Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

10 May, 2012

Welcome to My World: Arkhosian City States

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

For the first post in this series, click here

The recorded history of Arkhosia can be divided into four distinct periods. It begins with the city states period, encompassing the time from the founding of the seven cities until their unification. Next follows the empire, where the new state expands its borders drastically. This period lasts until the end of the great war with the tiefling realm, Myklafar, which signals the start of the third period, a dark age where records are few and far between. Finally, there is the current period, the new kingdom, following the formation of the Church of the Chosen One, and Anhem the Great’s reunification project.

But let us start at the beginning. It is difficult to date exactly when the seven cities – which, counting from the mouth of the river and up, are Stakhrokénzi, Azíd, Zeïár, Miákis, Ézhva, Iorotákher and Idád – were founded. The Arkhosian plains have always been a fertile land, and host to many people, and it is quite possible that settlements on the sites of the cities have existed as far back as the end of the Dawn War. Traditionally, the founding of Iorotákher has been dated to 4873 years before the Revelation, but the basis for this tradition is lost if it ever existed. Stakhrokénzi claims to be “the eternal city”, and its position at the mouth of the river might give the claim some weight – it is without a doubt a place ideally suited for settlement. Here too, however, we lack clear evidence for a precise time of founding. Linguistic evidence suggests that the great bathing festival in Zeïár pre-dates the founding of the city itself (as the name contains the root ze, “bath”), which indicates that the city was not founded until after draconic cult was already well established in the area. Scrolls found in ruins in the Market Desert, which mention trade with “the cities of the north”, have been dated to the 25th century BR, but are too vague to be considered definite evidence for cities in the plains at that point.

The first truly verifiable reference to the seven cities is found in a letter written by the Patriarch of Tundarokar to his counterpart in distant Oversae, in the year 1750 BR. The letter speaks of the dragons in the cities by the lower river having created a new race of servitors for themselves. Not only does the letter confirm the presence of at that time already well established cities, but it also gives a tantalising glimpse into another of Arkhosia’s ancient mysteries, the birth of the dragonborn.

After the advent of the dragonborn, our sources become more secure, and more abundant. From the descriptions of life in the cities during this later part of the period, we can make some educated guesses about their founding. Each of the cities had as its ruler a single dragon. It is a well-observed pattern of dragon behaviour that they will sometimes install themselves as lords and protectors of humanoid communities, and claim their settlements as part of their territories. Given the relatively large number of dragons in the plains, it is possible each of the seven cities were founded when a dragon decided to assume ownership of a smaller, less organised community. As the city states grew in power and size, they claimed more territory further away from the river, thus expanding their influences across the plains. A study of the many and varied dragonborn clans shows that in that early period of their history, they formed family groups around several dragons, which indicates that there were many lesser dragons in the territory controlled by the cities – perhaps overlords of their own tributary settlements. There are some accounts that paint the cities as similar to other dragon autocracies, where the general populace is little more than slaves, but most speak of the humanoids as full citizens with rights, similar to the situation in the later empire.

The dragonborn gradually became the most populous of the humanoid races in the plains, and formed the core citizenry of the city states. It is clear that the early Arkhosians thought of themselves as a single culture, though they were divided in several states, and trade between the cities flourished. There were occasional wars between them, the clash between Ézhva and Miákis in 1513 BR being the bloodiest example, but on the whole they seem to have been remarkably peaceful. At least twice, conflict between cities was settled not with battle, but with single combat between the cities’ dragons. As dragons are used to fighting each other for territory, it is quite likely this was a more common occurrence, but that records of them have simply been lost.

When the cities united under the so-called Golden King of Iorotákher, in 1302 BR, it was hailed as a great show of unity and the common purpose of Arkhosian culture, but in reality it represented a tremendous loss of status for the other six cities, which became in effect tributaries themselves. The exact circumstances which led to this move are lost, however; likely edited out of the history books by the king – now emperor – himself. All that has been allowed to survive are texts hailing the new nation as the fulfilment of both the will of the gods and of the people – a sentiment which is now echoed by the Church of the Chosen One. The dragons of the other cities were unquestionably allowed to continue ruling them, however, and also given a voice in the running of the new empire in the Council of Wyrms, so the reorganisation clearly did not come as a result of a complete defeat. Whatever the cause, the cities were now united, and the empire was born.


  1. This is fascinating. I’d especially like to know more about how the dragon civilisation functions with each member so spread out, how they breed, educate, mature and mingle with their own kind in such a well-established situation.

    Comment by Loki — 10 May, 2012 @ 11:01

  2. That’s something I’m not really going to get into at all, because that’s stepping on the toes of the published material, but when you come to Bergen I can lend you my copy of the Draconomicon if you’re still interested.

    Comment by Obdormio — 10 May, 2012 @ 13:33

  3. Ah, I see. Oh, I’d be interested for sure, but less so if it isn’t your own brainchild.

    By the way, it isn’t 100% clear from your text (unless I missed a word somewhere), so I’ll check – the Golden King/first emperor is a dragon and not a humanoid, right? It seems implied but isn’t stated outright, so I got curious.

    Also, speaking of humanoids, will you go into a bit more detail at some point regarding the – if any – differences in social status, occupations and customs of the Arkhosian dragonborn and its older form(s) of non-draconic humanoids (humans?)? You detail their arrival and growth, but not what – again, if any – consequences they had for the ones living there before.

    Comment by Loki — 10 May, 2012 @ 14:09

  4. Yeah, he was a dragon – a gold dragon, to be precise. And he was the only emperor. Arkhosia lasted a long while, but nowhere near the full lifespan of a gold dragon.

    I might go into that at some point – I had a half-formed notion to say something about it here, but couldn’t get it coherent in my head. Dragonborn delegated humans to minority status, and their initial advent was a factor in human migration into Ashkarovor. In the later empire, it was rare for a non-dragonborn to be a full citizen, but resident status was not without its share of rights and privileges as well.

    Comment by Obdormio — 10 May, 2012 @ 14:45

  5. Wait, not only are there a ridiculously far spread out population of dragons in this area, but it manages to maintain entirely different breeds simultaneously? SUPERECOSYSTEM WIN.

    That’s fun, with the full citizen thing. Must be quite the high to be one of the few humans to get it, then.

    Comment by Loki — 11 May, 2012 @ 09:32

  6. Understand, “spread out” is the natural state of dragons – the Arkhosian plains are notable for their by dragon standards amazingly high population density. It is very, very rare for dragons to co-exist within a society, Arkhosia is one of very few examples. Dragons are mostly solitary, and fiercely jealous of their territory. They seek out other dragons when they are in heat, but tolerate each other only until the eggs are hatched before separating again. Wyrmlings are kicked out of the nest to make their own way in the world as soon as the mother judges it fit to take care of itself.

    And you talk about maintaining the different breeds – you have to keep in mind the scale of it. Even the shortest lived dragon breeds can expect to live at least a thousand years, barring violent death or disease. For metallic dragons, which mostly made up the population in Arkhosia, the shortest lived can reach an age of 3000 years. Gold dragons are the longest-lived of all the mortal dragons, in-universe there are no records of one dying of old age. Luckily, we’re not in-universe, so I can tell you they can live to be 9000.

    Comment by Obdormio — 11 May, 2012 @ 11:47

  7. Ah, thank you, that makes sense. So all my “huh?”-reactions are explained by their longevity, in essence. Which makes me curious, on average, how often (and during what period of their lifespan) would a dragon living 4-5000 years breed? And how many offspring on average per breeding?

    Comment by Loki — 11 May, 2012 @ 12:53

  8. Dragons breed mainly in their adult stage – the dragon life stages are wyrmling, young, adult, elder and ancient. When exactly they reach that stage depends on the breed.

    To take a bronze dragon as an example: Bronze dragons can live for about 5000 years, enter the adult stage at 180 years and the elder stage at 1500. On breeding, a female bronze dragon would lay a clutch of 4 or 5 eggs. Of these, perhaps three will hatch successfully. It is physically possible for a bronze dragon to produce a clutch every three years or so, but the average dragon will only breed three or four times in their lifetime.

    Comment by Obdormio — 11 May, 2012 @ 13:30

  9. Interesting. So for every bronze dragon, there will be an average of circa 5 new dragons born spread out over a period of 1300 years (two dragons coupling 3.5 times with 3 successful offspring each time, divided by two). That does sound very sustainable, I agree. Though it makes me wonder, how many of these 5 could expect to live to see adulthood in the Arkhosian plains?

    Comment by Loki — 11 May, 2012 @ 13:56

  10. In the plains at this time, most of them would. In less civilised parts of the world, it would be cagier. The most common cause of death amongst dragons has always been other dragons, not old age.

    Comment by Obdormio — 11 May, 2012 @ 14:03

  11. What are the (dominant) dragon cultural views on fratricide, patricide, matricide, etc? Do they have familial allegiances? If not, since they are such loners and so combative, why let their offspring live at all?

    Comment by Loki — 11 May, 2012 @ 14:36

  12. Dragons do have the capacity to care about others – but whether this stems from empathy or just plain possessiveness is unclear. They are certainly aware of familial relations, and in the abstract not opposed to the existence of other dragons. It only becomes a problem when there is a question of territory. No dragon would ever consider the killing of a territorial challenger wrong, regardless of familial ties.

    That doesn’t mean they have no concept of murder, however, and might take it as a personal slight if someone else killed their relatives for reasons they deemed unjust.

    Comment by Obdormio — 11 May, 2012 @ 15:06

  13. So wouldn’t at least some of them feel that reproducing could cause them territorial challengers at a later date, and do away with the offspring?

    Comment by Loki — 11 May, 2012 @ 17:22

  14. The ones that feel like that would probably just not reproduce in the first place; but yes, I’m sure there are circumstances where dragons would find it more expedient to kill their young than rear them.

    Comment by Obdormio — 11 May, 2012 @ 17:28

  15. Kan eg berre få sei at eg er reint “månebedotten” – i mangel av eit godt ikkje-bergensk ord – over desse postane dine? Keep ’em coming!

    Comment by Mari — 20 May, 2012 @ 23:10

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