As part of the draconic Tarakona setting I’m building on this blog, today I introduce in detail the Kala, fierce humanoid lizards who live in the plains of the world.
Created as laborers, Kala are, as a whole, strong but not bright. They have capitalized on these traits by developing a strong warrior culture of hunters and soldiers. For their first few generations, they established small clans of 20 to 50, each led by a chief, living off the bounty of the western grasslands.
Then came Dak One-Eye, who carried the magic hammer Thundermaker. This hammer was given to him by the god Ahm, who instructed Dak to unite the Kala as one empire under his name. The other clans quickly fell under Dak’s banner, forming the Empire of Ahm. Dak received many other visions and teachings of Ahm, which evolved into a complex religion.
Quickly conquering the western plains, the Kala established a thriving, spirited civilization now divided between industrious city-dwelling Kala and their wilder nomadic cousins, though it is not without its own internal squabbles.
The empire is led by the Charl—currently Charl Torren of the Piercing Gaze. According to the Fourth Scroll of Ahm, the Charl must be “warrior in spirit, noble in bearing, fierce in war, decisive in home, and dedicated entirely to preserving the worship of Ahm.” This is generally interpreted to mean a strong warrior with a level head and respect for religion. Torren certainly combines these attributes, though he’s a better administrator than a fighter. This reputation has earned him some enemies among the war-chiefs.
Just below the Charl in rank are the priests and priestesses of the Eight Orders of Ahm. Each gender has its own religious role. Males (korani) serve as lay counselors and perform basic rites like the Seventh-Day Naming of the Child. Only females (dessen) may dance the holy dances and participate in the holiest of rites directly to Ahm. The high council of dessen also choose the next Charl when the current Charl dies.
Charls rarely die of old age. This remains an open secret.
Just below the priesthood sits the warrior class. Organized into battalions named according to their originating clan, battalions are led by war-chiefs. Each battalion votes for its war chief, though these elections are usually far from fair.
At the moment, the most powerful clans include Piercing Gaze, Everstride, Deep Shadow, and the Thousand Spears.
The rest of the Kala population is made up of the common class, including all the usual suspects: potters, weavers, ranchers, etc. Kala are omnivores, but favor meat. Since so much of the continent has been domesticated, most of their food comes from ranching and herding of slurn, a large, cattle-like lizard. Farming is looked down upon as an occupation too tied to one place, though some vegetable and fruit gardening occurs, particularly in the cities.
Every clan specializes in a particular craft, though several clans may practice the same craft.
Kala love rocks and stones, attaching great significance to the shape of stones, and often carrying one with them as a sort of totem. They will often set up standing stones to absorb evil or as sites of worship, believing that powerful spirits are attracted to them.
Kala Clan Life
Kala live in clans. Adolescents are encouraged to explore strong relationships but remain sexually celibate. Upon maturation, males and females are “bonded,” which is roughly equivalent to a marriage ceremony. Kala bond deeply to their mates, to an extent that may be physiological. Infidelity is a capital crime for both involved. Kala reproduce ovipariously (by laying eggs), and both parents watch over the eggs.
However, Kala young are raised by the clan. Mothers are expected to care for their infants themselves, but after weaning, parentage is mostly ignored. Adults self-organize into disciplinarians, care-givers, trainers, and so forth.
Kala live in either large, sprawling cities miles wide, with buildings rarely more than 2 stories high, or in nomadic camps. Predictably, nomadic Kala look down on city-dwellers as soft and living lives unfit to traditional values, while city-dwelling Kala see themselves as modern and much more economically powerful than their scattered nomadic cousins.
Kala cities are usually built of adobe or simple brick. What was once a clan on the plains is now a group of several dozen Kala who live in a complex of squat buildings surrounded by a low stake wall. Each clan works a particular trade, from weaving to weapon-making.
The average Kala has a spirited personality, given to strong emotions. They are not the savage brutes often painted by other cultures. Instead, they lust for life and vibrant experiences.
This helps to explain their many festivals and generally loud culture. As the Kala saying goes, “It’s not a proper festival unless a dish has been broken.”
Because companionship enhances emotion, Kala make excellent friends, and indeed they often jump into friendships without much judgment.
Most Kala are highly religious, though most outsiders have a difficult time deciphering Ahm rituals and festivals, which operate according to a highly complex schedule.
The Teachings of Ahm
According to the only two historical records we have of his early life, Dak One-Eye was just another energetic clan chief until receiving Thundermaker. His early revelations about Ahm concentrate on the importance of uniting the Kala race under one banner for Ahm’s glory. Later teachings take a much more pacifistic tone, particularly in the Eighteenth Revelation.
At the time, Dak’s teachings about pacifism were revolutionary, and caused much debate within the Kala wash-tents. However, Dak carefully phrased pacifism not as a lack of conflict, but as necessary for the survival of the race. As is explained in lines fifty-three through sixty-one and seventy-six through eighty-one of the Eighteenth Revelation:
In war there is fighting, yes
But is there not also death, not only of lives but also of nations?
Are the lives of all to be risked, year after year, generation after generation, without end?
No warrior wins every battle.
No feeling surpasses that of proof of arms
Of feeling victory over your foe with the might of claw and arm and leg
And can we feel this only in war?
We are warriors, yes
And we are more, far more, infinitely more.
We must survive,
To survive we must stand firm,*
To stand firm we must build,
To build we must not step onto the battlefield.
We will preserve our warrior’s spirit
In a thousand other ways.
* There is no direct translation for the term here translated as “stand firm.” The closest equivalent means to remain successful over a long period, despite drawbacks and enemies.
Ahm’s teachings can be usefully analyzed along the same gender division of the korani and dessen. The korani lay teachings emphasize self-discipline, self-reliance, self-control, and zest for raw emotion. These are taught during daily lessons given by the korani, who also typically teach in the informal neighborhood schools of the Kala (though these are gradually being supplanted by tutors and “professional” teachers, which has caused much concern). The dessen oversee the three-hour weekly rites attended by all Kala at temples or shrines, and dessen lectures emphasize pacifism and the importance of preserving Kala race and culture.
The major festivals of the Kala include (but are by no means limited to):
- The Feast of the High Sun
- The Fast of Thek
- The Festival of the Waxing Moon
- The Three-Day Festival
- The Five-Day Festival
- The Feast of Forgiveness
- The Coming of Age
- The Gift of the Dead
Encountering the Kala
If you encounter a Kala raiding party, it will generally consist of a handful of warriors, archers, and warcasters, led by an elite warrior. The warriors will swarm the most physically powerfully enemy, directing their archers to do the same, while the warcasters keep other enemies at bay. Once the first enemy dies, the warriors leap to the next most powerful enemy in turn.
Nomadic clans often want information on rival clans nearby; this can be as simple as a scouting mission or as complex as infiltrating and “helping” the other clan.
Whenever you visit a Kala city, you’re likely to find it in the middle of a religious celebration. There are many opportunities for conflict here, such as the theft of a religious item or a mysterious death during a feast.