Dul Druun

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Dul-Druun
Country Information
Motto: Stone Firstborn
Capital: Dul-Druun
Language: Druuni
Ethnic Groups: Dark Dwarves The Sickly
Religion: Ancestor Worship, Diabolism, The Shadow
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Current Ruler: Huntur Goldanvil IV
Population: 50,000+



History

Despite their love of tradition and the great monuments of their ancient civilization, it is sometimes hard to sort out fact from fiction in Dul-Druuni history. This is largely due to their own tendency to recast the same ancient stories with an eye toward glorifying the current dynasty at any particular time, even to the point of changing the meaning of words in old records without actually changing the words themselves.

Still, it is clear that the city of Dul-Druun and its holdings and outlying settlements are ancient. The first recognized Emperor of Dul-Druun was Emperor Vahekan the Covetous, who listed at least five unconfirmed Kings of Dul-Druun in his personal record of Ascent, first entry in the Annals of the city of Dul-Druun. That, it is believed, was almost ten thousand years ago, though this could be subject to debate due to the lack of seasonal cues and reliance on only the timekeeping of a priestly class sometimes (often) subject to bribery.

If you would believe the Dul-Druuni, they claim to be the original form of dwarves, born out of the stone itself, and their surface kin are but degenerate shadows of their former glory, corrupted by their exposure to the surface races. The truth seems to imply that at some point, some deep branches of dwarven society were captured by unspeakable abominations, ancient things with advanced intellect and tentacled forms. At some point, the Dul-Druuni cast their oppressors off, and began an eternal battle under the earth for their own survival.

Some time afterward, the Empire of Dul-Druun was formed, and spread throughout the caverns below the earth, subjugating other races and carving their settlements into the very stone. They situated themselves between the dark elves above and unspeakable horrors below. Due to the flexible nature of Dul-Druun history, it is difficult to tell exactly when this trend began to reverse, but by three thousand years ago, the Empire had entered a steady decline. Over the passing centuries, entire cities were forgotten save for names on records in the Dul-Druuni capital. Tunnel collapses sealed off entire swaths of their former empire, and the pressing of the dark elves above and the monstrosities below constantly cost them territory.

It got so bad that around 500 years past, the City of Dul-Druun itself was on the verge of collapse. More than half of the city had fallen to the dark elves and the abominations from below. In desparation, the Dul-Druuni Senate made a Contract, submitting their civilization to the whims of the Archdevils they conjured, in return for the power they needed to push their besiegers back. Diabolism was established as the state religion alongside ancestor worship, and in return the Archdevils sent their emissaries to the dark dwarves.

The White Devil gave them The Grim Blade and taught a few of their men techniques to take out spellcasters, establishing the Mage Slayer Corps. The Black Devil gave them the spawning pit, and taught them how to mingle their essence with that of their enemies below, thus resulting in the weirdly hybrid Deep Hunter Corps. Finally, the Red Devil lived among them for a time, and her words influenced the royals and helped organize the Dead Clans in their necropolis cities, essentially creating a barrier of unliving troops to help protect the city.

This has resulted in the slow recovery of the city of Dul-Druun, and the expansion of some of their outlying settlements. Dul-Druun is still but a shadow of the empire it once was, but it no longer hangs from a thread. Some of the old clans dislike what they see as a loss of purity resulting from the influence of the Archdevils' emissaries, but most admit that it is preferrable to extinction.

Notable Historical Figures

Emperor Vahekan the Covetous - First emperor of Dul-Druun.

Emperor Zanmaar XI - Last true emperor of Dul-Druun, responsible for the loss of the last true city state outside of the Central Cavern. His successor was Huntur Steelheart.

Huntur Steelheart - First King of modern Dul-Druun, a commoner who climbed his way from the Fighting Pits to the heights of the Dul-Druun Legion. After the coup that took down Emperor Zanmaar XI, the Senate unanimously declared Huntur Steelheart King. In return, the first Steelheart graciously allowed the Senate to continue its operation and returned the Senators' families mostly intact.

King Kadanim Goldanvil - First of the Goldanvil Dynasty, the current ruling dynasty of Dul-Druun.

King Huntur II Goldanvil - The King who convinced the Senate to submit to the Contract, saving Dul-Druun from extinction. Consort of the Red Devil.

Donnal Arunsun - First wielder of the Grim Blade, student of the Pale Devil, founder of the Mageslayer Corps.

Kishrun - First Deep Hunter, student of the Black Devil. Currently in his fifth reincarnation. Founder and leader of the Deep Hunter Corps.

Geographical Features

The exact location of Dul-Druun is hard to pin down, because there is no direct surface access. To arrive at the gates of Dul-Druun, one has to descend through many miles of caves and tunnels in varying directions. Dul-Druun itself consists of the city of Dul-Druun and several outlying settlements, occupying a ring of caverns of various sizes linked by both natural caves and artificial tunnels. Dul-Druun itself claims many additional caverns thought to contain ruins of former cities under the sway of their ancient empire, some of which are known only by name, with their location lost to time.

Most of Dul-Druun's caverns are geologically stable, and far enough below the surface that the natural heat is a constant companion, high enough that even surfacers from a tropical climate generally find it uncomfortable. Indeed, the central cavern of Dul-Druun is built over an exposed magma pocket, and though the priests keep the worst of the heat from convecting upward, the lower levels are still usually intolerable to surfacers.

While most Dul-Druun caverns are single level affairs, with structures carved or built into them much like a surface city in mountainous terrain might adopt, the central cavern of Dul-Druun has multiple stone 'platforms' held in place by great columns of stone and connected by stone bridges. While some of these are natural formations, others were shaped and carved over the passing millenia.

The caves and tunnels about Dul-Druun are rich in minerals even after so many years of mining, and the constant opening of new tunnels and abandonment of older shafts makes for a constant turnover. Still, the outlying settlements do their part to send new metals and minerals to the City of Dul-Druun.

The subterranean nature of Dul-Druun means that seasons have no meaning, nor time of day. Indeed, the only way to tell the time in most Dul-Druuni settlements are the chiming of the great cylindrical bells that most house in their town halls, usually manipulated by well maintained clockwork, though occasionally sounded by the priests on hand. Likewise, darkness and shadow engulfs many of the cities of Dul-Druun. Main streets in outlying settlements are lit by either gas lamps or the occasional bioluminescent fungus. In the City of Dul-Druun, the central cavern is lit by the eerie red glow of the magma sea below, with polished sections of exposed metallic veins along the ceiling of the cavern reflecting the light dimly back upon the stone platforms beneath.

Food is generally scarce among the populace of Dul-Druun, and is comprised of a mix of what can be imported, or what can be raised or obtained in the caverns. This mostly consists of various large worms and beetles, fungus, and prisoners and slaves of other races that have outlived their usefulness. Some luck has been had raising some surface plants in certain sections of the lower Central Chamber of Dul-Druun City, where the heat and light of the magma sea can be mixed with nutrients drawn from the volcanic ash there.

Government and Politics

Dul-Druun is governed by a constitutional monarchy. The King has command of the Legions and appoints individuals to primary positions, though the Senate can override him. the Senate also is in charge of directing the day to day business and passing the laws of Dul-Druun. In practice, there's a long history of Senate infighting, bribery, and outright bullying between clans. Dul-Druun politics are a deadly thing, with houses often just shy of open warfare, with only the threat of the Legion descending upon them keeping them at bay.

Dul-Druun laws and governance tend to be oppressive, riddled with bureaucrats and competing organizations. Guilds dominate individual crafts, and Clans rule their component families as if they were their own stand alone governments. About the only thing that regularly unites the Clans is their fear and hatred of outsiders of all stripes.

Notable Government Officials

Huntur Goldanvil IV - Current King of Dul-Druun, recently risen to prominence under the machinations of his half brother Dunagal Arunsun.

Trodann the Fist of Darkness - General of the Lower Legions, he is responsible for keeping the lower tunnels free of abomination influence.

Narsii the Killer - General of the Upper Legions, she is responsible for keeping the upper tunnels free of trespassers.

Forgemaster Galun Daruur - Senator in charge of the great forge, master craftsman of Dul-Druun

Military

The main military force of Dul-Druun are the Legions. These vary in number, but consist of heavy infantry and siege engineers with a focus on the close quarters heavy combat common in the underground tunnels. All Citizens of Dul-Druun, male or female, are expected to serve in the Legions for ten years, though some take to it as a career and enlist for longer. Dul-Druuni commoners are allowed to enlist and may be granted citizenship. None of The Sickly or Outsiders are allowed to enlist.

The Deep Hunters are a rare breed, specializing in fighting abominations rife in the deeper tunnels. To this end, they hybridize their bodies to steal the abilities of their prey. Deep Hunters also undergo mental training to help them resist the psionic abilities many abominations exhibit. This often leaves them with an alien mindset themselves. While respected, a Deep Hunter loses their citizenship, and retains only their status as a Deep Hunter. If they should lose even that, they are either killed or banished to live among The Sickly.

The Mageslayer Corps is another elite group, trained to eliminate magic using targets, especially dark elves. They subject themselves to magical attacks to train up magical resistance, and wield magic sapping blades that are poor copies of the Grim Blade. It is said that a Dul-Druuni Mageslayer becomes unhinged by this training, but in actuality, it's just that the Corps looks for unstable, violent Dul-Druuni from the lower castes, deeming them more likely to last through the brutal training.

The Dead Clans are a collection of undead Druuni that dwell in the outer tomb tunnels. Though they form their own Clan structure, separate from the living Dul-Druuni, they may join in the defense of the capital.

The Plague are simply the chaotic mass of The Sickly, an insane group in the undercaverns. Though not a part of the military due to lack of ability to control them, they are considered a dangerous resource that can be unleashed in an emergency.

Religion

Most Dul-Druuni adhere to a tradition of ancestor worship, which serves as both a basic form of spirituality as well as a definitive record of where a particular Dul-Druuni stands in society. Family lines are kept track of with exquisite detail, and it is not unknown for a Dul-Druuni to be able to recite all of their ancestors through five or six generations. This is not a wholly unfounded adoration, however, for a Dul-Druun ghost might very well be able to bestow certain blessings on their descendants, and in the dusty tomb tunnels and catacombs surrounding Dul-Druun settlements, the walking dead are not uncommon, and arrange themselves according to the clans and families they had in life. The aggregate will of an entire family line might even approach some minor divinities in their ability to grant spells to their followers.

The second major faith among the Dul-Druuni is diabolism, or the worship of devils. This began during their empire's decline, and culminated in the Contract a few centuries back, which officially established the Archdevils influence among the Dul-Druuni houses in return for the power needed to save their fading civilization. Now, priests of the various hellish lords may be found operating openly in Dul-Druuni society, and many noble houses pledge allegiance to one of the major devils.

Another cult common among the Dul-Druuni is the Cult of the Devouring Shadow. Born out of their history of conflict with abominations and creatures from beyond time, the cult venerates entropy and darkness as its own sentient force. Priests of the Devouring Shadow have exhibited strange powers, able to unwind magic, matter, and life itself with their spells. Despite their powers, the priests and their temples are generally banished to the most unfavorable caverns, and are social outcasts due to their nihilistic natures and their belief that the Dul-Druuni attention to tradition is a futile exercise. A Priest of the Devouring Shadow believes that little an individual or a group can do actually matters, because in the end it all unwinds to nothing.

Society and Peoples

Technically, Dul-Druuni, or 'The Dul-Druun' refers to Druuni, or dark dwarves, from the city. Since there's only one major city left in the Dul-Druun Empire, the words have become largely interchangeable for all intents and purposes. One refers to 'A Dul-Druuni', 'Dul-Druuni', or 'The Dul-Druun'. Simply referring to them as Druuni is considered a grand faux pas, and is liable to result in much mockery of the offender. However, the language itself is still called Druuni.

The society of Dul-Druun is highly regimented, with a strict caste system determining a Dul-Druuni's life from birth. Families are organized into larger clans, which can each trace their line to a great Dul-Druuni hero. When a new hero arrives, a new clan might be formed, while entire clans can die out over time. Some clans have names in common with surface dwarves, although the Dul-Druuni consider the dwarves the one who stole their clan names.

Dul-Druuni value two things above all others: Pride, and Tradition. When these two conflict, pride tends to take precedence. This results in an odd societal idea of laws and records being set in stone, but the language itself being changed as necessary over time to fit the pride of whoever is in charge. Thus, Dul-Druuni written history tends to be rife with tales of grand lines 'allowing' themselves to be beaten for a time, before resurging, or 'friendly rivalries' that look more like blood feuds, giving way to eventual unification of the lines. An old Dul-Druuni saying supposedly goes: 'Stone is eternal, words are fleeting'.

The various castes of Dul-Druuni society make it very clear what they consider important. They are both xenophobic and narcissitic. Dul-Druuni nobility doesn't just consider itself the pinnacle of dwarven society, but rather of all society everywhere. Outsiders, or non-dwarves, are considered the lowest of the low. Although the political realities of a situation may force a Dul-Druuni to refer to them as equals, in their hearts many of the dark dwarves simply think of them as animals, worth little more than their value as playthings, slave labor, or potentially food.

A step up from Outsiders are The Sickly. These are dwarves that aren't pure blood Druuni or dark dwarves. For the rest of this article, The Sickly refers only to those abomination-tainted dwarves kept in the undercaverns of Dul-Druun, but in their dealings with surfacers, Dul-Druuni consider other dwarven strains to be on the same level, and may refer to them as The Sickly as well, at least in private conversation.

The rest of the caste levels are dark dwarves, and thus automatically considered by the Dul-Druuni as superior to those of other blood, no matter how lowly. That having been said, the lowest Dul-Druuni caste are the commoners. They aren't considered citizens, but aren't as lowly as slaves. They make up the thronging, unskilled laborers of the City. The only hope of advancing their status is by showing themselves worthy either through combat in the Pits or in the Legion, or through skill with craft. The lowly status of the commoners, however, rarely gives them opportunity to prove themselves through non combat skill.

Next up is the Craftsmen. Although they are called craftsmen, some are merely merchants or landowners. Craftsmen are the lowest caste to be considered citizens, and may hold a seat on various guild councils or other organizations, as well as own land.

Warriors are technically the same level as Craftsmen in the eyes of the law, but the often precarious nature of life in Dul-Druun puts a premium on those who can use weapons well, and thus they have a slight edge in social standing.

Senators are noble families of Dul-Druun, usually the eldest or most influential family of one of the main Clans. Each Senatorial famiy may contribute one seat to the Senate, and some Clans may have multiple Senatorial families.

The Priest Caste is recognized due to the supernatural abilities that they are granted, and while they don't influence the governance directly, they have a lot of unofficial sway, either through counselling Senators or through the fear their abilities produce.

Finally there are the Royals. Members of the clan of the King (or Queen), currently members of the Goldanvil clan, regardless of family, are considered Royal.

The two major races of the Dul-Druuni are the dark dwarves themselves, which make up the bulk of the population, and The Sickly, which are a catch all group for degenerate near dwarves that have been banished to the undercaverns.

Dul-Druuni stand between 3'6" and 4', broadly built, with white hair, red eyes with black sclera, and skin ranging from chalk white to gunmetal gray, with most falling about the color of slate. Their builds tend to be stocky and sturdy, with dense bones and muscle. Very few Dul-Druuni of either gender have hair on their scalps, although male Dul-Druuni are capable of growing extensive facial hair, and often have well decorated beards. They tend to be nearly immune to most organic poisons, and more resistant to magic and mental effects in general than many surface races. Many Dul-Druuni cultivate a certain resistance to heat as well, due to their environment so far below the surface.

Dul-Druuni also exhibit a few innate magical abilities, which they can develop with the proper training. Specifically, Dul-Druuni can render themselves unseen for a short period of time, or make themselves much larger, expanding up to nearly eight feet in height. Both of these effects last perhaps a minute, extending up to a few minutes with the proper training, and require a night's rest before activating again.

The Sickly are a mixing mingling of dwarven blooded that have been changed, both through their interbreeding with Other Things and their exposure to weird emanations for deeper beneath. Shorter than the Dul-Druuni, at around 3' to 3'6", they are also more spindly, with thin, almost frail forms, skin of bone white, and large, bulging eyes that are almost all pupil. This renders them highly sensitive to light, and in anything approximating sufficient light for a surfacer they may be nearly blinded. Indeed, actual sunlight makes them physically ill, and The Sickly can die if left exposed. Although like Dul-Druuni the males can grow facial hair, they don't often do so. The Sickly can grow head hair, usually shock white as their skin, however, many shave this as well.

The Sickly are innately highly resistant to magic of any sort, and may interfere with the workings of others' senses at range. Their mental influence can make their targets develop temporary blind spots over a certain area of their vision, hear sounds that aren't there, or even experience painful and distracting visual and auditory hallucinations. Generally the latter effects require a concentrated burst of mental vigor, and can only be accomplished once before the individual Sickly has to rest.

All of The Sickly are insane, whether as a function of their mixed blood, their situation, or exposure to their own insane subculture. It's fundamentally irrelevant what has caused this insanity, at least to the Dul-Druuni. All they care about is the fact that they have a buffer of tunnels full of murderously psychotic and highly expendable impure ones between themselves and those who would attack them.

Language

Druuni is a variation of ancient dwarvish tongues, mixed with influence from dark elven tongues they have encountered over their history. Traditionally, it is considered by the Dul-Druun to still be 'pure', reflecting the original form of the dwarvish tongues, but this is a falsehood perpetrated by the priesthood, keepers of tradition. Rather than acknowledge the changing language, when it diverges too far from the old texts they simply change how the old texts are pronounced and read to conform with the current language norms.

Native speakers of Druuni often sprinkle profanity and derogatory terms even in formal means of address, either to acknowledge the strength and efficiency (read: brutality) of their social betters or to offhandedly berate their lessers. This casual verbal sparring might get especially ugly among social equals, as each seeks to subtly exert social dominance through insulting and demeaning the other.