A title that both commands reverence and fear, kharoush are the wise women of the tribal federation in the Maressian Sea. With their settlements scattered through the islands, each island has their own kharoush, responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of the people of their island. They are skilled in the healing arts as well as knowing the unseen paths, and use alchemy and more to support their endeavors.
A kharoush's growthInevitably, kharoush go blind with the years. There's almost as many theories and rumours as to why as there are tribe members, but exposure to the unseen paths and frequent use of potent herbs are the most wide-spread. Some believe that as they grow in power, they trade their eyesight to the Mistress of the Unseen Paths, or that the milk of their eyes allow them to see reality differently. And it is true that many kharoush require surprisingly little help navigating the world, despite their huts and caves often being situated at precarious precipices or deep in the jungles of the islands. At any given time, a kharoush usually has two to three apprentices that she teaches in the healing arts. Few, if any, come to her voluntarily, and most of the time the kharoush will suddenly show up at a parent's house and tell them to pack their daughters belongings. Inevitably, if that happens, the child will just have gone through her first menstruation, leading to this event being treated somewhat hushed, in hopes that the kharoush will not come and take their child away. A woman returning from apprenticeship with a kharoush is celebrated with a huge feast, contributed to by the whole village, since not only does the woman return to her family, but the village gains a knowledgeable healer.
First of the kharoush: the aghraAmong the kharoush of a group of islands, they chose the aghra. The aghra serves as the spiritual leader for the kharoush, just like they server as spiritual leaders for their communities. Other than that, there is very little formal power - an aghra can not simply overrule the gathered kharoush if they don't agree with her decision. Usually, though, since the aghra tends to be the oldest and wisest, her word carries great weight and will not be disregarded lightly. The aghra has no hut of her own, usually she travels among the dwellings of her peers who elected her. The common folk whispers that she flies from one hut to another, for surely a blind person can't be traveling on her own, but no one who wasn't intoxicated has ever claimed to have seen her. This doesn't stop drunks from claiming that the only reason for that is the cowardice of others, who are afraid of the aghra taking revenge for spilling her secrets. The aghra is rarely ever seen in villages, and it isn't always clear to common people which communitues share an aghra. It may even happen that two islands who share an aghra have an island with another aghra in between them, though typically if that happens only the kharoush know. In some cases, if a group of islands has an important spiritual landmark, the aghra may take her seat there, but even in that case she will still travel extensively to stay in touch with her peers.
The kharoush's secret: the imraAs much as the kharoush are shrouded in rumors and legends, no one even suspects the existence of their best-kept secret: the imra.
"Ilami! Good to see you! Is your village doing better?"First among the aghra, the imra is an ancient woman always wearing an intricately carved wooden mask. She is considered to be the avatar of the Mistress, existing both here and within the Unseen Paths at once. She knows what the Mistress knows, and she has the ear of the important tribal leaders. Only the powerful know of her existence, and if she deems a tribal leader not worthy, no matter their actual power, their influence among the tribal federation will wane. No one remembers another imra than the current one, and no one is quite sure what she does all day. Yet, she is treated with utmost respect and reverence by the chiefs. Though no one has tried her, somehow everyone knows what happened to those that did - forgotten names that only ever get mentioned in cautionary tales about disrespecting the imra. The most interesting part about this is that none of the chiefs recalls ever having told or heard those stories. They just know, and if those forgotten names get mentioned among them, everyone knows what they are being warned of. Upon election of a new chief in a village, the local kharoush will invite the chief if the imra deems them worthy, and at the day and time of the meeting, a fellow chief will wait for them to escort them. It is no accident who gets sent to welcome a new chief, and inevitably those who share this fateful night become close friends and allies, no matter the distance between their islands. The imra walks the Unseen Paths and the Mistress showed her which connections to facilitate, to bring forward the future the Mistress sees.
"Ariumo! Yes, thank the imra! Her advice saved us!"
"That's good. Sometimes I wonder if underneath that mask and all that attire there's still a person..."
Ilami's eyes went wide in shock at Ariumo's words.
"Even if she were a ghost animating that mask..." Ariumo continued, but Ilami shushed him.
"Shhh! Remember Uranga..."
"Of course. We're just focusing our baloo to condense it, so we have more power available whenever we need it."While her apprentices take care of the kharoush's garden, the kharoush occupies herself with oracles of different kinds and alchemy, and if her oracles point her to do it, she will walk the Unseen Paths to see what the Mistress wants her to see. Different oracles show different angles of a situation, and often things like the bird's flight or a scent on the breeze will tell the kharoush what to look for.
The Unseen Paths by Imoen Kim via wombo.art
Remove these ads. Join the Worldbuilders Guild
Hi! I have just read your article, I really like the end of your article in particular - all the details you give us on the Imra, gold! The intricacies of the traditions are well explained and fun to read.
Hi, thank you so much for you kind words! january was very busy for me, so I apologize for only getting back to you now :) I'm glad you enjoyed it, the imra is probably my most favorite part of the priesthood, though I was worried that all the rumor and staying vague might be a turn-off for a reader. Yet, I wanted her to be mysterious and a kind of scary person/thing/whatever she is ;) It's always difficult to write about mysteries in an encyclopedia without destroying the mystery, so I'm happy you enjoyed it!
This article was a joy to read! I loved reading about how these healers interact with their culture and the consequences as a result of certain worldbuilding choices. The art is a great addition, it surprised me to learn it was made by an AI! Overall, this is a great taste of your setting, and I hope you continue to write high quality, information dense articles like this in the future.
Check out my world for the video game I'm working on!
The Realm of Heroes
Thank you for your kind words, as well! :) My favorite part about worldbuilding is always to think about the repercuissions. Change a small thing, and then think about what this would mean, how things would be different compared to our modern world. And yes, the AI pictures are great. Sometimes you need to tweak the keywords a bit until you get something that works, but I really love the format and flavor it adds! And I'll be back latest for next World Ember, it's always a joy to participate and share the community spirit! I'm glad that you didn't find it too dense or too dry, it's always a challenge to keep things readable, so I'm happy you still found it fun to read!