KHADAR ESREU A ESUGH. ESUGH ERE KHADAR, IT KHADAR KHAUVU.
Ari, Daughter of Oloughin, formally Akhens-Ari (lit. "war-cry"), is the current Caller on the Council of the Clans for the Ghesite people. She is regarded as an up-and-coming warlord amongst her people, having done her best in the past three years of her leadership to perform in a standard she finds equal to or better than her father, the Unifier, and his great reputation. She has attacked the role with ferocity, gaining many titles in her short reign, as evocative as Bringer of the Flensing Wind, She Who Feeds Entrails to Dogs, Scourge of Khevisarash, and She Whose Banner Guides the Thunderhead and as dull yet important as the aforementioned Caller on the Council. Her position as the Caller means she traditionally holds the ability to call for meetings of the Council at central locations, though in the present as a result of recent trends the Council has been in session almost nonstop, the maze of tents now a makeshift city surrounding its meeting place.
Ari has argued for increasing hostility to the Ghesites' neighbors in her time as Caller, arguing that they need to be dealt with before they swallow the nation whole. She has personally led only a single large raiding campaign and two other smaller ones, directed against the northern provinces of the Berghi Empire to her south, but in this time she gained a reputation as a fierce and nearly rabid warrior, sacking three cities in the months she was away and gaining the title Bringer of the Flensing Wind for the death she left in her wake. Despite this, the pace of hostilities against the Ghesite's neighbors under her rule is actually less than it was under her father, thanks to her relative lack of political capital with the Council and relative unwillingness to lead on the scale he did. Nonetheless, for her acts her people regard her as the wielder of the Ghesite aegis and protector of the realm, and respect her as such.
Personally, she is a devout worshipper of the Sky-Mother, having observed all of the ritual traditions her faith requires from childhood to the present. She is firmly convinced of the Mother's divine nature, of the fact that the Ghesites by lifestyle are Her chosen people, and that as a result they have an obligation to remain loyal to Her in faith and to never shun Her wisdom by will.
Ari is a deeply introverted person, refusing to invest much of herself in others outside of her direct friend-group, a trait stemming largely from her upbringing in Oloughin's shadow. She feels that letting the Council and her followers see any aspect of herself diverges from her perceived role as Oloughin's successor and thus tarnishes his reputation, which she sees herself as directly continuing. Nonetheless, in recent times she has begun to rethink this perspective, and is beginning to see herself as herself, and not as her father. However, this lesson will not likely be further learned without greater spilling of blood, which her past has shown is Ari's most common mode of self-actualization.
Summer, 1356 (aged ~23)
An austere home, Meghuri's tent,
and a cold one, but home nonetheless.
The people of Ghes, the people of the Basin, have long kept a storied chronicle of warriors- to succeed in the martial discipline, they hold, is one of the fastest paths to bring honor unto oneself. But of these warriors they hold that the greatest are those who fought for a cause: for home, for hearth, and for the preservation of the honored traditions. And so when, thirteen-hundred and fifty-six winters by the tellers' count since their people's ethnic forefather first descended the Kiadan Mountains into their home, a child was born to Oloughin, son of Kemoughin and his vhideghn Meghuri, daughter of Pardughin, there was cause for great fanfare. Oloughin was, to the Ghesite people, a great warrior of his time, worthy of recollection in song- he was the Unifier, He Who is Avenged a Thousand-fold, and he was responsible for organizing the decentralized, nomadic Ghesite people to an unprecedented degree. He had spent years by now on the warpath, calling together his people's leaders and leading hosts against their foes to the south in exchange for the spoils of his wars, and the elders of his clan, Khadusik, honored him among their highest ranks. So, for this flighty man to finally bring his wife to child after years of trying was cause for much fanfare among his fellows- fanfare that was not much lessened by the fact that the child was a girl. She was christened in an odd, old-styled name, Akhens-Ari, in recollection of her father's sworn allegiance to the past traditions of his forefathers, and as was tradition, she was anointed in a bath of goat's milk by her band's shaman at one week old, afterwards given to her mother to raise until the age of five.
This tradition, quite understandably, mandated that the young Ari (as she had come to be referred to) spend the majority of her time with her mother, and not her father. Furthermore, her father remained, as the elders called him, "impassioned as a child" for his work, and spent the majority of his time away from Ari's and Meghuri's camp, their nomadic path following their yak and cow herds quite literally putting a barrier of leagues between the girl and her father at any one time. Nonetheless, Ari looked up to him immensely, practically living off of the stories of her warrior father her mother recited to her and the four other members of her band born the same summer as herself. He was to her a monumental figure, and the young girl derived no small bit of pride from having such an esteemed man to call her father. On her fifth birthday, her band's shaman gave her father permission to join her mother in her raising, and he brought the young Ari with him to the meeting-place of the Council of Clans, the gathering of members of the Ghesites' elder statesmen delegated by their fellows in their Clans' own leadership to take counsel together in times of import. Ari, however, cared little for that. She was simply excited to at last be away from her own camp and the scavenging work, finally with the man she had heard so much about, and who had been so tender to his child when the two had met in winters past. So, when he sat her before him in the Council's meeting-tent and declared that he wished for her to be designated as his successor even now, at such a young age, she was simply shocked- as were the elders.
Though there was no proscription against a woman being made heir of a man, the Council voiced their sentiment that the strongest figure possible should take the role of successor to the Unifier, a man whose deeds and fame were already legendary. Oloughin had spent the past several years building up his own reputation to mythic heights, after all, and for good reason: He had sacked in his time several of the Berghi Empire's border cities and proven in no uncertain terms his dedication to furthering what he had begun to call the Kiu Ghesik ("Nation/Clan of Ghes' Folk") by any means necessary. There was to the elders, and admittedly to Oloughin himself, something incredibly odd about designating a five-year-old girl, soon to be six, as such a man's heir, no matter how enthusiastic the child before them seemed to be about the prospect. She did not, in truth, understand fully what it entailed.
And then there was the matter of her gender, something that had not been touched on at all after a full day's back-and-forth debate: undeniably the child before them was a girl. By tradition, a woman giving birth would be obligated to dedicate herself entirely to that child for five whole years, spending her time entirely with the other mothers of her band for that period and ensuring that the child survived to such an age the entire band could partake in its raising. In that time, she would be unable to effectively lead this so-called Kiu, as Oloughin was calling it, or to even serve as Caller, his official title. She would be wholly unsuitable to even be considered.
But nonetheless Oloughin firmly spoke that he meant for his first child to succeed him, as he could not be sure he would not be cut down before he could sire another, more suitable heir- he had spent years trying at a child already, and this was his first. He would need to ensure his inheritance had a clear path to follow in the event of his death. Besides, he argued, to hold tight one's inheritance was the way of foreigners, not of Ghesites. Nonetheless, the issues in his proposal were too great for a gaggle of elders to make sense of, and the Council remained resolute, leaving the issue of Oloughin's succession unresolved throughout their meeting. Ari was returned to her band, dejected that the opportunity too big to comprehend was taken from her as soon as it was offered. Somehow, she felt as if she had disappointed her father even then- though she had done nothing wrong. Though she as a child could not understand it, the time had not been right.
It would soon be right, as unfortunately, the Unifier's worries would nearly come to pass. While Oloughin was not killed in battle, a year later he, in an attempt at sieging the capital of the Berghi's Khevisarash province and city of the same name, was struck by a war-hammer below the waist and grievously wounded, by chance destroying his means of having another heir. He was forced to withdraw from his attempt and his campaign in shame, and for that fall and winter, the Berghi rejoiced. Their foe, they thought, had been finally slain. As soon as winter passed and the next year dawned, though, he returned to the fore and made eunuchs of a hundred Berghi warriors in revenge for his humiliation. Nonetheless, the conqueror could have no more heirs, and so the Council begrudgingly agreed that the child who had sat in front of them two years ago would have to be Oloughin's designated heir and the inheritor of his wealth and political influence, and she was once again anointed in goat's milk as such.
Ari, now seven, began to learn the art of riding, as well as the traditions and workings of the Council, and in commemoration of Oloughin's little success was gifted with a hunting knife that to her small hands was surely a great blade. Even at a young age she was being groomed as Oloughin's successor, as the requirement that would eventually be placed on her to successfully manage his now-vast indirect holdings- six clans and all their constituent bands, a smattering of territories to the north and south, and great stores of weapons and wealth- was a massive one. It is possible that here was when she first began to doubt that she could ever live up to his reputation, though then again her life was dictated to her from the time she could walk, and she always felt some intimidation in Oloughin's presence. This intimidation, thusly internalized, was expressed as a rampant desire to impress and please her father, who was noted as describing his immense pride in her as he grew older and his health worsened. When he was not off fighting, he would push her as hard as he could in her studies, she would gladly accept the challenge, and despite her tiredness, she somehow managed to prevail.
The next six years would pass with little of note, as Ari met the expectations placed upon her and fulfilled her ritual steps towards adulthood at an adequate if slightly accelerated pace under the immense pressure she felt her father put on her to succeed. However, when she was thirteen Oloughin took ill with a cough he spent weeks fighting off. Even after he was healed, though, it was plain that he was marked by it: His skin had taken on a more pallid tone, he was weakened, and his stamina had deteriorated. When he returned to the Council the next month for the summer meet he spoke to them about holding off the raid that year, or perhaps delegating its command to another. And so he gave up the title of warlord and First-Among-Equals, weakened as he was to the point he was afraid to fight. Many decried the Unifier, once ever the enthusiast for war, as a coward, but every call for him to again take up the blade he refused. Instead, he took his daughter on as his own apprentice, imparting to her all he could in what he felt was his last chance to do so. From her thirteenth to her fifteenth year, she enjoyed the best his tutelage could offer.
Even after her confirmation as a full member of her band on her fifteenth birthday she followed her father's lead for two more years, taking the role of intermediary between Oloughin and his Council when he could not travel to the meeting-place. In the winter of her seventeenth year he once again took ill. The labors of her band's healer and of its shaman failed to call health back to his stricken body, and after five months of agonizing coughing and lungs rattling with each breath, Oloughin, the Unifier of the Clans, held by his kin as an equal to the clan-father Khadus, perished.
And in Ari's heart the war-drum began to beat.
Sfaroghin, the Lord's Second; a
warrior-exemplar while he lived.
The news of Oloughin's death traveled quickly, and the Clans began to weep- some more than others. He had made many foes, after all, and most of them were in attendance at his funeral. Thus, Ari voiced a desire to take his body and burn it in a secret place, claiming that he had asked it of her to give him to the land he loved rather than any one Clan, but the elders would not have it, and the Council chose to build his pyre in the meeting-place and scatter his ashes there at the heart of the nation he had built. He was a symbol, they said, a symbol of unity, and if he was to be deposited in some high pass of the Kiadan then he would unify nothing in death. It would be bad luck, and furthermore, it would not have been against his wishes as she claimed. The Council by vote decided that Ari had lied about his claim, spurned her wishes, gave her a crumbling, charred log from the pyre, and told her that if she wished so much to scatter him in the view of God then she could go and do so. At least if she did then this angry teenaged disappointment of a successor would be out of their sight for a time.
She did so, and to the more callous members of the Council's great joy, was gone on her little log-pilgrimage for most of that summer. No raid was launched, no armies were prepared and dispatched, and in the absence of Oloughin and of his mannish daughter things finally seemed to be returning to a quiet peace. Silently, the elders welcomed northern trader-caravans into the Vhetesik clan's territory once more, a practice that Oloughin had in what had been called "typical Khadusik hawkish practice" refused to tolerate. One of them was said to have even contracted a shaman to pray for the girl's death, on the off-chance that her wealth might be recirculated among the clans. That, they thought, would be a relief- the Council would finally be able to take back the political capital that Ari's father had taken from them to so much fanfare, and the Clans that had delegated them would be all the better for it. It was surely a disappointment to the embittered old men among the Council's number when Ari, atop a different mount than the one she had left on and with a broken ankle, returned to the Council minus one ashy log and several months of her life. Her horse had stumbled traveling down a steep hill, she said, and she had been cast into a ravine along with the ill-fated beast, which had dashed its head against a rock during its tumble and been blessed with a quick death. Her own leg had been broken, and she had been forced to hobble on a splint into a Rhigesik camp and after convincing them of her identity procure a fresh mount per traveler's codes. The more cynical members of the Council, of course, rebuked her and claimed that she had simply tripped up and hurt herself like a fool on a risky journey she had not been advised to take. They helpfully ignored that they had told her to take it.
But nonetheless, Ari was there- only technically an adult, in the eyes of her elder counterparts, and yet standing on the brink of gaining a position of great power. She had been anointed, after all, and she was, by all rights, Oloughin's inheritor. There was no new Caller to fill his place. One would surely be needed- if rumors were to be believed, the Berghi had been chomping at the bit to take advantage of Oloughin's death. Strong leadership would be required to put down such a threat, and to keep the work of the past two and a half decades alive just a bit longer, if at all possible. The Kiu was too stubborn an opponent against the Ghesites' enemies, and too useful a tool to wield against those enemies, to ever willingly be cast aside, at least in Ari's eyes. The situation was, in no uncertain terms, incredibly dire, and yet- and yet- Ari would find that the Council still insisted on pushing her aside. When she requested an audience with them to present her demands, she found herself physically barred from the door of the council tent.
When she sought out her own clan's elders, the representatives from Khadusik, with a heated request for them to explain themselves in tow, she received a sympathetic and doting reply: the Vhetesik representatives, all six of them, had informed the rest of the Council that they would not permit Ari to take up the mantle of Caller and entertain this stupid child unless they were given solid assurances that she would permit caravans from Nalbus-on-Endus and the other northern trading powers to travel through their territory and that as collateral she would allow them to select one of their own as First-Among-Equals should she choose to gather a host together. As the Vhetes were the wealthiest of the clans, and one of the most populous, Ari had little choice but to concede. She was such a disappointment, she thought- only a few months since her father's death, and she was already conceding his most controversial positions to his political rivals.
But that was a sacrifice she had to make- to ensure that she had a firm grip on the reins of state, she would need to prove she would keep the Council a profitable arrangement for the elders. Sacrificing the position of First-Among-Equals, the warlord in a host who could claim credit for the campaign and to who the other warlords deferred to, had been a significant blow to her pride and her potential to exercise power. But then again, the Council already regarded her as Oloughin's excuse of a successor, and gaining their allegiance would require slightly more tact than anything she was used to. And, given that only Khadusik had sworn their allegiance to her directly, and the representatives of at least one of the two powerhouse clans, Vhetesik, were openly antagonistic to her, it was no surprise that when she called on the Council in the summer of her eighteenth year to repeat to them Oloughin's old refrains, speaking to them of the riches of conquest that could be theirs if they pledged themselves and their warriors to her, they obliquely refused. Even Clan Khadusik's support of her was not unanimous- the clan's famous fiery attitude towards the prospect of raiding their southern neighbor, it seemed, had been dimmed as of late, and Ari could not help but ponder on if it was her fumbling attempt at rule that had caused such a sputter. Oloughin's Kiu's future was beginning to look increasingly in doubt, a backslide into the old status quo of divided, squabbling clans seemingly inevitable. Was it her fault? It had to be.
But she would have little time to ponder such thoughts, as word came by rider that the Lord-Berghi, wise as he was to Oloughin's death and the opportunity it posed, had mustered a force of two thousand warriors to strike at the Kiu. Unlike the larger hosts the Berghi might have mustered for war, almost every soldier they had sent was according to the riders a regular soldier. There was not a conscript to be seen. They were planning to strike during the early summer months, on the supposition that they would fight with their sun-god's blessing and that by moving to assail their foes early they could blunt hostile momentum. The Council in retaliation was determined to prove this supposition incorrect. Ari, however, would not lead that retaliation- she had given up the position of First-Among-Equals, after all, and though her backers in Khadusik were willing to give her a chance to prove herself worthy of further support, the others were not. One Sfaroghin, son of Aldoughes, of Clan Eihusik, had been tapped for the role- the "savage willow", in reference to his height, his lean build, and his warfighting prowess, had already proven his worth under Oloughin's guidance, and he and Ari had in fact already been met in the past. She had been merely fourteen at the time, of course, and she hardly remembered him, but his reputation as a competent adviser to the Unifier proceeded him. Of course, Ari did not go entirely hostless- she was offered a force of three hundred Khadus, a significant sub-commanding role within the seventeen-hundred-strong responding force. Nonetheless, her performance in this engagement would at least be a step back towards the respect Oloughin commanded, if it went well.
It did not go well. Sfaroghin was from the beginning confounded in his leadership, first by two weeks of storm and then by unrest among his soldiers, the more superstitious among his number claiming that the rain had been a sign of Ejadrir's displeasure. He lost more than a hundred of his host to mutinies before he had even engaged his foe- for a defensive action, that was practically unheard of. Worse still, the rider bringing news had underestimated the speed of the Berghi host, and heavily-armed and slow-moving as they were they nonetheless marched over a hundred kilometers into Khadusik land before they were interdicted. The ground, still softened from the unexpected summer rain, sucked at the Ghesites' horse-hooves and slowed their charge, and though the Ghesites' numbers carried them to victory, it was not an easy one. During the engagement, Sfaroghin and his vanguard were cut down, the former found crushed underneath the proud warhorse he had ridden, his neck broken after the beast was felled by a strong bow's arrow piercing its eye.
Several of the heads of the host would meet the same fate, along with their warriors- the sort of environment they fought in, a rain-soaked, hilly plain, was one the Ghesites were wholly unused to fighting in, and unbalanced by the clime they faced greater losses than expected. Ari was one of the few who survived, and by nature of her status as Oloughin's child, the "highest-ranking" member of the remaining Ghesite leadership. When tjhe smoke cleared, the scattering of the ashes of the dead Ghesites was a task that took weeks to accomplish, and for every three Berghi placed on the corpse-heaps, a Ghesite body was sent to its place in the sky. Ari, as the highest-ranking survivor, took the blame- her opponents argued that she had failed to demonstrate either the prowess or the charisma that Oloughin would have, and while she nonetheless returned with the Berghi commander's head, she did so with her own head low and her already shaky pride battered. She was not making much of a reputation for herself besides one of mediocrity, it seemed.
But she could yet remedy that. The raiding season was coming, and the Ghesites' will to fight remained unbroken. And the Berghi Empire's northern provinces were missing two thousand warriors.
The city of Khevisarash, the pride
of the North- before its sack.
When Ari had returned after Sfaroghin's ill-fated campaign against the opportunistic Imperial offensive, she had not expected to be the recipient of any favor. She had failed, after all- she had been within a hundred meters of Sfaroghin. She had seen his banner fall. What had promised to be an assured victory had turned into a bloodbath, and Ari felt she was to blame. But practically as soon as she had finished with her report and stepped outside the Council's meeting-tent, she was surrounded by a throng of congratulators. The Khadusiks, long held as the most hawkish of the clans to the point of Berghi scholars describing them as "a people with blood made of hot coals" , had already been for the week it took to ride home been spreading rumors about the battle that had taken place in their heartland. While Ari may have been pilloried by the Council for her role in the battle, in the public eye her role had been inflated to a heroic one, rallying a flagging line after Sfaroghin's death and taking up the banner in his stead. Rumors about her actions in the battle were many- according to one account, she had slain the Berghi commander on the broken tip of Sfaroghin's banner; another said that she doused the commander's dead body in wine from his camp and cremated it to "sweeten a bitter spirit for God."
Whether or not these were true was ultimately a matter of little consequence- they had already inflated Ari's fame, and for better or worse the fire of reputation is not wont to burn low. The Khadusik elders themselves were, they were unashamed to admit, at least partly responsible for spreading those rumors- they were more than happy to bring them before the Council, at least, especially now that they had a justification for sponsoring her and restarting the incredibly profitable arrangement Oloughin had created for them while he had been alive. As such, she was asked to speak before the Council as a whole on what she had seen on Sfaroghin's campaign, to tell her story not as a mere soldier or as the heiress none of the elders wished to acknowledge but as the standing First-Among-Equals for the campaign. Ari spoke humbly, unsettled by the rumors she had heard, but quickly found herself overshadowed by her elders as the Khadusik representatives stepped in to the telling. Functionally, she was to a degree insulted- were they implying that she couldn't speak for herself? At the same time, though, she was all too aware that her own abilities as a public speaker were not her father's, and her gut told her they never would be. Relying on the elders to carry her against foes she could not best was for now a wise decision.
That decision would pay off immensely- the Khadusik wanted a warrior leading the Kiu, and while they had favored Sfaroghin in his short time as de-facto head of state, he was both an Eihus and thus undesirable to the somewhat insular Khadus view on the relations between the Clans, and, well, dead. Ari was furthermore Oloughin's designated and in fact anointed inheritor, which gave them a significant motive to support her- traditionally an inheritor in Ghesite culture was expected to take on the majority of the responsibilities of the one they inherited, and to do otherwise was considered insulting. The Council's emphasis on civility led to even the Vhetes capitulating in that field and accept her as First-Among-Equals even if through gritted teeth. Ari might have entered the Ghesite political sphere entirely unsure as to how such things operated, but now things had changed. She was beginning to understand just how broad- and savage- it was, and with backers in her corner, Oloughin's wealth just beginning to be tapped, and something of a military victory winning her some capital and renown, she was beginning to be able to stand a chance in that vicious arena. Whether that was a good thing or not remained to be seen. Ultimately, though, the morality of it did not matter- Khadus needed a successor to their golden boy, someone who could carry on the warrior's legacy, and despite her sex Ari was the most suitable choice for the job. Such was in line with Oloughin's wishes... and, as previously mentioned, the actual first choice was incredibly, incredibly dead.
Thus she found herself in the waning of her eighteenth summer at last in a position of power- a year later than Oloughin's hastily-drawn-up deathbed wishes had intended, but finally there nonetheless. And now that she was there, Ari had quite a lot that she wanted to accomplish. The first order of business was to solidify her position- the Vhetesik, despite the fact that their clan was not the largest, held sway over the yet smaller Khadus and bottlenecked the flow of bronze weapons Ari would need to command an army. She lacked Oloughin's tactical skill, or so said her assessment of herself, and she definitively lacked his wisdom of age. Thus she would need to acquire better equipment, and given that the Vhetesik had prioritized regaining territorial autonomy and control of the primary roads from Nalbus-on-Endus and the other northern duchies and trade hubs it was an easy choice to permit them such a thing. Ari had always found Oloughin's insistence on denying the northerners a rather silly one, and though she had kept it quiet, unwilling to insinuate that such a perfect man might be doing something foolish by shunning traders, it was her primary disagreement with her revered and now-deceased father while he yet drew breath. As far as she could tell it was merely the result of some grudge that drove him to act as he did towards the northerners; sure, their idol-religion was an odd one, but it was a harmless faith and their wares were far more important from a practical lens. With that concession and the promise that she might reinstate the restrictions in the future she gained both a significant bit of leverage over the Vhetes, and thus the ability to remain in power for the foreseeable future- if she took action soon to ensure she fed the Council the wealth they expected of a warlord, and if she demonstrated she would not let the insult of the Berghi's summer campaign go unpunished.
A little bit of healthy raiding would solve both issues rather handedly.
Thus, Ari took up arms and began to harass the outer reaches of the Berghi Empire's northernmost provinces. While these raids did little in the way of quenching the Council's desire for retribution against the incursion into their sovereign territory, they did serve another set of purposes entirely: to both harden the young warlord's mettle for conquest and to whet her taste for battle for the time being. But that time was short indeed, the chill of winter soon coming to settle on the steppe, and so she was forced back north to her own ranges to sit and to think on what she had seen. She came to in that winter and the howling of the snow-winds come to a realization, fueled both by her own lingering anger and grief over her father's death and by the isolation that the season brought: Oloughin's health had been jeopardized only after his injury. Whether the two were related didn't matter- Ari had a new, far more convenient enemy to project her own anger on than the Council, now verboten to her retribution. The Berghi Empire had killed him. They had killed the greatest man to ever live. When the winter began to turn to spring, and as soon as a host could be mustered to her, Ari led her forces south to finally exact the retribution and vengeance denied to her last year. Oloughin would be avenged. Sfaroghin would be avenged. The hundreds, no, thousands of Ghesites slain by this band of sun-fanatics and their slave hordes would be avenged. Ari was First-Among-Equals now. She had six nations' hosts at her back- thousands of warriors at her beck and call. Nothing could stop what was about to come.
Her campaign, after bypassing the Berghi garrison at Ashuba, tore through the northern territories of the Empire. The men she commanded were said to fight with such ferocity that the Flensing Wind, that which follows death to collect the spirits of those passed on, was itself summoned by their very passing, and Ari herself was its bringer. She would cut down no fewer than nine men on her own in the fighting of that spring and summer, fighting from the fore with a savagery un-tempered by reason. But no matter the plunder she gathered or the loyalties and tribute from local officials she earned, the official reason for her campaign, her eyes were set on another goal: Khevisarash, the city Oloughin had first been wounded and nearly killed at, was in fact the capital of this northernmost province. Ari's mind was fixed on it, her desire for revenge- for her fathers death, for her own pilgrimage and the insult she suffered from it, for the good men and women of her people cut down by the Berghi over centuries of on-and-off war, for her pride shaken by the Council and by Sfaroghin's little war, for Sfaroghin himself and all the other comrades she'd lost- overwhelming her sense of reason and settling all her unhealthy rage on its walls.
Ari was well aware that the governor was relying on others, particularly the relatively close and currently un-harassed trading city of Aldonuash- Khevisarash's twin, in Berghi writings- to come to his aid and relieve his own lagging defenses, and thus dismissed the prospect of a long, drawn-out waiting game in favor of a direct assault on the province's administrative head. She would besiege the city in 1375, her soldiers first outmaneuvering the token defenses the governor mustered outside its outer palisade with their warhorses and then using battering rams made from the firs on the Alechi coast and dragged there by sturdy mounts to break down its gates after weeks of effort. Its south entrance, a gate called the "Sheep Gate" in reference to its role as the primary entrance to the city taken by herders and their flocks, was the first to be breached, and Ari's forces streamed inside it. She herself would participate in the fighting directly, along with her khaiteghn and dueling second Khensughin, and was injured several times in the door-to-door engagements there, most prominently in the form of a scar along her right cheekbone from the rim of a Berghi soldier's shield being slammed into her face. But no matter how fiercely the city's defenders fought, once the walls fell the outcome was not in question- Khevisarash would fall. It was pillaged for its wealth and wares and then in atypical and punitive fashion razed, its citizenry harassed and its governor hung from the shell of his own palace above the shattered remnants of his record-tablets and what wealth he owned the Ghesites had not taken an interest in. And at long last, as the ash settled, Oloughin was at least in part avenged, his device left carved into the throne the governor rested in front of.
When Ari rode back north with her host, once more riding by the garrison at Ashuba unable to contest her march, she did so to great fanfare- she had in her one campaign achieved that which Oloughin himself had failed to do, and though she had abandoned the Ghesites' notions of civility in war to do so, her actions were nonetheless lauded as honorable ones, compensate retribution for the ill-fated march Sfaroghin led a year prior. An eye for an eye had left the Berghi bloodied and the Ghesites' backs unbroken, it was said, and Ari was solidified in her people's eyes as a figure worthy of equal parts fear and awe. Finally- finally- she was held as a worthy successor to her father, even if she found herself coming to regret the actions she had taken to reach that place. And there were other matters to consider- there is reaction for every action. The governor of Khevisarash had been a cousin to the Lord-Berghi, Commandant of the Thousand Hosts. And she had left her own device carved beneath Oloughin's own. The emperor and spiritual head of the Empire would surely seek to be avenged for her actions, a woman burning a crown city only adding insult to the injury the sack had inflicted, and the coming years would be sure to be difficult indeed. Her life, and her people's lives, rested on a knife's edge- once the war drums begin to beat, they will not be silenced until no one remains to sound them.
The Thunderhead; in myth the herald
and warlord of an angry God.
But, it seemed, no response was forthcoming. Winter came once more, its screaming winds racing over the steppe out of the west, and Ari was after dismissing her host once more alone with her band and with her mind. What her concerns were, she did not say, but as soon as weeks after Khevisarash she was noted as becoming more sullen and withdrawn. She refused to speak of how she felt, but the fact that she occasionally even refused food spoke volumes: she had had her revenge. Either she was unsatisfied with it, or she felt her actions were beneath her- unbecoming of who she was meant to be. Likely it was a mix of both.
Her mind immediately after Khevisarash was just as chaotic as the city she'd left behind her- it haunted her, and she felt in her mind that her actions had dishonored her. In the Ghesite moral code, martial prowess was placed on a high pedestal. A warrior was held to be more able to defend their band and their clan than a noncombatant, and furthermore, the martial disciplines were considered to be innately roles with great potential to bring honor to the participants of war. But there was a specific way that this was to be done- the good soldier was the one who was gracious in victory and defeat, restrained in fighting, and collected in the heat of bloodlust. That, at least, was what her father had taught her. But Ari found something entirely different to be true- what had been rewarded in her war years had not been her coolness in battle, it had been her savagery. Her people loathed the Berghi so much that her own bloodshed had been considered virtuous. This was of course not unprecedented- the Berghi hated the dishonorable northern butchers to the north who sent women to die inglorious deaths against their foes just as much as the Ghesites despised the heathens to their south who encroached on their land, spat on their culture, and stood to burn their way of life to the ground. But nonetheless Ari had thought she was an honorable woman, for all her flaws- now, though, that honor had been compromised so severely she could not face it. But there was no going back now, and she could admit no weakness to the Council lest she find herself forced back out of its inner circle, just as she could not un-raze Khevisarash's homes and un-plunder its wares. The deed could not be undone- no matter how much she wanted to.
In addition to the more material fallout from her actions, in the short, rainy spring she had between the thaw of winter and the dry spells that marked summer in the Basin Ari found herself beginning to dread the upcoming raiding season. She feared that she would see Berghi armies marching north to draw yet more blood in revenge for Khevisarash, or that even worse yet she might have been forced to ride back south and do it all again. She still heard the crackling of a city on fire in the quiet spaces in her mind, after all- thus she resolved that if it came to it, she would refuse to do it again. But no matter how much she pledged such, that worry would not leave her mind, and only began to mount as summer came and the Berghi failed to materialize. There was no glittering metal intermingled with the choking dust of the horizon, no endless multitude of yellow-and-red pennants fluttering in the wind to greet her when she glanced towards the south. She began to feel as if a cloud had settled on the Basin, a miasma, one that beyond which loomed something indescribably painful. But for all her anxieties... it never came. That to her was almost as excruciating an ordeal as that which the demons inflicted on Kauvighn in the tellers' tales, almost as torturous as that pain he had felt on the ash-bed. It was unbearable.
And still she had to bear it- alone. Her second, Khensughin, suspected something was amiss, but Ari was by now one of the most renowned people in the Basin, her role in the sack of Khevisarash considered by some to be almost divinely inspired. She was in the eyes of most at the age of just twenty already an untouchable. Just as the Unifier had been. And the people who could touch her, the Council, well... they would tear her to shreds if they knew, she felt. When she presented them with her raiding plan to do precisely nothing on the grounds of "not overextending ourselves", she felt that even after it had been accepted she was rendering herself weaker and weaker, and that it was only a matter of time before they ripped her apart like wolves at a wounded calf's flank. It would only be a matter of time before that came to pass if she followed her present course, but if she did not, if she turned back to the cloud of smoke hanging behind her... Ari refused to consider it. Why would she, anyways? It would be stupid to tend to herself, especially considering the wolves starting to gather at her door.
Her twenty-first summer would see the first signs of challenges to her de-facto rule beginning to rise. Her laxity in not raiding had carried her through the first year, but as the prospect of another year without fighting began to become increasingly evident, dialogue began to be passed about that Ari might have gone cowardly- like her father had. Similarly, her perceived ill-fitted nature for rule began to see her becoming increasingly popular for all the wrong reasons- some thought her a sort of Atalanta, powerful but weak of mind; to be defeated and overcome. She, a girl scarcely of marriable age, did not belong as a leader of warriors. In 1377 an etsáhla by the name of Kelgu ked-Parogu, an Alechi with connections to the Alechi witness at the Council, challenged her to a duel; his terms were that should she lose, she would render tribute unto him per custom of a defeated foe. He did not offer terms for if he was to lose- he would not need to prepare for the eventuality. Ari, insulted by his words, agreed- and defeated him rather handily, Kelgu not realizing that his size and strength alone simply unbalanced him and prompted the smaller, taut-muscled woman to flip him head-over-rear, shove him into the ground, and put a knife to his throat. She permitted him to leave in dishonor, assuming that he would count himself lucky to yet be alive. He did not- in fact, his locker-room bragging about the event after the fact managed to do nothing but gain her unwanted attention of the sort that she found distracting at best and disgusting at worst. The images that Kelgu was cultivating for her was completely out of line with her own self-perception, and she could do nothing to stop them.
But her public image was just the least of her worries. There were two things that had historically kept Oloughin's insofar-short-lived Kiu together- his charisma and his ability to unite the Clans against a common enemy. The latter was a force that would persist no matter if he lived or not; as long as the Berghi Empire yet stood, it would be an enemy of the people of Ghes. But the former skill, his ability to even in times of peace when exotic goods were not being funneled into the Clans' coffers keep the peace between them, depended on his voice and his ability to speak out in favor of the six Clans' alliance. That in itself was an unnatural one- Eihusik, the largest clan, was accustomed to independence, while the smaller Rhigesik and Endusik felt no particular kinship to their neighbors. Vhetesik's power, derived from foreigners, irked Khadusik, often the brunt of foreign assault. And Khadusik's warmongering against the South had earned it the firm moniker of "disturber of the peace" among its fellows. The so-called "seventh Clan", the Alechi, were mere dependents, held as equals to the six Ghesite clans but not offered a voting seat at Council meetings or their own elder assemblies. Their own independent culture, too, not in the least influenced by their old masters the Berghi and their ancient perception of "the divine bridesmaid" the Alechi's only attachment to the notion of Ejadrir Sky-Mother, pushed them away from the sky-worshippers. Ari was, as previously mentioned, just one woman, and unsettled by the dishonesty mandated by public speaking and not at all confident in her own abilities compared to her father at that. If she had his skills, then she would be respected, would she not? But here she was, her reputation slowly being tarnished by inaction- she would need to draw blood once more if she was to keep the Kiu whole. If she could not match Oloughin in skill with words, then just as he had taught her she would surpass him in skill with a blade. She would have to.
Fortunately- or unfortunately, depending on what side of the border one stood on- the opportunity to do so was just beginning to present itself. It would first come with the development of an odd sort of "diplomacy" on the part of the Kiu's most mortal enemy. In the latter part of 1377, Ari received word that for the first time she had been acknowledged by a foreign power not the Alechi, albeit in a rather tangential manner. The Lord-Berghi himself had spoken of "the butcher of Khevisarash" at his court, describing her as "a mannish princeling, and a bastard-child," "clad in unbeautiful clothes and deluded in mind as to the state of her body," "an archetype of the heathen savage," and "irredeemable in spirit and undeserving of even the honor of the same ignoble death she gave Our divine cousin." This was, ironically enough, for Ari a reassurance- it was atypical of the Berghi to even acknowledge the existence of a single leader among the Ghesites, a "dignity" that had not been afforded to any warlord before Oloughin, and the fact that they had given Ari that same treatment was for better or worse legitimizing. It did not matter that they had only acknowledged her in scathing terms, as "a slavering, insane fiend, raised by an infertile invalid ashamed to not bear a son," and "a filthy lover of horses, like the rest of her ilk"- it was still an acknowledgement of her and of the Kiu. It meant that Ari was to them an equal to her father. And that- that was a badge of condemnation she could wear with pride. If her people's enemies hated her that much, well, that meant she was clearly doing something right- and furthermore that could only serve to swell her own reputation. The Ghesites had struck such a blow at their enemies that the Chigere itself must have run red with blood, she thought, and the Lord-Berghi's perfect teeth been stained with it, if he would stoop so low.
This own reassurance, along with an increased internal pressure from the Council to get back to the business of warfare, led Ari toin 1378 take up arms and lead a campaign south once more. Unlike in 1375, she did not have an overarching goal of conquest in mind- the purpose of her campaign now was simply to plunder and extract tribute from the northern reaches of the Empire. It was a utilitarian campaign, but not one that would go unopposed. The garrison in the border city of Ashuba, a far more fortified place than even Khevisarash and the so-called citadel of the north, had been bolstered in the time since Ari had last traveled south, prepared to stand against any northern onslaught. From its commanding position the Berghi rallied forces to blunt Ari's assault, and emboldened as they were by the Lord-Berghi's years of slandering their northern enemy's commander as little more than the incompetent embodiment of all the Berghi despised, their outlying forces were not immediately compelled to surrender as Ari might have expected- despite their surprise to find that Ari was far from incompetent. But despite her best efforts, the campaign turned into a slog of protracted skirmishes around Ashuba, the flanks incredibly successful in their mission of plundering but Ari's center facing stubborn resistance for the duration of the summer. Many would die in the summer of 1378, and much blood would be spilt for little gain. When she returned north, she had not been nearly as successful as she had anticipated, and was forced to bring the Council less of a treasure than she felt was enough to woo them for another few years. Would more have to die then, she wondered, if she was to keep the dream alive? How much blood would it come to drink, when all was said and done?
Worse yet still than her failure, though, was the implication of the summer- that Ari's horde, three years ago so terrifying at Khevisarash, could be blunted. The new Caller was mortal, could be defeated. She would need to prove herself once more to earn back that awe she once held. And the only way she could see to accomplish such a feat was through a repeat of her debut- for another Khevisarash. That, though, would be easier said than done, and she loathed the prospect. Her father, she was sure, would never have felt that way- Oloughin was always so quick to ride off to war, to fight for the Cause. But Ari was now unsure what that Cause even was. It was the Kiu, yes, and it was Oloughin's dream, his life- but that dream seemed to want to die, to join him in the end of all things. Its enemies, too, sought its blood- the Lord Berghi, commandant of the Thousand Hosts, had been angered. He was not yet avenged for Khevisarash, and the dread summer of 1376 was threatening a return. If he marched north now, what then? Ari's expectations of success in war were no longer. Could she prevail against him? The clouds, the diviners, they did not say.
And so as 1378 closed, winter came and passed once more, and the ashen, blazing summer of 1379 and whatever Ari's twenty-third year might hold come into their full, only one thing remains certain- victory will not come easily, no matter how much the Khadusik sing her praises. Her life and her people's lives rest on a knife's edge, and any misstep to either side can even now see the Kiu fall and her people scattered to the ends of the earth. All that remains now for her to succeed is for her performance to be no less than perfect.
Those places of the greatest power
often seem the humblest of all.
Ari's positions in her father's Kiu are twofold- first, she is First-Among-Equals, a position explained somewhat above that constitutes a sort of "supreme warlord" directing a host large enough to mandate multiple commanders. However, she would not be consistently bestowed that honor if it was not for her other role, Caller on the Council. This means that it is she who calls the elders and leaders of the Ghesite Clans to gather together at a predetermined meeting-place and discuss certain issues of note before them. Historically, these issues are generally held to be "supranational" ones, of the sort that no one Clan could face alone- the primary reason that the Council was first gathered hundreds of years before now was indeed to manage a drought gripping the basin and to organize the distribution of pillaged grains. Thus, it is also the Caller who presents these issues, and as such it is the Caller who determines the focus of the Council, the logic behind this role centered around the supposition that there must be someone observing issues to learn what they are and what the elders must debate. At least, that was the logic- the official role of the Council in the modern day is a muddy one, as it has become more renowned as a body and viewed as the "distributor of power" and the go-between between the various Clans in the event of feuding, not just a simple crisis-response body.
Furthermore, in recent years (i.e, in the twenty or so years since Oloughin's rise to power) the Council has been nearly constantly in session during the spring and fall months, which has set a precedent that Ari as Caller is to essentially administer the Council and take up a role as its head. The initial logic behind this decision was a simple one- Oloughin felt that given the Council's role as the place to be, the place where things could be made to happen, it should be in session as often as possible, and that he after receiving the mantle of Caller by appointment of the Khadusik he could keep himself in the role indefinitely. Thus the Caller, while not a voting member of the Council, is essentially a sort of executive- the Caller is able to voice their opinions on topics and, due to the respect associated with the position of Caller and the recently-developed expectation that the Caller is to be a warrior of great prestige, influence other, voting members of the Council in their favor. Furthermore, "backroom" politics has led to the shifting of the Caller's role to a more actionable one.
The position of Caller is functionally now a hereditary one in the present day, thanks to Oloughin's insistence on establishing Ari as his heir; precedent is set somewhat quickly in a place where the only law is that of memory, despite its insistence on maintaining "tradition", and with Oloughin tying the Caller's role and new actionable nature to his own stores of wealth he created significant impetus for tying it to his bloodline. In fact, there is in the present day a considerable push at least within the upper echelons of Ghesite politicking to formalize that distinction and to give the present Caller the authority to set down the mantle and pass it down to one of their choosing whenever they should think to do so, which would effectively establish it as an executive and a crown to the Council's debate organ and the body politic as a whole.
Once again, thanks to Oloughin's time as Caller and the precedents he set, Ari is empowered to act as a prosecutor of warfare. The primary precedent his warfaring set was that hosts the Council raised would feature the Caller as their de-facto head. Ari is furthermore able to raise much larger armies at a much swifter rate than in the past, thanks to the fact that the Caller can demand all of the Clans support him or her in a military endeavor via the pressure they can exert on the Council and thus the elder assemblies. Furthermore, the sort of Caller the average individual thinks of is an immensely powerful figure that commands respect, as Oloughin, the most recent Caller in public memory, held that reputation, and was considered more or less "the caller" thanks to the time he spent in the position. Ari, then, holds a massive amount of de facto influence over the people of the Kiu themselves, and could in theory launch a war without even asking for the Council's approval. However, as the Caller is technically the weakest member of the Council and all the elders hold higher positions and greater influence within their own nations, to do so would be inviting a knife to find its way into her back, and would be furthermore incredibly difficult to organize thanks to the fact that the elders retain control over the lines of communication and the networks of informed riders responsible for organizing the unified Kiu's activities.
As previously mentioned, while the Caller is technically a position appointed by the Council themselves, in practice the Caller holds enough influence to have their chosen heir confirmed by the elders of the Council. The philosophy of heredity that Oloughin espoused furthermore assumed that the Caller will have spent the most time grooming their own heir for the position, logic that Oloughin used somewhat effectively in pushing for Ari's succession on his deathbed, and logic that has persisted after his death as a justification for Ari's centralization. However, it has also introduced political complications into the already-complex business of Ghesite geopolitics- Ari has no heir, having not taken any vhideghn, and will likely not do so for another few years, if at all. There are several reasons for this, of course, not the least of which is her own discomfort with how she has come to be viewed as "the female Caller" and had her sex emphasized specifically as one of her distinctive characteristics. However, the fact that there exists confusion about whether the child would in fact be her heir thanks to the traditional mode of succession among the Ghesites being patrilineal has also influenced her decision to refrain from taking on any paramours, something that to her great pleasure has caused the elders much consternation, and that to her eternal displeasure has led to the more "helpful" of their number throwing suitors at her until such time as they are thoroughly convinced that such a thing would be detrimental to their continued existence.
The reputation that the Caller has gained, then, is what constitutes the fangs the position holds- this might have the unfortunate side effect of constructing something of a cult of personality about the position, and developing for it a reverence in the population that runs contrary to its stated original role of being the people's seat in the Council. But, ultimately, what is a little added fervor in the population for its leadership when that leadership is such a trailblazing one? Nothing. Oloughin did not believe so, at least, and his daughter is not presently inclined to contravene him.
When enticements do not prevail,
other means must suffice.
Ari's beliefs and morality are quintessentially Ghesite- that is, friendship and undying loyalty are synonymous, generosity is a virtue over avarice, the products of a person's labor are their own, to be given as they see fit, and that strength of mind and body that contribute to the success of one's band are the measures of a person.
She is not squeamish regarding death, and has little qualms over killing in battle, as evidenced by her extensive record of doing just that, but would be loathe to betray an ally unless some treachery on their part was revealed. Notably, Ari and indeed a majority of Ghesite warriors would gladly let her blood be spilled by an opponent she felt did so fairly, as if she is unable to best them, she deserves to be punished for it.
Ari's views are for the most part derived from her father's, though they tend to be rather mellowed compared to his fiery eloquence. However, she is marked in her thought by a large disparity- an outright hatred of the Berghi Empire. She blames that nation for her father's premature death, a largely unfounded belief based solely on the fact that he suffered his injury shortly before his initial illness, and thus despises the Empire to the point of irrationality; she finds this hatred of hers distasteful, but is not currently able to move past it.
She further argues that "settled society" is inherently a derivation from ideal morality. It should be telling, though, that though she uses this argument to justify her hostility towards the Berghi, she does not do the same for the northern trading-cultures that regularly interact with her people, and the Alechi, who are most definitively a settled people living primarily in fishing-villages and river cities. Nor does she do the same in her dealings with other foreign cultures who do not show hostility towards her nation. While she still views settled life as an abandonment of right morals, as all her people do, she does not judge those friendly with her nation as anything but wayward. This is another, incredibly disparate diversion from Oloughin's thought, as he was for reasons he refused to disclose to her distrustful of the northerner trading-peoples in addition to the Berghi, and she welcomes them and their bronze arms into her territory with open arms. Whereas he considered settled peoples in general to threaten the Ghesites' lifestyle, Ari instead conflates "settled" with "Berghi" and thus merely uses ideology to justify her grudge.
In summation, there are five points that make up her philosophy: The ability to succeed in one's given task is vitally important, one should be generous with the rewards of their success, all things should be done in moderation, the Ghesite way of life is the proper way, and one's friends are not to be dismissed out of hand, as they have proved their own loyalty, and to ignore that loyalty is vile.
This philosophy, and for that fact her father's philosophy, have gone quite a long way in influencing her decision-making process and the politics she brings to the already complex Ghesite political sphere (at least, complex for nomads.) While Ari as Caller has passed no concrete legislation, her position quite obviously not empowered to do so, the issues she has brought before the Council and the general focus of her activities nonetheless reflect a few concrete trends that can be described as her "policies". These are, in roughly chronological order, her solidification of her position on the Council, the entrenching of power behind the position of Caller, and her advocating for increased authority in the prosecution of raids against foreign powers, particularly the Berghi to the south and their dependents, as a means of combating growing pressure on the Khadusik.
Of these policies, only one really defies the status quo in any way: the gathering of power to herself. A hundred years ago, the Caller would be no more entitled to their position than anyone else. Indeed, the Caller's spot in the Meeting Tent would find itself filled by a revolving door of distinguished petitioners and leaders from the bands and clans of the six Clans bringing their local issues to the Meeting Place, hoping to find a place on the agenda. It is only since Oloughin's rise that the position of Caller has gained the power to raise armies, and it is only thanks to Oloughin's will that the position of Caller has become more or less hereditary. As such, it has been Ari's first priority to ensure that she herself is not deposed from the seat of Caller, as she most certainly lacks Oloughin's charisma and ability to convince the Council to tolerate his advances.
The matter of her raiding is perhaps the least controversial, in a strange sense. While sedentary nations might find war a matter of great ceremony, for the Ghesites it is only the aggression of others that triggers such a response. The act of raiding is a strange combination of trading expedition and violent armed conflict, the Ghesite hordes travelling from city to city and village to village with beasts of burden in tow to carry off goods, what items of wealth they could bring with them to incentivize an exchange, and weapons of war to enforce their demands. In normal times, the demand placed on sedentary states to fulfill the Ghesite's demands has been something easily accomplished. However, as Oloughin and now Ari have stepped up the tempo of armed conflict with their neighbors in order to woo the Council with extravagant displays of wealth, tensions have been on the rise.
Furthermore, she has like her father actively attempted to undermine the Lord-Berghi's influence in his northern domain. The Empire's decentralized nature means that each province is effectively its own kingdom, each governor a monarch in their own right, and significant population centers' isolation means that they themselves are often functionally independent with the exception of being mandated to pay taxes to their governors. Ari has through raiding attempted to intimidate these outlying groups into accepting Ghesite dominance over Berghi rule, using the promise of protection to motivate them to shift their tribute from the Lord-Berghi to the Caller. If they should refuse, well, armed resistance is met with force. Notably, this is not necessarily in Ari's mind conquest; the Ghesites as a rule abhor the concept of subjugating another people to the point of taking from them their independence. It is a shift in allegiances that she mandates, and one that the Lord-Berghi does as well- for better or worse, the outlying northern provinces of the Empire are no one nation's territory, and borders by status quo remain fuzzy. Subsequently they are the most common instigator of armed conflict between the children of Ghes and the children of the sun god.
Otherwise, Ari's reign has been business as usual for the people of the Kiu- as normal, that is, as a century as innately abnormal as the twelfth century can ever be. For better or worse, the Ghesites' fortune is to live in interesting times indeed.
To be given unto God after death as
one wishes is the greatest of honors.
One would at first glance expect the Caller on the Council to be a figure of great public eloquence, a fiery orator, a man capable of rousing crowds to cheers with a mere word and to battle with a flick of the wrist. One would expect many things of the Caller- warrior, exemplar of virtue, icon of the people- and one would be in one's right to do so. After all, in the public eye, there was a man like that. His name was Oloughin, son of Kemoughin, of Clan Khadusik, the Unifier. And he was a man so driven by his work that it consumed him until the fates themselves tore him away from it with an errant hammer's blow. Ari, however, is not her father- no matter how much she tries to live up to his image. Perhaps it is for the better that she is not.
Outwardly, Ari expresses herself much as she perceived her father to, and her external personality is best described as "measured"- in public, her speech is often incredibly formal, stunted, and laden with platitudes, crafted to create the impression that she speaks for the people rather than for herself. Ari inflates words to the point of grandiosity in speeches, and in formal places makes sure to express her humility and role as a giver of counsel to those who would seek it. She is the Caller, after all, and her role is one not meant to be affected by the personal opinions and biases of the title's holder. She tends to present herself in a way matching her recollections of Oloughin in her youth as well, imitating his patterns of speech and his perceived profundity and charisma as best as she can. Despite her attempts to display this persona as her "speaking" one, or perhaps because of it and the practice it lends her, it only serves her well when in dealings with the Council, where such formality is appreciated over an informal debate "beneath" the elders that make up its body. Understandably, Ari finds this manner of presentation exhausting- but it is her lot in life. Thus her life is fated to be exhausting. To do otherwise would be to dishonor her beloved father's memory.
In informal settings, she tends to adopt a sardonic, relaxed tone to her speech, and though she has been noted to act in a rather aloof manner at most times and especially in recent years, she nonetheless remains an approachable if moderately abrasive figure. She remains hesitant adopting such an informal style around all but a few people, the ranks of which are largely limited to the fifty or so individuals that constitute the band she was raised in- though thanks to the fact that the Council only meets in the late spring and fall, she spends a significant minority of her time in such a setting if her duties do not otherwise mandate it. She remains particularly divorced from the rest of the members of the Council, uncomfortable around her political rivals and those she feels find her disappointing, and still resentful towards those who denied her the right to burn her father as he requested her to. The former is a significant motivator of Ari's actions- as a result of her upbringing, she derives most of her satisfaction in life from how she impresses others, and feels a significant pressure to play the part of the people-pleaser at all times. This satisfaction is, one must note, not in any way the satisfaction of a mind at ease.
Her mind has not truly been at ease since her father's death, after all. Ari was from a young age raised in practical reverence of the man, and grew up almost entirely in his shadow, a relationship that only grew more and more domineering as he grew closer to her despite his attempts to make himself personable. He loved his daughter, and his pride for her only grew as his health worsened and he saw her moving into his stead, but she was never able to truly reciprocate- the man Oloughin, her father, she loved, but the idea Oloughin stood behind that man at all times and overshadowed the both of them, casting something between them that could never quite be overcome. The love of a parent is always a reverent one, but Ari's reverence for the Unifier, He Who is Avenged a Thousand-Fold, Warlord of the North, He Who Reaps Men as Flaxseed, was one that nearly deified him, just as the people around her did. She could never come to quite understand how one's god might be proud of them, or might tolerate their lesser disappointing them.
Ari is as a result driven individual, who feels a need to succeed at every task she comes across, a trait she developed during her apprenticeship. His preferred means of teaching her was to, well, not provide her with any sort of learning curve- rather his teaching geography best resembled a learning cliff. Frequently he would set her at tasks with little prior instruction, or ask her to complete exceedingly difficult trials, in order to teach her both perseverance and the means to overcome adversity. He did not believe failure should play into one's self-worth- Ari learned precisely the opposite. Oloughin's tutelage had two primary effects on the girl: Firstly, Ari became assured that very few tasks were actually impossible, and that if she set her mind to a challenge she could eventually accomplish it. Secondly, and unintentionally, it induced in her a crippling sense of self-doubt. She would more often than not fail at these tasks, after all, and while she learned to assail challenges placed before her effectively, Oloughin's method of teaching and the many failures it led to on her part made her feel an inadequate and unsuccessful apprentice. Thus, she internalized that any failing was wholly her responsibility and wholly something that could be rectified through her own effort, even if said failure was not a result of her own inadequacies. Needless to say, this has not done good things for her health- she prefers to work until she is on the verge of collapse than to leave a task unfinished, and to expect failure before success in nearly everything she does, despite quite reasonably preferring the latter over the former. In summation, she is incredibly and unhealthily persistent when it comes to her duties both official and personal to the point of near-mania. But at least she's productive.
It is incredibly unlikely that without some degree of support network Ari would have by now become completely burned out and sunken into an even deeper depression than she already has. Fortunately Ghesite society is practically built around support networks, the communality of the band relationship extending from childbirth to old age, and Ari thus has fostered strong relationships with her bandmates, particularly her ateghn and confidante one Patyughin, son of Emilghin, and two of her khaiteghn, Vhiari daughter of Adelhes and Khensughin son of Ahuerghin, her dueling second. She has several other relationships outside of this tight friend group, but these three constitute her primary fallbacks in times of strife, and have been known to accompany her to meetings with the Council individually and once as a group. They remain part of the miniscule group to whom she has voiced her feelings about Khevisarash and its fallout, and given the incredibly personal nature of those feelings, will likely be the only ones party to that knowledge for some time to come. Ari is not one to extend herself to others, and her propensity for grudges is one that has further harmed her ability to make meaningful interpersonal connections. But nonetheless she persists, for that is what she was raised to do- persist through any hardship, and prevail no matter the odds.
The current Caller, in the end, might not be the archetype of her role. She will never be such, not as long as the archetype wears boots far larger than she can fit into, and far more scuffed by war than she has a taste for. But Ari is insistent on trying to match it; on trying to match the man she reveres. And match it she will- that, or die trying. It remains to be seen which will come to pass.
We can't spend our lives in constant
toil- sometimes, we must smile.
Details of Note
A more realistic rendition of Ari- minus facepaint,
Akhens-Ari's personal glyph,
For the old factbook. We'll see how this one does.
THE UNIFIER'S GREAT KIU SHALL STAND FOR TEN-THOUSAND YEARS.
[blocktext][hr][/hr][align=justify][color=#993A16][i]"We are the Village Green Preservation Society!"[/i][/color][/align][hr][/hr][list][url=https://www.nationstates.net/nation=kiu_ghesik/detail=factbook/id=1424521]-Nomad Nomad[/url][/list][/blocktext]