Kel (Dummur Vin’Dur) Main city: Grimurlorinn, The City of Death and Shadows. Year of Reckoning: 3822 AF (After the Fall - measured in time since the groundquake) System of Government: Socialist Monarchy, Socialist Paramilitary Dictatorship Overview: “Shadows protect us, in Darkness there is life. Honor guides us, without it One is worse than dead.” The Dark Elves of the Maelstrom live under the spectre of their lost civilization. The Kel were once a thriving people with a huge metropolis, Grimurlorinn, at the center of the their culture. An elite tribe of scouts/rangers, the Dimmur Vin’Dur (the dark wind), lived outside the city and served as protectors, spies, and deterrents for people who would delve too deep near the Wahnsinn Cliffs. Shortly after a very powerful groundquake shook all of the lands within the Maelstrom, the Kel lost their city, and only their scouting force survived. There, in the scattered caves and caverns of the Sunless Lands, the Dummur Vin’Dur live still performing their duty: defending the cliffs, their traditions, and their honor. The Kel are a race of black skinned, white haired, pointy eared, underground dwelling people. The Kel shun sunlight as it causes them discomfort, and they hold Arleiki, honor, as more important than life and death. Occasionally, Dark Elves are born within the Empire, and whether by infidelity or some long dormant dark elf blood within some family lines the Imperial Law is clear: Any dark elf born in the Empire must be brought to the Wahnsinn Cliffs and left with the Dark Elves who live there. They are legally disjoined from the family that bore them. Adult Dark Elves are afforded Imperial Protection as a citizen race and may wander the land freely, though they very rarely do. The Life that Was: Grimurlorinn’s gates were said to be made from the skull of a Dragon, the walls carved from stone from the seabed, and at one time it was home to the commerce and intrigue of 200,000 citizens. It was a huge city deep under the surface of the earth, somewhere north of the Wahnsinn Cliffs and south of the Frostbite Mountains. From outside of the gate, the gargoyle decorated, sharp angled, walls went from floor to ceiling in a cavern easily 300 feet tall. The Kel claimed all area outside the view of the sun. In many caverns beyond the great walls, streams flowed, lakes pooled, and crops of plants thrived in the iridescent light of the fungus of the Sunless Lands. The city was split into quarters with a grand bazar directly behind the main gate. The Nungarr Quarter, home to the Monarch and their Council, as well as thousands of government officials and the wealthiest merchants and houses. The Baerinn - the agricultural quarter, the Skikkju - textile quarter, and the Fin’gresh - Punishment quarter were the other quarters of the city. Most of the working merchants class lived in the bazaar. The military branch of Grimurlorinn lived outside of the city proper in bulwarks, small in number but well supplied, trained, and equipped with powerful magic items. Used as punishment, Necromancy, though strongly regulated in day to day life, was used in transforming the offender into an undead servant, a Stiga, to be abused as was wished by the Ascended Masters. The undead were confined to Fin’gresh quarter of the city and were never allowed to perform any military actions due to the high honor of such positions. In the Fin’gresh quarter, slavery was also allowed - used as a punishment internally, and for any prisoners of war or explorers who delved too deep and discovered things that they should not know. Government: The monarch of the Kel was called the Nungarri. The Nungarri’s power was absolute, their commands final, and the state owned all lands and means of production. The Nungarri was seen as an unbroken line, a reflection of the ancestors before them - as such the Nungarri was only to ever issue one child, the Nungarru. The spouse of the Nungarri had no power and could be chosen from among any family with a highly honorable standing. The Nungarru became the Nungarri three days after the Nungarri died in a ceremony called the coronation. The Nungarri was considered more than themselves, and one with ancestor spirits, thus they were above the Edicts of Arleiki. A council of twenty advisors was chosen by the Nungarri, four from each quarter, and five from the Dummur Vin’Dur. When an advisor died, the Nungarri picked another, except for those from the Dummur Vin’Dur. Advisers from the military branch of Grimurlorinn were specially appointed by the head of the Dummur Vin’Dur, the Shade Weaver, and may or may not include themselves. The Council’s job was to manage each quarter fairly and with honor. In practice, these titles were hereditary. New laws would be written by the council and brought before the Nungarri who would decide if they would become law. Council members were given special privileges for their families and first picks for new business within their holdings. All citizens of the Sunless Lands were expected to work to the best of their ability to service the nation. Service to the nation was the highest honor, and so for many, this was to leave the city and become one of the Dummur Vin’Dur for a time. Honorable tours of duty were a quarter century among the Dummur Vin’Dur. Life Cycle: A family must have but one head. This can be a person of any gender and was typically chosen at the time of the marriage (the person from the most honorable or wealthiest family was typically the one who heads the house). If the head of the family became incapable of the duties of being the head of the family, those duties would pass to the spouse, and then to the eldest child and their spouse. Marriages were arranged by the heads of the extended families. The most wealthy and honorable of families spent the most time interviewing potential suitors and did the most direct planning. In lower families the Kel were more regularly allowed to marry whomever they wished as long their partner was approved - however, for the sake of tradition and to emulate the higher classes, the interview process was often followed. It was considered disgraceful to refuse a suitor that was chosen for the Kel, and divorce was unheard of. As an outcropping of this, many Kel were publicly unfaithful having affairs, yet remaining loyal to the married partner, all under the pretense that “no one knows.” Child rearing was done by either parent. The first few months, neither parent was expected to work so they could focus exclusively on the new child. By the end of three months, it was expected that one of the parents return to work but the other was allowed to remain at work on a limited salary provided by the state to perform child care duties for the first three years of the child’s life. At the age of three, all children could be enrolled in a state child education program taking them through their sixteenth year. When a child reached age fourteen, they were expected to, with their parents permission and assistance, choose their career. State education continued with a focus on skills for that career until the child was sixteen. At that point, they entered an apprenticeship or further education until the age of twenty when they were expected to be fully productive members of society. Young Kel were married between the ages of twenty five and thirty. Dark Elves do not age physically beyond 25-30 until they begin to slow down around 500 years old, and are considered Elders at 750 years old. At this point, elves begin to slow their aging yet again. Elves feel the pull of the beyond for their spirits, and the cycle of nature for their bodies starting at this age but they can continue in the mortal realm for many more centuries. At any point beyond becoming an Elder, and elf may choose to commit ritual suicide with honor. Typically elves choose to leave the world after about 1000 years, though it is not unusual for an elf to be active for 1250 years. Beyond the millennial age, though, elves frequently begin to experience dementia and other extreme signs of aging. Some have been known to linger on in this state for a few centuries, but most are made victims of Honor Killing, As such the eldest heir may euthanize a demented elder with no penalty. Typical life and death customs only apply to elves that spend most of their time in the Sunless Lands- those who spend too much time outside on the surface tend to face the symptoms of aging much more quickly. As the Kel are a long lived species they frequently change vocation throughout their lives. After serving with distinction in a chosen profession for one full century, the Kel may undertake a sabbatical and spend 5 years exploring any yearning they have to examine other vocations. Many take this opportunity to raise a child. They may then enter an apprenticeship, or secondary education, and join a new vocation. White is the color of death, only the dead are dressed in white. After a three day mourning period, the bodies are shrouded and interred in mausoleum. In death, all are honored, dishonor is forgiven. To burn a body is to engulf it in light - that is the most dishonorable thing that can be done. Relationship with the Empire: Diplomatic arrangements were established with the empire as far back as the middle of the 2nd Imperial Era. Grimurlorinn was not interested in the surface world, and the Cloud Empire was not interested in trying to conquer the Sunless Lands. The only point of contention at the time was the Dark Elf slaves among the Empire, to ease these contentious points, the dark elves were allowed to be purchased by Grimurlorinn until the Empire agreed to ban the ownership of Dark Elves. After the Second Maelstrom event, by the time of the 3rd era, the Empire had forgotten this arrangement. Rumors came to the Sunless Lands that dark elves were being enslaved by the Empire once again. The Dummur Vin’Dur confirmed this. Over the course of 100 years the Kel built an army for the purpose of “reminding” the Empire. News reached Grimurlorinn of a horrible plague that had decimated the Empire, so they bided their time a further 20 years before they marched. The Empire, still reeling from the Red Plague was unable to mount any defense against an army of approximately 30,000 (including powerful undead, celestial constructs, and elementals). The arrangement was made that ALL Dark Elves would be given unto the Sunless lands via caves in the Wahnsinn Cliffs from this day forward and that no citizen of the Empire would ever enter the caves in these cliffs under penalty of death. The Incident with the Selunari: Approximately 25 years before the Grand Quake there was a fad, some say which was inspired by a cryptic prophecy from an ancestor’s spirit which sayd that “the fate of the Kel is held on the surface,” wherein a sudden interest in the Surface began. Exotic spices, unusual animals, and even unique weapons and armor became all the rage among the wealthiest families. The Nungarri decreed that the Selunari, the people with no boundaries and no political tie to the Empire, would be allowed to bring a caravan of surface world materials once per year to trade. The grand bazaar was decreed to be the place for the event. The first Selunari caravan arrived on the appointed day but they brought among them a gryphon child - a strict violation of the commands issued by the Nungarri that no Imperial Citizen would be allowed in the Sunless lands. The Selunari claimed that the child was the grandchild of their king and was part of their family, and not an Imperial spy. But this was too much for the Nungarri. The Nungarri demanded the imprisonment and torture of the entire band of Selunari. It is said that they only died and were freed from their torture the day of the quake. The Founding of Stormbreak Keep: In response to the continued interest in the surface world, the Nungarri decreed that a spire would be built from Grimurlorinn into the world above, and that a keep would be built on the surface world. There they would trade with surface dwellers. The land above Grimurlorinn was empty, and the Empire had no worthy claim to it. It took a decade to reach the surface, and a further decade to build the keep. It was called Stobrjota (Storm Break) because when the dark elves first broke the ground and came to the surface, a powerful storm was raging. The Quake: The year that Stormbreak Keep was completed, Maelstrom bay was hit with a legendary ground quake. It toppled cities on the surface and seriously damaged Stormbreak keep, only the main structure remained, but the tunnels connecting it to the City were crushed. The defenders of Stormbreak keep were cut off as a harsh winter blew in from the Glacier. Grimurlorinn’s walls were cracked, many buildings fell, but the damage was manageable. The death toll was high, with approximately 1 in 10 dying under falling rock, and crushed buildings, a further 2 in 10 were lost to fires and smoke inhalation as the city burned. The grand library was lost along with thousands of years of history. Most unfortunately, many cavern systems which were used to grow food were flooded. A strict rationing system was implemented and expected to go on for at least five years. The people were hungry, and became paranoid that others were hoarding food (which was in some cases true). Once the major clean up was done within the city, and the walls repaired, a scouting force was sent through the Wahnsinn Cliff caves to Stormbreak keep to see how they had survived the winter. They reported back that some creatures had moved into the keep over the winter, and that there were no survivors. The Nungarri decreed that “relations” with the surface were over. The Fall of Grimurlorinn: The worst came during the summer of the year after the quake. Still slowly rebuilding, some horrible sickness was spreading within the starving city. Exactly what happened is not discussed, but the whole of the city fell to chaos and there were no living survivors by the end of the summer. The most powerful undead being in the city sealed the gate and took over the bazaar. The Stiga warned the Dummur Vin’Dur at the gate that the Nungarri was dead and the city was cursed for all time. Grimurlorinn was no more. Life as it is now: The Kel cling to their traditions. They are scattered through the Sunless lands in small stone villages. They have no large formal institutions any more, other than the military structure of the Dummur Vin’Dur. Marriage and child rearing traditions have continued but there is little enforcement behind the laws governing this. Since the quake there is no longer a Nungarri. The leader of the Dummur Vin’Dur, the Shade Weaver, is the defacto leader of the Kel. The Shade Weaver has four Shades beneath them, each responsible for a wing of the Dummur Vin’Dur. The Shade Weaver is replaced by one of the four Shades when it is time. The Wings include the support civilians who farm, build, and care for the elderly and young. Any person who is capable must serve in the Wing. The Dummur Vin’Dur subsist on small amounts of crops in caverns on the outside of Grimurlorinn, as well as with trade from the outside. Many believe that the surface world is so full of paths to dishonor that they will not speak while in the caves, or on the surface. Due to limited textile and manufacturing, the clothing, armor, and equipment that they use is well cared for but of poor quality. Frequently gear is supplemented with improvised simple weapons and rough cut fur or hide armor. A warrior could have rat fur arm guards and a 3000 year old ornate sword, with a cobbled together crossbow. With limited access to books, and lacking the means to make more, reading and writing are common but not ubiquitous. Grimurlorinn is considered Cursed. The Kel patrol and maintain the outer gate to ensure that nothing has gotten out and mourn their city. The four wings, Dre’Kie (Dragon), Kyel’Fu (Bat), U’glaa (Owl), and Moth (Moth) each follow the traditions with a slightly different style. Flying creatures of the night represent symbols for their Wings. The Dre’Kie Wing lives in huts on the far side of the cavern where Grimurlorinn lies. They wake to see their ancient home and marvel at their past. Proximity has given them the most opportunity to scavenge and they have the most relics of their people, ancient weapons and armor, furniture, glass, even parts of buildings. They most closely follow the old ways, and they long for a day when they can become powerful enough to take back their homeland. There are not many of the Dre’Kie, in part due to the complexity of their marriage arrangements, estimates put this number at around 1000. The Dre’Kie Wing have heard of the Wylderkin taking over “their” Keep and the subsequent capture by the Empire. Conversations have flared up recently suggesting that, since this Keep may be all that is left of their homeland, that the Kel should hold it. The Kyel’Ful Wing have for the most part turned their back on the old ways. They long for civilization of any sort. They accomplish this by raiding the surface world in very small numbers far and wide for raw materials and finished goods. As such, they have a wide understanding of the surface world, and also a wide collection of arms, armor, and other goods. They call home a very cramped set of caverns where they lack the space and means to create a manufacturing base. They master and marvel the things they steal but cannot reproduce them. They have a motto, “Take only the forgotten” and as such never take too much from any one area, and generally take broken down materials. There are about 1500 members of the Wing. The other wings call them surface scavengers. They are the most knowledgeable about the surface - knowledge which they share with the other tribes - , and some of their numbers even like some of the surface races (from afar, usually). The U’glaa Wing was able to gain control of a large cavern where they immediately began construction of a new village. They were able to establish, early on, community buildings as well as such things as a forge, school, and small farm. The building and crafting are not nearly as refined as they were in Grimurlorinn, but they feel that there is honor in the attempt to build anew. They have let go of many of the older traditions in lieu of making a life that can be more easily lived in a simpler way. As other Kel, they long for their old life, but they feel that they must move on and build a new civilization. They are interested in establishing trade with the surface world to import technology, arts, and books. The village, called Nylorinn, houses about 2000 people and is largely independent in supply lines. The Moth Wing lives almost exclusively in the caves and near caverns of Wahnsinn Cliffs. They eschew the trappings of their old life and have all but given up on the idea of civilization other than generation to generation survival. They barely read and write and dress most often in simple garments made from animal skins and furs. They use simple wooden weapons (clubs, bows, shields) though there are spellcasters of both celestial and earth magic among them. As there is an infux of dark elf infants and children from the Empire this Wing has grown the most over the past three thousand years, estimates put them at approximately 2000. Among the Moth Wing can be found several dozen Wylderkin, batkin, molekin, ratkin, and other kin who find homes underground. There has been a recent influx of these Wylderkin. The Moth Wing treat them well, and have started using them as trade ambassadors. The current Shade Weaver is of the Dre’kie wing. Bound in tradition, the Kel do not move forward. Celebrations: Ancestors Day - on a day that is coincidentally the first day of winter on the surface, ancestors are honored by telling tales of the old ways. Fasting - several days per month are spent fasting. These days vary from person to person. This tradition is a way of reminding the Kel of the suffering of the people of Grimurlorinn during its final days. Shadow Games - Several times per year, wings participate against each other in contests of physical strength and stealth. Grimurlorinn - a grand festival is held once per year at the gates of Grimurlorinn. The Shade Weaver names one person to be Nungarri for the day in an elaborate festival. Other Customs: Arleiki (Ar-Lik-EYE). Arleiki is the Kel tradition of honor. It is deeply ingrained in their culture and is difficult for the Kel to even explain. A noted sage among them documented the key features of Arleiki. One who abandons the honorable path, or is stripped of honor because of a treasonous act, is called Holur - the hollow ones. These individuals are marked on their faces with a circle to denote their emptiness. The Edicts of Arleiki: Loyalty: Loyalty to the Kel is of paramount honor, keeping the secrets of our race and defending the honor of our people is the highest order. Filial Reverence: The fathers and mothers of the Kel, and especially those who have fallen, are considered beyond reproach. Disrespect of the dead, or one’s living ancestors is considered a very dishonorable act. Purity: The body must be kept free of impurities. The culture must be kept free of the influence of outsiders. Benevolence: Unless declared an enemy, the Kel will not take action to harm another being, nor allow harm to befall them by inaction. Dignity: One must always act with pride in oneself, and in a manner which demands respect from others. Respect: How one acts towards others is a reflection upon the dignity that one has. Honesty: There is no honor in lying. Cleverly misleading, or misdirecting, an opponent shows intelligence and wisdom. Stoicism: One must not be overcome by any emotion, especially fear. Integrity: How one acts should be consistent irrespective of outsider observation. Lawful Conduct: The Law was made by our ancestors and their wisdom describes our actions. Taciturnus: Only speak when one has something of value to contribute (hollow pleasantries are considered nearly insulting, though honest ones are welcome, thus “How are you?” Earnestly expects a detailed response). Entering Grimurlorinn: Occasionally scavenging parties venture into the city to find a lost piece of information, equipment, or even magical artifacts. Rarely do the Kel make this journey unscathed. The city is filled with insane Stiga, hungry for flesh, as well as powerful undead sorcerers and peculiar creatures best left undescribed. Entering Grimurlorinn on a trek expunges the participant of this ritual of any dishonor regardless if the result is death or success, if the Holur Kel is seen after Grimurlorinn with no proof of death or success they are still Holur. Views on other races: When asked “What do you think of the surface dwellers?” Most of the Kel will answer “I do not.” They generally divide the world between dark elves, and everyone else. Seasoned surface travellers have gained some small insight into the peoples of the above world and have shared that opinion with the others. Biata: Not to be trusted, manipulative, and waiting for the opportunity to betray. Humans: Seen as Biata. Oathsworn: Seen as savage humans. Hobblings: Clever negotiators, probably the best of the so-called civilized surface races. Selunari: They are vile betrayers with no honor. Orcs: Little is known about them, they like their sense of savage honor. Ogres: Similar to Orcs, but the Ogres hate the Kel for some reason. Elves: As different to themselves as night to day. Sometimes this is interesting, sometimes infuriating. Stone Elves: Unusual creatures. As part of the Empire, they are not to be trusted, but they are fascinating. Mystic Wood Elves: Seen as they see elves. WylderKin: Uncultured beasts, barely sentient. Dryads: Seen as elven offshoots. Note that some Spore Dryads awoke in the Sunless Lands and live in a small enclave protected and avoided by the Kel.