This is a primer for my upcoming book, Bloodlust: The Blades of Khazak Khrim, which will be the fifth full length novel in my Domains of the Chosen series. The Vvath are the major antagonists of the book, a powerful empire based around the ancient fortress-nation of Khazak Khrim and half a continent of subjugated territories. Three of the perspective characters in Bloodlust: The Blades of Khazak Khrim are from this culture, which is very different that that of the Domains and even more removed from our own experiences.
While the Domains are a multi-cultural society of varying beliefs and races, who venerate their ancestors and verge on atheism the Vvath are a monotheistic, unicultural system who place the mountain fortress of Khazak Khrim and the Forge Father at the centre of all things, often reinforcing this belief with pain and violence. Here are some of the tenets of their faith, keeping in mind that not all of the characters believe in all of it, even in such an authoritarian nation.
The Forge Father is a traditional creator god with a smith motif. He created the world by fashioning it on his mighty anvil. He then set about making things. The Dwarves and the were not his first attempt at creating life, but they were the people that he was most proud of making. He put them in the mountains to shelter them, because he knew that his lesser works would be jealous. After a rebellion of the ‘lesser races’ the Forge Father took pity on his older works and created a path for them to eventually be reincarnated as Dwarves, if they serve him faithfully enough. The Vvath indoctrinate their subject cultures with this last point from birth, instilling both a sense of their own unworthiness and a sense of redemption through service and death. Among the Dwarves of Khazak Khrim themselves this particular tenet is also a justification for racism, war, and slavery.
The leader of the rebellion of the ‘lesser races’ is referred to as the The Adversary. In the works of the faith of Khazak Khrim this ill-defined figure is behind all of the attempts to destroy the Dwarven race and usurp creation. In the view of the Dwarves of Khazak Khrim the Reckoning is kind of like the flood in the story of Noah — an event that is meant to purify the world so it can be repopulated by the faithful. This particular belief clashes with the discovery that the people of the Domains also survived the Reckoning (Imagine if Noah ran into an ark full of Buddhists), who even have Dwarves among them.
The Forge Father, as the god of a patriarchal imperialist culture, emphasize aggressive male traits. Women are generally barred from the highest stations, and relegated to subordinate roles. Toughness, endurance, potency, and the drive to conquest are admired above all, reflected even in the meticulous craftsmanship of everything made by the Dwarves of Khazak Khrim. Phallic, weaponry, and forge imagery are very common.
Pain is seen as cleansing by the Vvath. In the view of the Dwarves of Khazak Khrim, one of the things that separates them from the ‘lesser races’ is their endurance. In practical terms this view of pain as cleansing opens the door for torture and a cult of forced submission through coercion. So ingrained is the idea of pain in the culture of the Vvath that many of the followers of the Forge Father will voluntarily submit to “Excruciation”, cleansing through various tortures, similar to flagellants in our own histories.
Unlike most modern religions in the real world, the Vvath have not left behind the idea of blood sacrifice. The Forge Father is a harsh god, and requires a tribute in blood, at least until the Dwarves of Khazak Khrim reign over all of creation. The idea of blood sacrifice is so ingrained in the warrior slaves of the Vvath that they will compete for the honour of being sacrificed, as has occurred in some ancient religions in the real world.
The Blood are the Exemplars of Khazak Khrim. A warrior-culture as strict as that of Sparta, these men are supposed to be the living embodiment of the superiority of the Dwarves. They train from birth, eschewing everything in favour of martial prowess. The final tests that they must face to join the warrior brotherhood are grueling and fatal to all but the strongest candidates. The Blood are few in number, but they wear incredible armour and wield marvellous weapons. The Kings of Khazak Khrim and the nobility all hail from The Blood.
For Dwarves who cannot afford the expense of joining The Blood, or could not survive the tests, there is crafting and trading, or joining the Excruciators. The Excruciators are the militant arm of the Vvathi religion, including a vast force of infantry, as well as torturers, and even an Inquisition. While not as glorious as joining the Blood is does have its paths into the upper reaches of the priesthood, and even to the Sword-Bearers.
The Reborn, called Sword-Bearers by most, are a monastic warrior society. In reality they are actually the Gifted of Khazak Khrim, the Dwarves who wield magic, but they are presented as a group blessed by the forge father. Each one of them wields a magic blade that they fashioned during their lifetime. Special enchantments ensure than when their physical form dies it inhabits the blade. The Blade can then subvert the will of any who wield it, eventually driving the spirit of the wielder from the body and allowing the sword to possess it. The Sword-Bearers were instrumental in expanding the Empire. The important connection to the Forge Father is that the veneer of religion of the Vvath is required to make a group of what are essentially sword-liches palatable to the rest of their society.
In the end the religion of the Forge Father is the glue that holds the Vvathi empire together. While many who follow the forge father are idealistic fanatics, others are simply pragmatists abusing religion as a tool of dominion. The tensions this creates makes for several interesting narratives in Bloodlust: The Blades of Khazak Khrim.