Every man or woman has at least one great treasure to give - their word.Dhanû is one of the great city-states of the Inner Shell. It is centered around a great lake of frigid black waters, eking out a living in arctic caverns and frozen tunnels. Their lands are harsh and unforgiving but its people have built their fortune with blood, sweat and tears. Nothing has been given; everything has been earned - and taken. The city-state of Dhanû have been sharpened by terrible cold and dangerous beasts like a blade to a whetstone.
Lake HoshãnThe waters of Lake Hoshãn are cold and bitter, the surface still save for the ripples cast by bobbing clumps of waste and offal thrown into the black. There's almost no life left in the lake, long since exhausted by the hungry city-state. Only stringy, tough kelp remains, farmed and harvested for food or fuel. The Dhanû hold that the lake has no bottom and that things lost to its depths spend an eternity sinking. Most of Dhanû gets its water from the lake, with only the refined nobles preferring theirs from the more pure springs and smaller lakes that surround it. The years of waste dumped into the lake have done little to improve the acrid taste of the water, so most who can afford to do so sweeten it with lead. The lake ends in a long, snaking river that eventually leads all the way to the Abyss, connecting Dhanû to much of the Inner Shell with an efficient, if dangerous, route.
The ShoresAlong the shallow shores of Lake Hoshãn, the poor build homes on stilts and hope their structure don't collapse into the freezing waters. Living close to the waters is cold and uncomfortable, with centuries of waste floating along the shallow. Small ports and dry-docks dot each clan's piece of the lake, surrounded by small orchards of Cave-Capped Hatters that supply material.
The waters of Hoshãn ebb and flow on accords no one has yet to figure out. As such, the shores move up and down the cavern floor around the lake. Buildings must be made sturdy to account for rising waters and those who cannot afford to do so must hope that Hoshãn spare them.
The Clan-LandsAll parts of Dhanû belongs to someone. It is divided between the Clans of Dhanû, with each jealously guarding their fief. Most of the city belong to the clan-lands and these territories follow the coast of Lake Hoshãn, but not so close to the shore. Some stake claims further away from the city, on unmarked coastlines, small islands or even further inland. Most of the old lineages live near to where the city began, while the young dare to go in to the dark. The houses are built to keep out the cold and will often share pillars with neighbors. One street can look almost like a single building, divided only by the walled enclave of clan-nobles or the end of one clan's territory. While some boundaries formed by a natural divide, where the cave shrinks into a small tunnel or the lake expands inland, most are not. Walls are a common feature in the city's architecture, with every fief surrounded by their own.
The Clanless Some few do not belong to any clan. These unfortunates make a life in the gaps between clan-territories, surviving on scraps from others. Most of the Clanless were cast out as punishment for some act of treason or other slight, while some were of clans that have been destroyed so utterly that nothing else remains for them. It is a quiet agreement among all the clans that no one accept the Clanless into their homes.
The Exarch's PalaceThe Exarch's Palace looms over the rest of the city-state. It is both monument to their power and a mighty fortress from which they ward off would-be usurpers. The palace is built on top of a rising crest in the cave floor and its marble walls reach to the ceiling. A single gate makes the palace difficult to conquer but nearly impossible to escape from once it has been breached. Gibbets with criminals and traitors adorn the walls, their pitiful wails heard from any approach. The interior is luxurious even by the standards of a Dhanû clan-noble. Polished tiles form resplendent patterns on the floor and ceiling, while the air is heavy with the expensive incense and smoke. This is the height that all Dhanû-nobles aspire to and its halls are the prize from centuries of raids and conquests, with each new Exarch striving to outdo the one before her. Such is their reverence for the Palace that it is sometimes referred to as "the Temple of Dhanû".
All the exalted treasures of Dhanû are kept in the Exarch's Palace, though stewardship over certain important items is often given to clan-leaders. Such gifts and responsibilities provide great prestige, making them excellent bribes for unruly subjects.. A description that fit most clan-nobles.
Survivors, Warriors and Poets
Survive first, sing later.The Dhanû do not complain that their caverns are harsh and cold. There's no time for that. The people of Dhanû have been hardened by difficult lives. Even now, as one of the great city-states of the Inner Shell, the Dhanû take pride in their struggles - at least, among the clan-nobles. The common folk see little in the way of glorious battle or the prestige of head-hunting in their day-to-day labor, but even they look at outsiders and know that they are better. This sense of superiority comes from a feeling that everyone else has had it easy compared to the Dhanû. Visitors are rarely treated well until they have proven themselves equal to a Dhanû. At the same time, few things can motivate a clan warrior to action as fast as an opportunity to prove how superior they are to an outsider. The Dhanû prefer not to welcome outsiders into their city and into their homes and have isolated themselves from the politics of other cities to a degree. They don't engage in as much trade or see many travelers. Other than the glory-hunting raiding parties, Dhanû deals little with the rest of Araea. It is uncertain that the Dhanû even realize that Dūbavum considers them to be at war. What little contact the Dhanû engage in has lead to two conquests of smaller settlements nearby and lucrative trade with the Slaver's Gate. Some enterprising clans have made their homes not in Dhanû but in these conquered territories and are encountering new ideas of trade and culture. Slowly, some begin to wonder if there are not better ways.
In Dhanû society, almost everyone owes an obligation to someone else. Even the Exarch is bound by obligations to her vassals and supports. In a way, it functions as a sort of social currency and standing. Who can trust someone who has upheld no promise?While obligations are bound by contract, expectations are less defined and more dependent on context. Less is expected of a farmer than a warrior, more by a mother than a spinster. These expectations underline almost all interactions in the city-state, each party keen to do what is expected of them but without breaking the bonds of obligation. Breaking ones' obligations carry severe and often legal repercussions but acting against expectation carries a more subtle, social loss of face and standing. Beyond that, the people of Dhanû are a blend of rowdy, energetic, and stoic. Those who can withstand pain and discomfort without complaint are praised, with warriors expected to meet their deaths with grace and grim determination. Common past times are wrestling, racing, poetry and art. Clan-nobles in particular are expected, though not obliged, to be cultured as well as capable warriors. In the mind of a Dhanû, there is no divide between the poet that becomes the naked berserker. Masks hold an important place in Dhanû society and every warrior is obliged to own and care for at least one. These masks are symbols of who the warriors see themselves as and what they strive to emulate. Many fashion theirs in the likeness of terrible beasts or made out of the corpse from vicious animals. They are statements and matters of prestige, with warriors often seeking to best the other by way of their mask. At the same time, wearing the mask unbidden is akin to bearing a naked blade into conversation.
My word is my bond and I pledge it to the Exarch. I accept this obligation, on my honor and my house.Dhanû is governed by a system of vassalage, where each clan is obliged to obey the Exarch. The Exarch is in turn obliged to provide justice and negotiate feuds while maintaining a mandate by communal agreement. Should a clan wish to seize power for themselves, and they often do, they have learned to be creative in their interpretation of what the Exarch's obligations actually are, as a way to get out of their own promises. Each Clan rules their own domain, limiting the Exarch's power to matters that cross boundaries between territories. They act as arbitrates and judges, and having their favor can aid greatly in settling disputes. Exarchs are expected, but not obliged, to remain impartial and unswayed by anything beyond the merits of each case, but few clans expect this. Great prestige is given those few Exarchs who actually do. Though the Exarch's influence is limited, they are empowered by whatever obligations they can get from the clan. Skilled Exarchs extricate as many promises as they can, while powerful clan-leaders avoid committing to them.
The frequent raids launched from Dhanû are just as often about necessity as they are about prestige. At times, the city simply runs out of the things they require - at other occasions, certain luxuries are desired, but not easily obtained. Raiding is a way for young warriors to accumulate wealth and resources for an older age.These hunts provide a valuable source of meat for the hungry city. Fertile caves around Dhanû are rare and never enough to provide for the entire city. Boats carry fishers all the way to the Abyss to cast their nets and throw harpoons, while scavengers roam the tunnels for anything they can find. With the recent conquest of Hamu and Bhaata, they have been able to extract some additional foodstuffs from their domains. It is arguable that Dhanû make the best boats in Araea, though there isn't really much competition in the field. Dhanû's fleet is always hampered by their lack of access to larger amounts of Hattick however, so each craft is kept and maintained that much more carefully. This lack of resources inform the average opinion in Dhanû about many things, with well-crafted objects becoming treasured heirloom. There may not be enough to go around for a replacement.
Guilds & Factions
Dhanû - Clans & Factions
The Clan is a central concept of Dhanû society - a family of families that band together against greater threats: usually other clans.
The Inner Shell Dhanû is located in the Inner Shell, the name given to the region of caverns that lie many miles below the dangerous surface of the world. Here, the cavernous halls grow vast and the tunnels labyrinthine. Read more about the Inner Shell
Shrines On The WaterLake Hoshãn is dotted with small, floating shrines made from hattick or bone. New shrines are often adorned with lantern, with glimmering lights being set adrift. Each shrine carries its own dedication engraved into the central pillar and they range from hopes and dreams to memorials and tributes. Those made and loosened by the common folk are popular targets for drunk clan-warriors to attempt to hit, though damaging the shrine of a clan-noble is harshly punished. The largest shrines are the remains of funeral pyres, an honor usually reserved for great heroes or clan-leaders. These large vessels are set alight and pushed out into the waters of Lake Hoshãn, where some charred remains still drift.
Some few look at the chaos of Dhanû and decide that the lake would make a better master. They are called "mad hermits" by the rest of Dhanû, and they make their homes on rafts, strung-together boats or whatever else will float. It is considered bad luck to harm a hermit, and one is expected but not obliged to provide for them when they come ashore to beg.
The Clan HallAt the center of each clan's holding it the Hall. It serves both as home to the clan's leader and a communal gathering place for its nobles and warriors. They are usually the largest and most elaborate structures within a clan's holdings and to try to best ones lord is considered very poor form.
Dhanû ArchitectureThe style of architecture in Dhanû is either exceedingly simple or very elaborate, with few things in between. Simple workshops, the house of commoners and other similar facilities bear only the most necessary of decorations and favor straight, simple lines with sharp angles. But if a structure is worthy of making beautiful, it is only proper that the correct effort is put in. Noble-houses and clan-halls are often multi-stories tall with sweeping archways and elegantly carved masonry. No matter the styling, each place is expected to be functional first and beautiful second. Even decorative shrines around the city have some purpose to them, from holding incense or collecting tithes.
Honored Guests The children of clan-leaders are expected, and in some cases obliged, to be schooled at the Exarch's Palace until they come of age. There, they are to learn the correct way to govern and rule. In more practical terms, they are hostages kept there to keep their parents in line, though they are never referred to as such. Only as 'honored guests'.
The FeastA central part of a clan's function is that of the Feast. These rambunctious events are held in the Clan Hall and serve to strengthen the ties that bind lords to vassals, in addition to being a good time. A good Feast can last a couple of days and often host competitions of wrestling, throwing or duels. It is also a place for the clan-leader to display their fortunes. A clan that can afford a Feast must be successful raiders and skilled managers of their resources. Exactly how often a Clan holds a feast varies, though to do so too often is considered wasteful rather than worthwhile.
For many warriors, the Feasts are also a way to prove their mettle. In anything from drinking-contests to arm-wrestling, there is prestige and face on the line. Woe to the Warrior who passes out drunk first.
Views on the GateAlthough they have begun to trade with the Slaver's Gate, Dhanû does not keep slaves for themselves and its warriors are less than enthusiastic about the exchange. It can be remarkably easy to escape from a Dhanû slaver - they are expected to provide for the trade, but not obliged and so many lords chose to turn a blind eye to the warriors who simply don't engage in it. Even many lords find it distasteful and Dhanû has been an unreliable partner for the Slaver's Gate.
The ImaðurAmong the warriors of the Dhanû clan's, some belong to the Imaður - the Slayers of Beasts. These warriors are assigned the duty of facing the many dangerous beasts and monsters that constantly trouble Dhanû. It is a highly sought-after and prestigious role and the Imaður are often considered second only to the clan-leader's own guard in prowess. The Imaður are often clad in their success, wearing armor made from chitin and wielding weapons of bone or fang. Many are envious of the Masks of the Imaður, often forgetting how often the hunters end up as dinner for their would-be prey.
Beast-Skins Some Dhanû warrior go even further than simply wearing armor made from a monster. They drape the carcass over their shoulder and feel the ichor seep into their flesh - they become the beast. So-called Sōtari work themselves into a battle-frenzy and bite their shields before rampaging in battle. They are dangerous foes, undeterred by fear or even grievous injury. The most common skin for a Sōtari to wear is of a large, insect-like predator that stalk the Dhanû hinterland. Its ichor, when absorbed through the skin, has a powerful hallucinogenic effect which is the reason for both its popularity and effectiveness.
Head HuntingA warrior's individual success is measured in the number of heads they collect in battle. Prestige and even promotion is tied to how many skulls they can claim, making each battle a competition as well as a life-and-death struggle for the Dhanû. For this reason, many warriors keep a peasant-retainer with them in battle, expressly tasked with cutting the heads off of slain foes and keeping the them in a sack. These retainers sometimes come into conflict with each other when exactly who landed the final blow is uncertain. Commoners, however, are not allowed to keep any heads, should they slay one another in these skirmishes.
Some Clan-Leaders keep careful track of their tally as a way to boast about their prowess and display it to the world. There are entire rooms in certain clan-halls dedicated to rows upon rows of decapitated heads preserved in strong alcohol as a testament to the clan's murderous skill.
The Iron Hag of Dhanû
I fear no-one.. Except her.If Dhanû does descend into a violent struggle for the Exarch's throne, many expect Ramaður-shi to strike first and last. The middle-aged leader of the Omotahi Clan bears a fearsome reputation as a slayer of both men and beast. Under her leadership, the clan has accumulated an impressive collection of skulls, including the entirety of a minor clan whose leader first called her "Hag". Ramaður-shi is rarely seen without her mask these days. She doesn't boast or threaten, but her silence tell her foes all she needs them to know: she is coming. She shocked Dhanû by hiring a band of skilled foreign mercenaries, an act that prompted many to look closer at the Omotahi's many journeys beyond Dhanû and the things they return with.