Dustren (aka Stone Elves) Primary City: Grunholt System of Government: Imperial The Stone Elves within the Maelstrom call themselves the Dustren. They are all descended from Stone Elf slaves that were brought to the region by the Dominion tens of thousands of years ago. The ancient tales even say that they are distant relatives to the Getragen. Stories say that the slaves or their ancestors were taken from scattered villages of Stone Elves living in and around the mountains beyond the Maelstrom and far to the south. All the Stone Elves today were born within the Maelstrom as have been their ancestors for many generations. History History states that tens of thousands of years ago the Getragen of the Dominion brought many slaves on an expedition to study the Maelstrom, at the time it was a large storm, but a relatively small phenomenon within Maelstrom Bay. It emanated magical energy (as it does today) and was described as a black storm on the surface of the sea, swirling and chaotic, and unmoving in location. A hamlet was constructed to house those studying it on the site where the city of Wolkestadt now stands. The Getragen studies are believed to have created the First Maelstrom event, causing the Maelstrom to expand to a diameter of over three hundred miles and forcing everyone in that radius to resurrect and destroying all structures. History states the Getragen (who were physically changed after the First Maelstrom Event) were unable to leave because of the new boundary of the Maelstrom and began crafting the Cloud Empire and conquering or absorbing all neighboring cultures. The Stone Elves, still slaves to the Empire, were forced to assist lending their superior abilities, reason and mental abilities to the efforts. However they became trusted servants to the Empire and thus privy to many of its less known secrets. Six thousand years ago it is believed that the Empire attempted to get rid of the Maelstrom which prompted the Second Maelstrom event which destroyed all that had been built of the Cloud Empire and expanded the radius of the Maelstrom further. This time the Stone Elves fled the Empire and on the ruins of a destroyed Imperial city founded the settlement of Grunholt. There they set up a government of peace and logic. At last the Stone Elves were slaves no more and were able to rule their own destiny. They were aware, however, that the statistical probability of this lasting was low, especially when reports began to come in that the remnants of the Cloud Empire were retaking all their old holdings and rebuilding that which was lost after the Second Maelstrom Event. This was when the Stone Elves came up with a plan. They knew they lacked the numbers to fight the Cloud Empire, which was backed by the ariel might of the Gryphons, however they vowed that they would rejoin as citizens not slaves. Thus when the armies of the Empire marched to Grunholt in 444 of the Third Era (over four hundred years after it was founded) the Dustren logically negotiated with them. They vowed that they would be loyal to the Empire in return for equal status as citizens and the right to continue to rule Grunholt in the Emperor’s name. The Empire agreed, elevated the head of the Dustren ruling council to a High Lord, and Grunholt and it’s surrounding lands were annexed to be ruled by the new minor house, House Grund. The Stone Elves have since grown to become capable and stable middle managers for the Empire. Few are official nobility but it is quite common to see Stone Elves as magistrates, officials, bureaucrats and cabinet members. They obediently perform their duties, seemingly without batting an eye at the Empire’s more ruthless actions. As such they tend to fly under the radar and are often viewed as trusted servants to the rulers of the Empire. Some argue that little has changed from when they were slaves, but the Dustren know better. Physical Traits Stone Elves resemble elves but their skin tone is limited to a range from pale white to light grey. Like elves they have pointed ears, though they also tend to have arched eyebrows as well. Many stone elves have black lips. Their eye color range is no different than other races and while their hair is often dark, lighter hair is not unusual. Mental Powers Dustren have telepathic powers that they hone with practice, dedication and discipline. These powers also allow them to resist mental domination magics as well as help others to shrug off similar spells. Beyond that, however, they can use these abilities to enter another’s mind to help them with any emotional difficulties or issues they may be having (as per the Alliance Rule Book). Oddly, while the powers to help another shrug off magical effects work, the ability to enter into the mind of another does not engage with Gryphyons. When this were attempted after the Second Maelstrom Event there were terrible consequences, the Gryphon was driven mad and the Stone Elf nearly died. It was concluded that the mental abilities of the two races were not compatible and they could not read one another’s minds. Some have suggested that there might be better luck with Getragen now that they have returned, though the Empire and House Grund have outlawed any attempts. Culture The Dustren are a people dedicated to dispassionate logic above all else. They are as emotional as any race, but their ancestors long ago concluded that giving weight and actions to those emotions led to the kind of chaotic disasters that other races so frequently find themselves in. They value discipline and basing all their decisions on logic and reason rather than emotions. They find emotional displays or decisions based on emotional reactions to be highly distasteful. They tend to consider themselves better and more disciplined than other races because they can put aside their feelings and intellectually examine the course of action most likely to obtain the desired results in all situations. These abilities do not come naturally nor easily and Stone Elves must exercise extreme discipline and meditate daily to find their center. The nature of the meditation can be anything, from the traditional sitting and breathing, to origami, reading philosophy, or combat exercises. As long as their meditation clears the mind, allows the Dustren to find their center, maintain their dispassion, and work through any feelings that are troubling them any method is acceptable. Some Dustren reject dispassion or are unable to maintain the necessary detachment from their feelings. These sad individuals react emotionally on varying levels and are said to have fallen to Aufregung (literally: “excitement.”) This is viewed as a serious mental illness by Stone Elves and they are often sent to the Geistighaus, a facility in Grunholt that is tended by Dustren masters of discipline and mental abilities to try to cure them of their inability to master their emotions. Sadly it is not uncommon for Dustren sent to the Geistighaus to end up there for life if their insanity cannot be cured. Dustren do not really have romantic relationships or marriage as other races think of it. Dustren acknowledge the physical needs of their bodies, and as such may take a partner for recreation purposes and to fulfill their bodily needs. Naturally they approach the matter very logically preferring a partner they feel will produce superior offspring in case of pregnancy or one who offers the best recreation for the most efficient effort. Dustren do not attach emotion to these couplings and view these physical needs with no more emotion than that of needing food or water. Two Dustren who prefer to recreate with one another above others may form a partnership, but only if it makes logical sense and their goals do not conflict. A partner abandoning their career to follow the other to another location, for example, would be frowned upon as illogical. Partnerships whose goals coincide may, and sometimes do, remain together for centuries, or even for life. Those who race change to Stone Elves or who marry into Stone Elf families are viewed unfavorably in general. There is no particular stigma for Dustren who opt to recreate with someone of the same gender, it is simply a logical decision if that offers the best benefit for the most efficient effort for that individual. However, Dustren all have a duty to have children for procreation purposes and so if one has not procreated at least once in their first 300 years of life, the Population Council in Grunholt (who is in charge of ensuring that the Dustren population is at an acceptable rate) will arrange a pairing between two genetically compatible Dustren and it is their duty to mate until an offspring is created. The Erhoht While all Stone Elves have the ability to telepathically communicate with others and help them with emotional issues, the Erhort are the undisputed masters of this, having abilities and techniques far beyond those that most Dustren can achieve even in a lifetime of practice. Many of them work to help the patients of the Gestighouse. Those that don’t are often teachers or otherwise help others to learn. They tend to be serene and emotionless, even for a Stone Elf, and are considered masters of discipline. The stories say that when the Stone Elves fled their old slavemasters after the First Maelstrom Event that some of them took to the sea. There a storm had damaged their ship and left them drifting. Eventually they were drifting towards the Maelstrom and for days, in spite of their best efforts, they floated just on the edge of the magical storm staring into the whirling magical void. What exactly they saw has been lost to time, but the stories say that some of them went mad and hurled themselves into the storm, while others became catatonic forevermore, those that survived and stayed sane were mutated by the magical energies of the storm, their hair changing to unnatural colors such as blue, pink or green and mutating to enormous thick strands. Their salvation came when a pirate ship captured them, hoping they were valuable. The surviving Dustren were captured as slaves to be sold. Instead, weeks later, the ship put to shore in Maelstrom Bay, piloted by the Dustren. It’s pirate crew seemed to have inexplicably turned on themselves and murdered one another. Hearing about the settlement of Grunholt they made their way there and joined their society. Over the years occasionally an Erhoht will be born, descended from one of the originals. Their mental powers are always far superior to others. There are currently believed to be less than 50 Erhoht in the world, the majority of whom are found in Grunholt, living quiet existences. A few reside outside of society or wander the wilderness, often deep in meditation of the world. They are considered incredibly wise and are often sought out by Dustren citizens who wish advice on some matter. Because of their mastery of mental powers and their often enlightened wisdom they are highly regarded in Dustren Society, Unfortunately there is a small minority of Erhoht, known simply as “the Fallen.” who have succumbed to Aufregung. These individuals are incredibly dangerous as the immense mental power wielded by the Erhort, but without the discipline and emotional control, is disastrous. These individuals inevitably drift to villainy and madness. The first, and most infamous, of the Fallen was named Xerdet. Thousands of years ago, in 202 of the Third Era, he was convicted after performing no less than 135 serial killings. Before he was obliterated to his final death he was asked why he had committed these acts. The only reply he would give was to coldly state with a cruel smile “because logic demanded it.” Other Fallen are even more dangerous, eschewing all pretense of emotional control and using their powers to sow havoc and destruction. The Fallen are incredibly rare, and when taken alive they are kept under constant sedation and held in the Gestighaus by the most powerful of Erhoht. Dustren do not like to talk of the Fallen and will rarely, if ever, discuss it with a non Stone Elf. A PC cannot be an Erhoht (or a Fallen, obviously). Life Cycle Dustren children are raised by whichever parent makes the most logical sense if one (or both) of the parents do not reside in the same region. However, all Dustren view it as their duty to educate and look out for children, and so there is something of a communal aspect to the child rearing. Stone Elf children are trained to begin controlling their emotions and training their mind and discipline once they begin to speak. There are a number of Stone Elf schools in Grunholt and Burgholten that educate children in basic meditation, emotional control and discipline that Dustren children attend from the ages of 4-10. Dustren who live in rural areas or live far from these locations make every effort to send their child to them for education, the cost of which is subsidized by House Grund. Those families who cannot afford it make every effort to train their children within their own community, other local Dustren helping the family to raise the child as best they can. At the age of 10, a Dustren child is expected to have mastered the proper discipline to control their emotions. Upon graduation from school at that age a Dustren child must select their chosen profession and begin taking efforts to receive the proper training and/or apprenticeships. As with all things in the Empire, those with means have a greater ability to choose their crafts. Those of more humble means will often have more limited options, such as returning home to take up the profession of one of their parents or choosing from a profession where the training/apprenticeship fees are low enough to be affordable. By the age of 25 a Dustren can petition to be judged an adult from an unofficial council of the eldest and/or most respected Stone Elves in their community. They are judged on logic, discipline and mental ability, and must have no less than the ability to enter into and calm the mind of another to be judged an adult. Once judged an adult they may choose a surname. Some will choose a name of a respected relative or ancestor as their surname. To show they are honoring one who came before the ancient word “von” is used, so a Dustren named Jolan who was honoring his relative or ancestor Vinnik would be “Jolan von Vinnik.” Others reject this tradition and create their own surname, believing the reference to an ancestor’s actions illogical as a Dustren is expected to form his or her own reputation. Dustren who are not recognized as an adult are not allowed to choose a surname and are treated as children and often regarded as lacking sufficient experience to have enough perspective for a convincing position. There is not a limit to how many times a Dustren can petition to be acknowledged as an adult. Dustren live to the age of 1000 years or so, though some have grown as old as 1300. Their physical aging slows down around 20, so they appear much younger to many races in spite of their actual age. Dustren who live more stressful lives often age faster than those who live peaceful lives, but even still they will often live for several centuries at worst. Once a Dustren begins to physically slow down due to age to the point that it impacts their career, they are known to retire from physically demanding pursuits, logically concluding that their diminished ability is a detriment. Instead many will turn their efforts to passing on their knowledge, either by direct tutelage, going into teaching or simply writing their experiences down as books or treatises. When a Dustren dies, either by age or misadventure, there is a period of calm discussion to reflect on the life of the deceased and the benefits they brought to the community and those they knew. Open mourning is obviously discouraged, but often lessons taught and tangible benefits the deceased brought to their community are discussed and acknowledged. Their possessions are divided either by the written wishes of the deceased or by the most logical separation of the goods based on who would get the most use from them, as determined by the deceased’s closest relation. The body is then disposed of in the means that makes the most logical sense (buried to fertilize the land, thrown overboard if on a boat, burned if afflicted by a communicable disease, etc). The Big Idea Thousands of years ago, when the Dustren concluded that the Cloud Empire would return to claim Grunholt, the Stone Elves came up with what was called The Big Idea. It was based around two basic principles. The first, that though the Dustren would be forced to rejoin the Empire they would do it as equal citizens, not as slaves. This was successful. The second is very closely guarded secret, even amongst the Dustren. Though Dustren will never discuss any aspect of the Big Idea in mixed company under any circumstances, it is rumored to be in regards to the Empire’s more aggressive ruthlessness throughout history. Not all Dustren are active participants in the Big Idea, but those that are part of it are said to “Think Alike” as code. Even still, participants of the Big Idea will not discuss the matter openly. No Stone Elf would ever dream of openly discussing the Big Idea regardless of whether they are involved with it or not. It is generally accepted that there is the very real probability that should the Empire become aware of any sort of secret plan, they would wipe out all Dustren or return them to their slave status. Most projections indicate genocide is more likely. On the rare occasion where a Dustren has threatened to break ranks or has openly alluded to it they quickly find themselves the victims of unfortunate accidents, simply vanish, or are committed to the Geistighaus amidst claims that they have fallen to Aufregung. No PC May come into game as an active participant in the Big Idea, though if a PC wishes becoming active in it can be a character goal. Stone Elf Populations Nearly all Dustren within the Maelstrom are found within the Empire. The majority are found in and around the city of Grunholt and part of the House Grund, in and around Bergholten, often under House Sterne, or serving directly within House Stratos. Within House Stratos Dustren often have positions as magistrates, administrators and bureaucrats. Their quiet efficiency makes them trusted servants of the Empire and they have been so quietly capable and reserved in their judgements that nobles rarely have cause to even consider questioning their actions or loyalty without a great deal of cause. It is commonly believed that Stone Elves cannot lie, and naturally the Dustren do nothing to correct this misperception, often fostering it instead. Within House Sterne, Dustren serve similar functions as in House Stratos, though they are also strongly represented in both the education community and amongst the celestial wizards of the Mage’s Guilds. House Grund rules Grunholt and the surrounding area and is the cultural center of the Dustren within the Empire. Their overlords are House Stratos and they specialize in farming and education, particularly with a mind to administration and accounting, within the Empire. Non-Dustren who wish to learn about administration often travel to Grunholt to be educated on the matter. It is rare to find a non Stone Elf in House Grund. Grunholt Founded on the remains of an Imperial City destroyed in the Second Maelstrom Event approximately 6,000 years ago, Grunholt was created by the escaped Dustren slaves. The city was constructed in an orderly and logical fashion and is certainly the easiest city in the Empire to navigate. For the most part the city is eerily quiet. There is remarkably little chatter, as Dustren do not engage in small talk and tend to only speak when necessary. Architecturally the city is constructed with mostly wood and some stone buildings, all of which are symmetrically built and with a maximum use of efficiency and space. Many of the buildings are nearly indistinguishable from one another but for the signs indicating a business. All streets have signs marking them and all buildings have a number stenciled on the front, to help citizens navigate the city, thus directions given are as simply precise as a street name and number. The city has the largest and best regarded Dustren Children’s School and a number of academies that teach basic education in agriculture, administration, accounting, basic logistics, the law and a number of other civic or very practical professions. Their schools on Civic Education are considered the best in the Empire and many non Dustren who wish to enter these professions travel to Grunholt to learn these skills. House Grund controls Grunholt and the surrounding land and their income is primarily based upon farming the land around the city and income from the educational centers. House Grund is a vassal house to House Stratos and one of the very few minor houses to actually claim a city to among their holdings. The territory around the city owned by House Grun is small, but contains a few villages and several farms. Stone Elf Attitudes Towards other Races It should be noted that, overall, Stone Elves tend to view themselves as superior than other races because of their unrivaled discipline and ability to set emotions aside and make decisions based solely on logic.Given that, they have gathered generalizations of other races (though most Dustren would state that generalizations are only minimally useful.) Dryads: Almost no dryads have been encountered by the Dustren at this point. The few that have been encountered have been quiet, gentle and contemplative, earning a burgeoning respect from Stone Elves. Wylderkin: Logically, they are too short lived for a meaningful impact in the long term, however they have their uses in the short term. They are altogether too random and eclectic to be strongly counted on though. Dark Elves: Though legends say the Dark Elves that were fellow slaves were honorable and intelligent, none have been reliably encountered for thousands of years. Mystic Wood Elves: Skilled craftsmen, but hedonistic fools. Their adherence to feelings as a guiding force is the antithesis of the Dustren. Biata: Wasted potential. If they could shed their ruthlessness and tendency to manipulate for personal gain, they could have crafted the Empire into something great. Instead their ambition has led, and continues to lead, to untold travesties. Dwarves: Stubborn and emotional, dwarves cannot be counted upon to logically examine a situation and come to the most reasonable conclusion. Elves: Arguably the race with the most promise. Though as attached to sentiment and emotion as most other races, they are usually reasonable and their long lifespans give them a good perspective. Hoblings: Shortsighted and greedy. Dustren have little respect for most hoblings. Humans: Though too short lived to have true perspective, some humans stand out as reasonable, logical and worthwhile. Though the race itself is so varied and chaotic that it is difficult to trust any but an individual who has proven himself or herself. Selunari: Emotional and transitory. Stone Elves have little respect for the Selunari. They are too volatile and never put down roots, which the Dustren find highly illogical as one cannot build a proper society if always wandering. Oathsworn: The Dustren have no respect for the Stormborn and view them as little more than savages. They view the Azarka as primitive and foolishly emotional but are less dismissive of them than they are the Stormborn. As with the Selunari, Dustren find their nomadic lifestyle illogical. High Orcs: High Orc aggression and savagery gives the Dustren a low opinion of the race. They concede that it is impressive that such a short lived and recklessly aggressive race could craft a lasting kingdom however. High Ogres: Though they live too short of lives for true potential, they find their calm dedication to a goal (the eradication of Necromancy, in their case) to be admirable, especially for such an otherwise limited race.