Supreme Khanate of Grular
“Ecstasy of battle takes me where the falcons fly!””
– line from Grular War Song
Rising from the western plains of Outer Symidia, Grular rose as a force of chaos and unpredictability on the northern continent. Wandering and migrating for generations, honing their combat and survival skills, Grular became the most feared horse archers in all Isarchael. They carved out an empire for themselves from harsh and violent lands, as brutal and unforgiving as themselves. They are cruel, determined, ambitious, and conniving.
Many horse tribes from the western plains swore an uneasy truce to Symidia long ago (Y-400). Only after the First Symidian Migration did this tepid peace turn to rebellion (circa 55). The influx of people damaged the natural balance the horse tribes had with their land. The refugees were seen as an invasion. Open warfare and raiding started to take hold circa 70. Skirmishes continued for years. Full rebellion was under way by 85.
Neither side could effectively invade the other because Symidsang Danar’iss (Symidian Border Mountains) were nearly impassable to cavalry. Both sides fortified the trade passes to withstand anything. The rivers of the southern plains were too hazardous to traverse. Any offensive foothold was recaptured for too few troops.
Realising the futility of warring with an enemy one cannot reach, their bloodlust turned to the refugees themselves. They had shiny trinkets, food, grog, women; all the things the horse tribes could want. For decades, the tribesmen raided and plundered the refugees that went across their lands. Most of the surviving refugees went to the far northwestern mountains. The rest ventured into the Red-rock Desert in the far southwest, not to be heard from again.
Despite the generally violent nature of the horse tribes, there were few occasions when trade and exchange replaced savagery and killing. Through many of these encounters, the tribesmen picked up new skills and knowledge. Many new crops were introduced to them. Hatred was mildly tempered with curiosity. The horsemen began to see rival tribes as allies, rather than enemies.
The First Symidian Migration trickled to an end circa 150. The tribes attempted to get back to their life with the land. All were born into the culture of plunder and death. Many plains and forests stripped bare by the Symidians were becoming desolate desert scrub. Food and materials were in short supply. The horsemen began to miss the bounty of the refugees and the thrill of their death throes.
Several natural leaders arose during these trying times. One from the tribe of Peshdorax stood out. Arkul Grula vied for control and alliance with several horse tribes to repel the invaders. His ascension was deemed official in 171 when he killed both of his main rivals, Kreegrul Rolaar and Xoken Mungrongk, in quick succession before a council of tribal delegations, eliminating any competition. Most of the tribes fell immediately under his spell and yoke. But not all.
Several outlying tribes were not represented at Grula’s “unification”, but he would not rest until all had submitted. “Our ultimate strength is as one.” Tribute and warriors from these renegade tribes were needed for a burgeoning war machine and the birth of empire. Yet, the renegade tribes were wary of handing over their wealth to some distant leader and so resisted. Several minor skirmishes ensued during the 170’s as all sides vied for dominance.
Fire and thunder filled the skies in 180 when three volcanoes of Symidsang Danar’iss erupted after their long slumber. The volcanic ash choked many water supplies in eastern Isarchael and made the land unusable. Another migration of Symidian refugees came pouring through the northern mountains, far larger than the last.
The staggering number of refugees escaping the cataclysm overran the eastern tribes completely during the years 180-184. The Second Migration had begun. Many of the central plains suffered this affliction too. Several groups of refugees attempted starting anew by carving out small patches of Grular lands for themselves. Some small fortifications and hamlets were built, but nothing that withstood the continued onslaught of Grular forces. The lands also had difficulty supporting any quantity of people.
Arkul Grula’s first true test of leadership was here. His ruthlessness in pushing the refugees out of Grular earned respect from almost all others. He demonstrated near genius strategies, and loyalty to the Horse Tribe ways. Any resistance to his rule diminished afterwards, but did not disappear entirely. This cemented Grular resolve to repel this invasion as the hordes continued over the mountains and passes for the next several decades.
Today, the large migrations of Symker people to the west through Grular lands are a thing of the past. The Khans of recent times face a different problem, seeing themselves as hemmed in on all sides by factions jealous of their sparsely populated land.
The people of Grular are of the Symker race.
Grular is a unified confederation composed of thirteen tribes under the rule of a Supreme Khan. Each of these tribes has their own leader, the Khai’zash. Each tribe has several kex’kan (“circles of horses” or clans) within their territory, ruled by an Ash (chief).
The Supreme Khan is chosen by all the Khai’zash when there is a vacancy—this can be violent. This event only occurs at a place called “The Bones of the World”—a sacred and foreboding place within the Canyon of the Wailing Shadows.
Each Khai’zash is appointed according to their tribal traditions by the Ashaf and other prominent figures. This typically includes Rites of Passage, a demonstration of skills, mob declarations, heredity, even combat to the death.
Each Ash is chosen by their kex’kan according to their ways similar to the Khai’zash, but usually more violent.
Each level of governance has an inner court. Members of the previous regime are sometimes kept, but nepotism is pervasive. Sages, generals, administrators, and shaman are typical. Other specialties, such as assassins, spies, and magic specialists are typical in the upper echelons of the more powerful tribes, but are not public. Any leadership position may be challenged in the event of failing health or act of extreme dishonour.
In 1008, Zaklar is Supreme Khan of Grular.
A left rearing black horse on a deep purple background. The horse is breathing red fire. The purple signifies the purple-coloured heath that dominates the scrubland that forms much of the Khanate and the horse is Narakan, the Thunder-horse. A semi-precious colour stone for the eye is common. Dress armour typically outlines the horse in silver and the fire is made from semi-precious red stones.
Each tribe has their own specific variation on this theme. When a tribe displays the national heraldry is viewed as a sign of unity.
The Grular military consists of loose knit tribal militia under single command. There is no true standing army or order of battle. Tribes tend to specialise based on tradition and environment and will show as they are. Larger and wealthier tribes have better cavalry and foot troops. All tribes are predominantly cavalry of some type.
The tribal militias are under the control of their respective Khai’zash. Specific kex’kans usually controls their own units. The Supreme Khanate has his own sizable contingent and can press any tribal units into service as needed.
Grular’s bow-armed cavalry are unmatched and serve as the cornerstone of Grular military tactics and strategy. Other weapons such as sword and flail are used, primarily by foot troops. Most officers and leaders use sword in battle and still proficient with bow. Most armour consists of leather and hides with some metal. Metal becomes more prevalent as status increases. Armour for horses is common among the wealthier tribes. Any armor beyond leather is usually an ad hoc collection of stolen, captured, or traded pieces.
All males are trained at arms. Females typically have remedial training with one-handed weapons. Female warriors are rare. All able bodied men are part of the military. All others perform combat support roles. Skills at arms, as well as bravery, are sources of honour and glory among these people.
Grular religion is based on the Cycle of Life (Kexvar’iss) which is symbolized by the six phases of life: Horse (Living), Swan (Learning), Scarab (Working), Falcon (Hunting), Tiger (Fighting), Jackal (Dying). The Horse aspect is favored above others, but all are given their due respect. Each tribe and kex’kan has their own permutations of the basic religion, and some may hold other aspects on par with the Horse.
Each aspect demands sacrifice and ritual. Animal sacrifice is typical for many aspects and is considered one of the most potent of offerings. Human sacrifice is rare and mostly takes place along the Kandor borderlands. Live sacrifices are typically performed for the Tiger aspect before battles and large raids. Bloodletting is common for the Life and Hunt aspect. Burnt offerings and destruction of important items are common in the Work and Learning aspects. Deaths in battle are offered to the Death aspect. Almost any demands of the Aspects can be made with the appropriately valuable sacrifice.
Burial rites for a fallen warrior are more involved than those for other deaths. The body is dressed in a tunic and robe to symbolize the armor and a mock bow is placed on the chest gripped by the deceased’s hands. A mock shield is placed over the legs if one was used in life. There is feasting, singing, and drinking both prior and after the burial. It is common for the warrior’s fallen horse to be included in the grave. Meaningful worldly possessions have a soul of their own that go with the departed.
Friends are permitted a token of remembrance from their comrade. It is proper to consider the needs of surviving wives/children. The remainder of possessions would go to the surviving wives/sons. It is considered rude and selfish to argue over items from the dead—but is more common among the poorer tribes.
Women are dressed in their best clothing clenching a large mock dagger resting on her chest. Girls are buried similarly, boys with a mock bow. There is no celebration for these deaths. The death of children is regarded as a sad event. All possessions pass to the husband. Wife and children are typically included in the man’s grave if the deaths coincided with each other. Their coinciding deaths are seen as the will of the gods.
View of Outsiders
Outsiders are viewed as potential invaders, especially in large groups. The typical Grular would kill just as easily as trade with a foreigner. Some captured foreigners are kept or sold as slaves. A known herald or valuable trader would be exempt.
Safe passage amulets are given by the Kai’ zash or the Supreme Khan to receive outside visitors, preventing any undue slaughter. These amulets are usually respected. An honour guard may be provided to escort the visitors—this is almost always respected.
Mating Rituals and Customs
The typical Grular family consists of three sets of married couples (six in all). The first marriage is to the mate, the second to the hraraxahl (the triangle). Both levels of marriage are usually pre-arranged among the upper levels of Grular society. The lower castes tend towards free form, but have the parent’s and group’s approval. Only men may initiate divorce in an arranged marriage. This is an embarrassment to the wife and her family.
Marriages are arranged for political, economic, or prurient reasons. Daughters are considered property to be traded for marriage rites. Economic and status reasons are seriously considered. Concubines are common among warriors on campaigns and other high status persons. Children are important, especially sons. There is always a shortage of males due to their warring nature. Extramarital affairs are common, especially if the husband is gone for extended periods.
All sports and play are thinly veiled combat training of some type. Archery from horseback is common, as well as swordplay.
A popular spectator sport is Kreetanish. A large beast, usually a bull, is released into a ring with up to five adolescent boys on horseback who strike the animal setting it up for the kill. The goal is to deliver the actual deathblow while getting the others to set up beast for you. It is considered defiant or poor form to kill the beast with the first blow.
What is valued by this society?
The freedom of the open plains and being master of one’s own destiny; whether by shrewd politics and/or glorious combat. Also getting ahead in life by improving one’s standing through wealth, power, and honor. These are gained through the glory of victorious battle and the pursuit of material wealth.
Leatherworking is a significant activity within Grular. Several skills developed due to the Migrations. These include woodworking, blacksmithing, pottery, etc. Many of the border tribes offer their mercenary services to other powers and powerful traders. Raiding into adjacent areas is the primary economic inflow. Most necessities are produced internally.
Grular has no currency. They use everyone else’s. It is compared by weight. Barter is the main method of exchange.
Grular occupies a significant area of Isarchael. The climate varies from near arctic to warm temperate. Tornadoes are common in the central plains. Snow, hail, strong winds, and thunderstorms are common throughout Grular. Hurricanes occasionally hit the southern coast.
Grular comprises almost all types of terrain. Mountains to the east and west; rolling hills in the south; hundreds of miles of coastline; several rivers and large lakes; desert and desert canyons; forests and grasslands; bogs and swamps.