|Common Names||Horse-Lovers, Avantophiles|
|Social Classes||Herders, Raiders, Archers, Warriors, Khagans (Leaders)|
|Major Cities||Qozgalis Qalasi|
Among the strangest of the Ailor Cultures are the Qússrakón, who carry out their lives as either pastoral nomads tending to livestock or brutal horse lords stampeding across the plains of central Daen. While other Ailor Cultures that sprang up following the Cataclysm formed identities of their own in order to become more “civilized,” the Qússrakón distinguished themselves by adopting the nomad-raider lifestyle and breeding with the Avanthar. Grouped into various clans that roam the plains of central and southern Daen, they have gained a reputation for being bloodthirsty savage Ailor corrupted into barbarity by the wild Avanthar. They see themselves as Ailor protectors of Daen’s wilds against those who would intrude upon the plains, becoming a scourge against Eronidas, Kathar, and even Ailor from Regalia and the Daen states. However, due to recent conflict in Daendroc, namely the civil war among the Avanthar, Eronidas forces have advanced into the plains and fragmented the natural order. The Qússrakón are being forced to reconsider their place in the world and struggle against the encroachment of foreign powers upon their lands.
The Qússrakón find their origins in the years just following the Cataclysm when hundreds of thousands of slaves from the Allorn Empire fled into the wild or unknown areas of the world to carve out a place of freedom. One of these places was the plains of Daen, where wild grasses grew free, and none of the great jungles or urban development of the Altalar could be found. The Ailor here were content, but their lives were quickly interrupted by the Avanthar, also newly arrived to the region, who started to raid them for supplies and romantic partners as the Avanthar sought to join their blood with that of Ailor. The ancestors of the Qússrakón struggled, many fleeing to try and leave the plains only to run into the Eronidas and Altalar forces that were still alive and now seeking to reclaim their lost slaves. After three or so decades of indecisive tumult at the fringes of the plains, the Ailor came under the sway of a way of thought propagated by a man known today as Kaggan. Once a forced mate of a female Avanthar, he ultimately escaped and, greatly influenced by this period of his life, advocated that the Ailor of the plains needed to follow the example of the Avanthar to survive. Many, weary of conflict with the Eronidas, and being ineffective against the Avanthar, accepted his ideas but a few did not, like his sworn combat brother. The rejectors of the path he had laid out forced him to fight them; though the campaign was swift, it still took a toll on the society. Nevertheless, Kaggan ultimately emerged as the first leader of the group he named the Qússrakón, after the plains and horses they now devoted themselves to.
Since that time, the Qússrakón have lived a largely noteless existence on the plains of Daen. Kaggan, as his last act, made a peace pact with the newly elected Avanthar Princes before his youngest son took over his position, being the most steeped in the society and Culture his father had started to build. From then on, leaders were named “Khagan” in memory of the Culture’s founder and they moved around as one people, though in clusters of several clans each ruled by a Kiz-Khagan, who all reported to the Khagan who ruled the Khaganate. The Qússrakón frequently made peaceful contact with the Avanthar, their relationship rarely one of raiding, and so instead set their sights on the same people the Avanthar pillaged: the Ailor. For some time, the Daen states couldn’t even tell the difference between the two, as the Ailor horse riders were as brawny as the Avanthar, and if not, were just assumed to be more lithe Elves. When the truth was discovered though, there was great outrage spread across the region and local Unionist priests immediately acted to directly visit and convert these heathen Ailor. Their reports and travels were very insightful but also distressing to the wider world, to learn that an Ailor group had so far gone as to directly copy Nelfin actions. Despite this, they remaining unattacked for decades, save by their own kind when disputes of leadership broke out. That ended in the third century AC when conflict came in force to Daendroc. First, the Northern Elven Kingdoms were conquered, ending patronage to the Avanthar from the Altalar found there while also greatly increasing the Regalian presence in the region when their alliance with the Eronidas became solidified. As a result, the Qússrakón began to feel the squeeze just as the Avanthar did, and they joined the Wild Union in a great sign of plains solidarity (though they were annoyed with the Avanthar after the debacle of the Ranger Crisis several years earlier).
It was the war with the Ailor in western Daendroc that made the Qússrakón question their solidarity. While they did not like Regalia, the death of so many Ailor and the zeal to which the Avanthar carried out this deed minorly disturbed the Khagans. Due to this internal dispute between then-Khagan Timmur and the Avanthar Royal Princes over the general direction of the Second Elven War, the Khagan and his sons were not invited to witness the planned Trail of Thorns intended for Emperor Cedromar I and representatives of Dogmatic Unionism. Ironically, this act of spite saved the Khagan’s life when the Imperial Dragon massacred the Royal Encampment. Unfortunately, it was a damning salvation. In the Avanthar civil war that followed, the Qússrakón were raided several times by Avanthar factions who were convinced the Khagans knew of what had been about to happen because they shared Race with the destroyers of the Encampment. While eventually these factions either died off or calmed down, the devastation wrought against the Qússrakón was significant. Their great tent city of Qozgalis Qalasi was targeted and raided thrice with Khagan Timmur and his second son dying in two separate attacks. The eldest son Rugilla, supported by his younger brother Ellac, has since risen to the role of Khagan. He made peace with the new cabal of Avanthar Princes and has largely turned to helping heal his people, retreating deep into rugged terrain to avoid Regalia, Avanthar, any who would seek to harm his people in this time of healing. His ascension was controversial though, as he expelled all devoted Unionists and Dragon Worshipers from the Qússrakón who refused to convert to other accepted faiths, seeing them with a similar distrust as the Avanthar. As a result, their population is divided by hundreds of miles for the first time in over two centuries. Only time will tell the result of all these events, and if Regalia will tolerate their continued existence as Ailor allied with enemies of the Empire.
Language and Dialects
The Qússrakón language, known as Sintil, has often been described by scholars as the most guttural and foreign-sounding of the Ailor dialects, primarily being spoken from the throat rather than flowing smoothly off the tongue. The language is believed to have formed as a bastardization of Old Ceardian that drew traces from the Eronidas Language of Vasar, as the early Qússrakón Ailor were former Ailor slaves who ended up living near or under the Baros Eronidas before fleeing back to Avanthar forces in the Hȏrtutor Tribelands. While the Qússrakón refuse to acknowledge any connection to the Eronidas that they see as eternal enemies, both languages are similar in sound and tone. However, Sintil speech is unrecognizable to Vasar speakers, and the same is true in reverse.
Qússrakón names are based on the Sintil tongue, which draws from its origins to create names many outside of the Culture would consider ugly. Qússrakón do not use surnames or family names, and an individual Qússrakón’s full name consists of their father’s name connected to a -iin or -yn suffix, and then followed by the Qússrakón’s given name. For example, a Qússrakón named Serkan whose father’s name is Hulagu would be known as Hulaguyn Serkan (the given name can be placed in front of the modified father’s name for convenience, i.e., Serkan Hulaguyn which leads to further confusion). While there are clan names that help identify a Qússrakón with a certain clan, they are usually never addressed to by that name. Examples of common Qússrakón names include:
After the death of Kaggan, who had led the Qússrakón people into their horse riding lifestyle as the first Khagan of the Hȏrtutor Khaganate, several notable shamans and Khagans held a kurultai (a gathering of the Culture’s leadership) intended to sort out cultural customs that had previously been rather subjective for each Qússrakón clan. While the different clans have variations on many local rules depending on location and tradition, there are a few customs held as a universal standard by all the Qússrakón across their Khaganate that gives both rules and rights to its people. The ability to exercise and practice one’s own religion, provided that their religious practices do not violate Aspanjerist traditions and land, are protected within the borders of the Khaganate. The horse lords practice mandatory conscription of all able-bodied men, as they believe it is the duty of the Qússrakón to protect the sacred Hȏrtutor Tribelands from destruction. Cowardice and treason are seen as unforgivable sins, and desertion is the prime amalgamation of both these crimes; any man who abandons their post in war, deserts their brothers-in-arms, or betrays their people to the enemy are drawn and quartered by horse with their remains to be scattered to the carrion birds. Qússrakón custom demands that if a Khagan is officially at war, they must offer an enemy settlement the chance to surrender. If the settlement surrenders without a fight, its people are to be spared, and no looting may take place. Small villages without an enemy garrison don't tend to fall under this rule and are often victim to petty raids by the Qússrakón, though aren’t usually burned to the ground unless they try fighting back.
Lifestyle and Customs
Family units are very loose among the Qússrakón, with children usually being raised by elders or other clan members rather than their own parents. Men often take multiple wives either through arranged marriages that strengthen clan ties or by force after kidnapping women during raids. Adultery is strictly forbidden, and wives caught being unfaithful to their husbands are killed, as loyalty to the family and patriarch is greatly emphasized among the Qússrakón. Parents might rarely see their own children, who spend most of their childhood raised by clan elders who teach cultural values and stories for the younger generation. Children and heirs aren’t always related to their father by blood, as it’s common for Qússrakón men (especially Khagans) to adopt the orphaned children of a comrade or friend who fell in battle (as Kaggan did the same to the son of his fallen combat brother). Their society also possesses the idea of sworn brotherhood between two men, where they join themselves as brothers despite not being related and are expected to treat that bond with great respect. Men who violate such a bond are generally punished (though extenuating circumstances do sometimes excuse a betrayal of this deep bond). Qússrakón Half-Elves are not an unusual sight among the Qússrakón due to the horse-focused Ailor often breeding with their Avanthar neighbors, resulting in these Avanthar-Qússrakón half breeds being seen with the same legitimacy and acceptance as any other full-blooded Qússrakón.
Society among the horse lords remains strictly patriarchal, with men tending to animals and heading off to war while women stay home and take care of the household. Some clans may start conscripting women in a time of desperation and low numbers, but this practice is often looked down upon by most of the Khagans as uncouth. However, due to their role as household keepers and mothers, women can occasionally become strong among the Qússrakón in their own right, and a Khatun (the wife or queen regent to a Khagan) leading her people in nomadic migrations or to safety in the absence of her husband or son has been known to occur.
Similar to the Avanthar, the Qússrakón oversee a whole variety of religions and beliefs within their lands due to the cultural value of religious freedom. However, the Qússrakón people do follow a native religion known as Aspanjerism, which is heavy characterized by shamanism, animism, and ancestor worship. The Qússrakón believe that every object and thing in existence has a minor spirit residing within, and there are two gods considered to be the primary focus of the faith:
- Aspaniesi: God of the sky, fire, and war, he is believed to have taught the Qússrakón the importance of being as free as the howling wind and as passionate as the roaring flame, providing them with fair weather if pleased but also conjuring up storms if angry. Qússrakón shamans state that since Aspianesi is also the god of war, he reminds his followers that they must move like the gale and strike like lightning on the battlefield, achieving victory through swift and brutal combat.
- Jeräkesi: Goddess of the earth, water, and the cycle of life and death, it is said she formed the grasslands, lakes, and plains for the Qússrakón to thrive in while also creating the animals and beasts of the earth. Her decrees are to respect nature and the lives of others, and to not desecrate the bodies of the dead or dishonor your deceased ancestors. Shamans view the Yanar as the agents of Jeräkesi, being sent by the goddess to tend to the wilds and spread the wonders of nature. As a result, harming Yanar is forbidden, and anybody who performs such a sacrilegious act will be marked an enemy to all Qússrakón.
While not as structured as Unionism or even the Faith of Estel, Aspanjerism is integral to the lives of the Qússrakón that follow the religion’s teachings. Shamans (who can be of either gender) hold religious authority in Qússrakón communities, being able to directly communicate with the spirits, practice medicine, and conduct ceremonies. Ancestors are held in high regard and become spirits after their death, thought to protect and watch over the younger generations of their family. While the Qússrakón do not fear or shun Magic as the Avanthar do, they believe that supernatural power only belongs in the hands of the shamans and that any man who has to rely on arcane spells in battle is no man at all. All the land within the Hȏrtutor Tribelands are considered deeply sacred to the Qússrakón, who like the Avanthar, also strive to protect Cielothar and Yanar communities from foreign incursions.
Literature and Folklore
As a people who have mastered the plains of Daen and are surrounded on all sides by enemies, the Qússrakón subscribe to a “survival of the fittest” mentality where they must become even fiercer and stronger than those who they face on the field. Their ancestors were refugees and former slaves fleeing the collapse of the Allorn Empire. Choosing between the Eronidas who wanted to conquer them and the Avanthar of the plains who wished to mate with them, they took to the horse and bow alongside the Plain Elves in the belief that such a way of life was the best for them as led by their great uniter, Kaggan. Over time, the Qússrakón extended this philosophy to their tactics as they became more accustomed to raiding and cavalry warfare, resulting in the Qússrakón military lifestyle using “offense as the best defense” or enacting total war against their worst enemies. While their wartime law requires them to offer enemy towns and settlements the chance to peacefully surrender, any settlements who initially put up a fight or go back on their act of surrender are often razed to the ground with their population being massacred or enslaved en masse.
Qússrakón brutality is often justified by the horsemen as a necessary and righteous way of keeping Hȏrtutor, the land of the gods, protected from desecration by invaders. They watched as tracts of their Daen homeland were taken by Daendroque lumber companies who enriched foreign powers while endangering the Cielothar and Yanar that the Qússrakón were duty-bound to protect. Many of the Khagans were furious when the Avanthar had to give up large tracts of sacred wildland to the Regalians and Daendroque during the Ranger Crisis, only for the Regalian Empire to betray both Avanthar and Qússrakón by siding with the Eronidas and further clawing away at Daen territory. They believe that the simple living of the plain nomad is the purest way of life for the Ailor in combat the decadence of so-called “civilized life,” and that the degradation of the Hȏrtutor Tribelands to making way for such civilizations to threaten Qússrakón Culture. At the same time though, they believe that the Ailor of these places can be “saved”, which is expressed by forcefully kidnapping them if they do not come willingly.
Due to the entirety of their people being illiterate, the Qússrakón practice the oral tradition of storytelling rather than writing down their folklore. The animistic and shamanistic aspects of Qússrakón society results in stories of spirits and mythical beings wandering the Hȏrtutor Tribelands. Many tales focus on animal spirits who are each the center of their own fables and stories that usually teach some lesson about moral character. However, older folklore speaks of evil spirits that stalk forests and villages at night, with Ogres and demons preying on the weak and helpless. Eronidas are often vilified in stories as barbaric monsters who devour Qússrakón children and slaughter innocents for sport, having to be stopped by brave heroes and wise shamans blessed by the gods.
Qússrakón music is a popular pastime in their society, and it sounds as guttural as their speech, with the Qússrakón engaging in what is commonly known as “Throat Singing.” Despite its name, some versions allow it to either be sung from the throat or stomach, with various forms being found across the Hȏrtutor Tribelands. Many Qússrakón practice throat singing for leisure or in competitions to see who runs out of breath the fastest. Even though female throat singers are rare in Qússrakón society, some women have begun practicing the art in defiance of the male exclusivity. Throat singing is also used by shamans to speak with the spirits or to conduct ceremonies, and this they do alone, and so build up great power in their single voice.
Clothing tends to be rustic and adaptable for their surroundings, though can still be very expressive for the identity of a Qússrakón. The deel, a long robe closing diagonally from the sides and with a large waist sash, is traditional attire worn by almost all Qússrakón regardless of gender. Many also wear a felted wool hat known as a loovuz, while boots and footwear are made of tough leather and hide with felt inside to keep feet warm and comfy. Deels are the ideal clothing for nomadic horse lords, usually made to be tough and durable on horseback while also remaining comfortable to the rider, while its sashes are strong enough to both protect the waist and carry gear for the wearer. Color and decoration vary depending on social class, with well-off Qússrakón able to wear more exotic colors and patterns on their deels. Despite their wild way of life, facial hair is also regulated for Qússrakón men where the beard must remain trimmed, and the mustache cannot extend past the lips, as overgrown facial hair is considered to be impolite.
Notable architecture has no place in Qússrakón society, as the horse riders prefer mobility and the freedom of the open plains over the rigid castles and towns of most societies. Qússrakón all live in portable tent structures called yurts that are easy to set up or take down when traveling, fitting the simple nomadic lifestyle that the Qússrakón have become accustomed to on the Hȏrtutor Tribelands. The skeleton frame of the yurt is built using wood in the walls and door, while the outside is covered in either animal skins, fabric, or felt. The Khaganate’s capital of Qozgalis Qalasi is even known as the “moving city,” as Qússrakón residents are able to pack up their yurts and transport the entire city in the event of disasters, raids, or invasions.
Being a nomadic people without much experience in farming, Qússrakón diet is dominantly made up of meat and dairy products from domesticated animals such as sheep and horses. Mutton and horse meat are staples to the Qússrakón diet, the former as a common meal and the latter is for festivities and special occasions, though horse sausages and other equestrian products are usually only afforded by the Khagans and wealthy horse breeders. Qússrakón food is also heavily based on preservation due to their nomadic lifestyle, with meat usually salted or dried to last. Strangely enough, sour milk is preferred to drink because it’s easier to save while traveling through the plains.
The Qússrakón constantly engage in athletic activities to keep themselves healthy and strong for the nomadic lifestyle, chief among which are wrestling and archery. Many Qússrakón have become famous for being skilled wrestlers, and boys are often trained in wrestling with one another to learn durability. A match determines the loser by whoever touches the ground first with any body part that isn’t the foot, though some versions require the person fall on their back before being considered a loser. Cheating and dirty tricks are frowned upon by the Qússrakón as cowardly and dishonorable, and a wrestler who cheats during a competition match might automatically forfeit. The horse lords also practice archery as both a way of war and an athletic sport, preparing from a young age to shoot a bow from horseback. Unlike wrestling, bowmanship training is entirely meant to prepare the Qússrakón for the horse archery that makes them such fierce opponents on the field. In fact, this focus on archery has ultimately seeped into the School of Avant, and also became part of the standard education of the Avanthar warriors who live side by side with the Qússrakón today.
The horse has become the most iconic symbol for the Qússrakón, representing tenets of strength and speed in battle and believed to be the most sacred of the beasts. Qússrakón tattoos and fabrics are often adorned with images of the horse, and even the banner of the Hortutor Khaganate depicts a yellow horse upon a blue field. Other symbols used are the Rokha and Ularen Lion together on a banner, emphasizing the fierceness of such a wild people.
- The travels of the priests who made visits to the Qússrakón are collected into one volume, The Travels of Ten Men, which describes ten of the most notable journeys. The most notable account, from a priest named Paulo, also discusses how he preached Unionism to the Avanthar of the Ordensias tribe.
- Opportunistic Qússrakón living in Regalia usually find their niche as professional wrestlers, holding competitions filled with spectacle and brutal stunts intended for shock value. These competitions often prove controversial in the Qússrakón community, as some have accused these wrestlers of caring more for fame and fortune rather than the cultural significance of the sport.