View Full Version : [Festival] Gol Darak

Gorbash Kazdar
2004-12-29, 02:35 AM
Lord Malrun reigned his warhorse to a stop beside the mount of his guide, Quentos. The elf had a spyglass pressed to one eye, studying the nomadic encampment ahead of them. They had spotted the smoke of it coming over this rise an hour ago.

"Definitely orcs," Quentos muttered. "Kazdaran, judging by the banners. But I've never seen so many in one place, except for a battle." He handed the spyglass to the human knight.

Malrun grunted in agreement. "The infamous wolfriders of the steppes. This is no warparty, though - they have children and elderly with them. Unless the Kazdar are even bloodthirstier than rumor says?"

Quentos shook his head, and accepted the spyglass back. "If I may, m'lord, perhaps we should go and speak with them? The Kazdar are among the best trackers in the world, and this is their home ground. If your man is here, or passed through these parts, they'll know."

Malrun nodded in agreement, and the two rode down to speak with the orcs.

They were spotted almost immediately, and quickly surrounded by six riders from the camp. One, clearly the leader, snapped something in their harsh tongue. Quentos replied, and the two conversed for a few minutes. Just as Malrun was beggining to become impatient, the orc gestured for the human and elf to follow, and headed into the camp. The others fell in around them. Quentos took the chance to translate for his employer.

"They asked why we are here. I explained you are looking for a human who stole from you - the Kazdar despise all thieves and liars - and that we thought they might know of him."

The elf paused, and then added: "I also asked why so many were gathered peacefully here, and he said they were awaiting the winner of what he called the Gol Darak. It translates as 'mountain race,' roughly, though that really doesn't capture all the nuance."

Malrun laughed, as he patted his warhorse on the neck to calm it in the presence of the orcs' huge wolf mounts. "They're here to see the end of a horse - er, wolf race?"

One of the wolfrider's uttered what was clearly a question, and Quentos tranlslated Malrun's words. The wolfrider threw his head back and laughed loudly, repeating to his fellows what the human had said. The rest of the orcs also roared with laughter, while the first turned back and spoke with Quentos.

Malrun, his ears red with embarrassment and indignation, stared at the elf. Quentos avoided Malrun's eyes while he spoke. "The orc says, uh, that this is not like the 'weakling' races human's run, with horses running in circles. He claims that the Gol Darak begins on the far side of the Fireheart Range, then crosses directly over the roughest parts before going down into the Plain of Skulls. The riders can carry no food or weapons on this journey, only two skins of water."

Malrun forgot his anger, amazed. "That's some of the harshest terrain this side of the Great River! How long ago did this race begin?"

Quentos spoke with the orc again. "He says with the new moon - so, seven days today."

"They'll be waiting a while longer, then - if any make it at all." Malrun settled back in his saddle, considering the courage - or madness - required to undertake such a feat.

Just then, there were shouts from the orc camp, and hundreds of Kazdarn jumped up from what they were doing and ran towards the north. The lead wolfrider near Quentos and Malrun stood in his saddle and shieled his eyes for a moment, then pointed at something just on the horizon, shouting.

Quentos whipped his spyglass out and looked where the orc was pointing. "By the Lord of the Stars! There are two - no, three! - riders out there! They're running right in each other's steps!"

Malrun grabbed the spyglass and peered through it himself, stunned beyond words. Seven days? Over the Firehearts? Impossible! But the riders were there, and clearly met the descriptions the orc had given.

Suddenly another cry pierced the air - a wolf's howl, much closer than the three riders Malrun could see. The knight brought the spyglass down, and spotted something even more incredible. Easily two hundred yards ahead of the other riders was another wolf, with a dismounted orc running alongside. As Malrun watched, the orc looked back, laughed, then swung atop the wolf without missing a stride. The wolf's pace increased and the gap began to widen.

The orc camp was now in full voice, as they too spied the leading rider. A large shaman's tent had been erected at the center of the camp, with a clear lane to the open space in front of it. This was clearly the finish for the Gol Darak. The lead rider thundered down this lane, as orcs lined it, roaring in adulation.

At the center the orc pulled his wolf to a halt, and leaped down from its back. A group of herders and riders immediately tended to the spent mount, while easily a dozen shamans surrounded the winning rider. The crowd fell amazingly quiet. One shaman dumped some sort of potion over him, while others shook bone-rattle fetishes in a circle around him. Once the potion had been poured, a bison-skull headdress and a bear-skin cloak were produced and placed on the rider. The winner turned back to the crowd, raised his arms above, threw his head back, and roared at the sky. The rest of the camp roared with him, and began banging on drums and shouting.

The other riders were not forgotten, being met by handlers and shamans at the edge of the camp and awarded. but clearly the focus was on the winning rider. In moments, the whole camp had exploded into an all-out celebration.

Malrun looked over at Quentos, who merely shrugged. Clearly, the would not be getting any answers about their quarry for some time.

The Gol Dorak is a major festival and religious rite for the Kazdarn orc tribes. Those tribes depend on their bison heards for survival and their wolf mounts to control and protect those herds, so they have developed a strong cultural bond to the wolves and to developing the skills of riding and survival to a fine art. The Gol Dorak serves as the ultimate showcase of those arts.

The endurance race begins north of the Fireheart Range* , on a sparse steppeland at the beggining of fall. The range itself is not the tallest of the world, but is among the most rugged and inhospitable. Even the largest known passes would allow barely two riders abreast. Once through the Range, the route runs directly through the Plain of Skulls*. There is almost no fodder or water to be had in this region, and massive bones can be found throughout. Some say it is a dragon graveyard, but regardless evil spirits are believed to roam the wasteland. Eventually the riders come to a sacred place just on the edge of the Plain of Skulls, Jin'Tal, or the Eye of Courage. The first rider to reach Jin'Tal is the winner, and is declared to be a Ridemaster, one of the highest honors a wolfrider can achieve, on par with those of Huntmaster and Warmaster. Any who even finish the journey are considered to be among the best of the tribes, and are accorded high honors.

In addition to reaffirming the Kazdarn belief in their own strength, the Gol Darak is considered to forecast the fortunes of the upcoming year. The faster the winner reaches Jin'Tal, the better the omens. If none make it - which has occurred only once according to Kazdaran lore - disaster is foretold. Each individual tribe's fortune also can be determined this way. Addtionally, each rider tells the story of his journey to the tribes. This gives a second chance for those who failed to finish quickly to earn honor; the best tellings often find their way into the lore of the tribes. The shamans also examine these stories for omens, both good and ill.

With so much literally riding on this event, the scattered Kazdaran tribes all send large delegations to Jin'Tal as well as entering their own best riders. Upon the completion of the race, the camp at Jin'Tal becomes a massive festival, with feasts, contests, and perfomances staged in honor of each successful rider. Riders usually arrive at any time within two weeks after the winner, so the celebrations can easily last a month or more. Some of the more important traditions are contests of archery, wrestling, and mock combat judged by the winning rider. Successful riders with no life-mates must also contend with numerous proposals from admirers. Often, weddings are intermixed with the other celebrations.

Opportunities exist for non-Kazdaran adventurers during the tumult and chaos in the aftermath of the Gol Darak. For one, a traditional peace is declared for the entirety of the race and celebrations. Suprisingly, the normally insular and xenophobic Kazdar are more open to outsiders during this time, probably because they enjoy the chance to show off to 'inferior' races. This allows adventurers to bargain for normally rare Kazdaran goods, and establish contacts among the often hostile tribes. These contacts are very useful should the adventurers need to travel through Kazdaran lands at a later date, or are attempting to track someone down.

[Note: My Kazdaran Wolfrider PrC (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=Contests;action=display;num=10920238 85) has more info about the Kazdar orcs.]

2004-12-29, 04:47 AM
Neh? didn't you have another submission for this contest?
edit:: Just read what you wrote in the contest thread. best of luck.

2005-01-02, 08:56 PM
This is great stuff. I especially like how it is "alignment-free"!

Gorbash Kazdar
2005-01-02, 10:59 PM
Thanks, though I'm not sure how you mean "alignment free" ;)

2005-01-03, 11:57 PM
I mean that if a person wanted to have orcs be good or evil or lawful or whatever, the celebration would still work.

Heck, it's not even race specific. I could easily steal this for the gnolls of the eastern plains of my game world.