The Manari’khu are feline races that are believed to have originated in the Astral Realm, journeying to Aeryn during the last age. None can say how or why they left their former homes, but it is clear that they have no intention of returning. All felines have claws and most exhibit a strange sense of wanderlust. The Manari’khu are the shortest lived of Aeryns races averaging about 40 years with the rare individual reaching 50.
You smell of death…
Ar – Khunari Armsman
Resembling the largest and most powerful types of cats, the Khunari are a proud, nomadic race noted for its strength as much as its values of honor and loyalty. With their natural agility and hardened claws, Khunari make impressive warriors and arcanists, but few dabble in the clerical arts.
The feral folk, the forest-born, the hunter lords, the savageblooded. For countless millennia the Khunari have been regarded as many things, and many different names have been given to them. At best they are considered aloof and mysterious – shadows moving swiftly through the forests and plains. At worst they have been considered bloodthirsty savages, unpredictable and deadly. But those few who have taken the time to learn about their ways have all found the Khunari to be a deeply emotional people, haunted by the mystery of their past, and eager to accept those who take the time to understand them.
Unlike most races who – even if only reflexively – view Forge as the creator of all mortal races, the Khunari hold that they were created by the Fey in the Astral world of Elysium. It is told that while in the Astral, the Khunari were even more robust than they are today. They served the Queen of the Fey and protected her from the ravages of the Goblin Court. While there are many who scoff at such notions of grandeur, history seems to back up their claim. It is a matter of fact that the Khunari arrived on Aeryn through the Font in Ashendar almost ten millennia ago. Though the whereabouts of the Font would be lost in latter years, the strong Khunari oral tradition described the “Mountain in the Desert” perfectly. There are those who believe that it was through Khunari legends that the Djinn were able to rediscover this ancient and powerful magical site.
Whatever the case, the Khunari teach that they left the Mountain in the Desert in search of a more hospitable homeland. While none could remember how or why they had been exiled from the Astral, all held faith in the belief that they would one day be called upon to return. Because of this, the Khunari have long felt a certain detachment from the races of Aeryn – as though their time on this world is only a transitory condition that will end when the fey call them back into the Astral.
For most of history, the Khunari existed almost exclusively within the lush forests of Artanna. It was not until the final centuries of the Age of Might that they migrated into Erridor in response to Imperial hostilities. The feral folk never fashioned any great cities. Khunari settlements remain transitory even today – changing in response to the seasons; as short-lived as those who call them home.
It was during the age of Imperia that the Khunari earned their volatile and savage reputation. While it may seem easier to dismiss this reputation as Imperial propaganda, the historical record of Khunari savagery transcends Imperial tomes. Many accounts – from thee Erlish “Evalloch” to the Gargoyle “Brel Cycle” to the Imperial “Pax Imperia” all describe the tortures endured by those who inadvertently stumbled into a valley held by the khunari. The wearing of skins carved from the bodies of other mortals and the making of toys from their brittle bones are not the greatest or least of the accounts laid against the khunari.
The Three Nations
All Khunari hail from one of three social groups known as the Three Nations. They are the Ember Nation, the Dragon Nation, and the Harrow Nation. Khunari are further delineated according to racial markings which identify their specific tribe.
The Ember Nation consists of the Shadow Hunter (Panther), the Kikkichiwa (Cougar), and the Night Claw (Jaguar) tribes. Khunari from this tribe have a penchant for roguery but truly excel as wardens.
The Thornclaw (Lion), Steelclaw (Tiger), and Bander (Cheetah) tribes are all part of the Dragon Nation. This is the khunari warrior nation, and not surprisingly it produces some of the finest armsmen, reavers, and spellswords in Artanna.
The Harrow Nation is the smallest of the three. It is comprised of only two distinct tribes: The Redfang (Leopard), and the Croache (Lynx). This is the most clerical branch of the three Nations. The Redfang serve the Nations as Emissaries, (druids in particular), while the Croache long ago embraced the teachings of the Sh’ddar.
It is important that the roles of the Nations not be taken too strictly. Exceptions exist to every rule and as the Khunari intermingle more and more with the other denizens of the Sanctuary, variations on the basic theme continue to emerge.
The Khunari also believe that a Fourth Nation continues to exist in the Astral. It is their shared belief that one day the Fourth Nation will emerge to lead all Khunari back into their ancient homeland. There are those among the other races who believe that the Nari are the prophesized Fourth Nation, but the Khunari themselves do not accept that assertion. Despite their racial similarities, the Khunari regard the Nari as a completely separate race with no more rights in Khunari society than a Djinn or a Gargoyle.
The Spoken Word
One of the greatest impediments to Khunari integration into the rest of mortal society lies in the difficulty many have in grasping the nuance of the Common tongue. With their own native language lost with the Scourge, the Khunari were forced to rely on the mortal tongue shared by all races. This proved rather more difficult for them than it did for the others and the intricacies of the mortal tongue still often confound the plain spoken Khunari. Silences prevail over stammering, and reflexive hand signals (a vestige of their lost form of communication) are commonly seen as a Khunari searches for the proper means to say what is on her mind.
Unfortunately, this behavior has led many to believe that the Khunari are an unintelligent race. The truth is that because of their shortened life spans, most Khunari families simply do not put the required emphasis on developing elaborate language skills – preferring instead to focus on the basics of hunting, survival, and the mastery of the child’s chosen profession. If given the proper time, a Khunari is just as able as anyone else to completely master the mortal tongue.
Live Fast; Die Young
The Khunari are the shortest lived of all the mortal races. On average, the Khunari live to about 25 years of age with only the rare individual seeing the extreme old age of 40 years. This shortened lifespan is perhaps mitigated by the unusual aging process of Khunari. A Khunari is fully mature at five years of age and will remain in top physical condition until death. Khunari do not suffer from old age like other races. Natural death occurs only during sleep. Other than the actual number of years lived, there is no physical or mental means to identify that death is near. A Khunari can quite literally go from the battlefield to the deathbed in a single day.
Their shortened lifespan has made an indelible mark on the psyche of most Khunari. They live life to its fullest and never miss a chance to experience something new. Every sensation and nuance is very deeply felt, and this accounts for the almost unpredictable emotional state of most Khunari.
An offshoot of the Khunari race, the Nari were created through sorcerous experiments. Nari are smaller and lither than Khunari making them formidable rogues and assassins. The Khunari treat the Nari as an inferior species – even the name “Nari” means “child” in the Nomad’s Tongue. For their part, the Nari are ambivalent to the Khunari attitude towards them and are more often inclined to use this prejudice to their own advantage.
The Lost History
In the year Decus 1220 AM, the Virillian galleon Sperion sailed triumphantly into the good, deep harbor at Ravenstone. It was the first unsanctified vessel to make anchor at the isle for over a thousand years. Captained and crewed by Eddar emissaries, the arrival of the Sperion also marked a turning point in the struggles between the Two Churches.
For Ravenstone had ever been a holding of the Sh’ddar, a private country sealed off from the world where the disciples of darkness could work their mysteries unfettered by the wars that faced their brethren elsewhere. Here Nethermancers lurked, sorcerers plotted, Reavers trained, and the lost clergies practiced rites that have since faded from the world of mortals. For over a millennia, the might of Ravenstone endured, and for just that long the Emissaries of Light sought to vanquish the Sh’ddar stronghold.
And then – for no reason anyone could explain – the Disciples of Ravenstone abandoned their legendary isle. No war was fought – no prayers called down the wrath of angered gods – and in the end the only sword raised was that of the Sperions crusader captain, who held his weapon aloft and declared victory of the Light over Darkness.
When the emissaries came ashore they found the libraries empty, the citadels abandoned. The wind sang through emptied rectories and battle fields. It was as though all of Ravenstone was a blank book, once filled with a Lorekeeper’s secrets, but destroyed by a sorcerer’s spell craft. Nothing of power or secret of the Dark remained in Ravenstone.
For the Sh’ddar had left one thing behind that no one had ever expected, a thing that has continued to baffle the world even to this very day. A race of mortals that no one had even known existed, whose origins had never been written or told in any history of the Nine Worlds.
They were the Nari, the greatest mystery of Ravenstone lost.
Since the discovery of the Nari race, much speculation has gone into unraveling the mystery of their creation. No records tell us where they came from – no writings reveal the length of their history. Oral traditions – even those told by the Nari themselves – reveal nothing. Their greatest sages offer only that “We come from Ravenstone” While clearly a mortal race, the Chronicles of the Brel Cycle do not list them among Forge’s creations. It is as though the Nari came into existence on the day when the Crusaders first found them.
After their discovery, the Nari were slow to leave their native island and join the rest of the world’s mortal populace. Ancient taboos forbade them to leave Ravenstone and an unspoken “instinct” clearly told them that their race would diminish if ever they left their ancestral homeland. But now that the world had come to the Nari, it was only a matter of time before the Nari were forced to come to the world.
For so it was that Ravenstone – like so many other places on Aeryn – was destined to fall to the powers of Erebus. Only a day’s voyage outside of Artanna, the island – and all her secrets – was doomed to fall. The Nari had two choices: they could flee or they could die.
It is an undisputed truth that no power on the earth or in the heavens has any true power over the future. It is never easy to see how a thing may play out on the canvas of time. The Branches of Ysarril are many and twisted – none may trace them in all the directions that they may turn. It began with an Emissary of Evora who committed himself to a great task of peace. He would save the Nari from the Scourge – lead them to the Sanctuary – and there reunite them with their ancestors among the Khunari.
Now it should be stressed that – despite their physical similarities – there has never been any proof that the Nari are actually descended from the Khunari, or vice versa. The physical and psychological differences between the two races are many.
Be that as it may…
The healer – who has come to be known as the “Pontiff” – managed to persuade three hundred Nari to join him on a voyage to the Khunari homelands. For their part, the Khunari prepared great feasts, and the Council of Nations united to meet with the Pontiff and his “Sh’ddaran victims.” It had long been said among the Khunari that the lost Fourth Nation would emerge at a time of great crisis to leadthem back into the Astral. They prepared themselves for the answering of an age-old prophecy. But the three hundred small, wide-eyed creatures that met the Council of Nations were not the Lions of Destiny foreseen by Khunari sages. Clearly these were not the warriors promised to deliver them from the Scourge. The Council called the newcomers Nari – meaning child – and turned them aside.
The Pontiff was beside himself with dismay. Despite his best efforts, the Khunari simply would not admit the Nari into their nation. Disillusioned and distraught, the Pontiff abandoned the Nari. It is said that he contented himself with the knowledge that he had indeed saved the race from the Scourge, but his ultimate fate is still a mystery.
Leaderless and landless, the Nari tried to return to their home, but Ravenstone – and all the Nari who had elected to stay there – were no more. The Scourge had come to the island at last. Outside of the Sanctuary, a day’s journey might as well be a voyage of a thousand years. The ancestral home of the Nari and all of her people were no more.
For the surviving Nari, it was as though the age-old instinct that warned them not to leave the Isle was proven correct. The world outside had rejected them. The world they had known was lost forever. Many Nari died of grief and sadness.
But there were those who survived.
A new figure in the strange, tangled history of the Nari emerged. Koshavan T’Kirr, Steward of the South appeared to the Nari. A Drow suffering from the onset of sudden mortality, brother to the Shadowlord, and an Arcanist of exceptional prowess, Koshavan gathered the refugee Nari and gave them shelter somewhere in the Mistfallen Mountains of Artanna. Here, he taught them about the world they had entered. He showed them the writing and languages of the mortal races and educated them about the complex history of Aeryn. When he died five years later, the Nari left the Mistfallen, determined to put their lessons to good use. Within a century there were Nari all over Artanna. While they never again established a centralized nation, they have adapted to and been accepted by nearly every other culture in the Sanctuary.
The first step in returning home…
The Culture of None
The Nari are often said to possess a “culture of none.” That is to say that – with the exception of their unflagging faith that they will one day reclaim their lost home – there do not seem to be any unified mores that define the race as a people. They have no cities or towns – there is not even a single village in all the Sanctuary that is completely comprised of Nari. Theirs is the culture that the individual attaches herself to. Nari seem to all possess the particular penchant for adapting into whatever society they find themselves in. It has been said that a Nari caught in Erebus would happily paint himself red and convince himself that his ears were horns.
The only bold exception to Nari gregariousness lies with the Khunari with whom they share a benign – if distant – relationship.
Nari also have a fondness for learning that seems to stem from their education with the Steward. Many Nari fastidiously observe their surroundings, confidant that in order to survive they must know. This intrinsic part of Nari nature makes many members of this race curious almost to a fault.
Only a few Nari hear the calling of the gods. The mystery surrounding their origins on Sh’ddar controlled Ravenstone haunt them, making some uneasy around the Disciples of Darkness. Conversely, the well-intended but ultimately failed attempt by an Emissary of Light to deliver them to the Khunari has left some uneasiness around Eddar priests in general. By and large, an overwhelming number of Nari seek professions in the martial or arcane fields. They make excellent Wardens and rogues, and the current Steward of the West is himself a Nari of rare magical brilliance.
While their true origins may never be known, the Nari have made their mark on the world. Their commitment against the Scourge is as much fueled by their desire to reclaim Ravenstone as it is by a sincere wish to see their mortal allies at last throw down the Scourge forever.