Written by Sándor Moldán, Creative Lead.
Concept Art Of The Week for Week 5 is the grim and dark northern home of the Kheïtanni – the unforgiving fortress city of Kheïtan that rises amidst the shadows of the cold peaks of Evermoon Crag.
Art Director: Sándor Moldán
Concept artist: Eren Arik
View or download full image
Situated in the far north-west of the continent of Khaïrnóth, Evermoon Crag is a cold place where freezing winter storms blow across the northern ocean from the distant and frozen wastelands beyond. Summers are fleeting and fragile things that flitter by as no more than a memory before the chill of winter returns with a grim vengeance.
Even without the malign presence of the Kheïtanni, the lands of Evermoon Crag are a shadowy and forbidding place, where tall, dark pine forests grow on the precipitous and knifelike peaks. Beneath the bowers of these ancient trees lies a shadowy world that seldom sees the rays of the sun. It is a place where nameless and terrible beasts dwell and lesser creatures fear to tread.
High amidst these cold mountains lies the bleak fortress city of Kheïtan, the stronghold and centre of power of the dark and hateful Kheïtanni. It is a city built with singular purpose – one that is reflected in the hearts, minds and twisted souls of every living Kheïtanni. Both more and less than a city, Kheïtan is a vast military fortification and encampment that exists solely for the genocidal purpose of putting every remaining Lánaraï on the planet of Vónekh VII to death.
The ingeniousness of the location of this dark city is its ability to render the greatest advantage their hated kin hold over them utterly irrelevant. For even the most stalwart of Lánaraï warriors would struggle to remain aloft in the cold and screaming winds that howl through the jagged and frost bitten peaks. Notwithstanding its natural defences, the prospect of laying siege to Kheïtan is still a grim one. Attacking it would not only be hugely expensive and reap a great toll in flesh and blood, but it would also be a largely pointless endeavour.
Few of the Kheïtanni linger in the dark city longer than a few days at a time, and even then only when their presence is absolutely needed. Kheïtanni warbands roam far and wide throughout much of Khaïrnóth, even the great dividing mountain range known as the Silver Spine – oft considered to be part of the realm of the Lánaraï is crawling with Kheïtanni invasion forces. Their true dominion is vast and ever shifting, an incalculable expanse of malign influence made possible by their sinister ability to breach the barriers between life and death, and extend their menacing reach through the Void. With all the comings and goings of Kheïtanni forces, there are always sufficient troops to man the walls in the unlikely instance of attack. Even so, the city maintains its own military force, The Execrators, the Hateful Guard whose very souls are bound to the service of the city's cruel and remorseless ruler.
High in the upper reaches of the city, The Fallen Queen, Lilaëth rules with a fist of iron and an implacable will. At her command, warbands enter the city and depart daily, leaving once again to range far afield and scour the land for more of their hated Lánaraï kin to be put to the sword. While the Kheïtanni hold to their own grotesque sense of honour, strength is the only true law in Kheïtan. It is by strength alone that The Fallen Queen holds sway. The Kheïtanni are tribal by nature – after all the years since the War In Heaven, they bear allegiance solely to the Násr whom they followed before the fall. Thus there are seven tribes – one for each of the remaining Násr, with Rhïarrh being the obvious exception. Lilaëth also commands the tribe dedicated to the fallen Násr, Nekhára. By strength of arms and force of will alone, the Nekháran tribe dominates for the time being, but their grip on power is ever tenuous. Should they fail to reap a suitable harvest of Lánaraï skulls or falter in any other respect, there is no doubt that another will rise to take their place.
A journey through the lower parts of the city reveals something entirely different – the shocking and dark underbelly of this callous society. Lurking beneath the shadows of this heroic and purposeful race of warriors, crippled veterans of countless wars live in filth and squalor, dreaming of the long lost years of valour. With little else to do to pass the agonising years of their long lives, they turn to illicit substances and forget what they once were. In dank slums and alleyways, weaklings and opportunists have turned their desperation into a thriving black market trade in arcane drugs and other less savoury vices. Gangs and the drug trade run rife, and the stain of violence lies on every corner. This partial anarchy is unofficially tolerated in order to cull the weak and make the strong stronger. The notions of charity and rehabilitation are utterly unknown to the Kheïtanni.
When designing the fortress city of Kheïtan, our approach was every bit as straightforward and purposefully one-dimensional as the nature of the city itself. We wanted to capture the cold and singular purpose of this brutal place without flourish or embellishment. The walls are tall, sheer and confronting. Behind them, sharp, angular towers rise like monolithic and dagger-like pyramids. There is virtually no light emanating from the city at all – merely a scattering of watch lights and a single, cold glow nestled high upon the tallest tower. The darkness of the city renders it almost indistinguishable from the bleak and unforgiving mountains that surround it.
Follow us on Twitter for more: @dawnofthetyrant