“When the first Vartach were born of the confluence of the five elements deep below the ground, they explored the Great Cavern, and saw that it was good. They felt the welcoming rock, and drank of the chilly waters, and ate of the mosses they found and blessed the breezes that flowed through the tunnels. Before too long however their hearts grew hard, and they were not glad, and they fought over space and the most powerful places. And one Vartach, whose name was Stonespeaker, decided to recreate the Vartach as they should have been, without the hardened hearts they had grown over the years. And they created the first Fathach, who had fewer needs and desires than the Vartach, whose skins were of stone but whose hearts were warm.” – How The Fathach Came To Be, A Tale of Draíod
“High above the rest of Tirneach, Draíod is a land apart from the rest of the Realms. Although it borders three of the Five Realms, the only true access is at the western end of the Valley through the Green Marches into Baol and Bruid, where there is much dispute over what acreage belongs to which Realm. Walking around in the Valley, one can imagine what it must have been like to live in Tirneach before there were so many different folk, one could walk for half a day without meeting another living soul apart from livestock. There are a few very picturesque settlements on the surface, quite like ornamental gates on a townhouse. It is below the surface where the true population of Draíod resides, and the subterranean towns and indeed cities are singular indeed. The Way of Wisdom is not for the faint of heart, but it will show the faithful some of the most unforgettable sights of their life. A blessing from the Shaper indeed, to see the Shining Grotto and Deilf’s Maw, and live to tell the tale.” – Treasna an’Fánach, a Survey of the Realms
Where is Draíod?
Draíod is surrounded by the Ring Mountains, which rise up out of the central plains of Tirneach and tower above the surrounding lands. On the surface, the Valley of Draíod has a few hamlets and villages, scattered here and there on the moors and high places. It is below ground that the true heart of Draíod can be found. Immense caverns are home to bustling towns, while the largest of all holds Crag Oscionn, the Iarla’s seat and the site of the Shaper’s Shrine.
When people think of Draíod, they think of the Vartach and the Fathach. Those two species are more populous in Draíod than anywhere else, and make up the bulk of Draíod’s population. Despite Draíod’s inaccessibility and the many secrets that are hoarded there, the Draíodaigh always welcome those who come to the Learned Realm seeking knowledge. The Draíodaigh also know how important it is to maintain good relations with their neighbours (the occasional border skirmish aside), since they must rely on their merchants for goods which cannot be found either above or below ground in Draíod.
The surveyors of Uasa are frustrated by Draíod. Ridings above and below ground tend to overlay each other. What is more, those Riders that possess arcane knowledge are given the title of Saoi, and have greater status than other Riders within Draíod. This practice harks back to the ancient times of Draíod before the birth of the Five Realms, which the surveyors find unsettling to say the least.
Origins of Draíod
Draíod may be synonymous with the Vartach, but it was not known by that name until many centuries after the Vartach first appeared there. For a long time the caverns, grottos and tunnels were the province of one tribe of Vartach or another, who jealously guarded the power they found there.
The unification of Draíod was also nearly its undoing. One Vartach rose above the others in knowledge and power, and brought the tribes together. He became King of the Vartach and of Draíod, but it was not enough. He spread his rule to the surface, and out beyond the Ring Mountains, seeking further power and influence. He slew dragons, he shattered the east coast of Tirneach and left it shrouded in mist, and he sacrificed thousands to his ambition. Before he was trapped and slain, he had nearly destroyed his own people.
By the time the Réig came to Tirneach, Draíod had long been established under the governance of the Saoi, who carried on the legacy of the Vartach who turned against the mad King. Legend has it that before they would acknowledge the Réig as the ruler of Tirneach, they set a challenge: walk the darkest and most perilous tunnels of the caverns of Draíod alone, and find your way to the centre of power. The first Réig accomplished this by trusting in the Shaper and following the leylines. The first of the Saoi to kneel in acknowledgement of the feat was named Iarla of the Realm of Draíod. Today, the Réig’s path is a route for pilgrims and is called the Way of Wisdom. Many who attempt it are found lost, terrified or injured…or never found at all.
Playing a Draíodach Character
Bands of gallóglaigh often take pains to recruit from among the Draíodaigh. They know that graduates of the Arcane College at Crag Oscionn are second to none in magical power, and that it is possible to tempt them away from their studies with stories of adventure and fame. Draíodaigh from the Valley are welcomed too, since they are often doughty warriors and adept in the wilds. Draíodaigh are generally most committed to upholding the Third Oath. Their legends speak of the harm caused by false rulers, and they know that the other Realms are jealous of Draíod’s power and would take it if they could.
When you costume as a Draíodach, your approach will depend a lot on your character’s background and skills. A scholar who has spent the last few years deep in study might favour robes and mantles as a symbol of their learning. An adventurer who explores the deep caverns will probably wear protective clothing of some kind, and armour too, as you never know what you will find in the darkness. A Valley-dweller who has left the life of a shepherd behind them for the gallóglaigh will probably still wear their woolen cloak for the cold nights on the march. Draíodaigh are proud of their Realm, and will often wear blacks, reds, and purples to show where they come from.
In order to gain respect among their peers, Draíodaigh characters must be ready to hold forth on their specialist subject of knowledge, and to allow anyone to stop you in the middle of a speech is deemed to be a weakness. Their Strident Voice Realm Feat allows them to ignore the Mute effect by spending 1 Vigour.
Draíodaigh venerate knowledge of all kinds, particular in matters of the arcane. Becoming more learned and skilled is an act of worship, a way of giving thanks to the Shaper. Some people cannot harness magic, and that is a shame, but there is never an excuse to let your mind wither on the vine. We expect Draíodaigh characters to be knowledgeable, and to value knowledge in others. We also expect that they will find it difficult to pass up an opportunity to learn more about the world around them, particularly when magic is involved.
Draíodach opinions on the other Realms
Baol (Highlands): No evidence has ever been found of this Amber Hall the highlanders venerate, but their customs and traditions appear to date back centuries. An interesting study, if you can survive the harsh landscape and people.
Baol (Lowlands): An industrious people who believe themselves knowledgeable. I have visited their so-called Great Library, it is no more than a storage for almanacs.
Bruid: They accuse us of taking their land, but why should one Realm have the entire bounty and mystery of the Great Forest while ours is limited by mountains set there when the Shaper made the world?
Siabhal: Our Realms may have been allies in ages past, but even the oldest Leasiar does not recall those days. It is unclear what they have to offer these days beyond endless changes in fashion.
Uasa: The Réig is wise to listen to the counsel of the Saoi on matters magical and divine, but the denizens of the Crown Realm meddle with forces they do not understand all too often.
Some Draíodaigh You Might One Day Meet…
Maev is a Vartach and one of the most preeminent graduates of the Arcane College in recent decades. She has walked the Way of Wisdom three times, and emerged unscathed. She is sought after by bands of gallóglaigh, but although she may help with some great task, her first love is the caverns of Draíod and what she can uncover there. Rumour has it that she hasn’t been seen for several weeks, but she is probably investigating a cave system that would defy anyone else. She will return triumphant, most likely!
Garv is a Fathach, living in the town of Rathlinn in the Valley of Draíod. They first came here with their animating Vartach, who was intent on investigating the mysteries of Loch Corcra. Some mysteries remain unsolved, and Garv’s Vartach grew tired of life on the surface. Garv stayed, and now makes a living fishing in the purplish-black depths of the Loch. Some of the things that Garv had dredged up in their nets would have been of immense interest to their former companion, but they made their choice.
Oisín is a human living in Crag Oscionn, and doing very well thank you for asking. Originally from the lowlands of Baol, Oisín saw an opportunity in Draíod, where his skills at glassblowing might be sought after by the mages and alchemists of the Arcane College. His business took off as soon as the other denizens of the Crag were sure he wasn’t one of those humans and his glass wouldn’t explode or turn back into sand somehow. Oisín is still a human, and of course he has conducted many experiments with incorporating the various grimes and dusts of the Draíodach caverns into his glass. So far he hasn’t found a way to work the inherent magic of the caverns into his main product, instead he still favours good honest Baolach sands for his wares.
Cennétig Marblespine is the Iarla of Draíod, and a Clashing Swords Vartach. A loyal servant and protector of the people of Draíod, they are known to have spent 5 years as a Gallóglaigh, reportedly earning themselves far more glory than pingin. One such noted deed included holding a narrow trail on Vercontin’s Pass by themselves for over half an hour against a slew of Sluagh with nothing but their will, their spear, and a sack of rocks. This renown has served them well though, and when the old Iarla died a decade ago in a tunnel collapse they were the obvious choice to replace them.
Notable Settlements and Ridings
Cillcloch (Small town – Underground) – Cillcloch is the beginning of the Way of Wisdom, the pilgrim’s trail dedicated to the Shaper’s aspects of teacher and wielder of magic. Before unification, it is said that the first Réig had to prove both their might in magic and knowledge of the world to the Saoi, the pagan rulers of Draíod who hoarded all magical power to themselves (and who many insist are still the real rulers of Draíod). Only by trusting in the Shaper, and then demonstrating they could find the leylines and follow them to the nexus at Crag Oscionn could the Réig secure the help of the Saoi in the war of unification. Nowadays devotees pray for guidance and set off into the tunnels, trusting that the Shaper will lead them to the next stop in the Way. Not all of them have enough faith to make the whole journey, and those who have lost their way re-emerge later, half-starved and terrified, speaking of terrible things they have seen in the depths…if they re-emerge at all.
Rathlinn (Large town – Above ground) – The centre of the Valley of Draíod is dominated by a great lake, Loch Corcra. Rathlinn sits on the eastern shore of the lake, and much of the town is built on the lake itself, with buildings resting on stilts and on earthen banks. The town’s main activity is fishing, at least ostensibly. Visitors to the town notice that though many of the warehouses along the jetty are indeed for storing and processing fish, there are others with many more Fathach guards on the doors, with entry ways at water level where boats can unload their cargo unobserved. The rumour is that the floor of Lough Corcra is suffused with some magical mineral, which gives the lake its distinctive purplish-black colour, and which is prized by the Vartach underground, or that artefacts of a drowned people are on the lake floor. Either way, there is more to Rathlinn than meets the eye.
Crag Oscionn (City – Underground) – Home to the Shrine of the Shaper and capital of Draíod, Crag Oscionn is situated in a massive cavern below the ground, in the approximate centre of Draíod. It is also near the confluence of a number of leylines which flow unseen through the bedrock of Draíod, where magical energies are strongest. All vartach visit Crag Oscionn at some stage in their childhood to receive an induction into the magical arts, and this is also where many fathach are born, as it is considered auspicious to begin where the animating magic is strongest. The Shrine of the Shaper is a huge diamond-shaped chamber carved into the rock itself, and pilgrims traverse it by means of steps, platforms and walkways. It is said that the Shaper’s presence can be felt by those who go there on special feastdays. When the Réig makes their pilgrimage there no-one except for members of the Council of Prelates is allowed to attend.
Slievegamal (Riding – Above ground) – Slievegamal is a fairly typical riding on the surface of Draíod, consisting mainly of pastures for hardy livestock and fields where there is enough good soil to grow root vegetables. The riding is hard up against the southern rim of the mountains which surround the main valley of Draíod, the joke is that so much of the riding is on a hill that the goats’ milk brought elsewhere will make a slope in the cup. The Rider, an earnest human called Oscar Beag, is more merchant than man-at-arms, and is constantly concerned with the flow of goods to the riding of Doirvios below his own, ensuring that his “downstairs neighbours” have enough to live on. Surveyors from Uasa are typically critical of these relationships, as all Riders are supposed to be on equal footing, whereas the Saoi are clearly a rung above their non-Saoi counterparts on the social ladder.
Doirvios (Riding – Underground…and perhaps Above Ground) – The borders of any riding in the Five Realms are hard enough to define, but when they are underground it becomes particularly difficult. Doirvios starts at the edge of the southern rim of the Ring Mountains surrounding Draíod, and then spreads even further south, some might think through the mountains and under land claimed by Bruid. The Rider of Doirvios, Saoi Vealtin, is keen to argue (Vartach are fond of argument in general) that the presence of Vartach and Fathach in the northern marches of Bruid on the other side of the Ring Mountains does not confirm that they have “burrowed in” from Draíod, and the accusations of smuggling and theft of timber and illicit commonage are internal matters for the Iarlas of Bruid and not her concern. Rumours abound of yet another Riding even deeper below Doirvios that requires greater resources to maintain itself, but most Bruidigh dismiss this as a fiction invented by the Rider of Doirvios to excuse her sponsorship of squatters on rightful Bruideach territory.
Inior (Riding – Above ground) – A rare above ground riding that focuses more on the outside world than what lies below it, Inior is on the Green Marches, the border between the realms of Draíod, Bruid and Baol. The Rider, Aoibh Donn, is a former gallóglach identified by the Iarla of Draíod as particularly dedicated and cutthroat. She presses the western border of Draíod out as far as she dares, using all manner of disruption tactics and outright attacks to secure more land for her own riding, and more good pasture and territory for her Realm. She faces resistance from her neighbours to be sure, but the rewards of her strategy are potentially massive.