Rise of the Runelords
Infernal Cheliax (pronounced CHEL-ee-ax)1 remains one of the most powerful nations militarily in the Inner Sea region. Its control of the Arch of Aroden, the passage between the Inner Sea and the Arcadian Ocean, also gives it a vital role in much of the region’s trade. Nevertheless, as important as the nation may be today, it pales in comparison to its former Imperial glories. Today, in the eyes of most external observers in other parts of the Inner Sea, Cheliax suffers from extreme diabolism and a tyranny which prevent it from truly achieving its full potential. Internal observers, including the new nobility of Cheliax, firmly believe that Asmodeus and Hell serve Cheliax and assist in maintaining the power necessary for Cheliax to assume its rightful role among the leading nations of the Inner Sea.
History in infernal Cheliax is a slippery thing, especially if it deals with events that occurred before the ascendance of House Thrune. Cheliax’s current rulers understand history’s power to inspire, and therefore have actively worked to eradicate any mention of the nation’s imperial past. They have even done this to former allies, and more than a few noble families have found themselves excised from official records after offending the Queen. Every three months a new state-sanctioned history is printed and disseminated to the nation’s universities and libraries. The now outdated, older copies of these books are collected by the Order of the Rack, and heavy penalties are imposed on any organization that fails to offer up its previously assigned volumes. The new histories invariably have large gaps and omissions, sometimes to the point of making them unreadable. Despite this, records survive that have escaped the Imperial Ministry of Historical Accuracy’s frequent revisions. These publications can fetch a high price on the black market, providing one can find a buying who is not a paid informant for the Ministry.
Cheliax was founded as the westernmost frontier prefecture of the Taldan Empire in 3007 AR. It would remain a part of the Taldan Empire for more than a thousand years, until two years after the massive invasion of Taldor by Qadiran forces in 4079 AR. Aspex the Even-Tongued, the Taldan governor, knew that Taldor could not fight a massive war on two fronts thousands of miles from each other, and declared independence in 4081 AR. Knowing Taldor would remain focused on its titanic struggle with Qadira, King Aspex of the new Empire of Cheliax incorporated the Taldan territories of Galt and Isger by force and Andoran and the winged men of Devil’s Perch by diplomacy in what became known as the Even-Tongued Conquest.
By 4137 AR, ongoing friction between Absalom and Cheliax over control of trade in the Inner Sea region led Prince Haliad I to lay siege on Absalom. Although the siege was unsuccessful, Cheliax was left the major naval power in the Inner Sea and gained control of both sides of the Arch of Aroden. In 4138 AR, Cheliax also established a new colony in Western Garund at Sargava.
Chelish expansion to the north continued in 4305 AR with the launch of the Everwar. Over the following century the empire conquered or annexed lands in what are now Molthune, Nirmathas, Isger, parts of the Hold of Belkzen, Nidal, and Varisia. The Everwar came to a close in 4410 AR when Cheliax renounced all hopes for further territorial expansion in Varisia and Belkzen. During this expansionist period, Cheliax installed a foreign ruling class in its newfound territories, and the descendants of these people still hold positions of power today, even if Cheliax withdrew its control some time ago.
Even though the Everwar had come to a close, Cheliax’s ambitions continued unabated within its homeland and colonies, supported in part by the Starfall Doctrine. This prophecy stated that the god Aroden would reappear in Cheliax in 4606 AR and lead humanity to a new Age of Glory, with Cheliax at the helm. In anticipation for this, Cheliax went to extraordinary lengths in the last decades of the Age of Enthronement. The first Hellknight order, the Order of the Rack, was founded in 4576 AR in the capital of Westcrown. In 4605 AR, King Gaspodar himself began the preparations for the reappearance of the god.
In 4606 AR, Cheliax’s patron deity Aroden died, and so did its centuries-long dominance of the Inner Sea region. Robbed of his divine mandate, King Gaspodar lost control of the empire as fractious noble houses challenged the crown for dominance. Cheliax descended into three decades of civil war, as the various noble houses fought for supremacy. Molthune took the opportunity to declare independence in 4632 AR.
Cheliax’s civil war was a fractious and destructive endeavor. Brother turned against brother, with small tyrants rising to power, promising shelter from the increasingly worsening conditions. These leaders quickly were brought down by others seeking power, or were eradicated by the many diseases that accompany such drawn-out anarchy. As the years stretched into decades, the people of Cheliax became more and more desperate, looking for any possible solution to their national nightmare. The golden dream of Imperial Cheliax long since forgotten, they increasingly turned to darker methods to quell the fighting and restore order. It was one of these darker methods that finally brought a resolution to the fighting, but one that came at a very steep cost.
With no clear victor to the war after decades of terrible fighting, Abrogail of House Thrune signed a pact with the powers of Hell, placing herself and her family under their control. In return she received a number of devils to bolster her forces, and others to assist her as advisors. With their help, she brought the Chelish heartland under her control, which gave her a certain amount of legitimacy. Even though the people did not particularly like being under the rule of devil-worshipers, they liked the anarchy of war even less. Within a few years, House Thrune had defeated all other comers and Queen Abrogail I was crowned in 4640 AR.
Civil War in Sargava
Baron Grallus of the Chelish colony of Sargava backed House Davian in the war, but Davian’s ambitions were shattered by House Thrune at the Battle of a Hundred Kings. A Chelish fleet sent by House Thrune for revenge on Sargava was sunk in Desperation Bay by the Shackles Pirates in 4643 AR. A second fleet sent in 4660 AR fared little better and Sargava has so far managed to cling on to its fragile independence.
A New Order
With order restored throughout the land, the new ruling class of the land began to consolidate and reinforce its power and control over a widespread empire still reeling from decades of war. They moved the capital from Westcrown to the inland port of Egorian and demanded renewed fealty from Cheliax’s outlying provinces. Unable to stomach being ruled by blasphemous devil-idolators, the people of Andoran and Galt rebelled, each seeking their own destiny. Galt declared independence in 4667 AR, but quickly devolved into score-settling by short-lived governing coalitions in the Red Revolution, while Andoran steered a more stable path beginning in 4669 AR. The crown let these provinces secede, content to focus on the more profitable colonies of Sargava in Garund and Anchor’s End in Arcadia.
The empire runs on the backs of fiends now, a perfect machine of hellfire and blood, where morality surrenders to the needs of law and order. It’s easy to curse Cheliax as a nation of devil-lovers, but few can argue with the results of their fiend-binding craft. House Thrune, the greatest of its diabolic noble families, has brought the empire under control once more. Cheliax rises like a dark star, as strong as ever, despite the losses of Galt and Andoran to rebellious forces.
Asmodeus proves as powerful a divine patron as Aroden ever did, shepherding his people toward glory and dominance of the Inner Sea. His plans reach eons into the future, and the minor setbacks of yesterday are all factored into the cost of doing a devil’s business. The Chelish always plan for a long campaign, and never trifle over today’s skirmishes. In the end all will burn in hellfire. It is only a matter of time and calculated conquest.