Khel'Nasar (khel-nə-SAHR | /xel nə 'sɑɹ/ | /xel nə 'sɑr/)
Defenders of the wild places of the world
The Khel'Nasar are a loosely-structured order that protects the forests and the wilderness with the aid of their Nasar companions. They have been a presence on the world of Caer'Thun for about 5000 years, and may have predated the arrival of the Elves. They ride far and wide on the backs of their giant birds, defending the wild places of the world.
Among the Khel'Nasar, there is little hierarchy. Every Khel'Nasar has the right to speak and to make decisions, as long as they are willing to take responsibility for those decisions, or for seeing the actions that they feel are necessary are carried out. There is, however, a "first-among-equals;" the Wing Lord of the order. The Wing Lord has the right to call all of the Khel'Nasar to arms, and to coordinate them in battle. He, she, or they (the title is originally Therarael in Elvish, and has no associated gender) carries a Mithril war-horn, known as the Horn of Stars, for this purpose. The Wing Lord is chosen by election, and every Khel'Nasar and every Nasar in the order are consulted. Otherwise, the Khel'Nasar divide themselves into "Wings," which consist of five of their number and their Nasar companions. Usually the Wings are led by the most senior Khel'Nasar among them, but if there are compelling reasons to follow another, like skill in battle or a talent at leadership, then any Khel'Nasar within the Wing may assume the role of Wing Leader .
The Khel'Nasar are dedicated to the idea of individual freedom for the good of all. They believe that people and creatures should be left free to live their own lives, as long as they don't intrude on the freedom and well-being of others. Most matters should be resolved as small groups or communities, and large matters should be resolved collectively. They tend to be irreverent towards government officials or aristocracy, and generally follow no law but their own. Their one law is simple: Do the right thing. Sometimes people might have clashing ideas about what the "right thing" is, and sometimes, people lack the information needed to make their best decisions, but a being can only do the best they can with the information they have at the time. As long as Khel'Nasar are trying to do that, they are on the right path. In a way, the Khel'Nasar form a society apart. They are welcomed in some communities, like among many tribes of Emm'Kevirda and Indigenous Orcs, Nunnehi, and most Sidhe settlements, but more organized and urban communities tend to view them as troublesome at best, and a downright nuisance at worst. Not only do the Khel'Nasar have little respect for what they see as "pointless bureaucracy" and "pompous posturing," but Nasar view their humanoid companions as part of their flock, and have no understanding and little patience for why they might be excluded from places where their companions are welcome. Khel'Nasar who must deal with urban environments usually stay in stables with their Nasar companions. In the communities that embrace them, however, the Khel'Nasar are regarded something like shamans. They are highly respected, even a little feared. It is traditional for the order to be celebrated in these communities when they arrive, and rendered what aid the community is able to give. Certainly they will be fed, clothed, and healed of their injuries. For their part, the Khel'Nasar recognize the burden of hospitality a tribe or settlement feels in attempting to provide for giant raptors, and try not to stay overlong. If they do stay, they will put themselves to work to contribute, by hunting or scouting or whatever the community might need. It is fairly common for Khel'Nasar to go home to their communities of origin in the winter and take part in their local culture in this way. Khel'Nasar address each other as "Sister," "Brother," or "Sibling", and greet each other with joy when they meet. In a way, they think of themselves as part of one wide-reaching and scattered flock, defending a large hunting territory. Gatherings of two or more Wings of Khel'Nasar are happy occasions of shared lore, storytelling, and traded or gifted resources. Most Khel'Nasar practice some form of practical crafting, having a great deal of time on their hands with no one but their Nasar to talk to, and it is common to gift useful, but beautiful, things to one another when they meet. Examples might include a beaded belt pouch, a tooled quiver, a knife hilt carved of antler, an amber and burl pipe, or perhaps even a forged blade or handcrafted musical instrument. If a Khel'Nasar has no such craft to exchange, it is clear to their Siblings that they must have either suffered a great loss or been at war, and greater gifts will be pressed upon them instead. With so little structure, one might be inclined to believe that the advantages of the order would be easy to abuse, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Khel'Nasar claim it is the Nasar themselves who keep them on the moral path. While the rest of the settled world might debate the sentience of the Nasar, there is no such debate among their companions. The Khel'Nasar view their avian companions as friends and siblings, and take their opinions very seriously.
"Your bird is lovely," said the sun elf, reaching for Omen, perhaps to scratch his chin. Omen narrowed his eyes and snapped impatiently at the aristocrat. He snatched his hand back warily. "Thank you," said Lyrissande, "but he's not 'my bird.' Don't get the idea that Nasar are 'tame.' He's very much his own person, and he's here because he wants to be. His name is Omen." She turned to the big black-feathered raptor. "Omen, be nice." Omen shifted his feathers and made a clucking sound in his throat. I got the impression that he was rather pleased with himself.
The purpose of the Khel'Nasar is to protect the wild places of Caer'Thun. They patrol the "uncivilized" areas of the land, seeing to the wellbeing of its wildlife and the sylvan peoples who dwell there. Civilized areas are watched for their husbandry of available resources, and for wasteful resource exploitation. The goal of the Khel'Nasar, however, is management -- not destruction. They are not about to go after a woodcutter for heading into the forest to make a living, but they might go after the commanders of a local navy who indiscriminately mow down a forest to build ships. A single person washing in a river is left alone, but an industrial dyer who dumps their byproducts into the river out of town will surely be paid a visit. Khel'Nasar prefer to deal with situations diplomatically, and seek solutions that put things in balance with minimal suffering for all involved, but they are willing to get violent if they believe it is necessary -- and they train extensively to be ready for just such a situation.
The Khel'Nasar control the Raptor Islands, a small island reach along the eastern coast of the Tahlyrae Continent . Their rocky shoals and cliffs form a natural defensive bullwark against invasions from the sea, but are still inhabited by a small population that relies on fishing for their survival. They pay a regular tithe to the Khel'Nasar in return for their defense and assistance in troubled times. The most significant of these islands is Hawkwind Island, which is essentially a small mountain in the sea. It features Hawkwind Tower, an enormous eyrie structure that was build by and for the Khel'Nasar, to serve as a headquarters, and to provide a space to deal with the limited amount of paperwork and bureaucracy that the order requires. Hawkwind Island was bequeathed to the Khel'Nasar by the powerful Hawkwind family in the early days of the Succession Wars , and its shoals and cliff faces make it impossible to reach by boat. Aside from the islands, Khel'Nasar have caches of food, weapons and supplies at strategic points throughout the continent, although these are more widely spaced the farther south one goes. By tradition, the Khel'Nasar must leave something when they take something. It has been many centuries since the order has needed the armouries kept in the caches -- but the weapons and armour there are always maintained, just in case.
The founding of the Khel'Nasar has been lost to time, since it was so long ago, and there was no written record for a few centuries at least. According to oral tradition, the founder of the Khel'Nasar was Ryll Huckleberry , a forest Gnome who was heartbroken over the destruction that was happening to wild places as the early cities expanded. She prayed for guidance, to find a way to help protect the wildlands, and a Nasar flew overhead, heading for the Iron Hills. She took that as a sign, and made the very first arduous climb to the Eyrie Peaks. She convinced a Nasar, known to history as Winne , to join her quest, and soon, others followed her example. World-Trees of Caer'Thun, upon which so many ecosystems depend. The Khel'Nasar were also instrumental in ending the Tyrannen Invasion in the 3800s. It has traditionally been against the Khel'Nasar's beliefs to take a side in political matters, but when she saw the massive destruction wrought by the Tyrannen armies, and their Blight-Druids and Blood-Mages, Lyrissande Verbena joined the Khel'Nasar, and rallied them to fight the Tyrannen in a savage guerilla war. She was elected to the position of Wing Lord for her efforts, and led the Khel'Nasar and the armies of the Free Peoples of Caer'Thun, as they would later call themselves, to victory against the empire, martyring herself in the last battle. Today, most of Caer'Thun is aware of the great debt they owe to the eccentric birds and their riders. Even the urban areas that find them a nuisance would not openly disparage their presence. Unfortunately, they are not nearly as numerous as they were a few centuries ago, as Caer'Thun gradually becomes more urbanized, and urban encounters with Khel'Nasar are rare.
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Fly Free, Brethren
Sometime around the beginning of the Avalonian Calendar