Free City of Kuzaarl
“Most races avoid being between a rock and a hard place…the Kuzaarik call that place home!”
– Grand Counselor Klodoalan the Fourteenth
The Kuzaarik believe themselves to be the most ancient organised race still in existence on Faelon. Their origin has been lost in the depths of time and the de-evolution of their race. Surviving ancient lore is maintained by the Runic Corps, one of the seven branches of the military. This lore speaks of a time long past when the Kuzaarik were spread in and over all the mountains of northern Faelon. Both numerous and prosperous, the Kuzaarik were lead by a mythical King who sat atop the Golden Monolith on the highest peak of the World overseeing the vast Federation of Kuzaarik city-states. Seven huge tribes and innumerable smaller clans subdivided the Federation into smaller domains each with a metropolitan city as its hub of civilisation, all freely giving allegiance to the King. Tales speak of noble lords, great deeds of heroism and generosity, and self-sacrifice for the good of Faelon. Common belief is that this time of prosperity lasted for many ages.
The waning of the Kuzaarik and the sundering of the Federation began subtly and internally. Pride of place and possession began to assert itself amongst the high clans. Great works of free-artisans’ became coveted. Ever greater efforts to mine the earth of its rarest riches and display them as prizes for vanity took priority over caring for the downtrodden and aiding neighbors. Those of station leveraged the downtrodden and foreign influences in pursuit of political and material intrigue. The King and government increasingly were drawn toward external disputes including national defense. Like an apple that rots from its core, eventually the glorious outer skin begins to show blemishes. Politics at the King’s court became more selfish than selfless in orientation and resources often were withheld under false precepts.
When the great geothermal vents that kept so many of the Kuzaarik cities alive began to fail, the city-states began to fail with them. Rather than pull together as a nation, the Federation’s internal divisions prevented it from acting as a whole. One by one over the last age the remaining city-states fell into ruin until only Kuzaarl remained. In the remote mountains in the far northern region of Faelon, the last remaining Sky-City of the Kuzaarik lost their pride in favour of a pragmatists grip on survival. Virtually every aspect of the Kuzaarik changed – some gradual and of necessity; and some by intent. Many generations have passed and harsh lessons have been learned.
The Kuzaarik now occupy a single city. The city is called Kuzaarl and is comprised of two parts: Vorinmart (The Gate Market) and Vinyabah Gohrahd (The Sky City). The Gate Market is a small centre of Kuzaarik commerce (a city in and of itself) that sits at an entrance to the main pass through the mountains. Foreigners are welcomed here to trade and mingle with the Kuzaarik. The only known (to other than the Kuzaarik) way from the Gate Market to the Sky City is up a 1-1/2 mile long twisting road bounded by steep cliffs about the width of 2-3 large wagons side-by-side. Upon breasting the last rise of the hike up the Bahlehn Slyed, visitors are greeted by a vast mesa.
Carved from the living rock of the mesa is Vinyabah Gohrahd. In ancient times the Kuzaarik were fond of finding mountains of certain size and literally carving cities out of the upper heights. The entire top of the mountain is transformed into a honeycombed maze of battlements, buildings, towers, homes, meeting halls, inns, streets, avenues, plazas, etc. The entire mass is topped at the highest peak by the Chitteldelb en Visk Khjarl, the Citadel of the High King. An infinite number of chimneys push plumes and trails of smoke to the heavens making the city look as if it sits in the midst of the blue sky.
Foreigners are welcomed here with only express permission and must be accompanied by Kuzaarik at all times when outside their private assigned quarters. Only the Varkraal have permanent address within the Sky City being granted a large section of the city for their express use. While the Gate Market has been rebuilt more times than anyone can remember, the Sky City has proven invulnerable just a frequently.
The last of the Kuzaarik are governed by a High Council (Visk Kargas) of citizens selected for office by the respective blocs. Each bloc selects a leader according to bloc custom who then serves on the council. The factions include the seven branches of the military, seven industrial unions (metals, stone, livestock, wood, fire, water and air), the Chief Pontificant (religion), the Chief Bureaucrat (government), and the council selected Visk Khjarl (High King). While each faction has its own voice in council and near total authority over its faction, only the Visk Khjarl has authority to decide on council matters, multi-faction issues or disputes between factions. The Visk Khjarl is also the supreme commander at all times of all branches of the military.
The current form of government came into being over time alongside the realization that Kuzaarl was the last remaining city of the age old Kuzaarik people. Many times the Visk Khjarl has been passed from father to son to grandson in the history of Kuzaarl, however it is not a hereditary position, instead being elected by the High Council. The Visk Kjharl serves for life once elected but can be removed from office by unanimous agreement of the entire council. It is also the role of the leader of the prejudicial diplomacy corps to ensure proper conduct by the Visk Kjharl and other council members and power is granted to this leader to act without council approval should conduct not suit a particular station. This stance ensures proper checks and balances within the rulership as well as the agility necessary to respond to national threats.
Brown mountains on silver.
The Kuzaarik military is composed of citizen soldiers. Every citizen is a soldier or performs a service in time of military crisis. The old and infirm operate in hospitals, commissaries, supply distribution and other support functions. Those young who have not yet achieved the age of station (or maturity) operate as messengers, signal corps, ammunition bearers, etc. All adults, male or female, serve in the formal standing military for a minimum of seven years following attainment of station, and then on call from the government as needed in times of crisis. This evolution has occurred of necessity as the Kuzaarik have watched their race, society and nation reduced over the ages to one remaining city-state. The ever-present fear of extinction has affected the Kuzaarik in many ways, not the least of which is a philosophy of “all bodies must fight!”
Service in the formal standing military will be in one of the established branches of war – scouts, cavalry, engineering, infantry, projectile, special operations (which includes the rune corps) and officers. Each branch has general equipment of choice. Scouts are lightly armoured and use short thrusting sword and buckler. Cavalry are heavily armoured, using spear and square shield and riding the massive ogron kozyal. Engineers operate all manner of mechanical, construction, siege, mining and pyrotechnical equipment including quite a few eye-popping experiments (frequently more harmful than productive). Infantry operate in medium and heavy armour (with a few huscarls in the unique Kuzaarik black steel heavy armour, urnbar stahl), and use a variety of equipment. Projectile corps troopers are heavily armed, often use mantlets for cover, and operate a variety of medium and large crank bows called ahrbahlyet and other, more experimental weapons.
Special operations teams are small and comprise essentially two branches – rune magic and Prejudicial Diplomacy Corps (foreign affairs, espionage and assassination), or PDC for short. Candidates for the rune corps are selected early in the first months of service thru rigorous mental and spiritual examination. PDCs are selected from any branch at any time during the 7 years of service based upon the young recruit demonstrating certain moral flexibilities and other talents.
With the exception of the PDC, the officer corps are drawn from the ranks of the other branches typically during the first year of the seven year service. Officers are rotated through training in all other branches (except the PDC) to ensure their ability to lead combined arms forces. While still part of the officer branch, PDC officers are drawn only from the PDC recruits and do not rotate in their training thru the other branches. Instead PDC officers are put through their own programming meant to create the hardiest of physical and mental elite. The identity of the supreme officer of the PDC is known only to the prior supreme officer of the PDC, the High Khjarl and the current supreme officer’s successors (of which there are typically 2-3). Typically a successor serves on the High Council held forth and believed to be the supreme commander of the PDC.
The Kuzaarik worship the “old deities”, those from whom were formed the gods worshipped by the rest of Faelon. Hearth, Hammer and Monolith are equal and primary (to the other 6 original aspects of the Creator). The three represent the importance of home and community, industry and craft, and the earth in which the Kuzaarik live, respectively.
The Shroud and the Eyes are considered friends as the Kuzaarik dwell long and often in darkness and under the moon. The Lamp is viewed as necessary but distrusted for the blinding light it provides. The Ship and Portal are nearly forgotten. And the Cage despised and feared as is the concept of slavery amongst all Kuzaarik.
Holy days occur in time with the cycles of the stars and constellations. No singular day or special holidays exist. Twilight is celebrated every day as a time of hope and change.
In general, little time and attention is paid to religion beyond the proper respect for Hearth, Hammer and Mountain. How you live your life is viewed as the only true show of faith a person can offer. Ceremony, ritual, etc. are viewed as a waste of time. The Kuzaarik sense of community is already very strong and so little point is seen in gathering under religion for such. However, festivals and feasts are viewed as critically important and must be held frequently especially at the end of a long period of continuous work.
Kuzaarik do not bury their dead. Instead they pass all belongings on to the next generation and then cremate the deceased in quiet ceremonies amongst closest kin and family. Only higher ranking leaders receive larger and more public funerals.
View of Outsiders
The Kuzaarik view outsiders without any particular bias. Many Kuzaarik travel the world and offer their skills for hire. Kuzaarik generally form only required relations or connections with most other peoples as necessary to conduct whatever business is at hand. Individual level friendships and grudges follow their own fortunes. No formal embassies or other national engagements exist as the Kuzaarik rely on their remoteness for protection over alliances.
They are friendly toward the Varkraal with whom they’ve established a strong formal national alliance. Additionally, many Kuzaarik travel, reside and/or traffic throughout the realm of the Varkraal often taking up long term residence in a wide array of craft oriented trades.
Mating Rituals and Customs
Kuzaarik are monogamous. Marriages can be arranged or for emotion and last until death. Each brings to the marriage whatever they personally possessed before it and jointly own all property. Property passes to the surviving spouse and then surviving children (if no parents) equally upon death. Heirlooms divide according to the surviving children’s whim with compensation often provided for value if unequal portions are to be divided. Should a spouse die, then subsequent marriages can be sought without limit.
The male and female are viewed equally in society and responsible for house and children, performing whatever roles are arranged within the marriage. Typically both male and female seek employment outside the household and may employ other Kuzaarik as caretakers if income permits. The famous Kuzaarik female saying is: “Anything a Kuzaar can do a Kuzaari can do better!”
Gambling, education, feats of arms, wrestling, boxing, drinking, contests of craftsmanship are all valued by Kuzaarik. They live hard and play harder. They celebrate victory and honor a loss if the attempt is true. They truly admire the “underdog” and, in their entertainment, the longer the odds the greater the victory. Similarly, scientific endeavor is greatly applauded to the extent the third largest cause of fatality is an experiment gone wrong.
What is valued by this society?
Without fail, societal outlook is mixed optimism, energy, cynicism, and sadness. The Kuzaarik maintain this outlook for themselves and the other races. The young tend to be idealistic and motivated. Over time and long age as they grow in the history of the Kuzaarik and in experience with the world, they often become despondent realising that the Kuzaarik are a dwindled race, possibly at the end of their time. Surprisingly, the young tend to keep society and industry intact and progressing, having to “manage” their elders who tend more toward living for the moment.
Waiting for they know not what, the Kuzaarik tend toward patience and tolerance. As long as a Kuzaarik isn’t hurting anyone but themselves, people are pretty much free to drink, gamble, fight or whatever. The despondency and their naturally hardy nature give the Kuzaarik an inflated sense of “adventure”. One common saying is: “Leap first, looking is for mlahdyench!”
Honour, honesty and hard work are valued. Crime, especially theft and murder, laziness and broken promises are punished severely. Fines or community service are a common punishment, temporary imprisonment for moderate crimes, and exile is viewed as a punishment worse than death. Execution is rarely used. Lifetime imprisonment never.
The Kuzaarik economy is based on precious metals and stone and to a lesser extent exchange of service and/or barter. The Visk Khjarl contracts with the Metallurgists for production of a national coin and standard of value. Written contracts are common, though verbal contracts in front of 3 witnesses are upheld as contracts in writing. Many Kuzaarik feel they need to be as good as their word and therefore “hand-shake” deals are frequent. Everyone in society of the age of majority is expected to pay their own way. Young and infirm are the economic responsibility of the parent or children. There is no welfare. Anyone can and must labor for food and lodging.
Wealth flows to the Kuzaarik because of their trade in the rare fur and pelts of the mountain fauna, their deep mined precious metals and gems, and the desire for their near unmatched craftsmanship of virtually any substance found in Faelon (whether jewellery, warcraft, brewing, cold climate gear, etc).
The Kuzaarik live in the far northern mountains of the northern continent of Faelon. The climate is occasionally temperate breaking through the near year-round mountainous chill. In the deepest winter, frost bite and death can overcome the unwary in minutes.