Kruan is more than just a holy site, for the Hugond it is the embodiment of their culture. It lies in the grass sea under the great blue sky which all of the tribes of the land are free to visit in peace and fellowship. When non-Hugond visited they saw the great stone circle, the altars and the world obelisk; they failed to grasp the enormity of the site. When the Crimson Coasters sacked and desecrated the site they failed to comprehend what they had done till howling winter froze them in their towns. Kruan had existed before the Hugond and is from a time before when long lost cultures rose and fell in Kylma. It has always been a holy site for the Hugond and its past desecration is still a stain on their culture. The treaty that ended the Second Blood War made Kruan a place only for the Hugond. No non-Hugond may get closer than five miles of the site and any that try are never heard of again. Just under five miles out are stones to which the bodies of some interlopers are strung up as a warning.
In the centre of the stone circle lies the Pool of Tranquillity which has a mystical source of pure water deep underground. The pool is sacred and dream shamans often stare in to it reading omens and portents in the reflections from the sky above. Apart from the ritual drownings, the pool is never touched. In the past great enemies of the people have been ritually cast in to the pool so that their raw power can be absorbed and more than a few invader heroes lie at the bottom. It is a great honour to die in such a way and only the most respected and feared enemies are granted such a wonderful death. Around the pool is the Great Circle made of 312 stones from beyond the lands of the steppe. Each is carved with intricate runes and blessed with the blood of a willing sacrifice. When the site was desecrated many of the stones were toppled and each took the life of a wiling pilgrim to purify it. The stones are aligned to match the solstices and equinoxes with the dawn rays of mid-summer and mid-winter falling on the two grand altars. At these two great events human sacrifices are made of either a willing disciple or a dishonourable enemy of the people; sometimes more than one is made. As a Grand Shaman approaches the end of his days, it is not unusual for him to volunteer to act as a messenger through his voluntary sacrifice. Indeed on rare occasions messages will be sent via willing sacrifices of pilgrims who feel they need to share great knowledge with the greater powers.
Beyond the Great Circle is the World Obelisk that allows the great shamans to commune with the great blue sky. It is 170 feet high and made of a vast assortment of stones that have been fused together by the power of the earth. From atop those that are chosen watch the ceremonies of the people of the steppe and pray for better times when the land was unsullied by the feet of the invader. Beneath the Obelisk are a warren of tunnels in which prisoners were kept before their sacrifice; more than a few Coasters waited in them before their ceremonial deaths. The shamans live within Kruan and are served by their acolytes while a mile to the west of Kruan is the Encampment where the pilgrims stay during the holy visits. There is also a smaller full time population who protect and support the site. Any and all feuds are null and void at Kruan and to break this taboo would lead to the banishment of the offender.
There is a holy cycle which the shamans all follow. Each spring the power of nature is reborn and grows into an eager and daring boy. At the threshold of summer the maiden comes to him and guides him to manhood. In the summer he becomes the Horse Khan and leads the Steppe Hunters till his strength withers in the autumn. At the last breath of the year, death comes and slays him with a single stroke and hangs the corpse from the World Obelisk for seven days, at the end of which he is cut him down and buried so that he is in the embrace of the earth. The mourners come to the grave and water it with their tears till a new boy is born in the spring. The spring Equinox represents the beginning of the cycle and children born on it are blessed. At the Summer Solstice a Hugond virgin surrenders her maidenhood to the youngest of the shamans who acts as the Khan; it is considered a great honour and any child born of the tryst is greatly favoured. At the autumn equinox the young priest surrenders his position and it goes to the ‘oldest’ shaman who is finally sacrificed at the Winter Solstice and buried till the cycle starts a new.
Illustration by Pino44io- please do not use without permission