People of Dambrath
The female Crinti nobles who serve as the stewards of Dambrath make this nation a true rarity in Faerûn. The Crinti, all of whom are of racially mixed heritage, not only hold the highest social positions within Dambrathan society, but also consider themselves above the "lesser" races that dwell within, the country's borders.
Races and Cultures
About fifteen percent of Dambrath's people are of mixed human, drow, and elf heritage. Most of them have at least partial drow blood, but generations of interbreeding among drow, half-drow, humans, and half-elves have made it more pronounced in some individuals than in others. Regardless of their precise heritage, these racially mixed people are called half-drow or Crinti, and they constitute the aristocracy of Dambrath.
Most of the humans (Shebali) are descended from the Arkaiuns who lived here before the coming of the drow and their half-elf allies. Though humans make up seventy percent of the population, they are considered second-class citizens throughout the nation. However, this distinction is more clearly delineated in the urban centers than in the countryside, where ranch work demands more pragmatism and greater tolerance.
The rest of Dambrath's population consists of halflings, gnolls, and a smattering of other humanoids. These individuals have no higher status than humans.
Elves other than drow are not welcome in Dambrath, and locals turn them away at the borders. Any such elves caught deeper in Dambrathan territory are usually captured and turned over to the temples of Loviatar for entertainment purposes. Dwarves, while not denied entry, are not truly accepted either. Most of those who do visit Dambrath are traders coming south down the Trader's Way, and they do not stay long.
Though they are predominantly Nar, the Arkaiuns also have a bit of Illuskan blood, thanks to an extraordinary portal (see History of Dambrath that brought their parent tribes together in the Council Hills region of the Eastern Shaar. They migrated from that area to Dambrath more than a millennium ago.
The typical Arkaiun is short and stocky, with dusky, tanned skin and raven-black hair. Occasionally, however, a child is born who grows regally tall, or sports a mane of golden-blond or red hair, like his Illuskan forebears.
Except for those Arkaiuns who were born and raised in the heart of the coastal cities, every human in Dambrath learns to ride a horse by the time he is five years old. In urban areas, most Arkaiuns are laborers, craftsfolk, and artisans. In the countryside to the north, they serve as ranch hands on the great ranches of the Crinti landowners.
The Crinti do not permit humans to own land. Some few Shebali claim their own land in the plains, but such homesteads are always in the Swagdar or elsewhere on the outskirts of the country, where the law exists in name only.
Most outsiders still look upon the Arkaiuns as little more than barbarians, and indeed, because of their lower-class standing in Dambrathan society, they seem to be a rough and barbaric people. Nonetheless, the Arkaiuns fiercely cling to a national identity, despite (or perhaps because of) the way they have been subjugated by the Crinti.
The Crinti of Dambrath come from widely varied bloodlines. Nine in ten are descended from unions between the drow of T'lindhet (see below) and their human slaves or paramours. The rest can actually trace their bloodlines to one of the First - the 112 half-elf priestesses of Loviatar who brokered the deal to rule Dambrath on behalf of the drow. Known as Children of the First, these Crinti have the highest status in Dambrathan society, though their ancestry might include more human than elf or drow blood.
The typical present-day Crinti has a convoluted lineage that incorporates several different drow Houses, plus humans, half-drow, and occasionally a half-elf priestess of Loviatar. The Crinti constitute Dambrath's nobility - the ruling class that owns the property, runs the government, and enjoys the fruits of the land - or rather, they do so on behalf of their full-blooded drow patrons.
Crinti enjoy positions of authority in Dambrath that they could never attain anywhere else in Faerûn. But while they have risen to the top of the social ladder on the surface world, they are still little more than half-breed bumpkins, in the eyes of their drow patrons beneath the Gnollwatch Mountains. Because of this double standard, most Crinti spend their lives striving to outdo one another and to prove their worth - both to the drow they serve and to themselves.
A typical Crinti has dark gray or black skin, with silver or white hair and eyes of almost any color known among humans or elves. Some Children of the First, however, are pale-skinned, like their human and half-elf ancestors.
Drow Of T'lindhet
The drow of T'lindhet, the subterranean city located several miles below Dambrath, rarely visit the surface lands to which they lay claim. Members of T'lindhet's various great Houses prefer to scheme and plot against one another as they always have, leaving the less appealing task of managing their surface holdings to their Crinti governors. Despite their dislike of the other races involved in this strange relationship, the drow have, found it advantageous to let the Crinti control their interests on the surface and rule over the human laborers. In this way, the dark elves gain the advantage of surface-world trade without the distasteful necessity of actually interacting with the plebeian creatures that make it possible. Because of this arrangement, the road between the plains of Dambrath and the caverns of T'lindhet remains open to trade, rather than serving as a battlefield between surface dwellers and the denizens of the Underdark.
The drow of T'lindhet have yet to acknowledge the Silence of Lolth to their surface-dwelling kin, but maintaining that secret has forced them to cede even more control of Dambrath to the Crinti. Moreover, whispers have begun to spread among the Crinti that the surface-dwelling followers of Lolth have lost the favor of the Spider Queen. So far, however, they do not suspect how widespread the problem really is.
Life and Society
The social divisions within Dambrath segregate the population not only by race but also by gender. The loftiest positions in both government and culture are reserved for female Crinti; all others are viewed as inferior in some capacity. The combined influence of the drow overlords and the Church of Loviatar established this unusual political and social division some five hundred years ago, and it has remained in place ever since.
The mixed-heritage Crinti rule the land on behalf of the drow who claim it from below. The Shebali - the human descendants of the Arkaiun horsepeople who originally roamed the land - constitute the vast majority of the citizens. In Dambrathan society, the Crinti enjoy the privileges, and the Shebali serve at their pleasure.
But the racial separation of the citizenry is only half the story - Dambrath is also a true matriarchal society. As in the drow civilization and the church of Loviatar, females hold the reins of power in Dambrath. Though this social order is more pronounced in the noble court than among the common folk, females maintain a positon of superiority over males in most aspects of Dambrathan culture. The fact that both the priestesses of the Maiden of Pain, and the drow embraced this precept permitted the two groups to find a common ground on which to build their unusual relationship five centuries ago. Without it; the drow claims to the surface might not have survived against even weakened humans for long.
In the cities and at the higher levels of society, the matriarchal social structure is much more pronounced than it is in the countryside. Females attain positions of power within the government more frequently than males, and female Crinti are the only citizens permitted to function as honglath, or judges (see Law and Order, below). Females expect males to show them every courtesy, to walk behind them in the street, and to defer to them in all matters relating to intellect. Both females and males serve in the military, though women hold most of the officer positions. In fact, noble families consider it a great honor for their offspring to serve in some branch of Dambrath's military as officers.
Despite its isolationist policies (see Politics and Power), Dambrath trades briskly with the rest of Faerûn, and even beyond. The nation has three major exports: horses, silver, and pearls. Its other export commodities include finished wooden goods (cabinets, chairs, tables, and other furniture, as well as finely crafted arrow shafts) made of lumber cut from the Amtar, plus fruit harvested from orchards in the Hills of the Dead Kings and fish caught in the Bay of Dancing Dolphins. Because so much of the country's population is clustered in the port towns and cities along the coast, shipping traffic is vigorous, bringing a steady stream of goods from other lands to citizens eager to trade.
So much of the plains country north of the coast is devoted to horse ranches that horseflesh provides the majority of the country's income. Owning a ranch on the open plains is both lucrative and prestigious, since the horses bred by the Crinti landowners are prized all along the coast of the Great Sea, as well as in other parts of the world, such as Zakhara. Unsurprisingly, Dambrathan horse merchants are said to be among the shrewdest in Faerûn.
Those few landed gentry who have not invested in the horse trade usually put their money into mining silver from the Gnollwatches. Mine owners often form consortiums to enhance their profitability and ensure maximum exploitation of the veins located.
The pearl trade provides a good living for divers all along the coast. Because of the bay's sheltered nature and the clarity of its waters, oyster beds are both plentiful and easy to find. Thus, a diver's daily take is often valued at several hundred gold pieces. Pearl traders sell many of these pearls to wealthy Crinti, who are constantly working to outshine their political and social rivals through displays of conspicuous consumption, but plenty remain for export.
Occasionally, a diver might be fortunate enough to haul in a special Dambrathan pearl. Found only in the waters of the Bay of Dancing Dolphins - and then only rarely - these pearls have an oddly rich, blue-green hue. A Dambrathan pearl fetches five times a normal pearl's value in Dambrath, or seven to ten times normal value in other trading centers.
Though the majority of Dambrath's trade is sea-based, a steady flow of caravans visits the nation from the north, arriving via the Trader's Way from Delzimmer. The Queen of Dambrath, in keeping with her isolationism, maintains a policy forbidding caravans from coming any farther into the country than Cathyr, and every single train is inspected thoroughly in Dunfeld before it can proceed farther south. This high level of security slightly depresses prices for most goods, since everything must be sold in Cathyr and then borne to other Dambrathan markets by local merchants. Still, the business is lucrative enough that the caravan masters are more than willing to put up with the inconvenience. Even as part of a caravan, however, elves other than drow may not enter the country. Any caught attempting entry are taken, into custody and sent to the temples of Loviatar.
Law and Order
For legal purposes, an individual must be able to prove that he has at least 1/32 drow or First blood to be classified as Crinti. In practice, Crinti who have the look of drow or elves (dusky skin or pointed ears) receive more favorable treatment than those who appear more human.
The laws of Dambrath are structured, and justice is swift and often harsh. Judges known as honglath preside over trials and make all decisions regarding legal issues. Only Crinti females may become honglath, and they guard their power as judges fiercely.
Typically, punishments for crimes committed by Crinti consist of fines (except in extreme circumstances), while Shebali suffer harsher penalties, such as torture at the hands of the Maiden of Pain's priestesses. In both cases, males typically receive more severe penalties than their female counterparts. The sentence for the most heinous crimes - horse theft, teaching a male any sort of magic, or overstepping the jurisdiction of a honglath - is death by slow torture in the temples. In the case of teaching magic to a male, the perpetrator is stripped of titles and lands, then sent to the temples. The male who received the instruction is either executed or subjected to a feeblemind spell and sent to work in the silver mines.
Only Crinti may own land in Dambrath, and inheritance is passed down via the female line - though not necessarily to the oldest. The local honglath, rather than the Crinti matron herself, decides who inherits property: Often, the daughter who demonstrates the most initiative, good sense, and general aptitude for, managing assets earns the inheritance. Occasionally, a honglath divides a Crinti matron's wealth up among all her daughters. If the matron has no daughters or granddaughters, a male child may inherit the property, provided that he is married. In such a case, his wife immediately assumes control of the estate. If the male inheritor is not married, he must take a wife so that the property can be properly passed down. A honglath often arranges the marriage if the matron was unable to do so before her death. More than a few Crinti males have discovered a newfound popularity among eligible females when such a situation occurs.
Defense and Warcraft
The Crinti value a strong military presence for many reasons - to deter Shebali uprisings, to enforce Dambrath's isolationist policies, and because their heritage and relationship with the drow earn them varying degrees of enmity from other lands. Thus, Dambrath's leaders maintain standing military forces in every major city.
The typical community's land-based military presence consists of one-third infantry and two-thirds cavalry. The infantry is typically composed of light foot soldiers trained for quick movement over long distances rather than for ~heavy fighting. The amount of ground they must cover and the extremely hot and unpleasant conditions prohibit wearing heavy armor and lugging a great deal of equipment about. The cavalry usually consists of two-thirds heavy and one-third light (skirmishers), and the riders' tactics reflect the need to outdistance and surround enemies in the open plains.
Every port larger than a village maintains a fleet of one to six fast-moving frigates. These warships are staffed with a number of spellcasters to aid in tracking down and destroying pirates and smugglers who try to slip into the Bay of Dancing Dolphins and disrupt the trade. Some of the wealthier Crinti also fund their own merchant fleets and retain privateers to escort them, so that they can transport their own goods to market. Predictably, rival private fleets frequently employ terror tactics - including piracy - on one another. Depending on the politics of the moment, the Dambrathan port's fleet might turn a blind eye to such acts, or it may mete out swift and harsh justice.
The official religion of Dambrath is the worship of Loviatar, since her priestesses provided considerable aid to the drow during their conquest of the Arkaiuns. Every large community has a major temple dedicated to the Maiden of Pain, complete with a full complement of priestesses and torture facilities. Aspects of her faith pervade many elements of Dambrathan society - particularly entertainment for the masses and punishment of crimes (including all capital punishments).
Not everyone in Dambrath chooses to observe the state religion. Some Arkaiuns still secretly revere Malar, as their ancestors did before the coming of the drow, and more than a few displaced folk in the Swagdar still acknowledge the Beastlord as a necessary element of the hunt. The majority of the full-blooded drow who have chosen to dwell on the surface venerate Lolth, but a very small minority of both drow and Crinti choose to pay homage to Eilistraee. Loviatar's clerics are willing to look the other way regarding Malar's and Lolth's influence because of those deities' relationships with theirs, but they are less pleased with the foothold that the Lady of the Dance has established in Dambrathan society.
Beyond the fact that some races are simply not welcome in the country, Dambrath's leaders frown mightily on outsiders traipsing around on their lands, and they have enacted laws to prevent it. Groups that appear to be from somewhere else draw the suspicion of the Crinti, who consider them trespassing merchants at best and spies or horse thieves at worst.
Despite this lack of hospitality, more than a few adventurers have risked capture to explore the ruins on the fringes of the civilized lands. The most brazen of these adventurers regularly attempt to reach the Great Swamp and Ilimar, and more than a few target the Gate of Iron Fangs, Guilmarl, and Ammathtar in their search for wealth and secrets. The Dambrathans give a token show of patrolling some of these areas to dissuade such intrusions, but the expense is prohibitive and the results generally unsatisfying.