The Khereseth were a force of warriors and weaponsmiths whose martial prowess was unrivalled in the history of Elesalia. Even today, a Khereseth sword – if it can be found - is a prize worthy of only the best fighters. It was said that their blades could cut the air in two and their armour could turn back lightning.
No-one is quite sure of the origins of the Khereseth. They first appear in Elesalian history in the years immediately following the eruptions of Mount Terarnis and the Dragonspine Mountains in the year 1129BP. These eruptions destroyed the city state and civilisation of Prelnax and plunged the area into the chaos of a huge humanoid attack from the mountains, spearheaded by a phalanx of fire giants. Out of this chaos came the Khereseth, their valour and martial prowess a key factor in the defeat of the humanoids.
It is speculated that they may have been refugees from an as yet unknown city, survivors of the city watch; there is rumour of the elves covertly directing them in their rise to become warrior knights. Their name itself comes from an ancient root “Q’RES” meaning “to watch” and their society was organised into wards and precincts. It is also possible that they may have been a force of fighter adventurers roaming the land in search of opportunities for glory and battle.
The next time history called on the Khereseth, they were established on the shores of Lake Gharzish, at the south-eastern end of the Aman Hexu. Here, they were steadily building up their strength, honing their skills of fortification and weaponsmithing and making their expertise invaluable.
In 1050BP, the expanding Empire of the Snake moved out of the Yirovian region and towards Lake Gharzish, intending to add the southern lands to its black, bloodstained orbit. It fell to the Khereseth to stop them, and stop them they did. It is said that the plains that day were dotted with piles of skulls, expertly separated from their surprised owners by the sharpest blades the world had ever seen. The Empire drew a line and did not cross it again.
When, over two centuries later, the Empire began to collapse in on itself with an inevitability matched only by the utter cruelty and mayhem of the process, the Khereseth joined a coalition made up of exiled Yirovians, resistance fighters and the newly-arrived Sea Raiders who had landed on the shores of the Aman Hexu. This force swept into the Yirovian valley and cleansed the land of the Empire’s evil in a campaign of slaughter so complete that the ravens were too fat to fly thereafter.
Over the next eighty years or so, the Khereseth continued to provide the Ghafan Kingdom with cadre troops to bolster its own army, as they had done since the Kingdom’s founding in 1049BP. However, by about 755BP, decadence and corruption had started to seep into the Kingdom, tainting it like mould; this alienated the Ghafan traditionalists and the principled Khereseth, who withdrew their involvement with Ghafan’s military.
Deprived of a military cadre, and seeking to protect themselves, the cities within Ghafan started to establish their own forces, orders of knights, each headed by a cleric. This was one more step towards the eventual collapse of Ghafan.
At the surreptitious behest of elven agents, the Khereseth were also involved in the establishment, training and armouring of the Rose Blades, an order of female paladines who became settled near the Lake of Light after the defeat of an evil sorcerer who had risen in the Yirovian valley and desecrated the Isle of Aleandar, a shrine of peace and healing.
The evil that lurked in the Dragonspine Mountains still had plans for the human nations of the Ghafan area and in 445BP, they enlisted the aid of the Shadow Hands, a sinister and secretive band of assassins to attack and destroy two key elements of the human resistance – the priestesses of Sultimaris and the central temple of Kallia, goddess of fire, whose network of shrines gave protection to the scattered human towns and cities of the Ghafan plain.
In a counter-strike, a band of human and elven adventurers, including a squad of Khereseth fighters struck back against the Shadow Hands, destroying their base and killing a large number of their operatives.
In 435 the Great Desiccation began, as the forces of evil below the mountains cut off the source of the rivers that irrigated the Ghafan plain. Then began the humanoid attacks, small to begin with but getting larger and larger by the year as drought bit harder, like a pack of hungry jackals, into the human lands.
The campaign came to a head in 418BP, when a huge assault on the weakened humans was launched. Wave upon wave of humanoids – a snarling, howling sea of hate - poured out of the mountain caves, headed by fire giants, eager to repeat their destruction of Prelnax, over seven centuries earlier. The scattered human forces and their elven allies answered the call to arms but they could not gather their forces in time. All looked lost until the Khereseth army rode to meet the enemy. In a ferocious battle, they were all but wiped out; their enemies were halted in disarray and by the time they had resumed the offensive, human and elven fighters had managed to mass and won a hard-fought and bloody victory.
With that sacrifice, the Khereseth passed from history. Rumours of survivors endured for a long time – or perhaps it was a forlorn hope - but no revival of the Khereseth has ever been seen.
Although the Khereseth are long gone, rumour remains of their hidden fastness where the master weaponsmiths hid their secrets and – it is rumoured – weapons of ultimate workmanship. This place is said to be guarded by mechanical contraptions such as iron golems and gorgons – the metal-plated bulls of legend.
The Khereseth based their military organisation around the number five. Each group of five was known as a hand (khurota) whilst at peace, and during combat was known as a fist (khushoth).
A fighting unit was twenty-five strong, divided down into five squads, each of four soldiers and an NCO. This 25-strong unit was led by a quarter-captain. The next one up was one hundred and twenty-five, led by a more senior officer.
The unit would form the shape of a pentagon in combat. The points of the pentagons would face outwards like bastions in lined formation. At each point of the pentagon, two soldiers' shields would link together at an angle (they were also constructed so that they could hook together to make a jointed shield wall) - the linked point was called the beruta.
The Khereseth were not only great weapon makers but superb armourers, always looking for ways to improve their armour. Khereseth armour is often up to 30% lighter than conventional armour and, like their weapons, confers a +1 to +4 depending on the maker.
Khereseth preferred melee rather than missile combat; anything further than hurled axe or spear range was too far for most. There was, however a forge that lent itself to working on crossbows, which satisfied them since they were partly-mechanical. Longbows on the other hand were regarded as elvish, being mostly wood or bone.
Units of the Khereseth were used frequently to train and bolster local forces as needed and before the fall of the Ghafan Kingdom, they were utilised as cadre troops. There were two separate classes of trainer within the Khereseth, the first (known as Khith) who trained only Khereseth soldiers, and the second (known as Tathish) who left the Forge Lands and went to train foreign troops as required by the Forge Masters (Rokhuseth).
The Khereseth were slave-owners. It was part of the culture in that part of the world and they had no qualms about using slaves to provide the food, cook and do municipal duties. The Rikheth were household officers who oversaw the running of households and the domestic side of forge life.
Only those fathered by a Khereseth warrior, known as forge-born (bokhtar) were eligible to belong to the Khereseth. Slaves (ashrath) taken or outsiders wanting to join the ranks were treated as second-class (tethshath), never quite being trusted.
Khereseth also had herds of livestock (oshir) the care of which they contracted out to bondsmen (oshireth), freed slaves who were nevertheless under the control of the forges. A department of the Khereseth known as the herd masters (Shikoroth) appointed overseers (karath) of the bondsmen and controlled the logistics of the herd, including slaughter, flaying, preparation of the meat, etc.
The reason for the Khereseth mistrust of elves is not known but mistrust them they did. It meant that in their approaches to the Khereseth, the elves had to work in secret, using either agents or elves in disguise. The Khereseth, without realising it, gave valuable service to the elven cause over the centuries.
Some Khereseth words.
Ashioth - a precinct, sub-division of the Khereseth.
Shathat - officer in command of an Ashioth.
Beruta - two linked shields at the apex of a pentagon formation.
Barathot - shield wall.
Berathor - shield maker, one of a twinned pair of armourers who lived at each forge.
Bokhath - the forge.
Bukhath - forge staff, stokers, bellows-men, fuellers, quenchers.
Rabuthat - member of the horse corps, who provided messengers, mounts for officers. The Khereseth had no real cavalry, preferring to fight on foot.
Rabut – horse.
Rikheth - household controllers, those who oversaw the running of households gathered around the forge.
Rokhuseth - the Forge Masters.
Rushat - swordcraft, its study and practice.
Teth - outside the forge.
Sath - the verb to come, to arrive from somewhere else.
Khurota - hand, the unit of five in peace time.
Sariath - the 125-strong unit.
Sharath - senior captain, commanding a Sariath.
Shethara - armour, its study and practice.
Khith - tutor or trainer of Khereseth warriors only.
Shakhoth - the forge that specialised in crossbows.
Thakhir - the 25-strong unit.
Takhrat - a quarter-captain.
Thesharut - literally 'small blades' the study of daggers and the shorter swords.
Shethorat - armourer, one of a twinned pair who lived at each forge. Along with his berathor, he would work on all aspects of armour and shield.
Rashithor - sword maker.
Shuth - a ward, sub-division of the Ashioth.
Eshothat - officer in charge of a Shuth.
Tathish - trainer of foreign troops.
Oshir – livestock.
Oshireth - bondsmen who looked after the Khereseth livestock.
Shakha - the study and science of mechanical weapons.
Khushoth - fist, the unit of five at war.
Shikoroth - the herd masters.
Karath - an overseer. This word was used not only for the overseers of herd bondsmen but also for those who organised the acquisition, processing and care of slaves.
White Dwarf #203 - Cover -
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