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Ya Suc Ho: Land of the 1000 Tunnels

by John Walter Biles

The Yasuko tribes as they call themselves were stranded here over a thousand years ago when colonists heading for Ochalea instead crashed in this land of jungles. What they found was a land riddled with abandoned gnome warrens; the survivors took over as much of them as they could and used them for shelter in the first years, though over time, they built villages and homes above ground. But the caves were preserved as refuge places in times of invasion and war. In addition to growing rice and various vegetables and melons above ground, they also mastered the art of growing edible fungi and mushrooms below ground, hollowing out further caves, and planting forests of fungi underground.

Civilisation here has gone through many cycles of towns, then cities arising, then overstretching their resources, followed by civil war and collapse. When civilisation was rising, trade with Thyatis, Ochalea, and the Pearl Islands took place. When it declined, humanoids would invade and trash everything, forcing the people to retreat into the tunnels to survive and eventually making a comeback.

About three hundred years ago was the last peak of the cycle; then things started to fall apart for them. And then the Dog-Soldiers came.

The Dog-Soldiers (Formally 'The Knights of Zugzul'), led by a son of the King of Renardy himself, had been exiled due to disruptive behaviour back home in Renardy, and now descended upon the crumbling Yasuko states. They had come south from Davania following omens from their Immortal, who wished them to move to warmer climes where his long-term goals would be more easily met.

Armed with fire magics, high quality equipment and necromancy, the Dog-Soldiers soon overran the land, which they would soon come to call Ya Suc Ho, the land of a Thousand Tunnels. Many of the human natives submitted to them and ended up as peasants growing rice and vegetables for the ruling class of Lupins, but others took to the tunnels and began resisting Dog-Soldier rule. But the Dog-Soldiers were not disorganised humanoids who would turn on each other in a slaughter and struggle for power. Or at least not so blatantly as past conquerors. The Tunnelers still resist the Dog-Soldiers, using the network of caverns to launch command raids, and feed themselves on various edible fungi and cave creatures, but their numbers are too small to overthrow the Dog-Soldiers of Zugzul.

The Dog-Soldier state is basically feudal, a collection of towns and strongholds which all owe fealty to the Grand Temple of Zugzul, where the cult's central headquarters stands, guarded by fire creatures and undead. Those who are about to die are sent when possible to this temple to be animated to swell the ranks of the temple's undead army. An increasing amount of this army is made of undead who are always on fire. Indeed, the cult's own leaders have become Burning Undead themselves of various kinds.

Young Dog-Soldiers treat the 1000 Caves as one big dungeon to go adventuring in to gain experience. They may well invite visitors to join them and will refer to the cavern inhabitants as bandits, thugs, and thieves. They treat the average surface human as a serf and peasant--someone inferior, but who does have basic rights, like you not cutting their head off just because you don't like their face. Indeed, for many average Yasuko, dog-soldier rule isn't much different from 'self-government' when elite Yasuko ruled and abused them. Except for being turned into an undead soldier when you die.

The Dog-Soldiers raid their neighbours to get sacrifices for Zugzul and sometimes slaves, but don't seem inclined to further conquest...YET.