The People of the Dragon
The name Denra-Lyr applies equally to a land and the people who inhabit it. Denra-Lyr, the land, lies on a large island not far from the southern tip of Dronistor; an island also occupied by the braashak forest of the salsham'ai tree folk. It is a land that has had a long and turbulent relationship with the Empire of Splendour, but a long and peaceful relationship with the salsham'ai. The Denra-Lyr people maintain many unique customs of their own, but there has been much exchange of ideas with the Empire and the tree folk over the centuries.
The Five Tribes
The Denra-Lyr nation is divided between five tribes each ruled by a tribal king and his advisors. The definition of what constitutes a 'tribe' has varied over Denra-Lyr history and the term is currently one of political convenience than a matter of kinship. The main differences between the tribes are in how they choose their leaders and how much influence the Empire has had on them. All tribes consider the king to be the servant of the people, and so coronations are conducted with the king in rags to remind them of their lowly status.
The upland-dwelling Ar-Breval tribe maintains the strongest links to the past, having avoided Imperial contact as much as possible (except for in battle). The king is chosen by contest every seven years. Contests of arms are common, but wisdom and justice are also considered. The king chooses a queen from the women of Ar-Breval. The king and queen rule for seven years after which time they are sacrificed in the autumn of their seventh year. The seventh winter is known as the Winter of Mourning where the spirits of the dead rulers watch over the tribe, before the selection process begins again in spring.
The Orindhal tribe have a similar year-king practice, but only the king is killed. The queen is chosen from a line of women believed to be descended from the earth goddess Isira Alm. The queen rules for her natural life, or until such time as she chooses to retire.
The Theen follow a similar practice, with a constant queen, but the king is only expected to abdicate after seven years, not be sacrificed. A former king may attempt to regain his crown, but he enjoys no favour over other candidates.
Whereas the Ar-Breval, Orindhal and Theen all have an informal council who advise the king and queen, in the Avendhal tribe this has become formalised as the Lords Council. The Lords Council select the king and queen, who are both expected to abdicate (but not die) at the end of their seven year reign. Both may be re-appointed if the Lords Council wishes.
The Kaalewyn tribe are the most pro-Imperial of all the five tribes (unsurprisingly since they enlisted Imperial aid in order to gain power over the other four tribes). They have a Lords Council like the Avendhal but the king and queen are selected by a body of priests known as the Dragon's Chamber. The selection is said to be through a process of divinations, but dissenters believe it is more a matter of bribery. The kingship of the Kaalewyn has remained in the same family for five generations now.
Long ago the five kings would meet after their elections to appoint one of their number as High King. The High King's role is to oversee the nation as a whole, and to defend against outsiders. With Imperial aid, the Kaalewyn disbanded this Kings Council and appointed their ruler as High King for perpetuity. Understandably, the other tribes rankled at this approach but the Kaalewyn are the largest and most powerful of the five tribes. Now that their Imperial backing has crumbled, King Thurvinder of the Kaalewyn is turning to the Merchants League for aid, before the other tribes take advantage and try to depose him.
Kinship amongst the Denra-Lyr is traced through the father's family for men, and the mother's family for women. Marriage between kin is not allowed. A woman could not, for example, marry an uncle who was her mother's brother (for he would be kin on the mother's side), but an uncle who was her father's brother would not be considered kin and would be an acceptable candidate for marriage.
Marriage is seen as the re-uniting of sundered halves, with much of Denra-Lyr belief centred around the concept of equal-but-opposite male and female entities. Men and women in Denra-Lyr society are given equal rights, but there are some social expectations on behaviour. Men are seen as being straightforward and physical whereas women are more cerebral, both intuitive and logical in their actions. Warfare and hard labour are the domains of men whereas home-building and handicraft is the domain of women. This is not to say that the Denra-Lyr do not act outside gender roles, but they would consider a female warrior or a male weaver to be unusual.
The majority of Denra-Lyr live by generalist agriculture, with only a few of the Kaalewyn taking to specialisation. Wheat is a staple crop, with rice considered an Imperial food and avoided by all except the Kaalewyn tribe. Cattle are more common than in the Empire but otherwise the Denra-Lyr grow, herd and eat whatever they can.
Gold is revered as a sacred metal, believed to be the scales of the great dragon Lyr. Only royalty and gods are allowed to wear it. It is often sacrificed by throwing it into sacred bogs, ravines, the sea and volcanic vents. Sacrificial gold is crafted into fine statues and other art objects, and the profession of goldsmith has sacred overtones. Copper and tin are mined and used to create bronze, considered the 'metal of life'. Iron, on the other hand, is the 'metal of death'. It is considered to be fitting and proper to build weapons and armour from iron, and everyday utensils from bronze, but very unlucky to do so the other way around.
Denra-Lyr religion is contained in two bodies of myth, the Lays and the Sagas. The Lays tell of the origin of the universe, the Sagas the deeds of heroes. The Lays tell that Lyr, the Great Dragon, First of All Beings, divided itself into parts to create the universe. Lyr's blood formed the Sea Dragon, Lyr's mind formed the Celestial Dragon and Lyr's body formed the Earth Dragon. Each of these dragons further subdivided itself into four fragments, combinations of male and female, light and dark. These are the gods of the Denra-Lyr, considered immanent and independent, yet also part of the transcendant whole that is Lyr.
Descended from the Celestial Dragon.
- Gorund (M) - Day, bright light, honest, brave, headstrong, guileless.
- Arabaz (M) - Night, shadow, trickery and deceit.
- Tyannah (F) - Summer, warmth, youth, love.
- Verbant (F) - Winter, cold, old age, lovelessness.
Descended from the Earth Dragon.
- Kathlar (M) - Huntsman, stag, thrill of the chase, provider, the forest.
- Gesvan (M) - Dark woods, wolf, thief and scavenger.
- Isira Alm (F) - Fertility, motherhood, health, harvest, earth as provider.
- Metranna Alm (F) - Disease, barrenness, decay.
Descended from the Sea Dragon.
The two most famous Sagas are the Tale of the Land of Tears and the Tale of Mann. The first tells of the war between the ten tribes of the Denra-Lyr, and the ten tribes of the Denra-Al, of how King Bran was tricked into killing his wife Lor by the sorcereress Dalgin, and the eventual destruction of a mythical Denra-Lyr homeland. The Tale of Mann tells how Prince Mann, the son of Bran and Lor, led the survivors to their new homeland which he wrested from the indigenous Mist Giants, and how he won the friendship of the salsham'ai by defeating a demon known as The Durag.
- Borogund (M) - Calm sea, calm thoughts, peace, sea as provider, fish, pearls.
- Tethira (M) - Storms, sea as destroyer, quick-tempered.
- Gorchwen (F) - Wisdom, hidden depths, keeper of secrets, esoteric knowledge.
- Chandar (F) - Ignorance, dark, cold sea, bottomless, false promises, fear.
Denra-Lyr religious affairs are conducted by two groups. The Briona (singular Brionn) are sacred tellers of tales, who keep the body of lore and recite it at sacred times. They are considered seperate from frivolous entertainers. The Dioca (singular Diocc) are the priests who officiate at ceremonies. In theory, Briona and Dioca are equals but the two groups often clash over superiority and jurisdiction.
There has been some adoption of Imperial religion, notably amongst the Kaalewyn and Avendhal tribes, where the twelve gods of the Denra-Lyr are subsumed into the Imperial pantheon, or merged with Imperial ideas (events in the Tale of the Land of Tears, for example, are quite similar to the Time of Four Suns). A small minority of Denra-Lyr follow salsham'ai belief systems, placating the spirits. The attitude of the Briona and Dioca varies, with some happily adapting to outsider ideas, and others considering them to be spiritual pollution.
Places of Interest
Aldith, the capital city and seat of King Thurvinder, lies on the northern coast at the mouth of the Ar-Aven River. It has many buildings in the Imperial style, including a fine bathhouse, a university and temples to Denra-Lyr and Imperial gods.
Rising from the southern lands of Denra-Lyr, the High Moor overlooks the joining of the Ar-Aven and the Avengruid rivers. Legends say that this was once the last refuge of the mist giants after they were driven back by Mann. Vast standing stones encircle the plateau of the High Moor, whether to keep something in or out is unknown. Local tales tell of creatures of mist and shadow - the Moorswraiths - that can kill a man by drawing the heat from his body.
Two passes lead through the mountains south of Denra-Lyr to the salsham'ai braashak. Amber Pass is the most accessable, linking directly to a salsham'ai High Road on the far side. It has a troubled past, as demonstrated by the ruins of Dowin's Stand, formerly a stronghold of the eponymous bandit lord. Dowin was defeated long ago, but the Stand has been occupied by successions of bandit groups over the years. Fool's Pass is a higher pass blocked by snow in winter. It is less prone to banditry but more prone to monster attacks instead.
Denra-Lyr is a somewhat wilder place than many of the lands within the Imperial sphere. It has a small population in an area that still remains largely untamed wilderness. Ancient ruins of the mist giants abound, some are plundered but many have yet to yield all their secrets. The Denra-Lyr people are also relatively wild and untamed. They have a warrior culture, torn between traditional loyalty to old (and savage) ways, and to the new Imperial ways. Fights between the tribes are common, even in the streets of Aldith. Frontier locations like the High Moor or Dowin's Stand provide classic adventuring sites free from the interference of nosy Imperial officials.
The Briona and Dioca
The Briona usually use the Expert NPC class, but a few exist that use the Bard class. The variants of Bardic Sage and Divine Bard are more common than the standard Bard. Dioca are more likely to be magicians, although many are also simple Experts. Spellcasting Dioca are either Adepts, Clerics or rarely Druids.
The Denra-Lyr gods offer the following domains:
- Gorund, The Protector - Glory, Nobility, Protection, Sun.
- Arabaz, Night's Shadow - Air, Darkness, Luck, Trickery.
- Tyannah, Spring Virgin - Air, Charm, Community, Sun. Also add Animal Messenger to spell list.
- Verbant, Winter Crone - Air, Cold, Magic, Repose.
- Kathlar, Wild Hunter - Animal, Earth, Strength, War. Also add Longstrider to spell list.
- Gesvan, Dark Woods - Animal, Darkness, Plant, Trickery.
- Isira Alm, Earth Mother - Community, Earth, Healing, Plant.
- Metranna Alm, Barren Earth - Death, Disease, Earth, Fire.
- Borogund, Calm Seas - Creation, Healing, Liberation, Water.
- Tethira, Savage Storms - Destruction, Luck, Water, Weather.
- Gorchwen, Deep Wisdom - Knowledge, Protection, Rune, Water.
- Chandar, Bottomless Dark - Cold, Darkness, Madness, Water.
Domain Power: Gain Cold Resistance 10. The cold domain offers the following domain spells:
- rime (as grease but produces an icy coating)
- chill metal
- sleet storm
- wall of ice
- cone of cold
- freezing sphere
- polar ray
- storm of vengeance
The disease domain is seldom accessed by sane magicians as it covers the deliberate spread of disease and sickness. Sometimes, however, otherwise sensible magicians are tricked into accessing the disease domain in the deluded hopes of finding a cure, but it is otherwise accessed by the spiteful or by those touched by the immorality of the Underwater Darkness World. On Conclave, the Denra-Lyr goddess Metranna Alm and the Imperial goddess Lady Laughing Corpse are amongst those entites who offer the disease domain.
Domain Power: Gain a divine bonus equivalent to cleric level to all saving throws against disease. The disease domain offers the following domain spells:
- ghoul touch
- waves of exhaustion
- symbol of death
- energy drain
(c) 2008 The Creative Conclave.
The Empire of Splendour
The Denra-Lyr people are humans, bearing a similarity to the Asharan humans of the Empire. Their ideal of beauty, for both genders, is a long thin face, strong nose, full lips, almond eyes, coffee-coloured skin and long dark hair. Not all Denra-Lyr look like this, of course, but many will try to attain this appearance. This gives them, in the eyes of others, a somewhat androgynous look. Hair plays an important symbolic role. Shaven hair is a sign of death, so a Denra-Lyr with a shaved head is either in mourning or a warrior. Ironically, natural baldness is considered lucky. Men normally wear their hair tied in a bun whereas women wear it loose except when working, when it is usually tied in a scarf. Unmarried men shave the sides of their head. The Denra-Lyr also consider a person born with unusually light or dark skin to be touched by spirits, and they will usually have some magical talent.
Denra-Lyr clothing tends towards the functional, although the Imperial lashong robes are popular. The lorazor is a wide-brimmed waterproof hat of Denra-Lyr origin that has found widespread use in the Empire and beyond. Gold is considered the metal of kings, and only royalty may wear gold jewellery. Common folk use bone or wood jewellery, with amber imported from the salsham'ai also being a popular adornment.
Birds of Tyannah
In the Empire, the spring goddess Tyannah is commonly seen as the goddess of romantic love. In the Denra-Lyr Saga Fiannva and Turritin, the two eponymous lovers are separated by their warring families. Tyannah gives to Fiannva a small bird who can carry messages between the two lovers.
Birds of Tyannah are small, brightly coloured finch-like birds with a limited mimicry capacity, who mate for life. The custom is to give your intended bride or groom (in Denra-Lyr culture, it's quite normal for either sex to be the 'pursuer') one of a mated pair of birds, who are re-united at the wedding of their human owners. This isn't, of course, a ritual that everyone follows. Rather it is a grandiose romantic gesture often expected but seldom performed.