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    On the Drow of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
    Posted on Thu, November 23, 2006 by Legate
    CruelSummerLord writes "
    Pure, unsullied and total evil.  As it always has been, is now, and ever more shall be.  The outside resembles the inside, creatures of a self-fulfilling paradox in sheer black and white...-Excerpts from the Olven Chronicle of Summer Stars, Volume IV. 

    Everything seemed to writhe and glow, twists of serpentine, mauve, cinnabar, amber, lilac, azure and turquoise…waving like…tentacles?...even as silent screams and cries seemed to echo in the background, along with the odd chanting and singing that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere…the Eye appeared at the center of it all, before fading away…

    Eclavdra emerged from her trance, setting aside the lotus dust for another day.  She looked around as if still in a dream, her vision passing over the twisted and perverted decorations of her chamber, the fabulous gems and metals that decorated the whole scene, everything that coalesced around her and placed her at the center of Erelhei-Cinlu.  Queen of the Vault, Queen of the Drow. 

    Pure, untainted and utter evil. 

    Ebony skin, white hair and dully gleaming eyes were part of a gorgeous figure barely five feet high, with a face to rival a goddess and eyes that were eternal pits of debauchery, promise, sadism and attraction all at once.  She was dressed in the priestly robes of her office of the Elder Elemental God, her patron and the god of the Vault. 

    Eclavdra’s eyes passed over the scene, slowly emerging back to reality.  At first she saw the Eye again, wondering if it had come…but no, there were two of these eyes, and they shone with the sparkle of youth, of darkness that was still coming into its own. 

    Choulterina, her daughter and heiress to her throne.  Always suspicious of those around her, Eclavdra had prepared spells of warning to awaken her if anyone approached with harmful intentions, but they had not activated.  Choulterina was not attempting to seize her throne…this time. 

    “What do you want, daughter?” she asked slowly, her voice smooth and silk and yet hard and cold as adamant at the same time. 

    “Tell me of our people, mother,” Choulterina replied.  “Tell me about the drow.” 

    “Has Lyme been ignoring your education?” Eclavdra demanded, referring to her consort and the girl’s father. 

    “No, mother.  He has done as you instructed.  I merely wish to hear the story from you, to understand from whence we come, and who we are.  You, the Queen of the Drow, Queen of the Vault.” 

    Eclavdra looked at her daughter coldly, always suspecting something.  She had not survived four centuries of life without being always alert and always on edge.  But there was nothing there this time, save an honest desire to know and learn. 

    “Very well, then,” Eclavdra decided.  “I will tell you of our race and who we are, and you will learn the truth of your heritage.” 

    “We drow are of similar stature to the elves, normally passing at just over five feet in height.  Our hair is stark white, our skin pure black, and our eyes mauve and purple in color.  Our voices are lyrical, although edged and cold, and we move gracefully and easily, being perfectly at home in the darkness, although we prefer the darker lights of our home to the pitch-black night of the lands beneath the Oerth.  We always dwell beneath the surface of the world, for many reasons.” 

    “What are they?” Choulterina asked. 

    “I will come to them in time,” Eclavdra replied.  “We dwell in large caverns and grottoes similar to these, making them our home and claiming them as our Vaults.  Most often we select caverns where we may raise the mushrooms and fungi that are essential food sources for us, and which are near other settlements where we can raid or trade with our neighbors as needed, as well as near sources of water.”
    “In these caverns we construct our cities, along with merchant villas for the various ruling clans and houses who have power in the Vault.  Each villa is kept on its own, well away from the others and away from the city, for the elite families do not trust one another, and rightly so.  The palace or temple of the ruling faction is itself kept well away from the rest of the Vault, and one may only reach it through a single tunnel leading into a whole new cavern, cut out of the stone if necessary.  We isolate our ruling palaces to block invasion from the lesser houses and factions, so that the rulers may maintain their power.” 

    “We now dwell in what used to be the Fane of Lloth, do we not?” Choulterina asked. 

    Eclavdra nodded. 

    “Then how did we seize control of it from the priestesses of Lloth?”

    “Simplicity itself, child,” Eclavdra teased.  “Our society is ridden with intrigue.  On the lowest rung of our society are the slaves-those people who, of any race, are either captured by us or purchased in trade, made to give us labor, pleasure and sacrifice to our gods.  Above them are the common drow, who are the regular inhabitants of our society.  Above them still are the various ruling houses and factions, those nobles whose families are the strongest in any given Vault."

    "The most powerful noble families, the clergy, and the warriors’ society are the factions that govern drow society, constantly intriguing and allying with one another for greater power.  The strongest of any of these factions becomes the ruler of the Vault, and can in its turn be deposed by another faction.  Alliances are made and broken, betrayal and hatred rife.  Such is the way of the drow.” 

    Choulterina nodded. 

    “At all times it is the women who govern these factions.  Drow women are the rulers of the noble houses, of the fighting academies, and the priesthoods.  Men may have positions of authority, but they never rule a house or academy by themselves.  Men are commonly made to study sorcery or pursue a martial path, while women,” she giggled at this, “may pursue any path they desire.” 

    Choulterina closed her eyes, before conjuring a series of multicolored glowing spheres that danced in the dark light.  Moving her fingers, the lights danced and twitched according to her will, until she snuffed them out. 

    “And from whence come our innate powers?” she asked. 

    “There are two sources of life in this world,” Eclavdra explained.  “The first is the sun, to which most creatures are accustomed.  It is the source of life for those who dwell on the surface world.  The other source of life is the faerzress, as some of our sages call it, that radiation that emanates from the center of the Oerth and gives us our special powers, as well as the special qualities that our weapons and armor possess.” 

    “We gain our powers from this radiation?” Choulterina asked. 

    “Most certainly,” Eclavdra answered.  “We ourselves are not magical creatures, nor are our weapons and armor enchanted.  If we lose contact with these radiations, our powers will fade, as will the powers of our weapons and armor.  We must return to it to replenish the strength of our abilities.  If we do not, they will fade, although they may return if we come back to the radiations.” 

    “And what of this sun?” Choulterina asked.  “They say that no drow who values her life would see the sun…why is that?”

    “The radiations from the Oerth are the antithesis of the energies that come from the sun,” Choulterina explained.  “Just as our weapons and armor wither and are destroyed on contact with the sun, so are we.  We have been changed irrevocably by our contact with it, having lived and bred in the lands beneath the Oerth for so long.  We would literally be burned alive by the sun’s rays.”

    “The same can be said for any race of the depths of the Oerth that has adapted to the darkness, although beings of the surface, such as humans or dwarves, could come and go freely, absorbing some of our energy before returning to their own lands.  It is only when children are born, when permanent settlements are established, do our bodies become adapted to the radiation.  If a human were to live his whole life here, he could return to the surface without pain, but if he were to have a child, that child could never return to the surface…” 


    “So the exploits of Drizzt Do’Urden would be impossible?” Choulterina laughed, referring to the semi-legendary drow of the distant world of Abeir-Toril. 

    “Most certainly,” Eclavdra chuckled in response.  “No drow of Oerth can walk the surface world and live, unless they take precautions to block out any and every exposure to the sun that might threaten them.”

    “Does that affect how other races see us?” Choulterina asked.

    “Not so much,” Eclavdra answered calmly.  “It is our slaving and raiding that brings hatred upon us from the other denizens below the surface of the Oerth, although some of them trade with us as necessary.  Our tactics in battle are unpredictable because we operate as individuals, and rarely as organized teams.  Drow have no problem fleeing the scene of a battle if all is lost, regardless of the fate of their kin.”

    “Does that also occur on raids on the surface?  What do the humans and other races think of us?”

    “We are the total and utter enemies of the surface elves,” Eclavdra answered coldly.  “No person of one race will ever suffer the other to live.  As for the rest, and even many of the elves themselves, they consider us myths.  They do not think we exist, being merely legends to scare unruly children into obeying their parents.  They might say ‘don’t go into the woods, or the drow will get you!’, or ‘stop your crying, or the drow will hear you!’, or ‘eat your peas, or I’ll tell the drow!’” She laughed evilly.

    “Fools,” Choulterina laughed.  “So then no human knows the truth?

    “There are some who do,” Eclavdra smiled.  “Such as the adventurers I led to destroy the Fane of Lloth, or the Slave Lords of the Pomarj, or some of the more learned wizards and sages of the lands above.  But at all other times, we are legend and myth…and indeed it suits our purposes."

    "We strike in the middle of the night, dispose of any resistance, and leave no trace whatever of who or what struck in the middle of the night.  The superstitious humans can only imagine and dread whatever mysterious horror made them its prey…” she smiled wickedly, and Choulterina answered in kind.

    “And what of our history?” Choulterina asked.

    “It’s a fascinating tale, I must admit,” Eclavdra answered.  “By all accounts, the elves were born when the world was young, risen from the blood that Corellon Larethian”-making an invocation of forgiveness for saying the name-“shed during his battle with the orc god Gruumsh.  Seeking vengeance for his lord’s defeat, Yurtrus, the orcish god of disease, touched some of this blood in secret, poisoning it with his evil.  He poisoned it, defecated in it, bled in it, tainting it wholly and irrevocably.”

    “Then why do we not worship Yurtrus?” Choulterina asked.

    “Because the demoness Lloth, ruler of the Demonweb Pits, was seeking a people to worship her and give her power, as her rivals Orcus and Yeenoghu had done.  She gathered the tainted, polluted elves to her, and made herself their patron.  Many of their inherent traits appealed to her and were of her own heart, and so it was a natural match.  But Lloth was a jealous demon, always fearing lest any drow have greater power over her people than she herself.  Lloth was domineering, always seeking to make her priestesses the dominant faction in every vault the drow established.”

    Eclavdra took a draught of water before continuing. 

    “She drove away many of her own worshippers, and as such her priesthood is often forced to contend with noble houses and guilds of warriors and wizards for control of a drow vault.  Some drow plotted against the priesthood, and turned to revere other gods.” 

    “You mean as we did?” Choulterina asked ironically. 

    “Most certainly, child,” Eclavdra smiled.  “In my youth, once I had taken control of House Eilservs, I built it into the most powerful noble house and the greatest faction in all of Erelhei-Cinlu, next to the priestesses of Lloth themselves."

    "I had long grown to resent the control and dominion of Lloth, and desired to become Queen of all Drow within this vault.  And so, that was why I allied myself with Snurre Iron Belly, that stupid but charismatic fire giant king…to establish a puppet kingdom on the surface world, and grow so powerful from these conquests that not even the priestesses of Lloth could stop me.”

    “But what happened after that?” Choulterina frowned. 

    “Oh, I was thwarted,” Eclavdra answered matter-of-factly.  “Humans and their allied races are far more resourceful than you might expect, Choulterina.  A party of adventurers invaded the holds of all my giant allies, defeating them in turn…but of course I turned defeat into opportunity.” 

    “I lured the humans into following me back to Erelhei-Cinlu, since they did not know how and when I would strike again, and knew I needed to be dealt with.  I was aware of this, of course, and goaded them into following me.  When they arrived in Erelhei-Cinlu, I tricked them into believing that the priestesses of Lloth were behind the raids, and manipulated them into striking at the Fane of Lloth, the demoness’s high temple in our vault.  They succeeded, slew the leading priestesses and banished Lloth herself back to the Demonweb Pits…and now here I stand, Queen of all Drow and mistress of all I survey.” 

    “How clever!” Choulterina tittered.  “Doomed are those who-“

    Eclavdra’s face flushed in rage, and she slapped Choulterina across the face. 

    “Never, ever say that again!” Eclavdra screamed at her daughter.  Choulterina recoiled, shocked and afraid. 


    “Never believe that doomed are those who believe they understand the workings of the drow.  Our kin in Toril say that, and it is one of their greatest weaknesses.  It is one of the greatest weaknesses of our people-they underestimate their opponents, and are slain in their stupidity because they believe their foes are too dimwitted or incapable to defeat them.  Many a dark elf general has been slain by goblins and orcs for such nonsense!” Eclavdra thundered. 

    “Then, what…” Choulterina stammered. 

    “Remember this, if you remember nothing else…damned are those drow who let their own hubris get the better of them.  We have suffered many defeats over the years, and for precisely that reason.  We have lost more wars against dwarves and goblins than we can count,” Eclavdra said sternly. 

    “I…see,” Choulterina replied, calm once again.  “What else should be known about us?” 

    “Unlike our kin of Toril, we are pure, complete and unblemished evil,” Eclavdra replied.  “On our world of Oerth, a goodly drow is literally a freak, an aberration, an unnatural thing.  There will be no Drizzt Do’Urdens, no Eilistraees, nothing of the sort.  We are purely evil, rotten, corrupt, and have been since the dawn of time when Yurtrus polluted our souls.” 

    Choulterina grinned. 

    “And we are proud of it.”   

    "One final question, Mother," Choulterina finished.  "The Elder Elemental God we it true that it is the Dark Lord, Dread Tharizdun?"

    Eclavdra burst out laughing. 

    "Such utter nonsense!  We are evil, but we are not insane," Eclavdra chided her daughter.  "The Elder Elemental God and the Dark Lord are most certainly not one and the same.  Any sage who claims such is a fool." 

    Choulterina breathed a sigh of relief, and joined her mother's laughter. 

    Eclavdra emerged from her trance, setting aside the lotus dust for another day.  She looked around as if still in a dream, her vision passing over the twisted and perverted decorations of her chamber, the fabulous gems and metals that decorated the whole scene, everything that coalesced around her and placed her at the center of Erelhei-Cinlu.  Queen of the Vault, Queen of the Drow. 
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    Re: On the Drow of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation (Score: 1)
    by SirXaris on Sat, March 26, 2011
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    That was a great read, CSL! :)

    I don't use everything exactly as you have presented it (I consider Drow to be a corrupted society from which few are able to choose Good, though they retain the agency to do so), but I appreciate some of the ideas you have offered.  Faerzress is one of the best, though it's a bit too stringent for my campaign, so I'll lessen its effects somewhat.  Still, it's a great answer to many of the Drow's magical abilities as well as those of many of the other Underdark races.


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