Gulanadur is home to a race of dark elves that exclusively practice the Faith of the Dual Face Lady. Ruled over by the Crown of the Spire, an office currently held by the First Matron Szin'ilzt Vyz'crul and her privy council, Gulanadur has remained isolated and apart from the rest of the world for several centuries. It has only recently stepped out into the public stage and established trade routes with Arangoth and Najjir in the last few years. Gulanadur is a competitive, ambition-driven society where the strong survive and the weak are culled by ignominy.
|Realm:||Beneath Northern Arangoth|
|Predominate Race:||Dark elves|
|Year Founded:||10,000 years ago|
|Head of State:||First Matron Szin'ilzt Vyz'crul|
Crownblade Lassk |
Arch Priestess Siraz'jah Av'Zathrak
|Religion:||Faith of the Dual Face Lady|
- 1 Origins & History
- 2 Government
- 3 The City
- 4 Culture & Religion
Origins & History
In the last few centuries have seen an expansion of Gulanadurian borders beneath the surface. Hydroponic farming satellites have been established to meet the greater population needs. Slowly, in the last decade, trade with the surface has increased, bringing new wealth to Gulanadur. Exportation of liquor, spider silk, rare and precious raw metals and stone, and varieties of narcotics have flourished. Gulanadur imports wood and textiles, surface livestock for slaughter, and other items it cannot produce easily on its own.
In the autumn of 480, Gulanadur assisted the Caern Rhians with the liberation of their nation from the Zul Kirans. In return they received knowledge of mithril's mining and smithing techniques, as well as access to the Caern Rhian mithril mines. This mithril has been used selectively to defeat the Gulanadurian's current rivals, the Vuulari, such as in their capture of Chath'z'ress.
During the summer of 483, Gulanadur announced its presence to the surface kingdom of Arangoth, sending a delegation to the northern capitol of Tagrana. In closed negotiations, and under unknown circumstances, King Arlok ul-Dorn ul-Arangoth granted a large tract of surface land in the northwestern part of Arangoth to the Gulanadurian Crown, acknowledging the sovereignty of the city state. The details of this particular treaty are unclear, but the Gulanadurians claimed mostly forested or mountainous land and did not displace any native Arangothians.
Gulanadur is ruled over as a dictatorship. The Crown, as the office is called after the position in the Spire, can change hands often. Styled as the 'First Matron' or 'First Patron', whoever holds the office is precisely as the title implies. They are the parental figure of the entire city, and each citizen is one of their children. Whoever sits in the Crown's apartments at the top of the Spire rules the city, ensuring that only the most ambitious, ruthless and cunning person can hold the office for any length of time. People from all Houses jockey for position throughout the apartments of the Spire. The higher one's position is in the Spire, the higher one's favorability in the court of the current Crown. This de facto ranking system is a visible indication of the nepotism that can afflict the Crown's governance, and can lead to some instability. However, due to the competitive nature of the office and those of the privy council, the Crown is always held by the person who can effectively deal with all of these threats.
Traditionally, the Crown has a cabinet of advisers that make up the Privy Council. The number of people on the Privy Council varies, as by preference of the Crown. Typically, the Privy Council is staffed by a representative of the Mages' College, the clergy, the Assassins' Guild, the Merchant Guild and the Farmers. Often times, this tally is supplemented by the Crown's preference and is afflicted by nepotism. It is not uncommon for the Crown to staff their Privy Council of those closest to them, such as other members of their House. The competition for the Crown makes most of those that hold the office paranoid. This trend commonly leads the Crown towards tightening their grip on their power, often to the detriment of their rule. Many a Crown has fallen or been deposed due to their own paranoia.
The current Crown is the First Matron Szin'ilzt Vyz'crul, who has held the office for the last two hundred years. Such stability is unprecedented and initially, was a direct result of the power vacuum that the First Matron left behind in the Spire during her ascent. Despite the ruthlessness in which she seized the Crown, her reign has been marked by a steady increase of production in all fields. Her rule has been relatively peaceful, and Gulanadur has flourished beneath it. She is the first Crown to have established trade routes with surface cities, beginning an unheard of rush of surface goods coming into the city. Szin'ilzt Vyz'crul is responsible for bringing Gulanadur to the attention of Arangoth and other countries by announcing its presence in 483, making it one of the first dark elven cities on the international stage.
Her privy council is much smaller than previous Crown's, but she has the full support of the clergy in the form of her childhood friend, Siraz'jah Av'Zathrak, the current Arch Priestess and Lassk of the Assassin's Guild.
The central city of Gulanadur is an oddity among subterranean cities and appears, at first glance, more like a surface city rather than a system of caverns. A feat of magical engineering and construction, the city resides within a massive, spherical cavern carved laboriously from living rock millennia ago. The city is broken into three main sections: the Spire, a large tower that dominates the center of the city and reaches nearly the ceiling, the Floor, and the Bowl, the walls of the cavern from which three Tiers were carved. Atop the Spire is the false, violet sun that lights up the city at all hours; a fainter light than true day light, the violet sun does provide enough illumination that most surface dwelling visitors are capable of seeing.
All buildings are cut into the rock face of the Bowl, save for the Spire. Architectural design is varied but feature a lot of decorative embellishments. Vaulted roofs over doorways and pillars are common, as are pergolas connecting two areas. As the city is carved from rock, engraved designs are quite common. Gardens and planters of fungus and plants bred specially for the low, violet light of Gulanadur are spread out all over the city.
The Spire is several stories tall, has no windows, and narrows the higher one goes along it. Walkways without railings connect from the Spire to the First and Third Tiers in three points, providing some access from one side of the city to the other. The interior of the Spire is mostly residential apartments belonging to each of the various Houses of Gulanadur. At the top most levels is the Crown, the seat of the current ruler and the government of the city. Occupancy of the apartments closest to the Crown is usually reserved for those most in favor of the ruler. This jockeying for positioning in the Spire is a status symbol. Those Houses with apartments closest to the Crown are among the most ambitious and cunning of Gulanadur. Those lower in the Spire do not find themselves changing apartments as often as those higher.
The Floor is a wide expanse at the bottom of the Bowl. It is the darkest area of the city, a fact that doesn't trouble natives, but can be problematic for surface dwellers visiting the Gulanadur. Primarily, the Floor is for those aspects of that provide the foundation for the city: the Temple, the various hydroponic and livestock farms, the Mages' College and the arcane reservoir that protects and powers the city. There are some shops located on the Floor, but they are all closely related to the other occupants there, such as the food market or some of the enchanters' stores.
The First Tier is additional shops and contains an all hours' marketplace and bazaar. The Second Tier is residential in its entirety, containing a variety of homes for citizens. Most Houses' main branch live in ancestral residences on the Second Tier and have since the city was founded. The Third Tier is a combination of import goods from the surface, such as lumber and livestock, as well as merchant establishments that cater to these things. Some residences have expanded into the Third Tier as the city grows. Several elevators and stair cases are cut into the sides of the Bowl to provide access to the various levels as well as the entrance to the city.
The entrance to Gulanadur is guarded by sentries both inside the cave and outside at the surface. There is a carved out, intricate and magically shifting tunnel maze between the surface entrance and the actual city. A number of pitfalls reside in the maze, such as massive spiders and monstrous vampire bats. Other dangers include a number of booby traps, pits of spikes, dead ends and falling stalactites. As the maze is kept in total darkness, intruders must compensate for their lack of vision to even navigate it. As Gulanadurians can see in darkness, this is not something that troubles them. The maze is nearly a mile long for all its twists and turns.
The main metropolitan area of Gulanadur is warded by a massive arcane barrier designed to prevent teleportation into and out of the city. It also wards against magic and reinforces the ceiling against collapse. This barrier is powered by the arcane reservoir that exists below the Mages' College.
Gulanadur's particular architectural layout and location require a number of considerations to be made in order to maintain its sustainability and survivability. It is a city that survives on magical energy. There are also a number of peculiar features or notable locations that contribute to the overall uniqueness of the city.
The arcane reservoir is a vault of arcane energy that the Mages' College ruling council have contributed to over the millennia since the city's foundation. It is located in a cavern beneath the Mages' College on the Floor of the city and guarded by the entirety of the population of the College itself. Locked behind seven sealed doors, only the ruling council and the Crown's entourage are ever permitted within the reservoir's cavern. The reservoir is a veritable fount of magic in semi-physical form. Appearing as a column of pale violet light in the center of the small chamber, it powers the barrier that surrounds the city and the arcane air renewal.
After the betrayal of the former Crown Arcanist Khaless Jhalavar in 483, the reservoir is additionally powered by five liches. Under the orders of Szin'ilzt Vyz'crul, the priestesses of Asherta cursed Jhalavar's five cohorts from the ruling council of the Mage's College to forever serve the city they had once betrayed. In doing so, the five mages were raised as the undead, bound by curses of the faithful to pour their arcane energy into the reservoir and then entombed in the walls of the chamber. Their phylacteries are kept within the Temple.
The Assassins' Guild is an organization in Gulanadur responsible for training the warriors and assassins of the various noble houses. Prospects are sold upon graduation in closed-door auctions by invitation only. Their methods of training resemble the agoge of the ancient Spartans, in which young children are 'selected' (i.e. taken) and forced into a brutal routine of deprivation, combat, and survival. Prospects that survive the multiple years of intensive training by the Master Assassin are perhaps one in every fifty selected.
The Assassins' Guild has its own rituals and customs aside from the religion of the common people. For example, their dead are 'dressed' (i.e. their organs are removed), then the meat is carved from their bones and eaten by the former member's peers and immediate superiors and inferiors, with choice pieces of certain organs distributed in order of prestige, including the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys, in order of importance.
The Master Assassin holds his position as long as he is not killed by his subordinates, which is how he is expected to die. Upon his death, the title of Master Assassin transfers to the one who killed him, as well as his responsibilities to the guild and its members.
In cave systems carved out at the Floor and First Tier levels, there exists multiple hydroponic farms run by a number of different Gulanadurian houses. Most houses have a primary focus on specific crops, often times overlapping with another house's product. By law, no single house is allowed a monopoly on staple foods, so to avoid price gouging; this does not extend beyond what the Crown considers a 'staple food'. Current staple foods include: rice, potatoes and soybeans.
House Elsivir is one such house that maintains one of the smaller hydroponic farms.
The Temple is a large compound that contains a central statue. The statue of the Dual Faced Lady is an imposing female figure with a face on both sides of the head, one pale, one dark, both expressionless. The statue holds a dagger in one hand and the other was empty and upturned, ready to catch the souls of the dead as they fell into the afterlife.
Gulanadur is lit by the false, violet sun that sits atop the Crown of the Spire. This violet sun is powered by the arcane reservoir, like many things within the city. It provides a pale illumination to the city and bathes everything in its peculiar lavender glow. It is said that this constant light is one of the reasons that Gulanadurians can see in daylight on the surface.
Culture & Religion
The Faith of the Dual Faced Lady is the sole religion practiced in Gulanadur. It is a monotheistic religion that worships a central matriarchal figure who is represented by two separate aspects: Asherta and Anasati, representing the light and dark sides of passion, respectively.
Asherta watches over those who engage in the creative arts and the lighter aspects of love. Temperance is a central tenet of Asherta's clerics, who advocate the moderation of all things, lest one fall into Anasati's influence. Compassion, familial love, loyalty to one's friends, and adhering to one's own code of honor are all qualities sought after by Asherta's adherents.
Anasati governs dark passions: murder, the desire to do harm, jealousy, greed, and envy, for example. Hedonistic excesses are also her province, as well as various addictions, obsessions, and compulsions, taking creative passions to such extents as to neglect one's own care, or allowing one's protective instincts to cause more harm than intended when loved ones are threatened or hurt.
Gulanadurian culture revolves around the Faith, its clerics and priests advocating for a balance between one's own light and dark passions. Excess impulses are routinely purged by way of seasonal festivals held at the Temple during the solstices and equinoxes every year. These festivals last seven days and tend to revolve around orgies and involve incense, various drugs, and excessive drinking. Other sections of the Temple provide access to the arena, which caters to all manner of blood sport. These festivals are seen as necessary elements to maintaining a productive lifestyle, lest an adherent's darker impulses unbalance them.
The terms "good" and "evil" aren't often used in reference to the Faith or its aspects. The darker passions can often be directed towards lighter means, just as fixation upon the lighter impulses can gradually lead one into a darker passion than intended. Morality as a whole is viewed as entirely subjective, with the only interference being when one's morality conflicts with the greater good of Gulanadur's prosperity. Acts such as murder and assault, while not commonplace, are seen as necessary elements in some aspects of Gulanadurian life, and detrimental elements in others.
Gulanadurian cuisine bears some similarities to food found on the surface, but with several key differences. Their crops are grown either through hydroponic farming or magically, which restricts what can be found. Their livestock, as well, differ from surface animals, most of the "familiar" ones long since having diverged into new species. They also supplement their diets with flora and fauna found underground, which would seem strange to foreigners. Food is hard to find in a cave even with assistance, but the dark elves have elevated survival into an art form.
Using hydroponics, dark elves have access to potatoes, soybeans, legumes, and root vegetables as staples. Certain grains, such as rice, thrive in their hydroponic farms, but are somewhat less common. Many kinds of vegetation has to be imported, including most other surface vegetables. Formerly expensive and rare, these food sources have experienced a renaissance since Gulanadur opened for trade. Likewise, paper is a scarce resource, with Gulanadur writing mostly done on parchment, vellum, and similar ideas before widespread trade made paper more affordable.
Beef, most poultry, pork, and lamb as the surface knows them are rare, expensive imports. Gulanadur raises similar animals, long since mutated and evolved differently from their surface cousins. Average red or white meat from Gulanadur tastes tougher and tangier than its nearest surface relative, and is far more expensive. The only exception to this are chickens, which have been raised more-or-less similarly to ones on the surface (albeit leaner) for centuries.
Although fish has always been a staple of Gulandurian cuisine, other subterranean creatures, such as spiders, cave crickets, bats, and salamanders also form staples of Gulandurian cuisine, often prepared with mushrooms, lichen, and other various fungi. As with most cuisine, what is normal for dark elves may seem strange to outsiders.
Gulandurian cuisine also makes use of fish oil for cooking and frying, and their lack of most "traditional" spices means that their foot is often flavored with ginger, peanut, turmeric, or variants of chilis grown hydroponically.
Street food, breaded in rice or potato flour and fried in peanut oil, is a long-standing tradition in Gulandurian cuisine. Although it serves as a mark of survival for the commoners, many upper-class dark elves look on it affectionately, and there are gourmet renditions of even the most basic snacks, such as fried spiders or mushrooms.
As with any culture, Gulanadur has its share of alcoholic beverages. In the absence of grapes, they create wine analogues from rice, berries, or other limited fruits grown in their hydroponic farms. They did not develop a direct analogue to beer or ale on their own, though now that trade has opened with other nations they have begun to brew several unique varieties, including a technique of brewing chocolate in with dark-roasted malt that has become very popular abroad in only a short while. Their two most famous unique alcoholic exports, Coalwater and Kazel'Staj, exist in a dichotomy almost reminiscent of the dual-faced goddess.
Coalwater, distilled from an unknown source, is an extremely harsh, highly-alcoholic beverage that produces a vaporous steam when first poured. Pitch-black in color, it almost seems to warn the user before they learn how incredibly strong it is. Coalwater exists for people who want to get drunk fast, stay drunk for a longtime, and look cool doing it. Very few people from the surface can stand the drink at first, though many of them try for the status.
Kazel'Staj, in contrast, has a much smoother flavor despite its high alcoholic content. Its name is a pun on "two-faced," both bringing to mind the Lady as well as a warning of its effects. Brewed from unique Gulanadurian fruits, Kazel'Staj is a liquor with a purplish, milky hue, and a creamy, slightly fruity taste. Combining Coalwater and Kazel'Staj is not recommended.