Khurorkh

Overview

The Khurorkh (commonly referred to as “Red Orcs”) are, along with the Elves, considered to be the “First People” of Panisadore. Highly adaptable, determined and hardy, they can be found everywhere on the planet. Distinct from the slightly larger and quasi-subterranean (standard D&D monstrous race) Gray Orcs, a later evolutionary offshoot, they are noted for their intense personalities and deeply spiritual culture. (A good way to approach the concept is to start by thinking “Taoist Rasta’ Klingons.”) Aspects of Khurorkh religion and society can be noted to influence virtually all of the surrounding cultures to some degree.

Personality:

The Khurorkh tend to be a cheerful and optimistic people, if rather intense in their demeanor and behavior. Their name for themselves translates literally as the “Fierce People,” originally as distinct from the Elves who call themselves Fehladürh, or “Gentle People.” (It should be noted that the two languages are closely related.) Their force of personality is probably their most distinguishing characteristic, especially in view of how highly it is regarded in their culture as a social and spiritual ideal. First expressed by the Druid/Monk St. Kherrekh (now a lesser deity), they call this trait khürpahkk: “personal force” and view it’s development (or “flowering”) as a sign of personal and spiritual maturity. In terms of game mechanics it is represented as the average of the ability scores in Wisdom and Charisma, replacing both in nearly all circumstances. An individual lacking in khürpahkk is considered to be of weak character, i.e., Charisma (hardness) untempered by Wisdom (centeredness, implying flexibility,) is described as “brittle,” while the awareness of Wisdom without the expression of Charisma is called “soft” and the absence of both traits is considered “raw” or “unshaped” – the immaturity of a child. (Khurorkh characters begin with +1 in both scores and increase them separately, but use the average in their place. Ability losses due to magic or other effects only affect the stated ability – this may or may not alter the functional score when recalculated.) The Khurorkh do not lie or show what they perceive to be false courtesy. Their culture has developed from strongly Taoist-Druidic roots and continues to reflect their close awareness of their natural environment (and their place within it.) “To say that what is, is not, or that what is not, is, is to step off of the Path over the Precipice (of madness). You may shout with your last breath that the Ground (of Being) upon which you have been walking remains beneath your feet, but still, the cold, hard truth of the ground beneath you will, before you can take another breath, impress itself upon your head. . .” (St. Kherrekh, “Discourse on How the Mother {of the Myriad Things} Disciplines Her Children.”)

Physical Description:

The Khurorkh look much like their more well-known cousins but with a few very distinct differences. They are somewhat smaller (more like the standard Half-Orc in size) and quite different in coloration. Their skin and hair are invariably of a reddish hue, but display a wide variety. Skin color ranges from an almost rose tinted complexion common in polar lands to a dark, ruddy, brick like shade in the equatorial regions. Seafaring clans usually have a purplish cast added to this. In contrast, their hair tends to be a darker, bronze color among polar tribes, fading lighter to a bright, fiery red closer to the equator. Blond tint varies this further among seafaring clans. Course and wiry, when grown long their hair is usually worn in “dreadlocks.” The bi colored eyes of the Khurorkh have slightly reddish pupils and very bright irises of virtually any color ringed by a thin circle of the complimentary hue. Tint and shade heighten the contrast, when one is lighter than the basic color, the other is correspondingly darker.

Relations With Other Races:

Relationships with other races have been rather stormy throughout history. According to legends of both Khurorkh and Elves (collectively called the Kith), During the First Age of Two Suns, the two races were the first to live upon the surface of the planet where they coexisted in a cooperative fashion. As the First Children of Dashín (The Mother of the Myriad Things), the Elves were considered to be the caretakers of nature and the Khurorkh to be its guardians. Many millennia in the past however, coinciding with the reappearance of the Old (smaller, brighter) Sun, the two races engaged in a bitter war over many centuries. The cause of this is no longer remembered (or at least not spoken of by either race) and theories among the other races conflict as to whether it was fought over how to deal with the newer races appearing at the time, was in some way related to the appearance of the Old Sun or some darker secret. Others say that the coming of the Old Sun marked the end of the Kith War, but all agree that by the height of the Old Sun’s ascendancy the war was at an end and the separate races of Gray Orcs and Drow which had forced the Burrowing Peoples to migrate upward into the Hollow World had become both prolific and powerful. It is also agreed that the relations between the Kith never fully healed, the two races have dwelt in relative peace and cooperation but largely apart ever since. The most distinct exceptions to this are largely among various religious and monastic orders described elsewhere. The Khurorkh hate the Drow with all the intensity their race is famous for. It is in combating the Drow that Elven and Khurorkh military cooperation is most evident and effective. The Drow likewise despise them and their Gray Orc Kin, enslaving both at any opportunity.

Khurorkh relations with their distant cousins are both bloody and sorrowful. The Gray Orcs harbor an enmity toward the Khurorkh second only to their hatred of the Elves and Drow. The Khurorkh practice in dealing with the Gray Orcs has been one of intervention, seeking to block Orciish expansion and isolate them from the other races, at least on or near the planetary surface, but rarely taking the offensive themselves. Over the centuries the Khurorkh have had to defend other races against the attacks of Gray Orcs on countless occasions, driving them back into their underground wilderness lairs. Because the Gray Orcs are likely to attack the Khurorkh before moving on to other (non-Elven) objectives, they have frequently chosen to establish fortified settlements between known Gray Orc demesnes and the settlements of other races, maintaining a sort of buffer zone.

Khurorkh-human relations vary widely. During the Ice Age which followed upon the disappearance of the Old Sun humans in many regions sought help from the Khurorkh, forming alliances with them as they gradually migrated toward warmer equatorial lands. The Khurorkh (like the Elves,) have always viewed humans as rather child-like; a younger race under their care. Over time this attitude has grown far less obvious than its elven corollary, perhaps due to the great difference in life-span. The Khurorkh have come to acknowledge and even admire human resourcefulness and adaptability, recognizing the value of change that humans embrace. Still, they tend to view human culture as, if not “unshaped,” still far from “flowering.” While some human cultures continue to maintain strong, positive relations with their Khurorkh neighbors, others have come to view their attitude as condescending and offensive. This is most noticeable near the equator where humans have settled the longest around in among the islands of The Suntrack Sea. It reached its greatest extreme in the extreme prejudice of the Malenorian Empire toward the Khurorkh The Empire has always claimed the entirety of the equatorial sea and its lands as its domain and for centuries has waged an intermittent war against the Khurorkh in the islands of the Narrows and the Neck at its western end. The few workhorse suffered to live in the islands under Imperial rule are held in virtual slavery as classless non-citizens. It is against the law for them to learn any form of magic and its practice is a capital offense which any citizen may punish immediately. All Khurorkh weapons and martial practices likewise outlawed, as well as the worship of any “Orciish demons.” So long as the Empire continues to direct its attempts at expansion westward the coastal nations remain content to let the Khurorkh bear the brunt of Malenorian aggression, knowing that the Empire has always claimed sovereignty of “all land visible from the waters of the Suntrack Sea.” The Khurorkh fleets of the Narrows are often referred to as “standing between the ocean and the sea,” an expression which has come into common usage in much of the world to describe anyone tenaciously standing their ground in the face of overwhelming adversity with nowhere to go should they fail.

The Khurorkh get along fairly well with the Burrowing Peoples (Khürvalonah), although their interactions with the Dwarves were colored by mutual distrust and tension when they first appeared on the surface. Used to combating the abominations spawned deep within the earth by Gaurashiage (The Defiler), when they first encountered the Dwarves they expected some new menace had arisen. For their own part, the Dwarves had come from the Underdark where they had never known another race they believed could be trusted, and had recently endured centuries of warfare, first with the Drow that had forced them from their deeper halls and more recently with the Grey Orcs that had settled in the caverns closer to the surface. Both races gradually came to recognize the honesty of the other and were able to form alliances which endure in many regions to the present day. Relations are not close however, characterized more by a sort of grudging mutual respect. While both races share the same basic alignment, they approach the concepts in very different ways and tend to view the other as “too right and uptight” for their own good. Each perceives the other as missing the obvious and wasting time on philosophical tangents; dwarves a having little patience for the abstractions of khürorkh spirituality while the latter find the dwarven obsession with codifying virtually every aspect of ‘proper’ personal and social interaction utterly baffling and unnecessary. (If the Khurorkh can be described as Taoist then dwarves are Confucist and elves Buddhist.) Khurorkh are rather friendly toward gnomes and halflings (if rather wary), while the latter tend to think that most khürorkh need to lighten up a bit.

Alignment:

Khurorkh tend to be lawful as a matter of personal ethics and self-discipline (which is why monks are common among them), and good in terms of their respect for life. Tendencies toward neutrality on either axis are common among individuals however, and many lean toward Druidic spiritual training. Their culture places great value clan ties, but views the overall development of each individual as the primary means of contributing to society as a whole. Khurorkh culture most values awareness of the natural world and a way of life which reflects this. Concepts such as honor strike them as contrived and unnatural (while most others who hold to that particular value would consider them to be very honorable).

Khurorkh Lands:

The khürorkh live in virtually every environment on the planet’s surface and many clans within the upper caverns inhabited by the Burrowing Peoples and Gray Orcs as well. They rarely settle for more than a few generations in any particular area, though some tribes are migratory or nomadic and may populate large regions for centuries. Those more permanent khürorkh settlements which do exist are usually situated on the marches of elven, dwarven or human domains – often serving as a sort of buffer between them and the wilds beyond. (It should be noted that they see this function, at least where humans are concerned, as much a necessity to prevent expansion into the wild as keeping the wild out. . .) As noted above, many clans are seafaring in nature and these tend to establish their own ports, often on coastal islands within easy sail of one or more mainland ports. The only regions definitively viewed by others (except, of course, the Malenorian Empire,) as khürorkh territory are the equatorial archipelagos of The Narrows and The Neck.

Religion:

The khürorkh are a deeply spiritual people, worshiping predominantly the deities of nature. They were the first Druids and many still train as such. Many, however, choose more personal relationships with a particular deity, training as clerics and/or monks. Spiritual training is a fundamental aspect of khürorkh culture, and all children receive spiritual training among their mothers’ clan from the ages of around 3 to 8 before being fostered among their father’s clan for more “secular” training and apprenticeship (from the ages of 9 to 13). All khürorkh characters are either multi-class, with one class being specifically a Divine Spell casting class (Druid, Cleric, Adept, Paladin or Ranger) and one other class, or they are monks. Monks can be single class, or may multi class freely with any other class, so long as this remains the highest level class. (The monk class is viewed as a sort of “bridge” between the divine and secular classes and fulfills either multi class requirement.) Monks are also the only khürorkh who may take psionic classes (and frequently display wild talents). Besides the Primordials, khürorkh often worship one or more of the Enlightened Masters (especially St. Kherrekh,) The Lunars (particularly Melanar BloodMoon) or one of the Ascended Masters. Among subterranean clans in particular may be found worshipers of the predominately dwarven/gnomish god Zhedarhe, who even train with his favored weapon, the urgrosh. Worship of the other deities is rarer, but with the exception of Jessanak, not unheard of. They tend to view Salistreah as a little too unrestrained, while Shaliah’s portfolio of “art for art’s sake” doesn’t reflect the aesthetic norms of their society (form follows function and decoration becomes an afterthought – objects tend to be plain and utilitarian). As they are more likely to meditate than study, Varrush is not often worshiped, though’ many have ties with various orders in which his is active (e.g., The Collegium).

Language:

The khürorkh language is closely related to elven, the two sharing common roots. It has had a stronger influence than the latter on the development of human language and subsequent common. The language varies regionally, displaying many dialects across the planet, but this is only significant enough to cause difficulty communicating when khürorkh of widely divergent geographic regions and/or environments encounter each other.

Names:

Khurorkh receive their Truename in a ceremony on the first full (blood)moon 1 full cycle (at least 40 days) following their birth. They also receive a public “spiritual” name at this time. Upon fostering to their paternal clan for apprenticeship they are usually given a secular name and will commonly take a public adult name when their training is completed. This latter is what they will normally introduce themselves with. Naming is a significant spiritual ceremony involving divinations to determine (at the various stages in their lives) a child’s guiding deity, general talents/gifts/medicine and occupational path in life. Additionally khürorkh will give their maternal and paternal clan names such as “of Stonespeaker (mother’s clan), born of Stargazer (father’s clan). Married males take their wife’s clan names, followed by their parental clan’s: “of Windwalker, from Stonespeaker, born of Stargazer.” Full naming is usually only used formally, (at first introductions) and primarily among themselves (as interbreeding within either parental clan is considered incestuous). Among other races they will commonly just use their chosen name and sometimes their maternal or married clan name.

Adventurers:

Since khürorkh society views enlightenment as a basis for action in the world, they may be found adventuring for a virtually any reason, arising from their personal medicine gifts and insight. The path to enlightenment is individual and ongoing.

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Khurorkh

Of Poets, Fools and Madmen. . . Snargash_Moonclaw