The natives, or Dardani, are a swarthy, dark-haired people with blue or gray eyes. They are considered by many to be one of the most beautiful human ethnic groups.
Similar to Zantium, Dardanos originated as a slave colony established by the Exekians for the mining of copper and amber. The area was settled much later than Zantium, however, and thus the locals have more in common culturally and linguistically with the Apicartans.
Dardani culture, on the other hand, is often criticized by Apicartans for its barbaric and uncivilized customs. Tribal warfare is common among the lower classes, who participate in blood hunts and clan feuds. Criticism is leveled at them for their poverty, low literacy rates, the violent and unfair legal system (particularly the practice of avorro, or "trial by lashes"), and the ritualistic killing of twin babies due to a superstitious belief that twins are cursed.
The oligarchy in power within the cities is merchant- and criminal-based, as government officials and mafia bosses own most of the businesses. These two groups frequently engage in violence in order to maintain control. Carondei, the most populated city in Dardanos, has the highest murder rate in the known world. Due to these dire circumstances, the number of immigrants leaving Dardanos to settle in Apicarta and other lands has increased dramatically in the last few decades.
King Tristan of Apicarta, whose wife Deirdre was a Dardani heiress, was known for his lenient (some would say lax) policies regarding the Dardani. The immigrant Dardani population (concentrated primarily in northern Apicarta) successfully appealed to him through his wife to instate traditional Dardani laws and customs in certain areas, leading to social and political upheaval. For example, the avorro of Daniel Zuse, an Apicartan citizen who had murdered three women of Dardani descent, occurred during Tristan's early reign and was taken as a sign that the king did not care about his own people. In response, Tristan backed out of his initial policies, and did nothing to stop the backlash against the Dardani minority.
Much of Dardanos is wild forests and fields, with some rural areas and a handful of cities.
The capital is Ofram. It is the largest city in terms of population, and currently the seat of power; its leader, King Aurealis, is considered the “high king” because he proved himself a superior warrior.
The second largest city is Carondei, the sea port. The inhabitants are highly superstitious, particularly in their belief of sea monsters. There may have at one point been a community of selkies there who inspired these tales.
Yular, to the northwest. It is known for being a closed-off fortress, but recent reports claim that the population has tripled and it is well on its way to becoming larger than Yular.
Lesia, to the east, is considered the most beautiful city in Dardanos. The architecture is built into the forest landscape. The inhabitants are generally peaceful, but also very timid and famously reclusive.
Dinsely, which sits at the very center of the country, is the smallest of the cities in terms of population. The area is primarily meadows in which cattle graze, and most of the denizens are rural farmers.
The Dardani live in a feudalistic/tribal society divided between the nobility (warrior class) and the common folk (farmers, craftsmen, non-warriors, etc.). It is patriarchal, but not as severely as the Apicartans or Zantines—female Dardani, especially those from noble families, are treated with respect and some are permitted to become warriors, but it is generally recognized that their primary role is to serve as homemakers, wives, and mothers.
Similar to the Apicartans, the noble class have developed a much more rigid social code than the commoners. For instance, the nobles engage in formal courtship, complete with a series of rituals, which the commoners do not participate in. There are rules regarding the waging of war, dictating under what circumstances it is legal to do battle against one’s enemies. Violating these terms is seen as a grave breach in morality and protocol. The nobility views themselves as being superior to the commoners by virtue of their adherence to the social structure; the commoner’s life is one of chaos and barbarism, redeemed only by their usefulness in providing food and goods.
The commoners rely on the nobles for protection. There is some interplay, with commoners serving as foot soldiers in the armies, but no commoner can be placed in a position of authority.
Technologically, the Dardani are in many ways still in the Bronze Age. Though iron was introduced to them long ago, it is not commonly found in their lands. Education and literacy is limited to the privileged few, with the purpose of most writing being the study of theology and histories of major wars and battles.
The Dardani, like their neighbors, belong to the Temple. They worship the one god of the Apicartans and Zantines.
Dardanos is seen by most other countries as a primitive backwater, and the Dardani are stereotyped as ignorant peasants or yokels who can be easily taken advantage of. Their leaders, the oligarchic warlords, are depicted as uneducated, cutthroat barbarians.
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