Monday, August 8, 2016

Dragonkind: The Pyramid of Power

DRAGONKIND: THE PYRAMID OF POWER

Chromatic dragons are lazy, greedy and arrogant: that comes with being incredibly powerful, both physically and magically, and thus being able to coerce lesser creatures to serve you, it comes with filling a lair with an increasingly impressive treasure hoard proportional to how much much one can coerce the creatures around them and it comes with thinking of oneself as the apex of creation.

It comes with being a dragon.

But these qualities has several drawbacks too: they don't like to work hard, preferring to rely on their power and cunning to make other creatures do their bidding, only throwing their power around for pleasure and profit rather than as strategically as they should. Their greed overrides their better judgement, making them vulnerable to manipulation, and blinds them to obvious danger. And, most importantly, dragons don't like other dragons. Other dragons are competition for territory, for property, for breeding, and so on, and every other dragon is a challenge to a dragon's superiority complex. The only thing a dragon hates more than weak dragons are dragons that are more powerful than themselves.

So how do you get dragons to work together?

Red Typhon.

Red Typhon is a red dragon but not just any red dragon: he's older than the earliest civilization of Narya, so massive that his shadow sends entire nations into a panic, so clever that he has gotten chromatic dragons of every color to conform to his wishes, and so powerful that only Queen Tytanya herself gives him pause.

Red Typhon was one of the attendants of Tiamat, the evil draconic goddess supreme, and served her for eons as her most beloved "groom". But, after Bahamut's sacrifice & Tiamat's defeat trapped him for millennia, he became desperate to escape the Prison of Bahamut. That was when he heard the siren call of Tytanya and she made him an offer he couldn't refuse. With his dragons, she was able to defeat her enemies and he was rewarded with a kingdom of his own.

But what do dragons do with their own kingdom? How do you keep them content? How do you keep them under your claw?

SLAVES, SLAVERS, & SLAVE MASTERS

Smolder is a large island to the north of Saesun that had been simply known as the "Island of Rocks" by the elves before they rewarded it as a new homeland to the dwarves. It is easy to understand why the elves found it unappealing: while incredibly rich in mineral resources, for those able to take them, the island is barren of life. Before the elves left Saesun, it is believed an ancient kingdom reigned there and fought a gruesome war where magic irradiated the land. Today, it is almost invariably dry, lifeless, and magic storms frequent the mountainous region. Only a species with the ingenuity and hardiness of the dwarves would gladly colonize such a place, make it livable and profitable, and proudly call it home.

Unfortunately, the dwarf's own short-sighted greed led them to betray the elves, as they helped the humans war against each other with funding, machinery, and more. This made it easy for the elves to turn out the dwarves and reward the dragons, their new allies, with the landmass. Typhon split the territory among the lesser dragons, rewarding the more powerful and loyal with the largest and most valuable slices, and, in exchange, demands they follow his lead. Might makes right among the dragons and none are as mighty as Typhon. But even then, over time, if not placated, their own ambition and contempt would inevitably lead to rebellion. So, to keep them content with plenty of riches and every other material need satisfied, the dragons need slaves and, since they'd rather not manage them, they need slavers to control the slaves.

Some slaves came in the form of dwarves foolish enough to resist the draconic invasion, captured and forced into servitude, under threat of death. But, the majority of slaves, come from the captured enemies of the high elves and criminals, both the sort who commit crimes against their fellow man and those who commit crimes against the state. The highly controversial punishment of dooming citizens oppose the Tytanyan Pact and the elf empire to slavery in the mines is justified by the elves as an efficient deterrent against rebellion, necessary cost of working with the dragons and ultimately, a necessary evil since it profits themselves and the dragons. The mines of Smolder are now populated by dragons, those that slave away in their mines, and those slavers that serve to keep the slaves in line.

This is "the pyramid of power". At the top, Typhon rules the dragons, who have some sway over the collective choices the dragons make, and the dragons rule all under them with slaves at the very bottom. What about the slavers in the middle?

KOBOLDS: WHIPS & YIP-YIPS

The lowliest of the slaver races are the kobolds.

Kobolds have populated mountainous and wild regions of Sublanarya long before the high elves left the shores of Saesun. Cowardly, weak and pathetic, kobolds have always resorted to numbers, trickery, traps, beasts and a little magic to compete against other races. These pitiful creatures have always been attracted to power and, believing themselves to be created by a draconic god, seek out opportunities to serve dragons in exchange for the protection of the more powerful creatures.

On Smolder, the serve as the bulk of the slavers and run the minutia of the mines. After all, of all three slaver races, due to their ancestry and diminutive size, they are the most comfortable in the mines. They even participate in mining, when slave numbers are low, but mostly manage by whip, forcing the slaves to work hard, and taking glee in their relatively insignificant power. Despite their weakness, their numbers make them vital to the security of the mines and their loyalty make them the perfect cannon fodder for the machinations of their dragon masters.

As they say, "if you ever have a problem, throw kobolds at it. Worst case scenario, you wind up with less kobolds."

That said, there are elite kobolds born, perhaps one-in-a-million, that break the mold. But we'll discuss heroic kobolds later and focus on the expendable horde for now.

But what if the slaves manage to mount a revolt or an escape against the dim, callow and weak kobolds?

DRAGONBORN: HONOR AMONG SLAVERS?

You send in the riot police.

Dragonborn are the culmination between the machinations of dragons and their mage servants to create an elite race of shock troops to maintain order in the mines and put fear in the hearts of all rebellious slaves. With scaley hides and powerful bodies, they can take a beating, with elemental breath inherited from their draconic heritage, they are intimidating, and raised from a young age to value loyalty and obedience above all, they are the best soldiers an army could ask for.

Not nearly as numerous as kobolds and requiring much more training/indoctrination, they are considered valuable resources. Dragonborn are physically mature and ready for deployment by age fifteen, serving in barracks under experienced captains, from where they are summoned to run drills for any number of scenarios until those hypothetical situations come to pass. Dragonborns are a proud race with an honor code passed down from captain to soldier and from generation to generation.

Of all the slaver races, dragonborn are mostly likely to be exported as elite troops gifted to valued allies or to serve on escort missions of the most valued race of slavers. After all, even dragonborn need management.

GUIVRE: AMBITION INCARNATE

While dragonborn are bred from humans, guivre or "dragon elves" are created from draconic intervention in elves. To create a guivre, an expectant elf mother, usually in the service of a dragon, allows a dragon to imprint onto her unborn child and fits the child to the dragon as soon as it old enough. They develop much the same ways as any high elf, but inherit the raw intellect and ambition of their draconic patron. Physically, the develop patterns of scales, slitted eyes and other draconic attributes, that quickly separate them from other elves. They're created to serve as the ambassadors to their draconic patron, their medium by which to interact with the world of humanoids, and to manage the affairs of their draconic masters.

Guivre are often mislabeled as dragons in humanoid form. This is a mistake. While often driven by the same ambitious nature of dragons, they loathe the lazy, they are not satisfied with creature comforts, and they are fully aware of their own limitations. In fact, is these very qualities that turn them to despise their masters. Above all else, guivres desire power and respect those with the will to seek it. It is their desire to acquire power for power's sake that often put them at odds with dragons and, ultimately, can make them a much more threatening enemy.

As long lived as high elves, dragon elves serve dragons as their ambassadors. After all, dragons would prefer to leave the minutia of managing their hoard to someone else and that someone is usually a guivre. The silver-tongued bureaucrats travel through the empire, and beyond, in the name of their patrons to ensure their power and wealth increases. They also manage and oversee their property by giving orders to dragonborn and planning various projects. Even as guivre serve their masters, they often have ulterior motives to promote their own power.

This hierarchy allows dragonkind, or at the very least the dragons of Smolder, to accrue wealth, power and influence throughout Sublanarya without having to betray their monies or risk much in the way of dragon life. The draconic half of the Tytanyan Pact seems satisfied with the weak serving the powerful and have managed to maintain this order longer than the world would've predicted. But this doesn't mean the elves trust their draconic allies or that the dragons are complicit in greater ambitions than wealth. The relationship between these two disparate sides of the pact is strong but, by morality, are often at odds with each other.

How do the elves manage to keep the dragons in check and stay relevant in an alliance with rivals so seemingly cruel and powerful? How has order and power changed the elves since Tytanya formed the pact? And how is daily life within the elf empire?

You'll have to continue reading to find out!

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