no hate like that between brothers – and so the conflict drove both peoples to the brink of annihilation. The century of war culminated in the battle of Navia, destroying both the powerful Nväldi army and the ancient heartland of the Khradi – known since then as Pogorya, as its crimson forests and populous cities burned to the very core. The Khradin League survived this disaster and managed to keep some cohesion between islands through the century of strife, using astral beacons and guidance spirits to stay in contact and even expand to new territories. What was a time of strife for most other peoples was a time of prosperity and settling down for previously warlike Khradi clans. Ships stayed in harbors except for risky trade expeditions to other islands, and crafts unrelated to sailing or warfare thrived for the first time since times immemorial.
When Khradi crews first met the Triveni merchants exploring the Auroran Domain’s furthest reaches, they looted the traders mercilessly, taking them for the Patrish Hegemony returned from extinction. When the Triveni sent envoys and gifts instead of armed fleets, the clans settled and agreed to the merchant princes’ conditions, officially joining the Triveni trade network – all except the clans inhabiting the highest layers of the League, deeply entrenched in a war against the Nväldi and distrustful of outsiders. The system of anchor stones bringing with it trade and cosmopolitan values changed Khradi societies forever. Villages and towns grew, fleets expanded and the League reached out to claim new territories. Most clan elders took the opportunity to progress their communities, except the Ternydom and Hevont’ clans, located highest in the Mist, and clinging to their semi-nomadic pirate values. Despite those differences, the League remains cohesive, determined to grow together.
The Khradin League consists of islands Akona, Lyes, Hevont’, Sad, Pogorya (formerly known as Navia), and Ternydom, as well as a varying number of smaller islands colonized and abandoned depending on how they fare. Each island is settled by a single clan – when a new one is claimed, the elders are chosen from the most experienced colonists, or captains of ships that made the discovery, and envoys are sent to the new capital of Akona to represent a new clan. In recent years the League expands so quickly, that representatives land in Akona almost weekly, seeking new settlers, adventurers, and traders to supply the new clans. Steep competition between those new clans resulted in a rise of mercenary warrior crew and freelance trader numbers. A large number of Khradi ships nowadays are such clanless crews, paradoxically bringing a renaissance of nomadic ventures to Khradi society, previously slowly settling down.
The Khradi are still largely semi-nomadic people reliant on hunting and fishing, dwelling in wooden or stone structures, usually on the island edges. The inner areas of their lands are largely left alone unless the community is large enough to require fields for agriculture or sapling forests for construction.
Their society is completely cognatic and meritocratic – those who prove themselves incompetent at their jobs are removed and stranded to find another occupation, even if they inherited the trade from the elders. Losing an ancestral home like this is a great dishonor, and no Khradi will allow that to happen willingly. Khradi couples marry at a young age, though dissolving a marriage is just a matter of an agreement between the parties.
In day-to-day contact, the Khradi are polite, yet formal with everyone except closest family and friends, keeping casual acquaintances and strangers at a distance. Because of that, they developed a reputation for being standoffish and unfriendly. When in a circle of peers, they loosen up and are jovial and honest to a point often making outsiders uncomfortable.
Khradi societies put great values in honor and proper conduct, believing it is their duty to live up to the standard of their ancestors. Breaking one’s word, lying, or stealing, and similar shows of dishonesty are considered the worst crimes with heavy punishments, from public shaming to banishment. They consider personal honor to be the most important quality and expect everyone to uphold their good name. The expectation to live up to one’s words is great, though the Khradi see honor as a matter of personal achievement – it is impossible to offend someone else’s honor, and by attempting such an act one only shames themselves. If a Khradi accuses someone of a dishonorable act, they almost always mean it with good proof and will demand a person makes up for it or be punished.
Failing to treat others with respect and act with honor is frowned upon, and those Khradi who fail to meet the standards are shunned and even banished if the behavior persists. Even during acts of piracy a Khradi is expected to behave with honor. The only exceptions are vengeance quests or dealing with the Nväldi, whose practice of necromancy is particularly disgusting to the ancestor-worshipping Khradi. During those times the Khradi will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, and the usual rigors of honorable behavior don’t apply.
Local laws are often a matter of communal agreement and every individual upholding the honor of their families first, their personal honor second, and the honor of clan lastly. Very rarely comes the need for codified legislation, and most conflicts are solved through peer pressure or duels between conflicted parties. Combat is a common solution to problems, and in many cases turns into family-wide feuds if the offense is too large for a single person. Such feuds often last centuries, long after their initial cause was forgotten, and are seen as a kind of a sport. Fights to the death are uncommon, though not particularly frowned upon, even during duels resulting from sheer boredom or drunken bravado. When a Khradi says they will fight you to the death, they feel obliged to follow up on it and refusing them a fight is seen as refusing their honor.
New inventions like counterweight machinery, spellcharged tools and spring mechanisms take late hold in Khradi settlements, not only because they adhere to old traditions and hereditary crafts. Ancestral items and tools carry their own weight in a Khradi mind, and replacing them with newer tools just for the sake of effectiveness is seen as distasteful. Newly created items are made to fit the traditional outlook, even if using new techniques, so the Khradi toolset often seems rustic by comparison with more forward-thinking cultures.
Khradi put great value in storytelling, legends, and verbal traditions. They consider the legacy of stories and myths the most valued treasure – and revere those who make a living retelling those stories on equal footing with the legendary heroes the stories speak of. It’s always easy to recognize a true Khradi tale, as it talks not only of the heroes and events they were tangled in but also of the storyteller who put their deeds into a poem and all those who retold the story afterward. Tales of fiction and fantasy are just as valued, though Khradi artists always take great care to make it clear that the story is made up for entertainment – so as not to be accused of lying, and to prevent confusion between stories made for the enjoyment of the people with those retelling actual, or mythical events.
Their music is joyful, and energetic, accompanying everything the Khradi do – they consider music to be a kind of magic in its own right. Most Khradi songs are tales and retelling of myths in poetic forms, repeated by countless clans for generations. Some stories are shared by many clans, their actual origin lost to centuries, and are treated as public heritage. They’re celebrated and repeated often, though with a touch of melancholy, as their originators were forgotten, and are believed to have died in the life beyond life.
Khradi craftsmanship is always adorned in knotty, animalistic patterns, with the motif of ancestral faces or mythical stories repeating throughout. An item or house with engraved faces means an ancestor used them, while a scene caught in the moment means the item was part of an important event – the longer the item exists, the more decorated it becomes. When there is no more room for adornments, it becomes a treasured artifact for its clan, treasured but no longer used unless in dire need. Losing an intricately adorned item with many ancestors watching over it or used in many honorable deeds is a great dishonor, even if the item’s actual value was negligible. A Khradi will usually go a long way to get the item back, disregarding any laws and customs, even their code of honor – any thief who dares steal such an artifact should beware. To avoid confusion with a common scoundrel, a Khradi on such a vengeance quest will cover half their face with dark paint and take off their khaldakapa belt to make it plain for everyone that their actions are justified by the vengeance quest and that they are without family, alone in their deeds. Such a person will not be persecuted by law or custom no matter what they do with the object of their vengeance, their families, or accomplices unless they drag innocent bystanders into the fray.
Khradi are most adept at conjuring, with ancient traditions of summoning ancestors and spirits of nature to aid and advise them. Clans often summon their most revered ancestors and heroes from the past to take voice during councils and when making important decisions, treating the spirits as valued members of society. Tempting as it is, asking a spirit of an ancestor about their new lives in the Land Of Blue And Green or other lands they may dwell in is forbidden, as it risks one’s own future in the next life if they knew. The Khradi are skilled in natural magics as well, particularly crafting enchanted tools, musical instruments, and weapons. Such items are of great value, though their powers aren’t always obvious to someone not knowing the stories depicted on them, or recognizing the carved features of ancestral spirits tied to them. In addition to ancestral worship, the Khradi perform runic magic taught by the Triveni, considering it a useful practice, like shipbuilding, and not magical in nature. The Khradi don’t practice binding in any form except voluntary inhabitation of an object by a spirit, and necromancy in all forms is seen as abhorrent, especially when practiced on Khradi dead.
The Khradi are robust broad-shouldered folk, dark-haired and pale-skinned. They’re naturally sturdy and fairly adorned with hair, often with a tendency to grow large around the belt in elder years. They’re typically strong and resistant, valuing physical prowess above all other personal traits. Khradi typically shave parts of their scalps, leaving strands for braids or waves in the front, sides, or back of the head – but never all at once. Khradi men grow long, pronounced mustaches if they’re able, seeing them as points of pride, though only clans from upper parts of the League, Ternydom and Hevont’ commonly carry beards, which they braid just like their hair.
The Khradi common folk dress in leather vests, linen galligaskins or skirts, and shirts, and comfortable leather shoes. Working-class and people in small communities keep to natural fabric tones and sparse adornments, while the wealthy and those who don’t have to do much physical work like to shine with bright, colorful fabrics dyed in zhmey blood. Nobility, wealthy traders, political figures, and important heads of families wear heavy coats and vests of brocade and precious metal thread, and tall, heavily patterned boots, as well as hats. Northern clans keep to tall, fur or leather hats known as “rapakha,” while lower clans, particularly in Pomorya and more cosmopolitan islands wear low hubcaps of soft fabric, rounded by fur and adorned with gems and feathers known as “radoshka.”
An important element of Khradi dress is the belt, known as the “khaldakapa,” wide and as opulent as one can afford, in patterning and color scheme representing their clan, family, and social stature. Khradi traditions include a multitude of methods of tying the said belt, with different twists, turns, and positions on the body signifying different social messages, from basic information like a person’s profession, marriage status, and political leanings in matters concerning the Khradin League, to nuanced detail like current mood and whether or not the person is open to being talked to in public.
Nobles and warriors belonging to elite ship crews and Khradi mercenary yvwernai lancer formations add a stripe of yvwernai skin to their khaldakapa belt, to signify their elevated position in society. Patterning on the stripe details the brave’s military history, foes defeated and important battles they partook in.
The Khradi don’t make much distinction between gendered clothing, aside from what’s convenient for the climate in which they live and personal comfort.
Battle and work-related injuries are common in Khradi societies, as they’re mostly revolving around sailing, and often piracy. Missing fingers, ears, and other extremities are particularly common among the sailors regularly delving into miststorms or hunting parties against zhmey.
The Khradi are excellent sailors, shipbuilders, and warriors, often engaging in piracy. They are expert spearmen and archers, though metalworking is rare among them and they usually trade for ready iron and steel goods instead of creating their own. Newly invented arms like spellshots and firedrakes are common in communities keeping touch with the larger Domains society, and progressively rarer deeper into the League. If they can’t get a hold of metals and wood, the Khradi use treated bone and animal teeth to create weapons of hunting and war. Their armors are usually also leather – scale, and lamellar cuirasses, arm and shinguards, and conical helmets. The Khradi consider metalworking to be an exotic and desired trade, mostly because the frozen regions of Mists they inhabit isn’t mineral-rich. Trading with the Triveni and other cultures in their anchor stone network created an influx of metal goods to the League, making smithing and other metalworking very fashionable professions in some clans. Other clans choose to import ready weapons and other metal items to a degree resulting in some Triveni and Uthradi smiths specializing in making items, especially weapons and armors, in the Khradi-style, to meet the demand.
The Khradi warriors are decent infantry, though their specialty is archery and combat aboard ships. They’re generally no match for organized landing parties and sizeable fortifications, though their skill at naval combat and quick attacks more than make up for it.
The Khradi warfare style and reliance on antiquated weapons such as bows and spears often puts them at a disadvantage, and they’re slowly adapting to the ever-changing warfare race – many clans living closer to Maer mostly replaced their hornbows and spears with steel sabers, firedrakes, and handheld spellshots, as well as enchanted wands and staves. Other clans, particularly ones located higher in the mists fall back on ancient weaponry made and reinforced with modern materials, for the sake of tradition.
The Khradi are also one of the few people who mastered large-scale zhmey cavalry, other than Yerveni and Nväldi. Their ships are often escorted and supported by mercenary clans of lancers riding small zhmey known in the Domains as “yvwernai” from Yerveni language. Khradi ywvernai lancers don heavy armors on themselves and their steeds and specialize in devastating charges capable of obliterating enemy infantry or even Yerveni riders, if they’re caught unawares and unable to avoid the attack. Those mercenaries known as “sakisti” are feared and renowned throughout the Domains. They recruit from all clans, though after the training each sakist’ regiment is considered a clan of its own, with no attachment to Khradi houses and their politics.
Khradi are excellent shipwrights, perhaps the best in the Domains. Their traditional longships made of cultivated wood and zhmeyskin sails are fast, agile, and capable of outmaneuvering most other ships in existence. They usually don’t bother using modern inventions like mistwheels or clockwork engines. The Khradi rely on ancient arts of crafting living sails from zhmey skins and trapping mists in a condensed state in enchanted satchels mounted on sides, or beneath the vessel. New inventions in maritime technology and enchantments don’t interest them much. In fact, Khradi shipwrights often brag other peoples make inventions mostly to try and catch up with Khradi achievements in sailing. Khradi warships known as “rahka,” or “rahkin” are particularly famous thanks to their light construction reinforced with zhmey plating and bones, capable of extreme maneuvers matching even Yerveni raiders. Khradi ships and longboats tend to be on the lighter side, valuing speed and maneuverability over firepower, as they’re used for raiding, hunting, or trade. In warfare the Khradi fall back to hit and run tactics, only engaging the enemy when pursued to their ship’s base of operations – one of their massive naval fortresses.
Those ancient vehicles, known as “utrval'” are entire islands fortified with massive siege weaponry and zhmeyskin sails. While slow and hard to manoeuver, they’re nearly impenetrable to assaults, and able to field up to a hundred rahka, and decimate entire fleets – as they, in fact, had during the battle of Pomorya that ended the Nväldi supremacy in the Domains. The Khradi possess a small number of utrval’ used almost exclusively to protect contested territories. The art of creating them is said to have been reverse-engineered from looted Hegemony war machines. The Khradi don’t see much use for them in their regular war actions, except as mobile ports and key defense points.
While rahka rarely carry large loadouts of large weaponry, relying on boarding actions and precise strikes at opponents’ weak points, utrvalis are armed to the teeth with constantly expanded armaments – only replaced when one is broken beyond repair. And so an utrval can be armed in anything from irondrake tubes and clockwork dart launchers to ancient sling throwers.
Khradi architecture and machinery are significantly less sophisticated than their naval prowess. They employ stone and metalwork only in their largest settlements, relying on open villages made from cultivated wood. A typical Khradi village is a wide circle surrounding a large port infrastructure at the edge of their islands, sometimes surrounded by a small palisade to keep the local wildlife out. The Khradi pride themselves on being the only people except for Wolf Shepherds who can reliably grow trees, and do so on most of the islands they inhabit. Most of their islands are largely overgrown with wild and cultivated forests, except in the vicinity of larger cities needing fields to sustain themselves.
Khradi exclusively inhabit warded islands, seeing land without breathable air as nothing more than mooring spots or mining operations in those rare cases when a metal-rich rock wanders into their reach.
Most communities rely on hauling ice rocks onto their islands for water, and hunting zhmey for construction materials and sustenance, though unlike the Temel, the Khradi don’t use zhmey bodies to construct housing, only tools, sails, and ship parts.
Khradi history is related verbally by the clan elders communing with ancestors and through legendary tales. According to their earliest legends, the Khradi and the Uthradi are people who died in a mythical Land Of Blue And Green. They believe that the Auroran Domains are the afterlife, and they themselves were reborn to it after their real existence. A Khradi exists in the Domains only as long as their life is remembered in stories in the Land Of Blue And Green, and once they’re forgotten there, they die in the mists as well.
Mythical stories talk of the Wolf Shepherds who saved some of the Rad, or “people,” from suffering in the underground caves, taught them to build ships and find warded lands. The Shepherds nurtured the Rad people until they were self-sufficient, and let them seek their own paths. Many have asked the Wolf Shepherds if those legends are true, but no one received a straight answer yet. Many Khradi believe those legends have some truth to them, as the forest folk does mingle with Khradi sometimes, and even allow settlements to be built on the edges of their islands to those deemed worthy to their alien eyes.
The recorded history and their common language do support the claim that Uthradi and Khradi were once one people, though no ancestral spirit ever confirmed the tales of Land Of Blue And Green. Khradi exploration parties always investigate every new island they spot, hoping to find the mythical land, even those who profess to dismiss the old tales.
The Khradi revere their ancestors, and often summon their spirits asking for advice in island-wide rituals. The reverence doesn’t conflict with the traditional belief that they’re souls of the dead. According to their origins mythos, a Khradi who dies in the mists actually returns to life in the Land Of Blue And Green, or another realm yet unknown. Just as they live in the mists while they’re remembered by their kin in those lands, Khradi ancestors departed from the mists are allowed existence in the lands beyond death while they’re remembered in the mists, thus closing the circle. Needless to say, the Khradi consider any slight against the ancestors’ memory, bodies, or belongings to be an act of war, and a cause for a vendetta often including entire clans or islands going to war.
This concludes the introduction of Khradi, one of the seven major Kinships in the Domains – more will be revealed once the Aurorae are closer to release. If those tidbits of information peaked your interest in the world of Aurorae, stay tuned as there is more to come!