Kuskar is a small, fiercely independent, nation to the north of Achera and south of Yulania, in southeast Zaldara. The people there are known for their iconoclastic (some say simply stubborn) manner and their outstanding cuisine.
Kuskar comes from the ancient Kuskari tribal dialect meaning “He Who Fights”.
The country itself is full of rich, deciduous forests and rolling hills.
Cities and Places of Interest
The capital city of Jora lies near the heart of Kuskar, nestled in a great bend of the Jorani mountain range. Northeast of Jora, on the bordering Arahani, lies the large town of Sayud, which houses a series of bridges over the Arahani River. To west of the capital lies the town of Rayl.
At the two passes through the Jorani that lead into northern Achera sit the tower strongholds of Is’saud and Em’vesi. To the west is the stronghold of Denair’i, guarding the border between Kuskar and southern Ornis. To the northwest stands the stronghold of I’nysas, guarding a particularly narrow ford across the Arahani River into Yulania
Kuskar’s history is one of nearly constant conflict, which is reflected in its citizens fierce, independent demeanor and nationalistic pride.
The Imperial Period
The Kuskars were one of the first tribes conquered by the mighty Acherans in the early days of the Acheran Empire. They were also the last to break free of the imperial yoke (as their Voivode, Janov Meszaros, termed their status at the time.
Meszaros was a powerful clan leader who rose to prominence during what became known as “The Border Wars” with Achera in the mid-4th century. He united the clans and was given the title “Voivode”, a type of Grand Marshall. He rallied the clans and eventually drove the Acherans out of Kuskar and back across the Jorani Mountains. He retained the Voivode title and settled in to rule the first nation of united Kuskar tribes.
Kuskar’s relations with the still powerful nation of Achera are still frosty at best. There are occasional skirmishes along the southern borders, though the mountains serve well as a bulwark against heavy aggression. Both nations fervently guard the only to viable passes through the Jorani that separate the two countries.
Kuskar has tried several times to move across the Arahani River and into Yulania through both Sayud and the ford at the garrison of I’nysas. All attempts been decidedly repelled by Yulanian troops.
Laws and Governance
The Voivode has since become a hereditary monarch, ruling with absolute power in Kuskar. He is advised by the Golden Council, a team of ministers and counselors that are beholden to him for their position. There are noble lines that own most of the small amount of land available in the country while the serf and indentured servant populations are quite high.
The laws of Kuskar are usually described as “just, but harsh”. There is little room for rehabilitation or tolerance for repeated crimes in Kuskar. Thieves are also considered anathema, being branded upon the first offense and having their hands removed upon further offenses. Capital punishment is usually reserved for treason, murder, assaults against the nobility, and magical coercion.
The Jorani Mountains are rich in minerals and gems—though mining them often results in skirmishes with Acheran troops who are guarding operations from their own country along that border.
It was Kuskar horsemen who won their lands back from the Acheran Empire. To this day, Kuskar are known as shrewd traders of horseflesh—it is probably their biggest export.
Due to its size and lack of other resources, Kuskar is a heavy importer of foreign goods, mostly with Ornis, with whom they have cordial relations. Kuskar also has some trade relations with Tarsas, though no diplomatic ties.
*CP = Copper Piece, SP = Silver Piece, GP = Gold Piece, and PP = Platinum Piece
The Kuskar are the primary ethnic group in the counrty, though a few Acherans and Yulani live there.
Half-Orcs and other Orcish descendants are relatively rare in Kuskar, though are often employed as mercenaries and bodyguards.
The Kuskar are Southron people, with dark hair and skin. Males are known for their thick mustaches. They have a reputation of being a particularly hirsute people.
The primary language spoken in Kuskar is simply called “Kuskar”. Like many formerly imperial holdings, High Acheran is spoken in the courts and is used in legal documents. Merchants, like most of their ilk throughout Zaldara, speak “Tradespeak”, a vulgarization of parts of Tarsian, Acheran, and other languages. Yulani and Acheran are also spoken widely.
Most Kuskar have a single name, followed by a patronymic (-van, i.e. Tamasvan). Members of the nobility have House names.
The primary religion of Kuskar is Mazranism. Every city has a temple to The Three and shines exist in nearly every nook and cranny in between.
However, Kuskar is the home of the Daodari sect of Mazranism. The Daodari hold that the Three are actually aspects of a greater, un-created, One. This sect is actually quite prevalent. Those that do not adhere or acknowledge the sect usually find themselves the victim of local disfavor.
Sorcery and Wizardry
The practice of spellcraft is not illegal in Kuskar society, but it is frowned upon and distrusted. There are still long memories of the Acheran sorcerers who decimated Kuskar horsemen in the old wars. Crimes committed in Kuskar with magic are severely punished—especially acts such as summoning creatures from Beyond and magical compulsion. Many a Sorcerer or Wizard suspected of such acts have found themselves facing a headsman’s axe.
While known for their fierceness, Kuskar are also known to be larger-than-life bon vivants as well, loving food, music, and drink without abandon.
Kuskar music is known to be highly melodramatic—the sad songs are very sad and the happy songs are downright joyous. They often employ string instruments, drums, and chimes in their music.
Kuskar is renowned for its excellent cuisine, utilizing spices and herbs from around the known world to turn simple fare into gourmet delights.
Weapons and Armor
Kuskar helms tend to be conical and very ornate, with high plumes springing from the tops. They are also equipped with either cloth or chain veils with which warriors cover their faces (up to the eyes) in battle.
Like the Acherans, Kuskar blades tend toward the curved (scimitars, falchions, kukri, etc.). Kuskars also are known for their fine horse-borne weapons (lances, etc.) and ornate saddlework.
Due to the strong traditions of Mazranism throughout this part of the world, men and women tend to wear long hair, with their hair covered by short caps or headscarves or hooded garments. Men, in particular, are known for their thick mustaches.
Kuskar clothing tends to be very colorful, with bright trousers and shirts and ornately embroidered vests. They also favor lots of jewelry and other decorations, with both sexes utilizing pierced ears.
As in Achera, married women and men wear the Bindu, a red tear-drop shaped mark on the forehead to indicate marriage.