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Duqan Culture

The Duqan Archipelago

The Duqan archipelago has an extensive history of human occupation, dating back to5000pm, when the first human hunter/gatherers arrived on the islands. The modern archipelago is a pastiche of ancient Duqan'n traditions and Ataqim'n colonial influence, though in most of the archipelago the Empire's influence is disappearing.

Duqan's cultural identity as the people of T'qan, followers of the Beggar God—detached from the world, free-spirited, congenial, and independent—conflicts strongly with the imposed rule of Ataqim with its structured bureaucracy, rigid caste system, and unbending laws. The Duqan'n people are very democratic in their thinking, believing in freedom and equality for all (at least all Duqan'n humans). That is part of the reason that neither the Duqan Empire nor the Sedreq Kingdom held together for very long, and why the Duqan'ns rebelled so fiercely against the tyranny of the lich-queen Qillesti. But their chafing under Ataqim'n rule never erupted into outright rebellion, for a few very good reasons. First, for all its rigid hierarchy and bureaucracy, Ataqim's rule is genuinely benevolent. There has been no loathsome lich-queen to focus popular hatred, only the stereotypically kindly old wizards of the Empire. Second, the Empire accepted the Duqan'ns as equal citizens, allowing them opportunity for advancement in the social class structure. Third, the Ataqim'n wizard ideal is very attractive to many Duqan'ns, offering access to power almost like T'qan's—awesome in its creative or destructive force.

The real conflict between the Duqan'n and Ataqim'n cultures involves Duqan's beggar ideal. Eridana'n theology underscores the social idea that power and status in society are a reflection of individual merit. The Duqan'n beggars, considered the most meritorious of people precisely because they have renounced power and status, simply do not fit into that view. For Duqan'ns, forsaking worldly possessions and devoting one's life to following T'qan in poverty is the highest calling one could hope to attain, while the Ataqim'ns tend to view such people as either lunatics or leeches. So, while they are revered by virtually all Duqan'ns, they are despised by cultured Ataqim'ns, and at some level this creates an unbridgeable gulf between the two cultures. But only within the past century have Duqan'n political and religious leaders begun to emphasize that gulf, to widen it and play upon it in order to win the support and loyalty of Duqan'n people.

The uneasy juxtaposition of Duqan'n and Ataqim'n culture is concretely represented in the architecture of every Duqan'n city. Even small villages—at least within the portion of the archipelago still controlled by Ataqim—have at least one tall Ataqim'n tower, with some member of the ruling or Learned class inhabiting the top floor of the tower. Ataqim'n rigid caste system is literally carved in stone in the form of those towers. Duqan City, capital of the Empire's presence in the archipelago, contains a large district made up of such towers, called the Royal City. Only the upper levels carry that name, however—the lower levels are the Undercity, home to goblins and the dregs of human society. No self-respecting Ataqim'n noble would walk on the ground any more than absolutely necessary; living at a higher altitude is a measurable mark of higher social class.

Outside the Ataqim'n towers of a large city like Duqan, houses, shops, and apartments cluster together around narrow streets and winding alleys. This part of a Duqan'n city holds the bulk of its population—the Duqan'n middle class, from poor fishers to wealthy merchants. Crowded, busy, noisy, and smelly, these cities are hotbeds of criminal activity and adventure.

A typical Duqan'n village, in contrast to the larger cities, lies close to the ground and to the sea, a collection of small wooden structures with a single story and a tiled roof. Important structures, including temples and government offices, may be built of stone and usually stand on firm inland ground. Other shops and homes, however, are often built on rafts, loosely lashed together in a natural or artificial harbor to maximize living space. Rope bridges span the gaps between rafts, forming an interconnected network of homes not dissimilar to the web of towers and bridges that makes up an Ataqim'n city.

The inside of a traditional Duqan'n home or urban apartment is generally a single room, with paper screens or curtains partitioning the living space and offering some measure of privacy to the family members. A Duqan'n family typically consists of no more than three children, who quickly outgrow the space allotted by the time they reach their teenage years. At this age, most children move out—either into university dormitories or homes of their own.

Unlike the Ataqim'ns, Duqan'ns trace their lineage through the male line. Duqan'n children inherit their father's name, though women keep that name even after marriage. The egalitarian Duqan'ns pass their property to all their children equally, regardless of age or gender.

In stark contrast to the archipelago of Ataqim, the land around a Duqan'n city is generally cultivated in a radius of several miles. Grain grows in fields, fruit trees form well-tended orchards, and a variety of beans form neat rows in large gardens. Fish remain a staple here as all across Aquela, but seaweed is a much less common crop in Duqan than elsewhere. Wild antelope, rabbits, and fowl add more protein to the Duqan'n diet.