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Kha'ali Rushtra

You don't understand. That is no army you are facing. No barbarian horde. They are a calamity. The death of civilization. A plague that leaves nothing bar scorched earth and broken corpses. Hear them! Hear the drums of war! The trumpets of the end times! Hear the laughter of the mad gods! For the Scourge has arrived...and the old world will fall in their wake.
— Survivor of the fall of the Itrakan Empire
  Many have compared the advancement of civilization to the nourishment of a flame. From a meagre and fickle spark to a fire that burns away the shadows of savagery and barbarism. Nowhere does this light shine brighter than in the lands around the The Great Divide, where man has spent millennia striving toward ever greater heights.   But like the fire of a camp will draw in scavengers and predators, so will the light of civilization draw the attention of that which lies outside its golden shine. The Outer Lands are vast and no one can tell what manner of terrors may lurk in the savage darkness beyond the Walls of Dusk and Dawn...  

An Empire Falls

  It began under the shadow of the eclipse. Hunters and patrols did not return from the highlands. One by one, small outposts along the southern edges of the Itrakan realm went silent. Then village after village, town after town. One month after the eclipse had announced the beginning of the third millennium DA, all of Itraka's southern border had been devoured.   The star crowned Emperors of the Last Daughter grew concerned as message after message, speaking of strange lights and shadows dancing among the southern hills and woods, arrived in their hallowed hall. But before they could take action, the silence of the south was broken.   Horde after horde of savage warriors streamed down from Wall and in a great tidal wave, they swept away those highborn lords and all their armies, sundered their cities and burned their people. The Itrakan Empire, once the preeminent power of the south had been vanquished in but three months. Few were left to warn the nations of Anidara. Their minds ravaged by fear and madness all they would tell were but two words. Again and again like some mad rhyme. Kha'ali Rushtra, the All-Consuming Locusts had come.  

A Hundred Years of War

 
Assault
by Dominika Mayera
Soon the people of Anidara bore witness to these newcomers. For over two thousand years, no new tribe had come from the Outer Lands. Last had been the Kidarites, mighty warriors on their war-chariots, bent on conquest. But the Kha'ali were different. Where they went, the civilized world burned. Villages, cities, entire kingdoms, all were annihilated by the horde. Those few scouts that managed to return from conquered lands only spoke of towers of skulls and mass graves as large as cities.   Finally, the horde could no longer be ignored and the Tenth Dynasty of Pesh-Ar went to war with the invader. For over a century it fought the Rushtra with all its might, throwing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and millions of coins into the forges of war. And even that only stalled the all-consuming horde. Only the cataclysmic Brightflame Hour managed to stop them for good. It is unknown how many of them burned in the eldritch flames, but the fact that these savages disappeared for another century tells more than enough.  

From Beyond the Edge of the World

  In 3302 DA, they finally returned. War is now eternal all along Anidara's southern border. The cities and forts of Arran and along the great lakes remaining from the Brightflame Hour groan under endless attacks as the savages throw themselves against them with a monstrous rage, equal to even Vardanias most diabolical of conflicts.   From were they hail no one knows. Why they seem intent on wiping out all those near them no one knows. For the Kha'ali do not trade or send diplomats. Their tongue has never been heard along the Divide, their script, left behind on pillars they erect among the ashes of destroyed settlements, never been seen before. They clad themselves in armour made of green metal, helms formed into monstrous shapes, their banners showing strange symbols painted in red or green.   Below that they look human, to the surprise of many. Their skin is darker than that of most Anidarans, a darker olive framed by black hair, that is all that differentiates them from the people they seem to wish to annihilate at every turn.   Silence marches in front of their armies and all reports of Rhustra attacks speak of an unnatural calm surrounding them shortly before the storm. This wall of silence is then broken by a cacophony of drums and trumpets. Instruments well known to any Anidaran, but capable of creating sounds of the most curious and strange nature. Be it on horseback or foot, with bow or spear, the Rhustra are powerful warriors and even a victory against them is sure to come with much bloodshed and loss.   Some say that giants walk among them. Some claim that they are the agents of the Final Hour. Itrakan survivors, those poor poor souls rave and ramble that they are the spawn of a mad god, intent on wiping out all life under the heavens. Whatever the case may be, the only certainty remains that if the castles and cities of the borderlands fall, there will be no salvation for Anidara...  
Demons? God Spawn? Bah! The Hijin have razed entire nations to the ground. Ferans and Vardanians have tried to exterminate one another for over two millennia. The scouring of the south has been devastating that much is true. But in the end, it is nothing more than another piece in the eternal maelstrom of blood and fire that we call history.
— Senior Archivar Helian Kaseidis
Map.jpg
by Darkseid
  Curios Origins   The invasion of the Rushtra stands out, among the myriad of migrations and attacks the lands on the Divide has suffered over the millennia, for two reasons. First, the utter devastation wrought by the foreigners seemingly bent on complete annihilation rather than simple conquest.   Second, the place from where the horde hailed from. The Itrakan Empire lay west of the great gap in the Dawn Wall, hundreds of kilometres away from any known passage.   Which means that they have either lived among the peaks of the Wall throughout the Dawn Age or come through another, previously unknown passage. Neither answer is satisfactory or comforting.   Strange Masks   There is next to nothing known about Rushtra culture, language barrier and war for survival being the main obstacles. One thing that is known is their apparent favour of masks. Their helmets are not only formed in the likeness of strange beasts or gods but also covered in a myriad of symbols and marks.   Furthermore, each searched Rushtra had one extra mask with them. Equally covered in symbols, but of a different kind that those carved into the metal. The symbols vary from mask to mask and no two will have the same amount or variety.   Equally varied is the material, which seems to indicate social status, ranging from silk-like red cloth to rough leather. What purpose they serve or what the symbols mean is, like most things about the Rushtra, unknown.   Monuments to their Gods   Where the horde marches only ashes remain, that much was known for the longest time. Only recently did the people of Anidara discover that the Rushtra do leave something behind after burning their target. A pillar, carved from light, white stone and covered in another set of symbols, this one different from those found on their masks and armour.   Atop the pillar, at a height of about two meters, sits an idol of what many believe to be the Rushtra's deity. A vaguely female being with a horrific face and dead eyes that bore into one's mind.   The idols and presence of horned female warriors among their armies, based on clothing and equipment they are believed to be witches or healers, are the only signs of whatever the invader's faith may be.  

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Cover image: by Stijn Windig

Comments

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8 Jan, 2020 15:44

I like how you've taken a military force and turned them into a force of nature. Them's scary.   Have any linguists tried to translate the runes of the masks and pillars? Does the language have any similarity to any known languages?   Is that any particular city in the background of your title card? It looks cool.

8 Jan, 2020 18:21

Thanks and yeah they are.   Tried yes but succeeded no. As far as similarities go, not to any language still spoken...   It depicts one of the Itrakan cities that got conquered. It does look good indeed.

12 Jan, 2020 18:05

Knocking it out with your opening quote again!
  The imagery of their armies pouring over the walls, throwing themselves against Arran, the speculation to their origins and their nickname-- "All-Consuming Locusts" really paints them as some nigh unstoppable, animalistic force.