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The Starflame Kingdom of the Drow

The Dark Patch of Beacepheron

  If there is one nation that defines pariah, it may not be the Starflame Kingdom, but it is certainly close. Due to their inherent magi-biological qualities, certain Drow women are naturally born with immutable advantages over their kith and kin. Their evolution into a matriarchal society of fiercely supremacist slavers was hardly inevitable, but it was the path that became manifest due to how they addressed the needs of their society - and thus, the world must contend with the Slaver State. Named a Kingdom in Common despite being a strict matriarchy, this arose during confusion in translation processes, as the Drow literally did not have a word for a society ruled by a male at the time. As far as anyone can remember, even the oldest of elves and aasimar, the Drow have always been slavers, and monsters.   However, no species, no sex, no society is fundamentally evil - even now, if primarily for economic reasons, the owners of the surface estates where millions of slaves farm on their behalf begin to consider them too much work to justify. Slave revolts, protests, strikes, and other forms of resistance have steadily been dwindling their appreciation for this peculiar institution - they would rather cut into their profits and shell out some wages to maintain their system. But the core populace of the Starflame Highlands live with two advantages - their oppressive cave environment that the Drow are simply better at fighting in, and the most diabolic invention of Drow ingenuity, the magical artifact known as the Endless Dark, a crystal that shrouds the capital in a mind-numbing haze that forces the servile into deeper submission. This culture divide threatens to boil over - whether in the halls of the National Diet, or in the first and only civil war in Starflame history.  


  By and large, the Starflame Kingdom benefits from lush, rich highlands that are highly fertile and laden with trees. This has not been used by the Starflame people for much of their history, however - the Starflame Drow, like all Drow, are highly light-sensitive, and live underground. Their caves are generally quite rocky and moist, and typically the closest thing to vegetation therein is fungal colonies around points of high moisture, particularly where cave predators leave the remains of their kills. While the surface is largely populated by deer, rabbits, bears, wolves, and other common woodland creatures, the caves that raised the Drow people contain Cave Fishers, Giant Spiders, Blindheims, Fungal Crawlers, and Giant Amoebas - these were previously minor predators, but have become more prey-like in behavior since the rise of the Drow - as well as the frightful predators such as Titan Centipedes, Solifugids, and Rock Trolls - and that is to say nothing of the cults of Reeva deep in the crust, many of which have become Driders and almost all of which indulge cannibalistic rituals. Local troglodytes have largely been enslaved, with small populations hiding out in deep, dark, unexplored caves. Furthermore, Fungus Queens are found here and there, and maintain good relations with the Drow. Rumors circulate of the mythical Shoggoths hiding in some of the most horrible depths.

Government and Geopolitics

  The Starflame Kingdom, despite the name, is an absolute matriarchy - it is against the law, and enshrined in constitutional law, that a man can never sit on the throne, nor the council, and cultural attitudes hold that men have no place in positions of power. This is rooted in the truth of the Drow species that not all of their members are created equal - some women are born as Drow Nobles, with natural inclinations towards magic, and with superior physicality to their fellow Drow. This has fostered a cultural perception of female competence far above that of males over time, particularly as Drow matriarchs and female power-brokers have historically fueled the flames on this in an attempt to cement their own power. The Drow also have a strict racial hierarchy that places pureblooded female Drow on top of the ladder, with half-blooded females and full-blooded males on equal footing, followed by half-Drow males and the females of non-Drow species, then non-Drow males and female elves, and at the very bottom are male elves.   The Starflame Kingdom is a hereditary constitutional monarchy, ruled by the Anabaraha Dynasty. The family name is passed down matrilineally and patrilineally - the Queen's dynasty has the right to be stand above all other bloodlines. However, most of the power in the government rests in the Royal Council, a 27-woman assembly of nobles, oligarchs, plutocrats, power brokers, major slave traders, and planter aristocrats appointed by the Queen, normally as per the advice of the current council members. The Royal Council are responsible for drafting and voting on laws, and are able to vote on reprimanding and reversing the decisions of the courts if they disapprove of an interpretation - the legislative branch of their government is nearly totally ascendant over executive and judicial branches, as the Queen serves as little more than a regal rubber stamp and head of state. They are supported by an extensive class of educated bureaucrats, predominantly female Drow, but with some men and even some non-Drow slaves. They are appointed by and answer to the council.   Only citizens of the Starflame Kingdom are taxed - and all citizens are Drow. Non-citizens pay their dues to the state through their labor, as almost all of them are slaves, and those that aren't likely don't make enough money to be worth taxing. Drow pay their taxes exclusively in coin, with no option for paying in goods - however, tax exemptions are provided for supplying slaves for state projects depending on the duration of the service and the number and quality of slaves. Most labor projects involve either land clearance for an expansion of surface agriculture, or the preparation and/or expansion of the cave systems for the use of the state or its citizens. Wealth is heavily focused in the upper classes, but taxation does not scale adequately to accommodate for this. A basic framework of progressive taxation exists, but is largely lacking relative to the sheer difference in income between a common Drow employee and that of even a modestly successful slave trader.   The Starflame Kingdom is fabulously wealthy on the back of their slave trade, and it is deeply enshrined in their law and constitution as a core of their economy and political-social structure. They thus have antagonized most nations around them, though they have operated through a lens of plausible deniability by trusting all slave-taking to private enterprise. The Starflame Kingdom has no real allies. They have many enemies - primarily their neighbors and ancient rivals, the Moonlight Kingdom and the Karaz Taruhm Shogunate. They have centuries of war in their shared past, in many cases due to the Starflame Kindgom's appetite for slave labor.  


The Starflame economy is rooted in slavery, down to its very core. One of the most important and profitable lines of work in their economy is slave trading, both in terms of breeding slaves from pre-existing stock, or capturing new blood from foreign shore. Slavery is directly connected to, or was directly responsible for, the large majority of the economic activity in the Starflame Kingdom, as much as 90% or even more at certain times. Manufactory lines are operated by slaves and often led by skilled slave artisans. Fields are cultivated by slaves, often overseen by privileged overseer slaves. Slaves serve as gladiators, courtesans, singers, dancers, and in some particularly decadent households are even trained to be masters at board games to play with their masters. Slaves are traded in amazingly large sums, with as many as dozens traded a day in the capital city alone. On days where major traders return from overseas slave-taking, especially when they have skilled or attractive slaves, or there are new estates being established, hundreds of slaves can be traded in a day.   The slave trade is also involved in a bit of internal diplomacy - in certain caves, Fungus Queens reside, and are generally quite friendly with the Drow, who sell them attractive and strong slaves in return for access to their extensive knowledge of botany, underground navigation, and the Planes. Sometimes, for a significant number of slaves or a captured succubus, a Fungus Queen will join the Drow at war, or even more into a Drow city, or work as an 'overseer' for a planter aristocrat, taking control of their slaves directly through fungal infestation and working them as perfectly loyal servants, nearly an extension of the Fungus Queen. As non-humanoids, Fungus Queens are essentially considered exempt from the racial hierarchy, and tacitly considered peers of a female Drow. Of course, if a Fungus Queen enslaves a Drow, that specific Queen is given just one chance to release the Drow - if they refuse, they are destroyed without mercy.   The large majority of the Drow population is found underground, in their widespread subterranean cities. 80% of all Drow in Starflame live in their cities, the rest living in farming and plantation estates on the surface. However, 60% of slaves live on the surface, working the widespread estates of their masters. The Drow urban economy is largely unfocussed - the capitalistic economy of the Drow is largely dictated by the laws of supply and demand, and due to the fact that the Drow are unable to import most goods besides through their few trading partners, there are many opportunities at home to create domestic manufacturing of any number of goods - and so, the market has massively diversified the Starflame economy. Weapons are one of the largest among these, though this is almost entirely a domestic product. They produce domestic models of crossbows, pistols, cannons, and traditional Drow weapons.   Surface agriculture is roughly equally divided between cash crops - primarily native coffee and foreign crops such as sugar with niche markets for tobacco and cotton - and food crops which feed the giant undercities. The undercities are also supported by fungal farms and the breeding of underground prey animals. Giant Amoebas are a very common underground livestock, kept in glass cells and fed various cast-off food scraps and inedible biomass. Amoeba jelly is a very common food source and has been the primary source of protein for Starflame communities for centuries. Rendered down with careful cooking methods, giant amoebas can be made into the dough for a type of crispy, protein-rich biscuit or bread that is often a part of travel rations. Blindheims are also cultivated, their eyes carefully removed at birth to make them easier to raise, herd, and slaughter without the blinding flashes of their eyes, an evolution specifically meant to target the light-sensitive eyes of other underground species. The eyes themselves are also considered a delicacy, and some Blindheims are raised to adulthood before having their eyes removed by particularly skilled and specialized farmers. This 'Cave Caviar' is considered delectable in many places, particularly among foreign nobility with a bit of a brave streak. They also cultivate cows, pork, chicken, sheep, and goats on the surface, though this is a minor industry compared to plant agriculture and underground animal cultivation. Giant Spiders are cultivated primarily for their silk, used in most Drow textile work.   Given the abundance of expendable labor, mining into the deadly Starflame caves is frequent and profitable. Gemstones are found in denser concentrations in Starflame than most other places, but they also find significant quantities of silver, iron, tin, and cold iron. They also have access to strange black material, named Diabellium. Diabellium is a brittle vantablack metal that appears in dense native clusters rather than in ore form. It is believed to be the result of huge numbers of devil bones ending up deep underground, similar to how coal forms. Tt can be alloyed with iron to make Devil Steel, a material that increases fear in those wounded by it, as long as there was fear to increase, and is thus used to keep slaves in-line. The Endless Dark is made of pure Diabellium, magically reinforced against damage.   One of the very few parts of the economy that are not the realm of slave labor is that of magic items, which constitute a major part of the Starflame economy. Given the sheer proportion of wealthy Starflame Drow, the market for these magic items is quite large. Many magic items are purchased for the sake of keeping slaves in-line or improving combat effectiveness of Drow soldiers. Most mages and magic item makers are female Drow, with a small subset of males and half-blooded females doing so as well. Slaves have no hand in magic item creation besides gathering raw materials.   The Starflame Kingdom primarily trades with more distant powers, typically those accessible only on the other side of the Casava Planar Canal who they do not capture slaves from. They import large sums of gold from Meisaleh and sell them manufactured goods and rare underground delicacies, which many Renepalian patricians also choose to buy despite Drow attacks on their southern shores.  


  The Starflame Army is divided into two primary branches - the Slave Army, and the Special Response Formations (SRF). The slave army forms a majority of the Starflame army, and is made up of 300,000 trained, well-conditioned, and heavily indoctrinated slave soldiers, trained to serve as durable and ultimately expendable heavy infantry. They are expected to follow orders nearly absolutely, and are known to show practically no initiative in battle, simply obeying the orders of their Drow officers. They are expected to hold an enemy in-place and whittle away at their numbers in brutal attritional combat, or to provide supporting fire with volleys of heavy crossbows, as the SRF performs their tasks and achieves their objectives. The SRF are purely made up of Drow and Fungus Queens, as well as the latter's servants as an extension of themselves. These units are formed from various martial social clubs and cliques who enroll as SRF units, and are grouped together based on specialty. Due to their modus operandi of fast attack and exploiting openings, most SRF units are deployed in forces no bigger than regiments, and often as small as cooperating squads for behind-the-line operations.   Drow battle doctrine calls for swarms of Slave infantry to storm over the enemy's line and hold them in-place, forcing them to commit the majority of their forces to holding the position. While this in progress, SRF units will maneuver to target officers, commanders, generals, supplies, ammo, and vulnerable units and positions. Slowly, the enemy's advantages are worn down and destroyed, allowing the slave army to break through and overwhelm them. SRF units are typically composed of light infantry or light cavalry, and often carry weapons for dealing with armored opponents, pistols, bombs, and applicable wands. Battlemages and clerics are deployed as part of the of SRF units, and military engineers and sappers can be found in both divisions, often skilled slaves or male Drow volunteers. Siege weapons are handled by skilled members of the Slave Army, or by SRF units employing large tamed monsters able to batter down gates and walls.   The Starflame Navy is composed primarily of various wood, cannon-armed frigates and a small number of larger ships-of-the-line. However, they make use of oar-and-sail driven galleys for scouting, subterfuge, firebombing, and various other general strategic purposes. Of course, the oars are driven by slaves. In times of emergency, the large number of slave-taking sloops can be commandeered for a time, retrofitted with cannons and other military apparatuses for various wartime purposes.  


  The vast majority of all free people in the Starflame Empire are Drow, whether half or full-blooded. It is illegal to enslave anyone of Drow blood, besides a demi-blooded male who are considered the racial equals of a non-Drow woman. 99% of all free people who live in Starflame are Drow, with the meager 1% mostly being freed slaves, Fungus Queens, and a tiny number of free immigrants. These immigrants, as a general rule, only come when invited by the Council or Queen, as no-one who hasn't been invited by them is safe from the possibility of being enslaved illicitly. Immigrants tend to be housed under guard in comfortable apartments in government buildings, both to protect them from random enslavement and to keep an eye on potential spies. Most visitors of this kind represent the trade interests of foreign nations who maintain some kind of ties with the Starflame state.   The distribution of slaves is relatively homogenous - about 35% are humans, mostly from Stormakt and Tel Iskarra. 25% are halflings, though this number is dropping slightly as Starflame fears antagonizing the Canate Princes, their informal allies, and so slave breeding is the main way more are gained. Another 15% are dwarves, mostly kidnapped from Karaz Taruhm, though nowadays it is considered risky to attack Taruhm villages given how they travel together and are armed. Similarly, snakefolk form a distinct but small minority, mostly as status symbols - their ability to constrict and squeeze their masters to death if given the chance means that only the most confident or well-guarded keep one. Elves are incredibly rare as slaves, since most of them are just killed when captured. However, some Drow, either out of decadence or due to a desire to humiliate their ancestral rivals, will keep elves as pleasure slaves or concubines. Orcs and half-orcs, both contrasting and matching the elves, are seen as exotic, exciting, and interesting, and for that reason often are also objects of desire and affection when taken as slaves.   All law-abiding citizens of Starflame follow Heikka, the state-sponsored and legally mandatory cult of the Goddess of Drow, Darkness, Caves, Domination, and Victory. Her cult represents the perspective that Drow have the right to the surface and the caves, that they are entitled to rule over everything they can take and hold. A tiny cult exists that follows Morgen, the Drow Goddess of Light, Peace, Contentment, Humility, and Prosperity, who advocate that the Drow should remain in their caves where they were made to thrive and carve out their own niche unopposed. A select few demented cults worship Reeva, the daemonic Drow Goddess of Evil, Cannibalism, Selfishness, Greed, and Violence, and patron of the Driders, in hopes of gaining power and perhaps even becoming a Drider. Fewer still return from the depths uttering unknowably syllables of ancient divinities - most are killed for such thought, but a few slip through the cracks. Most slaves are taught to revere Heikka as well, but many cling to their ancestral traditions, often in forms altered by years, decades, sometimes even centuries of passing them down in isolation. Many turn to Salavakas, Goddess of Liberation, Freedom and Violent Revolution   Universal education is available to Drow and other citizens. This is an extensive program that prepares any given Drow to partake in low-level administration, culture work, and other programs, and primes them for higher education which is available to free to high-performing female Drow students, and at a premium to others relative to their racial and gender background. Slaves are not educated unless their parents were skilled slaves, in which case the parent is expected to, with the support of Drow teachers, pass on ther knowledge to their children. Failure to do so will result in harsh reprisal action against the slave in-question, and possibly family if it is deemed that their failure as intentional sabotage.  


  As previously mentioned, the Starflame Drow have an absolute matriarchy and their society is highly stratified on gender and racial lines and based on one being a slave or not. The hierarchy is like this:   Top   Female Pureblood Drow   Male Pureblood Drow AND Female Half-Blood Drow   Male Halfblood Drow AND Female Non-Drow   Male Non-Drow AND Female Elf   Male Elf   Bottom   The reason for elves being below other non-Drow is due to the fact that the existence of non-Drow elves is seen as a direct insult to their species, a mockery made by the non-Drow Gods. This is not rooted in any known theology or biology, and just seems to exist to create a united identity based on the existence of a perpetual enemy. Like the rest of the race-gender hierarchy, this exists for the benefit of the strongest Drow matriarchs and power-brokers. The Drow household is run by the eldest woman in the house. Elves as family of species age quite gracefully, and so a matriarch can typically lead the household till her last day. Most children move out for an apprenticeship as an elite artisan, bureaucrat, warrior, leader, caster, cleric, slave overseer, or if their parents can afford an estate and slaves for them, a planter aristocrat.   Slaves lack any real family - family groups are intentionally broken up when possible to help break the spirit of new slaves, and prevent excess camaraderie and solidarity. However, species are intentionally kept homogenous due to their similar capabilities allowing them to effectively work certain jobs, meaning that found family and shared culture do allow groups of slaves to form communities.   Starflame weapons technology is just about average, but their manufacturing technology has been given little need to catch up with other nations. This is due to the massive availability of manual labor in the form of slaves. They are, however, the most advanced tunnellers in the world, able to build an entire multi-layered underground empire of dense, populous cities. They have also done an excellent job figuring out mundane means of minimizing their troubles with exposure to sunlight, and most sun-sensitive species borrow many of their innovations.   Basking in their slave society, Drow culture is decadent, social, exploratory, and forever seeking more profit. Drow consider charity outside of one's family to be a form of pity, and pity is seen as tantamount to contempt. They believe in independence and ruthless pragmatism as fundamental virtues. In an ultimately circular example of reasoning, one being socially influential and able to dominate others entitles one to the right to do so - and when one loses their power and influence, they have clearly lost what made them worthy of dominating.   Drow women emphasize their femininity in their clothing, typically tight around the chest and rear. This is not seen as particularly erotic in their own society, but has a similar meaning to men wearing codpieces in their clothes or armor. Drow men are not expected to dress modestly per se, but being too showy about their masculinity is generally frowned upon and curious. Most clothes is made of spider silk, but some wealthy Drow use cotton or wool as status symbols due to their relative rarity. Silver, Cold Iron, and Diabellium are common materials for jewelry, the latter typically encased in a thin clear resin to maintain durability. The richer Drow don't neglect these materials, but add gold and/or Devil Steel to create contrasting colors.   The Drow have imported many forms of music with their slaves, and almost all of them are indulged by someone or another. Their native music is impactful, dramatic, and has its origins in pre-hunt rituals. It is heavy on percussions, and they are the inventors of the violin, which are played at a frantic pace. Most Drows spend the majority of their evenings after their work day attending social functions, friend gatherings, parties, and entertainment venues. Gladiator tournaments are seen as an important day, and even slaves might get day off to attend from the physically segregated cheap seats, if they've saved enough of their meagre money rewards to afford to sit there. The Drow enjoy many board games and card games, especially games with mindgames and duplicity involved, and they have originated many fascinating, tricky, and complicated economic games - in particular, they are quite fond of a game called Consortium, a game where players must seize and financially protect their control over slave-trading grounds and their monopolies on them. The mixture of randomness, strategy, and tense negotiations between players is seen as a preparation for the harsh world of Starflame finance. Fungal wines are the common traditional drink for celebrations and free time, but wheat beer and whiskey have become a delicacy, as has rum. Coffee, however, is the drink of choice during the day, and is even made available to some skilled slaves during good coffee harvests when prices go down.


Type: Nation, Kingdom, Crowned Republic, Oligarchic   Continent: Beacepheron   Population: 18,000,000 (10,000,000 free people, 8,000,000 slaves)   Standing: Local Power, Stagnant   Allies: None   Rivals: None   Enemies: Most countries they have contact with, but especially the Moonlight Kingdom and the Karaz Taruhm Shogunate

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Master Moondare
Laure Yates
1 Jan, 2022 21:49

Wow, I love the amazing (and disturbing) details in your article - the bit about the 'eye caviar' was particularly chilling ... and then I remembered 'foie gras' so here we go. Also, the slave trade looks alien, but is somewhat similar to the abomination it was a few centuries ago on this earth. I was quite taken by the amoeba growing! That's clever and the spiders being farmed for the silk - that all makes sense! Loads of other interesting stuff: the Fungus Queens! Another interesting bit of lore there. I think they deserve their own article. I am going to bookmark this and come back to it from time to time. Briliant.

12 Jan, 2022 19:33

I'm glad you found my work so enjoyable, and chilling - that was my intention; more or less, to create a civilization who embody the banality of evil, people who simply uphold the status quo because it's good for them, no matter how cruel the system is. I'll be sure to write an article on the Fungus Queens sometime - I benefit from using the Pathfinder bestiary in a lot of ways, but I do very much like to alter lore to better suit my setting, so there is some fertile ground to work with there.