|Language:||Family of related tribal dialects|
|Ethnic Groups:||Humans, Half-Elves|
|Current Ruler:||No central rulership|
The hardy Khalars are a loose "nation" of semi-nomadic horse people, divided up into many rival tribal groups. They are known for producing some of the finest horses and light cavalry troops in the known world.
Kahlahra is also a major transit area for land-based merchants traveling through the continent. Wise traders make sure to be on a friendly basis with at least one of the major tribes.
Between the years 384 to 389, there was a major war between Arangoth and the Sherkhen (led by Helehkri), leading to an Arangothian victory. The Sherkhen surrendered their most precious relic, the Siren Stone, as part of the spoils of war, and its current whereabouts are unknown; it may have been transferred to the Vault of the Royal Church. In any event, the Sherkhen have continued to regard Arangoth with misgivings ever since the end of that war.
Kahlahra is bordered to the north by mountain ranges that divide it from Najjir. Rashnad is to the east, Rondis, the Assi, and Arangoth to the south, and Caern Rhia and Zul Kiras are to the west. Much of the country is plains and steppeland that give way to hills near the mountains. The country grows increasingly arid as one moves north toward Najjir and east toward Rashnad. Lake Nar in the north is fed by streams from the northern mountains. The Tkhonu River empties from the western end of the lake, and winds its way through the central region of Kahlahra, and it empties into Song Deep in the south. Access to water is the chief driver in conflict among the tribes, and the strongest tribes control the most fertile areas. A few permanent settlements are scattered throughout the country, clustered along the Tkhonu, Hakhet, and Sekhel ribers.
Climate and Influence
The pastureland and steppe-like features are heavily driven by numerous factors involving much of Veth's toiled climatology.
Firstly and most importantly, the rain shadow of the Najjira mountains cuts off most of the moisture to the region. This results in an almost desert-like climate. The vast majority of the country receives only enough rain to sustain the grassland environment.
However, the southern oscillating current that savages the lower peninsula in winter creates a sharp temperature contrast between Arangoth and Najjir. This takes its toll in the form of high powered winds that have since eroded most of Khlahra's terrain. Left behind are the plains that stretch endlessly across the countryside.
Kafras - Kafras is as much the capital city as any place is, owing to its importance as a center of trade and religious worship. It is often a site of inter-tribal councils, since the city is considered neutral ground and open to all Khalars. Kafras lies near to the border with Najjir and is a major hub of trade, much like the Grand Horse Market in the south. Much of the city is built with timber felled from the hills to the north. The entire city is surrounded by lofty wooden walls, and the homes, market, and temples within are all similarly made of wood. The temples and the altars within are richly embellished with decorative carvings and images of animals and scenes from mythology, and decorated with gold leaf. Once every three years, Kafras is closed to outsiders for a week for a religious festival to the goddess Siamakh.
The Grand Horse Market - Much of the Khalar trade with the south occurs at the Grand Horse Market, which is a permanently established encampment in Southern Kahlahra at the intersection of roads coming from the lands of the Sherkhen, Khtarpan, and Hoshk tribes in the midst of the prairie north of Song Deep. Despite the name, the giant market serves to trade more than simply horses; sheep, spices, wool and cloth, weavings from the Tkhonu tribe, leather work, gold and silver ornaments, and all other manner of goods are traded here. In the horse market, a complicated system of precedence (defined by who has won and lost in recent wars) decides who has the best places to sell. Almost always, some tribes find themselves pushed out, unable to do trade until they are more successful in war. Inevitably these unlucky tribes find themselves in a position where they must fight, not to settle a dispute, but to improve their reputation.
Dilakhasi - Located in the central region of Kahlahra, Dilakhasi was founded to protect several natural springs that feed a tributary branch of the Tkhonu. Dilakhasi is an important rest and resupply point for caravans travelling along the road from Taranor to Najjir that skirts the edge of Rashnad through the arid eastern reaches of Kahlahra.
Shiskwa - Shiskwa is within the lands of the Hoshk tribe, located in the Tkhonu river delta near the northern shore of Song Deep. Shiskwa is the center of Menxvan worship among the Hoshk, and contains a fortified Templar stronghold.
Nerikhet and Piflish - villages on opposite sides of the Tkhonu in the south. Piflish is a Sherken settlement, Nerikhet a Khtarpan possession, and the two have been at the center of the conflict between the two great tribes for centuries. Both villages have been burned to the ground and rebuilt many, many times.
Government and Politics
The Khalar have few wholly permanent cities (and these probably existed before they migrated into the region to begin with) and are largely nomadic, though they seem to follow no strict annual pattern of migration. Their law is unwritten, but centers upon the etiquette of the blood feud. There are some parts of the Kingdom of Arangoth which have small Khalar settlements.
Life for the Khalars is centered around a tribal system. Each tribe is lead by a chieftain, almost exclusively a man, though women have filled the role in some of the smaller tribes. The chieftain is advised by a tribal council whose exact composition varies among the different tribes, but almost always contains the tribe's elders, priests, and military leaders. The Chieftainship is not necessarily hereditary, and a chieftain may find challengers to his rule arising if the tribe's council has lost confidence in him.
There are 9 leading tribes, each of which number more than a thousand total members. The large tribes do not usually travel as a single unit, rather breaking up into smaller groups, typically led by the chieftain's sons, or those advisors closest to him. These tribes are the oldest, and by far the largest. Allied with the nine chief tribes are an array of smaller vassal tribes, whose loyalties shift as the fortunes of the great tribes wax and wane.
On the Khalar Tribes
The following is an excerpt from a letter written by General Oryan Larkspin to Chancellor Arlok Darian during the Era of the Khalar War. It provides an enemy commander's perspective on the Khalar tribes and their methods of war.
"The Khalar tribes are one, so to speak, in their mode of life and in their organization, which is primitive and includes many peoples. Of these peoples, only the Sherkhen and the Khtarpan concern themselves with military organization, and this makes them stronger than the other Khalar peoples when it comes to pitched battles. The nation of the Sherkhen is very numerous and independent. They are not versatile or skilled in most human endeavors, nor have they trained themselves for anything else except to conduct themselves bravely against their enemies. The Khtarpan, for their part, are scoundrels, devious, and very experienced in military matters.
These nations have a monarchial form of government, and their rulers subject them to cruel punishments for their mistakes. Governed not by love but by fear, they steadfastly bear labors and hardships. They endure heat and cold, and the want of many necessities, since they are nomadic peoples. They are very superstitious, treacherous, foul, faithless, possessed by an insatiable desire for riches. They scorn their oath, do not observe agreements, and are not satisfied by gifts. Even before they accept the gift, they are making plans for treachery and betrayal of their agreements. They are clever at estimating suitable opportunities to do this and taking prompt advantage of them. They prefer to prevail over their enemies not so much by force as by deceit, surprise attacks, and cutting off supplies.
They are armed with mail, swords, bows, and lances. In combat most of them attack doubly armed; lances slung over their shoulders and holding bows in their hands, they make use of both as need requires. Not only do they wear armor themselves, but in addition the horses of their illustrious men are covered in front with iron or felt. They give special attention to the training of archery on horseback.
A vast herd of male and female horses follows them, both to provide nourishment and to give the impression of a huge army. They do not encamp within entrenchments, as do the Arangothians and the Rondissians, but until the day of the battle, spread about according to tribes and clans, they continuously graze their horses both summer and winter. They then take the horses they think necessary, hobbling them next to their tents, and guard them until it is time to form their battle line, which they begin to do under cover of night. They station their sentries at some distance, keeping them in contact with one another, so that it is not easy to catch them by a surprise attack.
In combat they do not, as do the Arangothians and Rondissians, form their battle line in three parts, but in several units of irregular size, all joined closely together to give the appearance of one long battle line. Separate from their main formation, they have an additional force which they can send out to ambush a careless adversary or hold in reserve to aid in a hard-pressed section. They keep their spare horses close behind their main line, and their baggage train to the right or left of the line about a mile or two away under a moderately sized guard. Frequently they tie the extra horses together to the rear of their battle line as a form of protection. They make the depth of their files indefinite depending on the circumstances, being inclined to make them deeper, and they make their front even and dense.
They prefer battles fought at long range, ambushes, encircling their adversaries, simulated retreats and sudden returns, and wedge-shaped formations, that is, in scattered groups. When they make their enemies take to flight, they put everything else aside, and are not content, as the Arangothians, the Rondissians, and other peoples, with pursuing them a reasonable distance and plundering their goods, but they do not let up at all until they have achieved the complete destruction of their enemies, and they employ every means to this end. If some of the enemy they are pursuing take refuge in a fortress, they make continual and thorough efforts to discover any shortage of necessities for horses or men. They then wear their enemies down by such shortages and get them to accept terms favorable to themselves. Their first demands are fairly light, and when the enemy has agreed to these they impose stricter terms.
They are hurt by a shortage of fodder which can result from the huge number of horses they bring with them. Also in the event of battle, when opposed by an infantry force in close formation, they stay on their horses and do not dismount, for they do not last long fighting on foot. They have been brought up on horseback, and owing to their lack of exercise they simply cannot walk about on their own feet. Level, unobstructed ground should be chosen, and a cavalry force should advance against them in a dense, unbroken mass to engage them in hand-to-hand fighting. Night attacks are also effective, with part of our force maintaining its formation whole the other lies in ambush. They are seriously hurt by defections and desertions. They are very fickle, avaricious and, composed of so many tribes as they are, they have no sense of kinship or unity with one another. If a few begin to desert and are well received, many more will follow."
The Khalars believe that the world came into being with the union of Thagimas and his consort Athi. From their union sprang the stars, the moons, and Vorkhanu and Khalaret, who then gave birth to the other gods. While there are few permanent temples to the Khalar gods outside of Kafras, travelling bands of Khalars have special tents which they erect only for religious observations. The great tribes and their vassals often come together to worship and offer sacrifice during important religious festivals.
The Hoshk tribe converted to the worship of Menxvan following the war with Arangoth, which has been an ongoing source of friction.
Thagimas - Thagimas is the Khalar god of the sky and of mountains, where earth and sky meet. He is also the god of storms and weather. He gave Sirakh the sun and Tkhonos the waters to nurture life upon the earth and please Athi. Some have likened Thagimas with the Rashnaditz rain god Terpun, and like Terpun, Thagimas is sometimes portrayed as a dragon. His purposes are not necessarily friendly toward (or even cognizant of) the mortal races, and Khalar soothsayers watch the weather and the night sky for portants to determine if a given course of action is in harmony or at odds with the god's will.
Athi - The goddess of the earth, of life and death, and consort of Thagimas. Artistic representations of Athi depict her as a nude pregnant woman. Khalars believe that Athi does not favor one creation over another, and regards all life as equal. Thus, even though the first humans suffered much in the primeval world because they lacked fire and tools, Athi would no more offer them aid than she would protect a tree from being snapped by a wind storm. The Khalars venerate Athi at the beginning and end of life--at births and funerals.
Khalaret - Mother goddess of the Khalars, goddess of fire, the hearth, healing and the family. Khalar mythology states that Khalaret was moved to pity by the suffering of early humanity and brought them fire to warm them, and taught them how to heal illness and salve wounds. She also prevailed upon her children to grant boons to the mortals: Sirakh gave them the bow, Siamakh taught them to hunt, and Thkonos gave them the horse. Her brother and consort Vorkhanu was outraged when her worship eclipsed his, and he began to beat her in his anger for her perceived treachery. Her children came to her rescue and drove out their father, but he still demands his due from the Khalars. Worship of the other Khalar gods includes a prayer to Khalaret at the beginning, and a portion of any animal sacrifice is consigned to the flames for her. Khalars believe that in death, they go to Khalaret's hearth to rest from the toils of life for a time before being reborn and starting the cycle of life again.
Sirakh - Depicted as a winged young man clothed entirely in gold, Sirakh is the Khalar sun god, and the patron of music, art, and creativity. He is also said to be the inventor of archery and gave the first bow to the Khalars at his mother Khalaret's request. Tkhonu weavers, Slikhtanu leatherworkers, and Dilakh goldsmiths all sing songs to the golden god as they work to invite his blessing on their efforts.
Siamakh - Goddess of prophecy, the hunt, revelry, wine, and passion. Siamakh contains aspects of both Siamah and her brother Nedresh from the Old Gods of Amas'kyaa. She is the patroness of Khalar warrior women. Worship of the goddess involves inducing trances through use of intoxicants or magical artifacts. Khalar soothsayers use Najjira hashish and opium to induce a state wherein the goddess might grant visions. Some rituals involve inducing a state of ecstatic frenzy through a combination of wine, singing, and dancing. Legends abound--both among the Khalars and among foreigners--of the deeds a devotee of the goddess in this state can achieve, such as chasing down a deer on foot and killing it bare-handed. Kafras is closed off to foreigners for a week once every three years for a major festival in her honor, and its unknown nature makes it a subject of much lurid speculation about what might occur within the city walls during that time. The Siren Stone was an artifact of Siamakh, and important in her worship. Its loss was a major blow to the Khalars. Some Najjira scholars have posited that the Siren Stone might have been an artifact of Amas'kyaa, rather than of divine origin.
Tkhonos - Tkhonos is called the Green God, and is the god of rivers. The Tkhonu, which winds its way through central Kahlahra from north to south, is sacred to him. In the permanent settlements of the Khalar tribes, he is also worshipped as an agricultural deity. Tkhonos created the horse and the sheep and gave them to the Khalars at the behest of his mother. At harvest time, horse races are held in the god's honor, with the victorious horse offered up as a sacrifice to sustain the tribes for another year.
Vorkhanu - The Khalar god of war and bloodshed and Khalaret's spurned consort. Vorkhanu is said to be the first deity to take an interest in mankind, and used them for sport to amuse himself. It is said that he is the one who keeps the Khalar tribes at odds with one another and fans enmity among them to spite his former lover. He is not worshipped in conjunction with any of the other gods, but entirely separately. Worship sites to Vorkhanu consist of an open field marked off with a wall of fieldstone or stacked bundles of brushwood. In the center is a raised altar made of earth or stone that is sheer on three sides, with a ramp or stairs cut into the fourth. At the top is a steel sword anchored in place by magic. At the conclusion of a conflict among the tribes, it is the duty of the victorious chieftain to bring a captive from the defeated tribe to one of Vorkhanu's shrines for sacrifice. Wine is poured over the victim's head, and then his or her throat is cut at the foot of the altar. The blood is collected in a bowl by the chieftain, who carries it up to the top to splash it on the sword to slake Vorkhanu's thirst for blood and placate his anger.
Animal sacrifice is a common part of Khalar religious worship. Sacrificial victims are typically various kinds of livestock, though the most prestigious offering is considered to be the horse. The victim stands with its fore-feet tied, and the sacrificing priest stands behind the victim. Assistants pull the cord binding the legs and pull the beast down. As the victim falls, the priest calls upon the god to whom he is sacrificing, and then at once throws a noose round its neck, and putting a small stick into it he turns it round and so strangles the animal. Afterwards, the sacrifice is skinned, and then either boiled or roasted over coals. A first offering is cut from the victim's flesh and vital organs and is cast into the fire for the gods, and then the rest is shared among those in attendance.
Society and Peoples
There are a number of independent tribes among the Khalars, all of whom have long-standing feuds of one sort or another with all the others, leading to almost perpetual bloodshed. The tribe which has had the closest relations with Arangoth has been the Sherkhen, the tribe which inhabits the northern shores of Song Deep.
The Khalars are best known as horsemen -- or horsepeople, since the important jobs of tending and training horses are carried out by highly skilled Khalar Horse Maiden. A visitor should not be surprised to be given a prize colt as a parting gift, and indeed, Khalar horses fetch the highest prices throughout Veth, when they can be obtained at all.
The Khalars are, for the most part a dark people. Dusky, olive toned skin, brown or black hair and dark eyes are the common coloring, though green eyes and auburn hair are not entirely uncommon. Blue eyes are, for whatever reason, considered unlucky. The Khalars tend to be a tall people, and excess weight is considered a sign of wealth and good fortune, particularly in women. Men and women both tend to wear their hair long, braiding and dreadlocks both being common. Unmarried women over the age of 13 cover their hair, and some tribes require women to cover their face as well.
Owing to the traditional Elven penalty of exile for crimes, outcasts from Elvendeep have been finding a new home among the Khalar tribes for centuries. Individuals with signs of elven heritage are common among the Khalar tribes, particularly among the Narkhet tribe.
Piercing and tattooing are common, particularly among the Sherkhen, who tattoo protective magics on the faces of male children at a very young age. The Vekhen are particularly fond of piercing, often sliding rings through the cheek of warriors to add to their fierce appearance.
Khalar clothing is made from wool, hemp cloth, silk fabrics, felt, leather or hides depending on wealth, availability, and season. Men and warrior women wear long-sleeved tunics, often embroidered, adorned with felt applique work, or decorative golden plaques. Different tribes favor longer or shorter tunics and wider or narrower sleeves. The tunics are always belted with richly ornamented belts that contain hooks for tools and weapons. Men and warrior women wear padded or quilted trousers, often reinforced with leather, and tucked into their boots. Different tribes have preferences toward looser or tighter fitting trousers and higher or lower boots. In colder weather, they wear long, open riding coats, often trimmed with fur.
Khalar women wear long, loose robes, ornamented with embroidery, felt appliques, or golden plaques. Women also wear shawls, often with brilliant colors or elaborate patterns. Like Khalar men, the Khalar women wear broad, ornamented belts or girdles. Some tribes also add a colorful sash under the belt. Khalar women may wear boots like the men, or soft slippers adorned with embroidery or golden plaques. When riding, Khalar women wear trousers underneath a split skirt.
Since they own little that is not portable, many Khalars like to display their wealth on their person. The leaders among the Khalars have a taste for elaborate personal jewelry, ornamented weapons, and decorated horse-trappings. Animal motifs are common, such as dragons breathing fire, winged griffons attacking horses, battling stags, and eagles, combined with everyday scenes like milking ewes. Bow cases and quivers are also richly decorated with with animal scenes or depictions of daily life on the steppes. The Khalars are skilled at working soft metals like gold and silver, and their decorative pieces are also popular trade goods.
The Horse Maidens
One of the most unusual social positions among the Khalars is that of the Horse Maiden. Girls are picked for the role at a very young age, usually around 4 or 5, and trained until they reach the age of 15. There is no failure for Horse Maidens in training, either they are judged ready to care for the horses of the tribe, or they are cast out.
The training is intensive and harsh, girls as young as 7 are strapped to a horse and forced to gallop all night without stopping. The prospective horse trainers eat, sleep and live with the herd, learning everything about them until horses are more familiar than humans. At the completion of their training, the Horse Maidens are the finest horse trainers and breeders in the world, or so the Khalars will tell you.
Over the centuries, the Khalars have developed simple ritual magics and herbal medicine focused around protecting their most valuable asset. Horse Maidens are selected from those girls who show a particular aptitude for these practices. They are not wizards in any traditional sense, the magic is simple and requires detailed use of ritual and herbal compounds, but it is effective for their needs. The abilities mostly focus on healing and protection or disguise of the herd.
About one in every fifty Horse Maidens develops the talent of Horse Speech. This special form of limited animal-telepathy is considered highly prized among the Khalars, as the ability to communicate directly with the horses allows the maiden to train even the most difficult stallions.
Though exact attitudes towards the Horse Maidens vary from tribe to tribe, they are almost universally revered, but set apart from the life of the tribe. The Narkhet place Horse Maidens in a position of religious authority; the Khessir revere them as religious figures, not unlike saints or martyrs; the warlike Sherkhen consider the Horse Maidens invaluable, but treat them as something close to social pariahs, considering them untouchable. Some tribes do not allow them to marry, while others consider it bad luck to marry a Horse Maiden. For whatever reason, most Horse Maidens are maidens in truth as well as in name. On the other hand, they are allowed a great deal of freedom of movement, even in those tribes where women are more limited in their rights; and all of their needs are provided for by the tribe. It is a strange and difficult life, and it is not unheard of for Horse Maidens to disappear into a city or foreign land.
The Great Tribes
One of the oldest tribes, the Hoshk occupy lands in the southeast of Kahlahra, near the Arangothian frontier. The Hoshk bore the brunt of some of the most vicious fighting during the war with Arangoth, and after the Khalar defeat, the Chieftain and Hoshk tribal council decided that the god of the Arangothians must be stronger and converted to Menxism. The Hoshk have been staunch allies of Arangoth since the war, and much of their trade goods are sold to Arangothian merchants. Shiskwa, located in the Tkhonu river delta near the shores of Song Deep, now hosts a Menxvanic Templar stronghold. The conversion and subsequent distancing of the Hoshk from the other tribes has created enormous tension. Though the Hoshk are not actively at war with any other tribes at this time, they have few friends among the great tribes, and are regarded with suspicion.
Arguably the largest of the tribes, the Sherkhen are famous for their martial prowess, and have often triumphed in inter-tribal disputes. The lands of the Sherkhen are traditionally west of the River Tkhonu. They were the last tribe able to unite the Khalars as a people in the year 384 for a for a war with Arangoth, which turned out to be a disastrous defeat. This resulted in a major loss of prestige for the Sherkhen among the other tribes, and the Sherkhen have spent the last century fighting to regain their place of prominence in the tribal pecking order. As a result of these conflicts to keep their vassals in line and fend off the other great tribes, the Sherkhen have a large supply of slaves which they occasionally trade for metal goods and other materials in short supply in Kahlahra. The Sherkhen and their vassal tribes commonly hire themselves out as mercenary cavalry forces.
The Khtarpan are the Sherkhen's chief rivals as the dominant tribe of the Khalar nation. As such, the Khtarpan have been at or near a state of war with the Sherkhen for centuries. When the two large tribes are not in direct conflict, those smaller vassal tribes that surround them are almost always engaged in skirmishes of some kind or another. The Khtarpan's traditional lands are east of the Tkhonu and west of the Hakhet rivers. Like the Sherkhen, the Khtarpan and their allied vassals are commonly found in other countries as mercenary cavalry. The Khtarpan excel at hit and fade attacks, using feigned retreats to draw enemy cavalry out of position, and then wheel back around again unexpectedly to attack their pursuers. This has contributed to their reputation as devious and dishonorable fighters among some nations.
One of the more “cosmopolitan” tribes, the Dilakh are traders more than horse breeders or warriors. Their stronghold of Dilakhasi is located along the western trade route from Taranor to Najjir, and is an important stop for caravans to rest and resupply after traversing the arid eastern reaches of Kahlahra where steppeland gives way to the desert of Rashnad. They are clearly the most moneyed and financially successful of the major tribes. They are also renowned for their gold and silver working, and their jewelery and ornaments are in great demand throughout Kahlahra and beyond. Most of their vassals serve primarily to protect the wealth of the Dilakh. Nonetheless, financially desperate tribes often look towards the them as easy pickings. They are rarely as successful as they hope, as the Dilakh are wise enough to pay their more warlike vassals handsomely to do the dirty work of butchering their enemies for them.
Occupying land in Kahlahra's western reaches, the Vekhen are traditional trading partners with the orcish clans of Zul Kiras. The Vekhen trade horses to the Stormrider clan in return for steel arms and tools. The old mutual raiding between the two peoples has given way to a ritualized form to display both sides' equestrian prowess, which attracts large crowds of spectators. The Vekhen also deal in slave labor, trading with other tribes for their excess slaves and then selling them to other tribes or trade caravans. This makes the Vekhen predictably unpopular among several other tribes, and is often used by rival tribes when trying to convince the Vekhen's vassals to switch sides.
A Khalari proverb advises, “Turn to the Sherkhen for victory, the Dilakh for a loan, the Vekhen for servants and the Khessir for horses.” The horse people among horse people, the Khessir raise the finest, strongest, fastest horses in Kahlahra, and discriminating traders will seek the reclusive tribe out. Their lands are in the far north, on the western side of Lake Nar. They are also one of the most conservative and secretive tribe, preferring their own company. They rarely leave their lands except to sell their herd, and are known to be deeply religious. Since the conversion of the Hoshk, the Khessir have refused to have any contact with them, asserting that they are no longer Khalars at all.
While most of the tribes put at least some of their energy into sheep herding as well as horses, none is so focused as the Tkhonu. The Tkhonu are found in the center of Kahlahra, near the river they take their name from. Their lands are between those of the Khtarpan and the Dilakh, and frequently ally with one or the other to hold onto such coveted land. Tkhonu women weave cloth of brilliant colors and striking patterns that are very much in demand by the other tribes for making clothing. They are also famed for their beautiful blankets and rugs from Khalari wool, which are highly valued, particularly in the harsh winter. They are the chief breeders of the famous Khalar herding dogs, and sell or trade the pups to other tribes as well as outsiders.
Craftsmen and artisans, the Slikhtanu make extremely fine saddles, bridles and tack, as well as the fine Khalar sabers that are the weapon of choice for officers of the Royal Guard of Arangoth. They are far more gregarious than most of the tribes, trading with any and rarely at war. As a result, their martial skills are considered somewhat mediocre, and they are often the butt of the wickedly sharp Khalari sense of humor. They are also the least nomadic of the tribes, with large families settling in cities for extended periods of time. The Vekhen and Slikhtanu are traditional allies, and the Slikhtanu are also common trading partners with the Zul Kirans.
While the “Khalari Elves” exist in several tribes, the Narkhet tribe is almost exclusively made up of people with varying degrees of elven heritage. Their religious practices integrate the traditional Khalar religion with the Celestial Court of Elvendeep. The Horse Maidens occupy a more prominent social role, particularly those with the gift of Horse Speech, which is more common among the Narkhet. The Chieftain is somewhat beholden to the council of maidens, who serve as prophets and oracles for the tribe. These oracular abilities are virtually unknown among the other tribes, and many speculate that the role of the maidens is more politics and theatre than genuine magic.
Magic users are somewhat uncommon among the Khalar tribes, due to the suspicion with which they are regarded by the tribal chieftains. While even the meanest chieftain of a small vassal tribe usually has at least one sorcerer in his retinue, they are all eunuchs so that they are not eligible to challenge the Chieftain for control of the tribe. Khalar males who display signs of magical aptitude must choose either exile or castration. Girls are put through the Horse Maiden's trials.
The Khalar tribes speak a related family of languages. Tribes that live near one another often have largely intelligible dialects, but diverge more widely with geographical separation. Wordplay involving dialectal differences is a common type of Khalar humor.