Kesh know honor. Kesh know discipline. Kesh know war. The kingdom of the Kesh is called Orentis, with their capital city, Katak, built up around the base of an obelisk, which abuts the Maelstrom-ravaged mountains. From the great city, smaller cities fan out like the spokes of a great wheel, with the outlying lands dwindling to villages and farms. Despite the vast size of the land they control and the large citizenry, the Kesh are not divided into tribes. They are divided by regions, but the Kesh see value in cohesion. All the Kesh swear fealty to the Warchiefs and the Warchiefs all swear fealty to the King. They run on power and scoff at fear. Fiercely loyal, the Kesh of Orentis spend much of their time training for combat. To the south are “wild lands”, whence come multitudes of monsters, some of them altered by the Endless Storm. The tenacious Kesh are native to the Kingdom of Orentis and have the distinction of being the only people able to withstand full assault of the Empire and emerge victorious! They have in their possession an artifact of unknown origin, the massive obelisk that can be seen for miles. Cut from the base of a mountain at the back edge of the Maelstrom, it is an unshakeable defense which harnesses the power of the Eternal Storm itself. The obelisk has been there for longer than the Kesh have history and was discovered after the second Maelstrom Event. It is imbued with stupendous magics which shoot bits of Maelstrom like arrows into the air, decimating the Gryphons that have flown into battle against the Kesh. A bit of Kesh history: The written histories of the Kesh tell of a glorious civilization, bursting with promise and wealth...and the campaign the Kesh set against it. A colorful human subgroup, they called themselves The Celebrated Enclave of Arieanis. They were boisterous people living away from other human types. Theirs was a large, lavish city state with views of fields and orchards that could be seen for miles. The story goes like this, Once upon a time, there was a Kesh king with a beautiful daughter, a roguish Enclave prince, and a Serious Mistake. King Lucious of Orentis demanded that the prince marry his daughter and when he would be king, she would be his Gloriana. The petty prince laughed, and King Lucious had him beheaded. This prompted The Celebrated Enclave of Arieanis to declare war on the Kesh. Proud and defiant, both races refused to concede. The Enclave first launched an attack on the borders of their territories and won some ground, but the Kesh do not take invasion lightly, and soon the Enclave retreated back to their city, where the Kesh ultimately annihilated them. King Lucious claimed the Enclave lands for the Kesh, but never rebuilt the city. The Kesh rampaged, destroying everything in their path, including libraries, the palace, shops, and even homes. The people, who began calling themselves Arieanis, scattered into bands, roaming the countryside looking for food and shelter. This happened around the 954th year of the Third Era, as counted by the Cloud Empire. In a push for Westward expansion, the Empire, with the substantial help of Gryphons, forced the Kesh out of the Verdant Lands (formerly the Celebrated Enclave of Arienanis lands) and back to Orentis. The Arieanisagreed to work with the Empire in order to free them from Kesh control, and would attack without warning in the night and other dishonorable tactics. Even with the cowardly antics of the Arieanis, the Empire would never have been able to move the Kesh without the aid of the gryphons. The Empire reckons this happened in the 1134th year of their Third Era. Dismissive of the Kesh after their defeat years ago in the Verdant Lands, the Empire decided they would claim Orentis too, and dispatched a substantial detachment to take the area by force. They never came back. The Empire was astounded, but with involvement in skirmishes in other areas, they were unwilling to move the main force of their armies. Relations between the two powers remained strained, with periodic squabbles over territory. The Empire counts these events as the 1201st year of their Third Era. A couple hundred years later, the Empire decides it is time to expand, once more looking to the Kesh lands. A massive assault was launched against the Kesh and the Empire fought mercilessly. Heavy losses on both sides were borne differently, strengthening the resolve of the Kesh but demoralizing the Gryphons.The Empire made it to the capital city of Katak, and it looked as if they were on the verge of winning when the monolithic obelisk on the far edge of the city began to glow a deep blood red. Suddenly, projectiles appeared seemingly from nowhere and began pelting the Empire’s most powerful weapons, the Gryphons, striking them out of the sky. Without the Gryphons, the Empire was pushed back out of the Kesh territory. If the Kesh had been able to move the obelisk, they would have invaded the Empire themselves and crushed it. But the object remains firmly planted and it does seem that they will be able to defend their ancestral territory in perpetuity. After this battle, the powers came to a rocky accord. Some Kesh values: Kesh mate for life. Widows and widowers may remarry when their mate has died permanently. The average Kesh has 2-3 children, and lives with an extended family in large houses constructed of carved boulders. Kesh mating rituals tend to be demonstrations of talent and skill. Any adult may marry, but preference is given to those who are the strongest or most skilled, and often people will take a mate who is proficient in an area they are not to strengthen the versatility of the family unit. The Kesh believe there is honor to be found in all trades. Doing their personal best is more important than what type of work is done. You want to farm? Farm like a BOSS! There is honor in excellence. The Kesh as a people find glory in individual achievement, whether it be in crafting, magic, or war. Everything they make is sturdy and well crafted. Anything that is less than expected is scrapped and started over and over until it is made right. Kesh do not give up easily. This applies to all aspects of their lives. The Kesh celebrate lavishly, which might seem contradictory to their disciplined way of life. However it is precisely because of the control they exercise that the government feels the need to have sanctioned revels, lest the Kesh come to dislike their lives. The army will draw straws, and those with short straws must stand sentinel over the revelers, and ring the War Gong should anyone try to attack the Kingdom. This position is largely ceremonial, seeing as how no one has been stupid enough to attack the Kesh on their own land in thousands of years. Kesh celebrate the King’s birthday with military maneuvers, fire dancing, and lots of alcohol. Another Kingdom-wide holiday is the Day of Falling, when the Kesh celebrate their victory over the invading Empire by creating effigies of Gryphons , lighting them on fire, and tossing them off of buildings, or for brave souls, into the Maelstrom. They traditionally eat any type of fowl for dinner this night. It is celebrated on the longest night of the year because the histories are vague on what exact day it was and the visual effects of the flaming effigies are much more impressive in the dark of night. (the Empire’s ambassador has been trying for many years to stop the celebration.) Birthdays are not celebrated, but coming of age day is. Marriages are handsome affairs, and funerals are raucous, celebrating the life of the Kesh who has passed. A funeral for a Kesh who died in battle is given a feast by the Generals in the area. There are currently no laws against low level necromancy in Orentis, though there are a few Kesh who vehemently oppose the casting of Necromancy (they get eye rolls and a bit of ribbing for this). It is only the military who are allowed to perform necromantic rituals. Most crimes are met with harsh punishments, the most common being public flogging (which brings dishonor on the entire family), banishment, and death. Laziness and disrespect to someone with higher rank or elders, are punishable by flogging. Murder and performing unauthorized Necromantic rituals are punishable by death. Slandering, libeling, disobeying, acting against, or in any other way disrespecting the King are punishable by Obliteration. Assault and fighting are not considered crimes, but looked upon as arguments, to be resolved on a personal basis. Death resulting from a fight is only considered murder if one party uses cowardly tactics such as besetting someone while they sleep. And that merits a death and banishment for cowardice. Theft, cowardice, and adultery are crimes that will get a Kesh banished. Banished Kesh will sometimes band together and raid along the borders of Orentis, the Verdant Lands, and the Empire. This activity is considered not only cowardly, but dishonorable, and if caught, raiders are sentenced to death in the fighting pits where they are pitted against animals or the Crazed. Kesh life: Rugged and hearty, the Kesh young begin battle training as soon as they are able to walk and hold up a weapon. They grow quickly, reaching an adult age after only 2 years. Official adulthood takes far more grit than simply growing strong bones. To become an adult a Kesh must undergo a series of trials. First is the Trial of Earth; they are buried to the neck in dirt. Left alone like this, the Kesh must dig himself/herself out. This is a lesson in the patient application of strength. Then comes the Trial of Blood. Once the Kesh has emerged from the dirt, it has to war-paint itself in its own blood. This is how they know that when they are ready to shed the blood of another, they are ready to shed their own blood. Finally, the Trial of Storm; the child, still covered in blood, must go to the Obelisk and place their hands upon it. The Obelisk will then grant a vision of the inside of the Maelstrom. This is to test the mental discipline needed for war. Only a fully developed mind can overcome the vision. Those who fail become traumatized by the experience and will carry the vision in their minds forever, making them crazed and unfit for anything save fighting pits. These unfortunates seem to be suffering so much that the Kesh think it’s a mercy for them to be killed by the animals set upon them in the pits. (It doesn’t hurt that it is also wildly entertaining, but most Kesh won’t share that with outsiders who do not understand the honor bestowed on the crazed to allow them to die in combat.) The Kesh may choose when it thinks it is ready to face the trials and become an adult, but it has only one chance. Kesh leadership: The current King of Orentis is a man called Zekk. (He is sometimes called Zekk the Red for a large birthmark that covers a quarter of his face, but NEVER in his presence.) Kesh are very loyal to their King and his chain of command. If a female holds power, she is still called “King”. There is no such thing as a Queen. The King’s spouse is called the Glorian or Gloriana. This person is expected to advise the King and produce heirs, but also to stand at the King’s side in battle. The King’s oldest living child inherits the Kingdom of Orentis. Just now, Zekk has no heirs, nor a Gloriana. While the King is still somewhat young (13 years old), this is beginning to cause some unrest in the government. There are 5 Warchiefs, and they answer directly to the King. Beneath the Warchiefs are 3 Generals each. Each General may employ up to 3 Warriors, who do most of the training and leading of the troops in the standing army. The King also has 10 Warriors who make up his personal guard. The honor of being called Warrior - To become a Warrior is another series of trials. A Kesh must be nominated by their General and then be approved by the General’s Warchief. Once the nomination and approval are complete, the lucky Kesh gets to display feats of strength in both body and discipline, as determined by the Warchiefs. The Kesh first gets to exert his or her prowess in combat with 3 combatants at once. After that, they must fast for a period of 5 days, meditating on the name of the King. Then, as an act of obedience, they present their most valued possession (not necessarily monetary value) to the assembled Generals and the corresponding Warchief, and destroy it. After the Falling War, a name which insults the Empire, the Getregen and the Kesh agreed to take ambassadors of the other to maintain the peace and foster goodwill and trade between them. How successful this has been is debateable, but neither side is stupid enough to attack the other. Kesh of note: Lalan is a Warrior who serves in the personal guard of the King. King Zekk himself nominated her for the honor, and she answers directly to him. She has come to Stormbreak Keep with a number of other orcs. King Zekk asked for volunteers, and told them to go watch and report anything that seems important or strategic, but Their purpose is not fully known to them. They are to aid in the fights against the trolls, and follow the Empire’s laws while they are away from home. That means no Necromancy or assault unless provoked. Lalan is to be obeyed as though she were a Warchief while the Kesh are traveling with her. Tamar is the Kesh ambassador to the Empire. He carries himself like a Biata most of the time, to not offend the sensibilities of those he must suffer...I mean work with. A highly respected statesman, Tamar seems harmless on the surface, but the Kesh know that King Zekk would never have sent someone untrained in battle to negotiate with people who would seek to take their land given the chance. King Zekk has gotten permission, through Tamar, to send some Kesh to the battles against the trolls. What he had to promise in return is unknown. Kesh and the rest: Biata: The Kesh have a grudging respect for the Biata. They understand war and politics and are highly organized, efficient, and ambitious as a people. Arieanis: Leftovers of the Enclave. These people know nothing but wandering in bright clothes. Useless. Dwarves: The Dwarves are respected for their sturdy craftsmanship and bravery in battle. Good people to spar with. Elves: Elves seem very odd to the Kesh. Their love of trees is baffling. They can fight a bit, but tend to be pushovers. Mystic Wood Elves: What are they supposed to be, anyway? Their ways are foolish. Stone Elves: Servants of the Biata. They are good with numbers and records, so they are useful, but do not appreciate the importance of a celebration. Dark Elves: Elves that live underground. Unknown quantity and quality. Rock huggers? High Ogres: Those are the yellow people on the glacier. What a stupid place to live. And they hate necromancy. But they don’t matter way up there anyway. Hoblings: Good for trading, but not much else. Kesh are careful not to be swindled. It is embarrassing. Dryads: Plants that walk and talk? Humans: Those things are everywhere! Much like chicken, they take on the flavors of what’s around them. Oathsworn: Tales of their prowess have reached the Kesh, but Oathsworn lands are far to the southeast, so tales are all they know.