An incredibly long-winded poetic form which takes several days, on average, to recite, Khe'drakha captures key events in Stenza history. While the Stenza do possess a written language, no Khe'drakha was ever put to paper or screen. It is considered a violation of the art form and an insult to the hard work of professional orators who recite these poems. The khe'drakha is used to "sing the praises" of specific individuals, from the gods to notable leaders of the past to the current leader in the present. Composing a new one is a collaborative effort between the potential subject and the orator commissioned, and can take several years to complete. It is a form of poetry fond of exaggeration and hyperbole, using these devices the way that An'o does symbol and energy to say "this person was really, really awesome and here's why." Poems have been composed around mytho-religious events like The Creation of the World, and Iradae the Lawgiver has at least two recounting his achievements. The bulk of them are traditionally recited during the summer months of First and Last Sunrise, performed alongside the games and demonstrations; only a handful are recited during Long Night and High Winter. The latter is usually a clan-based affair done amidships and centered around clan history and famous members.
Clans developed the khe'drakha form originally as a means of keeping history. They were used to mark key points in the year and honor clan elders and heroes. Even before the Unification of Clans, the Khe'drakha form was gradually expanding as orators added to poems they recited as a means to show off stamina (it is considered taboo, however, to subtract from a poem). Even though the Stenza have had a written language for millennia upon millennia, the idea of writing down a poem was met with fierce resistance across the board whenever it came up. Common counterarguments at the time were that orators work hard and it would be morally wrong to put them out of work; that the Khe'drakha form is meant to be heard in an arena and will lose meaning if it is written down; and that writing poetry down is simply not traditional, among many others. The arguments varied in merit but the staunchness of the resistance allowed the oral Khe'drakha to persist into the present day. Following the Unification of Clans, poems were composed about Iradae the Lawgiver which were swiftly added to a "unified canon", a combination of regular poems from all clans that covered key events and people. Clans retain their own canons, recited amongst themselves at festivals and sometimes shared nationally at competitions, but the most well known poems belong to the unified canon. These are generally about key victories in which all Stenza had a part (so that all share in the glory), and about their shared history following Unification. New poems are composed routinely, as it is customary for a new leader to commission one which will be worked on in concert with the orator for several years, added to over time to include specific accomplishments that the leader is responsible for. (As a consequence, things like the Clan Killings are carefully sealed away and not included in such works, but as an event which has occurred within living memory and thus resides in the Collective, one can still find information on it.) Khe'drakha poetry is related to An'o in terms of its exaltation qualities.
ContentKhe'drakha content is most notable for the fact that it tends to change with the times. Poetry recounting the myths of the Stenza people have evolved over time to the point where historians can pinpoint the year of a given version based on how it describes the gods and the events in which they were involved. Notable changes include the gods being described as "light", as the stars appeared in the night sky or the suns from the surface of Mudewei, into the modern conception of the gods as plasma beings that are incomprehensibly huge and hot. Another key change involved the tale of Parevia, Lan'tha, and the Asteroid, which has evolved with more information about the geology of the Ice Flats region and the two moons of Mudewei. Additionally, clan histories add and revise stories about their great heroes with time.
Khe'drakha Performer is a profession the same as a ship's technician. One cannot be a hobbyist orator. So, a trained professional stands on stage, typically in an open-air arena or, failing that confined amidships, the largest area aboard the ship. He or she is typically unaccompanied, although there is a modern movement to keep time on stage with a pair of rhythm bones. For days, the performer recites, moving carefully through long verses while a team of individuals supplies them with water and the means to go to the restroom (these are politely ignored by the audience).
It is common for everyone to attend recitations of Khe'drakha poetry, but the key participant is always the professional orator, the individual on the stage who is charged with reciting the poem. They are seen as "responsible" for the information even if it resides within the Collective Knowledge and can theoretically be found by anyone. The audience is also regarded as a key participant in that they are there to receive the poem, as it were. It is believed that a proper Khe'drakha requires an audience to hear and learn it from the orator (continuing on from the days of Khe'drakha poetry being used to enforce clan norms).