The endless battles between the Plaguebringer and the Gladekeeper have seen their share of consequences; one such consequence was the formation of the Red Kingdom.
Ruaidhrí has no memory of a family before his clan, and nor does Gráinne, his first and oldest friend. Parentless and alone, with no clan to speak of, they journeyed from the war-torn borderlands of the Scarred Wasteland towards the interior of the Plaguebringer's domain, guided only by the obscure callings of Gráinne's Search. As they travelled, they collected up other refugees in need of a place to call their own, and what began as a desperate quest for a home soon turned into a pilgrimage: if they could survive the Abiding Boneyard, the Plaguebringer would provide.
And provide she did, in the form of an extended, sheltered cave system built around the fossilized bones of enormous dragons long-dead. It was these bones that Gráinne imprinted on, and she settled down into the role of guarding her Charge, leaving Ruaidhri to the business of organizing their new family. He set to it with a quiet determination—and the aid of his friend Éimhear, who would soon become his platonic co-ruler and Queen of the Red Kingdom. As the clan grew under their leadership, they soon became one of the premier political forces of the region. The Red Kingdom was born.
Over time, as the residents of the clan settled in, they came to be less a collection of refugees and more a found family—and then a family of blood, as clan members formed partnerships, took mates, and bore hatchlings. Eventually others came to be adopted into the Kingdom, either after losing or abandoning their own families, as part of a cultural exchange with allied clans, or merely because they elected to stay rather than continuing their travels. Thanks to Ruaidhrí's willingness to take in anyone who would agree to swear to the Plaguebringer, the Red Kingdom gained a reputation as a safe harbour for those in need—as well as becoming the home to a multiplicity of dragons with a formidable variety of skillsets. Today the clan boasts over a hundred permanent residents, organized into a tight-knit and highly efficient coalition, fiercely devoted to their Flight, their rulers, and each other.
The rulership of the Red Kingdom was shaken up by the arrival of Nekane, claimed by her priest-consort Oscar to be a living avatar of the elements themselves: the heir to a magical legacy that saw its power expanded exponentially as each new generation laid claim to the next element in the yearly cycle. What Nekane herself believes is not known, as she rarely speaks on her own behalf—but her power is undeniable, and so she was accepted into the clan's leadership as its new spiritual advisor and magical expert. Though she has no formal role in policy-making, she is well-respected, and Ruaidhrí defers to her advice on any matter she considers significant enough to speak up on.
Another shakeup later arrived in the form of Ciara, "born" from Conlaed's alchemical cauldron as the unintended result of an experiment with the newly discovered Bogsneak mutagen. Despite their ignominious introduction to the clan—they erupted from the cauldron and scrambled off in a burst of still-slimy energy, knocking over other experiments and overturning delicate instruments—Nekane advised that they had been born on an auspicious day, and would grow into a great power that even now is barely understood. Following her guidance, Ruaidhrí and Éimhear named Ciara their heir (while Conlaed adopted them as his child), and they were raised with the knowledge that the Red Kingdom would one day be their responsibility.
The Elemental Messengers
As Nekane's power grew, over time the various elemental factions of the world began to take notice. Whether the Elemental Messengers were a result of that notice or of Nekane's growing power itself is a question perhaps only she could answer. The Messengers made their sudden appearance some time after her arrival, and immediately took up places as her entourage, assistants, and magical aides. They obey commands only directly from her or (when appropriate) from Oscar on her behalf, and can provide her with a seemingly endless wellspring of elemental energy for her workings—the only limit being her own ability to channel power. They keep the elements in balance in the region of the Red Kingdom, and serve as liaisons directly to the deities of their respective elements; their purpose is greater than the clan itself, and they rarely deviate from it in any way.
The Elemental Messengers are not so much creatures as elemental power given shape and purpose. They are not dragons in the typical sense, being formed directly from the essence of their respective elements; they often appear to be insubstantial, or in some way composed of the element from which they are drawn. They do not eat, sleep, or even appear to possess fully developed personalities or true sentience, and can be seen flitting about the lair on business of religious significance at all hours of the day and night.
The Ogham Warband
The Ogham Warband is a collective grouping of twenty-five Nocturnes who are all siblings or half-siblings to each other. Their precise point of origin is something of a mystery; they arrived in the Red Kingdom from neighbouring Plague territories after the clan had been established as a powerful political force, offering their services as a warband in exchange for lodging and upkeep. Their petition was accepted, and they have served as the rank and file of the Red Kingdom's warriors ever since.
Though their primary role is as the clan's warrior corps, they also have a number of other duties, including guarding, scouting, carrying messages, and any other major endeavours requiring a large number of workers on a physically demanding task. The band is divided into five aicme, or units, each captained by a leader, but the group as a whole has no overarching command structure. While technically subordinate to all the Red Kingdom's ranked officers, and to its rulers, in practice they function semi-autonomously, carrying out their duties as part of a regular routine and only reporting in if there is a major incident.
In recent times, the Red Kingdom's expansion has slowed. Instead, a number of new settlers have come to live on the outskirts of the clan's territories and in remote places not often frequented by the citizens of the Kingdom. Strange in nature, these dragons have been allowed to remain in clan lands on the word of Nekane: they all have powerful magical energies—some of them of a type never before seen in the Red Kingdom's history—or are otherwise unknown elements whose nature is worth studying. While some of these new arrivals are potentially dangerous, and regarded with wary unease by the majority of the clan, others seem content to merely live out their lives in the wilds of the Kingdom. Only time will tell what will become of these magical oddities, or what they have in store for the future of the clan.
The territory claimed by the Red Kingdom consists not only of the lair and its immediate surroundings, but also an area of roughly a hundred square kilometres around it. Though the majority of its residents live primarily in the lair itself, the Kingdom also has several outposts, hunting lairs, and guest homes that are frequently occupied on a temporary basis, either by clan members or visitors.
Much like the rest of the Abiding Boneyard, the climate of the Red Kingdom is arid and dry. The clan is sustained primarily by desert life, but the Kingdom also includes several hidden oases, a forest (gnarled but very much alive), and even a river, whose source is a spring at the back of the lair.
The lair itself is accessible only by travelling via a long ravine through rocky territory. At its terminus it opens up into a large, sunny clearing—bordered on one side by the river that originates within the lair and on the other by the clan's garden—and comes to its end at the mouth of the cave system that serves as the lair itself. Though the area in front of the lair is open, and members of the clan can fly in and out of the clearing with ease, it is protected from outsiders by a powerful magical working created by the clan's mages, thus ensuring that all visitors—even allies—must enter by the front gates.
There is also a separate, smaller cave system in one of the walls of the ravine leading to the main lair, which serves as the residence of the Ogham Warband. This has the dual advantage of being easy to muster from, while also being out from under the direct supervision of the clan leadership.
The clan lair (referred to within the Red Kingdom as the Bones) is an extensive natural cave system that has been expanded and decorated over the years by the work of the clan. It consists of a narrow entranceway opening up onto a large central chamber—the Commons—which serves as a communal meeting place, a central square, and a receiving room for political visitors; several chambers of state off the back of the Commons, used primarily by the rulers, their aides, and the clan's informal council; a series of nursery chambers that also includes the schoolroom; several hospitality chambers which include the food preparation and storage areas as well as rooms for honoured guests; a multitude of small chambers and alcoves which serve the clan as sleeping places; a large library chamber with several workrooms branching off of it; and the Upper Reaches, inaccessible except by flight and reserved (by widespread clan superstition) for the use of the clan's Nocturnes.
The bones that give the lair its name are found primarily in the Commons—in that great room scarcely a foot of wall space is empty of fossils—but other fossils are scattered throughout the cave system. These are seen with great reverence, and are carefully tended not only by their guardian but by the entirety of the clan. In the Commons, surrounding rock has been carefully carved away so as to emphasize the shapes of the fossils, and the clan's best painters have applied a light wash of dark pigment to the walls of the cave, allowing the bones themselves to stand out in their natural tones. This makes for an awe-inspiring sight for first-time visitors, and a proud reminder of clan identity for residents.
The Red Kingdom is aligned with Sliabh na Cogair, the Mountain of Whispers—an alliance officiated by Ruaidhrí and the Mountain's High Priestess Oona, but initially brokered by Caoimhe and her colleagues in magical scholarship at the other clan. The groundwork laid by the Sorceress and her collaborators was bolstered by the arrival of Nekane, the Red Kingdom's living deity, whose father Aegis is a priest of the Mountain; Nekane's immense magical power was also a source of interest to the Mountain's scholars, and what had been cordial academic cooperation soon expanded into an enthusiastic friendship, the sharing of knowledge and resources, and support of each others' political interests.
The alliance was formalized with the exchange of voluntary fosterlings who left their clan of origin to join the clan of their allies. Brígh, originally of Sliabh na Cogair, is now a resident of the Red Kingdom, while the twins Eabha and Eithne, born to the Red Kingdom, now live in the Mountain. Today, a number of other Red Kingdom hatchlings also reside with their allies, having found themselves drawn to the life of magic and scholarship in the larger clan, and the Red Kingdom has taken on former inhabitants of the Mountain in turn.
The Red Kingdom also has a friendly relationship with the Watermelon Garden, a Fire clan and the original home of Saraid, the clan's political advisor. The relationship is based primarily on shared trade and political collaboration, and is not as formalized nor as close as the relationship with the Mountain, but nevertheless the Garden may count itself among the Red Kingdom's stalwart allies.
Recently travellers from the Strange Little Dragon Clan made their way through territory belonging to the Red Kingdom on their way back to their original home in the Viridian Labyrinth. Though initially tensions ran high, the unexpected fulfillment of Naomh's search in the form of Caitlín led to an unlikely alliance between Plague and Nature clans. The Red Kingdom has maintained ties to the Strange Little Dragon Clan since their departure and the two clans remain on good terms.