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SKORNE EMPIRE PDF

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Halaak grew in size and importance for hundreds of years. The skorne who most successfully endured this period of hardship took to the shelter of the Shroudwall Mountains. Permanent settlements allowed mortitheurges to engage in precise study and allowed extollers to hone their spiritual arts. As the skorne grew into an agricultural society. Unleashing forces powerful enough to split Caen in two.

Most skorne mystics. These highly skilled specialists quickly gained special stature as distinct sub-castes. It took years for the region to fully recover from the eruption. Makeda slew her brother in a duel. Vinter made his challenge clear to the leaders of these villages.

The centuries following the War of the Exalted saw no largescale wars among the skorne. Houses from Kalvat contested this claim. For two decades. Forced to defend their honor by the hoksune code. The widespread adoption of this weapon finally elevated the Venator discipline to its current position in skorne culture. The Lushon dominar attempted to capitalize on the invention and create an edge over his rivals by producing a secret arsenal of reivers.

Over the next decade. This gas was treated as a scientific curiosity for nearly thirty years. Modern Skorne Language The skorne dialect known as Havaati. His martial skill so impressed the warriors of these villages that many began to believe that Vinter was some sort of blood-mad messiah.

Warriors who had previously been relegated to the operation of siege engines or limited use as slingers could now take a greater part in house wars and hope to win the honor of exaltation.

His rule outlasted any other archdominar on record. The war ended in a massive six-way battle at a site now called the Graves of the Exalted. Dominar Helzar and his house were utterly crushed. One of the last great warlords during this period was Archdominar Vaactash of House Balaash.

A small group of skorne chymists created a highly volatile gas they named venhokar. It was clear to all that a force of change had arrived.

Vaactash eventually died and was succeeded by his grandson Akkad. Dominar Helzar. To preserve his house. Communities for miles around the mountain were obliterated. The Skorne Empire and were thereafter vilified and exiled from their abandoned city. The eruption unbalanced the already-harsh environment and caused a famine that killed thousands in the years following. Through slaughter and careful politics he carved out a large territory north of Halaak. Vinter went from one village to the next.

War of the Exalted The next few centuries following the wars of the Hezaat were relatively peaceful. Mortitheurges kept the victim alive until his body literally fell apart.

The triumphant houses of Halaak enslaved the region and compelled the elder houses of Kademe to sign humiliating promises of reparations and ongoing tribute. Though he did not know their language. Vinter soon learned the language of the skorne and found their warrior traditions suited him. Halaak was far enough from the mountain to escape the initial explosion.

This work codified many aspects of the language and grammar utilized by literate skorne. In an attempt to record a definitive account of the events. More great warriors received exaltation in this battle than in any previous conflict. This battle. He appointed leaders to govern the tors and ensure that subordinate houses contributed to an army of conquest.

Vinter also used his experience governing a nation to reorganize some aspects of skorne society. Less than a decade after he arrived in eastern Immoren.

As soon as Vinter had the Skorne Empire under control. Late in the year. Without reinforcements. His greatest achievement was creating a military system that remained true to ancient skorne traditions and preserved their philosophies while supporting the logistics of assembling hundreds of thousands of warriors into a single army.

Three years after the First Unification began. Soon after that. Vinter made a special effort to capture these rebellious dominars. Makeda was the first to speak of Vinter Raelthorne as the Reborn. Makeda surrendered and offered her service to the Conqueror.

These structures allowed large armies of skorne to be mustered and trained at a central location and then cross the Abyss. In Halaak. Archdomina Makeda joined Vinter against the rebellious house lords. Vinter Raelthorne led a vanguard into the west to seize Corvis as a mustering point for the full invasion. In a ceremony in Halaak. Vinter faced one of the toughest battles of what became known as the First Unification when he crossed blades with Archdomina Makeda north of Halaak.

As further insult. Eventually overwhelmed. Vinter was driven from Corvis. Those who failed to escape his agents were forced to endure torment beyond imagination at the hands of his personal paingiver. Vinter spent the next few years consolidating his rule and rooting out subversive plots by houses seeking to regain independence.

Master Tormentor Morghoul. Upon his return to Halaak he was forced to begin another war against malcontent dominars—the Second Unification. Great warlords direct the course of skorne society. With the skorne once more under his control. Skorne society is strictly regimented. They have no knowledge of Urcaen. Their tribal culture relies upon the enslavement of defeated enemies and the use of beasts of labor. Though they were once fractured and divided.

The skorne are devotees of millennia-old philosophies that shaped a complex society with distinct concepts of honor.

The skorne do not acknowledge or revere gods but look instead to the great figures of their family lines and aspire to emulate those who have achieved greatness. The fate of Vinter after being deposed is unknown. Their culture developed apart from the forces that shaped the western nations. The skorne have been fundamentally shaped by tremendous destruction and suffering.

Had the Lyossans not plunged the world into fire. The caste system exists even among tribal nomads living beyond the borders. Slaves and soldiers moved rapidly west to construct a supply chain of fortresses and waypoints beyond the Abyss. Their long history of struggling for survival and internecine warfare amid a desolate environment forged them into remarkable warriors who draw on a powerful and dark mystical tradition that taps into the very power of flesh and death.

Over thousands of years spent thriving despite misfortune and learning to strengthen themselves through privation. While planning attacks upon Cygnaran fortifications. Such a legacy is the closest most skorne can come to immortality. For the skorne. Vinter Raelthorne moved his seat to the Abyssal Fortress and initiated reforms requiring all houses to contribute soldiers to the Army of the Western Reaches.

All skorne dwelling within the empire know their place in society. Vinter granted her the dominion of the western empire and tasked her with leading the army he sent to conquer the west. From humble nomadic roots. A tyrant or dominar who leads a house has complete power over its members and can do what he pleases.

Dark Gifts The skorne are an inherently gifted race and take easily to the study of the arcane arts. A house may employ individuals that are not technically members of the house. The existence of castes predates the transition from nomadic to urban culture after the construction of Malphas.

Members of houses that are defeated can still be enslaved by the victors. Caste represents a social force rather than chain of command. Skorne Houses The largest and most established skorne tribes coalesced into houses thousands of years ago. Even Cases of extreme insult can throw entire houses into war. Below the tyrant are senior military officers. The great houses of the skorne are dominated by powerful tyrants and dominars who have mastered the arts of mortitheurgy and are able to command their subjects in life and in death.

Sizable houses boast shrines to their great ancestors and the exalted members of their bloodlines. It was quite common for house members outside the warrior caste to endure these conflicts with little loss of life. A tyrant will designate a chosen heir. Many houses were founded hundreds. Now that it is the Imperial House. All skorne are born as members of a specific house or into its service. In addition to the extollers who are so vital in preserving the exalted from the Void. Membership in a house can be abandoned by those entering into certain mystical traditions—a step not taken lightly.

Each knows his exact place among his peers. The caste system only indirectly affects governance. Two house lords. These assets included not only wealth and resources but also the members of the defeated house.

Lowest of all are the slaves. These compounds can be truly enormous in the case of the wealthiest houses. The destruction caused by most of these wars was limited by the desire of each side to seize the lands and assets of the other.

As houses fell in the wars of unification over the past few decades. These house armies laid the foundation for the modern cohorts. The imposition of centralized rule has not changed this fundamental aspect of skorne society. Killing another skorne over insults remains perfectly acceptable behavior.

Urban living greatly accelerated these caste divisions. Today a distinct difference exists between these groups within the larger warrior caste. Conflicts tend to be smaller in scale and ritually formalized since the imposition of empire. Even small groups of skorne who live in nomadic groups maintain a similar structure.

The pious spend time in meditation at these sacral-stone shrines. Since the wars of unification. The nature of skorne society traditionally made it difficult for groups to work together effectively across house divides.

House Balaash holds a vast store of seized sacral stones from previous conquests. Before the founding of the Skorne Empire. Castes Caste means everything to the skorne. Failing to practice proper caste conventions and show proper respect can provoke the insulted skorne to bloodshed. The skorne are organized into three basic caste categories: Each of these categories encompasses additional layers added over the millennia.

His warrior standing takes precedence over his occult studies to determine caste standing. Among house armies in the east where workers and slaves are more numerous. The emergence of Vinter Raelthorne forced adjustments in thinking by adding a layer of hierarchy to which the skorne are still adapting. Lord Tyrant Hexeris of House Kurshon acts as both a cohort leader and a master mortitheurge. This fatalistic outlook is a potent weapon: Soldiers of the Skorne Empire seek neither comfort nor recreation and can be pushed to incredible lengths in the pursuit of victory.

Both technically fall within the worker caste. These rites typically have deleterious consequences on affected souls but rarely impact morale. This situation commonly arises among occultists and other intellectuals who also fight on the battlefield. A Hestatian serving his liege as a weaponsmith remains a Hestatian. Lords of active fighting houses command far greater prestige than their inactive peers. Each warrior discipline has its own pride of place and values its distinct fighting style and discipline.

A skorne with very specialized skills may perform two roles without loss of status. This situation changes considerably when lower-caste support is minimal. Though all warriors in the skorne armies are members of the warrior caste.

A lowly soldier of an enemy house cannot voice an insult to an enemy house lord. The Warrior Caste Every skorne is keenly aware of the position of his caste and his level of prominence.

Every skorne knows that torment and annihilation await them in the afterlife and their only hope of escaping this fate is to embrace death through the pursuit of battlefield glory. They must contribute their efforts to the construction of new settlements and fortifications as well as the upkeep required to house and feed the army. It is acceptable for older house lords to dabble in other areas of power. A slave can be elevated beyond his birth caste through the intercession of his lord.

Soldiers in the field must be more flexible. Desertion from a cohort is nearly unheard of. When a skorne gives up his weapons. Such skorne can become members of the worker caste. In fact. Some few raise themselves at the onset of adulthood through a demonstration of combat prowess or other exceptional skills. Whereas soldiers of other races fight for victory.

Skorne commanders subject their troops to the magic of mortitheurgy to enhance their vitality in combat and to bolster their endurance on long marches across harsh environs. The amount of this work a warrior might perform without loss of status comprises one of the indeterminate subtleties of skorne caste interaction. If a warrior also happens to be a weaponsmith. The Skorne Empire enemies of lower caste owe them respect. Because of the size of the warrior caste.

A lord always ranks among the warrior caste regardless of his fighting skill or actual presence on the battlefield. A house lord poses the one exception to this general attitude. Some old or crippled warriors instead venture one last time into the wilds with a weapon readied. While sometimes inflexible.

There are acceptable and unacceptable ways to go 14 about this: More often the offspring of an enslaved generation have the opportunity to rise to the worker or warrior castes. Rising above the slave caste is especially difficult—usually impossible within a single lifespan. During the formative centuries of the first skorne cities the warrior caste divided itself by discipline and fighting style.

Southern Hills. Master Tormentor. Desert Supply Fort Garrisons Armies of the Tors s Each ruling house maintain a small army to protect its must but s borders and interest portion contribute a significant of of its soldiers to the Army the Western Reaches. Datha are small squads of Each led by a dakar Kurshon Keep. Titan Pens. Their betters view the Venator tradition with disdain because a focus on ranged warfare distances a warrior from his enemy at the time of death.

Even warriors that excel as Praetorians might not be able to qualify as Cataphracts. Many devoted adepts of the hoksune code are found among the Cataphracts.

The best they can hope for is to become revered companions see p. Only the largest and most physically powerful skorne warriors can become Cataphracts.

Individual industry and craft concerns sometimes organize themselves into local collectives loosely comparable to trade guilds in western Immoren. Since the formation of the empire houses still handle many of these vital matters internally.

Prior to their unification as part of an empire. The Worker Caste The worker caste is responsible for trade.

The worker caste is arguably the broadest and most diverse caste. There exist several organizations within this caste that function outside the normal house structure so intrinsic to skorne society. Their modern armaments require significant skill and training. Trained to endure extreme privation and the most 16 inhospitable of environments. Beneath the sabaoth are cohorts commanded by subordinate tyrants and lord tyrants.

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The workers within a house would arrange trades with allied houses for commodities they could not produce. In centuries past Venators fought with javelins. Their training emphasizes close-quarters fighting utilizing a variety of traditional weapons intended for distinct roles on the battlefield. Armies of the Skorne Empire Before the military was reformed. Despite the essential duties performed by workers. Warrior Disciplines Praetorians are the backbone of virtually all skorne armies.

Their tactical usefulness has led to a grudging respect for their discipline. Among the Hestatians. Often the only chance a Hestatian has for glory is if his house is completely overrun.

Many of the most honored exalted were Cataphracts in life. A longstanding rivalry exists between the Praetorians and Cataphracts as to which of their disciplines holds most true to the hoksune code. The nature of skorne society makes it difficult for specialized groups to effectively handle some of these tasks across house divides. Hestatians are still warriors.

Members of this caste are often respected proportionately to how directly their work impacts the needs of the warrior caste. These include the pikes and shields employed by the defensive karax.

An army protects each tor. Praetorians believe they most closely represent the ideals of Vuxoris with their emphasis on first strikes. Each house is essentially self-sufficient. Sabaoths are divisions of these armies. They are expected to hold the most dangerous positions in battle and revel in opportunities for glorious death.

In practice. Dedicated mystics among the skorne fall into this caste. Those warriors who fail to be recognized as Praetorians become members of the Hestatians. The Skorne Empire eventually narrowing to the three fundamental modern military disciplines: This bias has slowed the development of skorne civilization.

For generations learning was passed down from master to pupil within the traditions that eventually became chymistry and chirurgery. Certain administrators and laborers are tasked with the smooth operation of large and far-reaching projects that may involve multiple tors.

They frequently recruit young house warriors as escorts for long voyages. The Bonded Porters suffer some inevitable corruption. They called themselves the Corpusulem. As it grew. In most regions.

Their purview also includes the major roads and shipping along the Hezaat River and Mirketh Lake. A well-maintained infrastructure. They allow the empire to exploit the resources of its various regions without inciting large house wars over these resources.

When sent to join. Some decide to continue with the Porters and may eventually take on administrative tasks. Such skorne usually choose to remain in service to the Bonded Porters far beyond the initial two-year membership.

More than once a house has developed a significant invention or engineering method in isolation. Over the century following its founding the group added mortitheurges to its ranks. Members of this caste can now rise to a degree of responsibility and influence never before seen in skorne society. Interfering with the Bonded Porters constitutes an attack on the servants of the Supreme Archdomina and her archdominars and always results in deadly reprisal.

While working. The Porters tolerate no infighting or dueling and execute violators. A small circle of scholarly chirurgeons and mortitheurges in Malphas and Halaak reorganized the ideas of the original founders. No skorne may speak of his house or family while serving among the Bonded Porters. The ongoing war effort in the west has made the efforts of the Bonded Porters increasingly critical. This persecution did not completely destroy the group or prevent it from contributing to skorne society.

Warriors stationed among the Bonded Porters are most often considered Hestatians. To prevent supply delays or interception. House leaders gather up leaders of these collectives who overreach their bounds and submit them to paingivers for torture or execution.

It may be some time yet before these collectives can readily share information and resources. The Corpusulem The Skorne Empire has no organized educational system. Criminals and escaped slaves can avoid punishment by choosing service among the Bonded Porters.

The Bonded Porters deliver food. This lack of common learning was reinforced by the rivalries of the houses and the disdain of the dominant warrior caste of anything that did not relate directly to martial prowess. Some embrace this chance for danger and to prove their worth in distant places. After two years of service among the Porters. The Bonded Porters Vinter Raelthorne instituted the Bonded Porters when he experienced the difficulty of ensuring the smooth operations of supply lines for essential materials when constructing the Abyssal Fortress.

Though not soldiers. This organization supervises caravans carrying goods from one major city to another across the empire and provides a supply chain through the Abyssal Fortress and the skorne forts across the Bloodstone Desert to reach the Army of the Western Reaches. The Bonded Porters operate along the lines of a military organization. This change has had a significant impact on members of the worker caste.

The group intended to create a systematic methodology for compiling results of surgeries and experiments as well as recipes for poultices and salves. At the same time. Through the application of pain and terror. Even before the creation of the Skorne Empire it was common for extollers of different houses to communicate with one another. Many refinements to skorne chymistry.

In urban areas. Extollers Extollers occupy the highest rung within the worker caste. Interrogation by torture is hardly unique to the skorne. The Corpusulem keeps its central archive and headquarters well protected and secured in Malphas. Paingivers believe truth lies in suffering. A subordinate may be tortured by his superiors after failing at a critical task and then return to his duties afterward. In addition to a thorough knowledge of anatomy. Many exalted. Extollers occupy a variety of roles.

The most talented of extollers can persuade ancestors to accompany their descendants into battle and draw on their power to protect and assist living soldiers.

They find the application of pain a science as valid as engineering or arcane ritual. Housed in carefully crafted vessels. Skorne wishing to seek the guidance of their forebears must rely on extollers to serve as a bridge between the world of the living and the wisdom of the dead. House leaders rely on their extollers beyond the battlefield as well.

Their ability to shape behavior through the application of pain affords them tremendous influence over creatures of weaker wills or simpler minds. Chirurgeons study these subjects to treat injury or prevent death by grievous wounds.

At one time. As interrogators. The organization also must periodically hide its membership and operate as a secret society to avoid destruction at the hands of paranoid house lords.

Skorne do not view torture in the same way as westerners. Those who join an army in battle are respected the most. These ancestral guardians are potent warriors and can act as receptacles for the spirits of skorne who perish near them.

In rural areas. The paingiver caste is a manifestation of skorne philosophy. This function combined with the fact that they are the guardians of exaltation means even the most arrogant of warriors will think twice before insulting an extoller. Though cabals within the fellowship are sometimes at odds. Paingivers never recruit those they do not believe can rise above the caste of their birth. These tribulations led to members forming pacts that transcend loyalty to any particular house. Paingivers Paingivers are also referred to as their own caste.

They are highly educated and supremely skilled specialists in an ancient practice. They can tame any living thing by crushing its spirit and forcing obedience. Communicating with venerable ancestral spirits is a difficult process expedited by the work of an extoller. Recruits endure grueling physical and academic training designed to discipline and strengthen body and mind.

Communication between these branches is slow. Paingivers often arise from the lower castes since their discipline requires initiates to forego all house affiliations. The mere appearance of an extoller can raise troop morale. Extollers remain members of their house. Their practices grow from an ancient ascetic philosophy that encourages the mortification of the flesh and pushing the body past its limits. They must completely embrace the deeper philosophies of the great ancestor Morkaash before completing their initiation.

Paingivers occupy a unique niche between the warrior and worker castes. These extollers often dwell in chambers adjacent to the house shrine 18 and are expected to serve as intermediaries for their lords at all times of day and night. Through their highly selective process. The Skorne Empire This venerable archive and scholarly fellowship has endured nearly a thousand years.

Usually they first select one of the great ancients whose legend all skorne know and who embodies the virtues of their caste. Different schools of philosophy center around the legends of specific skorne ancestors. Paingivers now serve as an extended intelligence network and enforcement arm of the Skorne Empire. Fallen houses are absorbed and annihilated while the victorious preserve and extend their legacy. Skorne demonstrate veneration in several ways.

The decrease in inter-house warfare since unification has reduced the availability of new slaves. Paingivers might be utilized as spies to gather information.

Slaves occupy the lowest rung of skorne society. Slave Caste To outsiders the skorne may seem cruel. In the west it is a loathed practice. The rise of Supreme Archdomina Makeda also came with the elevation of Morghoul to lord assassin. A skorne may venerate multiple ancestors. As in the west. They do not refute the possibility that a god may have had a hand in their creation.

In many cases the conquered generation remains enslaved until death. Competing master tormentors might vie for the respect of their peers. When war breaks out between skorne houses. In the far-flung corners of the empire. Skorne have no equivalent They consider the institution perfectly natural. One facet of this cultural bias is the skorne approach to slavery.

The number of slaves a house maintains directly represents its wealth and degree of influence. Those who possess the core sacral stone of such a revered ancestor.

Some paingivers establish a reputation for their singular interrogation techniques. The skorne have a very different depiction of the afterlife than any religion of western Immoren.

Some skorne rarely think of the ancestors. Historically the scattered paingivers across skorne territories were only loosely connected and affiliated. They pass down no creation myth. Skorne accept that gods may exist. Myriad cults are dedicated to specific ancestors.

Nonetheless most paingivers respect him and fear his wrath. Some remain exclusive to a single family or bloodline. Though lower in standing than free workers. Their religion comprises a sophisticated form of ancestor worship that does not venerate any god or pantheon of gods. Skorne philosophers take pride in having freed themselves from the divine and refuse to acknowledge a creator. The strongest and most organized senior paingivers who stood in opposition to the unification have disappeared.

Independent and freed from normal house duties. Skorne ancestor worship focuses on those great individuals whose deeds are immortalized in legend.

Morghoul has begun to work toward creating closer ties and a greater sense of shared purpose among the paingivers. Paingivers tend to specialize in one these roles and rarely attempt to master all of them. Skorne Philosophy Outsiders mistakenly believe that the skorne have no religion. This autonomy places them in a unique position in skorne society as unaffiliated and highly specialized professionals that perform tasks in great demand.

The second. Some skorne inscribe ancestral names and symbols on weapons or armor. Once brought into the ranks of the paingivers. The distinctive mask worn by paingivers in public is a symbol of their faceless resolve and aloof isolation.

For skorne taken as slaves. A skorne earns preservation either by rising to greatness and being chosen by the extollers as exalted or by falling in battle near an ancestral guardian or an extoller who preserves his essence as an honored companion of the exalted see p. Together with Voskune. His philosophy underpins the nihilator cults that emulate his student. Despite inventing the process.

Even warriors acknowledge the accomplishments of Kexorus for his work in preserving the hoksune code in writing for the first time. After death. School of Voskune Voskune is the greatest remembered ancestor from the time before exaltation.

Philosophers of this school generate considerable material related to the connection between spirit and stone as demonstrated by the sacral crystallization process. His legends claim he spent weeks or even months forgoing food. As the first extoller. Ishoul and Kaleed form a trio of highly revered ancestors not exalted after their deaths. Morkaash attracted followers even in life. Kexorus invented skorne writing. The school includes mystical speculation regarding the nature of the Void and the importance of preserving the greatest skorne spirits from its hunger.

Morkaash has a similarly devoted following among certain educated skorne. School of Morkaash The first paingiver Morkaash learned to master the intricacies of anatomy and tested his limits for suffering twelve generations before the destruction of Lyoss. He sought to push his body past its breaking point and become the perfect hunter.

Only very rarely do extollers judge a scholar. A desire to gain glory and honor motivates most pious skorne. Sizable houses may boast shrines to all of the great ancestors in addition to shrines for notable members of their direct bloodline.

Every paingiver holds Morkaash as a revered ancestor regardless of bloodline. Most skorne have a pragmatic attitude toward this reality and consider it a simple fact of life. The Skorne Empire to Urcaen and believe that nothing positive awaits them after death. While their work derived from the genius of Voskune. Like Voskune before him. While any notable ancestor can gain a cult following. Most skorne subscribe to one or more philosophical schools associated with these individuals. Skorne do not gather for sermons or prayer.

The body of work produced by philosophers of this school includes extensive anatomical studies as well as esoteric meditations on achieving enlightenment through suffering. The studies of Morkaash furthered the skorne understanding of mortitheurgy and were fundamental in the creation of the first skorne warbeasts. Extollers entrusted with preserving house lore pay Kexorus respect alongside Ishoul and Kaleed. He used the carcasses of his kills as subjects for dissection and study to inform him of the workings of the flesh.

He became a master of the energies later named mortitheurgy. School of Ishoul and Kaleed These seminal extollers receive veneration as a pair. Extollers have the most interest in the philosophies of Ishoul and Kaleed that relate to the transience of the flesh and the immutable nature of the spirit. Some texts imply that ancients should risk madness as a kovaas instead of suffering the oblivion waiting in the Void.

The number of individuals thus preserved is small. He has a smaller but loyal following among hunters in fringe communities. Fundamental texts of this school describe a hierarchy of states of spiritual being. Members of the worker caste utter an aphorism as death approaches: This caste has the most reasonable expectation of earning preservation.

His principles inspired an offshoot school of thought responsible for the majority of skorne advances in chymistry and engineering. Only by preservation in a sacral stone can this fate be avoided.

Even the majority of extollers face the Void. Xaavaax the Flayed. His devotees consider his loss a fundamental tragedy underlying all life and study it to reduce the fear of facing the Void. Vuxoris practiced a heavily armored martial tradition considered a precursor to the Cataphracts. Vuxoris remains a paragon of the warrior caste emulated by all skorne who march to battle. By this standard.

Hoksune teaches that each warrior must welcome the approach of death to fight with enlightened perfection. Most shun followers of this belief. Students memorized and recited these chants continually until they internalized their logic in battle.

This affects the respective standings between different warrior castes. No other philosophy among the skorne has inspired so many varied texts over the millennia. Warriors who follow these beliefs work continually to improve their fighting prowess. Before the invention of the alphabet. Voskune began the work that Ishoul and Kaleed later completed and so holds singular importance for the extoller caste.

Vuxoris became the first ancestor exalted after death when Ishoul and Kaleed placed his spirit in the first sacral stone. A warrior becomes a mere shadow outside of combat.

School of Vuxoris and the Hoksune Code First and greatest of the warrior-philosophers. This regimented training preserved the code for sixteen centuries until Kexorus.

The risk of death is inseparable from true life. Vuxoris developed the hoksune warrior code that defined the principles still adhered to by skorne seeking honor and glory in battle.

His sacral stone has vanished and scholars believe it was destroyed. The truly pious memorize the entire code. Some among his widespread cult believe the sacral stone or its fragments might still exist and they seek any evidence of its survival.

All skorne know the legends of Voskune. Time spent in drills. Schisms of the cult have broken away. Skorne Ethnicities Skorne ethnicities hold trivial importance compared to caste and house. Heresies Most of skorne society adheres closely to the dictates of hoksune.

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The plentiful food and water in this area encourages larger families. The most common explanation for this anomaly claimed that an ancient sacral stone might have shattered without producing a kovass because the spirit within had the exceptional strength to remain sane. More obvious variance exists in dialect. The extollers said little on this topic. These groups display only subtle physical differences compared to the diversity seen among humans or even trollkin in the west. This does not necessarily translate to wealth by skorne reckoning and many of these houses lack esteem and station.

Often the heretics are stripped of their caste or given over to the paingivers. Vinter capitalized on these beliefs. While many house ancestors gave their clear support to Vinter. The Skorne Empire When Vinter began his conquest of the east. Kademesh remain the dominant. Despite this lingering stigma. No matter how well fed. Kademesh The largest ethnic group of the Skorne Empire.

Slave-gathering expeditions occur more rarely since the arrival of Vinter and the attack on the west. Houses seeking slave stock traditionally find excellent hunting in the southeast. They sent ancestral guardians into the west as a sign of their intention to preserve the great heroes among the Army of the Western Reaches.

The upper extollers of most houses consider revering Norvaak a heresy and the destruction of a sacral stone to manipulate a kovaas an expressly forbidden taboo. Each house has its own method of dealing with them when they arise. Some reflect minor events and draw adherents in small numbers. This term denotes the belief of many skorne that Vinter contained the spiritual essence of a great ancient ancestor.

That spirit then wandered for untold centuries until it finally found among the westerners a vessel worthy of housing it. The greatest heresies attract skorne throughout eastern Immoren and persist long after their leaders are brought low. Followers of Norvaak aspire to control kovaas spirits. Norvaak died as he released these spirits. These heresies draw upon the long history and beliefs of the skorne.

They acknowledged Vinter as a great warrior and tyrant but did not believe him to have a skorne essence. Cults rose around this belief. Many skorne worshiped Vinter as if he was already exalted. The deeds of Vinter became legendary among the skorne.

Some venerate Norvaak regardless and study his art as a natural extension of drawing on ancestral strength.

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Rumors persisted that the Conqueror sponsored those versed in these arts. Each of the following five groups contains myriad subcultures that display minor regional differences not listed here. The boasts of the Malzash have some historical merit. Kademe boasts a sizable fishing fleet. Thus the Kajar do not share the same great ancestors as other skorne.

Some Malzash houses remain among the rugged peaks of the Shroudwall Mountains. The Kajar never joined the community of Malphas and sheltered instead among caves in the Kajaras Mountains. Although little appreciated elsewhere. Kajar preserve distinct and privately venerated ancestral heroes. Upper-caste Kademesh particularly enjoy finding opportunities to humiliate Malzash and enlist them as servants whenever possible.

These skorne descend from southerners who survived the great cataclysm and its aftermath by virtue of living so far from the epicenter. Even the boldest Kademesh respect the powerful currents and sudden windstorms of the Shattered Spine Islands and rarely venture far from their home port. No one pays a Kajar much mind even though they are often seen far from home and busy on peculiar errands. Plated armor is the norm. The Malzash control more of the great houses than any other ethnic group.

Their efforts keep the empire connected but afford them little acclaim. Malzash The Malzash place special importance on their cultural background. Such skorne lords travel with impressive entourages of soldiers. Most speak Havaati fluently unless their profession keeps them isolated from the central empire. They display a diverse assortment of decorative embellishments for armor and clothing. The Kasortaan prove that hard work. All skorne place importance on tracing lineage.

Those warriors of humble background rarely rise above Hestatians but a few of proven skill aspire to become Praetorians and thereby earn greater honor for their descendants.

The Kasortaan have slowly put aside their nomadic roots. Whenever possible. Many noted trackers. Southeastern Kademesh have lilting accents and a preference for the regional Kadesh language. Kajar usually have smooth rather than scalloped skull ridges.

Kajar Most of the major ethnicities are separated by relatively inconsequential distinctions. The greatest Kasortaan house lords boast tremendous tracts of territory and uphold the old ways by continually patrolling their lands. Some reluctantly turned to farming. Kademesh of this region wear light armor. Many do not know proper Havaati. Some seek to better their station by providing services to higher houses or fighting in the wars of the empire. Other skorne The Kasortaan speak in a rapid and nearly clipped regional variation of the Soresh dialect.

These houses oversee the majority of skorne mining and quarrying. Malzash claim to descend directly from the original ruling houses of ancient Malphas. The skorne do not have a navy in the traditional sense. Kajar take leading positions among the Kademe fishing fleet and show a similar aptitude for piloting riverboats up the Hezaat to Mirketh Lake. The Kasortaan remain wary of external threats from competing skorne and the dangerous beasts of these fringe regions.

Body and facial piercings are common. These skorne directed the construction of Malphas after the great cataclysms rocked the eastern continent. The Kasortaan reserve scarce iron for steel weapons. The worker caste is arguably the broadest and most diverse caste.

The workers within a house would arrange trades with allied houses for commodities they could not produce. Since the formation of the empire houses still handle many of these vital matters internally. Members of this caste are often respected proportionately to how directly their work impacts the needs of the warrior caste.

Many devoted adepts of the hoksune code are found among the Cataphracts.

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A longstanding rivalry exists between the Praetorians and Cataphracts as to which of their disciplines holds most true to the hoksune code. Many of the most honored exalted were Cataphracts in life. Among the Hestatians. Individual industry and craft concerns sometimes organize themselves into local collectives loosely comparable to trade guilds in western Immoren. Sabaoths are divisions of these armies. Their training emphasizes close-quarters fighting utilizing a variety of traditional weapons intended for distinct roles on the battlefield.

Despite the essential duties performed by workers. The Skorne Empire eventually narrowing to the three fundamental modern military disciplines: Even warriors that excel as Praetorians might not be able to qualify as Cataphracts. Their betters view the Venator tradition with disdain because a focus on ranged warfare distances a warrior from his enemy at the time of death. The best they can hope for is to become revered companions see p.

Prior to their unification as part of an empire. Praetorians believe they most closely represent the ideals of Vuxoris with their emphasis on first strikes. The Worker Caste The worker caste is responsible for trade. Warrior Disciplines Praetorians are the backbone of virtually all skorne armies. Their tactical usefulness has led to a grudging respect for their discipline. Often the only chance a Hestatian has for glory is if his house is completely overrun. Hestatians are still warriors.

In practice. Trained to endure extreme privation and the most 16 Carlos Firpi order inhospitable of environments. In centuries past Venators fought with javelins. Armies of the Skorne Empire Before the military was reformed.

Beneath the sabaoth are cohorts commanded by subordinate tyrants and lord tyrants. Only the largest and most physically powerful skorne warriors can become Cataphracts.

This lack of common learning was reinforced by the rivalries of the houses and the disdain of the dominant warrior caste of anything that did not relate directly to martial prowess. This organization supervises caravans carrying goods from one major city to another across the empire and provides a supply chain through the Abyssal Fortress and the skorne forts across the Bloodstone Desert to reach the Army of the Western Reaches. Though not soldiers. Such skorne usually choose to remain in service to the Bonded Porters far beyond the initial two-year membership.

For generations learning was passed down from master to pupil within the traditions that eventually became chymistry and chirurgery. Certain administrators and laborers are tasked with the smooth operation of large and far-reaching projects that may involve multiple tors.

As it grew. More than once a house has developed a significant invention or engineering method in isolation. The Corpusulem The Skorne Empire has no organized educational system. No skorne may speak of his house or family while serving among the Bonded Porters.

In most regions. A well-maintained infrastructure. They allow the empire to exploit the resources of its various regions without inciting large house wars over these resources.

To prevent supply delays or interception. While working. The Bonded Porters Vinter Raelthorne instituted the Bonded Porters when he experienced the difficulty of ensuring the smooth operations of supply lines for essential materials when constructing the Abyssal Fortress. The Porters tolerate no infighting or dueling and execute violators. The Bonded Porters operate along the lines of a military organization. The group intended to create a systematic methodology for compiling results of surgeries and experiments as well as recipes for poultices and salves.

A small circle of scholarly chirurgeons and mortitheurges in Malphas and Halaak reorganized the ideas of the original founders. It may be some time yet before these collectives can readily share information and resources. After two years of service among the Porters. Over the century following its founding the group added mortitheurges to its ranks. The Bonded Porters suffer some inevitable corruption. This bias has slowed the development of skorne civilization. The Bonded Porters deliver food.

House leaders gather up leaders of these collectives who overreach their bounds and submit them to paingivers for torture or execution. They frequently recruit young house warriors as escorts for long voyages. Interfering with the Bonded Porters constitutes an attack on the servants of the Supreme Archdomina and her archdominars and always results in deadly reprisal.

Some decide to continue with the Porters and may eventually take on administrative tasks. Their purview also includes the major roads and shipping along the Hezaat River and Mirketh Lake.

Criminals and escaped slaves can avoid punishment by choosing service among the Bonded Porters. Members of this caste can now rise to a degree of responsibility and influence never before seen in skorne society. Warriors stationed among the Bonded Porters are most often considered Hestatians. This change has had a significant impact on members of the worker caste. Some embrace this chance for danger and to prove their worth in distant places. When sent to join.

They called themselves the Corpusulem. The ongoing war effort in the west has made the efforts of the Bonded Porters increasingly critical.

This persecution did not completely destroy the group or prevent it from contributing to skorne society. The mere appearance of an extoller can raise troop morale. They can tame any living thing by crushing its spirit and forcing obedience.

Skorne wishing to seek the guidance of their forebears must rely on extollers to serve as a bridge between the world of the living and the wisdom of the dead.

The paingiver caste is a manifestation of skorne philosophy. Paingivers believe truth lies in suffering. House leaders rely on their extollers beyond the battlefield as well. Paingivers Paingivers are also referred to as their own caste.

A subordinate may be tortured by his superiors after failing at a critical task and then return to his duties afterward. In rural areas. At the same time. Extollers occupy a variety of roles. Many exalted. Paingivers never recruit those they do not believe can rise above the caste of their birth. Though cabals within the fellowship are sometimes at odds. Those who join an army in battle are respected the most.

Through their highly selective process. Communication between these branches is slow. Chirurgeons study these subjects to treat injury or prevent death by grievous wounds. In addition to a thorough knowledge of anatomy.

They are highly educated and supremely skilled specialists in an ancient practice. At one time. The organization also must periodically hide its membership and operate as a secret society to avoid destruction at the hands of paranoid house lords. Extollers Extollers occupy the highest rung within the worker caste.

The most talented of extollers can persuade ancestors to accompany their descendants into battle and draw on their power to protect and assist living soldiers. Even before the creation of the Skorne Empire it was common for extollers of different houses to communicate with one another. Their ability to shape behavior through the application of pain affords them tremendous influence over creatures of weaker wills or simpler minds.

Their practices grow from an ancient ascetic philosophy that encourages the mortification of the flesh and pushing the body past its limits. Communicating with venerable ancestral spirits is a difficult process expedited by the work of an extoller. The Corpusulem keeps its central archive and headquarters well protected and secured in Malphas.

In urban areas. These extollers often dwell in chambers adjacent to the house shrine 18 Carlos Firpi order and are expected to serve as intermediaries for their lords at all times of day and night. Extollers remain members of their house. Through the application of pain and terror. Many refinements to skorne chymistry. Interrogation by torture is hardly unique to the skorne.

They find the application of pain a science as valid as engineering or arcane ritual. The Skorne Empire This venerable archive and scholarly fellowship has endured nearly a thousand years. Paingivers occupy a unique niche between the warrior and worker castes. Skorne do not view torture in the same way as westerners.

As interrogators. This function combined with the fact that they are the guardians of exaltation means even the most arrogant of warriors will think twice before insulting an extoller.

Recruits endure grueling physical and academic training designed to discipline and strengthen body and mind. Housed in carefully crafted vessels. Paingivers often arise from the lower castes since their discipline requires initiates to forego all house affiliations. They must completely embrace the deeper philosophies of the great ancestor Morkaash before completing their initiation. These tribulations led to members forming pacts that transcend loyalty to any particular house.

These ancestral guardians are potent warriors and can act as receptacles for the spirits of skorne who perish near them. Independent and freed from normal house duties. Skorne philosophers take pride in having freed themselves from the divine and refuse to acknowledge a creator. Morghoul has begun to work toward creating closer ties and a greater sense of shared purpose among the paingivers.

As in the west. Though lower in standing than free workers. Slave Caste To outsiders the skorne may seem cruel. Skorne accept that gods may exist. Paingivers now serve as an extended intelligence network and enforcement arm of the Skorne Empire. Skorne have no equivalent 19 Carlos Firpi order This autonomy places them in a unique position in skorne society as unaffiliated and highly specialized professionals that perform tasks in great demand. Historically the scattered paingivers across skorne territories were only loosely connected and affiliated.

The distinctive mask worn by paingivers in public is a symbol of their faceless resolve and aloof isolation. Myriad cults are dedicated to specific ancestors. In many cases the conquered generation remains enslaved until death. The decrease in inter-house warfare since unification has reduced the availability of new slaves. They do not refute the possibility that a god may have had a hand in their creation.

They consider the institution perfectly natural. Those who possess the core sacral stone of such a revered ancestor. One facet of this cultural bias is the skorne approach to slavery. Skorne demonstrate veneration in several ways. The number of slaves a house maintains directly represents its wealth and degree of influence.

Some remain exclusive to a single family or bloodline. Fallen houses are absorbed and annihilated while the victorious preserve and extend their legacy.

Skorne Philosophy Outsiders mistakenly believe that the skorne have no religion. Skorne ancestor worship focuses on those great individuals whose deeds are immortalized in legend. Paingivers tend to specialize in one these roles and rarely attempt to master all of them. Some paingivers establish a reputation for their singular interrogation techniques. They pass down no creation myth. The second. In the west it is a loathed practice.

For skorne taken as slaves. The strongest and most organized senior paingivers who stood in opposition to the unification have disappeared.

Different schools of philosophy center around the legends of specific skorne ancestors. Their religion comprises a sophisticated form of ancestor worship that does not venerate any god or pantheon of gods. When war breaks out between skorne houses.

In the far-flung corners of the empire. Usually they first select one of the great ancients whose legend all skorne know and who embodies the virtues of their caste. A skorne may venerate multiple ancestors. Some skorne rarely think of the ancestors. Once brought into the ranks of the paingivers. Nonetheless most paingivers respect him and fear his wrath.

Some skorne inscribe ancestral names and symbols on weapons or armor. Slaves occupy the lowest rung of skorne society. The rise of Supreme Archdomina Makeda also came with the elevation of Morghoul to lord assassin. The skorne have a very different depiction of the afterlife than any religion of western Immoren. Paingivers might be utilized as spies to gather information. Competing master tormentors might vie for the respect of their peers. He used the carcasses of his kills as subjects for dissection and study to inform him of the workings of the flesh.

Some texts imply that ancients should risk madness as a kovaas instead of suffering the oblivion waiting in the Void. Extollers entrusted with preserving house lore pay Kexorus respect alongside Ishoul and Kaleed. Only by preservation in a sacral stone can this fate be avoided. Every paingiver holds Morkaash as a revered ancestor regardless of bloodline. This caste has the most reasonable expectation of earning preservation.

Morkaash attracted followers even in life. While any notable ancestor can gain a cult following. He sought to push his body past its breaking point and become the perfect hunter. Even warriors acknowledge the accomplishments of Kexorus for his work in preserving the hoksune code in writing for the first time.

The number of individuals thus preserved is small. After death. He became a master of the energies later named mortitheurgy. Extollers have the most interest in the philosophies of Ishoul and Kaleed that relate to the transience of the flesh and the immutable nature of the spirit. Despite inventing the process. A skorne earns preservation either by rising to greatness and being chosen by the extollers as exalted or by falling in battle near an ancestral guardian or an extoller who preserves his essence as an honored companion of the exalted see p.

Sizable houses may boast shrines to all of the great ancestors in addition to shrines for notable members of their direct bloodline.

Fundamental texts of this school describe a hierarchy of states of spiritual being. The studies of Morkaash furthered the skorne understanding of mortitheurgy and were fundamental in the creation of the first skorne warbeasts. His legends claim he spent weeks or even months forgoing food.

A desire to gain glory and honor motivates most pious skorne. School of Voskune Voskune is the greatest remembered ancestor from the time before exaltation. Xaavaax the Flayed.

School of Ishoul and Kaleed These seminal extollers receive veneration as a pair. The body of work produced by philosophers of this school includes extensive anatomical studies as well as esoteric meditations on achieving enlightenment through suffering.

Philosophers of this school generate considerable material related to the connection between spirit and stone as demonstrated by the sacral crystallization process. His devotees consider his loss a fundamental tragedy underlying all life and study it to reduce the fear of facing the Void. Skorne do not gather for sermons or prayer.

Most skorne have a pragmatic attitude toward this reality and consider it a simple fact of life. Even the majority of extollers face the Void. His philosophy underpins the nihilator cults that emulate his student.

The school includes mystical speculation regarding the nature of the Void and the importance of preserving the greatest skorne spirits from its hunger. While their work derived from the genius of Voskune. Only very rarely do extollers judge a scholar. Kexorus invented skorne writing. His principles inspired an offshoot school of thought responsible for the majority of skorne advances in chymistry and engineering.

Most skorne subscribe to one or more philosophical schools associated with these individuals. School of Morkaash The first paingiver Morkaash learned to master the intricacies of anatomy and tested his limits for suffering twelve generations before the destruction of Lyoss. Ishoul and Kaleed form a trio of highly revered ancestors not exalted after their deaths. Together with Voskune. As the first extoller. The Skorne Empire to Urcaen and believe that nothing positive awaits them after death.

Like Voskune before him. He has a smaller but loyal following among hunters in fringe communities. Members of the worker caste utter an aphorism as death approaches: Morkaash has a similarly devoted following among certain educated skorne.

The truly pious memorize the entire code. By this standard. All skorne know the legends of Voskune. This affects the respective standings between different warrior castes.

This regimented training preserved the code for sixteen centuries until Kexorus. Vuxoris developed the hoksune warrior code that defined the principles still adhered to by skorne seeking honor and glory in battle. Most shun followers of this belief. Hoksune teaches that each warrior must welcome the approach of death to fight with enlightened perfection. No other philosophy among the skorne has inspired so many varied texts over the millennia. Vuxoris remains a paragon of the warrior caste emulated by all skorne who march to battle.

Voskune began the work that Ishoul and Kaleed later completed and so holds singular importance for the extoller caste. Warriors who follow these beliefs work continually to improve their fighting prowess. Time spent in drills. Vuxoris practiced a heavily armored martial tradition considered a precursor to the Cataphracts. His sacral stone has vanished and scholars believe it was destroyed.

A warrior becomes a mere shadow outside of combat. The risk of death is inseparable from true life. Some among his widespread cult believe the sacral stone or its fragments might still exist and they seek any evidence of its survival. School of Vuxoris and the Hoksune Code First and greatest of the warrior-philosophers. Before the invention of the alphabet. Vuxoris became the first ancestor exalted after death when Ishoul and Kaleed placed his spirit in the first sacral stone.

Students memorized and recited these chants continually until they internalized their logic in battle. Each of the following five groups contains myriad subcultures that display minor regional differences not listed here.

Houses seeking slave stock traditionally find excellent hunting in the southeast. The Skorne Empire When Vinter began his conquest of the east. They acknowledged Vinter as a great warrior and tyrant but did not believe him to have a skorne essence. No matter how well fed. Vinter capitalized on these beliefs. Norvaak died as he released these spirits.

While many house ancestors gave their clear support to Vinter. Cults rose around this belief. The extollers said little on this topic. Rumors persisted that the Conqueror sponsored those versed in these arts.

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Schisms of the cult have broken away. More obvious variance exists in dialect. These heresies draw upon the long history and beliefs of the skorne. Often the heretics are stripped of their caste or given over to the paingivers. Kademesh remain the dominant.

Despite this lingering stigma. The greatest heresies attract skorne throughout eastern Immoren and persist long after their leaders are brought low. These groups display only subtle physical differences compared to the diversity seen among humans or even trollkin in the west.

Heresies Most of skorne society adheres closely to the dictates of hoksune. The upper extollers of most houses consider revering Norvaak a heresy and the destruction of a sacral stone to manipulate a kovaas an expressly forbidden taboo. Kademesh The largest ethnic group of the Skorne Empire. Slave-gathering expeditions occur more rarely since the arrival of Vinter and the attack on the west. The plentiful food and water in this area encourages larger families.

The deeds of Vinter became legendary among the skorne. Skorne Ethnicities Skorne ethnicities hold trivial importance compared to caste and house.

The most common explanation for this anomaly claimed that an ancient sacral stone might have shattered without producing a kovass because the spirit within had the exceptional strength to remain sane. Many skorne worshiped Vinter as if he was already exalted. They sent ancestral guardians into the west as a sign of their intention to preserve the great heroes among the Army of the Western Reaches. That spirit then wandered for untold centuries until it finally found among the westerners a vessel worthy of housing it.

Some venerate Norvaak regardless and study his art as a natural extension of drawing on ancestral strength. Followers of Norvaak aspire to control kovaas spirits. Each house has its own method of dealing with them when they arise. This term denotes the belief of many skorne that Vinter contained the spiritual essence of a great ancient ancestor. This does not necessarily translate to wealth by skorne reckoning and many of these houses lack esteem and station. Some reflect minor events and draw adherents in small numbers.

Some seek to better their station by providing services to higher houses or fighting in the wars of the empire. Whenever possible. Southeastern Kademesh have lilting accents and a preference for the regional Kadesh language. The Malzash control more of the great houses than any other ethnic group.

Some Malzash houses remain among the rugged peaks of the Shroudwall Mountains. Kasortaan A distinct ethnic group for only three centuries. The skorne do not have a navy in the traditional sense. No one pays a Kajar much mind even though they are often seen far from home and busy on peculiar errands.

Many do not know proper Havaati. Many noted trackers. Most speak Havaati fluently unless their profession keeps them isolated from the central empire. These skorne directed the construction of Malphas after the great cataclysms rocked the eastern continent. These houses oversee the majority of skorne mining and quarrying.

Kajar preserve distinct and privately venerated ancestral heroes. Even the boldest Kademesh respect the powerful currents and sudden windstorms of the Shattered Spine Islands and rarely venture far from their home port. Kajar Most of the major ethnicities are separated by relatively inconsequential distinctions. The Kasortaan remain wary of external threats from competing skorne and the dangerous beasts of these fringe regions. Other skorne The Kasortaan speak in a rapid and nearly clipped regional variation of the Soresh dialect.

The Kasortaan reserve scarce iron for steel weapons. Malzash claim to descend directly from the original ruling houses of ancient Malphas. Other Kasortaan dwell near the inhospitable badlands of the Trembling Waste. Such skorne lords travel with impressive entourages of soldiers. Body and facial piercings are common. Plated armor is the norm.

They display a diverse assortment of decorative embellishments for armor and clothing. The greatest Kasortaan house lords boast tremendous tracts of territory and uphold the old ways by continually patrolling their lands.

Malzash The Malzash place special importance on their cultural background. Even the wealthy prefer to demonstrate their station with displays of elaborately embroidered clothing rather than piercings or jewelry. Thus the Kajar do not share the same great ancestors as other skorne. Kademesh of this region wear light armor. These skorne descend from southerners who survived the great cataclysm and its aftermath by virtue of living so far from the epicenter.

The Kasortaan prove that hard work. Kajar take leading positions among the Kademe fishing fleet and show a similar aptitude for piloting riverboats up the Hezaat to Mirketh Lake. The Kasortaan have slowly put aside their nomadic roots. The boasts of the Malzash have some historical merit.

Upper-caste Kademesh particularly enjoy finding opportunities to humiliate Malzash and enlist them as servants whenever possible. All skorne place importance on tracing lineage. Some reluctantly turned to farming. Kajar usually have smooth rather than scalloped skull ridges.

Although little appreciated elsewhere. Malzash appear throughout the central empire but concentrate in the two cities they deem the triumphs of their ancestors. The Kajar never joined the community of Malphas and sheltered instead among caves in the Kajaras Mountains.

Their efforts keep the empire connected but afford them little acclaim. Kajar find employment as couriers. Those warriors of humble background rarely rise above Hestatians but a few of proven skill aspire to become Praetorians and thereby earn greater honor for their descendants.

Kademe boasts a sizable fishing fleet. Higher-ranking administrators see to the financial records of the house to ensure no enterprising merchants line their own pockets with the resources of their masters.

They commonly pierce the head ridge. Those accepted as paingivers constitute an exception. A skilled paingiver establishes a contract with a house lord for a period of time.

This practice can extend to other careers and castes. Many houses possess the means to gather raw materials and refine them into necessary tools and weapons.

Houses barter with one another for the goods they produce with slave labor. The Sortaani pride themselves on their herds of livestock and their ability to hunt and tame dangerous beasts of the wild. Sortaani The widely scattered Sortaani. The most influential families control lands.

They claim great attunement to mortitheurgy and the spiritual path of the extollers. The vast majority of slaves come from houses destroyed or absorbed in warfare and skorne drawn from outside the major urban centers of the empire.

There are notable exceptions. The need for these powerful beasts has only increased with recent military excursions into the foreign west.

They prefer formal house armor and Malzash walk the streets fully equipped for battle. Though individual slaves possess a wide range of skills and proficiencies. Masters of savannas. In some cases families disown. Dangerous and physically demanding tasks such as mining and construction are the exclusive purview of the slave caste.

Some also take pains to learn the western language of Cygnaran. Since the invasion of the west. Accomplished skorne do not sell their labor in the manner of western Immoren.

Originally useful among those who had direct contact with the Conqueror. Nor do they have kind words for the urban Malzash. The Sortaani developed the Soresh dialect over the centuries. The skorne economy is based on slave labor and bartering. Only the Kasortaan. Though Sortaani can speak proper Havaati. Skorne Economics: Slavers of the East Skorne warriors view the work of merchants and traders as lowly and unworthy. They may barter with members of another house to borrow skilled workers. Skilled or particularly hardy slaves command greater value.

The Skorne Empire leaders. Slaves occupy every sector of the skorne economy. Most consider education a point of honor and necessary to become leaders in their houses or upper officers in the military. Those found guilty of theft are lucky if they are only mutilated. The Sortaani.

They commonly wear veils. While some Sortaani live in every skorne city. Urban Malzash. Many of the best skorne cavalry come from among these people. A number of outer Sortaani houses remain nomads. Sortaani living traditionally on the savannas have little regard for skorne who have given up those customs to live in the cities. Morkaash the First Paingiver arose from these people. Malzash speak only Havaati. The loaning house and potentially the skilled individuals are compensated for this exchange and loaned.

Merchants are members of the worker caste who handle the responsibility of trade and handling house finances. Sortaani ancestors sought shelter among the Shroudwall Mountains and the city of Malphas after the Cataclysm but returned to the plains once the worst of the storms passed. Cygnaran has become a crucial language among paingivers who must torture information out of captives taken in the west. They 24 Carlos Firpi order have a fondness for body and facial piercings.

The more labor-intensive sacral stones are always accepted. Sacral stones hold immense value in skorne eyes. Most members of the warrior caste are above this sort of scavenging but may have slaves or workers attached to their units who will recover useful items from the battlefield to be repurposed.

These slaves can saturate the market with labor. A lord with another tyrant as a subordinate was referred to as a lord tyrant. The tradition of absorbing another defeated house has never been absolute. This policy causes the houses with the largest or most successful armies to become the wealthiest among the empire.

These lords ruled smaller empires. When one house was assailed by another. Governance An authoritarian sovereign controls the Skorne Empire. Even before the arrival of Vinter. Fortunately for the skorne this is a self-correcting problem. These stones conveniently represent the transfer of wealth. These goods were not earned by or bestowed upon on the warriors. This situation is an outgrowth of the long-held structure of skorne houses.

While each skorne house likes to think of itself as a separate entity with absolute authority over the lands it holds by strength of arms. This was especially true when a skorne of low caste dared to touch the tools of those in higher stations. Many relics also contained ancestral spirits. Stones used for minor trades are too small and imperfect to use for sacral stones and are fit only to be cut into currency.

A finished sacral stone generally takes one thousand days to cut and polish and represents the labor of a single slave artisan.

Stones of lesser refinement range in value. Those with particularly valued talents are provided an annual or seasonal stipend of slaves to do with as they see fit. A lesser vessel that temporarily houses a spirit can take up to five hundred days of work.

The plunder taken by the Army of the Western Reaches is measured by the number of captured slaves. More ornately carved stones hold greater value because they require greater time to cut. Slaves taken by a cohort become the property of the skorne house or the empire. Skorne currency consists of raw materials. Only when one house utterly defeated another would there be exceptions.

Such arrangements became necessary soon after the establishment of major urban centers such as Malphas and Halaak. The titles of lord tyrant. Highly skilled skorne can receive dozens of slaves for the duration of an agreement. Historically they have taken a dim view of salvaging the weapons or armor left on a battlefield. The marked reduction in full-scale house wars since imperial unification has created a strong and persistent demand for new slaves which has not been met by those sent east by the western armies.

The stones are cut and polished to the standards of the extollers and their values certified. Capture of slaves is one way in which a warrior repays the house that provides him with the necessities of life and the opportunities for exaltation. This taboo has been relaxed and largely abandoned amid the conquests of the west.

High-quality metals in particular are always valued and useful. A skorne who boasted several dominars as vassals was afforded the rare and esteemed title of archdominar. When a significant number of slaves are delivered to the east. Common purchases are made with handfuls of low-quality stones. The Skorne Empire is presently divided into seven tors.

Politics Vinter appointed an archdominar or archdomina to rule each tor in his name. The three interior tors contain the largest populations and wield the most economic and political power.

The position was created by Vinter Raelthorne when he unified the skorne to create the Skorne Empire. Archdominars are expected to contribute both materiel and warriors to the ongoing conquest of the west as well as manage the oversight of their tors.

The remote manner in which she governs has forced Makeda to rely on trustworthy individuals to handle the quotidian aspects of government. Though Makeda herself is far from the center of the empire. Makeda hand-picked her surrogates from the most loyal among her vassals. Though individually powerless as an extension of the worker caste. Arrangements were often made for subordinate houses to lend specialized warriors to the greater house.

Archdomina Makeda seized the position and control of the entire Skorne Empire. Makeda of House Balaash has worked to strengthen the continuing supremacy of the position. Historically there are more examples of lingering hostility and the necessity for a greater house to watch subordinates for treachery. The newly unified paingiver caste under the command of Lord Assassin Morghoul ensures the obedience of the eastern tors. Her house is strong and occupies a significant place among the great houses of the skorne.

This region also includes the expansive Ocean of Grass. She is a respected leader who constantly shows her devotion to hoksune and the power of her people. The third major interior region is Tor-Malphas. In the capital these skorne speak with her authority and manage domestic aspects of the government. By overthrowing Supreme Archdominar Vinter Raelthorne. Kophar was defeated by Archdominar Vaactesh.

Beneath them are the dominars and tyrants. Makeda has carried forward some of the institutions and divisions created by Vinter. Sometimes the concession was formalized in a duel or ritualized combat between senior officers of each house. Some aspects of the upper hierarchy and management of the empire are still evolving.

The Skorne Empire in which the weaker house bowed to the greater. House Kophar was famed for its peerless Cataphracts. One of the most noteworthy examples of such an arrangement happened between House Balaash and House Kophar. Archdomina The highest power in the Skorne Empire. Rather than enslave the house. This was more likely to happen when the primary assets of the losing house were its warriors.

Only time will tell if the archdominars of the greatest rival houses will continue to consent to such autocratic rule. Many paingivers have joined the western conquest. With overreaching dominars. Not all tors are equally compliant. First among these in both wealth and prominence is Tor-Halaak.

Many traditionalists consider the empire unnatural and chafe at its imposed hierarchy. In other cases. The loyalty and lasting ties between Balaash and Kophar were not typical. Kophar Cataphracts have served House Balaash. Subordinate house lords expect to be given autonomy and to retain control and oversight over internal matters. Each commands a great army to protect his borders and significant settlements.

Few archdominars possessed the strength or inspired sufficient terror to retain a stable empire until the arrival of Vinter Raelthorne. These leaders still represent the highest authority in the empire. The Porters have smoothly adapted to the new supreme. Not every house is content to live under her rule. Many older tyrants and dominars still view their peers with hostility and would leap at the opportunity to rekindle old conflicts.

Here skorne such as Dominar Rasheth of House Telarr made their fortunes. Makeda is still determining how best to govern the empire. They tolerate no limit to their power over their households. The warriors of powerful houses within a city deal with these matters rather than a separate group specifically established to enforce the law.

This performance carries great dangers. Skorne do not expect fair or equal treatment and have a radically different concept of justice. Feuds and battles between houses still occur.

Some belong to extinct houses that avoided enslavement and turned to crime to survive. Both dominars and the archdominar of a region will watch these battles and may keep their own armies ready to intervene. He focused instead on ensuring absolute obedience to his commands and the punishment or execution of those who worked against him.

Dominar Lonzaal of House Balaash. Skorne law revolves around the dictates of a house lord and his control over his people. This extremely brutal process applies brands liberally across the entire body including the face. House Balaash retains its estates near the capital and from there exercises considerable influence over the eastern center of government. Her power over their lives gives her the right to order her subjects to do anything she may require.

Law The skorne have a different approach to laws and the enforcement of order than the west. As long as supplies continue to flow. Losing houses can only appeal to the next higher lord in their feudal structure. Criminals fear paingivers more than any other authority. Skorne Criminals Among the lower castes and on the fringes of skorne society lurk those who do not live within the accepted order.

They remain members of a house and offer the appearance of proper behavior while secretly indulging in corruption. For minor offenses some criminals receive branding rather than execution. Street criminals are essentially outcasts and viewed with greater disdain than the lowest slaves. Skorne saw this as entirely proper behavior. These more limited clashes between skorne houses might appear similar to the struggles between clans in Rhul. In Rhul the Codex and its many laws regulate clan feuding and include possible intervention by Moot Judges.

While they have little in the way of written or formal law. Individual house lords rightfully claim the title of tyrants. If this becomes necessary. He did not put great effort into instituting western laws or trying to change traditional attitudes.

The supreme archdomina possesses enormous political capital. So long as each participant obeys hoksune. Duels between individual warriors are not regulated by complex protocols or systems and can occur spontaneously.

The most subtle and successful criminals maintain a veneer of respectability. Clashes and fighting over topics of honor. They claim ignorance until presented with evidence of the criminal activity. They find the idea of a single cohesive body of laws to govern all skorne entirely alien. Thievery runs rampant in Halaak and other good-sized skorne communities.

The skorne have nothing similar to the Codex. Most often a house exiles such cast-offs or they flee into hiding to escape the wrath of their lord. The archdominars ultimately ensure the smooth operations of the empire. The numerous houses are prone to vicious feuds. The skorne traditionally have not considered themselves a unified people. Until Makeda seized power from Vinter.

Vinter summoned these officers to attend him—allowing them their traditional arms—and struck them down en masse with his own blade. In the west. Preliminary to her march on the Abyssal Fortress. Makeda has promoted worthy successors in their stead. Even as the fortress came under siege. Within the hierarchy of the empire.Most often a house exiles such cast-offs or they flee into hiding to escape the wrath of their lord. The waters stabilize the the Betrayers here. Makeda of House Balaash held this region in a slightly different Seat: Only very first time.

The skorne economy is based on slave labor and bartering.