Dromites reside on a small island off western Coast of Zumbasa, these insectoid-like ant-folk are descendants of what was once a great empire that spanned much of central Zumbasa. When the Gnomes and Halflings expelled the goblinoids from Chikras-Wed the goblins fled south soon settling in the Dromite controlled plains in central Zumbasa.
To the goblins the central area of Zumbasa was uninhabited not realizing that below them thousands were of Dromites in their underground burrows and tunnels. The Dromite empire began to vie for control of central Tsest-Gao with the goblinoids who had taken a liking to Dromite meat. Many goblinoids (such as gnolls and hobgoblins) thought of the Dromites as nothing more than especially tasty giant ants and made several ill-fated attempts to destroy the empire. While some goblinoids ate Dromites others traded and learned important skills from the ant-folk, one of which was the art of psionic power. Dromites were very interested in the goblins’ psionic potential. Many of the goblins who learned psionics from Dromites went on to help found the first goblinoid settlements in southern Tsest-Gao.
The arrival of Zumbasans in central Tsest-Gao was a mixed bag for the Dromite empire. The Zumbasans drove out all the goblinoids from central Tsest-Gao and while the departure of the gnolls and hobgoblins was viewed as a good thing by most Dromites the Zumbasans also drove out or killed goblin traders who did business with the Dromite empire. The Zumbasans, unsure of what the Dromites were at first believed them to be a subterranean species of goblins and attempted to destroy them, it was only when a Dromite named Xolu Tseech and a Zumbasan named Ali Mosifaat managed to convince the king of Zumbasa that the Dromites were not goblins that the war was ended. Despite the best efforts of both leaders of the Dromites and the Zumbasans both peoples still held resentment for each other after the war.
The Dromite Empire ultimately met its end during a civil war in which much of the empire was destroyed. The Dromites belong to several different psionic hive-minds or clans each of whom is led by an elder. The elders of each clan ruled over the entire empire in a counsulet, after years of peaceful rule the relationships between the different Dromite clans began to fray, elders from the two largest clans attempted to take over the empire in a military coup that saw the other two clan elders killed. All over the empire Dromites began taking up arms to defend their respective clans and soon war broke out.
The one of the smaller Dromite clans sensing that defeat was near set about creating a weapon that could destroy their enemies in one fell swoop. The wizards, psions, and alchemists of the clan developed a device called the “Annulus” an amber disc about one foot in diameter that trapped the collective consciences of the Dromites who died during the war and could release their spirit’s psionic energy in a devastating blast that would snap psionic creates’ minds. But when the clan attempted to use the Annulus it sent an unstable psionic blast across the hive mind instantly killing nearly all the Dromites.
The Dromites who did manage to escape the blast of the Annulus were those located on a small Island located off Tsest-Gao’s western coast. Most of the elders who psionic abilities were strong enough to sense what was going on died from the mental shock alone. While there was fighting on the island both before and after the firing of the Annulus it was soon stopped after a Dromite named Vita Telanech discovered the ruined and abandoned tunnels of the Dromite empire. Soon other Dromite scouts and explorers discovered the tunnels as well and the surviving members of the Dromite clans decided that the survival of their species was far more important than the civil war that had claimed their empire.
Repercussions of The Civil War
The civil war was not only a devastating blow to the Dromite people but also to Zumbasan traders and merchants who had long done business with the empires’ many people. The Dromites were the Zumbasan’s primary trading partner outside their own cities and soon many of the cities in Zumbasa began to fall into decline. Many of the Blues in Tlaohuican, the newly formed goblin empire declared a year of morning for their empire after many felt ripples of the psionic energy emanating from the Annulus’ explosion. To this day there is still a large monument to the Dromite empire in Tlaohuican’s pyramid garden.
While the Dromite empire may be no more today its legacy lives on for better or worse. Zumbasan miners still unearth old Dromite tunnels, but rarely explore them due to rumors of the tunnels being haunted. Zumbasan mining practices take a large amount of inspiration from Dromite tunnel design and dromite folk-tales and culture have a part in Zumbasan culture, albeit with a more Zumbasan edge to them. As mentioned earlier the goblins of Tlaohuican are also influenced by the dromites’ culture especially regarding psionic knowledge. Many goblinoids still worship the demigod Zuoken who was a deity commonly worshipped by Dromites and many goblin psionic rites and rituals share traits with those used by early Dromites.
Geography and Demography
The Dromite Empire (sometimes called the Ibhungane Empire by the Zumbasans) spanned most of what is now modern-day Zumbasa. For the most part, the subterranean empire was made up of a complex network of tunnels both natural and Dromtie-made. The tunnels tended to vary in width with some being large enough to fit entire wagons through while some required inhabitants to crawl for long distances. Dromites tended to not be bothered by claustrophobic environments and unlike many surface dwellers had no problem navigating the cramped, stuffy and often very dark tunnels.
Dromite colony-cities usually resided in large open caves, most of the time these caves were near underground water sources such as rivers, lakes or reservoirs. Some Zumbasan scholars believe that the Dromite empire may have extracted water directly from the continent’s aquifer which lead to the arid conditions in central Zumbasa today.
Not all Dromites lived under the ground though, some set up trading posts above ground and did business with the various groups that inhabited central Tsest-Gao. These Dromite traders were called Bathengisi (Dromite for trader or merchant) and still exist as a social class today. Most of the Dromties who had survived the destruction of their empire were either descended from or were Bathengisi.
Despite its underground isolation the Dromites were known to have been able to speak several different languages. The first and most commonly spoken language was Dromite, most of the common folk in the Dromite empire could both speak and read Dromite. Most laws, statutes, and other important legal documents were written in Dromite first before being translated into other languages common to the empire. Dromite is a tonal language that uses a high and low phonemic tones. The language also implements several vocal “clicks” making the pronunciation of the language rather difficult for those used to speaking common.
Most of Southern Tsest-Gao still uses the Dromtie alphabet which has 33 letters to indicate the initial consonant of a syllable and four diacritics to indicate additional consonants in the onset. Diacritics are also used to indicate vowels, either placed above, beneath, or after the consonant character. Diacritics can also be indicators of the phonemic tone being used by the writer, though sometimes the writer simply relies on context to inform the reader of their tone.
Other languages that were commonly spoken in the Dromite empire included various goblinoid dialects, gnomish, common, and dwarven. Commonly Dromite Bathengisi would pick up on the languages of the peoples that they did business with.
The Dromite society was dominated by the “hive-mind” a psionic web that connected the consciences of the Dromties to one of four clan elders. Commonly those who were more attuned to the hive-mind held higher status in society. Those born with a natural talent to navigate and understand the Dromite hive-mind usually did not have to prove their abilities since the other member of the hive-mind would usually sense their psychic abilities.
The most psionically attuned individuals in Dromtie society were known as “Ezizodwa” and were commonly taken from their parents at birth to be trained in psionic arts by a mentor. It was usually considered a great honor to give birth to a Ezizodwa and parents would often pray to Zuoken to bless them with a Ezizodwa.
Dromites with psionic abilities were usually given preferential treatment by the empire’s laws. Usually lesser dromites were expected to treat Ezizodwa better than their own birthparent, if an Ezizodwa thought that a lesser dromite might be showing them disrespect they would often force the offending dromite before a council of judges who would decide the offender’s fate. Most laws in the Dromite Empire were written by Ezizodwa and tended to favor their writers over the common folk of the empire.
Usually the Dromite Empire shied away from executing its own citizens choosing to usually only reserve that the right to foreigners. For the most part, more dromite criminals were exiled than were executed. To a dromite there was no fate worse than exile most dromites cannot stand to be alone without the chatter of their hive-mind in the back of the head. Oftentimes exiles would have psionic procedures done on their brains that would make it impossible to hear the hive mind, then set loose on the surface. Some known as “Nganto” would only have their psionic abilities stripped and be allowed to stay in their respective city, though most Nganto would be a shell of their former selves.
Government and Military
The government of the Dromite empire was organized under the four dromite clan elders (from the clans (Mhlabeni, Umoya, Engqondweni, and Ngomlilo respectively). Each clan elder governed a portion of the emperor and appointed Ezizodwa to govern the various cities in their domain. Usually the elders would serve as a mouthpiece for their citizens, trying to interpret the psionic energy that each dromite emitted and guessing what they thought was the will of the people. Those that were stronger psionically had an easier time making their voice heard by the clan elders.
Below the Ezizodwa were the city judges, any given city would usually have four judges, one for each clan. Judges did not only preside over trials, they would also usually serve as advisors to the Ezizodwa. Beneath the judges were the tax collectors who would usually oversee tax collection as well as the budgeting of the city. In smaller towns where there was not necessarily a member of each clan available to act as a judge there would usually be a sheriff who had the difficult job of balancing the needs of the four clans as well as the Ezizodwa.
The military of the Dromite Empire was only partially made up of professional soldiers and partially made up of conscripts. The army is mainly made up of foot soldiers usually armed with spears and short swords, psychic warriors, and psions, who act as captains. The psionic army used its powers to confuse and frighten enemy soldiers, often the psions would use their powers to enter the minds of lieutenants and other officers to cause disorder and panic in the ranks. The Dromite army was also known for their elite fighting group known as the Ngcamango which was made up of paladins of Zuoken.
The Dromite Empire’s economy was heavily reliant on the mining of precious resources such as gold and silver. Mining operations were in nearly every city in the Empire and nearly all dromites in the empire had worked in a mine at some point during their life. The dromites themselves had very little interest in gold they saw it as just another rock, but the goblins and later Zumbasans on the surface did not. Dromites would commonly trade gold that they found in exchange for fruit and other surface plants. Dromites were usually very protective of their mining operations and would commonly forebay visitors from viewing their mines, fearing competition.
The Dromites also specialized in the growing of subterranean fungus and mushrooms. The uses of the fungus the empire grew ranged from light source to hallucinogenic to poison. Mushroom farms were said to have been miles in length growing every type of fungus that one could think of. Many goblin communities who did business with the dromites considered the mushrooms to be a delicacy and soon appropriated many of the dromites’ fungicultural techniques. The Dromites continue the tradition of fungiculture to this very day.
Transportation and Communication
The early Dromite Empire was connected by a labyrinth of twisting tunnels and caves that made travel incredibly confusing and dangerous. It was not until the mid-First Cycle that the Dromite Elders decided that it was time to formally map and designate tunnels as official roads. Some Dwarven entrepreneurs even tried to install a system of railways that connected the major dromite cities, but the project was suspended once the civil war broke out. Most of the dwarven rails were left half-finished and equipment was abandoned in the tunnels.
Communication in the Dromite Empire was usually done through psychic mediums, called “Phakathi”, who would send messages between one another. The Phakathi could detect the thoughts of their partner whilst miles apart, with incredible accuracy. The process of becoming a Phakathi was not easy and usually involved years of training, oftentimes twins were chosen to become Phakathi because it was believed that they possessed an inherent psychic link. A major city could have as many as a hundred Phakathi while smaller towns usually only had one to two. Phakathi would sometimes not work for the nobles of the city and instead choose to set up a business as a private Phakathi who would send messages for private citizens, for a price.
Dromite cities tended to be constructed in large caves and can usually be divided into three sectors: housing, business, and administrative. Dromite houses were usually built into the walls and sometimes ceiling of the cave with Dromtie warrens extending miles into the rock. Dromite houses could range in size but are all rather small compared to the houses of most surface dwelling races. Dromite warrens, just like their cities were connected by a confusing network of tunnels that were usually carved the residents.
The business sector of the city was usually located in the center of the city and was usually less tightly packed. Shops, taverns, mining operations, private Phakathi, and mushroom farms were usually located in this district. Most dromites spent much of their time in the business sector either socializing at taverns or working on farms or in mines.
The administrative district was usually based around massive stalactites and/or stalagmites that grew or were built towering above the business district. Most government officials, soldiers, and Ezizodwa reside in the administrative district. Common citizens are not usually allowed to enter the administrative sector of a city unless give express permission from one of the sector’s residents.
Dromite homes do not usually contain kitchens requiring their residents to usually get food at either a food stall or tavern. Dromites, unlike most other races only eat one large meal during the middle of the day most dromites will go to their favorite tavern and talk with friends, family and other associates before returning to their business. Dromite food usually consists of various cave mushrooms as well as some varieties of cave insect. A large amount of dromite cooking was influenced by both Zumbasan and goblinoid dishes with dromite chefs commonly substituting the ingredients they cannot easily get, such as meat or fruit with various mushrooms.
Dromites are known for their love of gambling and were avid players of dice-based forms of gambling. Gambling grew to be such a problem in the Dromite empire that many dromite cities outlawed betting on games of chance and imposed harsh punishments on those who were caught. Many dromites would skirt around the gambling ban by going on “gambling trips” to the surface where they bet their money usually in Zumbasan cities. Gambling trips gave rise to the popularity of the Zumbasan game Nafasi (which plays similarly to Tarneeb) in many dromite cities.
Clothing in the dromite empire, like many places in Adunorh would serve as the way to visually show class and stature in society. Most dromite commeners would not wear lighter colored fabircs, since they would usually dirty easily in the underground tunnels of the empire. Wealthier members of dromite society would usually wear brightly colored, more elaberate clothes. Psions tended to be distinguished by their emerald turquoise robes and tattoos that would change shape and color depending on the thoughts of their bearer called “umbane”. Dromites rich and poor also loved to own Iuon Stones, both magical and nonmagical. While most of the Iuon Stones sold in the Dromite Empire were not very magicall powerful they were none the less a sign of one’s psionic abiliy.