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Kanaarites

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An ancient civilization of elven lineage, the Kanaarites carefully guard their secrets until they can regain their arcane power.

Overview

An ancient subset of the elven races, the Kanaarites are a marsh-dwelling people of Swynmoor.  They are a secretive tribe, and few who enter their territory return.  There is much myth and legend surrounding their existence.  The Kanaarites are mostly known for their magical prowess and mastery of sorcery, though the strength of their warriors is not to be underestimated.

Appearance

Being of elven lineage, Kanaarites are tall and lean, with upswept pointed ears.  They have larger facial features than their elvish cousins, with broader nostrils and wider eyes.  Complexion ranges from tan to a swarthy gray, possibly indicating some drow ancestry.  Members of the highest castes often have fairer skin, with rare but not unheard of ivory-skinned individuals. Hair runs in the reddish range, from strawberry to dark auburn; noble families are marked by their raven-black locks. Their eyes are the color of the Kanaar, almost invariably some shade of green.

Dress varies from individual, but the same materials have been used for ages.  Cloth is made from treated bark, kept either its natural brown, bleached white, or dyed with green or blue pigment.  Ceremonial dress uses intricately decorated cloth, adorned with bone and feathers of varying colors.  Hides of alligator and gatorfolk are commonly used for durable wear, including light armor.  Metal armor and weaponry is forged from an alloy called kormat.  Created from copper, iron, nickel, and other substances, it is a durable metal with a dark bronze color.  Its recipe is secret, and though many in Decathros have tried, has never been successfully imitated.

Kanaarite architecture is distinct and precise, using sharp angles and and stepped quadrilaterals.  Buildings of any importance are made from an amber-colored stone found only in the Sekkita Jungle, and most structures are decorated with detailed hieroglyphy and stylized images.  It is rare now to find intact Kanaarite ruins, but archaeologists suspect that underground temples and structures exist, carved from natural caverns and grottoes.

History

Prehistoric Kanaarites lived in small hunter-gatherer tribes and, over a few short milennia, the largest tribes joined together.  This alliance sought consolidation of all the tribes in the Moors, and a series of short but bloody unification wars were fought.  These wars were formative for Kanaarite culture, establishing distinct castes and a violent-natured society.

Following the unification of the tribes, a council of warlords was formed to govern the Kanaarites.  From this council arose a leader who would later be called Ran’kanaar, a title meaning simply “Father of the Kanaar.”  A possibly mythical figure, Ran’kanaar is said to have established the first Kanaarite Empire, a vast dominion that reigned over the entirety of Swynmoor and beyond into neighboring lands.  Under his command, the capital city of Gal’etas was built, featuring a grand palace as a testament to his power.  Prior to Ran’kanaar’s rule, the Kanaarites practiced ancestor worship and animism.  Ran’kanaar established himself as a god in his time, the head of a pantheon of gods that would form over many generations.

Ran’kanaar was eventually killed in battle, after which a temple was built in his honor.  His successor was a shaman who took the name Ran’sabrad, establishing “Ran” (Father) as the title for the ruler of the Empire.  Ran’sabrad focused on religion during his reign, establishing prescribed ritual and fleshing out the beginnings of the Kanaarite pantheon.  The Ran’s rituals were violent, employing torture and living sacrifice to honor spirits.  Ran’sabrad presided over these rites himself, effectively ordaining all subsequent Rans as high priests of the Kanaarite religion.

Rans came and went over the next few milennia.  The influence of the Empire waned, eventually shrinking to only their small homeland of Kanaar.  It was around this time that the legendary Kanaarite magic entered the scene.  While magic had been performed since before the unification, it was weak and consisted mostly of shallow mysticism. There was surge of magic rituals and use, and the Empire grew again at a rapid rate. Historian magi debate as to the source of this magic. A few suspect it was the work of dragons, while others claim the Kanaarites developed the magic system themselves.  Whatever the cause, the use of magic flourished for nearly a millennium.

Following this Golden Age, the Kanaarites began to isolate themselves, apparently abandoning the imperialist tendencies of their forebears and focusing on the Kanaar proper. Even as Vosks, Skaldevs, and others began to settle the northern Moors outside of Kanaar, the marsh elves kept to themselves for the most party, only warring when their borders were violated. Enmity between the Swynnish and the elves has never truly subsided, and the Dukes merely bide their time until they can strike again into the marshes.

Religion 

The Kanaarite pantheon is vivid, depicting gods considered strange and even demonic by others in Decathros. They rarely have names proper, only titles of occult meaning and origin. 

Legends speak of the "Dreaming Piper", a Kanaarite demi-god, who walks the vast swamps of the Kanaar, playing a set of pipes carved from the neck-bones of serpents long extinct. The Dreaming Piper wears a ceremonial scarlet-red robe, purposefully standing out amidst the lush, verdant greenery. Around his neck he wears a kormat torc, and another on his shaved pate, carved with the earliest known form of Kanaarite hieroglyphs. The Piper's eyes are always closed, and never open, though upon his lids, wide-open eyes are painted in vivid colors. He (though a few depictions and legends, interestingly enough, regard the Dreaming Piper as female) is ever-dreaming, plying his haunting melody, as always moving. 

Rahzbarsa, the Negligent One, is another Kanaarite deity, though a minor one. Rahzbarsa is always depicted as a panther, with a body of deep-purplish hue and a face of ashen gray, with upward-facing, pointy ears, not unlike those of the Kanaarites themselves. These ears end in long white tufts, a sign of Rahzbarsa's true age, for it is said, that the she-panther is nigh immortal (not all Kanaarite deities are) and stalked the jungles during the time of the Lizard-Lords-Who-Came-Before, four thousand years before the first Kanaarite tribes merged to form a nation. Rahzbarsa is called the Negligent One, though no living Kanaarite truly knows why that is so; the fact that the deity is named suggests a foreign influence, or perhaps a deity that once held a higher position. There is nothing to be found in the legends about the she-panther, which explain the reason for her peculiar sobriquet. Rahzbarsa is a patron of those who hunt the jungles, and many tribes' warriors and hunters pay homage to her in the form of ceremonial blood-letting.

The Stalking Eagle is honored by Kanaarite sorcerers as the bringer of knowledge, but also disaster. She is depicted most often as a winged woman, a sword burst of flame emanating from her mouth. Her cult sees her as the wisest of all gods, but she alone bears this knowledge: it is her burden, and its weight causes her to unleash terrors on the Kanaarites. Worship is almost entirely sacrifices, but rather than the proud blood-letting of Rahzbarsa's warriors, the sacrifices must be done in silence and darkness to quiet her vicious mind.

While the various gods each have their own cults and shrines, the Ran is the high priest of all. From the great bipyramidal temple in Gal'etas he daily offers sacrifices - firstly of his own flesh and blood, piercing the flesh of his neck and face; then blood of nobles; down to the living sacrifices of captured warriors and native Kanaarites; and finally sacred animals. The proper of sacrifices various by day and deity, making living sacrifice a less common but still regular event. Blood is gathered in great basins in the top of the bipyramid temples, which are then drained out to the commoners to adorn their amulets and idols.



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