Izhaso, the Forge of Bones
If only we could find a way to use the stench of this place into a weapon. No enemy could hope to defeat us.Izhaso is a forge-city near the city-state of Dhanû where monsters felled in battle are butchered and reforged. It is the home of the Imaður and their master artisans, a site of pilgrimage for any who would don the carcass-armor for the Sōtari. It is sequestered away from the city-state, where the pits of poisonous blood and corrosive gas are kept well away from others. It is a hive of constant activity, of flesh tearing apart and Chitin made whole again in new shapes. To wear something made by the masters of Izhaso is a sign of great prestige. Lesser forges won't do for the nobility of Dhanû - only in the Forge of Bones can something worthy be made.
The Forge of Bones is spread out across seven connected caverns and a labyrinth of adjacent tunnels, warrens and garbage-pits. Each cavern is large enough to hold several workshops and forges. While two of the caves are set aside to house the master-artisans who work there and their families, not all are so fortunate. Apprentices and lesser workmen usually live in the back or below of the same forge where they work. When work is plentiful, Izhaso swells beyond its caverns and spill out into the much larger cavern of Sheoin outside. Those hoping to find work gather in tents and crude shacks and work out in the open.
Fang and Claw
We were made without fangs nor claws, nor scale or hide to shield us. We made our own.The Dhanû do not use chitin and claw only for practical reasons, but as a matter of principle and statement. A warrior is only as good as what she has killed and there is no better way to show it off than to wear the slain. The fact that the crafters of Izhaso can create things as good or better than metal give weight to the tradition. If there is one resource that Sheoin has in abundance, it is monsters.
Izhaso reeks of slaughter. The cavern floor is scarred by acidic blood or bile spilled, sometimes stored in great pits of coagulating ichor. Fresh corpses are stored where there is space, shoved into the back of workshops or hung from hooks in the ceiling. The Forge of Bones is close enough to the cold-spreading cancers of Sheoin Region for the temperatures to remain chilly, though not cold. A few forges melt and craft metal here to create pins, straps, buckles and other items needed to assemble any corpse-armor, which warms parts of Izhaso to an unpleasant, soupy degree. The forges are crowded and busy. There is always something that needs to be made. Accidents are common.
Like in Dhanû, everything in Izhaso is owned by one clan or another. In theory, it is the Exarch of Dhanû who owns Izhaso as a whole but in reality it is a patchwork of competing clans and rival artisans. Some few clans have even made Izhaso their calling and abandoned Dhanû to live here. Such choices are controversial - the nobles of Dhanû are expected, though not obliged, to be warriors before all else. Invariably, one of the fates await those who make such a choice: they become masters of their craft and remain, or fade into obscurity as Clanless.
Everything in Izhaso is owned by a clan... Almost. A solitary forge lies nestled deep beyond the seven caves. Its master answer to no clan but she commands respect from even the most willful noble. Rivals watch her with jealousy, but several powerful figures in Dhanû have made the penalty of trespassing against her painfully clear.The Cult of Zhotori has a presence within Izhaso only by the grace of the Exarch. They are mostly left to their own devices, their bizarre rites avoided by the other workers. The work they make is often considered amateurish but is only used by the cult itself.
Izhaso is the largest forge-city of its kind and home to many of the best talents in Dhanû. Vast quantities of arms and armor are shipped off every day, with most going to the city-state proper or to the Fortress-Garden. Some forges specialize in a single creature or a particular type of weapon while others are more artistic in their approach. The first outfits many of the destitute clan-warriors with reliable and well-made equipment, but any Dhanûian worth her skull craves the latter.
More than that, Izhaso creates countless everyday items for the citizens of Dhanû. Everything from buttons, combs and jewelry down to powdered horn and chitin for medicine come out of the Forge of Bones. Such industry does not carry as much honor or prestige as making weapons or armor but they are vital to Dhanû's survival. Izhaso does not deal much with gems, metal or stone. Most of what comes out of Izhaso was once part of a living being and the Dhanû place great spiritual value on the traits of what they send to the forge. A sickly beast will make for poor arms.
Let them come: fresh bones for the forge!Izhaso is guarded the contingent of clan-warriors left there by their masters. These groups vary in size but are all skilled and hardened warriors, raised from an young age to do battle. While they quarrel and feud among each other in times of peace, any external attack have always seen a coordinated and brutal response. When they are not keeping watch, the warriors hunt the caves of Sheoin - it keeps their skills sharp, the forges stocked and boredom at bay.
In addition, Izhaso see a fair bit of traffic with many of those who come and go being warriors. Some come to purchase goods, others to collect taxes, delivery material or as the personal guard or a visiting noble. No warrior of Dhanû is likely to sit idle in the case of an attack - not when there is glory to win. Izhaso have few fortifications beyond the fortress-gate that lead into the seven cavern. Other tunnels and tries exist, some used by smugglers and thieves. Further out, some clans maintain seasonal hunting camps and lodges in the area around Izhaso. From these, warriors strike out to find prey and on occasion fulfill the very specific demands required for some particular project.
Izhaso lies within the cold and barren Sheoin region. Here, the land is at war with itself as competing eco-systems warp and mutate the very stone in their battle for supremacy. Here, rampaging beasts and mad monsters are not a menace to fear, but raw material to use. Read More About Sheoin Region
Waste not, Want notVery little goes to waste in Araea and even more so in Izhaso. Inedible flesh rendered down to use as glue, dye or acids, blood is mixed with ground fungi to make meals and bones are turned to pins and buttons. Eyes are made hardened, vanished and polished until they gleam like gems. Everything, no matter how unlikely, finds a use here.
This resourceful attitude is not spared on humans. Skulls are always saved for the Shikei, but the rest finds its way to the butcher's table. Bone is bone, after all.
Rule By HabitFractured between several interests, Izhaso has no real coherent and unified rule but instead rely heavily on the recognition of its value. Exarchs find that taxing the forge-city or otherwise making an enemy of those with interests there to be a quick way of shortening their rule. In effect, the Dhanû tradition of obligation and expectation has expanded across the whole of Izhaso. It has not always worked in its favor, when honorless leaders have risen to take advantage of the defined lack of structure. So far, Dhanû's clan-like structure have not allowed the rise of any cohesive cooperation to secure Izhaso proper.
MasksEvery warrior in Dhanû has a mask. These elaborate helmets display prowess and intent, linking the warrior to the beasts or demons the masks portray. Creating such masks is a painstaking and honored profession, practiced with great reverence in Izhaso. Hard carapace is the preferred material, being both light-weight and tough, but true masters use a staggering variety of corpses for the best masks. Read More About Dhanû Masks
by Shao Zhijiao
To some, madness has virtue.The Sōtari are frequent visitors of Izhaso - a kind of Dhanû warrior who drape themselves in the flayed carcass of monster to become like them. These mad warriors work themselves into a frenzy, howling like animals and biting their shields before throwing themselves into war. For a Sōtari in need of a fresh corpse and new ichor to daub themselves with, Izhaso has all they require. If something cannot be sold to anyone else, it is almost certain that least the Sōtari will have some gruesome use for it. Read More About the Sōtari