Cheliax – Diabolical Empire in Decline
Cheliax at a glance:
- Alignment: LE
- Capital: Egorian (82,100)
- Notable Settlements: Brastlewark (3,500 gnomes), Kintargo (11,900), Ostenso (14,200), Pezzack (4,800), Senara (5,200), Westcrown (114,700)
- Ruler: Her Infernal Majestrix, Queen Abrogail II of the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune
- Government: Imperial Bureaucracy headed by influential noble families (such as Thrune and Elliendo)
- Languages: Common, Infernal
- Religion: Diabolism, Erastil, Iomedae, Aroden, Zon Kuthon
Imperial Cheliax dominated the northern continent for more than 500 years. Guided by the Starfall Doctrine — a series of prophecies that predicted the return of Aroden to Cheliax and a millennium of unprecedented success — the clergy of Aroden and secular government agents readied the empire for glory. According to the Starfall Doctrine, Imperial Cheliax would welcome its divine ruler in 4606. King Gaspodar, Emperor of Cheliax, raised from youth knowing the year his reign would end, prepared to abdicate and place the Nine-Starred Crown upon Aroden’s head. Then the inexplicable occurred. Instead of returning, Aroden died, and a part of Cheliax died with him. With the emperor stripped of his divine mandate, certain powerful noble houses rose up, plunging the imperial heartland into civil war. Anarchy and war plagued Cheliax for more than 30 years, until House Thrune and its allies took and held the throne. Queen Abrogail I, Infernal Majestrix of Cheliax, placed among her armies bound devils from the depths of the Nine Hells, who quelled dissent in the empire’s heartland, gaining the new regime a measure of respect and legitimacy.
Few among the gods-fearing citizens of Cheliax approved of their fearsome methods, but wherever the diabolists installed themselves the opportunistic savagery of the last generation soon ceased, and a dark peace embraced the kingdom. Shortly after taking control of the nation, the new government moved the center of the government to the inland port city of Egorian and wasted little time in demanding subservience from Imperial Cheliax’s many holdings. House Thrune backed its threats with the pitiless Hellknights.
Cowed by the threats coming out of Egorian, most nations quickly subjugated themselves to the new empire. Rebellion in Molthune cut off the imperial heartland from its frontier colony in Varisia, which subsequently became the independent city-state of Korvosa. Shadowy Nidal, long a thrall of Cheliax, enthusiastically supported the empire’s evil turn, dispatching shadowcasters and shadewrights to bolster Egorian’s efforts to bring the other vassal states into line.
For several months, the new regime not only maintained the borders of Imperial Cheliax but also stood poised to expand beyond them. Unfortunately for the Egorian government, though, the infernal blasphemies of House Thrune turned public opinion against Cheliax. The people of Galt and Andoran rose up and threw off Cheliax’s imperial shackles. Reluctantly, House Thrune allowed Cheliax’s vassals to secede, focusing its attentions on the lucrative colonies of Sargava in Garund and Anchor’s End in distant Arcadia.
Despite losing almost half its holdings, Cheliax remains one of the largest nations on Golarion, as well as arguably the most powerful in the Inner Sea region. The far-reaching influence of Cheliax stretches north to the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, south to the Napsune Mountains of Garund, and east into Taldor and Qadira. Elements of Chelaxian culture appear in all those places and more, mostly in the ports and trading cities of dozens of nations. Despite the popularity of traditional Chelaxian culture, though, most other nations attempt at every opportunity to suppress the nation’s influence, particularly in the realm of religion and philosophy.
The diabolists currently in charge of Cheliax serve the empire as its new aristocracy. Many of the ruling houses claim titles such as paracount or paraduke, with the loftiest titles frequently going to those families who only gained nobility with the rise of House Thrune. Noble Houses that existed before the death of Aroden for the most part retained their power and influence over the past century, although those in favor with the ruling House of Thrune saw the greatest increase of prestige and wealth. Despite their pretension, questionable morality, and recent rise to power, the noble houses who currently rule Cheliax do so more effectively than their imperial counterparts prior to the civil war. Under the red and black standard of Asmodeus, Cheliax once more claims its former glory, if not the righteousness of years past.
The House of Thrune and much of Cheliax’s nobility work with devils and other infernal agents. Aristocrats from noble families old and new enter into arrangements with citizens of Hell, gaining from these deals incredible power for a sometimes unclear price. Not every noble house so eagerly welcomes the influences of Hell, but those that do not wisely remain neutral on the subject or quickly find themselves eradicated.
The government in Egorian relies both on its infernal allies and servitors and its all-too-human subordinates to retain and exert power. Among its most powerful mortal tools are the unsubtle skull-breaking Hellknights. The Hellknights and their infernal allies root out rebellion and dissent in the imperial heartland, and make for the most iconic representation of Infernal Cheliax’s absolute dedication to law and order. In addition, Cheliax maintains a massive regular army and navy, and is militarily one of the most powerful nations on Golarion.
Despite the government’s promotion of devil worship and other infernal influences, the common folk continue living their lives much as they have for centuries. Unlike in the past, though, they also mainly live in fear. Most of the major gods remain popular, although every Chelaxian at least pretends to primarily worship Asmodeus, and every house, cottage, and rented room contains a small shrine or holy symbol of the devil-god.
The official, state-sanctioned worship of Asmodeus and the constant appearance of devils across Cheliax barely concern most citizens outside of the cities, many of whom live their entire lives without seeing a devil of any kind. As the years pass, the sentimental longing of Cheliax’s citizens for the way things were before the rise of the infernal order ever decreases. Most citizens alive today know only Cheliax as a willing thrall of Hell, and while many do not care for the infernal regime, very few ever openly complain about it, much less act against it.
The government’s many dissent-quelling policies make the people untrusting and insular. Even citizens with no investment in the diabolic order turn in suspected traitors to achieve wealth and social advancement. Those who work within the cruel new system — and even those who merely pay it lip service — continue to gain power and prestige within the nation, while those unable or unwilling to play along continue to suffer constant torment and indignities.
Cheliax is a nation without hope — a decadent empire weakened by losses in glory and colonial wealth but deluded with pretensions of greatness spurred on by the infernal court and its fell adherents. It is a stain on the face of Golarion and a mockery of what was once the greatest kingdom of mankind.
Queen Abrogail II, great-granddaughter of her namesake and the sixth person to wear the crown since the House of Thrune gained control of Cheliax, is a petulant child ruler with an infernal regent. Her reign marks the second-longest rule in Infernal Cheliax’s 68 years of existence. She serves under the watchful and protective gaze of her regent, General Gorthoklek, the same pit fiend who aided her great-grandmother and who returned to Golarion when Abrogail II took the throne. Queen Abrogail II also counts in her court the Contessa Lrilatha, an erinyes sent by Asmodeus to instruct the spoiled young monarch.
Cheliax remains today a large nation with holdings in the most parts of Avistan and even a small province in Garund. During the Everwar, while a dozen Chelish armies pushed hard into the interior of Avistan, the empire also sent an expeditionary force into northern Garund. The expeditionary force established a foothold in Rahadoum. In the past 3 centuries, neither Cheliax or Rahadoum has substantially altered the border, and the people living in the province of Kharijite consider themselves more Chelaxian than Rahadoumi. Prior to the Everwar, when Imperial Cheliax finally established a foothold on Garund, the Nine Forts of Corentyn successfully repelled all attempts by Garundi nations from pushing onto Avistan via the Arch of Aroden.
Notable Noble Houses
Of the several hundreds of noble houses officially recognized in Cheliax, the following are the most powerful.
House Charthagnion: Serving under an infernal pact that grants its members superhuman wisdom, House Charthagnion faces centuries of servitude as payment.
House Henderthane: Weapons dealers for the last thousand years, House Henderthane supplies the House of Thrune with all the weapons it and its allies needs.
House Jeggare: House Jeggare is one of Avistan’s (not just Cheliax’s) wealthiest families, and its philanthropic endeavors are felt across the continent.
House Leroung: Members of House Leroung act as the headmasters of several universities and wizarding schools. Even in nations hostile to Cheliax, House Leroung is respected and accepted, thanks to its academic neutrality.
House Narikopolus: The archers of House Narikopolus are renowned across Avistan for their powerful bows and extensive training that begins as young as 6 years.
House Sarini: Sometimes called the “Fools of Thrune” or the “Lapdogs of Hell,” House Sarini jesters incorporate cruel humor and infrequent hate-based comedy.
House of Thrune: Long before Aroden died, the House of Thrune actively worked with the forces of Hell. Even in the time of Imperial Cheliax, its members acted strangely, dressing at all times in laced black and gothic colors. Few actually suspected the family of devil worship. Since its rise to power, Thrune generously rewards its allies and viciously punishes its foes.
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting