Shimmering Kingdoms True20
Kingdom of Drakus
This map is a work in progress.
Drakus is a Kingdom on the Eastern Coast of the Shimmering Kingdoms. It is a harsh and bitter land, in part due to the extreme seasonal coastal weather, and in part due to the fact that it is a land torn by war. The ruling race of the country are Dragons. Each dragon race controls a separate area of land, known as a Kindom (named for each dragon ‘kind’).
Humans, and demi-humans, comprise the general populace of Drakus, and are ruled by human “Princes” who report directly to their draconic liege lords. Dragon law is strict, and outsiders might look upon the human servitors as slaves. In truth, these humans are not so different from serfs and bondsmen from neighboring kingdoms. The Drakari humans fulfill mandatory military (as well as other civic) requirements. The militia in Drakus are equal in prowess to many other nation’s formal armies, and serve their kindoms in defense, as well as offense. The kindom boundaries have been under dispute and war for centuries. Each dragon race feuding with its neighbors for land and power, using any means and resource, including their human servitors, for their bidding.
This, however, was not always so.
Once, several millennia ago, the dragons had reign over all of the Shimmering Kingdoms. This was before the age of humankind. There were fewer dragons then, and although they bitterly fought each other when they met, there was indeed plenty of space for all to live in peace. When the humans first came, they posed little threat. Humanity wasn’t organized, and they had not learned to craft weapons or use magic that could endanger the dragonkind. The dragon races were not concerned with ruling the humans, but using them to suit their needs. This is known to the dragon races as the mythic ‘Age of Purity’. This time was revered by all surviving generations, and there has always been a longing in all the dragon races to return the isle to such an age, generally brought about by the destruction of all of the humanoid races.
But soon the humans gained knowledge of tools, weapons, and finally magic. This took less than one dragon generation, and the humans waged war on all of the mythic creatures on Shimmering Isle (although it was called Mystic Island at the time by humans and dragons alike. The humans waged holy crusades on all that they found unholy. So violent and powerful were these humans that they nearly hunted dragonkind to extinction. In little time, thank the scales, these power-hungry humans directed their vengeful attentions upon each other. The history of the destruction of that age of humans has been passed down by the golds, the dragon race that has the longest lifespan, and the historians. The golds have infiltrated human societies throughout the ages, to gain knowledge and for the protection of the kinds. The great gold, known as Grangliss, survived that ‘lost age,’ as well as the first and second ages of recorded human history. Grangliss is a penultimate hero to the dragon races, and his name is revered by all dragonkind.
Grangliss told of the great magic plague that was discovered by the humans. It was created to destroy the ‘unhumans’ as they called them. All of the mythic races were the target, including dragons. This plague indeed destroyed completely many of the lesser races, including the dormaton, the bullrogs, as well as the might three horned pegasaurs. Only the weaker dragons fell to the plague, their inherent resistance to withstand the effects of magic depleted from continual battles with the humans. It would have only been a matter of time until humans were the true dominants of the isle, but for the pinnacle of human weakness. Their desire for power over all eventually turned them against each other.
It is unknown the exact origin of the human plague, but what is known to dragonkind is that in four human months, less than one percent of the humans remained alive. All others were killed by their magical plague. Of those that survived the initial plague, less than one in ten survived the aftermath. Starvation, battle, and mundane diseases took most of the survivors. Three hundred years passed before humans could were able to regain a footing on the isle once more. The dragons, in the wake of the severe war, retreated to their lairs where they began the rejuvenating hibernation dragonsleep. All save Grangliss, who continued to live among the humans as a human.
This was the first age, and the people began to follow a goddess known as the earth mother. They believed that this mother saved the humans from annihilation, and gave them health and prosperity throughout the near destruction of their race. Not even the humans understood what had happened before that age. Many of the mythic creatures and dragons, before the sleep, hid or destroyed many of the signs of former human civilization. This was done in part out of vengeance, and in part to keep the history of the humans from being discovered, lest the past be repeated.
The dragons, had they been awake, surely would have hunted down the humans, and destroyed every last one of them, to ensure the survival of dragonkind and the other mythic races. When they awoke, the humans had proliferated to the point that the attempt of genocide against them would have brought the wrath of the humans down on the already weakened and recently awakened dragon races. Additionally, the religion of these new humans was one of peace and healing, with a solid connection between the environment and the people. They believed all were part of the whole, and that included dragonkind. These new humans seemed to have no desire to provoke warfare, but were ready to defend their beliefs. This attitude made them particularly vulnerable to the schemes of many of the evil dragons, as well as other countless surviving races.
The persecution of the tribal humans could be tolerated only so long, and after what seemed to be a long period of strife (a full generation to a dragon), the humans finally formed barbaric kingdoms, and began to retaliate. The new era, culminated by a unifying King, known as Uther the Conqueror, saw these humans struggle to unite and resist against both monstrous and human foes. King Uther formed the first kingdom of the age, known as Cael, located on the southernmost part of the isle. Cael developed strong barbaric clans, which became rich in solidarity. The clans had differences, but the overriding belief in the Earth Mother kept them from waging war with each other. Their rage was focused in the protection of their lands from outside forces and invading races. The dragons learned that the Caelic nation was resourceful, and the noble creatures eventually fled the southern region for safer lairs. Left behind was the majority of the wealth of the dragons of that region. Some exists today, waiting for the dragonkin to return and reclaim their forefather’s legacy. This evacuation was but the first of many in the centuries to come.
Another dragon generation passed and the humans proliferated and expanded. By now, the dragons were again reproducing, but most members of the brood were still wyrmlings or young. Those dragons impetuous enough to challenge small groups of humans found themselves pursued by warbands, sent out by the numerous human kings. Soon all of the isle was occupied by humans, even if sporadically. At least the humans had not rediscovered magic.
A great refuge for the dragonkind was the great mountain range known as Dragonspine Mountains. The caves and lairs proved too difficult for most humans to traverse. Those who did attempt to ascend were picked off by the superior, airborne dragons. The dragons were safe for a short time. The mountains were home to a yet unheard of race of creatures that called themselves Dwarves. The dwarves considered the mountains to be their property (at least any caves and caverns within the mountains). Driven closer to the surface, the dwarves discovered the lairs of the dragons, and proved to be unbeatable foes when waging underground assaults. The dwarves not only drove off the kin living in the Dragonspine Mountains, but worse, they made off with a majority of the dragonhoardes. It seems the dwarven avarice for wealth rivals that of the dragons.
Little by little, the dragons found hold in prime spots in the northern and central island. Dragon life was bearable, and after another generation, the species was safe from extinction once more. During this time of relative safety, the dragons saw the threat to their race and decided to call an unprecedented meeting of the greatest of wyrms. This was the first instance of the Great Council, a tribunal that would gather at least once every generation. The dragons put aside their racial hatred for others not of their kind, and met on an island on the West Coast of the great island. That meeting place is now known as Drakus Isle. Very little was accomplished during that first Council meeting, but it established a tradition of unity between the races of dragons, and set up what would become the great kingdom of Drakus.
Shortly after the first Great Council, a terrific cataclysm befell the world. It is still not clear exactly what happened, but the ground shook, great waves destroyed the coasts on nearly all sides of the island, and the sky darkened, and the weather was changed dramatically from that day until now. The dragons lost only a few of their kind, but the humans were not so fortunate. A majority of coastal cities ceased to exist, and the people lost faith in their Earth Mother protector. During this dark time, the dragons gained power and once again took back their lost territory. On the second Great Council, it was decided to subjugate the humans and keep them in slavery or kill them in order to keep them from amassing power once more. Much of the eastern and central part of the isle was taken. Many southern humans retreated to strongholds located in the Kingdom of Cael and were beyond the reach of the dragons. Many others fled to the far reaches of the island, and to an extent were safe.
For another two dragon generations, humans were the slaves of the noble dragons. Many free humans living in remote lands began to prophesize new beliefs, claiming to be gods themselves. These humans were impossible to destroy, for when one was caught, it either would miraculously escape, or when executed, would reappear days later in a new place continuing the preaching of the new pantheon to come. Were that not enough, a new race of creatures appeared. They were magic wielding faerie folk who called themselves ‘elves’. They hated slavery and began a personal war against the dragonkind. They formed a great kingdom they called Filléndri, located in a forest near the Dragonspine range. These elves fortified their woodland home, preventing dragon breath of any kind to penetrate the treetops. They also trained avian creatures to bear riders, becoming a formidable air assault force.
The Third Grand Council began divided between the metals and the chromatics. The metal dragons called for the release of the human slaves, and proposed a truce with the elves. The colored dragons enjoyed the lifestyle over the last generation and refused. The Council ended prematurely after only 55 days, with a total split between the two factions. The chromatics continued to battle the elves and endured the continued attacks. Unfortunately, despite the generous gifts of diplomacy given by the metallic dragons to the elves, and the cessation of the official practice of the enslavement of humans, the elves continued to treat all dragons as enemies. The elves contended that unless the metallics were willing to strike boldly against their evil brethren, they would be considered an enemy. The metal dragons, as good as their nature was, could not participate in the decimation of their colored brethren. The war continued, not as major battles, but as skirmishes and raids. Dragons resorted to communal lairing counting on strength in numbers. Thus the diverse and expansive territories of the dragons were condensing into a number of large concentrated communities. Most of these were located on the western coast, in rugged and less accessible locations.
Both the dragons and the elves are long-lived races. The dragons have strength in great longevity, but weakness in vulnerability at younger ages. The elves mature much more rapidly, and are able to produce magic wielding warriors relatively quickly. In addition, the humans were now securely rooted in their new religion. Their pantheon gods granted them real divine power, and worse, the elves were teaching them magic. The war was endurable, but the dragons didn’t know how long they could hold on. It was agreed to convene the Fourth Grand Council earlier than usual. The dragons not only agreed to unite with each other once more, the Council agreed to a truce with the elves of Filléndri. Slavery was officially discontinued, although most of the power groups amongst the dragons continued a form of slavery through the use of serfs and vassals.
With the end of the official conflict with the elves, the dragons began to rebuild and prosper. Humanity seemed to settle into a niche of small, fortified kingdoms, struggling to prosper in the aftermath of the war. Peace and prosperity had settled upon the isle, even if the notion was unsettling to many of the dragon races. Before any of the countless plots to topple the elven kingdom or decimate the human race could be formulated, a much more urgent and severe enemy landed upon the shores of the Shimmering Island. The conquering Noblesse discovered the beautiful and poorly defended island. In less than two years, thanks in part to the weakening of the entire land by the elven-dragon wars, the noblesse sailed in by the thousands and took the island. They had warfare knowledge as advanced as the elves, tenacity to rival the dwarves, and an unsurpassed mastery of warfare techniques in tactics and leadership. They were familiar with the weaknesses of both elves and dragons, as well as the numerous other races, and all their enemies were caught vulnerable. The humans posed little threat to these heavily armored warriors, and generally all races acknowledged the superiority of the noblesse and surrendered to them. As far as dragonkind was concerned, the war had just begun.
The noblesse was indeed a fair and noble people. They had for some reason fled their homeland, braved the dangerous journey, yet retained a sense of honor and ruling might that had served them well in the war. Their ruler called himself King Harleman, and he seemed a just and sympathetic ruler over the human lands. There remained a long animosity with the elves and other races of the island, but within the human communities it seemed that there was an understanding commonality. King Harleman declared the religious Pantheon to be righteous, and not only personally converted to the worship of the Pantheon, but soon founded the first sanctioned church dedicated to it. He diligently worked with the indigenous people, known as Seitsmen, and their religious leaders to put into place an official church structure that would aid, comfort and teach the word of the pantheon to all living on the island. The human’s church proved to be an unstoppable force providing the humans with organization and resolve. The church eventually began pursuing differing opinions as heretical and officially declared holy war on all non-pantheist religions. This did not bode well with the non-humans, the traditional seitsmen earth mother followers, or the barbaric humans who had their own pantheon. The dragons convened their Fifth Grand Council to deliberate the human’s religious decrees. Although not directly affected by the decree (the dragons believed in no gods, only earthly power and wealth), concern grew among the leaders. The council recognized the dangerous nature of the human’s new church, but could not agree upon a strategy to deal with the humans. Most of the chromatic dragons rashly argued to wipe them from the island, and return dragonkind to the Age of Purity. The good dragons proposed negotiations and diplomatic avenues. Ultimately, until the power structure changed, the council was in deadlock. They resolved at least to observe the humans and make a report at the next council meeting. The dragons had now unified at least in a truce amongst themselves. They had agreed that to defend against any potential hostilities, they would take refuge in a central area. Thus the formation of the Kingdom of Drakus formed its infancy.
Not long after the Fifth Grand Council, the island was rocked by another severe event. Fire rained from the sky over a period of two weeks. Most of the island was scarred by the catastrophe, and tens of thousands of demi-human lives were lost. Many of the evil dragon races took the opportunity to raid human and brute cities and villages, murdering hundreds more. Their ploy to frighten the humans by telling them that their gods had turned on them and brought down fiery wrath upon their followers failed to accomplish its goal. The pantheists only huddled more tightly onto their pathetic belief in their false gods. The humanoids took tens of years to rebuild, and the dragons could only watch and witness their regrowth, knowing it would prove disastrous.
Two centuries later, the humans indeed caused disaster amongst all nonbelievers of their views. As they formalized their political structures, dividing into many official and unofficial kingdoms, they realized their need for unity. Religion was that unity. Thus, to bring all worshippers, noble or peasant, together, they began a holy crusade known as ‘The Purge.” The religious and political leaders would systematically weed out all of the ‘heretical’ cults. They still had a significant rival in the elven kingdom, as well as the now unified Dwarven Stead of Tulmadin. The elves as well as the dwarves followed ancient beliefs and gods older than human reckoning. The pantheist humans were prepared to adopt the four nonhuman deities into the pantheon as honorary members. Later, the nonhuman gods were separated from the pantheon, but accepted as an independent group of allied gods.
The Purge had little direct effect on the dragons and their people. There were no temples to burn and no ‘false gods’ to destroy. The real effect on the culture came from the human serf-slaves, many of who secretly worshipped either the persecuted cults, or the pantheon itself. Internal strife took a small toll on the humans in Drakus, as did the harsh suppression of the conflict by their draconian leaders. Though there were no official crusades against the dragon lands, the rest of the island was rife with paranoia and religious oppression. The kingdoms hardest hit by the Purge was Harland (Lakeland), Rötbaum, and Le Fleur. The dragons had no compulsions to let the humans weed out their numbers. Less enemies left to reproduce.
Over a decade later, the Sixth Grand Council decided by majority that Harland had grown too strong and needed to be weakened, if not defeated. Those who objected to the attack refused to participate in the invasion. The gold, silver and brass dragons watched as their cousins sent ground troops across brute and barbarian infested lands to attack Harland in a relatively weakly defended area. The attack was a brilliant success against the humans, but the brutes who let the Drakus forces through their lands without conflict, closed the supply lines behind them, and obliterated to a man the entire ground force. The remaining dragons retaliated, but eventually retreated, flying home with their tails between their legs.
The humans continued their expansions. In order to gain services of great dwarven engineers and stoneworkers, a peace pact was made with the Stead of Tulmadin, and a great dam project was begun. In order to utilize the area surrounding the flooded river, expansion was needed, and Drakus was given the ultimatum of backing out of the region or facing a war between not just the humans, but the dwarves and elves as well. The brass dragons, who occupied the area, agreed to stay as peaceful diplomats for Drakus, and sent all others, including troops and bodyguards behind the new boundaries. A decision that all dragonkind would one day regret. But the dam was built, and the kingdom of Harland was rededicated and renamed Lakeland, or the Kingdom of the Lake.
Time claims even dragons, and the Seventh Grand Council mourned the loss of seven of its revered and most venerable members. The council in its entirety was devoted to the difficult deliberations of replacing not one, but seven irreplaceable council members. The impact of this significant Council was felt for generations. The power structure so radically changed that during the Eighth Grand Council, that new council completely reorganized the political structure of the Kingdom. The council site was changed, from a moving site as it was prior to the Eighth, to a fixed location on Drakus Isle. The very site of the First Grand Council. They also agreed upon the construction of a permanent city for such use. Eventually, so radically did the nature of the council change, that after the Lakelanders made a permanent treatise with the Filléndri elves, the Ninth Grand Council disbanded the notion of generational council meetings and adopted an ongoing permanent council located in Dragon City, the now finished permanent home of the council.
As part of the new draconic regime, human and shapechanging dragons infiltrated many foreign kingdoms inner political circles. Lakeland was heavily penetrated, especially targeting the Wizard’s Guild and the Lakeland Council of Noble Lords. Conspiring with the Magi of Waleland, the Drakus spies learned a great deal regarding the inner workings of the Lakeland political structure, until several of the spies, most of them from Waleland, were uncovered and accused of treason. Further investigations rooted out informants and others implicated with dubious intentions. Accusations proliferated, and implicated, falsely or otherwise, so many of the Wizard’s Guild members that King Donal of Lakeland was forced to disband the guild. Those that were not executed were imprisoned or sent into exile. The lack of confidence in the wizardly arts grew steadily after that time, a time that rocked the security of Lakehold, the Kingdom, as well as the trust of all wizards.
Rumors in Drakus implicate the magical troubles with the death of the solid and strong King Donal. Some speak of poisons, some of magic. The official report heralded to the populace of Lakeland, then delivered to the Council of Drakes by spies, was that King Donal died peacefully in his sleep. His son, Prince Mark was crowned High King by the Archbishop of the Pantheist League of Churches.
Seizing the opportunity of chaos and change in political structure, Drakus moved in to invade the Principality of the Tides, north of Drakus’ once proud Kindom of Alkust (Shimmering Shores). The brass dragons not already assigned as diplomats in Lakehold were the first to strike, in the Battle of Fathers Gone. The show of force by the humans was significant, but before reinforcements could arrive, the homeland of Alkust was seized by an army of barbarian warriors and a brute raiding force led by Sturg, the Ogre King. Sturg slew every dragon in the kindom, and only two brass dragons escaped the battlefield. Both of those were adult females, who were readying for their first mating as they were called to battle. The three Brass delegates in Lakeland were tried and executed as a defiant statement to any who would dare attack that kingdom again. The Ogre King soon handed over the lands that were once Alkust to King Mark, in exchange for security of lands once desputed between Lakeland, Drakus, the barbarians and the Brutes.
High Drake Viona, the eldest Brass and council member personally delivered the speech that would reverberate forever in the hollow halls of Dragon Castle. The last of the Brass dragons walk the isle. With no living males, the race would be gone with this generation. This would not be the last blow to the proud Kingdom of Drakus this generation. The bodies of the fallen brass had not turned to bone before Waleland attacked Arsar in the south. It seemed that the humans had discovered the vulnerability the dragons to magical weaponry, and had been busy crafting blades and arrows specifically designed to slay dragons. The Whites of Arsar, being uncomfortably displaced from their original northern homeland for generations, fled for their very lives. They were fearful that the fate of the Brass would befall them as well, and sought self-preservation over vengeance. The Whites eventually settled on the Dragon Claw Peninsula. The council, in agreement with the Blue’s of Azdak, granted the Whites the Claw, and renamed it the Kindom of Arsar, the lost. Waleland occupies the old Arsar to this day, and the borders are fraught with danger.
Today, Drakus is a kingdom in danger of extinction. The dragons are suspicious of not only humanoids, but of each other. The political venue of Drakus Isle is tense, and the council never leaves the island. Only the dragon generals and the human princes, the delegates who carry out the rule of the council, are allowed to travel to Drakus Island. A special military envoy of loyals brings food to the council. Security is high throughout the kingdom, and most of the dragons are suspicious. The humans, however, live a life of a different nature. Most have accepted their lot as fodder for the dragons. They have come to believe that this is an acceptable life. They take pride to work hard, fulfil their duty whatever it may be, and live every day as if it were their last. Indeed, it may be their last, but they take solace in this fact, and most do not fear death, but welcome it as part of their existence. Formal religion is outlawed in Drakus, but many humans choose to follow gods of the pantheon, or other sects or cults. In all, most officials tolerate, or even participate in such services, providing the service does not call too much attention upon itself, or a dragon isn’t visiting the town.
The average human (or demi-human) lives the same type of life that many would outside of Drakus. They labor or provide a service to their community. They gather in their community, enjoy limited arts and sciences, and raise families. They are all part of a militia who can be called upon at any time to serve the dragons. Most have received arms training (meaning that all NPC’s have at least one level in the Warrior NPC class in addition to any other classes they may have). There are many military academies throughout the kingdom. Children of both sexes, upon reaching maturity, around age 14 for humans, are sent to military camps for at least two years. They are allowed to return to whatever trade instruction they were involved in before their military training. Additionally, they are allowed to join the military. Soldiers are respected and honored as professionals. They may spend their lives in service to the council, or they may leave to pursue other interests, as long as they report annually, or whenever they move to a different region. Non military do not have such freedom. They must remain in their assigned location (within a specific town, or region) until they are called into service. This means that adventurers nearly always belong to the military. PC’s hailing from Drakus either take the Fighter class at 1st level and then continue for at least two more levels before moving on from their military career, or they are outlaws, having abandoned their military training in search of a better life. Such characters will not have papers or military brands or tattoos which signify their rank. They must avoid patrols and checkpoints at all costs, lest they be imprisoned (or executed) for treason. Many of the soldiers understand the need for freedom, and thus may go easy on such a character. An appropriate bribery may well be in order.
There is little segregation between classes. The major difference is that power and influence are gained through military service, or through lineage of established military leaders. Posts and titles are usually passed down from one generation to the next. Wealth likewise is usually inherited. Because the dragon lords hoard treasure, most common folk are poor. Barter is the economic standard, thus those who trade in the most valuable items, such as horses, are the richest. There is a standard currency, which varies from one kindom or even region, to the next. Most prefer barter, but the military has a standard currency that is by law acknowledged by all merchants. The military uses a form of scrip that is somewhat easily forged. Because merchants are bound by law to accept the scrip, they will only accept it from those bearing military brands or tattoos (which can also be forged). Note that everyone who goes through military training will bear such a mark, although it will be of the basic sort – not significant to denote the bearer as a military soldier, but as a militia trained citizen.
There are a few other differences in the lives of those living in Drakus. Each woman must bear at least two children, and they must continue until they bear at least one male child. Marriage is preferred but not required. Sex is encouraged, both for enjoyment as well as reproduction. Brothels abound, usually exclusively for soldiers. Few have money to pay for the services, and few prostitutes accept barter. Gambling abounds in the military, and is likewise unusual to non-soldiers. As travelling is heavily restricted, inns and hotels are rare, except to house soldiers. Taverns are quite common and frequented by most men of the kingdom. Barter is welcome at most taverns, and some folk gamble with their barter, but that is fairly rare. Every citizen is issued a weapon, usually a simple weapon. It is not uncommon for militia to own swords or even bows or crossbows. It is by law, a requirement to keep an issued weapon in clean and functional condition. Most citizens are issued leather armor or a chain shirt. Most soldiers wear chainmail and carry shields. They are always issued a missile weapon. Most are given horsemanship training and own a serviceable mount. They are responsible to keep their gear and mount in good condition.