Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Great Houses of Miir: House Dythanus

The following is an excerpt from  "The Traveler's Guide To Miir" by Volo Magrathe, published 1300 YA:

The Great House Of Dythanus is the youngest and most dynamic of the six Houses of Miir. It holds interests in the Physician's Guild and the Entertainer's Guild.

House Dythanus (the clan elders eschew the "von" honorific used by the other Great houses) is unique in that it is the only house primarily composed of a non-human race. The Dythanus family are the descendants of a clan of elven physicians, expatriated from Horeti for unethical practices.

History: When the Dythanus clan settled in Miir (circa 1174 YA), they sold their services to House Von Mordok. The alchemists coveted the elvish medicines and herbal recipes, and entertained notions of using this boost in their power base to reclaim the Tower of Miir, which the house had not controlled for centuries. House Von Mordok also wanted to check the recklessness of House Von Hastur, which had spent most of the 12th century engineering the fall of several of the oldest institutions in Miir, the Great Houses of Miir and Morgan. This paid off in 1179 YA, as House Von Mordok succeeded in ousting House Von Kaje from the Tower.

The Dythanus family expected to be well-rewarded for their help in raising their allies the Mordoks to Lordship. What they got was more demands from their masters, barriers placed on their ability to rise high within the ranks of the House, and about as much respect as the servants who shined the Mordoks' shoes. This lead to festering resentment. When House Von Kaje took back the Tower in 1196 YA, the Mordoks blamed the elves, imposing even more sanctions on elvish medical practices through the Magicians and Alchemists Guild, forbidding them to treat patients outside of their house, and generally being royal pains in the backside. The Mordoks thought they could whip the Dythanus elves into submission. Instead, they were sharpening a dagger pointed at their own heart.

Forbidden to make money off medical treatments for Miir's population, the elves could still make money off the medicines themselves. The first decade of the 13th century saw an explosion of narcotic use among Miir's lower classes, especially use of Dreamlily (an elvish plant that causes hallucinations in humans). The Alchemist's Guild sent investigators to try and track down the supply of these narcotics, but since this was considered scut work it was delegated to the elves. Since the investigators were also the ones with the supply, not a blessed thing was done about the "Dreaming Plague."

Also during the turn of the century a great number of new gambling halls started operating in the Cobwebs, halls owned on paper by Miirian citizens but overseen by pale, sharp-toothed, pointy-eared patrons. The same thing happened to a number of brothels. Word of mouth spread that those establishments with "the elvish touch" were the best--the brothels had the cleanest and loveliest girls, while the gambling halls paid the best odds. Elvish moneylenders offered deceptively good loans to those seeking quick investments -- the term "loan shark" hadn't made it's way to Miir from Arden yet. Many of these loans were made with money given to the Dythanus family from House Von Krueger, one of House Von Mordok's perennial enemies.

By 1206 YA, the Dythanus family was ready to make its final play, openly breaking from House Von Mordok to petition for Great House status from the Lord of the Tower. Lord Rudolf Von Kaje hose to grant the petition, and House Dythanus was born. It was the first Great House to rise since the end of the Imperial Occupation. In order to consolidate itself, House Dythanus threw open its doors to all elves and half-breeds in the city. Though the House has since closed those doors, this initial boost gave the House the numbers it needed to weather the retaliation of its former employer. To further cement itself, the House hired on a band of mercenaries lead by the ferocious Ten Monkey "Halfcheek" Xien.

The house took the motto "ingratis servire nefas," which is Imperial Demurran for "It is wrong to serve the ungrateful." This would turn out to be hauntingly ironic.

In 1217 YA, at the Annual Ball on All Fool's Night, Lorwyn Dythanus had an argument with Ten Monkey Xien, allegedly about the fact that Xien and his, shall we say, peculiar habits and customs were being flaunted for all of Miir to see, while his combat prowess was set by the wayside. Xien was of the opinion that Lorwyn had hired his band to act as warriors to defeat Dythanus enemies, not clowns to parade about for the elves' amusement. Lorwyn ended the conversation with the infamous phrase "Your job is not to question your betters. It is to do as your told! House Dythanus is the teat that feeds you sodomites, so get on your knees and suck!"

Xien stormed out of the ball. That night, he gathered all his followers, along with House Dythanus' servants, eunuchs, and concubines, and robbed the Lair of thousands of aecus in gold, silver, precious gems, and fireglass artwork.

Overnight house Dythanus went from prestigious up-and-comer to city laughingstock. Worse, the Von Mordoks chose this as their opportunity to strike back at the upstart elves, and the two forces got embroiled in a House War. That conflict ended in the Eagle Street Massacre, when both sides of the conflict were set upon by a motley force consisting of soldiers, whores, and eunuchs. The misfit band routed both sides, then vanished into the Belly.

This was the opening battle of what would become known as the Gorgeous Gang Rebellion. Over the next several months the Houses were attacked by the Gang, which seemed to be growing larger with every engagement. House Von Jeggett (the current ruling house) put the city under martial law and evacuated The Pen, and the Great Houses all put aside their enmities to hunt down the Gorgeous Gang. The Gang managed to outwit the Houses and had an uncanny knack for slipping behind the house lines, but eventually they were surrounded and cut off. The Gorgeous Gang made its last stand at the Drunken Crane bar and brothel, inflicting 3 to 1 casualties on the House forces before they were slaughtered to a man(/woman/eunuch). Xien's body was never positively identified, fueling rumors him raising havoc and striking at the nobility long after his probable death.

House Dythanus was not nearly as crippled as the other houses were by this fight. Their main contribution to the battles had been in support and medical roles, so their forces remained relatively lightly damaged. The elves used this opportunity to grab a firm hold on the prostitution industry of Miir's back alleys. Whereas before the house had been the largest player in that field, they became the only player. This monopoly allowed House Dythanus to pull in the funds it needed to push out independent pawnbrokers and moneylenders. With control over both gambling and moneylending, the elves prospered. They even managed to recover about a third of the treasure Xien had stolen from them (though the rest is still lost to history and rumors of The Gorgeous Gang Treasure has fueled folklore ever since).

The House grew so powerful, in fact, that in 1225 House Dythanus ousted House Von Jeggett from the Tower, an impressive feat for a house less than two decades old and still smarting from the Gorgeous Gang fiasco. This moment of glory was short-lived...the Nobles of Miir didn't take well to being ruled over by a foreign species. The Dythanus only held on to the Tower for 11 years, one of the shortest tenures as rulers of Miir since the Imperial Occupation.

Still, while House Dythanus hasn't managed to rise quite to the heights of it's former glory, it has remained a powerful force in city politics. The Physician's Guild is widely regarded as having the finest doctors in the city, as well as the most accomplished midwives. The Entertainer's Guild oversees all the city's prostitution, gambling, bliss dens, and theatres.

In recent years House Dythanus has started experimenting with alchemy and magic, accepting half-bloods and caliban into its ranks in defiance of the Magician's Guild ban on cultivating such members. House Von Mordok regards this development as a threat to their existence, since the elves have a strong alchemy tradition in their study of herbalism and medical remedies and it wouldn't be difficult for them to turn such knowledge to military purposes. There is no proof that the elves are secretly training an army of wizards, but then, there wasn't much proof that the elves were running brothels and gambling dens before they broke from House Von Mordok, either. It may be very interesting to see how this situation develops in the future.

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