What the Elder Told Me
A personal view of Char-Un culture.
- by Wesley Quadros
Who are you?
I am Darich son of Durek, son of Yelur called Grim-Eye, youngest son of Darich who was Chief of the Rutrigurs and fought the deer-people of the woods at Neeco creek and claimed the vale for Kargzant. Darish was the son of Usla, daughter of Rua who was descended from Aundzik, companion of Panishi the Great Father. I am an elder of the Rutrigurs.
Who are we?
We are the Sons of Kargzant, the mighty Sun Stallion whose heat gladdens the heart and warms the blood. The Rutrigurs are a mighty clan, one of the Eleven, the original clans of the Char-Un tribe that formed the Char-Un nation in the Growing Lands – called Redlands now - in the East. We Rutrigurs are the keepers of the Wild Fire, Tirgzant. Now we are of the Emilzur tribe, a powerful tribe with many gold-clad warriors returned from the Farmer Empire’s wars.
What makes us great?
We are Eleven. We were the first to follow Chareck and his people and we were the first to see the truth of the Moon Mare. For that we are one of the noble clans of the Char-Un.
The Char-Un are great for we are pure. We alone still worship Kargzant the Golden Horse. We alone have not polluted ourselves by herding other animals nor by adopting the life of the Muddy-feet. Not for us the squalid settlements flowing with mud and filth, we remain clean on the steppe.
Where do we live?
We live in Erigia, a hard land given to Radiant Panishi by his brother, ma-Tamara’s son Takenegi. Erigia lies north of the Farmer Empire and between the Bear Forest and the Eol Forest.
Our summer pastures are on Two-Pine steppe five days ride north. Our winter pastures are here in Neeco vale with the Eol Forest to the north and east and the Poralistor River to the south. To the west lie the pastures of the Sarosg Clan
How do we live?
We live in the manner of Kargzant the Wandering Sun. We herd Iriloy’s children from pasture to pasture living the pure life of the nomad.
We live off of Iriloy’s bounty eating the meat and milk of our ponies. We make koumiss, cheese and yoghurt from the milk and felt from the pony’s hide. The women gather roots and millet while the men hunt the creatures of the steppe and wood. In return for our service the ur-Pan sends us flour and exotic foods from the Empire.
What is important in my life?
When you were born we sacrificed a black pony to Kargzant for your guardian spirit to ride at your side. Your great-grandfather’s spirit spoke to Guldin Sun-Leaper, the spirit talker, and told him how you would grow strong and have many wives and a brown hawk was seen resting over the tent.
Soon you will be old enough to become a Rider and help guard the herds. You will be responsible for caring for the horses and their masters. Slaves will do most of the dirty work but they can’t be trusted to do it right. You will also hunt for food and guide the warriors to large predators and enemies of the Rutrigurs.
When you have proven your valour and master of the skills of battle you will be initiated as a Warrior and a Man. You will then be responsible for protecting the people and fighting our enemies. You will have to show your bravery in battle and collect a herd of your own. Maybe you will travel into the Empire and serve one of the nobles there or in the Maresson’s armies returning with many horses of plunder. When the radiance of your heart and the size of your wealth is enough you will be able to purchase your first wife. Choose well and bring glory upon your family with her lineage.
In time, as your glory grows you will be recognised as a Leader and sit on the Pan’s council. Your words will be heeded and you will lead warbands and diplomatic missions to other clans and lands.
Those truly blessed by Kargzant live to be addressed as Elder. They have wisdom beyond most for they have seen many winters and deserve the reverence that they receive. If you live your life well and your sons care for you as they should then you too will earn the title of Elder and your words will hold great sway over the clan’s destiny.
Who rules us?
Runica Fiery Eyes leads the Rutrigurs. Runica fought in the Maresson’s armies for many years returning with 15 horses, 8 slaves and two wives. He became Lo-Pan after old Gormek fell from his saddle when his legs would no longer support him - no man who falls from his saddle for this reason may be Pan. Yes, Elder Gormek fell, that is why he limps so.
Runica appoints the clan’s Leaders to give him advice and he listens intently to everything the Elders say. Guldin Sun-Leaper speaks with our ancestors and relays their words to Runica while the Il-Pan, or warlord, Uptesck Beararm speaks for the Warriors. The Riders have no word on the council.
Runica is loyal to Blenzik Tree-Chopper, Pan of the Emilzur and ultimately to the Ur-Pan, leader of all the Char-Un.
What makes a man great?
Honour, valour and indifference to suffering make a man great. Having many horses, slaves and wives proves your worth to the clan. Maintaining the ways of Kargzant the Sun and honouring our ancestors proves our superiority over the settled people.
A captured enemy must be given a chance to honour himself before his ancestors before he is sent to them; pulling out his nails or flaying him allows the chance to show his stoicism to all and to enter the Wandering Steppe with his pride intact.
What is the difference between men and women?
Men follow the Path of Fire as shown by Kargzant the Wandering Sun. They are the hunters, protectors and leaders. Women follow the Path of Earth shown by ma-Tamara the Moon Mare. They are the gatherers, mothers and teachers who foster new life among the clan.
If you are valiant and grow wealthy you will have many wives with many strong sons. Your wives will obey you in all matters though you would be wise to listen to their advice. ma-Tamara shares strange secrets with her daughters and it is often wise to heed their words.
Some women follow ma-Tamara’s Red Daughter, Durla, who taught women that the path of Fire was open to them. These warriors are just as mighty as your brother but will have trouble finding husbands, they are not dutiful like a wife should be.
What is evil?
Those who would mock Kargzant are evil. The Bird-brains and the Horse-Eaters are such though they more than mocked him, they actively harmed Horse. Those who ride other beasts are deluded and think to emulate the Char-Un. They do not deserve our hate but only our pity. Living in one place all the time is evil for it allows the evil spirits to congregate and pollute us while our ancestors continue their travels and leave us behind.
What is my lot in life?
You need to ride hard and fight harder. You need to take care of your horses and foster many sons. You need to show the might of the Rutrigurs and the nobility of our Leaders. It is up to you and your friends to return the Panship of the Emilzurs to our clan. If you prove yourself mighty in battle you will earn the right to be Pan yourself.
The surest source of wealth and glory is in the south. When you are a warrior you should ride into the mud-lover’s lands and fight for their gold. Return when you long for the clean steppes and the round-faced Nelar. Yes, I’ve seen you stare at her; she’d make a good mate though you will need much wealth to convince her father.
When your father dies his herds and wealth will be divided among you and your brothers, except Heyal for he now rides the path of the shaman and will inherit Guldin’s wealth.
How do we deal with others?
All Rutrigur work together and none will starve while another has food. You must always help another clansman if he needs it.
Other Char-Un may help though it may cost you dearly. Remember your foster-brother’s clan, the Itamars, for they owe your father many favours.
The Bear-men are dangerous if you don’t watch for them. They move slowly and even a stripling like you can smell them from a league’s distance. They rarely bother us this far from their forests but the western clans often fight with them. They make valuable slaves in the markets to the south.
The Reindeer-men are harmless. They rarely venture from their forests but are canny warriors when confronted in the tree’s shadows. They will fight viciously to defend their herds though and are also a source of slaves. At the market in Goorleet, across the river, Eolian traders often venture forth to trade furs and that is where I got this sealskin hat.
The Tree-demons, or elves as other call them are implacable foes and will slay any Char-Un they can find. Be wary of their hate and return it in full measure for it will lend you strength. Remember what they did to your aunt Sunica. Fortunately the cowards rarely leave their homes in the forests and there are few of them in the eastern forests. Most fled into the Bear forest when Glorious Panishi cleansed Erigia.
The Empire is always hungry for the services of our warriors. Make sure that the lord you choose is as honest as you are and abide by any arrangements honourable made as you would with your own kin. Beware of the creature called bureaucrat, it fights with pen and paper and cares more for gold than it does for honour. He will betray you sooner than a slinking Azatzur.
Who are our enemies?
The bird-riders of Rinliddi and the Horse-eaters of Yara Aranis are our enemies. The tree-demons of the forests are our enemies. The mud-men from Bindle earned our enmity when they skinned a sacred horse in the early years of the Empire. They have never made amends and will never be forgiven.
The Azatzur clan deserted us at the Battle of Kormesh during the Blood King’s War. They have proven more unreliable since and our hatred of their limp-spined offspring burns deep – it is even rumoured that some of their warriors now ride sables and that they eat the flesh of cows.
Who are our gods?
Golden Kargzant, the Sun Stallion is our god. His radiant rays shine upon us during the day warming our hearts with his glory while his light shows the dead the path to the Steppe of the Wandering Sun during the night. We follow the paths he shows us and obey the laws he has passed down to us. Morgzil is the Hunter that all Riders worship. Sunishi the Warrior protects us from evil. Panishi the Founder guides us through life while Bornad the Wise shares his advice with us all. The Rutrigurs are the favoured sons of Tirgzant, the Fire Stallion, a son of Kargzant
Women worship ma-Tamara, the Moon Mare, wife of Kargzant. They also worship Iriloy the Horse Mother, Durla the Warrior Woman and others but they are not for a man to concern himself with.
What is there to do around here?
We Rutrigurs are fond of sport and hunting. Horse races, trick riding, archery and Rope-the-Mare are popular pastimes. Warriors compete at weapons skills and training hawks. Riders train dogs to hunt and fight and the Dog Pit is an awe-inspiring sight. Frequently the Pan will arrange a Great Hunt and all the camps gather so that the entire clan may participate, forming a great circle on the steppe and riding towards the centre slaying everything that they encounter; for added challenge the hunt can take place in the forest.
During our migrations we usually meet the Itamar and the Sarosg at the Windy Gorge where we stop and visit with our cousins. We trade, game and tell stories with the other clans. This is where most of the men find our wives. The Ur-Pan occasionally visits us there and usually has a mighty warrior if he cannot be there. He shares the farmer’s bounty with us, gifts our leaders with gold, iron and bronze and hears our concerns.