Anna Kashina, author of the recently-released Blades of the Old Empire, kindly agreed to drop by a write a guest post for Bibliotropic. After reading her latest novel, I was particularly interested in the culture of the Cha’ori, and she was good enough to shed a bit more light on their culture.
Thank you for hosting me on your blog, and for coming up with such a rewarding topic!
As it happens, I did develop the Cha’ori culture quite a bit, even though only glimpses of it are shown in the book. It is a pleasure to talk about it.
The Cha’ori are a nomadic culture somewhat similar to Mongols but not militant. They live in horts, groups of about 200 people (sometimes bigger or smaller), and they travel on horseback in the area called Grasslands, a large grass plain that lies between the kingdom of Tallan Dar and the Eastern Mountain Range. They usually set camps for short periods of time until they deplete the nearby pastures and then move on.
The Cha’ori depend on the strength of their warriors and the skill of their herders, but they are intrinsically a matriarchal culture. Each hort is informally ruled by a woman elder who has a rare gift of foretelling–seeing the possible futures and predicting the most probable one. In other words, prophecy, even though the Cha’ori don’t really like to use this word. This woman, the Foreteller of the hort, relies on a Warrior Elder, the senior male who has authority of the rest of the hort and is directly under her command. Often this man is her husband, or consort, but this is not required.
Each hort has an “identifier”, a sign carried on their banners and the tops of their helmets. By these signs other Cha’ori can see which hort the people they encounter belong to. Most horts are friendly with each other, but some are not.
This identifier usually highlights something to do with the Foreteller. The most powerful Foreteller, Dagmara, carries a symbol of an eye, which is also the identifier of her hort, the Overseer hort. She is rumored to be hundreds of years old, made immortal through her friendship with the mysterious Forest Mother. Her hort informally rules the Grasslands. No one will ever go against the Overseer hort, and other Foretellers and Warrior Elders sometime come to seek Dagmara’s advice.
The Cha’ori have their own language. The word “Cha” means Wanderer, “Ori” means Grass, so their literal name is “wanderers over the grass”. The Grasslands they live in are called “Or’hallas” in their language (from “ori”–grass and “halla”–land). They have distant cousins, Cha’idi (“wanderers over the sand”), who live in the deserts just north of Shayil Yara.
The Cha’ori depend on their horses for survival, and each of their horses is considered a full member of the hort. Their lives are just as precious as those of people, and each time a horse dies it receives a burial equal to a human. The Cha’ori burn their dead and send the ashes into the wind.
Anna Kashina grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1994 after receiving her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She works as a biomedical researcher and combines career in science with her passion for writing. Anna’s interests in ballroom dancing, world mythologies and folklore feed her high-level interest in martial arts of the Majat warriors. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her latest novel, Blades of the Old Empire, was published on February 25, 2014, via Angry Robot Books.