The Taurvann
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Tech Code: 2
Governments: none.
Religions: no organized religions.
Industries and Trades: Horse breeding.
Major Terrain: Flatland, River.
Primary Languages: Kai, Bosk.
Major Settlements: Kai-Lai, Temple of the Old Divh.

Geography


Physical Geography

Taurvann is a vast, rolling, grassy plain. Richly fertile, it has never been turned to agriculture, even in the days when the races of the Kelorn Federation had their heartlands around it, and only herders, travellers and pilgrims make their mark here.

Stretching from the southern shores of the Inner Sea down to the Tarvuar Hills and the Eresfell Downs in the north of Arumthar. It passes the foothills of the Breshan Mountains down the length of the River Yanasali, and forms the bulk of the Taurvann Basin, ending at the River Eres along the eastern edge of the Kayari Steppe, where the Athkali Hills rise, and on the eastern shores of Lake Kushla. Over on the south-eastern border the Bashari Lakes divide Taurvann for Balica and the hills of Bethamzthak, but in Karsuk to the south and Cal Manar to the north the borders are far less distinct, and the domains flow into one another seamlessly. But at its heart the Taurvann is just the Taurvann: vast, mostly flat, waving in an endless tide of muted green, with low trees bowing lazily to the wind, vast, wind-savaged clouds hanging tattered in the sky, and hidden springs forming ponds and streams whose depth and direction change from season to season. Where the mustangs pass the ground is trodden into mud and dust, and bare tree limbs are chewed or else stripped of bark by scratching and rubbing.

The Taurvann is usually warm, but shaded. These vast plains enjoy balmy summers, swept by cool mountain breezes, but with clear cyan skies, and long evenings. In the spring and autumn they see the rains come, as clouds sweep across the basins of Taurvann and the Inner Sea from the Imperatry Flatlands, to gather like an ermine mantel around the Shoulders of the World. In the winter the clouds hang low, looming ominously, and chill cold winds bring morning frosts and surface ice to still ponds, and the damp never quite wears away, leaving the ground muddy, clinging and black.

There are two key locations in the land that significantly differ from the rest of the plains. The first, in the dead centre of the Taurvann, sit the rugged Elkhar Hills, where lush river-cut valleys break the rocky, wind-swept hills amongst which the monumental edifice of Kai-Lai stands. In the far north the vast region's only road - the Pilgrim's Path - wends a snaking path through the plains, keeping the sea on the northern horizon, from the borders of Amir, to the vast Temple of the Old Divh. A literal city of the divh, this wonder of immense temple, broad plazas and walnut-lined avenues, and countless shrines, statues, fountains and gazebos. This city of scintillating stones is eerily empty, for not a soul lives here. The orator-guard, who are its defenders and caretakers, live in a little town outside the city's limits, and only visitors tread in this city with no citizens.

Political Geography

The plains of Taurvann are the only domain to stretch over two separate major regions of Allornus, having their bulk in the heart of the southlands and a northern section abutting the Inner Sea. No one lays claim to Taurvann. In the north and into the heart of the territory nomadic tribes of goblyn horsemen have lived since goblyns were first born into the world. The Kai, as they call themselves, live by raising and breeding the horses that roam the flatlands. They are known as fearsome hunters and warriors. While these goblyn horse nomads make their homes here, they have no government beyond the clan, and no lands beyond those they currently occupy. There are roughly twelve large clans with smaller ones springing up and merging with each other and with larger clans all the time. The Kai are generally engaged in some form of conflict with one another and have a strong caste system and their warrior castes are constantly staging raids into each-others camps. They have a single settlement in the Elkhar Hills called Kai-Lai where they can gather under an agreement of peace to trade and parley. The Ann tribe makes its base permanently here and acts as a spokesman for the tribes to outsiders. However the enemy of every tribe are the bands of outcasts who roam the fringes of the Taurvann. Kai believe the greatest penalty is exile, so criminals in their society are cast out of the clan, and with little option, band together to become ruthless, violent and desperate.

Amongst the Kai, the Ann control the central plains with their close allies the Ru and Kama. To the north and north-east the warlike Khan and martial Lam-Ki run their herds and generally manage to make a living trading their services as mercenaries or caravans to locals. To the northwest the grim Sodo live in constant battle with the Broud, they are known as the only people who can safely navigate the downs. The Haro and the Mai are talented tradesmen and woodsmen and make their livings along the westernmost limits of the region along the feet of the mountains. In the southern plains and grass lands the Badh, Lai-Ka, Cha-La and Ha-Rei make their homes, breeding a faster steed. The Kai are constantly engaged in various trade wars with one another, and particularly the martial Lam-Ki and Khan are constantly at war with one another. Toward the central plains and in the east however the Kai remain peaceful, and even make regular trade and communication with the city-states along the coast. All the other tribes are fairly hostile to outsiders and treat them with, at the very least, a blatant suspicion.

The sworn enemies of the Kai are the Broud and Dagha-Bul org clans, better known as the Hunters and the Bloody Jaws to the local people. The org spend most of their time in a mobile war with each other along the south-western parts of the plains, and with the various southern tribes of the Kai, especially the brooding Sodo. While they are only small clans, the org can be a huge threat when they manage to organize themselves under a powerful leader, and every generation or so one such leader seems to emerge and lead them well into the flatlands, or south into Arumthar. Mostly the org are confined to the southern hills, the Broud in the Athkali Hills, and the Dagha-Bul in the Taruvars.

Social Geography

A few small hobgoblyn settlements are dotted around the north of Taurvann, near the coast, and the Kai dominate the region further to the south, but on the whole this land remains relatively untamed. The horsemen of the Kai are nomads who also control the Crowyn-Hai Flatlands at Arumthar’s heart. They are the natives of the southlands, here before even the beastmen of the old Kelorn Empire held these lands, and their society has changed little throughout all records. They breed and train the huge herds of mustangs that run over these plains. Their brightly coloured caravans move from place to place with their herds, also keeping sheep and cows for their clothes and food. They are proud tribes, characterized by their stoic warriors and skilled riding. The men of the tribes are expected to fight and care for the herds while the women and elders prepare food and dance and sing at night. These strange southern people practice a form of ancestor worship, their tribes are lead by a patriarch (called a Het), usually elected, who consults with a wise woman (or Ima) who inherits the task from her mother, it is considered very bad luck to break the line of wise women. Many of the survivors of the people of old Arumthar came north and joined with these newcomers, forming their own small tribes within those of the Kai and adopting their nomadic ways, the product is an unusual blend of ancient Kelorn lores and knowledge and the pagan beliefs and superstitious practices and stories of these southerners. Every year in midsummer the tribes gather at Kai-Lai where they trade and share news and knowledge with one another, this gathering is called the brewing and only during this time are outsiders allowed among the Kai in their lands, even then outsiders are treated with suspicion and contempt.

In the north and west small hobgoblyn villages live life as they do elsewhere in the southlands or the basin, in their colourful circular huts, making what they need, and following traditions and lifestyles that they have for hundreds of years, having little contact with anyone, and treating anyone who does not live in their village with suspicion that borders on hostility.

The only other real society, if society it can be called, is that of the org. Living in large warrior tribes, each based around a single belegon - a breeding female - org exist only to fight, and everything in their culture is centred around this one venture. Able to live off whatever they can hunt, gather, trap, or even carrion or dirt if it comes to it, the org delight in matches of gladiatorial combat, where they prove who amongst their number is strongest - and thus most worthy to mate and strengthen the tribe with his offspring. If, in the course of their wandering, they come upon a ruin or have cause to build a crude earthwork and palisade fortification, they might remain in one place for several years, sending out small raiding parties to target large settled areas to kill indiscriminately, and pillage whatever they fancy. But eventually these strongholds, and all of the loot gathered there, will be abandoned, as much from boredom as good sense, as the org go in search of new foes, as they always have, with no thought for why.

Faiths and Worship

The Kai faith seems more based on keeping the spirits of the hungry dead away, than on venerating any particular being, and so to most it looks like a series of superstitions, or a kind of magic, however so universal is it amongst the Kai troupes that is should be considered a religion, if only because it is shared so widely. The fundamental belief is that the dead do not rest easy, but follow their ancestors. Invisible, these creatures can do little while the Kai travel, but when they rest the dead sneak into their camps and come to the sleeping or resting Kai, trying to seize their souls and drag them back to the land of the dead. Kai who die in the saddle will be able to ride to safety in the sky after their deaths, but those who die on their backs will be dragged away by the hungry dead. For this reason the Kai always abandon their dead and or too sick to ride alone in the plains, usually blindfolded, in the hope they cannot follow. But those who are dying are bound to their saddles, and sent away to die in the saddle. All of the ritual of the Kai, their stories, their dances, and the magic of their Ima, is designed to drive away the dead, and restrict their access to the living.

People


Races and Nationalities
The Kai are unusual - confusing to many scholars. While their immediate appearance indicates descent from the goblyns of the north, they also closely resemble the Arumtharn landsmen. They almost universally have red-black hair, which tends to be wavy. Their builds are small and stocky and their complexions are a a sort of olive green rather than the deeper green of other goblyns. Their eyes tend towards browns and hazels and they have sharp, prominent noses, which occasionally have a hook to them, and a slight almond slant to their eyes. The major anomaly is that their people often produce an individual with grey-blue eyes. While some scholars speculate that the Kai may be of more local descent rather than this being a product of interbreeding since their immigration, even the elusive tribesmen themselves remain unsure of their origins. The other oddity is that the Kai outcasts seem even more prone to appearing like their southern landsman neighbours, despite strict policies of tribal purity.

The org of the region are typical of those born outside battlewaite - smaller and quicker than their western brethren, their skin tends toward more of a brown-green, hair is thicker and more common, while horns are smaller and rarer. While the org of the battlewaite are often solitary creatures, or band together in small groups, the org of Taurvann and Arumthar tend to gather to strong male leaders - possibly because they are surrounded by large, organized nations that can deal with a more 'normal' band of five or six org quite easily. They also have a fondness for trophies - attiring and arming themselves with all manner of exotic weapons, clothing and armour, taken from prisoners and foes. It is not uncommon to find an org wearing a regimental standard as a cloak, or wielding a weapon made of several swords and axes bound together into a lethal club. And often it is the org with the finest trophies, and not the greatest rack of horns, who is held in the highest regard, and sires the next generation.

Flora and Fauna

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Notable Individuals

Ethras the Horselord
The ageing mediator of Kai-Lai is the Ann Ethras, Horselord of all Kai-Lai. Outsiders who hear of the Horselord mistake him for the ruler of the Kai, but Ethras is not even nearly a ruler, rather he exists solely to stop fights breaking out between the Kai when at Kai-Lay, they all adhere to his judgement and his mediation while they are in their trade-town in order to keep the peace, not from recognition of his authority. Ethras has grown good at his job, walking a tightrope between organizing Kai-Lai, and keeping it orderly and secure, and offending any of the tribes so much with his judgement that they might not abide by it. Such is the lot of the Horselord. As Horselord Ethras is also considered the owner of all unclaimed herds in the flatlands (hence the title itself), and his permission is technically required for any herd to be claimed by a tribe. While he has seldom enforces this right unless directly called to, it remains his, a point of contention since he could not take to the saddle even if he chose to.

Raal en-Verr, Ordanator of the Temple of the Old Divh
Responsibility for the defence and maintenance of the Temple of the Old Divh and the Pilgrim's Path is a surpassing honour, and weighty responsibility. While many of the noblemen of Amir might crave the task, few have grasped the difficulty, because while armies have never made for the city, the place is rich beyond the imagining of the average traveller, and pilgrims are a light fingered bunch. Add to that the pristine and beauteous conditions that must be maintained, and the press of visitors who must be allowed through in controlled numbers, and the many divh themselves, each of whom must be appeased in their own unique ways, and the task becomes almost too great for one man. Thankfully the Count-Priest of Amir realized this, and chose the methodical and experienced Raal for the post.

Kothor, Wolf of the Sodo
The Wolf of the Sodo is a legend in the southern lands of Taurvann, especially among the Broud, he is said to have scalped over a hundred of their best warriors in the past decade and to have destroyed entire warbands on his own. Unlike most of the Kai, Kothor works alone. He is ruthless, merciless and efficient and hates his org foes with the kind of burning passion that dominates his every thought. He stalks org warbands, and the raiding parties of the Sodo’s enemies, with relentless determination. Waiting in the shadows until just the right moment then striking and picking off the stragglers. Few of his foes can say what Kothor looks like and few of his victims had time to ready themselves for his attack.

Life Amongst the Kai


Social Etiquette and Customs

The Kai have a more formal and structured society. They have distinct social strata, with the equal leadership of the Het, or ‘head man’ and Ima, or 'wise woman'. Below these are the young men of mature age, these are known as Kalam, or ‘outriders’ and these are the warriors. They ride a few hours ahead of the troupe and drive the horses where they go. The rest of the society, men who have not come of age or who are too old, and women travel with the caravans and the goats. They are all equal at the bottom of the social strata, and generally it is the Ima who leads them while the Het leads the Kalam. They only gather together at night, when the Kalam are fed and sung for by the rest of the troupe. When two troupes who are not of enemy tribes, or who are of the same tribe meet it is customary for a test of horsemanship to take place, with both sending out the finest of their Kalam to compete in a contest, such as a race or mounted archery or similar, the loser of which will host the Kalam of the other troupe at their camp where they will share news and trade. The rest of the winning troupe remain at their camp, and will only ever have contact with members of another troupe once a year at Kai-Lai, when the non-Kalam are allowed to mix with members of other troupes in and around the great trade city. When amongst other troupes, or when visitors come to their fires, Kai women must always keep their faces and hair covered, veiled so that only their eyes are visible. Only the Ima may go uncovered, and even then only if she chooses to. This has led to a reputation of Kai women as somewhat exotic, though few can place much proof to the reputation.

Storytelling

While many cultures pass down their history and culture in story, amongst the Kai story has been formalized to the point of ritual. When the troupe has finished travelling for the day, they must set up camp. Only the Het can choose where to make camp, and when, and no matter how exhausted they are the troupe will ride through the night unless the Het tells them when to stop. While the women of the troupe set up camp, erecting their richly decorated tents and preparing the cooking fire at their heart, and the Kalam tend to the horses, the Het must tell the stories for setting camp. Then, once the camp is set, and the horses tended, the Het must tell the stories that are told while cooking the meal. Then the troupe will eat together, and the Het will retire to sit amongst his Kalam. Then there will be ritual song and dance, to protect the camp from spirits in the night, and wards will be laid at the edges of the firelight. Then the Ima will arise, and tell the stories for the night, and invoke their ancestors for protection while they rest. Then the tribe will sleep, and when they arise the Het will command when to strike camp, and then while the labour is done and the horses saddled he will tell the stories for striking camp. It is believed, amongst the Kai, that they must never stop moving except in the safety of Kai-Lai, and so these tales invoke action, and travel, thought to keep the spirit of the Kai in motion while their bodies rest.

Music and Dance

Equally essential and ritual is music, and the wild dancing known as the Ullur. After the camp is set every night it is the job of the young men of the tribe to take up instruments - pipes and drums and bells - and play raucous music while the women engage in a wild, savage, primal dance of swirling skirts, clicking heels, cries and screams of joy and freedom, and sometimes fear. While the young dance the Ima places protective wards around the camp to keep evil spirits from overtaking them. When a man wishes to join with a woman of the troupe he will rise during this ritual, and approach her. If she chooses to dance with him, they will lie together, but if not he must sleep outside the camp that night - a grave and awful danger to the minds of the Kai. It has been said that the dead pursue the Kai all of their days, watching them, and waiting to snatch a living body away while the Kai are still, but unable to catch them while they move. The wards set up by the Ima are intended to keep them away, as is the fire, which is never allowed to burn down until it is put out when camp is struck. The dancing and music scare away the encroaching dead while the protection for the night is set, and the old stories told. Though many scoff that fear of the dead is no religion, the Kai are the only people to move freely through all of Arumthar - unmolested by the shades, and untouched by the pale plague.

Fashion and Dress

The Kai style of dress is almost a uniform, with the male riders wearing loose fitting belted tunics of raw horsehide or cowhide, over coarse woollen trousers, with leather thongs around arms and legs holding them on securely. Felt shoes or leather sandals are worn on the feet, while the hands are often bound in leather or felt to better grip reigns. Colourful scarves, and poncho-like surcoats with exotic designs seem decorative at first, but provide important information about the wearer's tribe, and familial ties, as well as featuring ancient protective symbols, but the common bone jewellery seems to be largely decorative. Most Kai are closely bound to their horses, and so when a mount dies its ribs are removed and crafted into a necklace or bracelet as a remembrance. The Kai believe that they carry their horse in death, as it carried them in life.

Horses

Horses are the heart of Kai culture, and the Kai are know for breeding, without contest, the finest mounts to be found in all of Allornus. The Kai Steeds differ clearly from tribe to tribe, but most are known as painted horses, for their striking, uneven, high contrast marking - usually characterized by a light-coloured animal with dark, random markings. Kai travel with a large herd of horses, most of which will be ridden by a member of the troupe, but there will always be a few additional mares. The mares are mated carefully with the finest stallions, but when a particularly fine wild stallion is found he is roped, allowed to mate with a tribe mare, and then freed again, in order to strengthen and diversify the bloodline. The Kai know that the horses have no souls as myr do, and so they bond themselves with their mounts, and it is believed that while the horse lives the horse and rider share a soul, and if a horse is lucky enough to have a rider die in its saddle, then it will be allowed to travel with its rider into the afterlife - an honour no other beast is afforded.

Passage by Outlanders

The Kai are generally open to outsiders passing through their lands, but they are not keen to see them stay. Kai like outsiders because they bring with the goods for trade, and news of the outside world. The Kalam are always happy to have a traveller ride with them for a day or two, and may even welcome a trusted outsider to their fireside - for they fear that the traveller will be taken by the hungry dead - but no woman of the tribe save the Ima can show her face or hair to an outsider, and no outsider may ever share a Kai tent, or join in the dance. Outsiders who are invited to stay with the tribe are expected to return the honour by sharing a story after the meal, and will gravely offend if they refuse to do so. Amongst some tribes a poor story is seen as an insult, but in others outsiders' shortcomings as spinners of tales are good-humouredly accepted.

Outcasts

The one group of outsiders not welcomed by the other Kai, are the outcasts. Amongst the Kai there is no punishment of death - if the tribe deems a crime serious enough when they sit in tribunal over a wrongdoer, he will be exiled. Left without the ministrations of the Ima, and with no protection in the night. To the Kai, the outcasts are possessed by the hungry dead to a man, and they are attacked if they try to come too close to a troupe. Perhaps there is something to the story, for Kai outcasts become cruel and cold, turning quickly to banditry. Many band together and pose as Kai troupes - offering to guide outsiders through the plains, and murdering them while they sleep. Outsiders travelling the Taurvann should be wary of tribes with few women, or no Ima, whose women go uncovered, who go heavily armed, or ride inferior steeds, for they are usually murderous outcasts.

The Temple of the Old Divh


In the north of Taurvann is a settlement that predates the Kai by centuries. A city that is not a city. The earthly dwelling place of the Old Divh. Thought to be the original site of the fabled city of Mazanta, the Temple of the Old Divh is a vast city of pale marble built at the heart of the Taurvann, where no realm can claim it. Every divh and dev recognized by the old Kelorn Federation was build a massive temple-villa of great splendour and opulence in the hope that were they to come down to the world, they might make it their home. This opulent wonder of the ancient world thrives still today. Entrusted to the county of Amir, a road known as the Pilgrim's Path leads from Amir to the city, and is trodden by thousands of pilgrims every season.

Once they reach the city, they may not go in except with special dispensation by the Ordinator, and then only in small numbers, and may never stay. A sort of semi-permanent tent town called the City of Mortals sits a respectful distance up the highway from the city. The great gates - which also stand apart from the unwalled city - are the closest anyone dwells, housing the vast number of orators who serve as guides, caretakers, and defenders of the temple.

Today In The Horselands…


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