Dark-Elves (the Drothë)
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The Dark-Elves are an evil race which dwells in the Underdark of Corwyn. Men call them the "Drow," Dwarves name them "Drûlka," and elves call them "Drothë" or "Drotharum." All of these titles have one thing in common; they all evoke a sense of fear and dread.

Appearance


The Dark-Elves have silver, gray, or white hair, jet black skin, and either gold, purple, or red eyes. Most drow reside in the vast underground realm of Drotharë, but can be found throughout the Underdark.

Physically, the Drow are very similar to surface elves, with strong, lithe bodies and sharp angular features. But their skin coloring and their evil ways easily set them apart from other elvish races.

Culture


Dark-Elves are, on the whole, sadistic, treacherous, and destructive. They view themselves as the rightful heirs to Corwyn, and still remember the great surface empire in the East they once controlled many millennia ago. Dark-Elves still feel the the sting from what they perceive as an injustice of being driven from their surface homes and under the ground.

The drow hate all other subterranean races, but their greatest vitriol is targeted at the species of surface elves. Most drow only wish to make war upon other elves and destroy them, and view all other races merely with contempt, and will tolerate them only as necessary for trade or as temporary military allies.

Even among their own kind, Dark-Elves are cruel and suspicious. There is little room for love and friendship in their society. They may value alliances with other family members or acquaintances, but most drow do not trust anyone.

Dark-Elves only forge alliances when they know they are more powerful than their 'ally,' usually possess blackmail worthy knowledge on them, or share a common enemy that overrides their mutual hatred. Even then, the Dark-Elves keep their eyes open for the slightest hint of treachery. The motto of the Drothë may as well be "Do onto others before they can do onto you."

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Society


The single, most important aspect of Drow society is the Matriarchy. Dark-elven dogma has long mandated recognizing female Drow as more valuable than males. In fact, to most Drow females, males are considered almost worthless, socially.

This structure gives female drow practically unlimited power in the strongly theocratic Drow society. Males who hope to find any place of power in Drow society often resort to treachery to claw their way up in the matriarchal Drow society; hoping perhaps, to win a coveted place as the mate of a powerful matron mother.

Arcane magic and the Drow Military are the only routes of advancement for male drow, although senior ranks are allowed to accept only a few, select males.

While still socially inferior to every female drow, male military officers and battle-mages are not usually in danger of being killed on a whim by a priestess. However, even accomplished male military commanders can still be executed even for a perceived insult to any ranking female drow priestess.

It would be easy to imagine that drow females, by comparison, have it much easier, but this is an illusion, for their prestigious position within drow society comes at a very high cost.

In fact, the teachings of Lolth and the drive to gain more power over others has made competition between female drow, particularly those who belong to powerful houses, violently competitive in a way that males do not have to cope with.

Matters are even worse for those who seek power through venues outside of Lolth's temple, where the females compete not only with one another, but also with resentful and oppressed male drow.

Society


The vast majority of Drow live in huge underground city-states ruled by an aristocratic, theocratic, matriarchal, and militaristic society. Most Drow city-states maintain trade relationships with each other and with neighboring civilizations. However, at any given time, at least two of the Dark-Elf city-states are at war with one another.

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While called “city-states“, in fact they weren’t even true cities, but instead were "clusters" of Drow, with the most powerful family groups taking the best lands and resources for themselves. These extremely powerful Drow families, or "Great Houses," make up each city's aristocracy. In every city, there is a strict pecking order of families within their noble society.

Today, all dark-elf cities are ruled by these powerful Houses, and although the relative power of many noble families has often changed, the top few have remained relatively stable. For lower ranking Drow, and other races, desperation, oppression and poverty, are the general rule in Drow cities. To make things worse, most dark-elf cities are paralyzed because of constant infighting among their squabbling noble houses.

Within the city limits, the various great Houses were often in close physical vicinity to each other, and Drow noble estates are often located close to a city's public temple to Lolth. Drow cities tend to provide a chaotic and messy sight because there is no uniform architecture style, and little in the way of organization.

Still, Dark-Elven architecture is considered something to marvel at, with many important structures eerily lit with the purple glow of magical faerie fire. All Drow cities have surrounding farm land, where armies of slaves toil endlessly to harvest both meat and specially grown fungal crops. As a rule of thumb, half to two-third of any given settlement’s population consists of slaves or non-Drow who have no rights at all in Drow society.

Religion


Most Dark-Elves worship Lolth; the "Spider-Queen," the deity of their religion, and the Spider is their holiest and most revered symbol. Since Dark-elf society is matriarchal, all high-ranking clerics of the Spider-Queen are female.

Religion has always been of the utmost importance to the Dark-Elves. In fact, their culture has actually evolved into a twisted theocracy. As a result, all major Drow city-states are essentially ruled by that city's high priestess. These Drow priestesses fanatically devote thier own lives to pleasing Lolth, and achieving her sacred goals, and are usually from the highest ranking great House within the particular city.

To gain the favor of their goddess, Drow priestesses enforce compliance with their zealous religious dogma through sheer terror and violence. This tradition has resulted in a dark-elf society where "might makes right" is the only respected law.

The High-priestesses of Drow city-states also fulfill the function of magistrates and other judicial functions. This may seem, bizarre given the aforementioned lawless state of drow society. In practice, something that was called "laws" did exist in drow society. Priestesses saw it as their right to arrest and punish people in ways she made up on the spot for some offense, when they got caught.

Despite the overwhelming Matriarchal nature of Drow society, Male clerics did exist, but in lower levels of power and authority. However, in most Drow cities, they were the targets of their female fellows and Lolth barred them from strong divine powers. While male Drow could even become divine champions or divine disciples, it is still widely acceptable for priestesses to kill them on a whim.

History


The history of the Dark-Elves stretches back thousands of years to the First Age, when the Elder-Elves sailed across the Wyn Myr from the Unknown Lands, and landed upon the Continent of Corwyn.

Eventually the elves established an advanced, highly-cultured civilization named Ectharë; which stretched across the entire continent. For much of the First and Second Ages, Ectharë was ruled by a line of noble rulers called the House of Alessarë.

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It came to pass that King Starion Alessarë sat upon the Eternal Throne. One of his senior court advisors was a beautiful Elven priestess named Lorynäe Anarivon. Many Elven sages believe Lorynäe was Starion's mistress and greatly desired to be his wife, but Starion spurned her.

Other scholars theorize she only wanted the Eternal Throne for herself, and may have been influenced by dark spirits, or even demonic forces. In any event, Starion was betrayed by Lorynäe and her followers in the year 537/2. In an elaborate plot, she murdered Starion and attempted to usurp the Eternal Throne.

What followed was complete chaos, with elves slaying each other in masse on the streets of Elutheria; the elven capital. The loyalist faction of Elves was led by Starion's son; Ismelian, who was a fierce warrior bent on revenge upon Lorynae and all her followers.

Despite Ismelian's leadership, the rebellion was largely successful in the early years; for the rebels had long planned their attacks from the eastern elvish city of Saravôsh; which became the capitol of Drotharë; the surface empire of the Dark-Elves.

The a thousand years, the elven civil war, or War of Wrath, raged between the two factions, and much of the continent was laid waste. The beautiful elven cities of Elutheria and Saravôsh were both destroyed Finally, the Drow were defeated at the Battle of Grôn, and driven into the Underdark, where they remain today.

The Taint


The unique appearance of the Dark-Elves is actually the result of magical poisoning which the Drow actually brought upon themselves. The poisoning occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Saravôsh. During that climactic battle, a large army of Silvar-Elves led by King Ismelian laid siege to the Dark-Elf capital, and their final victory seemed close at hand.

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Fearing defeat, the Drow, in an act of fatal desperation, unleashed a gigantic magical explosion that destroyed their own city, and the entire elven army at its gates. One unforeseen side-effect of this explosion was "Ashfall," a darkening of the skies and a subsequent poisoning of the eastern regions of Corwyn, which made much of the region uninhabitable for centuries.

Ashfall also affected the Dark-Elves themselves, in the form of a magical infection which began to infect all Drow. This infection became known as the "Taint." Soon after the Taint began, the skin of the Dark-Elves turned black, their hair turned white, and they could no longer tolerate sunlight.

These effects have lingered until the present day, and many sages believe it was the effects of the Taint, not a military defeat, which was the actual reason the Drow migrated into the Underdark.