Y’all have chosen wisely in this week’s entry, as now I get to share with you the exploits of Peshak the Rider, culture hero throughout northern Ipieros, rebel icon, and all around fascinating figure… if I do say so, myself.
Peshak is written to be seeded into your games at home as a source of legendary stories and ruins, a fun bit of shared cultural background, and occasionally as a role model for wet-behind-the-ears adventurers. Everybody knows about Peshak, so everybody will have their own opinion about them—including whether or not they existed in the first place.
Let’s check out the entry!
PESHAK THE RIDER
This legendary horseraider rode the breadth of Ipeiros, raiding for a long succession of northern crowns and warlords. Peshak stories embody the north’s deep ambivalence about power outside of its inescapable transience. Every sovereign that Peshak serves inevitably falls; while the Rider is cast in the role of defending them as often as dethroning them, each leader’s fall is always tied to their own vices and flaws.
Peshak is always described as tall and rangy, but each story diverges from there, attributing different hair, complexion, and features to the storied figure. They are consistently portrayed as genderqueer, but their people is traditionally obscured, often described as “perhaps they were a troll, or then again, perhaps an ork, or even, it is said, a human.” Bards debate whether this feature of the character is intended to widen audience identification—anybody could be Peshak—or if the character’s ambiguous heritage is a cultural artifact mirroring of the concurrent introduction of bodysculpting to northern Ipeiros.
The basic structure of a Peshak story is as follows: Peshak rides into the camp of a warlord, is introduced by the long list of their deeds, and is hired on as a horseraider for a year and a day. Over the course of three raids, Peshak comes to know the warlord, including a central flaw of the warlord’s character. After the third raid is completed (or sometimes at its culmination), that flaw rises to the fore, making it impossible for the warlord to continue ruling. Sometimes Peshak smuggles the warlord out of their camp or attempts to defend them, having gained an inside understanding to the warlord’s tragic flaw. In other stories, Peshak reveals the flaw to the rest of the riders or declares that the warlord is unfit to lead and participates in the inevitable dethroning. Then Peshak rides off into the sunset.
There are many love interests in Peshak stories: the warlord’s child or rival, the warlord themself, or Julianna, who also wanders from court to court, and serves as the only other recurring character. Unlike loyal Peshak, Julianna is a schemer and trickster; Peshak falls afoul of her machinations as often as they expose them. Still, Peshak is repeatedly drawn to Julianna despite their tumultuous history. Sometimes the pair are drawn together without knowing each other’s identities; Julianna, like Peshak, often changes her appearance through bodysculpting.
The question of whether Peshak was real or a fabrication is a source of perpetual debate amongs bards. There are few written records in the Norsteppes, and Peshak’s stories predate the rise of Ellamese cities. The most reliable traces of Peshak are found in three city registers in northern Outland, which claim the Rider visited them in successive months of the same year. Detractors claim that the gatekeepers were fooled by someone claiming to be the legendary warrior, cashing in on a reputation already well-established. The fictional camp’s case is bolstered by the presence of treewalkers in three different stories of this Norsteppes icon, given that there are no treewalkers on the steppe.
The truth is most likely to lie somewhere in the middle: once there was a horseraider named Peshak who had terrible luck in finding a stable source of employment. Stories were told about their exploits, and then those stories were embellished, and then additional stories were created along the same theme. The stories’ ambivalent treatment of rulers and warlords may have fueled their spread, appealing to everyday commoners tired of hearing about the exploits and great deeds of their own leaders. After all, Peshak stories even circulate among the goblins of Yonishan, where there are no horses. It seems everyone likes an excuse to tell stories about the foibles of the sovereigns of the surface world.
As for next week, there were four entries referenced in Peshak’s entry that we haven’t yet seen. Which one would you like to check out next week?