In the ancient days before Aiden I Rellinaiche founded his great kingdom, Ru was simply one of the 12 wealthy and powerful city states that made up what is today eastern Ru, specifically the regional provinces of The Greenwood, The Misty Valley, The Jade Mountains, The Eastern Steppes, and the Estrian Sea. Back in those times, this area was known as The Dragonlands due to the appearance of the peoples who lived there, and the Gods that they worshiped. Known widely as the 12 Cities of the Dragonlands, or simply as the 12 Dragon Cities, these ancient city-states were fiercely independant and warred against each other frequently for many thousands of years before Aiden's conquest, yet they were nevertheless united by a common race, a common faith, a common language, a common currency, and by a common culture built upon the institution of slavery.
The exact biology of this species of creature has been outlined in more detail elsewhere, but they sprang up in The Dragonlands along the Walla River in the Greenwood and the streams of the Jade Mountains to form one of the earliest civilizations in the known world. While the drailen people would migrate out in all directions, forming tribes and even great kingdoms west across the Estrian Sea such as the Kingdom of the Meadows and the Kingdom of the Hills, the drailen would ultimately stray less far from thier original homeland then the other intelligent race of thier world, the humans. The 12 cities would therefore become legendary in the ancient would for the "dragon people" who owned them.
Before the Caellian Faith took hold over The Dragonlands, the peoples of Ru and the other great cities belonged to a polytheistic faith dedicated to the worship of 12 great immortal dragon-deities. While the people of The Dragonlands would honor and pay homage to all of these Gods, often praying to several at various times throughout a single day to help them in areas of ancient life in which a particular God held dominion, each of the 12 ancient cities had a "patron" deity: the dragon believed to be the city's divine founder and champion. This dragon god was honored in its city above all others, with the nobility of the city often claiming descent from its patron.
These Gods were not considered all-benevolent and had very mortal-like motivations and personalities. This faith taught that the Gods were to be worshiped because they demanded it and they were far too powerful to be disobeyed, but would also reward those mortals who pleased them, both in this life and in the next. Dragon priests would perform elaborate rituals and animal sacrifices in magnificent temples wearing ornate ceremonial golden armor and draconic headresses, and mystic oracles with the power of prophetic dreams were said to be able to enter mysterious trances, becoming vessels for a dragon god to communicate directly with a petitioner. This faith and its myths and legends primarily preached the importance of honoring the Gods, celebrating strength and courage, obedience to lawful authority, and maintaining ancient rules of hospitality and honor that were meant to maintain a functioning society.
The Great Immortal Dragons:
-Rellonix The Great Fire Dragon: Goddess of fire, passion, wine, and entertainers
-Obidarro The Great Forest Dragon: God of beasts, hunting, and the ancient woods
-Amberleen The Great Earth Dragon: Goddess of laborers, agriculture, and the underground
-Tallarmos: The Great Sky Dragon: God of the sky, storms, and the weather
-Hydraion: The Great Water Dragon: God of the oceans and seafarers
-Walladectris: The Great River Dragon: Goddess of fertility, freshwaters, and the rivers
-Gorgarros: The Great Stone Dragon: God of war, combat, and soliders
-Baltorro: The Great Ice Dragon: God of winter, knowledge, and rationality
-Kazolorn: The Great Shadow Dragon: God of darkness, fear, death, and demons
-Arcomane: The Great Sun Dragon: God of light, civilization, and festivals
-Lularuna: The Great Moon Dragon: Goddess of the moon and stars, magic, art, and mysteries
-Calparrnia: The Great Dragon of Fortune: Goddess of luck, wealth, and beauty
The ancient language of Drailaek was the common language shared by all 12 of the city-states in both the spoken word and the written script. It likely wasn't always this way, as archeological evidence indicates that several of the cities sprung up independently in different regions of The Dragonlands around the same time, but trade between them was of such importance to the ancient cities that a uniform language and currency was adopted at some unknown point, and in time, a uniform alphabet and written language as well. It is hard to know the exact origins of this, as the cities predate the invention of writing by a great many centuries. Drailaek is the ancestor of the modern language of Ruvian that is spoken within the nation today. Though by the time that term for the language was coined, the Ruvian empire was in it's feudal period and was fully formed and Drailaek had changed so drastically from the form spoken and written during the era of the city-states that the king felt it necessary to give the more modern dialect it's own name.
The currency of the city-states was known as the Honor, and every city and town in The Dragonlands accepted it. Aiden I would mint his own coinage, The Ruvian Crown, and declare it the new universal currency of his realm. However, the crown used the same denominations and conventions as the Honor, and it is still used today.
"In the Dragon Cities, everyone has a price."
The Drailen did not invent slavery, for it has existed for as long as mankind itself has existed, but the Drailen of the Dragonlands embraced it and refined it like none other, turning it into their civilization's great masterwork. The institution of slavery was the very identity of each of the 12 cities. No matter what their form of government was, their origins, or their culture, the 12 dragon cities were widely known as 12 of the most notorious slavers in the ancient world. And their unification under Aiden I would result in an even greater menace to the world in this arena, but that's a story for another time. Slaves were the primary import and export of the Dragonlands and the main driving force of their society. Each city strived to be the very best when it came to training and producing the world's very best of a particular type of specialty slave: the most prized concubines, the most thrilling gladiators, or the most elite slave soldiers.
Constant raiding conducted against their foreign neighbors on all sides, and the cities' constant wars against one another produced a never ending stream of fresh slaves; and though some minimal rights and protections for them were afforded by faith, etiquette, and law, and despite arguments (that admittedly were not without some truth) that favored slaves of a wealthy master in the dragon cities lived significantly more well off then a free commoner in the western kingdoms (where the practice of slavery was strictly prohibited), there can be no doubt that the death and suffering caused by Dragonlands, and later Ruvian Empire, slavery was unimaginable. Slavery has left a black mark on Ruvian civilization to this day. Though Ruvians today tend to try to ignore and dance around this part of their past when they express pride in their ancient and storied civilization, it can be directly attributed to all of the kingdom's Great Wonders (it is said that one need not explore the entire world if one wishes to see 7 ancient wonders. If they wished, they need simply take a tour around eastern Ru.) As well as the long history of multiculturalism that can still be felt in modern Ruvian society today.
The slavery practiced by the 12 cities was not racially based. Though the majority of slaves were humans as a result of the primary method of new slaves coming into the region were the result of slave raids on the "barbarian" foreign lands, slaves of every race and culture known to the Drailen of the east were acquired and sought after. Even including their own kind, and not just other Drailen, but people of their fellow dragon cities as well. A line was only drawn when it came to fellow free citizens of one's own city. For it was seen as an unacceptable breach of a freeborn's honor to make them the property of their neighbor and contemporary, according to the Gods. Debtors were the only exception, and even then they must be sold to a different city or to a foreign land. The Dragon Priests however had no such objections to making slaves of captives in wars between the cities, so long as fair ransom was offered., as the Old Faith valued strength, valor in war, and conquest highly, believing that the Gods intervened directly in mortal affairs very frequently, so it was preached that if the Gods did not mean for the captured defeated to be enslaved, they would not have allowed them to be defeated in the first place.
In the old pantheon, slaves were said to be protected by one of three dragon-deities: Amberleen the Earth Dragon was the patron goddess of laborers, which included all slaves who performed manual labor. (farmers, miners, craftsmen, washers, stable-hands, etc.) Rellonix the Fire Dragon was the patron goddess of entertainers, this included slaves and servants that provided amusement and luxury. (gladiators, jesters, acrobats, dancers, singers, prostitutes, and servers.) Gorgarros the Stone Dragon was the patron god of all soldiers, including slave soldiers. Though the Gods demanded that slaves always obey their masters' every command, they likewise demanded that one must always be appreciative of loyal service from their inferiors. Though slaves were the property of their master, to kill one without cause was thought to greatly anger the god that protected that type of slave, and doing so was therefore illegal. "Cause" however, included such things as attempting to escape or striking one's master, and slaves could still be beaten for insolence or for disobeying orders.
Anyone of any social standing could own slaves so long as they had the money to afford them. However, even the cheapest of common laborers were beyond the meager means of most of the cities' freeborn commoners. But while a particularly successful tradesman or artisan could perhaps buy a servant or two if they saved diligently, wealthy kings, nobles, and merchants had hundreds in their households. Slaves were most often purchased in scheduled outdoor auctions in various areas in or around the city. A slave's value depended on many factors such as health, appearance, special skills, previous social standing, and identity. Slaves from far off and exotic locales were worth even more and were often highly sought after by the nobility as a fashion statement or curiosity. Slaves of the wealthy and powerful would often be dressed in finery that would put nobles from lesser realms to shame in order to show off the wealth and prestige of their master. Certain highly valuable slaves such as scribes, tutors, and personal companions would even be taught how to read and write in the Drailaek language , resulting in a much higher literacy rate in these cities then in most of the rest of the ancient world. Poor freeborn commoners would often feel alot of resentment towards such slaves, but they knew better then to dare harass them, as slaves were seen by many as being extensions of thier owners and disrespecting the wrong one risked provoking the wrath of a member of the city's elite. Social etiquette in the cities dictated that one must act polite and gracious to one's servants in public and around company. Those who were rude to their slaves or treated them harshly for little reason in front of others were seen as boorish, uncivilized, unvirtuous, and ungodly.
Whether prized companions and concubines, famous gladiators, or simple laborers, all slaves wore around their necks a soft leather collar with a metal ring, the mark of their caste and their status as property. To remove it without their master's leave could mean death. They were most often left plain, but could also be ornately decorated and jeweled, according to their owner's personal tastes, and inscribed with their master's name or sigil. A child of a slave would themselves be a slave from birth, unless they were also an acknowledged child of one of the city's nobility, in which case their noble blood entitled them to at least free citizenship. A master could grant freedom to any of their slaves at any time for any reason. Rarely, a particularly talented entertainer might buy their own freedom from saved monetary gifts or prizes. More often, a master might free a few or all of their slaves on his death as part of his last will. Successful gladiators buying their freedom or gaining it as a prize was a fairly common occurrence as well. Slaves freed by their master would have their collar removed by ceremonial golden shears and the broken collar presented to them. However, many freed slaves would simply remain in their master's service working for food and board due to not knowing anywhere else to go, the only difference between them and the other household servants being the lack of a collar and the ability to leave if they someday wished.
Many of the most fearsome warriors and thugs would take up the extremely dangerous but potentially lucrative career of a slave raider. These were privateers who would venture out from the cities, by land or more often by ship to raid the shores and borders of foreign lands in search of new slaves to sell in the auctions. Little more then sponsored pirates, these warbands would either operate independently or contracted with a merchant's guild or mercenary company. While they would fly the flag of the city from which they lived and did business, the cities of the Dragonlands did not consider themselves responsible for the raiders for the most part and would do nothing to stop them from harassing the lands and ships of a particular foreign government, unless such an agreement was specifically stated in a treaty. (Nothing short of a marriage alliance would compel a city to agree to such a term). However, by the same token, the dragon cities did not consider the sinking of a slave raiding ship to be an act of aggression against the city and welcomed other nations to try and defend their own borders sufficiently. Foreign lands that had a reputation for fighting back effectively against the slave raiders were largely considered not worth the risk by them, and they would typically sail elsewhere for easier targets, so long as at least the appearance of a strong defense was maintained. Despite this profession's vital important to the economy and lifestyle of the city-states it was considered to be one for ruffians of fairly low social status. Slave raiders were mostly made up of former gladiators, freedmen, mercenaries, foreigners, bandits, and other commoner and outcast classes. Knights typically shunned taking part in raids however, due to it's reputation. Though they commonly sold slaves in a similar matter when taking captives from wars between the cities. Typically it was considered honorable to release a captive if they could arrange for the payment of fair ransom.
Newly captured slaves who showed great potential to be warriors would be eagerly bought from those hoping to turn them into gladiators. Foreigners were particularly highly sought after for this since far off lands and cultures were considered particularly fascinating for the people of the cities, and the number one goal of the stadiums, arenas, and fighting pits that dotted the cities and their outskirts was to thrill and entertain their massive audiences with deadly combat. There were several schools throughout the region dedicated to training new recruits for the arenas. Most were owned by noble houses wealthy enough to invest heavily in these fighters. They would be trained and overseen largely by former gladiators who bought or won freedom, some of whom might even own a school themselves. Gambling on the games was a very common activity so organizers often made great pains to arrange matches between fighters of like skill, to keep fights harder to predict and more exciting, though sometimes they might mix things up with large teams of rookie fighters against a few champions, large pieces of construction such as towers, forts, or hills of earth complete with rocks and trees right there in the stadium. Or even perhaps flooding it with water for naval type skirmishes. Reenactments of famous battles in myth or history were popular too, with a chance for comedy and amusement as there was a good chance that great battles that a city had won could now have a very different result in it's arena.
Fights in the arena were nominally to the death, in that fighters used actual deadly weapons, wore little armor, and that killing one's opponent was considered a condition of victory and earned no admonishment. However, often an opponent would be rendered defenseless while still being alive. At which point the victorious opponent would turn to the king or noble sponsoring the game for a signal on whether to finish the fallen foe or spare them. It was generally understood that any opponent who fought bravely should be spared to fight in the arena for the delight of the crowds another day, though the decision was ultimately up to the sponsors, they would wisely read the urging of the crowd and act accordingly, for while sparing a fighter when the crowd called for blood was typically forgiven, ordering death when the crowd called for mercy was considered a huge breach of honor and could make one very unpopular very quickly. Large tournaments were often held to commemorate civic anniversaries and religious festivals and holy days. The prizes for winning these grand events were often included freedom for the champions. Gladiators with a large record of victories, a unique hook, or particularly noteworthy feats of valor could become the biggest celebrities in the city, with huge followings of fans from all social classes. Victorious fighters would retain a portion of their winnings and could possibly save up to buy their own freedom with enough victories. Freed gladiators would often join mercenary companies, become a slave raider, take on work as bodyguards for a noble looking for a famous individual to show off, join a school as a trainer or start his own, seek knighthood, or perhaps even attempt to return to their homeland. Often a freed gladiator would continue competing in the games, unwilling to leave the potential riches, celebrity, and glory behind.
Knighthood and chivalry was a creation of the kingdoms of the western continent, where the Caellian faith had grown widespread, powerful, and incredibly influential. It is widely believed to have been invented by the peoples of the Kingdom of the Meadows. However, in time as the city-states of the Dragonlands began to interact with, and take slaves from, these western kingdoms, the nobility of these cities would become highly fascinated with the grand tales of the valor of the shining western knights and sought to replicate this tradition and become great knights themselves.
It should be noted that the ancient dragonlands knights were significantly different then their western counterparts and the knights we known of from the Ruvian feudal period. For one thing the peoples of the dragon cities were primarily concerned with the appearance, technology and fighting style of the knights, and with creating a class of elite warriors. The code of chivalry was not adopted, as the code was highly feudalistic, and deeply rooted in the tenets Caellian faith. These early eastern knights were not called on to enter the service of a king or higher lord, but were merely acknowledged warriors of particular renown. The process of gaining the title of knight was also different in the east, with the dragon priests overseeing the ceremony in a special ritual to the relevant deities. In the end it was almost entirely reserved for nobility who could demonstrate themselves as warriors, though a free commoner who gained a good deal of personal glory in battle being rewarded with knighthood was not unheard of. As in the west, the knights of the east were particularly feared figures on the battlefield when one city would go to war against another. The code of chivalry and knightly honor would eventually be adopted in Ru when the Kingdom of the Meadows started to be conqoured by and absorbed into the (now Caellian) Ruvian Empire during it's ancient period, and was only solidified as feudalism took hold through the entire realm.
As they did with the fighting style of the knights, the Dragonland people also eagerly appropriated the knightly tourney. Jousting, melees, and archery competitions competed with the grand gladiatorial games for the attention and entertainment of the populace, though they were particular popular among the noble villas in the countryside between the cities themselves, which lacked the great massive coliseums of the cities. Knightly tournies were especially loved by the noble families, who would grow dissatisfied with merely watching gladiators earn personal glory in competition and instead wanted to be the ones to compete and earn glory and celebrity themselves. Great tournies drawing people from all over the region would be held in the countryside to mark birthdays, marriages, or to honor the Gods on holy days. Whether a wealthy noble chose to celebrate these occasions with gladiatorial games or with knightly tournies depended primarily on who they most wanted to impress in the moment. For while all people of every class in the region loved both, the commons were often particularly thrilled with the games, while a knightly tourney would more greatly excite one's fellow nobles.
Those knights who won great victories in a tourney or the joust would bring fame and prestige to himself and great honor to their house. The results of these competitions were long remembered, and considered highly significant. And though the joust and melee were much safer then gladiatorial combat purposefully designed to be deadly. Grave accidents were not uncommon on the tourney field, but the nobles prided themselves as warriors and happily took on the risk.
Some Notable Companies
Cael's Angels - The mercenary company captained by Aiden The Conqueror
The Sky Snakes - company hired by Ru against Aiden's army, wound up breaking their contract and joining Aiden instead
The Lost Knights - Joined with Aiden I in his Conquest, captained by Mason the Wolf, Aiden's childhood friend and founder of House Howell
The Black Cats - Mercenary company hired to join the conquest by Aiden I and his allies
The Stormbringers - Company led by Harold "Ax Catcher" a grizzled and experienced captain and friend of Aiden I's father, Alto Rel. Joined up with the conquest.
The Wanderers - company infiltrated and eventually captained by Aiden I's half-brother Rian "Blue Coat" (founder of House Underly) to join with his conquest
The Company of the Crows - company that Aiden I's half-brother Sven the Baker infiltrated but failed to take over, was hired by Ru against Aiden's army.
The Red Swords - company hired by Argo Lonidas against Aiden's army
The Brave Brothers - company infiltrated and eventually captained by Aiden I's half-brother Harlan "Headsman" to join with his conquest
The Golden Hands - company Aiden I's half-brother Symon "Blackbird" infiltrated, but who was discovered and executed. Hired by both Ru and Zamettar against Aiden's army
The Adventurers - company hired by Argo Lonidas against Aiden's army
Sons of Fortune - company hired by Pargo against Aiden's army
The Dragon's Men -company hired by Pargo against Aiden's army
The Dark Merchants - company hired by Zamettar against Aiden's army
The Dragon Cities
Cities of the Greenwood
The Children of Ith
Cities of the Sea
The Jade Kingdom of Ing
The Walled City of Urda
The Shadow City of Syllerath