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The Jardoun are a short people, well adapted for life in confined spaces; as adults generally stand no taller than three and a half feet tall. They usually lean forward, relying on their long, bald (non-prehensile) tails for balance. Their hands and feet have four digits with sharp nails. Other than their hands, feet, ears, nose and tail, their bodies are covered with sleek fur. Fur can be uniform in color or patterned with different colors. Brown fur is the most widespread, but black, white, auburn, and grey are also common. Rarer colors include (but are not limited to) silver, yellow, and orange. Eye colors tend for black or shades of red or pink. Most Jardoun have long whiskers.
It is said that in the storied days of the First Dynasty, Glorious Sekhemib foretold of a time when the Great Kingdom would be wracked with chaos. In their desperation, Men would abandon law and virtue in pursuit of base survival. Sekhemib saw that humble rats were not only survivors, but they possessed altruistic and sociable natures that were rare enough among Men, let alone other beasts. Being a god among men, it was a simple matter for Sekhemib to elevate a warren of rats into thinking beings, shaped as Men were. Taking the name "Jardoun" for themselves, the rat-men were schooled by Sekhemib in the ways of civic virtue, and they became his faithful ministers. Though they were rarely seen, the Jardoun were soon known and spoken of throughout the entire realm. When at last Sekhemib retired to Sadar to make room for a new god-king, the Jardoun bowed to the wishes of their Father and served his successor, and every successor thereafter for all the history of the Thirteen Dynasties.
When Pharaoh Hakor-Hotepsek, last of the Thirteenth Dynasty lay dying with his kingdom unraveling around him he decreed that as he had no heirs, the next Pharaoh would be the first of a new Fourteenth Dynasty. To restore order to the kingdom, the next Pharaoh would be of the kingdom's most steadfast servants, the Jardoun. Hakor-Hotepsek barely had time to be laid out in state in Sadar when the kingdom completely collapsed. Despite the best efforts of the Jardoun, the priests and ministers; Man and Beastman alike, would not have a "rat-man" for a king. Furthermore the Mumuye, Orcs, Obon, and all the other slaves began revolting. The Kingdom was torn apart by a succession of warlords, cities fell, and the Jardoun were themselves enslaved by a series of local potentates. Realizing that they would not be treated with the respect due to them, and that their beloved kingdom was well and truly lost; the Jardoun's new Pharaoh ordered them underground. The "rat-men" vanished from the surface, and built a proud civilization underground as the Shining South continued to tear itself apart.
(to be continued)