The Shining Lands
People of the Shining Lands
For the most part, the people of the Shining Lands devote their time and evergy to furthering trade, accumulating creature comforts, and strengthening their bonds of mutual respect. Where these fundamental aspects of civilization are lacking or the people are oppressed (in Veldorn, for example), the residents struggle to improve their lives, striving to emulate the shining example set by Durpar, Estagund, and Var the Golden.
The Durpari people have lived along the shores of the Golden Water since before the rise of the Imaskiri Empire. They never really established a national identity in their formative years as a people, since they were regularly enslaved, slaughtered, or abandoned to barbarism by various other groups around them – most notably the Mulan of Mulhorand. Thereafter, except for a brief period of conflict in which the Arkaiuns of Dambrath invaded and sacked much of the Shining Lands, the Durpari have been free and independent people. Out of their relative isolation, the Durpari have at last developed a national identity based on trade, respect, and structured law. Even though the name is Durpari, the lands of Durpar, Estagund, and Var the Golden all share a common ancestry in bloodlines and hence, their people look the same.
The average Durpari stands only 5.5 feet tall and has dark, almost ebony colored skin and black or gray eyes. Her hair is usually dark and thick, though once in a while, a child with deep reddish-gold hair is born.
Folk in the Shining Lands speak Durpari, which has its roots in Draconic, Mulhorandi, and Rauric. They employ the Thorass alaphabet, which was imported from the west.
Other Races and Cultures
Though the dominant ethnic group of the Shining Lands is the Durpari, the open, welcoming nature of the natives has ensured that every recognizable race and ethnic group is represented here. Traders and merchants who come from distant lands often choose to spend extra time in one or more of the three countries to enjoy the favorable climate and the hospitality. Some settle down and intermarry with the natives; other simply visit for a short time and take their leave.
Other than humans, hin are the most prevalent humanoids in the Shining Lands, and they have established sizable populations in both Estagund and Durpar. Most of these hin have migrated from Luiren, either to establish trade or simply to partake of the delights offered by another culture. Dwarves congregate in both the Dustwall and the Curna Mountains, and they many have established powerful chakas, or merchant houses, based on the mining of gold and gemstones. More than a few half-elves live in the urban centers of the Shining Lands because they are accepted and valued as individuals. Few elves live in or visit these countries, however, since most of them find the strong focus on trade and wealth distasteful. In recent years, more and more gnomes have begun to settle in the region, because their talents as craftsfolk (particularly gemcutters) are in great demand.
Since trade is the center of life in the Shining Lands, the chaka (trading house) is the most prominent kind of organization in the region. Most Durpari identify a citizen by his chaka before even his family, though in most cases, family and chaka are one and the same. A small chaka might operate only a single business, such as a laundry or a cheese shop, while the most powerful might actually have a number of smaller chakas under its wing. These larger chakas are usually diversified and self-supporting, managing a number of businesses and trade routes. Often, they set up shops in other lands to sell the same goods they export from their own countries.
Law and Order
The Durpari hold very strongly to their belief in a code of conduct known as the Adama. This code affects every aspect of society, from trade practices to punishments for crimes. Both a religious belief and a way of life, the Adama dictates how citizens should conduct themselves in all aspects of life. Because so much life in the Shining Lands centers around trade, however, the precepts of the Adama tend to focus on a person’s conduct in business.
In general terms, those who adhere to the Adama view all crimes as theft – whether the perpetrator has stolen property, life, or the trust of another. Thus, fraud is considered just as heinous a crime as murder, and unfair or dishonest business practices draw penalties just as harsh as those imposed for more traditional crimes. Few criminals receive second chances here, since tolerance for injustice is minimal.
In general, punishments for crimes in the Shining Lands fit the culture. Fines are effective deterrents in a society that values commerce and wealth above almost all else. Even trying to pass substandard products off as quality worksmanship can result in financially crippling punitive damages. Furthermore, since citizens are quick to abandon a chaka that has been found guilty of underhanded business practices, the fiscal damage often far exceeds the mere fines levied. More than a few chakas have lost both business and political clout when consumers registered their dissatisfaction with their coin purses.
Interestingly enough, Durpari society views capital punishment as an offense against the Adama. Thus, people found guilty of capital crimes are restrained, usually as indentured workers in mines or on farms, instead of being put to death. For most offenses, such enforced servitude lasts only a few years, but the criminal must begin again with nothing upon release – a secondary punishment in itself. Those not rehabilitated after an initial sentence are restrained for the rest of their lives.
The Adama pervades all facets of live in the Shining South, just as mainstream religion does in many other parts of Faerun. The major difference is that the Durpari people are extremely tolerant of other religions, since their belief system accepts the multitude of deities followed in other parts of the world, rather than competing with them.
In the strictest sense, the Adama, also known as “the One”, is the embodiment of the spirit found in all things – humanoids, animals, plants, rocks, and even the gods. Therefore, all creatures and objects in Toril, including deities, are considered manifestations of the Adama. In principle, the Adama is so far reaching that worshiping any deity is effectively paying homage to it.
In practive, however, not every deity is acceptable. Some are favored because they embody the core values of the Adama better than others. In particular, Zionel (Gond), Curna (Oghma), Lucha (Selune), Torm, and Waukeen represent the broadest aspects of day-to-day life in the Shining Lands, and thus their followers are welcomed above all others. Other deities – specifically those that require human sacrifice, and Mask, who represents thievery – are rejected because the tenets of their faiths are at cross-purposes with those of the Adama. This seeming contradiction does not bother the inhabitants of the Shining Lands. The opposite of a cherished principle might be a philosophical necessity, but that doesn’t make it appealing.
Following the Adama is more a matter of everyday bearing and conduct than ceremony and ritual. The Durpari believe that the Adama exists in all things they do, and if their dealings with others are fair and just, then they honor the Adama. The laws that govern the people are based on the Adama’s tenets, which for all practical purposes are the same as the principles espoused by the five Faerunian deities who best exemplify it.