The Korghani
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(Gypsies) These nomadic people wander throughout West Corwyn. They are gypsy-like culture, but are racially similar to the Aeryn. In addition to barbarians, many bards come from this wandering culture as well. In fact most famous minstrels and entertainers have traveled with or trained under a Korghani teacher from one of its many caravans. These wandering groups of nomadic peoples supposedly have mysterious origins and legendary mystical powers. Their caravans can be found throughout the known realms plying their trades and selling their wares. The Korghani are an offshoot of the Aeryn race and are similar in appearance, but not custom or speech. The Korghani are commonly called the "Korgis" or "Gypsies."

“Ours has always been the wandering life, for to tarry too long in any one place is to invite stagnation. Yet we are not homeless—every Korghani carries his home on his back, in his songs, and in his heart. This great land is our house, and our only wall is the horizon. City-dwellers are songbirds who have traded their freedom for a silver cage, and their minds and legs grown weak with disuse. We are the eagles; the hunters, the untamed, the memory of how it was. We are the children of the wind. We are the people of the road.”

—Giloria Abashe, Korghani elder

The Korghani see everything as in a state of transition. The chrysalis of chaos, hardship, or maturity transforms caterpillars into butterflies, though some are born butterflies, and others forever remain worms. “Dance on the wind-song, dance on the breeze. Soar to the clouds but smile on the trees,” goes the Korghani folk song. Children learn its message from the moment they are able to sing: Reach as high as you can, dance like the butterfly, but cherish your roots. Elders might seem somber and stolid, but they are the trees that supported your cocoon. Still, Korghani find it difficult to emulate anything as still and slow-growing as a tree. “Freedom!” they sing, and with freedom comes motion. From western Cyrendar to eastern Gwynne, the Korghani dance across the land whose name they bear and far beyond. They might settle for a time, for a week, a month, or even a season, earning their keep with songs and stories or the sweat of their brows—and, sometimes, with nimble fingers and loose morals. Soon, though, the wind tugs at their cloaks and they spin away in search of their next home.

As some Korghani age, they search for a permanent home. Their bones ache from the years of dancing, and the comforts of a soft bed and a solid roof every night grow too strong to resist. A song still plays in their hearts, though, and melodies drift through their dreams. Too tired or too bitter to follow the haunting notes, they return to the still and quiet trees only to frown on the skies. “Climb to the palace, climb to a star. Lie down to sleep for you know who you are.” Korghani sing some of their oldest folksongs only at funerals, in voices to make the birds weep. In times past, Korghani seers led their people with visions of the future. They wandered the breadth of the land with joyous hearts, reveling in the freedom afforded by a secure future. Gifted oracles guaranteed that the Korghani followed their destiny and assured that one day each Korghani would ascend to the stars to frolic in S’Thar’s palace.

Now the winds of fate turn the Korghani this way and that, sending them tumbling through a world they no longer understand. Seers find the future unreadable, and only twisting and unpredictable paths remain. Finger-bones and marked stones rattle in their cups and reveal murky answers even the wisest soothsayer strains to interpret. Korghani are a people with a destiny hidden from them—perhaps forever.“A clink and a clash and a round calabash. Find the step and the turn where your heart starts to burn.”

Almost every inn and tavern on Corwyn has at one time or another housed a Korghani troupe of stomping, clapping, shouting dancers. The quick, precise turns require linked arms and joined hands and occasionally lift a participant clean off the ground. As the music grows louder, the dancers move faster, until—with a great cheer—the watching patrons slam their mugs together and down the contents as the dizzying Alehouse Jig ends.When settling in a new home, or leaving an old one; when venturing into unknown territory or revisiting a friendly campsite, when celebrating the procession of youth to adulthood or bidding goodbye to an elder whose time has come, whenever the cocoon unfolds and whenever the Korghani require just a little bit of luck, then come out the colorful skirts and gauzy veils, the scarves of a hundred different hues trimmed with beads and sequins, bells and tassels, fringe and feathers. With scarves and skirts and songs winding and unfurling in the breeze, the Korghani come together to dance the Butterfly Flight. Eternal wanderers in love with their freedom, seers in search of a lost destiny, entertainers to whom every word is a song and every step is a dance—these are the Korghani. The Korghani have a long tradition of oral history, here are a collection of traditional Korghani folk-tales:

“A History of the Korghani” by Montague:

In the time before this Golden Age, we were slaves, servants to fearsome devils who reigned in the northern lands. Trapped by an ancient covenant, our people served the devils for thousands of years before a hero arose to free us. No one remembers his name, but we refer to him as Vyush’baro, the Cunning Wolf. He beseeched the devils to provide us with a new covenant, and tricked them into signing a document so full of masterful speech and loops of logic that, when the signing was complete, our people were free.In a rage, the devils pursued us through the twilight years, destroying the land wherever they stepped. But Vyush’baro led us into barrows and through tunnels, under mountains and over plains, until the devils vanished in howls of frustrations and left us to claim our true destiny. Some say Vyush’baro was an angel, a servant of S’Thar, and that one day he will return in our darkest hour. Then, once again, we will follow him through black despair and mourning and come out into sunlight, to live forever in joy in our promised land.

“A History of the Korghani” by Samrilla:

The way my mother told it was that we once ruled a magnificent kingdom. We were kings and queens who lived in towers of gold and silver. We were so rich, vain, and powerful that we allowed a shadow to enter our hearts. We forgot our role as S’Thar’s chosen. A wise woman, a fortuneteller named Amendra, saw our pride swell and sought to bring the word of S’Thar back to our people. Many cast away their fortunes to follow Amendra, while others chose to remain in their beautiful city. One morning, Amendra led the faithful away to find a new life as wanderers. That evening, a mysterious disaster struck the golden city, and all those who stayed behind died in the cataclysm. Amendra taught our people that the quest for riches had led us astray. We forsake all property and settlement because we know it leads only to misery. Some think we wander aimlessly across Corwyn, but we actually follow the path Amendra once took. My mother told me that, when we reach the end of the trail she left, Amendra will return and show us where our destiny lies.

“A History of the Korghani” by Ekatarine:

I dream sometimes of a great darkness, of our people walking through chambers and hallways so vast the walls become lost in the shadows. We carry candles that cannot penetrate the black and serve figures that stand always with their faces turned away. They appear human, in my dreams, but I sense they are so much more. Then a great roar shatters the funeral peace; the walls shake and ceilings crumble. My people flee, faces streaked with dust, hands bloody from climbing through the wreckage. Those faceless figures, our masters, shriek in anguish and call fire and ice from the skies to protect their castles. They care nothing for us. They do not follow. They bring their power to bear to protect their lands but all for naught. They fall beneath piles of rubble while my people march into the night. In my dream, it seems we walk for years, both over the land and beneath it, always searching for something. We lose our brothers and sisters to wild animals, fierce creatures with red eyes, starvation, disease, and broken hearts. When it seems I cannot bear another moment of this miserable trek, the sun rises. A flight of butterflies lifts off from the grass, and my people spin in joy, arms raised to the light. Now the sun begins its descent to the west, and I fear the coming dark. But as my dream splinters, I see a lunar-white moth flutter from the shadows to lead us on once more.

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KORGHANI DRESS
Korghani favor scarves of all sizes and colors, but some hold special significance. Most notable is the family scarf, or kapenia. Children receive their kapeni upon maturity; to own one is to be an adult. These long, heavy scarves display elegant and complicated embroidery that is incomprehensible to most outsiders. To Korghani, though, the scarves show family trees. By tracing the loops and whorls of a scarf, one can trace a person’s history, back through her mother and father, her siblings, grandparents and great-grandparents, as far back as the family has knowledge. Korghani wear their kapenia only on special occasions, such as weddings or funerals. Most choose to be buried with their kapenia, though some bequeath them to loved ones. It is extraordinarily rare for a Korghani to bequeath her kapenia to a non-Korghani, or even a Korghani not of her clan. Korghani wear sensible but colorful clothes during the workday. When performing, they dress in fancy gowns and heavily embroidered vests and trousers and wear excessive amounts of jewelry. Korghani believe that certain colors carry specific powers and choose their outfits to attract the right type of energy. Pink is the color of love, kindness, and courage. Red represents lust, long life, and inner strength. Orange is the color of happiness and resourcefulness, and adventuring Korghani often wear a touch of orange on their travels. Green enhances wisdom and self-control.

RITUAL DANCES
Korghani, they say, have a dance for every occasion. Presented here are four of their most sacred and well-known dances. Alehouse Jig: Pairs of men and women participate in this boisterous revel. Synchronized stomping of wooden clogs on floorboards lends a rousing beat, and the male dancers spin their partners in circles until their skirts twirl like colored discs. Butterfly Flight: Korghani dance this dance whenever they desire luck or wish to affirm their devotion to S’Thar. Quick, graceful movements of dancers moving in a larger synchronized pattern mark this dance, with the participants wearing dozens of scarves and veils to represent butterflies.

Rube’s Roll: Korghani rename this dance from city to city to make it sound more flattering. Korghani women in slinky outfits, with perhaps one or two men for contrast and to help with intricate movements, shimmy and shake their way through this dance. Near the end they draw nearby audience members into the dance, guaranteeing generous tips from at least a few.

Vimaturi: This ancient dance is considered the holiest of rituals. A Korghani might dance the Vimaturi once in her lifetime, if she is lucky. Only under the guidance of a fortuneteller of exceptional wisdom can a clan dance the Vimaturi, and once danced, the ritual summons spirits of the clan’s ancestors. The spirits provide the clan with guidance or assistance, and grow angry if summoned for frivolous reasons. Beyond this, outsiders know no details of the Vimaturi scarf, or kapenia. Children receive their kapenia upon maturity; to own one is to be an adult. These long, heavy scarves display elegant and complicated embroidery that is incomprehensible to most outsiders. To Korghani, though, the scarves show family trees. By tracing the loops and whorls of a scarf, one can trace a person’s history, back through her mother and father, her siblings, grandparents and great-grandparents, as far back as the family has knowledge. Korghani wear their kapenia only on special occasions, such as weddings or funerals. Most choose to be buried with their kapenia, though some bequeath them to loved ones. It is extraordinarily rare for a Korghani to bequeath her kapenia to a non-Korghani, or even a Korghani not of her clan. Korghani wear sensible but colorful clothes during the workday. When performing, they dress in fancy gowns and heavily embroidered vests and trousers and wear excessive amounts of jewelry.

Korghani believe that certain colors carry specific powers and choose their outfits to attract the right type of energy. Pink is the color of love, kindness, and courage. Red represents lust, long life, and inner strength. Orange is the color of happiness and resourcefulness, and adventuring Korghani often wear a touch of orange on their travels. Green enhances wisdom and self-control. Turquoise represents physical strength and nonverbal communication, and most dancing costumes feature it. Blue is the color of health, youth, and beauty. Violet enhances intuition and divine inspiration, so most fortunetellers and seers wear violet scarves. Korghani love jewelry and favor gems over coins. Most pragmatically believe that worn wealth is harder to steal than wealth hidden out of sight in a tent or locked up in a box.

KORGHANI TATTOOS
Tattooing is an ancient and revered Korghani tradition; many Korghani artists also design and ink tattoos for their clan. Unlike the tattoos of other human cultures, which tend to be angular and abstract, Korghani tattoos usually represent concrete objects. Many Korghani choose tattoos for aesthetic or sentimental reasons, but several symbolic tattoos represent Korghani values and magic. Even the Korghani themselves have forgotten why these tattoos conjure particular associations, but they keep the tradition alive. Seven-pointed stars are common and represent inner strength and magical prowess. Tattoos of butterflies, birds, or iridescent insect wings represent faith in S’Thar, talent in fortunetelling, and freedom. Feather wings or colored circles represent spirits and angelic beings; particular styles and colors sometimes symbolize particular ancestors or guardian spirits. Open flowers with many petals represent bountiful love, both romantic and familial, while closed buds represent love lost. Vines symbolize strong family ties and fertility. A variety of images represent art and entertainment: goblets, masks, ribbons, teardrops, and flames are the most common. Korghani often combine these images with a symbolic color to conjure precisely the right effect. Finally, traditional tattoos exist which represent particular schools of magic. No one knows why these elaborate lines of abstract tattoos persist in the Korghani’ cultural lore, but their use remains widespread.

KORGHANI MAGIC
Korghani culture contains three distinct types of magic. Most outsiders know of the Korghani best for their flamboyant, entertaining magic stage tricks. Dexterous Korghani children quickly learn how to palm coins and cards, pull scarves from ears, swallow swords, and bring “dead” sparrows back to life. The Sczarni use this training to malicious ends, strengthening Korghani’ mostly undeserved reputation as swindlers and pickpockets. In addition to stage magic, many Korghani also possess a streak of real magic, in the form of sorcery. Wizardry exists among Korghani, but is relatively rare due to logistical difficulties.

Some wizards do the best they can, studying at libraries whenever the family stops in a city, or trading spells with other wizards they meet on the road. Sorcerers have an easier time, as their power comes from within, and most families see such manifestations as a gift from the spirits. Sorcerers often call thrushes or giant butterflies (same statistics as a thrush) to serve as familiars, as these creatures have strong ties to their religious beliefs. In addition to sorcery, some Korghani follow the path of the cleric, generally worshipping S’Thar, and Korghani druids bring substantial value to the wandering people. Finally, Korghani believe in what they call true magic—that which their fortunetellers possess. Fortunetellers, almost always female, believe they draw their power directly from S’Thar and the spirits of their ancestors. Even among clan members, a fortuneteller’s power seems mysterious and frightening. None know for certain how these powers come about—the gift comes from within, and even its bearer may not understand the power completely.

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FORTUNE-TELLING
Fortunetelling, the oldest and most respected Korghani tradition, is the domain of the women. While men have taken up the mantle of soothsayer in the past, women by far possess the most talent and the greatest success at predicting the future. Yet, ever since the disfavor with their deity, S’Thar and the resulting failure of her divine gift of prophetic magic, Korghani fortune-tellers have found themselves lost and adrift. Their predictions once guided their people, but now their castings come up bleak and distorted. Still, fortunetellers remain the heart of a clan. A fortune-teller lives in a small, private wagon, and the members of her clan frequently leave tokens of appreciation—posies, embroidered handkerchiefs, fresh-baked buns—outside her door. Though her predictions are now inconsistent and sometimes fail entirely, clans still consult their fortuneteller before making any major decision. Young men and women come to the fortuneteller with silver coins and scarves full of gathered herbs seeking good fortune in romance. Even outsiders sometimes approach Korghani camps, timidly offering worked goods and gold in exchange for a few minutes with the fortune-teller. Fortune-tellers traditionally pass their knowledge down to their daughters, ensuring their talents live on through the women of the tribe. Yet a thread of mystery winds through the history of Korghani fortunetellers, one strengthened by too many stories and strange events to be broken by common logic. Korghani pay their elders great respect out of the belief that power increases with age, and this is especially true for fortunetellers. The eldest women in a clan possess the greatest wisdom, and stories abound of elderly fortunetellers who can lay curses on enemies, read a person’s death in their eyes, and speak with the spirits of the dead.

LIFE ON THE ROAD
The Korghani find travel exciting and fulfilling. Most children are born on the road and spend their whole lives moving from place to place. Few can name their birthplace. The composition of Korghani caravans varies wildly, but the most common contain eight to twelve large wagons, one of which is exclusively for the caravan fortune-teller. The caravan keeps two horses for each wagon, plus two or three for riding and in case one of the horses pulling a wagon sustains an injury. A herd of five to ten sheep or goats provides milk and sometimes trade goods for the caravan. A pack of dogs serves as herders and guardians. Solid wooden boxes topped with flexible willow “ribs” comprise a Korghani wagon. Canvas or oilcloth, stretched tightly over the ribs, protects the interiors from rain and snow, and Korghani often dye their wagon-tops bright colors. Most of the wagons contain boxed goods, trunks, barrels, and crates—not riders. The majority of the caravan walks, with only the ill, the very elderly, and the very young riding in the wagons. At night, the caravan members sleep under the open sky or in small lean-tos. Typically, a Korghani caravan has between thirty and forty members in total, including children

If the caravan stops for more than a night, wagon-tops set on the ground make fine tents, and canvas tarpaulins protect the goods within the wagon boxes. In inclement weather, the travelers pitch their lean-tos or some sleep beneath and inside the wagons. Whenever possible, a caravan makes stops at small towns along trade roads. There it trades sewing, sheep’s wool, trinkets, and carvings for dry goods and supplies. Korghani’ greatest passion (next to traveling) is performing, and they seek out towns both to re-supply and to entertain. A good performance nets a caravan enough money to splurge on fancy fabrics, pretty jewels, and forged weapons. An excellent performance might garner gifts from the audience, such as baked goods, alcohol, or free lodging, while a poor performance leaves the caravan hungry and might get it run out of town.

Not all settlements welcome Korghani caravans, as unscrupulous Korghani and the notorious Sczarni have left their mark in the form of tales of Korghani deceit. Many peasants view Korghani as little better than thieves, and shut their doors in the face of performers. Some settlements react with undisguised hostility, meeting Korghani caravans with violence. Korghani rarely stand and fight in such instances. Doing so nets them nothing, and most caravans are not bloodthirsty pillagers. Travelers and merchants sometimes ask to journey with Korghani caravans, on the principle of safety in numbers. Rarely does a traveler ask a second time, though—the Korghani’ whimsical nature and love of travel means they often have no destination in mind. They find speed irrelevant—the journey is the purpose. Thus, caravans often take meandering routes, following shortcuts or alternative routes based on shooting stars, the patterns of stones in a river, a peculiar whinny from a horse, and a hundred other signs that seem meaningless to outsiders. Other travelers sometimes refuse to associate with Korghani caravans, believing them to be bad luck. “A race as mysterious as the Korghani must hold many secrets,” they reason, “and not all of them benign.” Some travelers actually make a sign to ward off evil upon spotting a Korghani caravan. Though hardly efficient, travel with Korghani is generally comfortable and relaxed, as an experienced caravan knows the best fishing and trapping spots, how herds of animals move, and typical weather patterns.

Caravans tend to stick to particular areas in particular seasons, although the guidance of a fortune-teller always trumps past experience. Korghani rarely settle down, and when they do, they form small, tightly-knit communities. These settled Korghani do not see themselves as owners of the land—such a concept is foreign to their culture—only as weary travelers unable or unwilling to continue the journey their brethren enjoy. Misunderstandings often occur between cultures who value land ownership and Korghani clans who inhabit a particular area.

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THE SCZARNI
Tales of Korghani treachery and deceit usually come from interactions with the Sczarni, a clan of Korghani dedicated to larceny and confidence games. The Sczarni travel less frequently than their kin, setting up shop in cities for months—even years—at a time. So long as their criminal activities go undetected, Sczarni continue to bleed their victims until their pockets are full and neighbors grow suspicious. They then move on to the next town and start over. The Sczarni possess hearts of stone and morals of butter, but they rarely engage in outright malicious activity. Their concern is gold, not violence, and they generally eschew more violent crimes like rape and murder. Instead, the Sczarni focus on subtler lawbreaking: gambling operations, con artistry, swindles, scams, petty theft, and minor thuggery. They believe this nets them the highest possible profit at low risk. The Sczarni might find themselves driven out of town, beaten, or imprisoned—perhaps even mutilated—for their crimes, but they rarely hang. Most Sczarni operate in small packs, mimicking a traditional Korghani clan structure. Instead of an elder, though, the most talented thief or most profitable con-artist assumes the role of leader. Leaders often grant themselves the title of king or queen, sometimes attached to an honorific. For example, a leader who gained his position through his skill as a pickpocket might go by the name King Swiftfingers.

Traditional fortunetellers refuse to associate with the Sczarni, but many crime families contain at least one woman who attempts to fill the role. These amateur oracles guide decisions through traditional fortunetelling methods, such as bones and cards. They lack the talent of true wise women, however, and Sczarni leaders rarely give these prophecies full weight. Most Sczarni consider themselves proud Korghani. They believe they honor their culture by living off of the foolishness of outsiders, many of whom mistrust and persecute Korghani. Traditional Korghani frown on the Sczarni way of life, believing their actions exacerbate tensions with outsiders, but they also accept Sczarni as family. A Korghani clan might hate the Sczarni, but they still come to their kin’s aid in times of need.

CLANS AND BLOODLINES
Korghani use the terms “clan” and “tribe” interchangeably. Both refer to a group of Korghani who travel and live together, even though each member might not be related by blood. “Bloodline” and “family” refer to smaller family units within a clan, ones related by blood, marriage, or very close bonds of respect and friendship. The definition of family can be difficult to explain to outsiders, as Korghani families develop slowly over time and rely on events that might have occurred long ago. Clans might occasionally travel together in the same caravan, but they usually go their own ways after a few weeks. Korghani believe wisdom comes with age, and as such hold their elders in great esteem. Children are taught to listen to and obey all older clan members, whether relations or not. Korghani love and care for their children, but believe their true potential develops only in time. Clans consider the birth of a child a great blessing, as their strong cultural pride fears Korghani extinction.

Children preserve Korghani culture and carry on traditions. While free-spirited individuals, Korghani remain heavily tied to tradition and value their bloodlines. Marriage requires more than two individuals in love; Korghani cherish family above all, and are loath to admit just anyone into their family. Marriage to non-Korghani is strongly frowned upon, but a family might accept a foreign suitor who proves his worth and spends enormous effort to win over his future family. The family might also object to a seemingly suitable match based on ancient history, feuds with another bloodline, or a wise woman’s divinations. For the suitor to win the hand of his beloved requires heroic effort, great deeds, and endless patience.Korghani believe in a peaceful afterlife full of joy and contentment in S’Thar’s palace. Even so, they receive news of a clan member’s death with sorrow. Funeral rites are private and solemn affairs; outsiders almost never get the opportunity to witness a Korghani funeral. Mourners sing laments in honor of the deceased and bury the body out in the open—at a crossroads, if possible, to represent the limitless roads available to the departed in the afterlife. The gravediggers bury the dead with trinkets, jewelry, ornaments, and other presents from the living. This is one reason why Korghani funerals are kept secret: to discourage grave robbing. Only Korghani know that their dead lie with valuables, and even the Sczarni would not dare disturb a Korghani grave. To do so would be to invite branding and exile.

Four times a year, during the seasonal changes, Korghani honor their dead with a feast that lasts from sundown to sunrise. All night, the Korghani celebrate in a subdued manner, telling stories about the departed, singing mournful tales about lost loves, and reminding loved ones how special they are. At sunrise, the clan dances the Dawning Dance to welcome the new day and all the challenges the future brings. Rumor holds that some of the eldest and wisest Korghani fortunetellers possess the power to commune with the dead, and some clans believe all prophecies come from the benevolent spirits of their ancestors. Even among those without magical gifts, some elderly Korghani believe they can speak to their ancestors and receive guidance from them.