The Djr Archipelago is a series of islands off the coast of the Greater Continent, and home to the Phoenix Tavern Flight. The population are descendants of the survivors of The Dragonlands. The flight consists of three to four hundred dragons, who keep a population of roughly fifty thousand humans as slaves. The islands also see a fair amount of tourism as well as emigration (both to and from).
The Djr Islands are ruled by a triumvirate of the King, the Dragon Archon, and the Human Archon. There is no law that says the king cannot also be the dragons' archon, but this is less common. In practice, the king has absolute power, but the other Archons can oppose him.
The Humans of Djr have their own government of sorts. Its chief duty is the organization of labor and dispensation of supplies. There are dragon overseers, but the day-to-day operations are handled by the humans. The law of Djr places three priorities: health, food, and happiness. If these priorities are met, surplus labor goes to benefit the dragons.
The dragons are in fact very concerned about the health and welfare, physically and mentally, of their slaves. A happy, comfortable slave does more work. As such, dragons trained in healing magic are always available to treat injuries, and human physicians treat illness. Food is plentiful and treated as a divine right; even those punished for crimes are well-fed. The dragons also strive to keep their slaves happy and active; the human council organizes games and activities.
While the gold mine is always worked, the workers may see their shifts reduced if there is a need for extra work on planting and harvesting, or some other project. The dragons are also strict when it comes to mine safety. The human council is equally strict with regards to worker safety.
Ultimately the human council has little power, but the dragons will always side with the council on a matter of safety.
Most humans on Djr have specific jobs, usually skilled work. However, many tasks, such as harvesting, building, etc; require very little skill but an inconsistent supply of labor. Humans without an assigned, full-time task to preform every day are assembled into d'jaras. The etemology of the name is unknown, but is thought to stem from a language spoken on Djr before Common took its place.
Even those with skilled occupations are occasionally designated to work on a d'jara. The labor is not punitive though it is often difficult. Some particularly favored workers may be dismissed from the practice, but in general everyone on the island is expected to serve on a d'jara for between one and two hundred days each year (between rest days, health days, feast days, and various festivals, the average resident only works about 200 days of the year anyway).
Typically, the d'jaras are assigned to ongoing tasks, such as construction or maintenance. At harvest time they are formed more often as the crops need to be brought in and processed quickly. Once the basic needs of the populace are met, surplus labor is then presented as an offering to the dragons. They can either use this for themselves (such as in the construction of temples and monuments), or present the labor as a gift to prominent citizens for their own purposes. This usually goes to overseers or other humans who play important roles in the society.
The system for organizing and dispatching d'jaras is highly complex, and made all the more challenging by a general lack of reading and writing. With few literate citizens and no easy domestic source of paper, the organizers use a system of wood and clay chips, inset with pieces of shell to track and record labor. Many residents, especially younger people who have not yet learned a trade, will be assigned to permanent d'jaras which report every day. Those on temporary assignment are informed by evening wood-knocking when and where to report. The city is divided into districts and a fairly simple set of
Like all dragon flights, Phoenix Tavern has an elder system who names its Archon. See Flight Leadership for more information.
The Djr Islands are ruled by the Phoenix Tavern Flight, which numbers perhaps three or four hundred. Among the flight, a single dragon family holds lordship over the human population. The leading mated pair serve as king and queen, and see to the day-to-day administration of the island. This pair will appoint one of their offspring as prince or princess, who will then take a mate and succeed to the rule. It is not uncommon for the crown to change hands every century or so, despite dragons' longer lifespan. The continuous line of monarchs can be traced to to the kings and queens of one of the old city-states in The Dragonlands.
The monarchy consists of a king and queen and several crowned princes or princesses. There are no other royal titles. The royal family, in particular the king and queen, are allowed to take human concubines, though these are willing volunteers.
Every dragon is bound, at least once in his life, to make a pilgrimate to Djr and the Dragonlands, and to fly the honor guard formation over Lelerough's tomb. Not every flight ascribes to this, and flights at war with Phoenix Tavern or any of its allies are forbidden (excluding those also allied to allies: dragon flight relationships are complicated). Many off-world flights do not participate, but every non-fallen flight on the Greater Continent will be involved.
For most flights, a pilgrimage is arranged for each brood around the time they become reds. For these dragons, this is often when they have their first sexual experience, typically with a dragon from another visiting flight or a local. It is also often when dragons will have their first close encounters with humans, as Djr has a thriving human population.
Life on Djr
According to one native: "Our food is plentiful, and we feel safe and protected. Our dragon-kings are just and wise rulers. Their laws are fair, their punishments mild. Every day we celebrate life. If this is what it means to be a slave, then I hope to live every day as one."
Indeed, the island has seen surges of emigration, mostly from tourists who find life there much too pleasant to leave. An Alliance cultural researcher who visited the island in the Fourth Age had this to say:
"A typical local works about a ten-hour day, including two one-hour breaks. Some might have shorter work days with fewer breaks, others willingly work longer. The laborers (the miners and the builders) in particular tend to put in longer shifts, as they are rewarded for exceeded quota and completing projects ahead of schedule.
"Average daily intake is roughly four to five thousand calories, though it feels like ten thousand. The food is rich and extremely flavorful, and there is quite a lot of it. Indeed, I had more than a little difficulty keeping up with the locals. They eat five meals a day. In the morning, they begin with a light, typically cold meal. Fresh, seasoned vegetables and milk are the custom, though there are many strange and wondrous foods available. While I found this meal easily enough for a normal breakfast, my hosts insisted it was just to 'whet my appetite' for the coming day. Around mid-morning we had our first big meal: there is no tradition surrounding this one, but I was told fruits and grains were typical. This was two or three hours into the workday. Early afternoon meal came only a few hours later, while I was still stuffed from first and second breakfast. Curiously, we did not eat again until after sundown, hours after the workday had ended. The evening meal was very large, with several courses.
"For a people who love to eat so much, there are few private kitchens. Each town, each block almost, has a few large, communal kitchens in which a handful of people prepare all of the meals. Food is typically served buffet-style, with everyone taking as much as they wish. Cold foods are preferred as you can make fewer trips back to the serving stations, but they had a wide array of hot dishes as well.
"Most curiously is the impact this diet has on the locals' health. Or, rather, the lack thereof. I am told the average life expectancy is around eighty years - better than in most parts of the Alliance. And while I did see a number of overweight individuals, in general the population looked healthy. The laborers were often a lot heavier than the others, but this can be attributed to muscle-mass rather than over-eating. A work day usually begins shortly after dawn, and ends in the early afternoon, leaving the locals with several hours of daylight leisure time, which they like to spend on physical activities. Dancing, hiking, swimming, and a multitude of highly active sports. Everyone walks everywhere, there are no trains or cars or anything of the sort. Even goods are transported everywhere on hand-pulled carts.
"There didn't really seem to be any money to speak of, or at least not that I saw. The dragons dictated what needed to be done, and the economy revolved mostly around subsistence farming. Tourists and other visitors were required to pay a tribute to the dragons upon visiting the island to cover the expense of their stays (though, really, there was so much food available, I could have easily grown fat off discarded leftovers...). There was a barter-economy, consisting mainly of crafted items. As the basic necessities of food, shelter, and protection were provided, the humans were left to fill in any other desires as they pleased, with the only real trade being in leisure items. Toys, games, artwork, fine clothing.
"In all, my stay was quite interesting. The people were friendly, the dragons were... not terribly menacing, and the standard of living was excellent. The locals are allowed to leave if they wish, though having lived their life for a week, I'm not even sure I want to leave."
The staple food of Djr is a plantain called a Quovva. It has a sweet flavor and keeps well in the humid environment. It is prepared many different ways, and usually served alongside meat.
Because most of the human population lives communally, traditional family roles are indistinct. While bonded pairs are common, the nation has no formal recognition of marriage. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the father of a child to be unknown. In most cases, the child will have a biological mother, may or may not have a biological father, and if the mother has a significant other, will have a 'pa'. It is still not uncommon to see paired mothers and fathers, but any children are raised by the group.
The dragons promote the ideals of non-attachment among the humans as a means of calming the population. They feel (correctly or incorrectly) such a society will be more harmonious if jealousy is discouraged. In practice this does not always work. However, the dragons have also helped matters by providing an enchanted structure in which conception is impossible. Humans may enter, copulate, and leave without any issue. The dragons likewise take advantage of this state (which is most likely the real reason for the 'free love' attitude). The building is fittingly named 'The Temple of Contraception', and is part of the public baths.
The dragons allow for religious freedom among their followers, insofar as such belief systems do not interfere with the day-to-day goings on of life on Djr. Cardinal Clerics are not uncommon, though they are a distinct minority. Lelroughodaism is the most popular of accepted religious practices, and Djr is often considered the center to those faithful. The majority of humans, however, practice modern forms of dragon-worship, the tenets of which are integrated into their daily lives. Dragon worship is not considered a religion in most scholarly circles, and even the inhabitants of Djr do not openly regard it as such.
Festivals and Rituals
The humans of Djr carry out daily rituals in honor of their dragon gods, and have multiple festivals and "feast days" dedicated to them. Most of the worship is centered around the draconic monarchy, but some more generalized rituals exist. The faithful believe that displays of their loyalty need not be witnessed, so they can be seen at every level all over the island.
The most popular ritual is a form of native dance. While not explicitly required by the dragons, every female is expected to learn the dance in her youth and practice it as part of of the daily rituals. The dance is accompanied by a chance, carried out by the men. In various circles, you can find partial or complete reversals of these roles, as no part of it is explicitly defined by the dragons. The dragons have made it clear that they enjoy the dancing of women and the songs of men, so the ritual is based primarily around this. The chant is accompanied by music, mostly drums. There are dozens of different dances, each highly ritualized and composed of a unique rhythmic language. They tell stories and sing praises to the dragons, though the original meanings are often lost to history. The ritual is traditionally preformed after the magic hour, just before evening meal.
The very best dancers may be given the chance to become priestesses in the temples, and chantresses. Here, they have drums made of dragonhide and instruments made from dragon bones.
At the festivals, large, well-organized dance troops are assembled, and mass-chants carried out. For the chants, every Djrian will usually participate, and these are much less structured than the normal ritualistic chants. A common festival ritual is to have all of dragons on the island take wing at varying altitudes, while all the humans come out and chant. The dragons then echo the chant in waves, depending on how high they are flying. If the highest flying dragon sounds the echo, then the humans have made the king proud, and will be rewarded. The reward always happens, regardless, as the dragons are more impressed by the effort put forth than by success.
The festivals usually center around mass games. Feats of human endurance are particularly impressive to the dragons, so the games are mostly athletic competitions. Foot races are especially popular, but any sort of sport that demonstrates measurable human skill is fair game. Very few sports are ever imported from outside the region, though soccer is played. Foot Kort was played up until the Third Age when it was outlawed.
Banit is a traditional ball game unique to Djr. While it is played casually by all ages and walks of life, it has deep ritual significance and is part of the festival activities. The game is played using a hollow wooden ball covered in a layer of natural rubber and another of leather. In more casual play, a tightly wound wad of fabric or coconut fiber in a leather bag is used. The objective of the game is to bounce the ball off the paddle and through a stone circle high on a wall, to score points.
To play the game well requires extraordinary skill and physical fitness. The ball has to be thrown, bounced off of an elbow or hip, then bounced off of one or more paddles and through the hoop without touching anything else. The paddles can be swung to impart additional speed to the ball, and the points are increased based on the number of paddles it bounces of of. An interesting aspect of the game is the cooperative play. While two teams are pitted against each other and only the team that initially launches the ball will score points, it is common to see both teams work together in order to make a goal once a successful rally has been made. This is due to a very simple fact: the dragons like to see goals. After a goal is completed the teams go back into skirmish-mode and fight for control of the ball. Great dexterity is needed for this part of the game, as every player is armed with a club and no protective equipment is worn (traditionally, only men play Banit, and only in very small loincloths). The game is not a combat sport, and evasion is favored over confrontation.
All across the island, Banit teams train and compete in order to assemble the very best players. While competitive female Banit players exist, the top-ranked teams tend to be exclusively male. Throughout the year, the organized teams carry out a structured tournament system to find the best players for the exhibition match.
Banit was played in The Dragonlands. According to legend, the winning team from the penultimate match was sacrificed. This is, however, very unlikely to be true, as Lelerough disapproved of human sacrifice. This was most likely a form of ritual sacrifice, in which the team "gave up their lives" to the will of the dragons, agreeing to do or act as commanded. It is probable that Lelerough chose her human honor guard from among the Banit players.
On Djr, the sacrifice takes on a different form. At the annual festival where the penultimate exhibition match is played, the dragon royal family is always in attendance. The winning team is then brought before them, and as as an act of self-sacrifice, they swear to never again play the game. Keep in mind these are athletes who have devoted their entire lives up until this day to mastering a very challenging sport. While the dragons do not typically favor acts of self-denial as a form of worship, the Banit Festival is one of the rare exceptions.
It is a solemn and much-loved festival, and the winning team is usually rewarded with high status and honor, so long as they are never again seen to touch a Banit paddle. For the players, their oath is something taken very seriously, as dragons are known to greatly value trust.
Given the titanic diets of the average Djarian, it is difficult to differentiate a feast day from any other day, and even harder to differentiate feasts from festivals. Every festival is accompanied by a feast, also accompanied by large amounts of alcohol consumption. There are a couple of annual feasts, and feast-days can be declared at any time by the king. The humans are also granted the ability to declare one feast-day a year under the decision of the council.
Feast-days do not include alcohol unless accompanied by a festival. All work is suspended for the day (excepting preparations of the feast) and any special foods are usually brought out in abundance. The menu does not vary much from the daily fare, except for difficult and hard-to-prepare dishes.
The Djarians built shrines and monuments to the dragons all over the island. Close to the eyrie, great temples and palaces are made. Further out, stone and wood carvings, and finally sculptures made by simply arranging stones.
The island is also home to various traditions, who practice secret rituals to the dragons. Little is known about these groups, except that they create artwork which is sometimes public. Usually the works have deep ritual significance known only to the cultists. The dragons disapprove of secret religions but tolerate them, so long as it does not interfere with their preferred goings-on.
Human sacrifice was never carried out on Djr or in The Dragonlands, however, many dragon flights with human slaves did demand actual sacrifices during the Mage Wars. These were most often punitive, and few modern flights approve of the practice. On Djr, to honor the memory of the humans killed this way, the dragons ask for Ritual Sacrifices on a regular basis. These are not magical as with other uses of the term, and no one is ever harmed.
The most common is the 'virgin' sacrifice. Once a day, except on feast days, a young woman is ritually bathed, then placed on a palanquin and carried in a procession before the dragon king. If he finds her pleasing, she will offer himself to him. This is one of the most obvious plays carried out as part of Djr's ritual life. The woman in question is usually one of the king's concubines. No matter what the king says, the choice of engaging in relations is up to her. Sometimes a temple priestess or any random girl may be employed, though this is less common. The ritual is said to honor the ancient custom of sacrificing virgins to dragons, though is is unclear if this was ever actually a custom anywhere, or invented by Golden Age playwrights.
Sacrificial rituals are also carried out on altars at the various temples. Usually wine is poured over the victim to simulate blood, and in some cases she may be licked clean by a dragon (the 'victims' are exclusively female for any of the regular rituals).
The Blood Feat, carried out at special festivals, is the greatest spectacle. In this ritual, eight women (actual virgins this time, though no-one checks) are taken to the top of a special temple along the grand plaza. They are "sacrificed" on an altar at the top of the temple, and their "blood" pours down sluices on either side of the temple staircase, where it collects in troughs at the bottom. Humans gathered in the courtyard to bear witness to the ritual then approach the stone troughs and take a small drink of the "blood" before the dragons of the royal family and their honored guests drink the rest.
The "blood" of course is simply diluted red wine and the women are chosen mostly for their acting talent rather than their virtue. While they're usually expected to play dead through the conclusion of the ritual, they're typically rewarded with a place of honor at the king's table in the feast that follows (symbolically, in Heaven with their god). Nearly every ritual is concluded by a feast.
Marcus Ransom famously visited the island in his youth, in the company of his mother (Maria), during the Fourth Age. They came as regular tourists, but as the wife and son of the Pendragon were afforded certain privileges. Marcus entered into a disagreement with the dragon queen of the island, which soon turned into a heated argument. As punishment, the young Marcus was given a stern talking-to and politely asked to leave the island at the end of his visit, which was about the worst thing the dragon queen could tell anybody: life in the New Dragon Islands was considered so comfortable nobody would want to leave, and the worst punishment, both in Lelerough’s time and since, was exile. The people who saw them off did not realize he was happy to go, and kept trying to console him.
- Lyarell a princess of the royal family, she is the product of a dragon half and the king.