The Empire of Drannon
The Empire of Drannon is much like a great serpent that has had the head cut off. The body still flails away wildly; the head still hisses and attempts to bite at all within its reach. But essentially, it is dead and neither part is willing to accept that fate. - Shylock Weir, Noted Sage
Let's see…Men requesting marching music…Women requesting all those very tragic love songs…Somehow I think I must be in Drannon. - Darien Trembre, Bard and Traveler.
Drannese politics and laws can all be traced back to a simple principle called the Golden Rule. That is to say; whoever has the gold, makes the rules. - Emperor Galius the Short
Our soldiers broke through their infantry and advanced on the castle. Then we heard horns blowing, and the gates to the keep opened up to unleash a sight I would not soon forget. The charge of a thousand armor-clad men, astride steel clad horses. They hit us like a wave crashing on shore and our forces were shattered on their great swords and lances. I had never seen such devastation wrought so quickly in all my life - Halberi Quaan, Survivor of the Siege of Cray Castle.
A small country ruled by an emperor is where some of the best horses are bred and strange standing stones mark the landscape. This country, Drannon, once ruled the largest human empire in Antaron's history, including all of what is now Sendria, Ertain, Coria, and Pardinal. As empires tend to do, it has fallen from its grace and is now mired in the shadows of its folly over the centuries. Warlords act as rulers of parts of Drannon, ignoring the commands of the Emperor, reducing him to a mere overlord of Drefast, the capital city. The warlords fight with each other more than any outside enemy, yet they always keep an eye to the north, where the dark forces of Sendria gather. A call of arms will bring them all together, old and new arguments forgotten and warriors united under one banner. A noble spirit, held captive under a tarnished and rusted facade - that is Drannon.
The People: The Drannese (sometimes referred to as Drans or derisively as Drannies) trace their origins from the race of men called the Anathari. Those that have pure lineage are immediately noticeable by the coppery skin that they possess. Their hair is usually dark brown to black, with men tending to have their hair cut short, without facial hair. Women will wear their hair very long and go to great lengths to add a wave or curls. As the Anathari were shorter than the other races of humankind, men tend to be between 5' 4" and 5'8" in height, and the women between 5'0" and 5'4". Eye colors are predominately brown, although the occasional green does appear and is considered a mark of great beauty.
As a people in general, the Drannese have a tendency towards the large and garish. They like big houses, big horses, big meals, and big tracts of land. Colors worn by citizens are usually a sign of status and lean towards very flashy and bright. When they play sports, they play hard and play to win. When they fight, they fight hard and they fight to win. When they throw a party…it is the biggest and grandest event possible and no one goes home hungry or sober. Drannese throw themselves into any event or action completely and fully, and are highly competitive, especially with each other. The Drannese have many organized competitions over the course of a year to determine who the best is at pretty well anything. The extreme nature of the imperials causes them to be viewed with great trepidation among the other kingdoms.
Another intrinsic nature of the Drannese is a love for order. They like to have their houses clean, their shrubbery well trimmed, their clothing perfect, and their money counted. The Empire has an archive of records going back to the very beginnings of the Drannon Kingdom. These archives have some very detailed information about the smallest of things in the Empire. Every ten years, the Imperial House sends out soldiers and scribes to do a census of all people and livestock within Drannon. It is done every ten years because it takes that long to get all the counts, tabulate them, and put them in their proper book of record. A Drannese citizen could go to the archives and, for a fee, find out the names of every relative he has had going back the dawn of the Empire. Other records include a room dedicated to an ongoing record of every meal ever eaten by an emperor, cross-referenced by date and food type As stated, the Drannese tend to go big into everything.
There are many laws and decrees in the Imperial world, so many that no one person can keep track of them all. This has lead to such professions such as magistrates and advocates being in high demand. Scribes and letterers are also sought after eagerly, so much so that if you can read and write in Drannon, chances are you can find short-term employment.
Dress: The Drannese people love uniforms and the men tend towards clothing that resembles them. Almost all men will wear jackets and vests. Shirts are usually cleaned with starch to make the collars and edges stiff. They prefer to wear pantaloons instead of hose, usually accented with a lengthwise stripe. Decorative "medals" are popular, as well as rope tassels and small, stacked, gold bars that are pinned to the shoulders or lapels. A recent trend has men wearing ceramic or wooden replicas of breastplates, as well many of the richer nobles will have formal armor made that is light weight and for appearances only. Women wear fancy full-length gowns and formal dresses for even the most mundane tasks. The current fashion is to wear huge, overstuffed petticoats under the skirt, to force it spread out around the lady. Ribbon and bows are used in the hair, necklaces are worn at several lengths and pearls are favored. Drannese women like to wear a lot of perfume and cosmetic items. Short skirts are considered scandalous, as showing of legs or ankle is not socially acceptable. However, low cut bodices and tight corsets are considered high fashion. Not unexpectedly, Drannese women often faint due to lack of air, giving them an unfair reputation as being weak and sickly.
There is a restriction on the colors that can be worn by people of certain classes (see Classes below). Although very well known, the restriction is not law, and is mostly followed at format occasions when one wishes to flaunt their status and be seen by those above.
Culture and Society: It is hard to define a single culture for Drannon as there is such a diversity of people within the country. Furthermore, depending on what land you are in, there may be different laws, values and perceptions of reality. As with all countries, the further away from the city you get, the more people change. Farmers and peasants are the same the world over, they really don't care about the emperor or the warlord unless they are standing in front of them or facing an attack. Peasants don't wear what city folks do, nor do they act like them. What follows is a look at the urban Drannese, living near or within Drefast, Throthgard, Einal, Tharbad, and Rahl.
One of the most interesting things about the Drannese is their concept of citizenship. Not everyone who lives in Drannon is a citizen. Citizenship can be purchased by anyone who can prove residency, and comes in the form of a hard brass coin with a hole in the center, stamped with the emperor's face on one side and the citizen's full name on the other. The coin can be worn on a chain or leather string, or even carried around. It doe not have to be worn openly, but must be on a person if a soldier demands to see citizenship. The cost of citizenship is high (around 150 Guain on average) so really only those who have money can afford to be citizens. If you join the military, you automatically gain citizenship. Individual citizenship only covers one person, though the individual's spouse and minor children do receive a measure of benefit from it. However, if your family is wealthy, they can buy citizenship for the family name (often more than 5000 Guain), which comes with a writ to produce their own coins or hire someone to make them. To be a citizen of Drannon means that you have certain rights that you may claim. The rights of a citizen are:
1. The Right to Own Land and Property. The right to own land is important as it provides an income and allows you to hire workers. Non-citizens could also own land and hire workers, but they can have it stripped from them for any reason and at any time without notice. A citizen cannot have his land taken away from him unless charged with a criminal offense that carries a punishment of slavery or death.
2. The Right to Dignity. This is the right to a proper escort if arrested, and to speak to an advocate before being judged by a Magistrate. This is essentially the protection from molestation and beating if arrested by soldiers. A citizen, as long as they give up willingly, cannot be "roughed up" by a soldier. They are escorted to an advocate who can represent them before a magistrate. If they can not afford an advocate, then the magistrate judges them without representation. This is a much better fate than a non-citizen who, if arrested; can be beaten into submission, summarily judged, and then punished or executed all by the soldiers. The citizens takes this right very seriously and soldiers can lose their livelihood if they fail to respect it. If a citizen resists, soldiers have full right to beat the prisoner; however, if brought before a magistrate, it is the soldier that must prove resistance was given.
3. The Right to Defend Oneself. This is the basic right to carry a weapon openly in public places. Travelers to Drannon, and merchants from other lands are well advised to purchase the visitor citizen's coin, with is engraved with a date of expiry (on sale now at the local Imperial garrison, usually 4 Jetra per day, issued on a writ.).
There is a class structure in Drannon that is complex but very important. Your class dictates what you can wear, what you can do for a living, whom you may marry, and where you may live. The classes are as follows:
Peasant - The people who work the land, work as servants and bonded laborers in shops. They don't make enough in three years to pay for citizenship.
Freemen - The unwashed masses of the cities. Beggars, thieves, and prostitutes, as well as common laborers not directly owned by any lord. Considered higher than peasants but only barely, they are the undercurrents of every city in Drannon.
Traveler - Visitors from other countries who do not purchase visitor's citizenship. Merchants and tradesmen who go where the work is, but don't find a need to carry a weapon.
Visitor - Those who have paid for temporary (visitor's) citizenship. Able to carry a weapon without molestation until the soldiers can think of something with which to charge you. The adventurers who don't want to hide profession, and traveling merchants well-enough off to pay for armed guards.
Citizen - Your basic coin carrying citizen of Drannon. They are the merchants, landowners, and storekeepers. In short, people with an income that allows them to afford citizenship.
Soldier (Mark or Legion) - The person who polices the streets and defends the border is a citizen with benefits. Soldiers are almost always paid on time, and they get free room, board, and food for the families. Plus, if they die defending the Empire, their families get a dole. Such a reward ensures that the ranks never become too thin.
Mercantile - These are the successful merchants with full citizenship for their families. They are almost nobility, and are considered so by the other merchants struggling for their peace of the pie. Often the mercantile class has more money than the nobles do.
Gifted Nobility - The emperor or a warlord can bestow nobility on people who have performed deeds that serve the empire. These are referred to with the simple title of Noble or Esquire.
Titled Nobility - Once gifted with the rank of nobility, after four years of serving the Empire as a noble, the title is bestowed (Duke, Viscount, etc.) based on land held, money contributed to patron (either emperor or warlord) and number of sons produced who also want titles. The titles vary from place to place within Drannon, with some dating back to the early days of the kingdom. Lord and Lady, Don and Donna, Duke and Grace are all titles used that represent the same level. The sapphire gemstone and clothing of deep blue color are reserved for titled nobles.
Ranking Nobility - The inner circle of every court, be it the imperial or the Warlord's. These are the trusted advisors whom can make themselves be heard by the people in power. Ranking nobles are allowed to wear emeralds and use deep green as a garment color, while other classes are not.
Warlord - The warlord is basically the emperor of his land. He provides the soldiers (Marks), he controls the magistrates and he makes the rules. There are five warlords at the present time: Cray, Oryn, Amnell, Dawn, and Shade. It is interesting to note that these are the names of the castles the warlords own, not their family name. The castle names actually date much further back into the Anathari age. The warlords are supposedly loyal to the emperor; they must pay a tithe and do his bidding. With the exception of the emperor, all people must bow to the warlords. Only warlords can wear deep red as a garment and can use rubies as a gemstone.
Emperor - In the immortal words of Emperor Galius the Short; "Once you are emperor, the only place to go is down." The actual title is the Divine Imperial Emperor of the Golden Throne, Protector of Drannon, Commander of the Legions, Bringer of Laws, and Herald of the Gods. (see note on liking things big). The emperor has, by law, complete and total power over all of Drannon (see politics). Only the emperor is allowed to wear purple, a law that is rarely enforced unless the emperor is present. The amethyst is reserved for the Imperial Highness as a decorative gemstone.
To say that everything has a price in Drannon is to understate the situation. The Drannese like money, and they like to have lots of it. Merchants are pushy and will pursue a sale across a market if they think they have half a chance. Everything is expensive, sold as discounted and then taxed by the emperor and also the warlord. In Drefast, you can buy anything (except slaves, which the emperor has outlawed) and only pay one tax. Everywhere else you can by anything (including slaves), but also pay the two taxes - one to the emperor, and one to the local warlord. Prostitution is illegal, but only if you work in the open. As long as brothels and harlots are quiet, and don't openly engage people on the streets, they are not bothered.
As one would expect in a society with the complexity of rules and laws like this, there is a great deal of corruption. Marks and legionnaires routinely expect bribes, and if arrested, you start out by tipping the magistrate. This is considered part of the order in the Drannese life, and residents are well educated as too how much to bribe for any infraction. There is a booming black market for counterfeit citizenship coins, phony writs, and other false documents. Soldiers are paid bonuses to enforce the harsh laws against such forgery, and the black market merchants bribe the soldiers not to bother them.
A large portion of the Drannese economy is based on horses and trading. The horses raised here are considered the best in the world, or at least equal to those raised upon the Blood Plains, but you'll never hear a Dran admit that. The horse motif appears in many places within Drannon - clothing will often have horse embroiled on them, as will buildings, bridges, and tapestries. Drans love their horses, and those who raise them will frequently know the genealogy of their horses better than they know their own. Walking up to a Dran and saying, "Nice horse" is an invitation to a long speech about the parentage of the beast.
There is a saying in Drannon that goes, "the Need outweighs the Deed." This statement embodies the heroic persona of Drannon, meaning that if the threat to Drannon is big enough, then all personal arguments, grudges and petty fights are forgotten. Families that hate each other will stand next to each other on the field of battle, and have done so throughout the history of Drannon. The military force of the empire can double itself in days, and triple in weeks. A call to arms by the emperor to withstand enemy forces has never gone unanswered, even from the most hated of emperors. It is what keeps Sendria in check to this day.
The Drans love a tragedy and most of their plays, songs, and poetry are based upon the Drannese Romantic Tale. This tale is basically a story of true love, found under unlikely circumstances, then interrupted by someone or something (usually a war). The hero prevails in the war but then dies to save someone or by some unforeseen accident or by betrayal. The ladylove then finds out her love will never return, pines away and dies of a broken heart. There are bards that never go near Drannon because they get so tired of people asking for these songs. The other great love in entertainment is Marching tunes. Men especially, love songs with stride rhythm all about marching into battle or coming out of battle victorious. It is considered the sign of an excellent Drannese minstrel to either have his audience marching around, singing with him, or to have his audience crying in their seats.
1515 BER - 1510 BER: Anathari - Sylvarian War
This war actually predates Drannon but it is from the ashes of the Anatharian Empire that the current world grew. There are few records of this war, beyond those of the Sylvari. Those records speak of a great jealousy that grew in the Anathari of the long-lived Syls and their knowledge. Eventually the Anathari attacked in order to gain the knowledge they craved. Unfortunately, this is how the Sylvari categorize most of their wars, so it is hard to accept this as an unbiased account.
750 BER - 645 BER: The beginnings of The Kingdom of Drannon
The survivors of the war banded together and formed a kingdom. They built their first city from the rubble of the capital and named it Drannon, after the last emperor of the Anatharian Empire. Sendria forms at same time, but it is small and has many collapses of power.
646 BER - 600 BER: Uprising
The Kingdom of Drannon waffles under the rulership of a weak and depraved king. The Sylvari are feared to re-attack and finish what they have started. There is a violent uprising in Drannon and the king and all his family are put to death. There is a short period of unrest and civil war, until one man, Hallun I, pulls together enough soldiers and brings order by force. He declares himself king and within five years, changes his title to emperor.
600 BER - 530 BER: Drannon Grows
The emperor and his sons keep Drannon growing and prospering. A deal is struck with the Khords for metals, armor and weapons. Military a key issue and soldiers actively sought, soldiers are paid instead of drafted. Capital renamed Drefast, and other cites are built. The Kingdoms of Sendria are all conquered one after another by the Imperial forces. Ertain, Coria, and Pardinal are just being founded around the same time, giving Drannon a huge head start on them. Near 530 BER, the three young countries are very concerned about their militaristic neighbor. Emperor Hallun VI dies to be replaced by Gallius the Short (see Noteworthy Emperors). Gallius sends out advocates to parley with the three nations.
532 BER: The Confederation
An alliance is formed with Drannon, Coria, Pardinal and Ertain. Due to the immense military force of Drannon, the three younger countries become protectorates of Drannon, but considered allies and equals. The accord is called The Confederation of Drannon and doubles the size of the Drannese Empire. Gallius the Short dies after seeing his dream realized.
532 BER - 300 BER
The next emperors are more greedy and opportunist than Gallius' dream allowed. As rulers of the three protectorates die off, puppet kings are put on the throne, all with close ties to Drannon. As time goes by the illusion of self rule is dropped. Drannon allows the protectorates to keep their names and culture as long as the tithes keep rolling in.
200 BER- 175 BER: Drannon's Golden Age
A very short 25 years under Emperor Janus where roads were built, trade was established and peace reigned throughout the land.
175 BER - 50 BER: The Decline of Drannon and the Emperors
In 25 years, Drannon had 14 different Emperors, most whom were assassinated. In 50 BER, General Thardaran put an end to it by having all rival families stripped of their lands, the men impaled and the women taken as his personal slaves. He then made himself emperor. Since he was backed by the military, no one opposed him.
50 BER - 49 BER: The Martyrdom of Arin Vellrun, Thardaran's Folly
Arin Vellrun was a simple peasant. She had a husband, and four sons and they had a farm in Ertain. Over the course of Arin's life, she buried her husband and all four sons due to a number of disease and natural causes. She kept the farm, renting it to a farmer who took care of the land and she was the local midwife and healer for the town of Taverton and surrounding area. By all accounts, she was well respected, very kind hearted, thoughtful of others and went out of her way to help people. Then in the summer of 49 BER, came the drought that ravaged the entire empire. Thardaran, who was not a farmer, but a warrior, was very upset at the number of farms and places that were not paying their proper ties. Thardaran himself decided to take a hand in fixing the problem. He rode out with legionaries on a tour to convince people the seriousness of not paying taxes and tithes. Arin Vellrun was one who could not pay her dues. She was too kindhearted to charge people for her services as a healer when they were struggling. She was too good-natured to demand payment from her tenants. Most of all, she was too responsible of a person to blame someone else, so she accepted full blame for the lack of tithes.
Unfortunately for her, the day prior to her sentencing, an outraged farmer who received a whipping as punishment, lashed out at the emperor and managed to break his nose. The sentencing of Arin was harsh and is known to this day as Thardaran's Folly. She was stripped naked, whipped, branded as a thief, and then impaled, all in front of a public audience. According to the records of the time, she was allowed to speak to the audience before the whipping; according to legend, she made a powerful speech about being able to see the coming death of the empire and for the people to rise up. Whatever was said, her death had a profound effect on the people. Arin's name was whispered by a thousands voices and soon the whisper became a roar that could not be ignored. Thardaran fled to Drefast and unleashed his legionnaires upon his own people.
48 BER- 30 BER: The Long Death
Emperor Cillannin takes power by assassinating Thardaran, with a poisoned arrow into his back (See Thardaran/Cillannin: The Mystery) Cillannin expects to be welcomed as a hero by the protectorates, but instead they all secede. Cillannin invades and civil war is begun. Cillannin finds that the resistance is harder than expected so he starts using humanoid soldiers for the retaking of the protectorates. Fighting a war on many fronts, Cillannin appointed the first warlords. Drannon regains Ertain and Pardinal. Cillannin's revenge on the people makes Thardaran's Folly look easy. Victory in Coria seems assured but the Empire runs out of money, soldiers, and time. Cillannin falls back with his followers, humanoid armies, and generals to consolidate his forces in Sendria. Cillannin is slain in 31 ER (See Thardaran/Cillannin: The Mystery) in very odd circumstances. There is a loss of central power, as the Golden throne is claimed by three generals. Drannese civil war takes its tolls. Plague, disease, and death stalk the land.
30 BER - 130 ER: The dark ages of Drannon
Countless Emperors come and go, some lasting up to four years. One, Yasius the Illiterate, lasted only two days. Between 1 ER and 25 ER, there are four instances of a senate representing the people being formed and then assassinated to the man a few months later. There are many military coups causing power to swing back and forth. The warlords manage to hold the small amounts of the country together. Finally the end comes when a warlord realizes the threat of Sendria annexing Drannon and unites the military under one banner. To accomplish this, the warlord signs an accord with other major warlords accepting the title as emperor, but leaving most of the power still in the hands of his compatriots. After threat is over, the emperor finds he has little power now except through the soldiers loyal to him originally. The imperial soldiers are still called the legions, but the warlords refer to their own soldiers as the marks. The declaration of Citizenship Rights is created and made law in 99 ER, mostly as a way to fill the coffers of the emperor.
131-452 ER: Modern Times
The emperors rule now mostly consists of Drefast and are called "Lame Grouses" by the Warlords ("lame" in that they have no real power and "Grouses" because all they do is complain a lot). The imbalance of power causes many mini-civil wars as the fighting among marks and legionnaires gets out of hand regularly. Around 430 ER, Emperor Decimus takes the throne, and makes many treaties and accords to balance the power and smooth relationships. When that fails, he uses force and punitive strikes against the warlords, including Sendrian assassins and dark magic. In 445 ER, Decimus dies very suddenly, as do most of his sons (blamed on food poisoning). The youngest son survives to become the current emperor. Rogerius takes over, but is expected to be a puppet to the warlord's whims. Instead, he attempts to be progressive with dreams of a new golden age. The warlords try to control him, but find that Decimus was a better teacher than they had thought. While Rogerius is not as ruthless as Decimus, he does have a backbone and a excellent knowledge of politics. A stalemate now exists among the powers of Drannon.
Trade and Commerce: There was once a time when the Guain was the most pure and sought after coin in the lands. Unfortunately, due to the wars and the lack of gold, Drannon started adding lead to their coins, debasing the value. In present time, many merchants in Drannon will prefer to deal in the purer Ertainian or Pardinese coinage instead of their own. The emperors have made no attempt to change the system of making coins because the lower value of the Guain makes trade in Drannon very attractive to foreign merchants, who have greater spending power, despite the empire's taxes.
Their record-keeping nature makes the market an interesting place. Merchants are used to the idea of giving receipts, and track all purchases in ledgers, as they are responsible, every month, to hand over the tax portion of their sales. Naturally, most merchants only record about a third of their sales, and bribe the soldiers who serve as tax-collectors.
Horses, armor, and weapons are the most important exports of Drannon. Years of civil war and strife have made the Drannese experts at armor, especially the full plate armor of the knight. Scrollwork and engraving on armor is very popular among the Drannese, as the suit of plate is consisted a work of beauty. Armorers have developed a technique, using ceramics, to emboss plate armor in a very thin glossy coating that can take colors. Therefore you can get any color (red, blue, green, etc.) embossed plate armor and shield in Drannon, although they are quite expense. The problem with such armor though is that in battle, the glossy coating tends to scratch, break and fall off, making it very expensive to maintain.
The slave trade (internally, and with Sendria) flourishes in Drannon despite decrees by Rogerius that have outlawed the sale of people. Aside from common labor, slaves are mostly used in gladiatorial combat; throughout the land there are cities and even towns with gladiator arenas as a form of entertainment. According to the romantic version told by the Drannese, slaves compete to win their freedom and honor in combat. Actually, the "Heroes" of the arenas are usually citizens or mercenaries and the slaves are there to die, preferably in an intensely competitive way. The Hero Gladiators are men of great status in Drannon, and receive portions of the sale of tickets. Some of them are even paid by local merchants to use their products in the arena, or to appear at their booth to attract the customers.
Drannon imports a great deal of wine, foodstuffs, cloths, and metals. Most of these items are for the mercantile classes and above, who adore having genuine Sylvari made items and the best in Khordaldrum metals.
Values and Taboos: In the empire, relationships are a strange mix of unequal rules and uninformed taboos. For instance, it is very important that a woman be a virgin on her wedding night. However, it is equally important that a man not be a virgin. In fact, he should be well seasoned in the affairs of the bedroom. An interesting dichotomy, when you consider with whom it is they expect the men to educate themselves with? Ladies tend to marry young, as young as fourteen, and normally to men who are older by at least five years. Another case of this strange double standard is that Drannon has very harsh adultery laws for women, and almost none for men.
Widowed women are supposed to closet themselves for the rest of their lives if their husbands die, unless the husband has an available brother or cousin, in which case, the wife is considered part of the inheritance. Men, on the other hand, are expected to remarry within a year of their wife's death in order to keep their bloodline going. Women do not own land, do not serve as magistrates or advocates, and certainly do not serve in combat. There are exceptions to these rules, however, in instances when a family head - or even the gods themselves - decide otherwise. A recent example of this was a daughter of a noble house who was declared a hand of Rydor (A paladin in Rydor's service).
In conversation, Drannese people have a habit of whispering words that they consider bad or risqué. Sex, adultery, and virginity are all whispered words.
The highest honor that can be achieved by an imperial warrior is to die in combat. Many Drannese warriors dream of the day that they might die in the service of their country. Noble families keep large family heraldries that count how many generations of sons have laid their life for the empire. The Heraldry of Drannon actually has the words "Strength, Leadership, and Sacrifice" worked into it.
Drans love to compete, and they have many contest and challenges throughout the year. They love to wrestle, joust, and participate in games of physical skill. Prizes and rewards make the competition interesting, but the fierce pride of the Drans can make these contests lead to injury and even death. Other highly celebrated contests include who can eat the most food, and who makes the best of assorted food items.
In a land that loves order, there are many paladins and knight sects in Drannon. In fact, there are more paladins and knights within the empire than any other country on Antaron. Raised on romantic tales and the marching beat of the drum, these knights serve a justice beyond the laws of Drannon, and sometimes become real thorns in the sides of warlords and the emperor. As the saying goes in Drefast - "Paladins and Politics don't mix." In a land that must maintain a large military presence, fighting men are necessary, but bored warriors are often dangerous. Turning the sons of the empire to the path of the knight and the paladin allows for some of that energy to be devoted to the gods, and keeps them occupied until the next invasion.
Politics: Warlords watch over their areas of land with their own military forces. They are solely responsible for the people who live on their lands, seeing to their needs through laws and protection. The warriors who serve the warlords are called marks. Marks can any type of soldier from the basic footman of the infantry to the famous knights in steel armor. Each warlord's marks are distinct, with a unique banners, emblems, and colors, in order to make commanding them in large scale warfare more orderly.
The emperor is the commander of the legions, which had consisted primarily of foot soldiers until recently when knights, pikemen, and archers have been added. In the accord of 55 ER, the emperor was forbidden to have any soldiers other than foot infantry; however, the last few emperors have decided that since the warlords ignore many rules, so can they. Legionnaires wear the standard issue chain mail, long sword, and shield that they are all given in training. Their color is a drab grey. The banner of the legions is a golden throne, in front of a purple circle, on a (of course) grey background.
The emperor himself is sometimes referred to as "The Golden Throne." The throne is a monstrously huge full backed chair designed to look like a dragon about to bite down on whoever kneels before it. The chair was originally made from solid gold, but over the course of history, the chair has been hollowed out and refilled with lead. Many say that the grey of the legionnaire uniform is the lead hiding behind the thin layer of gold of the throne.
Cray Castle - Warlord Basius Commodis
Constructed from granite and marble, Cray Castle has been recently rebuilt after being destroyed by Sendrian forces some 75 years ago. It has five very high towers, and a second fortified wall has been added since the destruction.
Castle Cray is home to the keeper of the lands between Ruedal and the Ruins of Thrinacea. The land is fertile and green, with many ranches devoted to cattle and horses. The Cray Ranches are known for fast, light horses, prized by the Riders of Pardinal.
Warlord Commodis is a down to earth type of man who will plow a field or herd cattle if the need exists. He is both loved and feared by his people, and his son Atlacius, is showing signs of being as good of a ruler. He also has many bastard children all across his lands and the neighboring area as he pushes the no adultery for men laws to their limits. Commodis consists himself very far removed for the emperor, and most of the time does not even acknowledge his presence. Commodis is ambitious and ruthless in battle, and wants to have an area of land as big as that ruled by Dawn castle. At any given time the warlord will be attacking the 'Lia (cautiously) or Oryn lands to acquire more land.
The Cray Mark is heavily cavalry, with some footman, and a number of archer units. Their banner is a rider on horse, sword in air, riding full gallop on the green background. Cray marks wear green surcoats and usually wear leather armor unless a formal occasion, then the full plate comes out.
Oryn Keep - Warlord Garak Sinnett
High on a stony hill, this keep watches over the east of the diminishing nation. Atop the keep are sets of seven tall, spindle towers that serve as watch towers.
The smallest of the territories, Oryn Keep watches over the lands from Einal to the borders of Drannon. The Warlord Sinnett rules the trade routes from Ertain and Coria, so his lack of land is not considered a lack of prestige. The lands are mostly farmland here, growing many different crops from oats to barley. Oryn is also known for apples and marvelous hard apple cider.
Garak Sinnett is a schemer and a dealer. He has his eyes on all caravans going in and out of his corner of Drannon. He has a spy network that runs deep into Sendria, Coria, Ertain, and even within the territories on his fellow warlords. Garak likes to know things; he is a man with a thirst for information, which he uses as a commodity. It is said that a lie spread from the lips of Warlord Sinnett can be deadlier than any blade in Antaron. Garak appears to be a good friend and ally of the emperor, but no one truly knows the motives and plans of this warlord. He does not seek to expand his land, but is often defending against Commodis' plans. One thing is very sure though, he is the richest of the warlords with the taxes on the merchants and so little of an area to patrol.
The Mark of Oryn is a mix of footmen, archers, and cavalry. The banner of Oryn is seven black towers and a single, open eye above them. The mark wear black as a surcoat, as well as it works well for working at night.
Amnell Keep - Warlord Anton Garcia
Originally a small keep with two towers, the warlords of this land have added to the construction, building a large series of keeps connected by underground tunnels. Amnell Keep has five separate keeps, and each one has two tall watch towers.
The southern portion of Drannon is watched over by the warlord of Amnell Keep. From Tharbad, all the way to Chande, the territory is the second largest in Drannon and one of the better fruit producing regions in Antaron. Wine is produced in Amnell, from the grape grown under the protection of the escarpments and irrigated from the rivers.
Warlord Anton Garcia rules his land with a firm hand, but has mercy and leniency with his subjects. He truly believes that he is the chosen warrior of Rydor and can go on at length about gods and piety. Anton has a very black and white view of the world; in his view, the emperor is painted black. Anton sees nothing wrong with attempts to expand his territories by force, as it keeps the men sharp and weeds out the weaker soldiers. Many who have met the warlord have come away feeling that he is not a very bright man, and is probably more dangerous than he seems. For example, he views the slave trade as an object lesson to people to only do good, and follow the laws. He actively encourages the gladiatorial sports as proving grounds of his beliefs.
In the northern part of the region, nobility use the titles of Don and Donna, which date back to the Anathari. Families tend to have long last names and rename their children after other family members.
The Mark of Amnell uses the color silver in its banner and has an emblem of a series of roses intertwined in a circle. The mark is predominantly knights, including Warlord Garcia's personal bodyguard.
Dawn Castle - Warlord Heratio Marcos Alterius Bassanino
Constructed from limestone and quartz, designed and build by a brilliant architect and mathematician, Dawn Castle is a marvel of engineering. When the sun hits the castle at Dawn, it can be seen shining brightly from many miles away. Like all of the other castles and keeps of the warlords, it has the fabled towers common to them.
The largest territory, with the longest history, Dawn Castle has been the defender of Drannon and the keeper of the faith for many years. Spread out between Peyton, all the way to Throthgard, the lands of the Dawn produce the heavy warhorses preferred by knights.
The territory of Warlord Heratio Marcos Alterius Bassanino dates back to the Anathari, and the people there often have the lengthy names associated with that empire. Nobles use the titles of Don and Donna almost exclusively here. Religion and church play a big role in the people's lives here, almost to the point of seeming as if people compete to see who is more pious. Going to church is the time of high fashion and full armor, and days of religious significance are usually times of banquets, and late night dancing.
Heratio is a devout man of Therassor. He is respected by his people, and has the wisdom to delegate areas of his territory to his sons and close friends. Heratio admires the current emperor's sense of self and duty, but still views him as a nuisance. The warlord is not known to hold his tongue, and can be quite loud and blunt at times. He has the largest area because he is a brilliant tactician and is willing to throw away the lives of his men to claim what he wants. This warlord sees battle as a natural state of man, and relishes a chance to prove himself in combat.
The Dawn Mark wears a pale blue surcoat that often gets them mistaken as clerics of Lysora. The emblem of the mark is a silver design with two blue sapphires within.
Villages of Vala'Lia & Sien'Lia - Warlord Pekk'Okia
In the middle of the plains are four column-like mountains, seemingly carved by some great hand or magic. These are the Standing Stones. No one is quite sure what they are; their tales have been lost but to a select few. Around these stones, circling outward - or inward - is a great broken highway made of white marble, known to the locals as the Winding Way. This was once the council ground for the great courts of wyrms (dragons). The name is not pronounceable by human tongues, but it was once the watchful way and resting place of the ancient dragons to meet on neutral ground. On either side of the Standing Stones are the villages of Vala'Lia and Sien'Lia.
The central area of the empire is ruled by the Warlord Pekk'Okia from the city of Dracfair. Pekk keeps his nose out the elder circle's business, and they accept his mark and taxes without argument. Pekk is a lusty man who fills his life with women, wine, and debauchery. There are many stories of his great bathhouses and the huge orgies that take place there. He leaves his mark to be run by their captains and really does not care about internal matters. The mark's colors are red and the emblem is, of course, a black dragon in flight.
There are sighting of dragons fairly regularly in this area, which is enough to keep the other warlords from outright annexing the lands to completely surround Drefast. Rumors circulate that the elders have ways of calling the dragons to their aid, although this is most likely mere tales started by previous warlords to keep interest away from their lands.
The villages have a council of elders who make most of the decisions, although they do accept the help of the legionnaires to keep the peace and maintain the order. The people here are of the ancient Anathari bloodlines, entrusted with the truths of the stones and the way. Their knowledge is treasured and guarded as rumbling of the wyrms, once thought asleep, now rumble to wakefulness. Rumors exist to this day that some of the people in these villages have the dragon's blood in them. While it is true that some dragons can take human form, no one has come forth to prove these accusations.
The people of this territory follow the Sylvari custom of placing their family name with an apostrophe after their own name. The elders are called Ells as a title. Each year one elder will deliver a tithe to Warlord Pekk, and according to rumor they give more than the Dawn Castle receives from their entire estate. The villagers are much like any Drannese, but on the whole are quieter and less into the competition. Religion is observed in the home, not in churches. The dragon motif outnumbers the horse in design and buildings here.
Galius the Short - Galius was born with a disease that stunted his growth considerably - as an adult, Galius was only five feet tall. Many assumed he would die before coming of age, but he proved many of them wrong by not only living, but by taking the Golden Throne when his father, Hallan IV died. Galius was both a thinker and a doer. He had a plan to create an empire where there would be peace. People would never fear war or unjust death again. He followed that plan to the day of his death, pulling off the confederation of the empire with the three kingdoms and ending the thread of war. While his dream did eventually come to light, it was unfortunately very short lived.
Thardaran/Cillannin: The Mystery - The mystery of the two emperors is a favorite topic of discussion and debate in the empire. Tharadaran and Cillannin were brothers, born only two years apart. According to record, Thardaran ruled from 50 to 48 BER. He was a harsh, ruthless ruler trying to pull the country out of a spiral downwards. His mistake of torturing a woman landowner is well documented. Thardaran died, according to record, in 48 BER, due to a poison arrow in the back, shot by his own brother.
Cillannin ruled from 48 to 37 BER and was a harsh, ruthless ruler trying to pull the country out of a spiral downwards. His mistake of using humanoid mercenaries is well-documented, and he withdrew, taking a huge chunk of Drannon and founded Sendria. In 32 BER, Cillannin was slain by a poison arrow in the back, shot by his own brother.
According to the records that Drannese prize so much and are rarely inaccurate, Thardaran killed Cillannin after he had been dead for 16 years. Yet Thardaran, if he was alive, did not take power. In fact, Thardaran's son, Ophare took the throne for the next three years until his assassination.
So who killed Cillannin?
Some say that Thardaran came back for Cillannin as an undead. Some think that Thardaran's followers found that he wasn't dead, instead carrying his body away and nursing him back to health. Some believe that Thardaran and Cillannin were actually the same person. Whatever the solution, it will never really be known, but it will be debated for many years to come.
Yasius the Illiterate - An emperor that only lasted two days would hardly be worth mentioning, except that Yasius earned his spot in history through the records. All that is known about Yasius is that his name is entered in the ledger of Emperors five times, each time crossed out and each one spelled differently. Other pieces of trivia known about him are that his last entry is "Yasius the Illiterate" and that the emperor died from having a steel-shod wooden ink quill stabbed through his heart.
Places of Note in Drannon
The Shade River
The Shade River runs from the north, out of Sendria. The water appears to be midnight blue in the bright sunlight, due to the depth of the river and the speed that it flows. The water is very cold all year round. The Drannese says that the tears of Lysora, fallen from the sky so long ago, formed the river. Others say the Khordaldrum delved too deeply, opening a fissure in which this river has sprung. Strangers are warned that those who stray too near and sleep a full night near the river have terrible nightmares and visions.
Ruins of Thrinacia
Thrinacia was once a grand keep with spindle towers, much like Oryn, though it now rests as a great dusty ruin upon a jutting of limestone and granite, having been destroyed during the dark ages of Drannon in one of the many civil wars. There is a romantic tale about the ruins that tells of a warrior maiden who once led a valiant charge into Sendria, against those who would destroy her people. Riding hard with the remains of her company, she rushed back to her lord's home. And, dying with each step, she reached the topmost towers to send the warning call. Not one of magic, she could not activate the spell, but her pleas and sacrifice attracted the attention of the gods. Now her spirit remains, watchful and wary, keeping the evil of Sendria and the Crunaik at bay. There is no official record of this warrior-lady or of her charge.
Drefast is a sprawling city, built upon two hills, and cut in half by the Thunder River.
Thanks to Roger (Alacrity) Briant for this contribution!