When the Alkh and the rest of the north-western Noefran dwarven clans made their exodus from their homelands in the Giant Spine Mountains in the wake of the Cataclysm and the volcanoes it brought to life, not all the clans followed. Some chose to stay behind. Others fell behind on the march and were left in the dust. Yet others were already pariahs, descendants of fallen clans. Whatever their reasons, this variegated remnant of the dwarven nations has made a precarious life for itself in the abandoned holds and harsh mountains of the Giant Spine range.
The unifying theme for all the Abandoned is one of sacrifice, of pain, and of strife. Of bowing down to masters secret or open, of oppression and anger. They are a harsh, unforgiving, dour people. Their music is hard and angry, full of growls, screams, and guttural utterances. Very little in the way of art adorns their halls; even the metal- and stone-work, for which dwarves are everywhere famous is utilitarian and functional, with sharp corners and rough edges. “Rule or suffer; might makes right” is the operating zeitgeist.
Three Cities, Three Nations
Politically, the Abandoned have settled in three city-states and the surrounding valleys. These three are popularly known as Hate, Pain, and Dominance.
To the east of the Abandonment rise the nearly impassible peaks of the Grand Divisor range. To the north are the Jazhuu (goliaths and giants) of the Tuura Adam. To the south lies unclaimed lands dropping into the border of the Sea of Grass; to the west is the Sea of Dreams.
By 250 AC, they all politically follow the lead of Bolorhold. They're not formally unified, but each of the three will go and do what Bolorhold chooses (albeit with grumbling and backbiting).
One shared activity is the yearly "Blood Games" on the border with Zhapai Karmap. These gladitorial and athletic competitions attract athletes, gladiators, and monster-hunters from all over the Federated Nations and the Giant Spine Mountains and beyond. Much gold is bet, and much blood flows. It's basically war, but with more drinking and less hatred. Participate at your own risk.
Xhort, City of Hate
Xhort lies in the north-east corner of the region claimed by the Abandoned. As such, it’s on the front lines of the constant border squabbles with the Tuura Adam. The two sides despise each other—the Tuura consider the Xhort-ites to be cheaters and dishonorable contestants, while Xhort sees the Tuura as too concerned about fair play and thus impractical. There is not open war between the sides; some trade exists. But every interaction is fraught with violence and risk. The symbol of Xhort is the dragon’s maw in white with black eyes.
The population of Xhort and the surrounding area is about 9,000. Most of these work in the deep mines producing much of the iron and other metals for the Abandoned. They depend on food from Bolorhold.
Culturally, Xhort is a brutal, militaristic city-state with very little in the way of recreation or beauty. Everything is focused on building individual strength, although this is also their weakness. The strong rule over the weak, and the weak try to stab the strong in the back and scramble into their place. They are unified by their belief that they are the true inheritors of Bolorhold and they are taught from birth to hate “normal” dwarves.
Politically, Xhort was ruled in 212 AC by Boss Nafrat (commonly called Boss Xhort). He has ruled with an iron fist for the last 30 years but is likely to lose his grip in the near future as he ages and his injuries catch up with him. The most likely successor is Jahl, a strong berserker with a large following. Neither of them is incredibly intelligent or subtle—they rule through main force. This transition happened in 214 AC, in the wake of the revelation of Drak's identity and the ensuing civil conflict
At the side of the Boss used to be his advisor—each boss had one. The current advisor is only known as Drak, and his background is unknown. In reality (unknown to all but the Boss), Drak has been the only advisor, changing his face. He is the ancient (albino) black dragon Gozh, the same that tried to engineer the downfall of Fuar Uulan. He has been warping the culture to one of constant hatred for dwarven-kind, planning to use them as a weapon in his feud. He was exposed and fled by the Wild Cards as part of their adventures there in 211 AC.
In the wake of his departure, Xhort turned inward and had a small civil war. Politically, this has reduced them to being a minor power dominated by Bolorhold.
Bolorhold, City of Pain
The oldest city-state (by about a generation), Bolorhold was once a major manufacturing hold of the Bolor tribe before the Cataclysm. About 10 years BC, it was destroyed due to betrayal from clan Alkh and attack from without. The majority of the populace was slaughtered then; the survivors gathered in the aftermath of the Cataclysm, along with other exiled or forgotten dwarven clans.
Situated at the head of a set of fertile valleys fed and warmed by volcanic springs, Pain is the pre-eminent farming region of the Abandoned. As such, it boasts the largest population (nearly 20k) and the most wealth, as the other two cities depend on food produced in Bolorhold. Their symbol is a red fist upraised, with blood dripping from the inside.
Culturally, Bolorites are obsessed with pain and greed. Being practical people, this does not extend to death, merely pain. Their primary outlet are the Celebrations held once per season (and sometimes more frequently), where teams of gladiators fight in brutal matches against each other or against beasts. In addition, these Celebrations are times of accounting—residents who cannot pay their debts are scourged (with the state paying off the debt at a fixed price per blow). Other residents can bid to be the one to perform the scourging; any money in excess of the debt is paid to the debtor. Families are sold into slavery to pay debts. Crimes are adjudicated as monetary fines (which can be paid by pain, including by a slave). Death is forbidden, however, except for the most extreme crimes.
Politically, Bolorhold is controlled by “clans” (really more like gangs). Individuals who are registered with a clan receive protection and other advantages, in exchange for paying taxes (assessed at a Celebration). As power and wealth change hands, the relative position of the clans changes as well. Only the poorest are Unregistered; these are routinely abused by the clansmen. Generally the top three clans are considered “in power”, although the top clan is mostly in control. At the current time, the three major clans are
Blood Vat: Originally formed by workers in the butcher trade, this clan is the largest and most powerful. They control the farmlands; their slaves work those fields. Led by Boss Hogg's adopted son Boss Borca, they are resented by much of the rest of the city for their arrogance and presumption…just as with all the prior “top clans”. Their symbol is a single drop of blood.
Boss Hogg himself was a huge dwarf (standing 5’10” and about 250 lbs). Although he looks fat, he is almost all muscle and despite his age is still powerful. He and his advisors are smarter than they look and are expert at playing the people’s emotions. Unlike most Bolorites, he does not get lost in bloodlust. His emotions are tightly under control and he wields them like weapons. Also unlike most (especially unlike the Xhortites), he has nothing against “regular” dwarves (the Betrayers, as they’re called). He’d have done the same to them. He respects power and victory.
A deep anger simmers in him, however, barely visible to others. This anger was directed against his “advisors”, the pair of hags named Og’riq and Qyinoq. These ancient creatures are the source of the obsession with pain—they feed on the pain of the populace, fed through the fungal spores of a fey creature called “heartsease”, which have pervaded the atmosphere of Bolorhold. Unlike Gozh, the Angels of Pain have very little desire to change much of anything—they’re content with their status. Hogg, like most of the Abandoned, hates the idea that they are playthings, prisoners, not in control. Yet he knows that if he tried to oppose the Angels of Pain he’d only sentence his whole people to agony and death as the heartsease dissipates. While he planned to deal with this (and has been tempering some of his elites against the fungus), he wasn't able move openly until the Wild Cards threw the status quo into chaos. Working with them, they were able to kill the Angels of Pain and purge the effect of the heartsease. This act ensured their dominance for the foreseeable future. In 240 AC, Boss Hogg retired from active leadership, letting his adopted son Borca handle the duties of Head Boss.
Dead Rats: The former second rank clan (now fourth) was originally formed by sanitation and pest control workers. Now it mostly controls the city infrastructure. As such, it is very rich and powerful, but overconfident and stagnant. Their symbol is a rat head with “x” eyes. It has fallen considerably in the years since the fall of the Angels of Pain.
Boss Borcan is large and rough, but not nearly as large as Boss Hogg and much more overweight. An older dwarf, he has scars from fighting and one eye is grey. He swears like a sailor (every other word is vulgar). He loses himself to the bloodlust much more than the other bosses. He’s actually vulnerable to removal, but his 2nd-in-command is puppeting him subtly. Starting in 234 AC, this became open knowledge.
Whyos: The third rank clan is unusual in that it is dominated by women (a comparative oddity in the power-based culture of the Abandoned). Started by those in the vice trades (prostitutes, gamblers, entertainers, etc), the Whyos still control most of the non-Celebration entertainment. Their symbol is a red lantern.
Boss “Lady Jane” is young by dwarven standards, and incredibly beautiful and sensual. She rarely wears much of anything and uses her beauty and sexuality to bend men to her will. Inside, she’s also very jaded and does not like anyone (her lovers are female, but only used as sex objects). Her bodyguards are large women.
Corcoran’s Roosters: the former fourth rank clan, now second after the effects of the Wild Cards has risen quickly (being ranked 10th 5 years ago). They control the outside market area, especially the non-Bolor portion. As a result, they profit off of the increased trade both with Zhapai Karmap and the lowland nations of the Federated Nations. This clan is the most accepting of change and of outsiders and the least bloodthirsty. Their symbol is a rooster’s comb.
Boss Corcoran is a younger, snappily dressed dwarf. He presents as a harmless dandy in fine clothes and with exaggeratedly languid affect. He always carries a jeweled cane. In reality, he’s a sharp, lethal dueler and his cane is a sword in disguise. Likely the smartest of the major Bosses, he had his strong suspicions about the “advisors” but played the game. He protects his people because they are necessary for his ambitions.
Nazorat, City of Domination
Nazorat, the western city, is the smallest of the three at only about 5k. They are also the most closed-off. Even other Abandoned are restricted to a small area outside the city and non-Abandoned are not welcome.
Due to their insularity, not much is known. They were dominated by the mkhulu until they were liberated by the Wild Cards after the founding of Zhapai Karmap. It is notable that they still seem to have strange mental powers. They hire out as mercenary bands in secret but do not interact much with their clients. They specialize in infiltration and sabotage.