The Vuono Dur, also known as Mountain Dwarves, are a subspecies of Dur characterized by their dark hair and beards and the metal accoutrements they adorn them with. The Vuono are savvy and exacting business-types who vie for the highest seat of society with hawkish intensity. Contrasting this, they are also avid lovers and pursuers of all of the arts; taking joy in theatre, museums, symphonies, and most importantly, claiming Patron to the best and brightest of these performers. The Vuono Dur are resolute, decisive, and proud.
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If the Nisse are the oldest of Sha’uru’s peoples, the Dur are not far behind them. The Vuono Dur, also known as Mountain Dwarves in the land of humans, are the most populous of the Dur, the most wealthy, and current great power in the world. The Forged Kingdom, though not as vast as the Human lands for sheer size contains the greatest abundance of the single most precious resource in Sha’Uru: aurum. Aurum is what has filled the coffers of the Vuono Dur merchant houses and allowed Dur people to remain on top after the Orc Wars.
But they were not always so prosperous; even before the humans asked them to join in the extinction of the Orcs, the Vuono were in a constant state of warfare with the Goblins and other monsters of the world. The Vuono claim to have been responsible for the death of the last living dragon, and many monstrous trophies can be found in the halls of the oldest Vuono merchant houses. Their focus on constantly eradicating the evil beasts of the world meant that they spent very little time developing trade route and strong ties with the other nations of the world. As they began to win, however, and the things they desired to eradicate became less numerous, the battleforged Vuono needed a new purpose.
This is when aurum ore was first discovered. The mineral had been around even before steam technology had been developed, but in its early days it was seen as more of a curse than a blessing. It’s similarity to gold in looks lead to many mining accidents when a stray pick sparked the aurum vein causing it to become unstable. Eventually, Vuono craftsmen realized how they could process and ignite small pieces of aurum to create much hotter fires than wood or coal, increasing the quality of their metalwork. This is where the Vuono began to solidify their economic power, and as a people began to embrace hard work and craftsmanship.
Vuono prosperity has created other issues, however. The Vrachos grow further reticent, the Ouranos outright rebelled, the Goblins are constantly stealing Durrish technology, and the less fortunate begin to outright buck against the Vuono powerbase. In fact, many of the high merchant houses became patrons of the Arts as a way of keeping the common folk appeased and entertained. The discovery of Antioch was a great boon to the Vuono, not only for the economic opportunity it presents, but also as a temporary distraction to the other nations of the world that have begun to buck against Vuono exploitative business practices.
Government and Politics
The Vuono Dur are one third of the the Forged Kingdoms that consist of the Vuono, Vrachos and Ouranos. Their King is also the King of The Forged Kingdom, and is advised by a representative from the other two “kingdoms”.
The Vuono Dur utilize the Kroner system, created by their ancestors. Vuono are proud of this fact and are one of the overall wealthiest species in Sha'uru so they refrain from utilizing other methods of trade (such as bartering goods) where possible.
The Vuono covet arts of all kinds. Paintings, books, music, plays. Some of the wealthier Vuono own musical halls and theatres open to anyone willing to pay a few kroner for a seat, or a larger sum for private balcony boxes. The Vuono are also notorious benefactors to actors, writers, singers, and so on.
The Vuono Dur cities and town are mostly located on hills, mountainsides and the base of mountains, some being located directly above Vrachos underground metropolises. The larger, mountainside cities are actually built into the rock itself and dwelt in by the wealthiest and most socially adept of the Vuono. A long time ago, several generations of stonemasons of House Granitechisel carved the buildings, archways, and walkways that are the foundation of these cities. These stonemasons were so talented and so exacting in their work, that the parts of the cities built entirely from stone look almost untouched by time; no signs of wear, tear, or dissolution. These cities are a marvel to behold and the Vuono are very proud.
The Vuono national motto is "Imperio in Imperium;" empire within an empire. While they understand the merit in open and inviting borders and fluid trade, the Vuono are secure in their belief that they could close their borders at any time and subsist comfortably.
Culture & Traditions
The royal family oversees the whole of Vuono lands and their interactions with the world. The current king is Ivannar Stoneforge, Keeper of all the Dur Lands, known as Ivannar The Patient to the Nisse and Ivannar the Swifthammer in the lands of humans. He is advised by Clovis Herringbone of the Vrachos and Taylor Brasscog of the Oranous. However the relevancy of noble lineage becomes blurred as one moves to the other noble titles. Many of the noble houses are still in power, simply because they began to incorporate and use their influence to become economically powerful. New merchant houses have arisen, and even though they cannot claim noble birth, they are powerful in their own right.
The six largest and most influential houses are:
Stoneforge and Company**
The Golden Cup Hospitality Corporation
Granitechsel General Contracting**
Irondigger Mining Company**
Broxig, Blunderbuss, and Barnes, Solicitors
Charcutter Blacksmithing and Cogworks**
**These are also Noble Dur Houses
The nobility of Vuono lands oversee tax collection and enforces the laws of the crown, but the individual cities, towns and hamlets have free elections for their mayors and local chamber of commerce who do the true governing of the Vuono people. Wealthier companies tend to be based in or around Mount Grausaule. Less well-to do corporations may have their headquarters in remote sections of the Vuono lands.
Though the standing of one's House may influence one's trade or sphere of social interaction, there are no specific designation of roles amongst the Vuono outside of employers and employees.
It is tradition that a Vuono at the age of 23 to apprentice to another House of the same status for several years, to reduce overspecialization and to continue fostering relationships between Houses. Further, it is very seldom that all of the children in one House will apprentice to the same other House. The successful completion of their apprenticeship is how a Vuono earns the metal in their hair/beard.
Disputes between Houses that cannot be mended civilly have the option of going to Colosseum of Grievances to invoke trial by combat. Here, the feuding Dur may battle it out and the winner is considered to be the righteous. Duels of yore were bloodbaths of clanging steel and thudding shields, nowadays the Dur typically resort to ranged duels. Nobility and Corporate Officers will often hire Mercenaries to fight in their stead, offering huge sums of Kroner to the mercenary if they win.
Ancestral Remembrance Day (Nov 23rd) is a very important and solemn holiday for the Vuono. The day is spent quietly and privately for each Vuono family. Non-Durren spouses/children/employees and Homunculi are expected to work as usual and stay away from all observances. Tradition varies in each family. Some spend the day in contemplation, some tell stories of the family member being honored, others still take the day to focus completely on hobbies that bring them joy to honor the relative. Dinner is an extravagant and sumptuous affair. Each family member is expected to dress their best and the best stone- and earthenware adorns the table. An empty chair and full plate are set at the head of the table (the patriarch, if not the individual being honored, is moved to the right-hand seat for this occasion only) to honor this family member. In contrast, the two weeks prior to Ancestral Remembrance day are filled with festivals and performances that includes people from all throughout Sha’Uru. This is the time that the wealthy Vuono seek to hire and commission works for Ancestral Remembrance Day and the Vuono lands are filled with merchants, artist, and mercenaries.
The Feast of the Solstice (Dec 21st) is another important holiday amongst the Vuono but contrasts Ancestral Remembrance Day. It is a day for sweets and gifts, singing and joy. Common treats are sticks of peppermint, and a milk-based drink flavored with sugar and rum or bourbon. Sometimes, a gift of a spongy, overly moist cake with fruit baked in is given, especially to acquaintances one does not know well or like overly much.
The Vuono value deliberateness, decisiveness and thoughtfulness. Brash or flighty behavior is not common for them and indecisiveness is disapproved of.
A Vuono would never shave their hair or beards completely off or very short, nor would they shave the hair or beard of another even in jest. The metal they adorn them with is a mark of who they are and status they have achieved.
A common Vuono bedtime story is of a lizard and a mouse. The lizard spent the year frivolously singing, dancing, and sleeping in while the mouse gathered and harvested food to keep their family fed through colder seasons. As the freeze set in, the lizard begged for food and shelter, which the mouse originally refused. However, as the Feast of the Solstice, the mouse took pity on the lizard and brought them inside. The lizard was so grateful they spent the rest of their days indebted to the mouse.
Young Vuono are often warned to not stay out too late, as that's when The Wisps come out. Wisps are a folktale in Vuono history of small beings of light that can lead astray the meek of heart, either into a body of water, a large and thick forest, or in the middle of a large, unrecognizable road.
Other Dur—The Vrachos and the Vuono are so similar in outlook that they get along very well. The Vuono see the Vrachos xenophobia as archaic and suffocating, whereas the Vrachos view the love of art and open gates of the Vuono to be a sign of "Stargazer's Syndrome." Aurum ore is one of the only things keeping the Ouranos Dur and Vuono together, outside the Vuono adamant commitment to family. The Bloodless War wasn't even a lifetime ago so there is still some bad blood between the two.
Nisse—Trade agreements are very common amongst the Afsla Nisse and Vuono Dur, as they have an appreciation for the Afsla prowess in magic. Vuono are also rather envious, though not negatively so, of the incredible architecture in Afsla cities. The high art of Slagte Nisse makes the Vuono uncomfortable, especially when they visit Vuono lands. Despite this, there is avid trade of weapons, traps, etc. The relationship between Vand Nisse and Vuono Dur is delicate; the Vuono understand their Ouranos kin are a blight to the Vand and their bottom line but they would never turn against the entirety of their relatives. However, Vand ships, navigational instruments, and comestibles are too distinguished in their own right to be boycotted.
Humans—The Vuono Dur find the Wayfaring Seekers a bit foolish and flighty, but Wayfarer's are too agreeable to hold this penchant for audaciousness against them. The Vuono Dur find the Imperial Humans tawdry, but their similarities outweigh any differences immensely and thus the two species get along rather well. The Vuono resent the Tribes of Barlethan accusation that they are aiding in the destruction of Sha'uru, but also acknowledge the Tribals exhibit many morals Vuono value most, such as their hard work and prudence.
Goblinites—The owning of Homunculi is generally a status symbol in Vuono society due to the initial cost and the continued cost of feeding, housing, and clothing a Homunculus plus caring for injuries. Gnomes are unwelcome in Vuono territory at the risk of their own lives. Vuono who bear Gnomish children in Vuono cities typically leave for other, more accepting lands or give the child to a Gnomish colony in the Sunless Roads. Despite the laws, recorded accounts of infanticide are extremely low, and those on the books have been found to be forgeries. It is an uncommon sight to see a Kobold and Vuono interacting, unless business or obligation dictates it. Vuono view the pride inherent in most Kobold's to be inappropriate and grating. Halflings are probably the most respected of the Goblinites; Vuono have been known to forge alliances with wealthy or powerful Halflings, though they are unlikely to hire or completely rely on a Halfling; they are rather capricious after all.
Goblins—The Vuono believe the Goblins should have been wiped out with the Orcs during the wars and are ever-willing to execute any Goblin that crosses into their territory. However, this does not stop them from doing business with them, if the prices or good are right.
The Elodian is the most prestigious musical venue and pub house in the Mount Grausaule city center, where esteemed musicians and singers perform in hopes of earning a "Golden Reed" pin. Individuals who receive this pin have dazzled the crowd to such an extent that there is a standing ovation, an uncommon occurrence. There is a door fee of 10 Kroner for all to enter, 15 for Reed-less performers looking to play. Performers who have earned their reeds are always allowed in free. Earning one's Reeds is a nearly guaranteed way to obtain a wealthy Patron. The Elodian is open to all species, except for Gnomes and Goblins.
Should a Vuono fail to complete their apprenticeship—whether by extreme lack of aptitude, unhappiness in the trade, displeasing their master (laziness, theft, disrespect)—they are apprenticed to another House. Should they fail to complete that apprenticeship as well, they are removed from the House and considered a disgraced Astegos Dur from then on.
Sometimes a House may be unable to find a same-status House willing to apprentice their child(ren). In most cases, inability to find a willing House of the same status to apprentice to is a shame and disgrace.
It is known amongst the Vuono that the leader of the expedition is a relative to the King, and a large portion of the expedition is for border expansion and resource (particularly Aurum) gain for all of Vuono-kind.