The Sahuagin of the Azure Sea
Date: Thu, January 29, 2004
Topic: Monsters of Greyhawk
Little is known regarding the so called "Empire of the Azure Sea". Recently, a Keoish Admiral presented a treatise to the Sea Mages of Gradsul in an attempt to foster renewed interest in exploring the Azure and warning of a potential crisis emerging from the depths. This is the text of that treatise.
The Sahuagin of the Azure Sea
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
The Kingdom of the Azure Sea: Notes from a symposium concerning the habits and recent activities of the sahuagin
Taken from the minutes compiled by the Sea Mages of Gradsul, Key Speaker: King's Agent, Lord-Admiral William Stoutheart
My august assembled personages, lords and ladies, wizards and scholars, I come before you to present my findings concerning perhaps the greatest non human kingdom in the Flanaess that exists just off our own coasts, but that few understand or contemplate. This is the kingdom of the sahuagin.
I need not remind those present of the scourge they present to the coasts and ports of the civilized world. Yet it would be a mistake to assume that these raids into human coasts and ports are the primary focus of their activities. Quite the contrary. The sahuagin's world begins with the surface of the water and ends about 2000 feet below. All else is akin to another plane of existence. To a sahuagin, a raid onto the surface is like an expedition into the Abyss. It is a highly dangerous venture, but can be quite profitable. The reason why most of these raids occur is for the warriors and leaders of the raiding party to gain battle experience, kudos from their peers, and booty that they would not ordinarily be able to get any other way (such as metallic items).
So what is the primary focus of their existence, if not to make surface dwellers miserable? It is to control and expand an empire that would dwarf any modern kingdom of the Flanaess. A quick look at any chart of the oceans reveals that the Azure Sea is an incredibly vast body of water. By far the most dominant race in that entire area is the sahuagin.
Does this mean that the sahuagin have complete control over every part of this area? Not entirely. Enclaves of merfolk, tritons, aquatic elves, and other races control significant swaths of territory. An analogy to the surface world would be the Great Kingdom prior to the Greyhawk Wars. While the kingdom claimed and exercised sovereignty over almost all the eastern lands, there were still large pockets of people who lived beyond the writ of the will of Rauxes (such as the Adri Forest or the Lone Heath). But like those peoples, the other aquatic races do not have the organization and resources as the sahuagin, or are nomadic by nature and do not set up permanent settlements. In addition, the sahuagin are not an especially deep diving race. Much of the Azure Sea is far deeper then the sahuagin can comfortably reside, so many races thrive just below the sahuagin's level. Nevertheless, the sahuagin have a dominance over much of the sea that is basically unchallenged. More about the divisions of the Azure Sea will be discussed later.
Organization of the Sahuagin Kingdom: Some sages have postulated that the sahuagin have organized their empire along the lines of the Nine Hells. That is, they have nine princes each having almost total control over a vast swath of territory. A king rules from the center of the territory, near one of the deeper points of the Azure Sea, the Mirodian Deep (Foot Note 1). The palace of the king is in the middle of a fantastic city of vast proportions.
The sahuagin political structure is a rigid feudal system. A local township is typically ruled by a baron. Twelve to thirty baronies makes up a principality, ruled by a prince. There are nine known principalities in the Azure Sea. The rough locations of the capitals of these principalities are as follows:
1. The deepest part of the Sea of Gearnat. The prince here controls all the sahuagin activities in the Wooly Bay and Relmor Bay. Currently, he is having some difficulty with a renegade band of malenti. There is rumored to be some strange underwater project going on near the Ahlissian town of Trennenport that the sahuagin are participating in on behalf of a sinister local wizard.
2. Several miles northeast of Fairwind Isle. The sahuagin from this territory are the ones who commonly raid into our Keoish waters. Their activities have fallen off recently (this is probably due to the large numbers of sea zombies that have recently been spawned in the region and are attacking the coasts in place of the sea devils, a dubious relief for the poor coastal dwellers of Keoland).
3. In Jeklea Bay. Presently, the new sahuagin prince is just consolidating his power and has not yet made any major moves against the local tribes of merfolk. This gives the merfolk and the humans alike a welcome reprieve.
4. Off the east coast of the Amedio Jungle. This prince is engaged in almost non-stop warfare with the local ixitxachitl tribes. Presently, the two races are deadlocked in a stalemate, and so the prince is looking for anything that would give his race an advantage.
5. Southeast of the Olman Islands. Poses a great hazard to any travelling through the Tilva Strait. The pirate fleets that cruised in this region were often hunted down themselves by the sahuagin. Little traffic gets through here nowadays anyway.
6. North of the lands of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Very mysterious area of ocean. It is not known how much the lands of the Scarlet Brotherhood are effected by sahuagin raids.
7. West of Naerie. A very quiet principality. Very little activity from this area (at least from a surface dweller's standpoint).
8. South of Scant. Very wealthy area, as many ships have been attacked and sunk by these exceptionally well trained and disciplined sahuagin.
9. Near the Mirodian Deep. This is the principality of the king of the Azure Sea. A prince rules the day to day business of the principality of the capital, leaving the king to control matters of the empire.
The Kingdom's Geography: The biggest obstacle we have in successfully combating the sahuagin is our ignorance of the geography of the Azure Sea. The geology of the oceans is a varied as the land. There are canyons, volcanoes, mountain ranges, plains, currents, and forests of sea plants. Presently, our mapping of these various phenomenon is practically nonexistent (FN 2). The wizard Drawmij is rumored to be the foremost human expert on undersea cartography, but he is presently engrossed in work of his own in his personal retreat (FN 3).
The Mirodian Deep: Little is known of the black depths of the ocean. The water pressure alone would crush a human, unless powerful protection magics are employed, and the chill temperature and total darkness adds to the difficulty of properly exploring this part of the world. The Mirodian Deep is the name the tritons have for a large trench in the sea floor near the center of the Azure Sea. This area have been unexplored by humans and only the vaguest rumors of its characteristics and dimensions is known by any race (even the sahuagin themselves are unsure of its exact depths).
From information I have gained from my contacts among the tritons and from my experiences with the sahuagin, I have compiled the following information. The trench is about 100 miles long, with side canyons branching off of the main trench at various spots. Sahuagin can not dive into the trench itself, as it goes deeper than their capacity to swim, but they have built their capital city near the edge. Sahuagin remember choosing the city's founding location there because it offered the best possible spot to challenge the truly powerful creatures of the depths. Periodically, war bands of sahuagin swim over the trench and give off booming calls into the depths, in hopes of attracting some great sea creature to hunt and do battle with. The trench is thought to be infested with morkoths and an extended clan of krakens is said to rule the inky depths.
Metaphysics of Sahuagin Religion: Some of the greatest misconceptions concerning the sahuagin center around the nature of their deity, the Great Hunter, Sekolah. Strangely enough, one of the most debated issues surrounding the deity is its gender. Some sources give Sekolah a female gender, most likely due to the fact that female sahuagin dominate the priesthood. Most sources describe Sekolah as male, and that is likely to be the deity's true gender (and I will describe him as such). Again, in discussing beings such as these, such mortal concepts as gender may not even be applicable (For example, the evil gnomish god Urdlen is such an embodiment of hate and malice that it transcends gender. Sekolah may well be the same type of archtypical embodiment, of the hunt in this case) (FN 4).
Sekolah is generally thought to be aloof from his worshippers. Yet the sahuagin priestesses can cast many powerful spells. This seems contrary to a totally remote god. The truth may be that while Sekolah greatly values self reliance, he does have a paternal pride in his chosen race and thus grants them powerful spells as rewards for their achievements. In any event, the sahuagin boast many powerful spellcasters and a priestess of Sekolah should be treated with extreme caution.
Relationships with other races: Most races know that the sahuagin have no allies among any other race, save the sharks. Any parlay is strictly temporary, and is usually a prelude to a dastardly sneak attack. I have found, however, that in certain cases the sea devils will negotiate in (relative) good faith. Indeed, some sahuagin have been able to master the common tongue and can converse with passing ships for a variety of reasons (but usually just as a trick to get sailors to jump overboard or to lure ships into hidden shoals) (FN 5).
A potential crisis: Which brings me to the most disturbing trend I have recently discovered. On at least two occasions, Keoish ships have reported sighting Scarlet Brotherhood vessels dropping large amounts of gold and metal objects into waters where sahuagin have been known to dwell. Now, the Scarlet Brotherhood has, for the past few years now, enacted a tight embargo on all shipping in the southern seas. It seems logical that in order to have such success at this endeavor, there needed to be some kind of arrangement made with the sahuagin kingdom (FN 6). Upon further investigation in the waters near Gradsul, I had discovered more evidence of a collaboration between the local sahuagin prince and various pirates (FN 7). It is clear that a larger threat from the Azure Sea is looming, the extent of which is yet to be determined.
I am firmly convinced that any possible Sahuagin/Scarlet Brotherhood alliance represents one of the gravest threats to the civilized and good nations of Oerth. I thank the learned sage Jaquon for the assistance in the technical aspects of this presentation (FN 8). I urge the learned assembly here to heed the following advice. Well equipped parties of agents need to be hired to conduct aggressive reconnaissance of the Empire of the Azure Sea. More diplomatic envoys are needed to attempt to forge alliances with the goodly (and not so goodly) aligned races to exchange information and conduct effective military strikes against the sahuagin. Espionage missions to ascertain the extent and nature of the Scarlet Brotherhood's involvement with the sahuagin is required. Defenses in all of our coastal townships need to be expanded and enhanced. And, of course, trade routes need to be opened and merchant ships need to be defended all the while. Thank you for your attention and may Osprem guide your sails.
1: There are those sages who take the Nine Hells example a step further. That is, the King of the Azure Sea realm is really just a vassal of some higher lord. Just as the Hells have an overlord, so too do the sahuagin have an emperor that the King of the Azure Sea must answer to. This would make the king of the Azure Sea akin to a Lord of the Nine. Those who forward this theory point out that the oceans of Oerth are just too large to have the center of an empire just in the Azure Sea. Sahuagin have been found everywhere from the southern tip of Hepmonaland to Grendep Bay. So there may be as many as eight other kingdoms throughout the seas of Oerth, with an Overking (continuing with the Great Kingdom analogy) of tremendous power residing at the epicenter. Such a being would necessarily be incredibly large and ancient for its race, and command resources beyond imagination. The gods only know where such a being would be located.
2: A good mission for qualified King's Agents would be to start mapping the local waters off Keoland and working outward into the Azure Sea at large. At present, there is very little work done in this area, local adventurers could also be hired to begin a more ambitious mapping project.
3: At any rate, Drawmij is hardly at the beck and call of the Lion Throne even under the best of circumstances, being constantly engrossed in Circle of Eight business. Drawmij does occasionally visit the Court at Niole Dra to advise the King and nobility on matters of Oerth-shaking importance. He has also been seen to call upon the sea mages guild in Gradsul from time to time. His underwater retreat is highly protected from detection, so whenever he does not wish to be found, he simply goes there and ignores any summons.
4: Some philosopher-sages use this conundrum as another argument to forward the theory of a link between the elves and the sahuagin. Many elven deities have both male and female aspects and thus having Sekolah portrayed as an androgynous being seems to give another argument to make (although a very tenuous one at best) in this debate. It goes without saying that elf sages firmly (and sometimes quite hotly) debunk this theory.
5: Human languages can be spoken by most sahuagin, but few ever learn. As stated before, human kingdoms mean little to the sea bound sahuagin, and except for contact with prisoners, opportunities for conversations are limited.
6: The Scarlet Brotherhood is also the closest human civilization to sahuagin ideals, making it at least conceivable that an understanding could be reached between the two nations. Sahuagin could understand a point of view like the brotherhood's, one that teaches relentless perfection and uses cruelty as a tool to reach its ends.
7: Much of the exact evidence is (for matters of Keoish security) classified as secret, known only to select King's Agents. Suffice to say, the sahuagin employ through intermediaries spies in most of the coastal regions of the world. Knowing the tactics of the Scarlet Brotherhood, they would likely employ such pirates as well, to hide them as being allied with the sea devils. It has been uncovered that the pirate, Lord Targas of Blue, has contact with various "undersea beasties of a most black hearted nature." Whether these creatures are sahuagin and if this contact relates to the Scarlet Brotherhood is yet unknown.
8: Jaquon is a sage with specialization in ichthyology. He has been called by some a sahuagin apologist. He has pointed out in various treatises and symposiums the positive qualities of the sahuagin, their organization skills, their fighting prowess, and their culture to the point that he has offended many powerful merchant captains. But to a party that wins his trust would find a loyal and engaging financier and mentor in sea related lore and science. He often wanders the Keoland coast, doing research on various marine life.