Ched'l Sulho, alternatively known as the City of Suhl was a drow city in northeastern Kazrrad, located under Kanovait. By the Middle Human Age of Hegemony, it was the second largest drow city, with around 100.000 inhabitants, and the whole Sulhian civilization, counted with some 220.000 inhabitants total: this population however plumeted as result of the Sulhian Civil War (2433-2439 a.a.H)
The inhabitants of Ched'l Sulho where called Sulhians.
It was ruled by an Empress who claimed to be a descendant of their matron goddess; the power however was really divided among 9 great clans that form the council of government, constantly warring each other for hegemony in the city, they suffered much from the pressure put over them by the Demon Lords of the Dark Legion during the Great War of the Power, to whom they were allies: The demon defeat weakened the power of the Empress, and destabilized the whole civilization.
The cave of Sulh before Ched'l Sulho Edit
While Drow had settled down in the region since immemorial times in the northeast of Kazrrad, with some of the oldest cities of the drow as Abathagan and Orlytar existing since the 11,500 and 11,000 b.a.H respectively, Ched'L Sulho was a relatively recent drow foundation, which originated only at the 300 a.a.H.
Most of the ancient drow cities of the Northeast, like Abathagan and Orlytar where destroyed in the dwarven-drow wars as the Mines of Fronhost expanded by the ~3,000, and would take long after the collapse of the empire of Fronhost, for drow settles to return to the region -often resulting in new clashes between drows and dwarves-, but by the first millenia before the apparition of humanity, drow cities once more time flourished in a region that still remained largelly under dwarven control
This will however change with the Age of Calamities: with earthquakes, volcanic activity and collapses, many formerly prosperous dwarven and drow settlements be destroyed, while others saw these changes break the dangerous equilibrium for life to be sustained on the underworld, and where abandoned.
And after the end of the natural calamities, came the Age of Invasions. Peoples who had lost their former homes and new groups seeking for new territories will migrate, triggering a series of invasions, sacks and further destruction, as population was displaced: this happened not only on the surface -with Galaw High Orcs, Kanov and Humans-, but as well down below in Kazrrad: most importantly was the arrival of Draak Harg, Dragon men, who fought both dwarves and drows, but as well green orcs and goblins in the upper levels -escaping the High Orcs-, and new drow populations, migrating from the west.
The City of Sulh Edit
Ched'l Sulho was founded around the 300 a.a.H, from such groups, in what was known as the Cave of Sulh -being ignored the origin of this name, but it existed already prior to the settlement, as seen in Abathagani merchants records-.
According to the own legends of the Suhlians, Ched'L Sulho was founded by Shallian, an exiled Empress, descendant of their tutelar goddess Shaless, who guided her peoples by divine inspiration to a place to re-found their old civilization, destroyed by the invaders. Crowned again as Empress, she had nine daughters -or sisters, as the legend versions changed-, and each of them founded one of the nine houses.
This was however, a myth: the peoples of the City of Sulh wasn't from a single origin, from a great king of a past golden age that was destroyed and was to be rebuilt for the glory of Shaless, but actually a confederation of nomads tribes, clans and maybe escaped eslaves, among which the main groups and chieftains formed a loose alliance: the nine most powerful of them, who would be the base for the Nine Houses. Notably, at least two of the first "Houses" of Ched'l Sulho were actually either Deep Elves or Rossnes light elves -with their later descendants classified as light drows- and one of Canaia neroz.
The wars against the dwarves -pushed eastwards, or toward caves where the elves couldn't survive- would serve to form an identity around a shared, glorious (and mythical) past, in which the nine houses agreed to the legend of Empress Shallian and the goddess Shaless as a distant ancestor, specially as new drow peoples migrated into the growing city.
For over a millenia, Ched'l Sulho will be rulled by the Empress Shallian, who hold closely the Nine Houses of the city by alliances and marriages, and during her rule, the city prospered, to become the main drow city of the northeast.
by the 1321, Shallian died: however, for almost a century already, the eldest daughter of Shallian, Sulhess had been ruling in the name of her mother, and long before the death of her mother, succession was clear, and so the transition was seamless.
Sulhess of the House of Shall (which her name meant literally heir of Sulho) had an ambitious plan of expansion, as was the age of the warring states of the Drow: the armies of Sulho and the dragons of the Shall House marched to war. aided by the other eight houses, and Ched'l Sulho grew, conquering smaller city states, sacking others, and clashing with the Orlytar and Abathagan (with alliances continuously shifting, depending of the political situation, between alliances of Ched'l Sulho and Orlytar against Abathagan, Abathagan and Ched'l Sulho fighting Orlytar, and Orlytar and Abathagan fighting the City of Sulho:
aside of inter-drow wars between opposing states and the revolts of slaves and subjected people to Sulho, the Empress had by her side the Nine Houses and internally, Ched'Sulho was remarkably stable among the drow cities, even waging some mayor wars against the dwarves of Fronhost, aside of usual inter-drow bickering and wars.
Then, arrived the demons to Polforia, and began to extend their claws as well to the underworld of Kazrrad.
The Demons and Ched'l Sulho Edit
The first contacts between the demons of the Confederation of Free Peoples and Ched'l Sulho will be within the context of the Kanovhook wars, where Sulhian traders, slavers and raiders first heard about the demons from the Polforian kanovs that they traded and raided with.
Before formal contacts began, agents and spies of the confederation began to recon the drow city, gaining adepts among ambitious scholars and wizards, way before the first embassy of the Dark Legion arrived: between the 1810 and 1840, an influential spy ring was formed.
At first, these demonic influence, specially among the elites of magic users of the city was seen as tainting of their traditions by these far off horrors, yet the magic-wielding elites largelly embraced the power and knowledge demons could provide them.
Some of the houses of the council spoke against this to the Empress, trying to convince a ban on demonic arts and studies, and for long, it looked like the Empress Sulhess was going to enact the ban:
But then, arrived the first embassy of the Dark Legion arrived at the 1856 a.a.H, bringing the news of the defeat of the Kanov confederation in the Battle of the Abyss of Dhermon Hel.
Seeing the disposition of the empress against the demons -and their power, defeating the last and most powerful Kanov confederation of Polforia-, the Empress daughters killed in secret their mother, claiming it to be an accident: the eldest of the daughters became Empress Lygenn of the House of Shall, who with support of her conspiring sisters, was quick to sign a treaty with the Dark Legion of Demons, joining the Confederation of Free Peoples, while enacting an edict, making mandatory the study of demonic arts to magic students.
Joining the Confederation was beneficial to trade, and soon the already powerful northern city of the drow became hegemonic among the northeastern drow cities: The armiess of the house of Shall, enhanced by demons and abominations, humiliated and made Orlytar and Abathagan bow to Ched'l Sulho and the Dark Legion, in a series of bloody wars among the drow during the XX century.
Ched'l Sulho was the greatest drow city of the northeast: all other drows were to bow to their Empress, and wars waged against the dwarves of Fronhost made them humble... but the Empress was nothing but a puppet of demons.
Immigration of demons to the city and their court, along with arrival of more slaves and surface servants of the Dark Legion by the XXI century began to trigger ethnic tensions with the Sulhian drows.
As the proud demons made visible the subjugation of Ched'l Sulho to the Dark Legion, the most traditional great houses resented this.
But despite the malcontent, the Empress, distanced from her peoples in her court, ignored this, with her dreams to become the Empress of All Drow, ruler of the drow within the Dark Legion: any price was to be gladly paid, for all drow to bow to Lygenn, only ruler of the Drow.
But the Dark Legion played their vassals against each other, to have their ambitions in check. While Lygenn was promised a reforged crown of the Empire of Drow of old, similar promises where done to the dictator of Negeémiliel.
By the First War of the Power, the witches and priestess of the Sulh and their Orlytani and Abathagars vassals marched along the Dark Legions in their campaigns, while their own armies clashed deep below against the dwarves of Fronhost.
But as the legion was triumphing all over Aels, Lygenn learnt about the proclamations made by the dictator of Negeémiliel as Queen of the Drow, and she realized she had been played by the Dark Legions: that in western Kazrrad, a demoness in drow form claimed herself to be the Empress-of-Ravens, as ruler of all the Dungeandar drow made it even more evident:
even in their victory, Lygenn's imperial dreams wouldn't be fulfilled.
When the armies of the venerable Empire of Whide Axis marched into Polforia, the drow didn't answered their call: Ched'l Sulho closed the gates to the surface, leaving the Dark Legion to themselves and their final defeat.
Ched'l Sulho after the Dark Legion. Edit
The defeat of the demons and the dark legion weakened the power of the Empress: all had been done for her ambitions, and they didn't paid out. The demonic defeat destabilized the whole civilization.
The god-empress, who had accepted humiliation in exchange for something that never came, lost face and credibility to the old Nine Houses and the peoples.
To avenge old grudges, the resentful empress banned and exiled demons and half demons from her realm, but this resulted in alienating one of the last pilars of support of the Empress: the magic elites, who used arcane arts for themselves.
During the Middle Human Age, the loss of legitimacy by the Empress meant that her power was challenged, and open civil wars began between the Empress and the support of the more traditional houses, and the new, rising houses, who aimed to take place among the 9 great clans: This was the War of the Spider and the Dragon (2245-2248, the first open challenge against the Empress by one of the old houses, that was finally squashed) the War of the Two Dragons (2294-2299, a sucession war between the two eldest daughters of the Empress Lygenn to decide the heir to the throne), the Purge of the Cultists (2303, religious violence against followers of demonic cults, who supported one of the defeated sisters in the War of the Two Dragons) and the two Wars of the 9 Houses (2312-2315 and 2378 - 2390 a.a.H)
These violent civil wars that debastated much of the city, resulted in the replacement of 3 of the old clans by new ones in the first War of the 9 Houses. While recogniced as Great Houses at the end of the war, they resented the status quo, wanting to further challenge it. This faction will be known as the "New Houses", opposed to the "Old Houses", allied of the House of Shall.
The discovery of the assassination of Empress Sulhess by their daughters -among them, Empress Lygenn- before the First War of the Power , will serve as the excuse for the malcontent new houses to rise against what they considered an illegitimate Empress in the Second War of the 9 Houses.
The war ended in a bloody stalemate, slave revolts and sectarian violence, and the economic collapse of Ched'l Sulho. The traditional houses where in ruins, and so the new houses who had challenged them: of the nine houses, five had been destroyed during the war.
To control slave revolts, the Sulhian elites arranged a fragile peace, thanks to the Headmistress of the Academy, Ankhaess and the teachers of the school for the elites of the city.
Five minor clans were elevated as major houses, but choosen to keep the equilibrium of power between the two main factions, while the Empress Lygenn was forced to abdicate in result, relinquishing the throne to one of her daughters, Ankhaess -the very same headmistress of the Academy-: it was expected, as the one who broke the peace, to keep it.
However, she had broke the peace precisely to gain the throne for herself.
Ched'l Sulho and the Return of the Dark Legion Edit
Ankhaess was secretly a demonic cultist, and had reinstated among a ring of close students of diverse houses on the academy the demonic arts.
In the throne, Ankhaess tried to push her own agenda: a new meritocratic system of educated drow woman, formed in her academy, to form a new government of Chel'el Sulho, that didn't depended on the bickering of the houses.
This idea of a centralized government, without the need of the support of the clans, alienated some of the traditional allies of the house of Shall, and the house of Shall itself.
The sisters of Ankhaess who had survived the War of the Two Dragons and two wars of the Nine Houses resented this, and contested the claims to the throne as a divine one of Ankhaess.
Meanwhile Ankhaess mother, the former Empress Lygenn, who had been kept prisoner in her own escape, escaped with the help of some of her sons.
Lygenn will leave first to the cities of the Dungeandar drow, trying to gain support for them to raise an army and march against her daughter and her many former enemies in Chel'El Sulho:
And there, she waited, as the demon lord promised her to do so, despite her impatience: The Witch King was planning the return of the great demon lords from their imprisonment at Demonatch, and as such, couldn't entertain the unreasonable demands of Lygenn, but agreed meanwhile to send spies and agents to sow discontent in Ched'l Sulho.
And they didn't needed much, to send the city in a new spiral of violence.
Ankhaess project had alienated any base of support she had, and the rumours of the restoration of demonic cults in the city made nervous the New Houses, who prepared for other round of war, while the Old Houses comploted against the Empress with the daughters of the House of Shall, to reeplace Ankhaess.
The Houses prepared their armies.
Ankhaess, seeing herself surrounded, began to recruit a mercenary army -her "imperial army"-, and in the Academy, using demonic arts, to forge golems and abominations.
Then, began the Ched'l Sulho Civil War (2433-2439 a.a.H) , in a confusing event everybody blammed the other faction for being responsable. A riot in the centre of the city. Assault on the graneries of the houses by commoners and slaves, and the unleash of demonic creations of the academy all happened in a quick succession of events, and soon it became a three way conflict between the Empress Ankhaess and her followers, the Old Houses and their new empress, Olplynn and the New Houses, with the city turned a battlefield, with innocent civilians caught in the carnage -unlike previous civil wars, limited between the warring houses-.
Meanwhile, the demons had been liberated from their prison, and a new Second Dark Age of demons had begun... and Empress Lygenn, with a small mercenary army recruited and founded by Dol-Nur, heralded by her loyal sisters and sons, marched over to Chel'el Sulho, as ambassador of the new Dark Legion of Demons, to herald for the reunification.
Despite the expectatives that Ankhaess would renounce the crown for the return of her mother, as leader of the secret demonic cults. But Ankhaess refused. And neither the Old Houses or the New Houses accepted the returned Lygenn as their empress: a fourth faction instead entered the civil war.
Lygenn, supported by the reunified Dark Legion, was finally able to win the war: but only to rule over the smoking ruins of the once great city. The population was decimated. The economy, ruined. Their armies, depleted. And the magic academy, once pride of Chel'Sulho, was destroyed, as their libraries, in the storm of the academy against the last stand of Ankhaess.
Lygenn reformed the council of the nine, rising nine clans of her allies to rule the city. But she was hated, for the destruction she bought... and for the taxes and armies she had to provide the reunited Dark Legion, for their new campaigns in the Second War of the Power.
And the demons weren't happy either with the Empress of Ched'l Sulho.
Despite her promises and joining the legion, Ched'l Sulho support to the demonic campaigns was marginal. They didn't provided what was expected, and the very needed magic users and warmages the Dark Legion craved for, weren't in sufficent numbers: worse of all, the few provided where lost in the disasters of the Campaign of Sargos at the 2440.
The Empress Lygenn, hard pressed to regain the favor of the dark legion, promised more and more, and didn't meet results.
Much of her efforts went to rebuild the academy, and train new generations of warmages.
But the spies and agents of the Dark Legion send to Lygenn's academy in the late 2450s where lapidary in their reports: the system and structure of the academy and the society of the drow of Ched'l Sulho where insuficent for the needs of the dark legion. They would need something different.
Empress Lygenn fell in disgrace. Her assessination wasn't cried, and as the numerous descendants of the Empress plunged the ruins of the city in other civil war, the Dark Legion had already decided that they would focus their efforts with the drow elsewhere.
Under the Shadow of Zaghäl Edit
The foundation of the Dark Elven realm of Zaghäl¨was a shift of the focus of the Dark Legion regarding Dark Elves.
The weakened City of Suhl, who had during their civil wars had it's population, economy and military might decimated, will fall under the supervision of Zaghäl, and later, will become directly a vassal of the Dark Elf King.
Suhlian commoners migrated to Zaghäl for a better life and opportunity, and so was the case as well for the magical elites: As well, the academies of Zaghäl weren't exclusives to the nobles of the houses, but as well open to the commoners.
the houses and their armies became auxiliaries of the Dark Legions of Zaghäl, and their war mages were integrated in the Zaghäli ranks: later, as the power of the Dark Elf King grow stronger, the houses of Ched'l Sulho became more and more dependant.
Traditionally, Ched'l Sulho was ruled by an Empress who claimed to be a descendant of their matron goddess; the power however was really divided among 9 great clans that form the council of government, constantly warring each other for hegemony in the city.
The Council of the Nine was called mostly to deal with external diplomacy -foreign wars and trade-, and as well laws that affected all of Ched'l Sulho, and when the Empress was powerful and respected, served to arbitrate conflicts within the Great houses and the subsidiary houses.
Each of the Nine Houses had their own client houses and commoners, and ruled and taxed them as they saw fit, with no central power or government of the Empress, except that her house -for long- was the mightiest of them all.
Ched'l Sulho lacked a military: rather than one army of the city, there where the private armies of the houses, composed of the members of the houses and hired mercenaries.
This lack of centralized command, often resulted in limited offensive capabilities of the Suhlians against foreign enemies, as the Houses had to keep important parts of their armies at home, in case of an attack of other house:
As result, Suhlians prefeered smaller scale raids that long, large campaigns or protracted sieges, so often their armies had limited capabilities to win a decisive victory in a war against their external enemies:
Only powerful empress, who could keep internal order in Ched'l Sulho, where able to field larger armies in their wars against external enemies, specially during the time of Shallian and Sulhess.
Ethnic groups Edit
While in Suhlian myths, all the Nine Houses and their divine Empress had a mythical common ancestor, often observers noted than despite this mythical common ancestor, there where several observable distinctible cultural and ethnic groups within the Suhlians, which related to their historic origin as a loose confederation of different peoples:
While Drows where predominant in this foundation, there where as well Canaia Neroz dark elves, and as well an important minority of either Deep Elves or Rossnes light elves -who later will be classified as "light drows".
Major settlements Edit
By far, the major settlement of the Suhlians was their capital, the City of Suhl.
Shaless was the matron goddess of Ched'l Sulho, seen as a divine ancestor of the God-Empress and the old nine houses of Shaless.
Cults of Demons Edit
Cult of Zakn'Xalyth Edit
Zakn'Xalyth, the Trackless Shadow, was one of the favorites of the Canaians. Derided by the more civilized dark elves as the Patron Goddess of Not Getting Caught, the Trackless Shadow was worshipped as a protector-goddess of dark elves on the surface, blessing them with superior abilities at night, and cloaking them in shadow to aid them in the hunt, or to evade enemies. A Canaian dark elf who lucked into a hiding spot or method of evasion while fleeing pursuit might well consider themselves to have been blessed by Zakn'Xalyth; though worship of the Trackless Shadow encouraged skill at hiding, it was acknowledged that there was always an element of luck, and woe betide the dark elf who had not provided proper veneration to Zakn'Xalyth when her luck was tested!
It was also noted by more scholarly types that Zakn'Xalyth's name was extremely hard to pronounce for those who had not grown up speaking dark elven tongues, making it function as a shibboleth. Anyone who could not pronounce the name of the goddess in the expected manner was instantly marked as an outsider, making it a primitive but effective means of identification even if the speaker could not be clearly seen.