Endless Blue – Week 45 – Khantusk: Cetacean Symbol of Absolute Allegiance   6 comments

Archaeology

Khantusk: Cetacean Symbol of Absolute Allegiance

Khantusk is the jutting tooth from the long-deceased First Khan, pulled from its root during the battle with the Leviathan of Coinchenn.  As long as a mer’s arm and just as thick, it would be an excessively large example of the tusk for even the biggest narwhal.  Its time-yellowed  ivory is stained a with a brown patina of weathered age that is emphasized by the pale engraving along its slightly upward curve, showing lividly from the surrounding sienna tint.  Shod near its root and tip with a band of lustrous black pearl, which anchor loosely wrapped, finely woven ribbons of velvet embroidered with text of silk thread.  The runic Aquelan symbols carved into the tusk that cite the militaristic violence committed during the First Khan’s dynasty are swaddled by the calligraphic Verse sigils stitched into the wrap that recount the adulation of His loyal citizenry.  The artifact is far from pristine, with the stain of ancient blood on the ribbons, a cracked  bark-like texture, a fractured tip and a substantial divot missing from where the Leviathan ripped it from the First Khan’s mouth.  Most notable is the weight of Khantusk.  First picked up, it is light, almost uplifting itself into the hands of a bearer; however as the mantle of leadership pulls down on the bearer, Khantusk weighs ever more heavily.

History

In the early ages of the Cetacean Barbarians, the disparate currents were united under a single leader.  Taking the title of Khan, this narwhal led the orcan tribes on a campaign of invasion and bloodshed that ensured their place in early Elquan history.  A campaign was begun, targeting the wayward Cetacean tribes across the Known World, invading the fledgling societies and cutting a swath of violence and atrocity across the Cetacean Oceans.  Pod after pod either pledged their absolute, undying allegiance to the Khan of the Cetacean Hordes, or were crushed by the Hordes masses.  Those that joined the Khan’s cause were incorporated into the Hordes, dispersed among the Eight Banners so no one force was comprised too much of any one subjugated pod.

Eventually the unification of the Cetacean Oceans was not enough for the glory-seeking First Khan, and the turned is avaricious gaze towards the rest of the Known World.  His frenzied Hordes relentlessly raided the no mer’s sea borders of the neighboring Chelon, Lumulus, and Mer homeseas.   Fear of impending incursion by their neighbors proved true, and the First Khan began a systematic invasion of territory that redefined the borders of the Fluid Nations.  Success after of ruthless success, victory after bloody victory, the dread of the Cetacean Hordes grew as their savagery and cruelty increased.

What could have been a new era in governance of the oceans of Elqua saw a change in timber, and the unshakable faith of the Orcans in their First Khan began to waver.  As dire and focused a military race they may be, even the combat centric civilization of the Horde began to balk at the First Khan’s brutality.  No longer did the Khan demand fealty from the conquered, but subservience.  Those of his inner circle that worshiped him as divinity incarnate were no longer shown the attention of his charisma, but instead were treated as the warbeasts that were enslaved in the Horde’s masses.  The First Khan’s drive for perfection became obsession, and finally manifest in irresistible compulsion.  No where was the fall of the Khan’s fame more clearly illustrated than the drive to dominate the Mer tribe known as the Dumasque.

The resistance of this one particular tribe of Mer, dwarfed in size and strength by the massively built Orcans, would have at an earlier time filled the minds and hearts of the Cetacean poet-warriors with pride.  Never before in their prehistory had they face so spirited an opponent, so unbreakable a species, as the Dumasque.  Combat is honor, and honor is life to the Orcans, and the conflict with the Dumasque exemplified that ideal.  But frustration mounted in the brow of the First Khan.  How dare these inferiors, these smaller pisceans, the inconsequential creatures stand in the way of His unification.  The more the Dumasque resisted, the more consumed with their defeat the Khan became.  His tactics grew more desperate, his methods more cruel.  He drew needed attention and resources from the rest of His dynasty to deal with this tiny obstacle.  Those among his Inner Circle that voiced simple concern, let alone opposition to the Khan’s will, were ostracized to the front lines.  So single-minded was the Khan’s obsession that once He finally expelled the Dumasque from their water, He did not rest his loyal-but-spent soldiers.  Instead, he vowed their obliteration from the seas of the world, and continued to chase the retreating survivors.  This advance history dubbed the Khan’s Folly, as it took the dynasty’s beleaguered and exhausted forces to their ultimate failure — the Undertow.

The Khan’s forces were decimated there, sucked down into the abyssal depths of Elqua by the Undertow by uncaring order of their warlord.  As the Dumasque, caught between the gyre of the Undertow and genocide by the ravening Khan, they chose destruction by the whirlpool.  The Khan would not accept this, and sent the Horde in after them.  The resultant chaos left barely a tenth of the Horde able to escape from the unrelenting swallowing of the Undertow, including most of the Khan’s inner circle and his companion, the Rani.

As the broken Cetacean Barbarians dragged their shattered bodies back to their homesea, the Khan raved.  He railed against the universe, damned the gods for their pettiness, denying Him the victory that was due to him.  It was as the remnants passed through the shoals of Coinchenn that they fell prey to the Leviathan, a massive monstrosity that saw an easy meal in the bleeding, moaning survivors of the Undertow’s wrath.  Unable to take another defeat, ruing His obsession and ashamed of the sacrifice made in his folly, the Khan threw himself at the Leviathan.  Crazed with guilt and shame and loathing, it is said the battle lasted for hours before the Leviathan maimed the Khan, pulling his tusk out from his jaw by the root.  By final decree, the Khan sent his forces back to their homesea as He dragged the monstrosity down to the Shelf and darkness.  Before their retreat, one of the bearers of the Eight Banners saved the Khan’s tusk from sinking to the same end as the embattled combatants, and brought it home to the Oceans as a testimony to the end of the First Dynasty.

Returned to its place of birth, those that stayed behind and thus did not witness the descent of the First Khan into ruination, embraced the tusk as a monument to what had gone before.  They carved the military victories of their mightiest leader on the curved ivory, shackled to it the songs and praise of the people in silk.  Named “Khantusk”, it became the mantle of power for the Cetacean Oceans, and was wielded by the subsequent Khans as they tried to recapture the glory that once bathed the Orcan hordes.  But never did the defeated Horde reclaime the absolute allegiance of its people as it once enjoyed, and eventually the Orcan race left their barbaric ways behind to become one of the Civilized.

Here Khantusk languished in obscurity; once a mighty weapon, now little more than a forgotten symbol of an abandoned chapter in history, as reduced in import as the power of the Khan from which it came.  As the Orcans fostered their new role as diplomat between the races, Khantusk’s importance was relegated to archivists and historians only.  It disappeared during one of the many outbreaks of the Shellback Wars at the end of the Golden Epoch, when one of the diplomatic missions of the Cetaceans between the two squabbling species went horribly awry and resulted in one of the most protracted skirmishes in Chelon/Lumulus relations before the emergence of the Kraken Empire.

Campaign Use

Khantusk would serve as a mighty tool for unifying nations, for bringing disparate forces together as a cohesive whole.  It would be of great import to any nation, be they expansionist or fending off the incursions of such a nation.  The players could be entrusted with retrieving the cetacean artifact, either from an invading warlord or for a homesea against said invader.  Or perhaps the player characters seek it out for themselves, to aid in their own ascension into the political powers of the Endless Blue.  Even the fact that the artifact is not whole can be a hook for adventure, with various parties of differing ethical and moral standing contesting over a shard of ivory that seems to have magical properties.

Powers

Continuous

– Infused with the decades of loyalty and fidelity, seeped with the patriotism that comes from utter nationalism, the very idea of Khantusk serves as a symbol for unity and leadership.  Those that posses the artifact are imbued with a portion of that First Khan’s infamy.  If the bearer possess Khantusk for at least one month, their leadership potential is magnified by a magnitude of one.  Their masses of servants and soldiers swells, expanding from a crowd to an army.  Treat such a character as if they possessed the Leadership feat; and if such character already possess the leadership feat, multiply the results by 10.  Those with silver tongues and a skill for for attracting followers expands in the presence of Khantusk, potentially reaching into the thousands of dedicated supplicants.

– The bearer then begins to form an inner circle of loyalists, dedicated to both the Khantusk’s bearer and his cause.  If the bearer has the Leadership feat, Khantusk’s charismatic abilities multiplies the number of cohorts that flock to his cause.  The carrier gains a number of cohorts — referred to as his inner circle — equal to his normal Leadership result for 1st level followers.  These inner circle cohorts are still limited in experience by the class level limit listed for the bearer’s Leadership score.  Members of the Inner Circle may themselves take the Leadership feat and gain their own followers and cohort, benefiting from a +2 association bonus.  However, once the bearer begins to suffer from the artifact’s cursed power, that benefit becomes a -5 disadvantage due to the negative association.

– Finally, the bearer gains a companion.  One individual above all others understands the vision the bearer has for the nation and history, and shares in it with non-shakable loyalty.  This special cohort is the equal to the bearer, in level and influence, and will be seen by the bearers followers as the one true source for the bearer’s wisdom.  The relationship between bearer and companion can be platonic or romantic, but whate ever the form it takes the pairing forges a primal, pure bond between the two free of jealousy or distrust.

Invoked

– When held, Khantusk can influence the attitude of others towards the bearer.  It can shift a non-player character’s attitude positvely one stage (from hostile to unfriendly, then to indifferent, and so on).  This can only be done once a day per individual, but can influence any number of individuals.  Repeated daily use on the same individual(s) can cause strain on the bearer and may trigger the artifact’s curse that much sooner.  If the individual targeted by Khantusk’s influencing power is of the same race as the bearer, the adjustment in attitude leaps immediately to friendly status.

Cursed

– History repeats itself, and Khantusk ensures that those that bear its divine powers repeat the success and ultimate failure of the First Khan.  Slowly, over the length of the bearer’s campaign, he will slowly begin to suffer from the same afflictions that the Unifier of the Cetacean Barbarians did: paranoia, megalomania, and narcissism.  His lust for blood and savagery in battle will take its toll, influencing the bearer’s mind, making him cruel and primitive.

Suggested Means of Destruction

It must be replaced it in the remains of the First Khan’s jaw.
It must be surrendered to the hands of a foe that has never opposed you.
It must be wrested from the bearer by their jaded companion and thrown to the disillusioned masses.

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