Dace, officially The Invincible Republic of Dace, is a small state in the Kalkatts, a mountainous region on the northern coast of the Tattered Sea. It is populated almost entirely by former slaves, and is famous for its intense nationalism and incredibly wealthy mines, as well as its harsh environment. Dace is a relatively young state, and is in a constant state of tension with its neighbors, who view the rise of the state as worrying, given its wild nature and expansionist tendencies. The capital, of late, is Taphonomy Bay.
Dace was held for a thousand years by the Helian Empire. As the region was incredibly rich in metals, it was heavily mined by the Helian Elves and their large population of slaves. A thousand years of strip mining has poisoned the land of Dace completely. Barely any arable land is left, and most surface water is poisoned or made dangerous from mining runoff. As the ecological damage of the region mounted and the stores of the incredibly rare magical metal orichalcum ran dry, Dace was abandoned by the Helians. Left behind were hundreds of thousands of slaves, formerly used as labor for the mines and as part of an experiment to breed Helian Elves in only one generation of interbreeding.
As Dace was almost uninhabitable, many thousands of Dacians perished within the first few years of independence. Others were captured by neighboring states, including one Sarah Gizka and her family, who were captured by Marju raiders. Many more fled the land for other states, where they faced more oppression due to their association with the Helians and reputation as subhuman slaves. Some banded together to form mercenary companies, which quickly became famous for their suicidal bravery and ferocity.
Back in Dace, the few remaining inhabitants banded together for protection in tribal groups. Due to the difficulty of survival, little in-fighting occured between these tribes. Eventually, it was discovered that the Helians had overlooked vast stores of non-magical metal in their hunger for orichalcum. The tribes began to work the mines again, this time as free men and women, and suddenly found themselves incredibly wealthy. Merchant city-states were established all over Dace, and slowly grew in power as their mineral wealth was sold for imported food and supplies from less devastated regions.
However, the mercenary armies that had previously fled Dace saw that their homeland had become powerful, and returned home in an attempt to take some of that power for themselves. The result was the Dacian Civil War.
Civil War and AftermathEdit
The various mercenary companies each seized a city or region and attempted to expand their influence to include the rest of the nation. The result was a long, brutal civil war. Two Companies in particular rose to prominence: the Lions of Mizzick and the Gizka Company. Both fought for Taphonomy Bay, one of the larger city states. Their efforts led to the eventual victory of Taphonomy Bay and the establishment of a unified Republic, led by a Senate and an elected Duke.
Part of the treaty was the agreement that Taphonomy Bay would take on all debts of the various mercenary companies hired by all sides of the conflict. It was soon apparent that the large number of mercenary companies, freedom fighters, and rebels that had fought would be impossible to pay. These forces were quartered in the city of Bek until a solution could be determined. Sarah Gizka, leader of the Gizka company, led her company and a large group of civilians into the city and butchered the mercenary companies in their sleep, eliminating the debt issues. Many of these groups had been promised protection by Gizka herself. Though this was an atrocity, the Senate commended her for her efforts (and for the loot liberated from the mercenaries and the city itself) and quietly defaulted on the loan. This event, however, turned Joakim Mizzick, leader of the Lions of Mizzick against the idea of a centralized government of Dace and against Gizka.
Gizka and Mizzick have formed into their own political factions. The Gizka Faction, represented by their symbol, a Donkey, desires a centralized government centered on Taphonamy Bay and backs Federalist interests in the country. Gizka herself leads it, and holds a position of great power within Taphonomy Bay itself. The Mizzick Faction desires greater autonomy, more provincial recognition in the Senate, and reduced power for the Duke. The Mizzick Faction also has the support of the Sichs, or waves of fortresses built out in the steppes bordering Dace in an attempt to obtain land capable of growing food.
The current Doge is Sokar Zipani, who was elected after the civil war. Though ostensibly the ruler of the country, he has very little temporal power, as much of it rests in the hands of the senate, and what is left can essentially be ignored by the Great Captains. Zaza Racoco is the Duke's only real supporter. It is commonly understood that if any of the Great Captains were to successfully seize the position of Autarch (any of them can "announce" themselves the Autarch, but it is understood that the rest would then converge upon him/her and kill them) then they would occupy a position above the Doge, but he would keep his position.
Dace relies almost entirely on exporting mineral wealth in exchange for food and supplies. The closer one is to Taphonomy Bay, the more modern and industrial the country is. Further out to the Sich, the population becomes more rural.
Agriculture is almost impossible in Dace due to the pollution of the land. This has led to attempts to revitalize the soil or to expand into areas with arable land. In some places in Dace, bodies are not buried but instead placed in the fields in an attempt to rejuvenate the soil.
A vital part of the Dacian economy are the Trackways. These are large tracks, formerly used to transport ore, that now transport food and supplies around the country and carry trade into other states in the Kalkatts or into Karthack. The Elector-Duke of Dace has successfully petitioned the Genosian church to remove the stigma of merchants on Dacian trackway traders going to Karthack by way of the Cross Way, due to the danger of the job. The tracks themselves are standardized, and carts are pulled by oxen between outposts created for security. These carts always have protection and guards, as the wagon trains are frequently targets of raiders.
Travel to Karthack is achieved by travelling through the Cross Way, an underground passage below the mountains. A large portion of the way is an underground river. The lack of stigma in trade extends to all traders along the Cross Way, not just trackway operators.
Dace has a unique problem, where their currency is worthless because they have no gold or silver, and because their old currency was enormously debased and counterfeited. The Dacian government instituted their own currency, a sort of iron bar with a number stamped into it shortly after molding. These bars do not represent gold, silver, or any other redeemable currency, what they represent is the government rounding up groups of Dacians, and forcing them at gunpoint to perform labor for a set period of time.
So the Dacian currency is, in a very real sense, labor in material form. It cost a lot of sweat and blood, but it got shit done, and it made Dacian money worth something tangible.
The Bank of Dace is essentially an arm of the government that loans out Dacian labor-chits in return for the promise of repayment in actual goods. If you try to pay for something in Illegon with Dacian money, you'll get shafted, but if you hire Dacians with it, you'll literally get your money's worth.
Dace has four main forms of military might.
The first is the Companies. These are groups of soldiers raised by patriotic or politically minded citizens and hired by the state. They are often of regimental size, and make up the more well-equipped branch of the military.
The second and largest is the Militia. Every citizen of Dace is required to own arms, and the purchase of firearms is subsidized by the state. Drills are held every month, and participants are granted tax exemptions. They are often rag-tag and lightly armored, but incredibly fierce.
The third, and perhaps most famous, is the Volkodavs. They are the closest thing Dace has to a knightly class, though some of their critics condemn them as being no better than the bandits they hunt. They are closely connected to the Sich, and are the ones that actually make the expansion of Dace onto the steppes possible. They are instantly recognizable by their hound-faced helmets, and wear long coats of padded armor covered in chain. Their weapons are crossbows, swords, and javelins, all used from horseback as part of their lightning fast battle strategy. The Volkodav way is to pick a part of the steppe, drive out or kill everything living there, bandit or otherwise, and then claim it as part of the Sich and use it as a base from which to further expand. They are folk heroes in Dace, and many a romantic song has been written about them.
The fourth group is unofficial, but plays an important role in Dacian military history. When Dace is invaded, every citizen is expected to pick up arms and defend the Republic. Though the State Troops are large, many an enemy has found themselves torn apart by vengeful swarming citizens, many hopped up on local Dacian drugs such as Redmouth. This swarm is often known as the "Rat War Militia," and is not so much a branch of the military as it is a spontaneous social event.
Dace's situation is unique. Because its own high culture is lacking, and its nobility generally don't get invited to parties, they don't have access to the complex diplomacy and courtly intrigue that allows other nations to conduct espionage.
Denied this route, the Dacians have been forced to rely on less sophisticated means of gathering intelligence. Bribery, extortion, outright murder, blackmail, sabotage and other treacheries are the Dacian tools of choice. These tools are generally less effective at achieving political ends than the intrigues of other peoples, but they are very effective in wartime, since objectives are much more clearly defined.
Dacian Special Forces, lead by Vlatko Vlatkovic, are the terminal delivery point of this intelligence service. They are the ones who actually go and hurt people to make things happen. They are professional, smart, and good at covering their tracks with human corpses. Though it's not hard to deduce their presence, it is hard to prove it, and they rarely fail--they just succeed more obviously than they would like.
The real weakness of DSF is that the organization is run almost solely by ultranationalists. Dacians who have a concept of Dace that extends beyond the temporal. They are willing to go outside of their orders, kill people for no other reason than that it benefits their "idea" of Dace. They have even started wars over their vision of the Greater Dace, wars that have killed tens of thousands of people.
It is difficult for the state to know when it is appropriate to give these radical spies orders, and when it would be best to outsource them to private contractors.
One of the largest, if not the largest, Dacian holidays is the Feast of the Rats. This event celebrates Dace's independence from the Helian Empire. Each village or community bakes a long snake made out of bread, representing the Empire. The townspeople then get drunk and fight each other in an attempt to tear off the biggest piece of the snake and eat it.
Despite the landscape and constant cultural affiliation with rats, Dace is not a horribly grim place. Its people are proud of how far they've come, and of their independence. They are willing to fight like hell to defend what they have achieved, however, which often makes them appear crazed and violent to the outside world.
The male names have two versions, a Soft and a Hard version. Soft is used in a more personal setting, Hard is used in public or in serious situations. The hard version almost always has an "ock" or similar sound in it such as "ot" Vlatko, for example, is the hard version of Vladimir; not to be confused with Vlado, which turns into Vladdock so Adon becomes Ackock and Blado becomes Burrock. Zaza Racoco would normally be called Zazzock, but he dislikes the practice because it makes him sound too butch.
Women from Dace do not conform to this having only the 'soft' variant of their name; the 'hard' version of their names exists but is a insult to refer to them as such.
The staple of the Dacian diet is Prich, a standardized square brick of unleavened bread shipped into the country in bulk from across Vosca, but mostly from their despised agricultural superpower neighbour Kalmacia. Generally a mix of rye and wheat flours baked as hard as a rock, it is cheap, has a shelf life in the decades, and is so painful to eat even weevils and rats avoid it.
The Dacians make a lot of things out of this stuff. Alcohol and pottage are the two basics.
Dacian Pottage consists of crushed Prich and whatever else can be found to throw into the pot. This greyish-brown sludge is cooked in huge vats in the center of every town, and most Dacians live off of a bowl or two of the stuff a day. A great many people in Dacian cities pay for their daily bowl of Pottage with an animal of some variety, usually dead. The beast is then gutted, skinned, chopped and thrown into the vat to keep the pottage thick.
Coastal pottages, like those of Taphonomy Bay, are often used as the base for a chowder made with clams and fish harvested by the great fishing fleets, whereas northern frontier pottage is often made into stews laden with goat, mutton or horseflesh from the Sich.
Rat-meat is very common, but is generally not eaten alone because it is a very gamy and pungent meat. As most people who acquire a rat would rather trade it for a bowl of pottage than cook it themselves, dining on rat is seen as something for the wealthy.
A popular dish is chopped rat fried in oil, with onions, peppers, and a Crv-Mustard that forcibly opens the sinuses. By combining rat with intense heat, its aroma can be properly enjoyed.
Of course, that's just the predictable stuff. Imports into Dace are universal, and particularly near the coast almost any kind of foodstuff is available. The Dacians can't afford to be picky, they'll buy anything, and they'll damn well eat it and they'll damn well like it. The Dacian culinary mindset thrives on adversity, and as a result they have a keen grasp of conceptual flavors that is far ahead of its time.
One of the very few local additions is a unique condiment called Crv ("sherv"). Made out of the fruit of certain river fungi, Crv is a pale pink sauce that tastes rather like vinegar, but after several seconds burns at about 300,000 scovilles. Almost nobody likes this stuff except Dacians and Zells.
Perhaps because of this culture of improvisation, the educated and moneyed classes of Dace take the culinary arts as seriously as other upper classes take swordplay, horsemanship or poetry. Culinary excellence is highly respected, and Dacian banquets are often public cooking displays, the host and as few assistants as possible producing a meal for the invitees in full view, to prove their capabilities.
Kesh Hearts cooked in their own leaves, with cheese. Kesh is a carnivorous plant that emits a poisonous gas nightly. It is unique for having a bulb made of what is quite clearly flesh at its core, despite being a plant. This heart is highly prized, and Kesh Farmers (a brave lot) always find a market for this delicacy. Zaza Racoco is known for having pioneered the preparation of Kesh Hearts by serving them rare, rather than boiling them until they thoroughly cook. The toxins that remain in the heart are imperceptible to the palate, but create a euphoric sensation that is greatly coveted by connoisseurs.
Dacians are a people that have been assembled from slaves taken around the world. As such, they are smaller and darker skinned than their neighbors. Because they were not permitted family names as slaves, many mining groups (which evolved into families) took names from their former masters or from words that were derived from corrupted languages spoken by the slaves. Often times, these words were never intended for names. Gizka means 'Useless Horse', or Donkey, and Mizzick loosely translates into the feeling of impotent rage one feels after hitting one's head. Their given names are just as mixed, so names of almost every nationality pop up in Dace.
As far as names go, the Dacian surnames tend to be very consonant heavy, and two or three syllables long at the most. Many of them sound very harsh, because many of them originated as insults or threats hurled at their ancestors by their Helian masters. Given names tend to be more versatile, ranging from standard Europeanesque names (Sarah, Jan, Jusef, Vlatko) to more Asian and middle eastern ones (Joakim, Mago, Raeed) to downright bizarre and foreign ones (Zaza, Voltock) and so on.
Appearance-wise, Dacians tend to be short-ish (both sexes stand a bit below the average height) and dark, with straight black hair, though this is only average, and they vary as much as any other people. Unusually, the most common eye color is a sharp green, and this seems to be on the rise, rather than on the decline. Many speculate that their exposure to native orichalcum and magestone is the cause of this, but scholars dismiss the idea.
There is a Dwarf Hold in Dace, but there hasn't been word out of it in decades. Many suspect them to be extinct. They are also known to be the holders of Omraza, the Black Blade of Dace, and the keepers of its secret history.
Certain fringe ethnicities do dwell at the edges of the country. In Northern Dace, peoples from the steppe, Dacians, and to a lesser extent Osterbs have mixed over time, and are racially distinct from the heartlanders from the South, being taller, with lighter skin and occasionally fair hair.
Kalmacians also live in Western Dace, to a small extent, mostly tradesmen selling talents not otherwise found in the country. The Dacians are very suspicious of foreigners, but tolerate Kalmacians because of their mirthful nature and pious attitudes.
As for Burdinadin, Taphonomy Bay was built over the corpse of a failed Glade, one destroyed by spirit contamination. It is thanks to that Glade that the early Dacians survived the horrors of colonizing the country.
What is less spoken of is that Ohanedin also live in Dace. A very small number of them, but they are there. They are not spoken of by their kin in Iber, nor by the Dacian State, but they are there, many of them having come over during the civil war to fight as mercenaries, went insane due to the sheer deadness of the country.
Dacian duelists tend towards late arming swords, and are known for running thrusts through up to the hilt, rather than trying to dart away after a successful blow, and for emphasizing sureness of movement rather than speed. Sarah Gizka, one of the Great Captains, popularized a style of swordsmanship utilizing a steel scabbard as an off-hand weapon to parry blows while attacking with the sword, and this has also begun to catch on.