House Khra

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House Khra is led by King Aethor, their colours are Purple and gold, their specialism is the Spear, their home county is Khra and its capital is Khurilla.

The noble and ancient house of Khra is the richest of all the houses, great or small, to inhabit Rosodtir. Their line of succession can be traced back to the very settlement of Rosodtir, when the ancestors of the Eastermen first travelled over the black mountains and built the first towns and castles in the fertile plains and rich wetlands that stretched as far as the Isle of Fey. It was the fertility of this land which allowed the legendary Gayvin Khra, a thousand years ago, to build the House itself, whose great walls tower over the regions capital, and whose grain stores have never run dry. Gayvin forged an empire built on trade, whilst the other houses fought for the rule of this new Land of opportunity. Whilst Winnover eventually established rule, it was the coffers of Khra who forged the Crown.

It was Khra, too, who were the first house to embrace a particular weapon and style of combat as their own. Forever victim to raids by bandits and the fledgling mounted army of House Trastor, their neighbors and rivals, Gayvin and his war chiefs set about forming an army focused on the defence of his wealth, and the protection of property. Hence, The Khra became the masters of Spear, and were soon able to hold their own against their horse mounted attackers.

The family tree of Khra is a complex, even convoluted thing, and there have at times been civil war between cousins and brothers when no clear line of succession has existed, for up until around 200 years ago, the head of the House was the first born Lord of the generation, known as the High Lord, but it was the Lord Chancellor (although appointed initially by the High Lord himself and therefore very rarely a direct contender to the position of High Lord by normal succession) who had ultimately control of Khra’s military – such was the tie between nominal power and the Houses’ need to control and maintain its position of wealth and therefore true power. It was following an inter – familial or civil war in 813, The War of the Chancellery, that the position and title of High Lord was all but killed off along with the last Lord who held it. The victory of the Lord Chancellor signaled the strength of money above all else and as the source of true power in the house of Khra, at least. The Leader of the House of Khra has ever more been known as the Lord Chancellor (though High Lord remains one of the Lord Chancellor’s many official titles, so as to underline the rank for the sake of comparison with the Court or other houses and to also ensure there is never again any question as to which title has ultimate power).

Although all members of the house of Khra and those Lords and Knights who live on their lands and carry their banners have now sworn fealty to King Aethor, it is no secret that it is his uncle, Grayne Khra, the Lord Chancellor and “Kingmaker”, who rules the richest of the Houses of Rosodtir. Indeed that is how he has come about the very name, and it is one he wears proudly. It was he, after all, who had been instrumental in ensuring that his sister married the late King Draven, with the making of Kings on his mind even then. Though Grayne appeared to offer his support to King Aiden on his ascension to the throne, the relationship soon soured, and it was not long before the younger of the late King Draven’s sons was seen bedecked in purple and gold at Grayne’s side. If this bothers Grayne’s own offspring, Nave, at all, then she does not show it and friends and enemies alike will point to his daughter as the Kingmakers one true weakness. After all, if she had married Aiden as was surely expected to continue the ties between the two great houses, then the Kingmaker would have been able to maintain his position as advisor to a second King, and the skirmishes breaking out between the armies of the two Houses might not have occurred.

Though frequently tied together by marriage and with a long history of at least uneasy alliance, Khra and Hellesburne have little in common on a cultural level. In the thousand years since the Eastermen first made the perilous journey West, the house of Khra has seen itself as progressive and ever evolving, whilst viewing their neighbours as having retained much of the lifestyle and ways of the Eastermen. Wealth, the earning of it and the display of it is at the heart of every Khra household. Occasions such as the annual Great Hunt and the coming of age Feasts of Khra men are marked with hugely extravagant displays of wealth, the latter rumoured by the other houses to be more closely resemble an orgy. Though, of course, no member of any other house has ever attended Khra coming of age Feast, or at least no one of any standing.

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Khra children are schooled from a young age, with an emphasis placed on mathematics, geography and languages. A Khra child can speak fluently all the known tongues and some which have not been heard on Rosodtir for hundreds of years. The vast majority of Khra men go into trade, with the less able making up the crews of Khra’s mighty trade fleet or other roles relating to the storage or transportation of the plethora of goods Khra trades between the rest of the world and Rosodtir. Khra women, though also schooled in the basics of trade, business and administration more often than not end up being married as a part of a business arrangement to consolidate the interests of two families. That said, it is far more common on Khra to find a woman running a business or working as a trader than in most other corners of Rosodtir outside of Winnover. No Khra father would wish to see his business fail, or suspect that it would go in to do so after he died, and so in sonless families it is frequently the case that businesses are passed on to daughters rather than coming under the control of a husband. Under the rule of the current Lord Chancellor this has become increasingly acceptable, and in the highest echelons of Khra society it is now highly fashionable for fathers to gently bemoan their daughter’s fiery temperament and desire for independence even whilst actively encouraging it behind closed doors. This is thanks to the Lady Nave who and appears to be the only person in the realm save the Lord Chancellor himself who is able to do exactly as she wishes at any given time.

Talent and merit are rewarded in Khra, with Knighthoods and Chancellorships considered of equal stature and both given out bi – annually by the Lord Chancellor – itself a position which is technically appointed by an assemblage of peers but has never been bestowed upon any other than a direct member of the Khra family.

The family itself, as large and sprawling as it is, makes up only a tiny proportion of the population of the district of Khra, but all who live there under the rule of the Lord Chancellor consider themselves to be Khra, and more often than not are descended at some point from an offshoot of the family. To be Khra and to hold another family name is considered the norm to those who do so, though in reality direct family members are given social deference.

Warfare in Khra is considered simultaneously a lowly and a noble pursuit. That is to say that whilst professional soldiers of the lower ranks are looked down upon (presumed to have failed in their education or business) every Lord or gentleman is morally, socially and legally obligated to lift their Spear in the defence of the realm. Hunting and jousting are popular, as befits a House who specialise on the Spear and other long weapons. The Black Halberdiers – Khra’s most revered military unit, is made up entirely of young Knights and Lords who come from rich and noble families but who are, through no fault of their own but rather by dint of birth, unlikely to inherit an important role in the family business or marry advantageously. These young Knights are more often than not sent to train as a Black Halberdier at a young age if there are already several brothers in the family.

Though once unheard of it grows increasingly common, or perhaps increasingly acceptable for other young Lords and Ladies with time on their hands to train in the art of warfare or to seek adventure. The advantage in having such men and women aboard trade fleets soon became clear, but once again it is at the feet of the Lady Nave that acceptability stems. Having captured, rather than killed, the greatest Stag at the Great Hunt as a young teen, she now leads a small unit of mounted female warriors who have won the same competition since.

As no word can be said against Nave or her behaviour, so others both male and female follow her example. Many young women each year, fearful of the reprimands of their families, flee and sneak into Winnover, where they are either welcomed as equals or slaughtered and their bodies used as targets for the young to practice their archery against, depending on who you believe. The latter story is less frequently believed since it is widely reported that Nave has allies and “close friends” in Winnover, and travels there and back freely.

With the Crown Shattered, house Khra is confident that with its money, influence and power behind him, not to mention the political nous of the Kingmaker, King Aethor will unite Rosodtir once again, and the colours of Khra will fly above Helles as they do above Khurilla. Though a war would be damaging to the treasury, if one cannot be avoided, it will be fought by well-armed and armoured Knights, who know the true value of that which they protect.

Grayne “The Kingmaker” Khra

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Grayne Khra was born to be a footnote in the history of the Khra family. He was raised, along with his younger sister, Andrya, by their mother alone after their father – a distant cousin of the great and good and with no direct lineage to any former Lord Chancellor – was killed whilst training to become a Black Halberdier. Grayne and Andrya were, quite literally, the poor relations of the Khra family, and were raised far from the bustle and excess of the counties glamourous capital Khurilla, in a fishing village 50 miles from the port of Key. It was in Key that Grayne would, eventually, be educated and as such he is the first Lord Chancellor in recorded history not to have been schooled in Khurilla. This was not until he had endured the early years of his life in quiet remoteness, though it was there that Grayne learned what he considers the lessons he used to achieve later greatness. It was in the lowly fishing village that Grayne would gather the smaller shellfish and octopus legs discarded by the fisherman and left on the docks for the seagulls, and take them home to his mother and sister. There they would make stew, and as there was always more than they needed, Grayne’s mother would take what was left and sell it in the nearest Inn. It brought little money, but it allowed them to survive. One day on a trip to Key, the young Grayne escaped his mother in the crowded streets. Drawn by exotic and exciting smells to a restaurant, Grayne found himself a seemingly invisible voyeur (both because of his height and status looking in upon the lives of wealthy visitors from Kir). Fifteen minutes of observation was all Grayne needed to formulate not just an opinion of the rich and well to do but a strategy that would set him on his way to becoming the most powerful man in Khra – some would say in the whole of Rosodtir. The next time Grayne visited Kir, he dressed in the best clothes he could borrow and sold pies. They were beautifully decorated with hand glazed pastry depictions of fish and shellfish. They contained nothing more than the same discarded pieces of sea food which the fishermen knew they couldn’t sell, and a hew herbs foraged by Andrya. Grayne returned home with more money that day than his mother had earned in the past month.

Grayne has become as wealthy as he is not by frugality, necessarily, but by knowing the value of things – whether they be pies, swords or men. He is famed as a judge of character and being able to read a truth of lie on a man’s brow. This skill saw him hugely successful in business, to the point where he was invited into the Chancellery at the previously unheard of young age of 25. This success did not go unnoticed amongst the Ladies of the Khra Court, and Grayne was soon having eyelashes fluttered and fans lowered at him from every direction. But Grayne, naturally, knew the value of those who would marry him for his status or power, and instead married his childhood neighbour, a woman slightly his senior who had frequently cared for Andrya when they were all children. Grayne knew that she would be a suitable mother to his off-spring, those who would continue to lead the house Khra in the manner in which he planned on heading it when he was made Lord Chancellor. To Grayne, the appointment was not an ambition so much as the only logical choice for the House. For too long Khra had been allowed to rest on their laurels, and too much of their wealth was wasted on splendour which added no value. In some regions of the county, hardly a penny of tax made it from the peasants, who were certainly paying it, into the central coffers of Khurilla. Grayne would usher in a new era of reasoned reform. Before this, he was married. The wedding was quiet and private, and the wedding breakfast consisted of the same pies Grayne and Andrya had made as children. Grayne continued to work hard at the Chancellery, and continued to be noticed by his seniors. He spoke little of his home or private life.

Grayne Khra was made Lord Chancellor at the age of 32, but his appointment brought him little joy, for it came just weeks after his wife passed away during the birth of their daughter, Nave.

Grayne had always been a serious man, but in the months and years that followed he became increasingly cold in public. He arranged the marriage of Andrya to Draven Hellesburne V, the King, against all her protestations that he was a drunk and a womaniser. He set about his reforms with sometimes brutal efficiency. He set the Black Halberdiers to overseeing the taxing of the countryside, and he hung dozens of corrupt officials. When an attempt was made on his life in the middle of the night, he fended off the attacker himself, slaying them with an ornamental letter opener, having been awoken by the dogs in the Court yard. Grayne assumed that his own Guard must have been bribed to stay asleep. The following day, he sacked them all, and ever since has been accompanied not by any guards, but by several hounds. Grayne is said to trust no man, but to put his faith only in beasts that have no need of coin.

Grayne’s armour like exterior does have one chink, as some have begun to notice over the last decade or so: his daughter Nave. Following her mother’s death, it appeared to the outside world that Grayne had lost any ability he may have had to love. Now, some whisper in the Court, it appear this was anything but the case, and that Grayne must have truly loved Nave’s mother, and was overcome with grief. Yet he was anything but loveless. Behind closed doors, they say, he has always adored his daughter, and held her first in his priorities, showering her in affection. Now that Nave is a grown woman, her indiscretions and challenges, and his willingness to indulge her, have becoming increasingly public.

If any took this as a sign of personal weakness, however, they were mistaken. Following Draven’s death, Grayne was quick to pledge financial support to Aiden to build an army in preparation to any challenge to the throne which may have come from the other Houses. Aiden was not only Grayne’s nephew and support for the families advantageous to the Khra family personally, but maintaining a status quo was more beneficial to Khra’s trade than a costly ongoing war. Only months later, Grayne not only withdrew is support to Aiden but as good as declared was himself, by pledging his, and his houses, allegiance to Aiden’s younger brother Aethor. Aiden had shown an arrogant disregard for Khra’s wealth and generosity, in Grayne’s view, and worse still, had not achieved value for money in that which he had spent.

This was unforgivable to Grayne, and he pledged all of Khra’s wealth and might to King Aethor’s claim to the throne…a claim which some say he made at Grayne’s insistence. Although none could doubt that Aiden has done much to garner Grayne’s disapproval, and the chance in allegiance of Khra seems not only predictable, but right and just, some also point out that it also seems somewhat convenient. After all, has Aethor not always been much closer to his mother and her brother, his uncle Grayne? Had Aethor not always spent as much time in Khra as in Hellesburne, had he not found a love of jousting and an appreciation of commerce far more in keeping with the ways of his mother’s house than the drunken single combat and physical strength-above-all favoured by his father’s? It is often repeated that King Draven favoured his first born son and neglected Aethor, leading to him summering in Khra during his youth and that, if Grayne was capable of such things, he had a soft spot for his younger nephew:

“He will make a fine King, perhaps this is what comes when born into the role, as Aethor surely was, the recorders being quite clear that Aiden was conceived out of wedlock and as such cursed for my dear sister and her sadly departed husband’s unbridled passion. Aethor has a keen mind and an understanding of the way the world works which his brother sadly lacks.”

It is also remarked on occasion, that despite half-hearted efforts made by Grayne to arrange the betrothal of his daughter Nave to her cousin Aiden, she too has always appeared to, if not get on with than at least, suffer Aethor.

Could a bid for the throne have been in The Kingmaker’s eyes as long ago as the breakdown in the relationship between Aethor and his father? Or even earlier, when the second son was born? Or before that even still, when Grayne arranged Andrya and Draven’s marriage?

Who can say? Certainly Grayne is not. But it is certain that he has never shied away from being called Kingmaker.

King Aethor “The Spiteful” Hellesburne-Khra

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Aethor was four years old when he decided to take the life of his older brother, along with the Crown that would one day sit upon his head.

It was the day his elder sibling, Aiden, was carried through the streets of Hellesburne on the shoulder of his father and with a hundred legendary warriors at his side. The look of pride in his father’s face that day which had previously been reserved just for him, set Aethor on the path that would lead him to be known as “the spiteful”.

In his youth Aethor seemed to become increasingly shy. He frequently did not attend family or royal functions or take part enthusiastically in Hellesburne traditions such as the Feast of Blades. Aethor was bookish, and it was quietly rumoured that he frequently declined to drink alcohol. If his father noticed, he never said a word, but from the day of Aiden’s coming of age, King Draven seemed to notice very little his second son ever did.

By his teens the “bookish” Aethor was showing some flair in the ways of words and numbers. Words he used to put down and mock his older brother, or even occasionally his father and King, often safe from any repercussions due to them not understanding exactly what it was he had said. His talent for numbers, naturally, did not escape the attention of his uncle, Grayne, who ensured that Aethor’s mind was nurtured in Khurilla as often as possible, and not “wasted” in the bars and brothels of Helles.

It was in Khurilla that Aethor learned of the death of his father, and it was in Khurilla that Aethor remained until, nearly a year after the death of their father, Aethor stood outside the Chancellery in Khurilla, and was declared the rightful King of Rosodtir.

Princess Nave and the tradition of the Stag Riders

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All the great houses used to hunt deer, both for food and for the thrill of the hunt. The merchant lords of Khra made vast sums both exporting venison and importing spices, including the preservatives and drying techniques the Eastermen developed to preserve meat through their long winters. The first great hunt of the year became a festival in Khra, and the young Lords of the house would compete to kill the greatest and proudest stag, with the largest and most fearsome antlers. Women were not so much banned from taking part as assumes not to be interested until Princess Nave (the Kingmakers headstrong daughter) insisted on riding out one day – spiked coronet on her head, and striking newly forged armour which set the tongue of the court wagging, as was no doubt her intention. Lined up alongside the Lords and Princes of Khra with her traditional longspear in hand, not a soul spoke up to say Nave couldn’t compete, and naturally the male competitors all sort to impress not just the King and his uncle, the Kingmaker, but the princess herself. Legend has it that the mighty stag gored her horse to death in an instant, and sent Naves longspear flying with a flick of his antlers. Knowing she had been bested, Nave knelt before the stag and apologised. She praised his bravery and swore she would never allow him to be hunted. The stag also knelt, and Nave kept her promise by riding him back to the waiting court. As she rode back, Lords rode up to her to mock or remonstrate, and Nave demonstrated for the first time the effectiveness of the stag as an anti-cavalry mount, and the longspear at dislodging riders. Nave was declared the winner of the competition, which ever since has not only been to CATCH the greatest stag, but has never again been won by a man.

The Black Halberdiers

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The Black Halberdiers are Khra’s elite fighting unit, in every sense of the word. Most of their number are Knights or even Lords, though some are simply less academically minded than other Clan members. The Halberdiers see themselves as apart, or even above, the rest of Khra society, and look disdainfully upon the wealthy merchants who fail to realise that without them, there would be no safe trade routes.

The Halberdiers are well armoured and well trained. Though much of their duty is to protect and defend, there are sufficient numbers of Black Halberdiers that typically only a small number of them would ever be deployed for such purposes, whilst all others spend every hour available training with their Halberds. And train they must, for their arms and armour are incredibly expensive – designed to distract and intimidate their enemies – and are worth far more than the life of the man who carries them. A Black Halberdier would never return to their base without their Halberd: they would rather die.

Azael, a slave reborn a hero in the glory of Khra!

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Azael is not only not a member of the House of Khra in any but an honorary sense, but he was not even born within their realm, or even in Rosdotir itself. Azael came to the shores once united under a single crown as a slave, little more than a child. He showed great spirit and agility, and was soon put to fight in gladiatorial contests by his masters. Azael learned very quickly that to please a crowd in Khra, you fought with a spear, and you wore purple and gold. The spear Azael had no problem with, winning many early contests through his expert use of it combined with a prowess at upending his enemies with his feet, and other forms of almost acrobatic fighting not known elsewhere on Rosodtir. Although he adapted the weapon to fit a style of combat he had learned alongside walking, he ensured it remained essentially recognisable as a Khra spear. To some observers it may have seemed strange that the young Azael was also willing to wear the colours of Khra – did he have no memory or simply no pride in his origins? To the house of Khra itself, this was no mystery at all, who would not want to wear the colours of the greatest of all Houses? It was only natural for a great warrior to do so. But Azael’s loyalty and respect for Khra, both of which are genuine and run deep, are rooted in a fact he learned just before he took to the gladiatorial arena as a slave warrior for the first time. In Khra you can win your freedom. Unbeknownst to any (for who would care) Azael had already been bought and sold as a slave many times before he came to the arena in Khurilla, and had suffered many kinds of abuse and maltreatment. In Khra, though a slave, he could he win adulation and, eventually, even status. This task he set about with his entire being and so it was that after many years in the arena, fighting in purple and gold, the Kingmaker’s daughter granted Azael not only his freedom, but his wish to serve in the Houses’ military.

Burmund, Mage

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Like most mages, and certainly all Khra mages, Burmund was trained in the ways of Magic on Fey’s Isle after he showed aptitude for magic as a small child. He was sent to the college of magic when little more than 4 years old and remained there until his late teens. On Fey’s Isle, Burmund was taught the ways of Air, Earth, Wind and Water magic, and excelled particularly at Water, though he showed the rare talent of being able to manage spells of all four books.

Having passed the basic mastery exams of the four books, Burmund was approached by one of the senior mages at the college. A man Burmund had always held in high regard, he, like all the other senior mages, had taught Burmund and his fellow students for many years that there was no fifth book and the rumours of its existence were dark fairy tales, and nothing more. But this day the mage told Burmund otherwise, and bade him to join a secret order of dark mages that dared utter spells from the fifth book.

Burmund fled. He returned to Khurilla where he serves Grayne and The Black Halberdiers, living in a perpetual state of fear. For Burmund knows that to turn down membership of the order is to sign a warrant for one’s own death, and as such he has ever since been focussed on the protective elements of Water magic. He knows one day, the dark order will leave Fey’s Isle and seek him out, along with any others who refused him, and Burmund knows more than most others, that no living army can stop them.