Pathfinder (Dragon Age Setting)
The kossith are the predominant demographic within the Qunari (literally, “People of the Qun”), a term which can refer to a member of any race, not just the kossith, who adheres to the teachings of the Qun. They have metallic-hued skin (bronze, gold and silver have been observed), white hair, slightly pointed ears, and vivid eyes with colors like violet, red, or yellow. They primarily inhabit the island nations of Par Vollen, Seheron in northern Thedas, as well as the settlement of Kont-Aar in northern Rivain. The kossith are very rarely seen in Ferelden, with the exception of some high-class mercenaries (such as the Kadan-Fe).
Taller and considered to be more physically robust than humans, the kossith are commonly referred to as Qunari, and indeed all Kossith who are followers of the Qun call themselves Qunari. Those who have abandoned their belief in the Qun are considered by other Qunari to be Tal-Vashoth, and deemed outcasts. The Qunari do not have a concept of personal identity, and use titles rather then names to identify and present themselves. Their “names” are in fact strings of genealogical information used by the Tamassrans for record-keeping.
In Dragon Age II, it is revealed that most kossith have horns. Some are born without them, but it is not considered a defect — on the contrary, those born without horns are considered special, as they are meant for a special role in Qunari society such as a Ben-Hassrath or an envoy to the other races. The Sten who became a companion of The Warden, as a soldier of the Beresaad, falls into this category. It is not uncommon for Qunari who betray their beliefs to remove their own horns (as in the case of Armaas), though the reason for this act is not yet clear. The Saarebas, or Qunari mages, are also commonly seen with their horns cut off.
The Qunari are recent arrivals to Thedas, having arrived by warships four centuries ago from unknown eastern land across the Northern Ocean, with which contact has been lost some time during the Storm Age. While they once threatened to conquer all of the known world, they are currently involved in a war for dominance of the north against the Tevinter Imperium. The Qunari are apparently more technologically advanced than the native Thedosian cultures, possessing cannons and an impressive navy. The Beresaad is the name of the Qunari military division Sten belongs to. According to Sten, the Beresaad serves as “the vanguard of the Qunari people”. The Qunari lack mages in anything near the numbers that Ferelden has as magic is completely distrusted, and what few Qunari mages there are bound in chains and have their mouths sewn shut and occasionally tongues cut out. Several Exalted Marches have been waged against them and they’ve lost much land in Thedas. The Qunari still hold Kont-aar in northern Rivain, but that is the only permanent non-island holding the Qunari currently retain. In Par Vollen, the city of Qunandar is reputed to be one of the largest in all of Thedas, rivaling Cumberland in Nevarra, with structural grandeur such as aqueducts and domes unseen elsewhere.
When the Qunari invade an area and capture the current citizens, they offer them the opportunity to convert to their philosophy, or be sent to work in prison camps. Any who resists either one are slain without pity, but some of those who convert to the Qun claim to feel pity towards those who choose not to. When the Qunari were pushed back by the Exalted Marches, the Chantry was disturbed to discover that a surprisingly large number of members of their faith had quite happily converted to the foreign religion.
Arrival of the Giants
“While historians often cite the darkspawn as the greatest single threat to Thedas, most people outside of the dwarven lands would say they are a more remote threat than the invaders called the Qunari. There has not been a Blight in over four centuries, after all, since the hero Garahel defeated the Archdemon at the Battle of Ayesleigh. Over a hundred years later, in 6:30 Steel Age, the first Qunari ships were reported off the coast of Par Vollen in the far north, marking the beginning of a new age of warfare.
Gold-skinned giants said to hail from an eastern land across the Boeric Ocean, the Qunari are a mystery to most people. To some, they are hated conquerors whose deadly skill at combat and destructive technology nearly brought the civilized world to its knees. To others they are heathens, worshippers of a strange religion that seek to spread it to “lesser” races by force. Still to others, such as in the southern lands of Ferelden, they are a legend, strange creatures from the far north that have been seen only on rare occasion since the peace began.
Almost before the rest of Thedas had heard of the Qunari’s appearance in Par Vollen they were invading the mainland, striking first into Rivain and Seheron. The defenders of those lands were hardly a match for Qunari discipline and technology. One shot of the mighty cannons, the likes of which our ancestors of the time had never seen before, brought troops to their knees. Qunari warriors in glittering steel armor carved through the defenders with ease. History calls this the First Qunari War, but it was mostly a one-sided bloodbath, with the Qunari advancing far into Tevinter within ten years.
It was a dark time for Thedas, with the nations of mankind being forced to once again unite against a common enemy… this one intending not to destroy, as the darkspawn did, but rather to conquer a land they saw as in dire need of enlightenment. The Qunari proved themselves to be the most frightening sort of opponent of all: religious zealots.”
The Golden Masters
“Stories of how the Qunari treated the lands they occupied, ‘kabethari’ being the term for those lands in their language and supposedly meaning ‘those who need to be taught’, are varied and difficult to verify. Some claim that the Qunari were guilty of terrorizing the populace. They divided children from their families and sent adults to ‘learning camps’ for indoctrination in their religious philosophies. Those who refused to obey were forced into indentured servitude or sent to mines or construction camps to labor… often until they perished of sheer exhaustion or starvation. Those who resisted were slain, instantly and without mercy. Many who obeyed their new masters, however, claim that they were treated well and even given a large amount of trust provided they followed the strict Qunari codes of conduct and laws.
For every tale of suffering recorded, there was another that tells of enlightenment from something called the ‘qun’. This is either a philosophical code or a written text, perhaps both, and some claim it may even be akin to the Qunari god. Unlike the Chant of Light it governs all aspects of Qunari life, both secular and spiritual, and the Qunari are devoted to following its tenets strictly and without question.
Those who recorded their interactions with the golden masters tell of mighty creatures, a head again taller than a man, with frighteningly calm demeanors and a sort of sparkling fire behind their eyes. Some even said they have a certain kindness to them, or a conspicuous lack of cruelty, and one Seheran who converted reported pity for those who had not, as if the conquerors’ religion led to a sort of self-discovery. ‘For all my life I followed the Maker wherever his path may lead me,’ he writes, ‘but in the faith of the qun I have found the means to travel my own path. If only all my people could understand what it is the Qunari offer us.’
It is said that the most complete way to wipe out a people is not with weapons, but with books. Thankfully, a world that had known and repelled four Blights would not so easily bow to a foreign aggressor. The New Exalted Marches were about to begin.”
The New Exalted Marches
“Taking their names from the Exalted Marches of the past, the New Exalted Marches were declared by the Chantry in 7:25 Storm Age after nearly a century of internecine warfare throughout northern Thedas. The Imperial Chantry in Minrathous (the only unoccupied major Tevinter city) marched against Seheron and the occupied eastern territories of the Imperium, and the Divine in Val Royeaux commanded her templars to lead the armies of the south into Rivain. It was the grandest mobilization of martial power since the Fourth Blight.
The greatest advantage that the Chantry-led forces had against the Qunari was, in fact, the Circle of Magi. For all their technology, the Qunari appeared to harbor a great hatred for all things magical. They possessed mages, but these were little better than animals kept on leashes… and none of the Qunari mages possessed anywhere near the skill that the Circle’s mages had. Faced with cannons, the Chantry responded with lightning and balls of fire and it proved effective indeed.
For all the force that the Qunari armies had brought to bear on the north, they also lacked the sheer numbers of the humans. As each year passed, the Chantry pushed further and further into the Qunari lines. Dealing with those of the local populace which had converted to the Qunari religion proved difficult, especially as some of these had lived under the qun now for generations, and the response by many armies was simply to exterminate all those who had converted. Officially the Chantry denies this, claiming most converts fled north into Rivain and Par Vollen, but the mass graves at Nocen Fields and Marnus Pell attest otherwise. Indeed, so many were slain at Marnus Pell that the Veil is said to be permanently sundered, the ruins still plagued by restless corpses to this day.
Regardless of how it was done, by 7:84 Storm Age the Qunari had been well and truly pushed back. Rivain was the only human land that embraced the Qunari religion after being freed, and its rulers attempted to barter a peace. Envoys from most human lands gathered to sign the Llomerryn Accord, and peace was made between the Qunari and all human lands other than the Tevinter Imperium. Even there, however, the Qunari withdrew. Humanity had, with the Maker’s will, beat back the invaders and returned to its rightful place as masters of Thedas.
It is a shaky peace that has lasted to this very day.”
Qunari have no “family units”: they do not marry, choose partners, or even know to whom they are related. A Qunari’s “family” consists of his or her coworkers.
A Qunari’s personal name is not what we think of as a name. It is more like a social security number, information which the Tamassrans use to keep track of breeding, and is thus not something a Qunari uses to refer to one another. What a Qunari instead thinks of as their name is, in fact, their job title, which is differentiated by rank and task.
The Tamassrans raise all the children, give them their general education, and evaluate them. Qunari are officially assigned their roles at twelve years of age. The Tamassrans do conduct some tests, however nothing requiring a pencil. They also have something of a head start on the process, as they are the ones who control the Qunari selective breeding program.
The Tamassrans wield a great deal of influence in Qunari society. As it is primarily a female gender role (as all administrative tasks are), this might lead an outsider to believe that their society is female-dominated. Qunari do not, however, look upon government in quite the same way. The brain could be said to rule the body, but so too does the heart, the lungs, the stomach. All are part of the greater whole.
Qunari believe that the genders are inherently better at certain tasks. No matter how much aptitude a male shows for management, he will never be quite as good at it as a female, therefore it would be considered inefficient to place him in a role where a woman might serve better. Instead, the Tamassrans find another role that he shows aptitude for and place him there instead.
Qunari have been bred for specific roles for a very long time. Parentage is no longer the issue, more like pedigree. However, breeding does not determine a Qunari’s assigned task. If a Qunari was bred to be a soldier but turns out to be more intellectual, the Tamassrans may move him into the priesthood, researching weapons technology, or the Ben-Hassrath, policing the populace, depending on what roles need to be filled by someone with their specific traits.
All Qunari are given a tool which signifies their role in Qunari society; for soldiers, this tool is always a weapon on some kind. In the case of soldiers, at least, to lose this weapon brands the owner as soulless and one who is to be be executed on sight by the Antaam. These items are held in high regard, and upon the owner’s death the Qunari may take the item to honor the fallen individual. A corpse is considered an insignificant husk that is no longer the individual that it once was and thus is afforded no special treatment, rather disposed of whatever manner is most practical.
Qunari have their own mages. These saarebas (literally “dangerous thing”, from the root word bas, thing/object) are considered defective tools, but the Qunari do not waste those, either. These Qunari mages are kept literally on leashes, held by an arvaarad (“one who holds back evil”, i.e. their “handler”). Should they ever be seen performing forbidden magic, the mage’s tongue is immediately cut out in order to prevent them from communicating and possibly corrupting someone else.
Qunari do not have currency. “Merchants” in Qunari cities have the job of making sure that goods are distributed appropriately. Qunari do not buy and sell things amongst one another.
Qunari generally do not associate mating with love. They feel love. They have friends. They form emotional bonds with one another. However, they simply do not sleep with each other to express it. If they do, then they are sent to be reeducated by the Ben-Hassrath. If a child is produced, the same thing happens as with all other Qunari children: it is sent to be raised by the Tamassrans, evaluated, and assigned a job. Qunari do not waste resources unnecessarily, people included.
Qunari society is based upon learning as well as military might. Few speak the common tongue that is used among Theodesians, and even fewer speak it well. For this reason, Qunari often keep quiet among foreigners, out of shame — in a culture that strives for perfection and mastery, to possess only a passable degree of skill is humiliating, indeed.
Duty is paramount in Qunari culture, and their society is seen as a living entity, whose wellbeing is the responsibility of all. Each person is like a drop of blood in the veins of the being, and they must do not what is best for them, but what is best for the creature. The Qunari army is the eyes, ears, legs, arms, and hands of the creature, everything that one needs to interact with the world, and so most Qunari encountered by Theodesians belong to the military. One cannot understand somebody by simply studying their hand or foot, and so to truly comprehend Qunari society, one must visit their cities where the heart and soul dwell.
The primary symbol used to represent the Qunari as a people is a triangle, which symbolizes the Qunari triumvirate of body, mind, and soul. The “body” is represented by the Arishok (the military), the “mind” by the Arigena (the craftsmen), and the “soul” by the Ariqun (the priests). It is this triumvirate which governs all of Qunari society by acting as the three pillars or their three primary leaders in all matters — the Arishok (always male) who leads the armies, the Arigena (always female) who leads the craftsmen, and the Ariqun (either male or female) who leads the priesthood. All three are the head of their respective “paths” and work in unison to complete the whole of Qunari society.
“In Seheron and Par Vollen, one can truly see the Qunari in their entirety. There, the unification of the Qunari into a single being is most evident. Workers, whom the Qun calls the mind, produce everything the Qunari require. The soul, the priesthood, seeks a greater understanding of the self, the world, and exhorts the body and mind to continually strive for perfection. The body serves as the go-between for the mind, the soul, and the world. Everyone and everything has a place, decided by the Qun, in which they work for the good of the whole. It is a life of certainty, of equality, if not individuality.” ―From the writings of the Seer of Qont-arr, 8:41 Blessed.
The Qun (kyoon) is a code of honor based on the writings of the Ashkaari Koslun. The Qun defines the role of everyone and everything in the society of the Qunari (“People of the Qun”), regardless of whether it is spiritual or mundane. For example, some Qunari are raised as soldiers from a very young age. They are expected to be strong, disciplined, and stoic, adhering without fail to the tenets of honor and duty as defined in the Qun. Fanatical in this devotion, the Qunari are prepared to wage war throughout their entire lives as part of their attempts to “enlighten” all other races in regards to their philosophy.
An important concept in the Qun is the idea of “Asit tal-eb”—"It is to be": the idea that everything and everyone in the world has a nature, and all these things come together to form a proper order – such as the locust devouring crops. It is every individual’s choice whether or not they act according to their nature and the nature of the world, or oppose the proper order, and as such fight against themselves and the world. The individual is not truly “individual”, but part of the whole. Their own nature contributes to the larger nature of the world, and so their struggle against self-balance disrupts the balance of the whole, thus hurting themselves. Because of this, society is not considered artificial, but part of nature.
Every aspect of the Qunari’s lives are dictated by Qun, which they follow unquestioningly, and see it as their moral duty to forcefully “educate” those who do not comprehend (for to Qunari, the Qun is not “believed”, it is “understood”). To the Qunari, the Qun is the true source of morality, and all societies that reject it will live in debauchery and suffering. To bring these societies to the Qun is to liberate them from their own self-inflicted torment. Even Qunari attempts at trade with other races and nations are done primarily to size up potential opponents, rather than to amass resources or wealth.
The Qunari do not believe in deities and find the concept of invisible omnipotent beings laughable. The Qunari place religious focus on the divine moral structure of the world, not divine beings. The Qunari tolerate deism in the converted populations in Rivain and Seheron, however, as they view their inhabitants as just beginning the path to enlightened self-knowledge, and that they will discard that sort of superstition eventually.
Qunari who have abandoned the Qun are called Tal-Vashoth and live away from the Qunari homelands, often working as mercenaries, some of whom the Warden will meet in places. All Qunari are defined by their social role, which is supposed to be a defining part of the person’s nature, unchangeable and fundamental. Qunari value their tools highly and consider them part of their worthiness, as extensions of their role and duties. A Qunari soldier must never be separated from his sword; such an individual will likely be shamed and/or executed upon returning to the homeland.
The Chantry considers the Qun to be a threat to their teachings — a test of faith to be fought and vanquished. There have thus been several Exalted Marches declared on the Qunari both by the Chantry and the Imperial Chantry. While the Qunari possess superior technology, they are far more reluctant than the Chantry to turn to the use of magic. This extreme dislike of magic helped push them to develop technologically, but as a result their knowledge of magic is very small, and their mages’ power undeveloped. By 7:85 Storm, they had been pushed back to Northern Rivain and Par Vollen.