From a post to Baen's Bar Snerker's Only dated October 6, 2006:

The nature of the hradani and the Rage

    So you want to know all about hradani and the Rage, do you?

    All right, let's start at the beginning.

    As Wencit told Bahzell and Brandark, the hradani were always the biggest, strongest, toughest of the Races of Man. They were less fertile than humans, but more fertile than dwarves, elves, or half-elves. They were just about as intelligent as anyone else. When I created Orfressa, I posited certain "kinds" of thinking that the various Races of Man are individually more comfortable with, or perhaps adept at, and the hradani are no different from the others in this respect.

    Dwarves think in terms of building, of grand construction projects, of fascinating mechanical devices and technical processes. They are perpetually engaged with their environment, seeking ways to improve it, to manipulate it, to profit from it. That isn't to say that they're casual about damaging or destroying their environment, but simply that they see it as something which is there to be used for the betterment of their society, their people in general, their families, and themselves. They are more fertile than elves and (present-day) hradani, and less fertile than half-elves or humans.

    Elves think in terms of natural processes, of seeking some sort of tranquility -- almost what most of the other Races of Man would consider a sort of stasis, but which elves think of as equilibrium. They live so long, they see so much, that there is entirely too much conflict in their lives and memories already, and they seek to avoid more of it. And they are drawn to artistic pursuits in part because they have so long in which to become artists, and in part because they're seeking a sort of technique to help them focus on the soothing, pleasing aspects of art. In the same way, the sheer enormity of their lifespans means that they have a lot of time to become very, very, very good at anything that truly interests them. So even though elves are not inherently any "smarter" than any of the other Races of Man, they have earned a reputation for enormous intelligence and wisdom.

    Halflings, for the most part, are shaped by their small stature and physical weakness, coupled with the fact that their origins tend to make the other Races of Man see them as somehow "tainted" by the sorcery set loose in the Fall. Aside from the Marfang Island halflings, "courage" is seen as counter-survival by halflings. They're considered cowardly by most of the other Races of Man, but it might be more accurate to call them "rationally cautious" in a universe which also includes people like, oh, say, hradani. And they know that they are looked down upon (figuratively, as well as literally) by the bigger, stronger Races of Man because they're considered cowards. Generally speaking, halflings don't see any reason to give the any of the other Races of Man an even break, since no one is going to be giving them one, which means that many of the become tricksters or confidence men, which, in turn, of course only reinforces the negative stereotypes through which the other Races of Man view them. The Marfang Island halflings, of course, are a rather different lot.

    Human beings are the most fertile of the Races of Man. They also tend to go off in the most directions at once. Humans might be considered the generalists of Orfressa. For they most part, they aren't quite as good at (or focused upon) any of the things in which the other Races of Man specialize, but -- unlike the other Races of Man -- they can still be very good at all of them. And, of course, only human beings (or, in some cases human crosses with one of the other Races of Man) can become wizards.

    And then there are the hradani.

    Back in Kontovar, before the Fall, the hradani were generally considered the most levelheaded, calm, and reasonable of the Races of Man. They were the second most fertile Race of Man (second only to humans), their lives were about fifty percent longer than those of humans, although substantially shorter than those of dwarves or (of course) elves. They tended to be focused on "practical" concerns. There were hradani artists, philosophers, jurists, Imperial councilors, etc., but by and large the hradani preferred to allow other people to worry about "intellectual" things while they got on with building towns, working farms, serving as constables, etc. They always had the link to the magic field which gave them their longer lives and their superior healing ability, and they were always somewhat larger in stature and stronger than any of the other Races of Man.

    What the black wizards did was to make hradani even bigger, even stronger. They made them physically even tougher than they had been and enhanced their already superior rate of healing. The inherently calm and rational aspects of hradani nature obviously tended to get in the way of what the black wizards wanted to do with them, however, and so the wizards worked on creating control spells, planting "triggers" down inside their enslaved hradani which could be used to direct hradani troops at targets of the wizards' choice and overrule any resistance on the hradani's part.

    As part of those control spells and triggers, they sought to deliberately twist the hradani's sanity. What they wanted was a race of what were for all intents and purposes homicidal maniacs who were constrained by the sorcerous controls worked into their very nature so that their homicidal mania could be freed or shut down at will buy their sorcerous masters.

    What happened was that they didn't fully understand what they were doing, that in effect they were genetically engineering the hradani, and as a consequence, they didn't quite nail the changes they wanted to make. They succeeded in making hradani bigger, tougher, and and quicker healing. They also managed to strengthen the hradani's link to the magic field, so that in addition to further improving healing, the hradani got the incredible endurance which has already been displayed in the books and even longer "natural" lifespans. And they succeeded in getting their homicidal mania.

    There were, however, hradani who either never fell into the black wizards' hands, or who escaped from them. The Gryphon Guard (which you guys haven't really met yet, I don't think) was the Imperial Guard of the Ottovarans, and it always boasted a significant hradani component. In fact, the last captain of the Gryphon Guard was a hradani. So although by the end of the wars which brought about the Fall the vast majority of hradani were under the control of the black wizards, there was always a significant minority of them which were not. But that minority, especially after the strafing of Kontovar, found itself hated, despised, and distrusted because of what had happened with the "black hradani" under the black wizards' control.

    Some of those hradani who escaped the black wizards' control brought with them the genetic damage which had already been done, and so that component was introduced into the "white hradani," as well, through intermarriage. Eventually, in fact, the "white hradani" were driven out by the other Races of Man and effectively had no choice but to merge with -- even "disappear into" -- the "black hradani" who were already living outside the frontiers of the Norfressan refugee colonies. As those colonies expanded, the hradani were driven before them, further and further into the wilderness, and further and further into themselves, isolated from the other Races of Man by suspicion, hatred, and rejection.

    Now, in terms of how the black wizards actually used the hradani. They weren't so much "suicide troops," although the black wizards had absolutely no objections to using them as such, as they were shock troops. The impact of several thousand charging, berserk, almost impossible to kill, six-and-a-half to seven feet tall axemen, for example, was… considerable. (And troops like that were valuable enough -- and took long enough to "grow" -- that the black wizards had a strong interest in not simply expending them as suicide troops, but rather keeping them for reuse.)

    That was bad enough, of course, but the fact that the hradani were controlled by the spells woven into them by their wizard masters meant that they could also be used to do unspeakable things in the enforcement of the black wizards' wills. This, in fact, is where most of the hatred towards the hradani came from the first place. The "black hradani" were the torturers, the murderers, the rapists of the black wizards because… they… had… no… choice.

    By the time the wizards got done twisting them, of course, quite a few of the "black hradani" wouldn't have wanted a choice if they could have had it. They had become what the black wizards wanted them to be. Others recognized what had been done to them but were unable to resist it. And still others never stopped trying to find ways to break free of the controls locked upon them.

    One factor which was very significant, and for which the black wizards had not allowed because they didn't realize what they were doing, was that the "twisting spells" (for wanted a better word) which created the Rage, the inclination towards violence, etc., were all sex-linked. They were carried, in other words, on the Y chromosome, not the X chromosome. Other aspects of the changes -- the increased longevity, the greater healing, the strengthened link to the magic field -- affected both chromosomes, and so expressed in female hradani, as well as male hradani, but what you might think of as the specific "combat mod" changes were limited to the males. This was in large part the result of a deliberate decision by the black wizards to keep the hradani female line more… "domesticated," for want of a better word. They wanted the hradani women to retain much of that original levelheadedness because the hradani women and children were both their hostages and a moderating influence designed to reduce the probability of attempted rebellion by the hradani slave-soldiers.

    But what happened in the end -- and this is another reason why hradani women have traditionally filled the roles they have in their people's communities in Norfressa -- was that the hradani women in Kontovar wound up engineering the majority of the successful escapes from the control of the black wizards. They were the stability of the hradani community. They were the ones who were "left home" while the men were sent off to be expended in the black wizards' armies. And they were the ones which even the most spell-twisted hradani men recognized as being undamaged. Men who could no longer think straight for themselves, were still capable of putting their trust into the women who loved them and who could still think straight, and those women planned and carried out most of the successful escape attempts… and paid the price for most of the failed escape attempts.

    Along the way, the genetic changes the black wizards had set in motion, continued on their own. The fact that the black wizards didn't recognize what was happening meant that the ongoing process of change escaped their control. For a very long time, they didn't even realize that it was happening, and so made no effort to continue to control and direct it.

    If you go back and look at the point in Oath of Swords at which Bahzell and Brandark are explaining to Tothas, what Bahzell actually says is "no wizard ever born can control a hradani who's given himself to the Rage." The most significant two words of that sentence are "given himself." In other words, Brandark and Bahzell are not referring to a hradani who's been "taken" by the Rage. They are in fact, although they don't know it until Tomanak explains it to them, not talking about "the Rage" at all. Or not, at least, in the sense they think they are. The phrase some of you have come up with -- the "New Rage" -- is actually not a bad label for what they are talking about. And what they don't realize, until Tomanak starts explaining it to them (a process which is complicated by the fact that they don't really have the referents in their language or world views for what he's describing) is that the descendents of those hradani who managed to escape the black wizards, and who intermarried with the descendents of the "white hradani" who were never directly touched by the black wizards' warping sorcery, have evolved what you might think of as a "parallel Rage."

    This "parallel" Rage is very closely related to the original Rage, but it's not the same thing. In fact, at the point at which Bahzell becomes a champion of Tomanak, virtually all of the male hradani in Norfressa have both Rages imprinted on their genetic codes. The old, uncontrollable, strike-without-warning Rage is gradually disappearing, and eventually will vanish completely. The "new Rage" cannot take a hradani against his will. It is a deliberately summoned capability, and its actually been a part of the hradani genetic makeup for a long, long time. In fact, it began showing up (in a very limited number of hradani) all the way back to before the strafing of Kontovar. Without actually realizing what they were doing, some of the hradani in which this "genetic sport" (from the black wizards' viewpoint, at least) expressed itself earliest managed to summon the "new Rage" and, in the process, found themselves virtually immune to control by their sorcerous masters. Indeed, they found that they enjoyed an astonishing degree of immunity even to combat magics directed against them. Since they didn't know what they were doing, and since they really didn't remember any longer (assuming they'd ever known) about the link to the magic field, they didn't realize that the combat magics were failing because what they were actually doing was drawing upon the magic field to build a defensive shell about themselves.

    The nature of this new version of the Rage, coupled with the slavery in which hradani found themselves in Kontovar, meant that the majority of those hradani who managed to escape carried the seeds of the new version with them. Just as they passed along the original Rage to their children (including the offspring of "white hradani" who married "black hradani"), they also passed along this still evolving new Rage.

    Although the black wizards didn't (and don't) truly understand what was happening, they recognized that there was something new and different about certain hradani which made them difficult or impossible to control. They immediately set about trying to do something about their problem, and what they managed to come up with during the many decades they spent essentially holed up in their fallout shelters after the strafing of Kontovar was a simple spell to detect the presence of the new Rage. They didn't have to know what it was or exactly how it worked in order to detect its presence… and to destroy any hradani in which it expressed itself. So there are now two separate types of hradani, almost two entirely separate races. One is what we could call the current, re-emergent "white hradani" of Norfressa, while the other is the even further debased "black hradani" of Kontovar.

    Male "white hradani" are virtually immune to sorcery when they summon the Rage. Female hradani, "white" or "black," are not, because it's impossible for them to summon the Rage in the first place. This, as I'm sure you can see, could have some interesting (not to say ominous) implications for future events. No "black hradani" is immune to sorcery. (Actually, that's not entirely true. There are still a very tiny handful of so-called "black hradani" in each generation who show the "new Rage" mutation. Unfortunately, they are almost all identified in childhood by the spells the Council Carnadosan has devised and destroyed before the attain their majorities.)

    Tomanak and the other Gods of Light understood from the beginning that the Rage was in effect following two separate evolutionary pathways. There wasn't a lot they could do about it, though, until the "new Rage" had evolved into a fully (and consciously) controllable ability, and that's taken time. By the time of Bahzell's life, the "new Rage" has finally reached that point of evolution, although the "old Rage" is still there. And, as Tomanak has also warned Bahzell, it will remain a part of Bahzell's people for a long, long time to come. On the other hand, the "new Rage" gives them what you might think of as a counter-weapon against those who fall prey to the "old Rage." (And also against those hradani who like "falling prey to" the Rage.)

    As for exactly what the Rage can be used for, it can --

    Tum, te, tum, te, tum