IntroductionDran is the second most powerful city state in the Arclands, and by far the most militaristic and warlike. Its armies are the basis of Dranian society and military service expected, at some point in their lives, of all adults over the age of sixteen. The city was once the most powerful weapon that the Arc Empire possessed, crushing opposition to the rule of Arc across the continent of Aestis. Since its founding, however, its rulers have harboured ambitions to usurp Arc’s status as the centre of world trade and wealth, and finally the fulfilment of this ambition appears to be within their grasp. The city is ruled by five powerful houses, each of which is supported by dozens of other lesser clans. It is also one of only two cities across the Arclands to officially sanction slavery. Dranian militaryis ambiguous about the execution of prisoners, but it allows for their enslavement, as a punishment for their weakness or cowardice in battle. Over the centuries this policy has allowed Dranian slave traders to take civilian captives as well as military ones. The lesser houses of Dran, agitated by the practice, quietly long for the end of the slave trade, believing it to be a stain on the city’s honour, but many powerful figures have grown wealthy from this evil trade.
HistoryDran, originally, was only meant to be a military outpost of the Arc Empire, and somewhere to send the troublesome and mutinous general Nurian Mondrias, whose insubordination threatened the rule of Empress Drassa Askar. Mondrias built a fortress on an island in the estuary of the River Wane, that was known by the indigenous Hol Darah people as the Renderford, but was renamed by the new inhabitants of the fortress as Nurian’s Rock. He enslaved the Hol Darah and other tribes inland forcing them to build the fortress, which over several centuries became the source of Dran power. Thousands of Hol Darah and other tribes people died building Nurian’s hold. Runaway slaves retreated into the mountains where they survived robbing the trade routes between Arc and the new outpost. A mainland settlement built on the ruins of the Hol Darah’s villages was created in the year -1929. The leaders of Arc were suspicious of the developing outpost and had waged war in previous centuries over emerging rivals, but some official in Arc saw the potential in Dran, particularly as a result of Nurian’s rule. The city was able to train and deploy large numbers of troops into traditionally volatile regions of Aestis that Arc had failed to control completely. With the development of threats to the trade routes to arc from the Hol Darah, it made sense to allow Dran to police the region. Dran’s power grew as a result of the demographic crisis within the Arc empire. As the empire gradually waned in power between, a generation of Arc nobles, including the Varren and Greyll families, had sons that had few if any opportunities for commercial or military advancement in Arc. A new start in Dran, a relative frontier outpost as far as Arc was concerned, seemed like a positive move. As the Arc empire fractured and the great southern empire of Del’Marah broke away, Dran became more strategically important to Arc, as Dranian armies were able to keep Ghothars, who had landed in the north east of Aestis, at bay. In -1325 Kheraas Mondrias, lord of Dran, called the first Council of Harenis. This was a vast and historically unprecedented diplomatic undertaking, with representatives of all the great cities called to discuss the consequences of the decline of Arc. He argued that the capital of the empire be moved to Dran, the now powerful warrior city state. This, in his view, would be the only means by which the Arc empire could be saved, but the council rejected his proposal. In his anger he returned to Dran and declared independence from Arc, putting 144 Arcish council men to the sword. The Dran war of independence, beginning in -1324 accelerated the decline of the Arc Empire and gave the Del’Marahans the advantage they needed over the Arc armies of the south. It would be the break away of Del’Marah, dismissively thought of by Arc as its 'southern territory' that would shatter the city state's empire forever.
Politics and HousesDran is the second most powerful city on the Greater Arc Sea. It is only half the size of the vast metropolis of Arc, but is unparalleled in its ability to wage war across Aestis. Relations between Dran and Arc are at best tense and often openly hostile, as Dranians view Arc as a city in decline, a relic of the past that should be swept away by its more warlike neighbour. Dran is ruled by a council of six noble houses, the Varrens, the Greylls, the Haukes, the Mondriases, the Evayns and the Mayrs . There are dozens of lesser families, each with complex affiliations to one of more of the great houses. Each house is dedicated to the Obsidys, the high council of Dran. Meeting at Mersalys Fortress in the heart of the city, the Obsidys acts as a permanent war council and is comprised of Dranian nobility. Its meetings are where the wealth of the city is protected and new military campaigns or mercenary deals with other nations are approved. One family has dominated the council for nearly a century, the Varrens. Their lord Prince Sorias Varren is a ruthless and unpredictable character. A brilliant tactician and brooding intellect, he has not been seen at a council meeting for over a year. The other lords of great houses are concerned and worried about this strange and aberrant behaviour but so far no one has managed to find out what troubles the great lord. The only source of opposition to the Obsidys are the Provosts of Dran, warrior judges that uphold the harsh and unbending rule of law in the city. They police the streets of the city and also the high diplomatic chambers, punishing the crimes of the great houses without fear or favour. There have been many lords of the Obsidys in previous centuries who have longed to rid themselves of these troublesome judges and tear up the rule of the law but they are unable to do so. The Provosts were established by Nurian Mondrias himself and are integral to the functioning of the city, holding back would-be tyrants from establishing a fully dictatorial rule. Dran is the most closed city in the Arclands. Non Dranian ships must sail under approved Dranian ensigns in order to dock there and ships that are deemed suspicious are intercepted by the city’s naval squadrons that sail from Nurian’s Rock long before they reach the harbour. Dran is a warlike state that earns its wealth through protecting caravan routes, garrisoning entire cities like Harenis and propping up smaller kingdoms. It is also a vast marketplace for mercenaries.
Varren’s DreamsAt the age of fifty, Varren has realised that there are fewer days ahead of him than there are behind him and has begun to think of his legacy. He has been plagued by troubling dreams and visions of a great fire in the east and has seen in his dreams a terrible and mighty warrior urging him to march to the eastern horizon. Varren is less concerned with the wealth of Dran than his contemporaries and he views their petty money grabbing with distaste. Instead he wishes to be remembered the way all great Dranians should be, as a warrior. Sorias Varren believes that before he dies he should bring about and win the last great war of his life and he believes his dreams give him the answers. He has sent secret messengers to the court of King Roharradh to convince the naive king that a final war to conquer the Veskans is the only way out of the problems that Ghotharand faces. He has told the king that with Dranian backing, the Ghothars will finally succeed in conquering the lands they feel they so rightly deserve. Varren’s vision is even bigger than that, however. A conquered Veska will be the staging post for the conquest of Oloris which is even richer in resources than Veska itself. The combined wealth of the east will flow through new trade routes into Dran and the city’s wealth will finally eclipse that of the hated Arc. However, not only have the Skalds of Khozan learned of these plans, but so too has the Lord Counsel of Arc, Drexe, who has already begun his own strategy to counter them.
The EvaynsThe House Evayn is the smallest of the houses of Dran and in the eyes of Sorias Varren, the most troublesome. The Evayns were made a full house of the city just over a century ago, in recognition of their distinguished military service, but the rise of the Varrens on the council has left them for a hundred years as newcomers and outsiders. The lord of the house, Allansyr Evayn has kept his disgust of Dran’s slave markets secret, but his youngest son Firrand Evayn has been quite explicit in his criticism. The young lord’s words have threatened the wealth of every family in Dran profiting from the trade and as a result he has been sent away to serve at the court of Emperor Iblim of Del’Marah. The Varrens have never accepted the Evayns as a legitimate part of Dran’s ruling class and believe that it is their task eventually to correct the mistake that was made a century ago. Sorias Varren, on hearing that slavery was under threat, decided that the purge of the Evayns must happen soon.
The Iron MarketThe Iron Market is a maze-like bazaar of taverns, hostelries and market squares but each and every small business or alehouse is a front. There is one product for sale in the Iron Market and it is armed force of one type or another. Wealthy nobles from far and wide who’s problems are too trivial for the High Council to bother with come to the Iron Market looking for muscle. Villages along the Arc Coast plagued by pirates or worse will often scrape together what monies they have to hire armed men and women to see off the raiders. The Iron Market has its own rules and values, despite the brutal nature of the business; mercenaries that have taken the money of desperate people and abandoned them to their fate have been barred and harshly punished by the informal rulers of the market, the Iron Masters. Dran, while violent, has certain rules that cannot be broken.
The KoragsTwo thirds of the city exist within separate compounds or Korags. Each great family and some of the lesser ones have Korags, which exist as their own fortresses within the city. The reason for their existence is simple, no one noble family trusts any of the others enough not to have a wall around their home. Alliances, feuds, assassinations and plots have been the rule in Dran for centuries, not the exception. The largest of the Korags belongs, inevitably, to the Varren family. Within the their compound is the Tol-Verra, the Varren’s own fortress, along with acres of gardens and even an ornamental lake. The Varren’s personal bodyguard of 500 men is alos garrisoned here, with the other 3,000 Varren troops that are in Dran at any one time barracked at Nurian’s Rock.
Nurian’s RockThe power of Dran doesn’t come from the Korags of the various families, it comes from the ability of Dran to win wars and this is decided first and foremost at Nurian’s Rock. The vast island fortress is a garrison for thousands of soldiers, and most of Dran’s warships dock here to take Dran’s armies to battle across the Arclands and beyond. New recruits cross the harbour by barge from the city and are met by the feared ‘Rock Masters’ at the dock. Soldiers are initiated with brutality to break them as individuals and then intensive training (which not all survive) to re-forge them as warriors. Men and women who have been through the ordeal of Nurian’s Rock are bonded to their own house colours, to those of Dran and to each other for life. The rock also acts as a prison for Dran’s most difficult inmates; enemy leaders being held for ransom, captured spies who need to be convinced to give up their networks and even members of Dranian families who have fallen into disgrace. The rock is also Dran’s armoury, holding enough equipment in its vaults for tens of thousands of soldiers. These chambers also keep some rare and unusual weapons possessing strange and powerful properties, that were either retrieved in battle or are heirlooms to houses. Finally, the rock is Dran’s war chest, the city’s ‘fighting surplus’ is kept here. This is the gold that is required for Dran to commence a military campaign and it is replenished through the inevitable post battle plunder.
Military OrganisationDran’s Armies are formed from five divisions, Horse, Spear, Sword, Arrow and Shield. Companies from each division are distributed throughout the various armies that the city deploys across the continent. The houses of Dran also have their own honour companies, elite soldiers that are named after prominent Dranians of particular houses, and are allowed to raise their battle colours before the enemy (a great honour in Dranian society). At present, the Varrens have nineteen companies, whereas the Evayns have two, and are forced to contribute most of their men to mixed companies in the five divisions. Dranian generals are put through a punishing regime of training on Nurian’s Rock, where they are given a poison that induces temporary blindness and forced to climb Balkur’s Stair. The ‘stair’ is a circular stone tower, sixty feet in height, that inmates must climb by finding handholds in the rock. Failure leads to death and few survive. It is part of the training that teaches Dranians to find their willpower and to reach beyond mere eyesight alone. Only those that survive are trusted to lead Dranian armies into battle, as once on the battlefield, a Dranian general is free to make whatever decisions they wish in order to achieve their objectives; the Obsidys has no more power to direct them. This autonomy is what gives Dranian generals their skill in battle and versatility. Do you want more lore? Get weekly updates on World Anvil and the Arclands Blog straight to your email inbox, PLUS our list of fifty mysterious trinkets to delight and enchant your adventuring party. Get your copy here.
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