Epic Dawn: Genetic Castes – Nobles

Throughout all of the cultures in the Epic setting, grand and otherwise, there appear to be consistent sub-groups that often form castes. These are not races because they can only have children with their own kind, and they are in some cases quite clearly distinct from Humans. In other cases, however, there are a great many similarities, and all of the castes share a lot of biological similarities with the Humans they live among. In each description, I will outline how the caste in question functions in the Empire of Ashua, which is the default setting for Epic: Dawn (for now at least).

The first cast is the ruling caste, variously known as Khaldan, Rahim, Khadin, Alfar, Anu, Keegan, Kemali – all words in different languages meaning something like Nobles. They are physically most similar to Humans, and it is possible for a Human with a powerful presence and sculpted appearance to appear very similar indeed. The difference is when you actually meet them. A Noble has a powerful, palpable bearing of command which immediately makes its presence known, often just beneath consciousness. Authoritarian, they are difficult to contradict; angry, they are deeply menacing; displeased and you want to please them; cold, and it is like a wound.

With each other, they are fiercely competitive. It is rare that they can be in a room together without cutting remarks and one-upmanship. They respond to challenges to what authority they have with ferocity and even brutality. In many cultures, this takes the form of ritualized combat of some sort as a way to resolve this competitiveness without straining the culture or destabilizing it too much.

In the Empire of Ashua, the Khaldan do not carry the Blood, but they can join the ranks of the Chosen, and some certainly do, though their power is usually social and political more than it is spiritual. All of the Lesser Houses, as well, have Khaldan at their head, as do mercantile guilds and many other organizations. It is difficult for other mortals to resist a Khaldan when she has set her eye on a position of authority.

This is not to say that Khaldan invariably hold positions of power – it is simply that this is what they seem well-suited to doing. There are always rebels and iconoclasts, but even these will have unintended effects on those around them, swaying them without perhaps even intending to.

In Ashua, there is a strong and widespread culture of dueling amongst the Khaldan as a way to satisfy matters of personal and family honor. The straightsword has developed as the weapon of choice for such duels, and has strong associations with honor and nobility. The severity of such duels varies – they may be bloodless, ending when one combatant is disarmed or worn down; they may be to first blood, which often ends quickly; and it is not unheard of for there to be duels to the death over matters of deep insult or intractable contention. Often, such duels become local entertainment since even individuals can carry themselves with a great deal of pomp and ceremony. Non-Khaldan will cheer for personal favorites and place bets on the outcome, all of which the Nobles soak up happily. Technically, duels to the death are illegal, but in almost all cases the Khaldan have enough power with the Blood and the Chosen to avoid repercussions beyond perhaps reimbursement to bereaved families.

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