Arkhosia was once the name of Iomandra’s largest continent. All that remains of Arkhosia today is a vast chain of mostly populated islands under the control of the Dragovor Dynasty. There aren’t enough Dragovar soldiers or warships to protect all of the nation’s islands, and many of the outlying islands are left to fend for themselves.
The surviving nation of Arkhosia is home to many races, not just the dragonborn. These races strive to coexist peacefully under difficult circumstances. Arkhosian settlements are often crowded and cramped because of the limited land. As a point of fact, all Arkhosian land belongs to the Dragovar royal family, and the standard punishment for anyone who breaks the law or defies a royal decree is torture, branding, and exile. Exiled citizens are forbidden to set foot on Arkhosian soil, on penalty of death.
The royal family appoints magistrates to govern their islands—one magistrate per island. Magistrates serve for life, and magistrates who perform their duties poorly often meet a terrible end. A magistrate is responsible for enforcing imperial law, keeping an accurate census, paying off the island’s dragon overlord, taxing the locals, and ensuring that tax money is delivered safely to the royal coffers in the Dragovar capital of Io’calioth. Because Dragovar soldiers are spread so thin, magistrates often resort to using mercenaries and cutthroats to fulfill their obligations to the imperial throne.
A dragonborn citizen of Arkhosia is born into one of six castes: noble, divine, martial, arcane, expert, or commoner. A seventh caste—the slave caste—was officially abolished in 345 DY. A dragonborn can petition to join another caste, but it’s expensive (5,000 gp) and requires the written approval of an imperial vizier or magistrate. Each caste is described below:
Noble Caste: Dragonborn of the noble caste enjoy great privilege and prestige, and they are allowed to stay with their families and retain their family names. Dragonborn nobles live in luxury, leaving the day-to-day chores and business to others. A few ambitious nobles become politicians, magistrates, or viziers.
Divine Caste: Dragonborn of the divine caste are taken from their homes at age 3, raised by priests in a temple chosen by their parents, and forbidden to keep their family names. The temples of Bahamut and Tiamat are strongly favored, although the churches of Bane, Erathis, Pelor, and Melora are growing in favor and popularity. Before becoming a cleric, a dragonborn must pass a test of devotion, as determined by the high priest of the temple. Ambitious embers of the divine caste gifted with a flair for politics and diplomacy often seek to become imperial viziers and grand viziers—the keepers of doctrine in the Dragovar empire.
Martial Caste: Initiates of the martial caste are taken from their homes at age 3, stripped of their family names, and subjected to twelve years of basic martial training followed by three years of gladiator training. Many dragonborn do not survive the training, let alone the gladiatorial trials-by-combat. Those who survive become soldiers of the empire. With the martial caste are elite sects that serve specific military functions, including the Vost Miraj (a sect of rogues that specializes in espionage) and Khygar’s Brood (a much-feared military police force within the capital, named after its leader, Colonel Khygar).
Arcane Caste: Dragonborn of the arcane caste are separated from their families at age 3, stripped of their family names, and assigned to Arkhosian mages as pupils. After several years of study and magical testing, they become apprentices. The exact number of years depends on the ability of the individual, but the average period of study is twelve years. Apprentices are pitted against one another in arcane duels; those who prevail become wizards, warlocks, and sorcerers in the service of the empire. Within the arcane caste are elite sects that specialize in particular fields of magical study (for example, the Shan Qabal and the Jhal Shard), but very few members of the caste actually belong to them.
Expert Caste: Members of the expert caste are taken from their homes at age 3 and assigned to master artisans as resident apprentices. During their apprenticeship, they are not denied access to their families or stripped of their family names. After twelve years of study and service, if they receive their master’s blessing, they are entitled to pursue their skill independently and take on apprentices of their own. A dragonborn of the expert caste who fails her master may pursue another profession, but the investment of time is the same.
Commoner Caste: Commoners are not entitled to special training and cannot become soldiers, spellcasters, or artisans. Their options are usually limited to family-run businesses and menial labor.
Culture and Lore
The Draconic Isles is the singular name given to the thousands of islands that dot the surface of Iomandra. And they are called the Draconic Isles for good reason.
By ancient law, all land belongs to the scions of Io—the true dragons. This was true when Iomandra had vast continents; it is still true now. When a dragon reaches adult age, it is expected to leave its nest and claim an island of its own. A weak dragon might find a small, uncontested island to rule. An elder dragon or ancient wyrm will seek to rule the largest island it can find, preferably one with abundant food supplies. Not every island of Iomandra has a dragon overlord. Some islands are simply too small or wretched. Others are hotly contested. Others still haven’t been claimed because no dragon has found them yet.
When a dragon takes ownership of an island, it expects all of the island’s other inhabitants to pay it tribute. Those who do not comply are devoured or driven off. Most sensible creatures acknowledge the dragon’s status and may even stand to benefit from the dragon’s protection (depending on its disposition). An island always adopts the name of the dragon that lives there; when a dragon overlord changes, so too does the island’s name . . . much to the chagrin of the world’s foremost cartographers.
Nothing is more precious to a dragon than its island dominion. A dragon that cannot find an island to rule will do anything to wrest control of one. Dragons who rule islands must therefore be wary of rivals. Their lairs are often trapped or guarded, and they are smart enough to use minions or adventurers to eliminate likely challengers.
It’s worth noting that over the course of history, many influential dragonborn warlords and emperors have claimed to be scions of Io, but the true dragons of the world have never acknowledged such claims. In one notable case, an ancient gold dragon named Mazuzura openly refuted such a bold claim made by Emperor Azunkhan V of the Dragovar by attacking his palace in broad daylight and devouring him. Today, the Dragovar Dynasty spans dozens of major islands, all with powerful dragon overlords. These mighty dragons horribly tax the coffers of the Dragovar, but they also provide the greatest protection that gold can buy.