Despairing Culture: Guesses About the Enemy
There are no major assertions about Despairing culture that can be made without dispute. The following is only a consensus of respected opinions given by past Sages and Bardic recovery. Archaeological evidence is scanty, due primarily to the destruction caused by the Age of Balance, as well as restrictions placed on exploration by the more Lawful northern kingdoms (where most Despairing remains are located). Some of the wild adventuring class have told astounding tales, but these gain little traction among respectable folk. Still, few knowledgeable beings would quibble much with the following general observations about Despairing kingdoms and customs:
I. Autocratic, Aggressive Government- no source records the existence of either democratic or peaceable mechanisms among Despairing governments. Strict hereditary monarchies guaranteed by ruthless royal or imperial guards seem to be the rule; advancement through the noble classes is by achievement; it is unclear how entry to the noble class is gained, if at all. There is evidence of a rough democracy or consensus style among purely Garruk councils, but their goals are more oriented towards conquest even than Kunian kingdoms. It may be that Pelundragian-controlled areas were less violent in their treatment of peasants or conquered populations, but some argue that their councils were simply so complicated as to slow down the effect of their predations.
II. Subterranean Architecture- How much emphasis should be placed on this point is unclear, but without question evil builds downward. Especially valuable places and in some kingdoms the wealthier quarters can be found deeper than storage chambers, donjons and quarters for the poor. It may be that some Hopeful cities, built on sites of indisputable advantage, were incomplete in their eradication of the lower levels dug by Despair before them.
III. Lower Level of Literacy- Whether from fear or contempt, Despairing populations definitely were less able to read or write (though ability with numbers may have survived in percentages close to those in Hope). Lower classes may have equated the ability to read with the power to cast spells, or with noble origin, or both.
IV. Use of Makine- Especially Kun and his clans were fearless in their use of Makine and Automatoi in accomplishing various ends, from warfare to control to even casual convenience. Makine (generally used to describe larger or more aggressive devices) make copious use of iron, move or operate under their own power, and often produce noxious vapours or poison the nearby water supply. Automatoi (generally smaller or portable, often with less lethal purposes) are in some respects similar to Makine, but seem to use other materials at times and do not necessarily pollute. Most research about Makine is strictly forbidden by Hopeful cultures, as being harmful to nature and inimical to human dignity and independence.
V. Experimentation and Exploitation- Despair was without respect for custom or danger in mixing, amplifying or reversing existing forms in nature and the world. Newly created races, or unique beings which resulted from this process, were seldom accorded any respect or degree of power; most were enslaved, used as fodder in battle or labor forces in times of peace. Some believe that Demons, or creatures often mistaken for Demons, were the result of this type of experimentation; later, they would argue, the Demons broke free of Despairing control and lessons were learned. Others maintain that Demons (and Dragons, who are clearly the oldest known race) were instead allies of Despair and gave them much of their bio-alchemical knowledge.