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Dzel Luak

General description

The Dzel Luak are a group of Luak tribes living around the Kalon Korkaks opening of the Moiyeli chamber of the Eastern Erana Cave-tinent (EECT). They used to live not only underground, but also on the surface, where they built a permanent settlement with sophisticated and impressive architecture. This enabled them to take advantage of surface as well as underground resources. Eventually the Dzel retreated back into the EECT for reasons unknown. The assumption that this might be the result of the Umoyaleyns presence in the Moiyeli Swamplands is probably wrong, since older Duiniken sources already describe the Kalon Korkáks ruins as mostly abandoned, with the exception of some 'shadows' - a term that might refer to the Dzel, trying to avoid contact with other peoples.

History

The Luak, along with the Joun, were the first creations of the gods given the Gift of Reason. Like Men and Len now, they used to settle Samthô, until their hybris was punished by the gods and they were replaced with Men and Len. The Luak had to retreat further and further and nowadays hardly live on Samthô's surface. Same is true for the Dzel, who are descendends of the old Luak. They have lived through two cataclysmic events, the Thousand-Year-Rain, which was aimed at the Luak to punish them for becoming presumptuous enough to try to rival the gods, as well as the the Great Scorching, that was aimed at the human Empire of Asargam for the same reason.

So the Dzel Luak have been living in the EECT probably ever since that time, but nothing can be said for sure, as no written records exist. The ruins in the Kalon Korkaks on the other hand prove, that the Dzel Luak at least tried to venture out of the cave-tinent at some point in time. When they began to do so and when they retreated back into Samthô's depths, though, is unknown. The first outside proof of their presence in the Moiyeli Swamplands are the aforementioned Duiniken sources.

Organization

The Dzel Luak have established a number of settlements and encampments throughout their area of distribution. While the Kalon Korkaks ruins and also some of the larger structures in the EECT suggest a once sedentary lifestyle, the Dzel have now shifted to a semi nomadic lifestyle instead. A few dozen tribes exist, numbering between 40 and 100 individuals each. They share a strong feeling of belonging-together-ness and roam all about the area, often meeting and exchanging goods, information or individuals for adoption or marriage. When not migrating, the Dzel tribes occupy the settlements and encampments for a certain period of time, until the surrounding area is depleted of resources and the area is left again for regeneration. Depending on the size of the settlement and the surrounding lands, sometimes two tribes occupy the same space for some time. Utilizing these fixed infrastructures also includes maintenance and improvements, so they remain a safe and viable resting and living spot for the entire people.

The societal structure of the tribes is quite simple. One core family is dominant and leads the group. Within this core family, the most important role falls to the matron of the family. Also the inheritance of goods, genealogy and positions of power is strictly matrilinear. This is true for both layers of Dzel Luak society, the dominant families and the commoners. Men, though, are also charged with important tasks. Almost the entirety of cultic and religious responsibilities lies in their hands. Also they have a veto-right in every decision. Normally the leading woman makes decisions, which are then followed through by everyone. Should a matter be controversial, though, it is the Men who alone have the right to initiate a discussion and mediation, to defer the matter to the entire group instead of only one individual. This right is not used often, but rather occasionally. Having this veto-right put into the Men's hands was probably to minimize conflicts between the stratified and specialised leading group of women. In case of a veto, the matter in question is simplified as much as possible. In most cases that's a decision between A and B. The entire group then votes for either one of the suggestions and the result is seen as binding, as to not further a potential divide over the matter.

Beliefs, cult and festivities

The Dzel are strongly connected with the elements Earth and Growth. Considering their mobile lifestyle this might seem surprising, as most peoples associated with these elements are sedentary. It must be noted though, that the Dzel life in a Lúsmorl relying ecosystem, which does not lend itself well to sedentary cattle keeping and agriculture. This necessitates moving from place to place to give the land time to regenerate.

This discrepancy is also reflected in their religion. The two most distinguished Men in each tribe are the Priest of the Ground and the Priest of the Mushrooms. They represent the two elements and both play a role in the processes of settling down and moving on. Leadership during migration on the other hand is a strictly worldly affair and governed by the leading women, as said above.

Lacking a cycle of the year due to the specific conditions in Lúsmorl ecosystems, there are no beliefs or festivities related to this matter. Everything Revolves around the immediacy of the tribes surroundings and the necessities facilitated by them. The Priest of the Mushrooms (edzedkhemed in their tongue) is a specialist for all growth-related magic. He talks to the mushroom spirits (makkhara) requesting guidance and forgiveness for the exploitation of the resources the mushrooms, lichen and the few plants provide. He is also the preparator for the hunt, as conversing with the mushroom spirits gives insight in which animals are allowed or even necessary to be hunted. Thus, even though the Dzel Luak themselves demand a certain toll from their environment, the delicate balance of the ecosystem is also provided by their prudent and responsible handling of and interventing in the ecosystem.

The Priest of the Ground is tasked with presiding over the interaction with the non-animate environment. He has the power of foresight and talks to the spirits of stone (malala) or soil (makebebi) or hollows (makhakhla) to unveil sources of minerals, clay deposits, metal ores or detecting waterways hidden away in the rocks. This is mostly of a very pragmatic interest, as the resourcecs are needed by the tribe and also water, which is abundant in many Lúsmorl ecosystems, might prove to be a problem when trying to build structures, as it erodes them away over time or provides a source of unwanted cold or humidity in living quarters or storage rooms.

Furthermore the priests are important for rites revolving around settling or departure, as well as certain rites of passage, as for example the birth rite (mekakh), were the Priest of the Mushrooms prepares a certain scoby culture and a substrate for it for the newborn (zitemul), that plays a role again in the wedding ceremony (medzadz), which in turn is presided over by the Priest of the Ground. The ferment is mixed with the partners' ferment, a drink called Phekhamud which is then shared by both to seal the marriage.

International politics and outward contacts

Little is known about the Dzel's interactions with neighbouring cultures. The access to the surface in the Kalon Korkáks, though, is fortified by defensive structures unmistakably crafted by the Dzel. This indicates that some kind of conflict must have played a role in abandoning the surface structures there. The Umoyaleyn of the Moiyeli Swamplands celebrate their victory over the swamp dwellers there, but leave it in the unclear, who these swamp dwellers actually were. As no evidence has been found of any other culture but the Dzel and the Umoyaleyn, it is very likely, that the term 'swamp dwellers' refers to the Dzel. That means there was no culture or group of people in between occupying the Moiyeli Swamplands or only the ruins of the Kalon Korkáks.

The defensive stuctures are mainly systems of walls, that are potentially easy to defend from the inside. It seems though, that the Dzel adopted their semi-nomadic lifestyle soon after having retreated back underground, so there are no permanent defense troops stationed there. The structures are being used every now and then by temporarily settling Dzel tribes, which treat and maintain them like every other settlement or encampment in their area of distribution.

Further into the EECT though, into the direction of the Central Erana Mountain Range chamber, there is a society of Kubolen, calling themselves 'Mountain Twilight Nobles' ('Sanad Kankunz Takori' in their language) settling in the immediate vicinity of the Luak. The contacts between the two groups are few though and often rather hostile, as the Dzel despise the Sanad Kankunz Takori's ways of living in permanent settlements and having developped an economic and agricultural system relying on technology, rather than nature. In their eyes, the Sanad Kankunz Takori harm the earth and the mushrooms, which is indeed true, as the Sanad Kankunz Takori mostly clear out certain areas and grow different kinds of mushrooms of plants there, irregardless of the original flora and fauna. The Sanad Kankunz Takori on the other hand are prejudiced against the Dzel, not only because they are Luak and thus fell into disgrace before the gods, but also because of the Dzel often ravaging and plundering their borderlands. While the Sanad Kankunz Takori are technologically advanced and should have an edge over the more simply equipped Dzel. The Dzel make up for this disadvantage in having superior tactics and even having developped a form of whistling language, imitating the caves' and caverns' critters, to convey critical information about the enemy and orders in case of an armed conflict without the Sanad Kankunz Takori even noticing, that there is sophisticated long distance coordination and communication taking place.


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