Ssuthiran Culture

The Ssuthiran culture was a fusion culture made up of goliath tribes in modern-day Droaam and displaced orcish tribes from the northern plains tribes in what is now Aundair and Thrane. These cultures united into a single cultural group which, though it never formalized into a nation-state, dominated the Shadow Marches for over a thousand years. The Ssuthiran culture led to the establishment of the Gatekeepers and was an invaluable ally to the Dhakaani during the Daelkyr Wars, though the culture dissolved soon after.

Arrival of Orcish Tribes

By the time of the Dhakaani Haal'khar Dynasty, the goliath tribes of the Shadow Marches were divided into many different city-states including Guispe Cymar, Gespigdi, Kyu, Tzahna, Uymidy, Vytsaqqi, Ynuithain, and Yrgaddi. The most powerful were Kyu in the northwest and the eastern Gespigdi clans, remnants of the Tazr tribal alliance which fell centuries earlier.

Meanwhile in northern northern Khorvaire, orcish urban civilization had effectively ended and orcs were rapidly fleeing urban areas in favor of the countryside or lands to the south. While some orcs ended up in Dhakaani lands as subject-peoples, many arrived in the Shadow Marches and Byeshk Mountains as a semi-nomadic tribe with nowhere to go. In roughly 7830 EC, they had settled the plains extensively in the hill country between Blackwater Lake and the Byeshk Mountains. This brought them into conflict with the goliaths and several skirmishes are recorded on wall murals from buried goliath sites. Knowing they were out of options, the orcish leaders of the tribes approached the and the rulers of Gespigdi, Uymidy, and Yrgaddi who gave the orcs permission to settle in the empty areas. Living there, they assimilated with the goliaths and created a fusion culture named after the principle site of archeologic evidence for the terms of this fusion, a holy site called Ssuthiran in the Vile Marsh.

Birth of Ssuthiran

By 8000 EC, the orcs were firmly ensconced in the lands of the goliath tribes and had extended to the west and south of the original sites granted by the three kings. Many of the settled in the cities of the goliaths, becoming a caste of wisemen and priests serving their larger residents. Others relocated to the Crawling Swamp where they began to build the city [[valsharak | Valshar'ak]]], eventually creating a large artificial island amidst the muddy waters. Scrolls from later eras indicate that orcish high priests received a vision from the dragon Vvaraak to search out his cave deep in the swamp lands. The city was built on the small sandbar that had built around the spur of rock housing the cave and here the priests were assured of their role now that they were exiled from their homelands. Whether true or not, this is the last recorded meeting of Vvaraak by any credible source.

Other purely orcish settlements were established at other locations in the swamplands and orcish enclaves in the goliath cities continued to grow with immigrants from the north. Yrlag, originally an independent orcish city-state during the Unison Period, eventually was absorbed by the growing Ssuthiran culture and grow in counterpoint to the others: a large orcish population with a sizeable goliath enclave. In 8250 EC, the orcs and goliaths of the Shadow Marches established the system of kurazo ("beneficience") which so centrally characterized the peoples of the Ssuthiran culture.

Initially, kurazo was an informal system of patronage, much like the patronage networks that bound the orcish city-states together. Powerful goliath leaders in Gespigdi, Uymidy, Yrgaddi, and southernly Ynuithain and Tzahna gathered smaller tribal settlements under their protection, demanding supplies and soldiers from them for the small skirmishes that still plagued the lands. As more mercantile cities such as Guispe Cymar, Kyu, and Vytsaqqi grew in prominence, the benefits of stable trade became overwhelmingly popular even to the warlike goliaths. Rather than continue fighting, the kurazo system shifted to a merchant-based one where kuraddi or "beneficiaries" for each of the powerful cities was establish in all the others. The beneficiary in one city would oversee all those merchants wishing to do business in his home city, extracting a "tax" from those rich merchants in the form of promised military strength should the home city ever be threatened. This made sure that the great cities of the Shadow Marches were bound together militarily as well as economically, as well as making a city's subjects beholden to the local rulers as they could not do business abroad without a good relationship towards the powerful.

The Triple Alliance

The system of kurazo chaned again in 8743 EC with the establishment of the first Triple Alliance. Gespigdi, Yrgaddi, and Ynuithain came to dominate the kurazo trade network in the Shadow Marches and extended their joint power from the western shores to the Dhakaani borders. From the beginning of the Triple Alliance, Gespigdi had the largest military but was so indebted for military aid through foreign kuraddi that the other two cities effectively had the same armed force. Yrgaddi was rich in mineral wealth which it gladly sold to the other Ssuthiran cities and Ynuithain had the richest crops and fisheries to trade. Each had its own sphere of influence and inter-marriage made them a single kingdom in all but name.

Reign of the Jistyedr 8805-8948 EC

The first ruling family of the Triple Alliance was the Jistyedr clan, originally from Gespigdi, who managed to have a ruler in each of the three largest cities. In 8809 EC, the Gespigdi ruler, along with his cousin the ruler of Ynuitain, pushed the zone dominated by Ssuthiran culture across the Byeshk Moutains. They stormed the orcish cities of [[[woodlands-tribes#elemmiobok | Elemmiobok]] and Faerm'thain which were then incorporated into the system of kurazo. Other settlements further into the Towering Wood were incorporated by other Jistyedr rulers but none of these remained under Ssuthiran influence after the removal of the Jistyedr clan from power in 8948 EC.

Reign of Nionianun and Stniunliech 8948-9002 EC

Three of the most powerful Ssuthiran rulers were the Nionianun half-brothers Pnuyreln and Vuolic and their cousin Lilyeln of Stniunliech. In 8962 they ruled Gespigdi, Ynuithain, and Yrgaddi respectively and began to cement their cities' power in earnest. The kuraddi in each of the three largest cities were established into a hierarchy so that those of the leading cities held authority over those of smaller cities. These smaller cities hardly appreciated this change and many recalled their kuraddi, leading to the Patronage War which lasted for several years and nearly caused the collapse of the kurazo system. Though the term of "war" was a bit of an exaggeration, many bloody clashes ocurred throughout the Shadow Marches. Even the northern orcish-dominated cities joined in the fighting with only Holy Valshar'ak staying out of the conflict. Eventually the three major cities won, securing the concession that their kuraddi would negotiate on behalf of smaller cities' in the Triple Alliance cities, but the firm authority the ruling families may have sought was abandoned and never pursued again.

Reign of Aelelcla 9002-9214 EC

If there was a "golden age" for the Ssuthiran culture, it was certainly during the centuries dominated by the prolific Aelelcla family. Rising to prominence in several cities during the Patronage War, Aelelcla became trusted advisors to the Nionianun ruling family. When that line failed, Aelelcla recast or strengthened their position and elevated their family members to ruling positions throughout the Shadow Marches. In sharp contrast with preceding rulers such as the three who began the Patronage Wars, the Aelelcla rulers spread their influence throughout the Shadow Marches and made cities on equal footing. Recalling traditional values among the goliath tribes, they created widespread restrictions on shows of wealth and sharply curtailed the growing decadence of aristocratic merchants. Though this did not ingratiate them to the powerful, commoners and tribal groups celebrated the move and supported teh Aelelcla through an incredible two centuries of rule.

It was also during this period that the Valshar'ak priesthood of the Venn'serlani (the Gatekeepers) spread through the Shadow Marches to become the viziers and advisers to goliath rulers. Gatekeeper legend says that this was the time when Vvarrak had commanded them to enter the wider world again, in preparation for the coming Daelkyr Wars, but it cannot be ignored that this time of stability and conservativism was a prime period for the orcs to extend their influence and gain a place of prominence in the region. Whatever the cause, Venn'serlani priests remained in positions of power in Ssuthiran cities through the following century and into the Daelkyr Wars where they proved invaluable in stopping the daelkyr threat from engulfing the Shadow Marches entirely.

Reign of Quanstre 9214-9386

Towards the end of Aelelcla dominance, there was a series of ineffectual rulers throughout the Shadow Marches, purportedly concentrating on religious practices and neglecting the care of their people. A series of raids throughout the swamplands by sahuagin marauders (which has yet to be sufficiently explained by historians) destabilized the vital trade routes of the region. Aelelcla rulers were thrown down in a fury of outrage and into the ensuing power vacuum, members of the powerful Quanstre family took control. This military Gespigdi family drummed up support for the idea that the goliath cities had ossified and needed firm expansion. Taking advantage of chaos in the Dhakaani lands, Quanstre generals led their cities' armies into the western Dhakaani lands in a series of campaigns from 9290 to 9305 EC. They sacked the Dhakaani cities of Maagun and Huugun and might have gone further but for the sudden resistance of the northern orcish cities. During the brief "Ssuthiran Civil War" (called this out of convenience, though the Ssuthiran were certainly not a nation) Yrlag, Elemmiobok, and Faerm'thain sought to extricate themselves from the system of kurazo and recalled their armies from Dhakaani lands. Without these forces, the Quanstre leaders had to pull back to the Shadow Marches and sent a large force to the northern cities to force these sites to stay.

It is thought by many that this "rebellion" of the orcish cities might have saved the Shadow Marches from Dhakaani occupation as the Eastern Rhaguul dynasty, on the rise after retaking the lands of the Zuul'dar Dynasty, would have taken further provocation to march against the Shadow Marches as well. Despite several prominent papers in the past on this subject, modern scholars are less than convinced that the Rhaguul armies were in any shape to conquer any more lands.

Reign of Wunraech 9372-9450 EC

The Wunraech rulers were, despite many defamatory sources which depict him otherwise, a strong dynastic line which re-established and consolidated the kurazo system after the damage by the warrior-rulers of the Aelelcla. Their trade routes extended peacefully into Dhakaani lands, reaching as far east as Hakhaan and Maal'delaan in the central empire. The northern orcish cities became much less resistant to Ssuthiran influence during Wunraech dominance and brought trade goods from orcish settlements in the Towering Woods and the goblin-orcish Kingdom of Lhekaan. Thus the Ssuthiran culture reached its largest geographical extent and might have finally solidified into a formal nation state when the daelkyr invaded.

The Daelkyr Wars

Main Article: The Daelkyr Wars

The Shadow Marches and the Ssuthiran culture suffered greatly during the Daelkyr Wars. The system of kurazo collapsed under the stress of the invasion, never recovering even during times of relative peace, although the orcish priesthood of the Gatekeepers remained in power throughout the region. In the dark paths of the swamplands, the daelkyric abominations stalked between wars and trade became difficult and scarce. By the end of the First Daelkyr War, the cities of the Shadow Marches had become withdrawn points of light in an increasingly dark world. Several had already fallen and more succumbed to occupying armies during the daelkyric Ocral'dur Dynasty and the insiduous cults of the daelkyr lords among the people. Though the cities fell, the population stayed sizeable and scattered into the swamps. The orcish druids and the goliath warriors fought back against the daelkyr and were at least as responsible for their final defeat during the Third Daelkyr War as the Dhakaani forces.

Though the victory was a relief to the region's problems, it was shattered beyond repair by the extended conflicts. Only a few of the great cities remained as independent sites, the rest lay as ruins with populations scattered through the swamps. The landscape continued in this way, developing into the tribal-based Gatekeeper culture of the modern Shadow Marches.

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