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The Church of Vhaeraun was an organization composed of the followers of the drow god Vhaeraun, the Masked Lord.

They mostly consisted of drow and half-drow who wanted to see their people freed from Lolth's oppression, and united in reclaiming their rightful place and dominance in the surface world. Many males wishing for better opportunities than the absolute subservience reserved to them among the followers of Lolth, were also drawn to Vhaeraun.[2]

DogmaEdit

The shadows of the Masked Lord must cast off the tyranny of the Spider Queen and forcibly reclaim their birthright and rightful place in the Night Above. The existing drow matriarchy must be smashed, and the warring practices of twisted Lolth done away with, so that the drow are welded into a united people, not a squabbling gaggle of rival Houses, clans and aims. Vhaeraun will lead his followers into a society where drow once again reign supreme over the other, lesser races, and there is equality between males and females.[1]


The church’s dogma markedly differed from other drow churches’ in that it read itself like a policy agenda and not a list of behaviours to please a deity. It clarified the organisation’s goal and purpose, the steps to take towards its fulfilment, and under whose leadership the work was done.

The church viewed itself as the successors of Ilythiir[4] and took account of the fact that they[1] (and by extension the entire elven race)[5] fell from power, and made remedying to this their goal.[1]

The steps towards that goal were to unite the drow and claim territory on the surface, which was called the Night Above.[1] They saw an existential problem in the drow race’s tradition of infighting, which resulted in intentionally hindering each others' growth, being unable to share into each others' joy, preventing cooperation for communal growth in power and resulting in physical confinement of their people's reach of influence inside their cities and caverns but never beyond[6]. The Church of Vhaeraun tried to solve it by eliminating what they deemed to be the cause of said problem: the major drow deity Lolth--who promoted strife among drow--and her supporters, Lolth's matriarchy and priestesses.[7]

Groups and organisations of the church generally revolved around one of these steps, for example the Jaezred Chaulssin focused on the destruction of Lolth’s matriarchy,[8], the followers in Cormanthor worked on settling the surface,[9] those of Guallidurth worked to promote the idea of unity,[10] and so on.

The church also promoted the--in drow society rare--idea of gender equality.[1]

AttitudesEdit

Members of the church weren’t necessarily evil but most were.[11]

Their primary motivation was dissatisfaction at the limiting nature of their society[6] and they weren’t choosy about their methods to change it, though they didn’t tolerate underhandedness from others against them.[5] Their modus operandi was similar to that of Mask’s followers,[12] that was to cultivate a cultured and trustworthy front and not committing unnecessary crimes,[13] to the point of the two faiths being confused with one another on the surface.[12] The "building a trustworthy front"-modus operandi was further enhanced after a truce between their deity and Eilistraee was reached.[14]

They shared a cooperative mindset that made them suffer the least infighting among all evil drow groups[15]. This "cooperative mindset" didn’t translate itself into unconditional love towards each other. Inside a given vhaeraunite group, the followers generally didn’t fight against each other,[16] and while they regularly interacted and traded with other groups,[17] they did punish members of those groups if given reason. For example, it was normal for groups in Cormanthor to kill trespassers regardless of religious affiliation, shared or not, but if a group gave a reason, like lack of desire to take one’s land, they grew more permissive towards that particular group[18] and given more reason, like a common external enemy, they banded together to a full alliance.[19]

Vhaeraunites seemed to have a rather lax attitude towards divine commandments. For example, Vhaeraun forbade his followers to associate with dwarves and gnomes, but they frequently violated it on a regular basis for reasons like trade,[9] incorporation into large scale plans, such as Nimor Imphraezl’s cooperation with Gracklstugh during the assault on Menzoberranzan,[20] or even organisational association, like the Dark Dagger in Skullport did by accepting Ahmaergo “the Horned Dwarf“ as their superior in the Iron Ring.[21] Another example was that, while priest shouldn’t be able to wear armor made of metal,[22] it didn’t prevent High Priests to do exactly that in their temples.[23][24]

Difference in attitude was a reason for friction with followers of Eilistraee. An example would be the High Hunt ritual.

ActivitiesEdit

Members and supporters of the church were varied, they were found among the disenfranchised people, common thieves[11] merchants,[25] consorts of priestesses[11] and among the priestesses themselves.[4]

The methods used by the followers of Vhaeraun to reach their goals were also varied, required a degree of subterfuge, and were generally directed at increasing the own or decreasing the enemies’ power based on real assets like official positions in politics, money, manpower or land by disrupting or changing the status quo in some way. Underhanded means of any kind were acceptable. They conducted passive opposition,[5] like promoting the idea that male drow were as valuable as female[26] as well as active opposition, the means for it included rumor, intrigue, thievery, poison manufacture, murder, assassination,[2] inciting riots,[27] and so on.

They were often spies and, as followers of a god of thievery, thieves, from the common cutpurse to burglary, against enemy temples,[11] to all out raids.[28] Members of the priesthood helped thieves, provided healing and/or freed them from prison, if necessary by force.[4]

They also acted as vigilantes, especially violence against male drow was avenged,[4] and were putting the blame for their murder on their enemies to cause dissent was a means to be used.[29]

More long-term plans revolved around gaining power. They manipulated trade, for example through opening individual trade channels and contacts, like the surface, to stockpile goods and causing a shortage of the same.[30] They also opened opportunities to obtain power for others, like merchants, by killing those in power to fill the resulting void by the aforementioned commoners.[25]

They also tried to increase their range of influence. Apart from the major cities, they built smaller settlements all over the Underdark,[31] as well as on the surface, either by carving a niche (often of criminal nature) in existing cities[28][4] or settling empty lands.[18] Priests also cared for these surface settlements and strove to make them self-sustaining[1] and encouraged contact with surface elves.[5]

When they had the opportunity, vhaeraunites took power in open fashion, either by placing themselves into official positions by legal means, or violent takeovers.[32]

Out of all drow groups, they were most likely to cooperate with outsiders when the objective involved hurting the church of Lolth in some fashion.[15]

Vhaeraun’s followers were known for their usage of poison. They were known to manufacture and experiment with it[1] and also to pay well for new ones.[11]

Organization and CompositionEdit

TitlesEdit

Vhaeraun’s clergy was almost entirely male.[5] Collectively they were known as the Masked, novices Uncloaked and those past that stage Nightshadow. A large number of special titles were also used but they weren’t in any kind of hierarchic order. Most common titles included Ascendant Darkness, Black Moon, Dark Mantle, Deep Rogue, Enveloping Night, Raven's Cow, Shadow Hunter, Silent Sable and Twilight's Herald[12] but self fashioned regional titles existed as well, like Shadow Sorcerer in the city of Sshamath.[33]

CompositionEdit

The church of Vhaeraun was loosely organized in largely autonomous cells[1], mainly due to persecution from the priestesses of Lolth who ruled over the majority of the drow race. Despite aforementioned persecution it had the second largest following among the drow as a whole and the largest one among surface dwelling drow.[34] His worshipers consisted mostly of elves (especially drow) and half-elves (especially half-drow), a few humans [18] and a handful of draegloths.[3]

HierarchyEdit

While Lolth-ruled cities (like Menzoberranzan[35] or Undrek'Thoz[36]) and communities of faithful of Eilistraee (like the Promenade of the Dark Maiden[37][38]) were theocracies (their leadership was collectively part of the priesthood of their respective deities), Vhaeraunite organizations were different in at least three ways.

First, organizations affiliated with the Church of Vhaeraun fluctuated in how strictly and/or exclusively they followed the Masked Lord. For example, the Jaezred Chaulssin mandated to show any kind, if only token, reverence to Vhaeraun[8], while Clan Auzkovyn allowed worship of several deities (rare among drow organizations).[18]

Second, the leaders were rarely also part of the priesthood, regardless of personal religiousness. An example was Mauzzkyl Jaezred, a sorcerer-assassin who led the Jaezred Chaulssin,[8] who didn’t have qualms distancing his organization from the church of Vhaeraun, if he could evade frontally clashing with the church of Lolth.[39] Another such example was the Dark Dagger. Its leader was Malakuth Tabuirr, a rogue-fighter,[40] devoted follower of Vhaeraun (enough to fund at least one temple),[41] and even clerics of the Masked Lord who were part of the Dark Dagger answered to him.[42]

Third, the followers of Vhaeraun were proponents of gender equality, and the distribution of power was more balanced among them than other drow groups. On the other hand, while in theory the distribution was egalitarian, in practice, the distribution was tilted in favour of male drow. There were at least two reasons out of which the first was that male drow outnumbered female ones and thus had more representation among the leadership. The second reason was that males gave in to grudges and kept females from the high positions.[43] This caused a wide spectrum regarding gender equality, from the egalitarian Holldaybim[4] to the particularly crass city of Chaulssin that killed its rare female half-dragon offspring.[39]

OrdersEdit

Clan Auzkovyn
Clan Auzkovyn was a group of drow who were driven out of the High Forest by wood elves who tried to found a state there too. In 1372 DR, they were the second largest group of drow in Cormanthor.[18]
Dark Dagger
The Dark Dagger was a criminal group. They infiltrated the criminal milieu of the regions around the Sea of Fallen Star with the goal to eventually take control of them.[4]
Dragon's Hoard
The Dragon's Hoard was a merchant band led by Nisstyre of Ched Nasad that formed a small community in the High Forest. The band was involved in the slave trade in Skullport, and were almost completely obliterated in 1361 DR by a group of Eilistraeean followers led by Qilué Veladorn.[44]
House Jaelre
House Jaelre was the biggest drow group on the surface, in 1372 DR. Their goal was to found a permanent home for themselves in Cormanthor. Towards that end, they tried to learn and take over old elven magic.[9]
Jaezred Chaulssin
The Jaezred Chaulssin was an assassins’ guild. Their goal was to rid the drow of the tyrannical rule of Lolth and her priestesses. They believed that drow society was so far beyond help that the society needed to be destroyed from the ground to be rebuilt.[45]

RitualsEdit

Vhaeraun’s priests prayed for their spells at dusk, and whenever they accomplished something that made them closer to their goal.[1] Apparently, it was a silent matter which consisted of meditating in shadows.[46]

They had some means to communicate with their deity to share the spell, tactics and poison formulas, they invented. This wasn’t a one-way communication, for Vhaeraun distributed this knowledge with the entire clergy.

The most common ritual dedicated to Vhaeraun was the sacrifice of weapons and tools of defeated enemies, which was done by melting them into a bowl-shaped altar. While Vhaeraun appreciated the value of the sacrificed items, he considered diligence to be more important.

Another sacrificial ritual was held during nights of new moon. Followers of Vhaeraun, usually riding Underdark lizards, hunted a stag and then sacrificed its rack of antlers and still-beating heart to the Masked Lord. The ritual was considered a perversion of elven rituals.

The most holy ritual of the faith was called the Masked Lord’s Embrace and was held on Midwinter Night. Using their innate drow ability to conjure magical darkness, the participants surrounded themselves with a curtain of shadow, in order to block any eventual distraction. Vhaeraun's magic sustained the darkness, making it last up to a whole day (rather than its usual duration), and his followers spent that time meditating about new ways to further the goals of their faith, and to form new plans.[1]

Vhaeraun was known to be unusually responsive for a deity. Having success at having a minion of the deity sent for help was comparatively easy for a vhaeraunite cleric, provided the proper ritual was conducted in a situation of real need.[5]

TacticsEdit

As followers of an evil deity,[5] clerics of Vhaeraun were able to rebuke undead and to convert their spell energy into inflict spells.[47]

They were expected to have an aptitude for trickery. They drummed up the dissatisfaction of drow, namely of the disenfranchised males, towards rebellion and disobedience.[5]

ClassesEdit

Apart from divine casters, the church’s members generally consisted of assassins, bards, rogues and warlocks.[11]. Due to Vhaeraun being the drow patron of shadow magic and spellfilchers, members were also spellfilchers or spellcasters who used the Shadow Weave.[33]

Clerics had a habit of learning the skills of an assassin, divine seeker, rogue or shadowdancer.[1]

There were a number of special positions among the church. Darkmasks were considered the elite and were the hands for special tasks.[16] A masked traitor was a spy, a cleric who posed as a cleric of another deity but was in actuality a cleric of Vhaeraun, effectively fooling the deity whose church was spied upon.[22] A skulker of Vhaeraun was a user of divine magic who wasn’t necessarily part of the priesthood.[11]

RegionsEdit

Prior to the Spellplague, the church of Vhaeraun was a growing organisation among the drow[43]. Most of the drow on the surface followed Vhaeraun[15] and they built smaller settlements throughout the Underdark[31] and had at least some presence in every community where drow were found[48]. After the Spellplague, the church was one of the two more or less functional religious opposition groups in drow society with Ghaunadaur’s followers being the other one.[11]

On the surfaceEdit

As mentioned before, most drow on the surface followed Vhaeraun.[15] They were found in the Forest of Lethyr, the Frozen Forest, the Lurkwood, the Forest of Mir, the Rawlinswood, the Trollbark Forest, Winterswood[4] and in the High Forest,[49] where the Dragon's Hoard was active.[4]

An organization called the Dark Dagger was active throughout the Sea of Fallen Stars, namely in Skullport, Turmish, Vilhon Reach and less prominently in Amn and Calimshan and grew in power. Their goal was to take over the control of the criminal milieu there.[4]

After the fall of Myth Drannor in 714 DR, surface elves started to feel a psychological compulsion to abandon their lands for Evermeet.[50] Following this compulsion, their land became abandoned.[51] Repopulating these lands was a part of the church’s strategy. For example, vhaeraunites were found in Cormanthor, where 90% of its elven population left for Evermeet.[52] While all groups wanted first and foremost a steady life, the ultimate goals varied. The biggest surface drow group of House Jaelre tried to unearth and understand old elven magic[9] and found their own permanent settlement, while Clan Auzkovyn tried to carve out a nomadic live.[18] When the armies of Myth Drannor came from Evermeet a not small number of followers converted to Eilistraee to evade the violence at the hand of the elves.[53]

In the UnderdarkEdit

As mentioned before, the church of Vhaeraun was a growing organisation among the drow[43] as well as the second biggest one.[34] They built smaller settlements throughout the Underdark[31] and had at least some presence in every community where drow were found.[48]

For example, the church was the biggest religious non-lolthite organization in the city of Guallidurth, snd were regularly (without success) hunted.[10]. After the Spellplague, internal strife caused Guallidurth’s formerly 80.000 strong drow population[54] to be downsized by at least 80%[55]. It wasn’t known how the Vhaeraunites in the city fared.

Escapees from Guallidurth founded cities in the Forest of Mir and in the cavern of Ultoksamrin in Deep Shanatar[56]. The Forest of Mir held three cities, Dallnothax, Holldaybim and Iskasshyoll. All three were built the same way, a large cavern as the main body and a few buildings on the surface, all three were further connected via tunnels with each other.[56] Holldaybim had an egalitarian rulership while the other two were patriarchic and were specifically allied against Guallidurth.[4]

There was another settlement in Ultoksamrin that grew around the Vault of Cloaked Midnight, also called the cathedral city because half of the cave was occupied by a temple to Vhaeraun.[56] Ultoksamrin’s leader, Vokkrzyr Rualfren tried to recruit surface elves to bolster the ranks against the matrons from Guallidurth, though with unknown success.[57]

A rare legal following was in Sshamath, where Vhaeraun, under the alias the Masked Mage or the Lord of Shadow, was primarily prayed to in his role as the drow patron of shadow magic and spellfilchers.[33] First, there was the official church of Vhaeraun under Pharaun Lhalabar. They were situated in the Tower of the Masked Mage.[33] Another group was the School of the Shadow Weave.[58] Under the leadership of Nurissa Vyllshan[59], they worked as a cloak for the church of Vhaeraun to be accepted as a full School and with it as full members of the city’s ruling body.[60]

The Jaezred Chaulssin, an assassins’ guild from Chaul'mur'ssin, a vhaeraunite city on the Plane of Shadow,[61] ruled the city of Chaulssin where they were based.[62] Apart from minor holdings in Skullport and Sshamath,[63] they had a major presence in Ched Nasad, Dusklyngh, Eryndlyn, Jhachalkhyn, Karsoluthiyl, Maerimydra and Sschindylryn.[8]

The Jaezred Chaulssin weren’t the only one active in Ched Nasad. The church kept a secret portal, called the Ched Nasad portal and keyed it to a male divine caster. The portal was connected two was to the Dalelands to their fellow followers and allowed flexible allocation of resources and trade for surface goods. The vhaeraunites in Ched Nasad were working at creating a food and water shortage in the city to weaken their enemies, so they could be taken down.[30] The Jaezred Chaulssin under Zammzt Everharn caused the destruction of the city during the Silence of Lolth.[64] It was done through an engineered slave uprising as well as large scale confusion that made hindered the city officials to effectively deal with their problems[65]. After the city was rebuilt, the assassins obtained special influence in the rule of the city[66].

Eryndlyn was a city whose rule was divided in a ratio of 2:1:1 in lolthites, ghaunadans and vhaeraunites,[67]. During the Time of Troubles an avatar of Selvetarm wreaked havoc against non-Lolthites which forced the two other factions into cooperation[68]. During the Silence of Lolth, the Jaezred Chaulssin fosterage under Tomphael Arkenrret managed to urge the two factions into an alliance that completely destroyed Lolth’s influence in the city.[25] While Eryndlyn got destroyed in the Spellplague when the cavern changed into a Spellcave[66], the assassins’ fosterage seemed to have survived.[63]

In Dusklyngh, Jhachalkhyn and Karsoluthiyl, the Jaezred Chaulssin managed to shift the power balance in favour of the merchant class from Lolth’s matriarchy[25]. Jhachalkhyn was then practically ruled by the assassins.[69]

Maerimydra had a small cult Kâras was a part of[70] and the Jaezred Chaulssin fosterage under Vesz’zt Auvryana.[8] The assassins’ plot there was known to have backfired in that it allowed Kiaransalee’s followers to take the city.[8] It probably consisted of urging the city’s archmage into organising the destruction of the city’s matriarchy. The chaos allowed Kiaransalee’s followers to take over.[71]

In the city of Menzoberranzan existed a growing church. Due to the virtual non-existence of other organised faiths, it was considered not a but the enemy by the church of Lolth and hunted as such.[6] In fact, the city’s common law included ones directed against the church by name.[72] The group proved to be resilient, it survived the death of its deity.[11]

TemplesEdit

Temples to Vhaeraun were built both on and under the surface. On the surface, shrines were built in shallow woodland caves, usually where little light shone through the trees. As a general rule, it was inside a vhaeraunite settlement or in the vicinity of one. In the Underdark, deep natural amphitheater were the site for temples. They were hidden through multiple darkness spells,[12] which looked like patch of black stone to darkvision.[73] Interestingly, the Underdark temples were usually built with a "starry sky", actually beljurils placed into high ceilings to look like stars.[12]

Known temples included:


SymbolsEdit

The holy symbol of Vhaeraun was a black blue-lensed mask.[74] Combined with similar modus operandi, the symbol was confused with Mask’s on the surface.[12] Some vhaeraunites on the surface used this similarity to recruit humans and half-elves for their cause.[42]

ColoursEdit

The favoured colours of the church was black.[75] If given a choice between two things which are the same but for the colour, vhaeraunites usually picked the black one.[76]

GemsEdit

Other symbols, they looked out for were specific gems, for they believed they could read divine favour or disfavour out of these gems.[76] The specific gems were agni mani, black opal, black sapphire, hematite, black marble, obsidian, black onyx and black pearl.[75] Specific (dead) animals were also considered potents from the deity.[77]

AnimalsEdit

They believed that the (illusory) appearance and/or behaviour of black cats, ravens or dead spiders[75] could be an attempt by Vhaeraun to tell them something. While not real animals, the same was concluded from an air or earth mephit, shadow, shadow dragon or yeth hound that appeared and helped a follower from danger.[77]

EquipmentEdit

DressEdit

A cleric of Vhaeraun’s regalia consisted of a half-mask that could also double as a holy symbol, form-fitting pants, silk shirts and leather boots,[22] all in their favoured colour black.[75] They also constantly had at least one black-edged dagger on their person,[22] all at least in theory. As a general rule, members of the church had to hide their allegiances[11] and it also seemed that some priests used other dress codes for their regalia.[23][24] Masked traitors whose cover blew up kept the regalia of the church they spied upon, when they thought it to be beneficial to them.[22]

Armor and weaponsEdit

Once attuned to it, a cleric of Vhaeraun didn't need to carry around a holy symbol to cast spells. They could but they just needed to be in a one mile radius of it. The holy symbol was a mask that could be used as a mundane one.[22]

Clerics of Vhaeraun shouldn’t be able to wear metal armor[22] but there were those who did anyway.[23][24] Regarding weaponry, they used whatever was considered practical for a given task, while they had a number of favoured weapons, daggers, short swords and long swords, "favoured" wasn't as valued as "useful".[22]

Clerics also used poison of different varieties, both in kind and toxicity,[22] in fact the use of poison was the entire church's weapon of choice.[11]

Magic ItemsEdit

If the Dark Dagger in Skullport and the drow in Cormanthor were a measure, vhaeraunites were able to organise an infrastructure that allowed them to equip their armed forces with standardised mundane and magical equipment.[78][42]

All the Dark Dagger, the drow in Cormanthor and the Jaezred Chaulssin primarily used magical equipment that heightened their mundane base abilities. Tools that made a stealthy rogue stealthier, an assassin’s deadly attack deadlier, a weapon to strike more accurate and harder, etc..[78][42][8]

SpellsEdit

Several magical abilities and spells were under the exclusive use of the church of Vhaeraun. As a general rule, they fulfilled at least one of three different uses, namely aiding in stealth, protection or substitution of resources.

Blessing of Vhaeraun
increased one’s abilities as a thief[79]
Dark embrace
substituted a holy symbol and could be used to rapidly cast and deliver a spell a certain distance[79]
Deceive prying
fed falsified information to someone who used mental intrusion as a means[79]
Elf disguise
changed elven features of an elf into that of another kind of elf, for example a moon elf into a sun elf, a sun elf into a drow, etc.[80]
Grace of the Masked Lord
used to protect and recover from harm from a trap[11]
Guise of the faithful
created an acoustic, visual and tactile disguise[11]
Noxious step
short range teleportation designed to be a last ditch escape[11]
Skulker's venom
coated the weapon with poison[11]
Soul charge
used a part of someone’s soul to fuel a charged magic item[80]
Soultheft
used an entire soul to fuel magic item,[79] it was a way to sidestep the danger of death from casting elven high magic[81]
Vhaeraun's nightshield
spell to protect one from harmful effects, with special protection against magic missile spell[80]
Weapon of the deity
the vhaeraunite version turned a short sword into a shocking weapon with increasing enhancement depending on the caster’s strength[82]

Vhaeraun once forbade his followers to call anything but his avatar,[12] a rule that was substantially relaxed by 1372 DR. As mentioned above, he became —for a deity— easy to convince to send one of his minions.[5] Air and earth mephits, shadows, shadow dragons and yeth hounds[75] were the vhaeraunites’ additional choices for summon monster and planar ally spells,[77] clerics who read the Obsul Ssussun had the additional option to call a vhaerath.[80]

Notable followers of VhaeraunEdit

RelationshipsEdit

Vhaeraun had a long list of enemies, which included the Dark Seldarine, the Seldarine and practically every deity with a presence in the Underdark.[26]

The most important enmity was with the church of Lolth. Defeating that one was one of the vhaeraunites’ goals.[1] This feeling seemed to be reciprocative for the church of Lolth considered them such a threat that they incorporated specific tenets against Vhaeraun’s church.[72]

The other enemies seemed to be treated more like hypothetical enemies than actual ones. For example, like most drow, their most frequent partners in terms of trade were duergars and mind flayers, despite them being the ones with whom they most often clashed in the Underdark.[9] Vhaeraun actually forbade his followers to associate with gnomes and dwarves,[2] though at times they did it anyway, and it seemed that no punitive measure existed for violating this, neither on individual nor on organizational level (see Attitudes).

Their stance towards was more complex. On one hand, priests of Vhaeraun encouraged contact and marriage with other elven races,[1] so the various elven races could stand together common advancement.[15] Followers of the Masked Lord abandoned their racial hatred against their fair kin and considered the hatred on the elves’s side maniacal,[9] even so their attitude towards the elves varied. Some groups of Vhaeraunites still fought them, although not because of dogmatic hatred (like House Jaelre with the Eldreth Veluuthra over the Elven Court),[89] others accepted surface elves as members when they shared their temperament (as did Clan Auzkovyn),[18] others even conducted actual recruitment campaigns, like the drow in Ultoksamrin.[57] The only group of elves with whom they had a meaningful relationship which wasn’t always violent was with the Eldreth Veluuthra.[90] As mentioned above, they fought each other if given reason but also had close enough ties, that caused the terrorists to have now and then internal discussions about accepting drow clerics into their group, even if only to counter their chronic lack of healing magic.[91]

The elves’ hatred was also a problem in their dealings with humans. Humans who were on good terms with elves and saw their hatred against drow, due to the elven race’s good reputation coupled with the drow race’s bad reputation, became automatically their enemies[9] while humans who were neutral towards elves like those from Sembia considered them stable enough to become partners.[92] Though what shouldn’t be forgotten was that vhaeraunites practiced slavery. Their slaves were generally every kind of humanoids whom they didn’t send into battle for danger of desertion. Other allies of theirs came in the form of mephits and shadow dragons. [9]

One relationship that underwent profound change in relative little time was the one to the church of Eilistraee. Vhaeraunites dealt in activities like slavery, or thievery (the Dark Dagger[93] and the Dragon's Hoard[44][94] were examples of this). This could lead to conflicts with the followers of Eilistraee (especially frequent in the area of the Promenade[44][94][95]), generally benevolent drow who strove to build their place in the surface world (much like the Vhaeraunites), but also to live in peace with the surface folk.[96] This showed in Qilué Veladorn, the youngest of the Seven Sisters and high priestess of Eilistraee, who worked to convert worshipers of evil drow deities, particularly of Vhaeraun (whose Dark Dagger and Dragon's Hoard were very active near her temple of the Promenade), to the faith of her goddess.[44][94][97][95]

When Eilistraee became the Masked Lady, many of such conflicts ceased in favor of an uneasy cooperation.[98] After the Dark Dancer and the Masked Lord retured to life, in the 1480s DR,[99] despite their choice to not fight each other anymore,[100] their followers returned to skirmish often.[101] However, avoiding conflicts was made easier by the subtle change in Vhaeraun's modus operandi: his followers were in fact then encouraged to behave as "good citizens", when it proved profitable and helped their relationship with other surface dwellers, and to practice shadier deeds with as much subtley and secrecy as possible.[14]

HistoryEdit

Time of DragonsEdit

Elves came to Toril around -27000 DR, these first elves didn’t worship the Seldarine, they couldn’t because they didn’t know that the elven pantheon existed at all. Among the first elves, those of the Ilythiiri tribe differed from all others in that they had higher ambitions than living in small tribes, they founded the first elven state Ilythiir,[102] and the faith of Vhaeraun became the main religion there.[103]

According to Eilistraee, the Ilythiiri dark elves who followed her brother valued and ruthlessly sought power above anything else, practiced slavery, and also attacked her followers.[103] Ilythiir was indeed a nation with institutionalised slavery and which prized might.[104] That said, the Ilythiiri society was characterized by the existence of conflicting faiths (Vhaeraun and Ghaundaur, with a minority of followers of Eilistraee,[105][106]) and there were examples pointing to the fact that, while the faith of the Masked Lord was dominant, supporting the rival deity wasn't necessarily an unbeatable obstacle on the path to success (although that doesn't mean that followers of rival gods didn't clash). An example was Ka'Narlist, a follower of Ghaunadaur,[107] who managed to advance to a position like one of the leaders of Attornash, Ilythiir’s capitol, be respected[108] and also openly talk about his faith[107] as well as voice disapproval and insults about the major faith[109] to foreign diplomats whom he met for the first time.[110]

First FloweringEdit

After the Time of Dragons, a lot of things happened. The moon elf Kethryllia drew Lolth’s interest to Toril, the subsequent introduction of her faith in Ilythiir and growing political friction between Ilythiir and newer elven realms that escalated to skirmishes[111] but for the church of Vhaeraun little changed until the Seldarine and their followers cast the Ever’Sakkatien with the First Sundering as a side effect. It was a ritual to create a dark elf-free land (followers of Eilistraee included),[112] Evermeet. The ritual succeeded, the island was born, and the continent literally sundered in several pieces with corresponding casualties as collateral damage. Ilythiir suffered many deaths and destruction, among others its capitol.[111] The church of Vhaeraun lost so many followers that they couldn’t keep their hegemonic position.[113] Their efforts to salvage it were thwarted by the followers of Eilistraee, leaving the field open to Lolth’s and Ghaunadaur’s faith.[12] Lolth’s dominance began.[113]

Crown WarsEdit

During the Crown Wars, the dark elves of Ilythiir, who were still refining their worship of the Dark Seldarine, used to portray their gods as spider deities.[114] Vhaeraun, for example, was depicted as a Masked Spider,[114][115], but--as far as it is known--he was never depicted in poses that could lead to think to subservience (like it happened for Eilistraee, who was sometimes depicted as singing praises to Lolth[115]), nor was he confused with another deity, like Eilistraee and Kiaransalee on occasion as an undead spider with a sword. However, all those depictions were only the results of how some Ilythiiri interpreted the relationships among their deities, and the main gods of Ilythiir (Vhaeraun, Lolth, Ghaunadaur and Kiaransalee) personally killed their followers for such depictions.[114]

After the DescentEdit

It wasn’t very clear, what exactly the church did during the time between the Descent and the 14th century DR but at the very least, they were widespread and organised enough to be considered strong enough to protect the Yuirwood, though they didn’t become actually the forest’s protectors.[116]

By the time of the 14th century DR, the church of Vhaeraun was a growing organisation.[43] They grew to become the biggest drow faction on the surface and the second biggest among the drow as a whole.[34] They were considered the real rival by Lolth’s church,[12] so much so that the church of Lolth included special tenets against the church of Vhaeraun by name.[72]

War of the Spider Queen - Silence of LolthEdit

The Silence of Lolth was a golden opportunity for the followers to make large scale changes in drow society. They shifted the balance of power from Lolth’s theocratic matriarchy in favour of secular power holders and/or evened the distribution thereof between the genders. In some cities, they actually broke the power of the matriarchy[25] or took over their positions.[32] This all culminated in an assassination attempt against the comatose Lolth. The plan was to trick a follower of Lolth into guiding the priest Tzirik Jaelre to the body of the goddess and then call the Masked Lord to kill his mother, it failed.[117]

War of the Spider Queen - After the SilenceEdit

After the Silence of Lolth, Eilistraee and Lolth started a divine game of sava over the destiny of the drow, with Vhaeraun himself stealthily joining the game.[118] He and his followers plotted another attempt against Lolth’s life to end her reign. The idea was to open a gate between Ellaniath, Vhaeraun’s realm, and Eilistraee’s portion of Arvandor, via elven high magic, for the god to walk through and assassinate his sister, so the surface drow could be united under a single banner, thus increasing the number of Vhaeraun’s followers and giving him the necessary power boost to kill his mother.[119]

However, that kind of magic was very taxing, and would have required the sacrifice of the souls of the casters. Because of that, the followers of the Masked Lord started to kill various priestesses of Eilistraee and collect their souls in their masks (a spell called soultheft), in order to use them as a fuel for the ritual.[120]

Eventually, Qilué Veladorn, leader of the church of Eilistraee, managed to learn about their plan and started working to disrupt it, alongside the drow mage Q'arlynd Melarn (who had turned to the faith of Eilistraee). Q'arlynd's task was to take the place of one of the Vhaerunites and try to disrupt their ritual.[120]

However, when the followers of Vhaeraun prepared their ritual, Q'arlynd failed to accomplish his mission and Vhaeraun managed to enter his sister Eilistraee's realm and attempted to assassinate her. Despite that, the Dark Maiden did not receive her brother unprepared, as she had been warned by her priestesses about his intentions. No mortal actually witnessed the battle that ensued, so what happened remained largely unknown. However, Eilistraee emerged from the battle alive, suggesting that Vhaeraun had failed and perished at the hand of his sister.[121][122][note 1]

War of the Spider Queen - Under EilistraeeEdit

After Vhaeraun died, the followers did several different things. Some converted to Eilistraee, out of a desire to have a hold over any kind of power[123] or because she was the only thing that remained of Vhaeraun, others to Shar[124] and others simply stayed with their old faith.[46] According to Kâras, the church of Vhaeraun was to about 90% destroyed or subsumed by the church of Eilistraee.[125] 199

Eilistraee took the portfolio of her brother and this had an effect on her followers. Eilistraee’s clerics became more violent and the former vhaeraunites kinder. For example, it didn’t take half a year, until fabricating the truth for propaganda’s sake[125] and assassinating those who knew the truth became an acceptable course of action for the Promenade of the Dark Maiden’s leadership.[46][125][126] During the same timeframe, formerly vhaeraunite clerics were exposed to new allies they didn’t even consider before, such as deep gnomes, and learned to respect them, albeit when provided a reason like contribution to a task.[127] Within the Promenade, the two groups lived separated from each other, celebrating different rituals, and the former vhaeraunites retained their title of Nightshadows. Inside of the temple they had to endure the priestesses’ sexist mind set[128] and cases of bullying, even under usage of military authority.[129] This kind of behaviour extended at least once to a dangerous mission in the form of sabotage, as former vhaeraunites were withheld the password to go to the own home base, though without the knowledge of the commander of the mission.[130] These kind of problems were prevalent in the initial phase but were mostly laid aside for cooperation’s sake.[131]

In 1379 DR, after the Masked Lady was supposedly killed by Halisstra Melarn,[131] a High Magic ritual performed by Q'arlynd Melarn transformed those drow not tainted by Wendonai's blood and the followers of Eilistraee (including the fromer Vhaeraunite converts) back into their original dark elven form.[132] Corellon Larethian thus permitted the souls of Eilistraee's faithful and the newly transformed dark elves to enter Arvandor, making them safe from Lolth.[133] However, only a few hundred of drow were affected by the spell, while the Masked Lady, as a lesser power, had at least a few thousands of followers[134]. This could lead to think that there is a possibility that Q'arlynd's spell didn't in fact affect all the followers of the Masked Lady[speculation] (in fact, as of the 1490s DR, post Second Sundering, both Eilistraee[99][135] and Vhaeraun[99] still had many drow followers despite a century of absence).

At least some of those who converted to Shar made it their goal to kill those of their former faith who turned to Eilistraee.[124]

Those who held on Vhaeraun, even those hadn't converted to the Masked Lady, weren’t completely deprived of their spells (although they lost their most powerful magic).[46] At least some tried to infiltrate and take over the Promenade under the (wrong) assumption that Vhaeraun was masquerading as Eilistraee to get additional followers.[123][46]

Post-SpellplagueEdit

After the Spellplague, with her rivals gone, Lolth became the only drow deity. [131]

The church of Vhaeraun survived the death of its deity. Its followers at that time were mostly drow who prayed to Vhaeraun because they were either in the unknown or denial about his death. The prayers of these skulkers of Vhaeraun were answered, divine spellcasters regained their magic and lay-worshippers also got access to minor divine magic which they used to continue their work with.[11]

Post Second SunderingEdit

Vhaeraun and Eilistraee managed to return to life as separate entities during the event known as the Sundering [99][136]. They returned in Flamerule 1489 DR, with the same power and portfolio that they had before 1375 DR.[137][note 2] After the time spent as the Masked Lady, despite having very different ideals and modus operandi, the two siblings reached a truce, although their followers still skirmished often.[100][137][138][101] Both deities personally let their return be known, manifesting through their avatars to their followers, who enthusiastically spread the word.[136][135]

AppendixEdit

NotesEdit

  1. The Grand History of the Realms explicitly says that Vhaeraun's assassination attempt failed and Eilistraee killed him, though his continued existence suggests otherwise. In one of his answers, Ed Greenwood suggests that Eilistraee actually spared her brother's life. The Dark Maiden defeated Vhaeraun with the indirect help of her ally Mystra, as the Weave frustrated the Masked Lord's magic while enhancing Eilistraee's. The goddess temporarily took her brother's portfolio, and trapped his sentience in the Weave, where it was enfolded in a dream by Mystra. The Lady of Mysteries did that to ensure that the two drow siblings would survive the cataclysm that she knew was coming—the Spellplague—in which she would be "killed" to renew the Weave, and magic would go wild. In fact, after their assumed death, most part of the siblings' divine essence remained hidden in the Weave, which would then be severely damaged with the Spellplague and Mystra's "death", for about a century. After Mystra and the Weave were completely restored in 1487 DR, the goddess of magic could finally give Eilistraee her own lost power, and do the same with Vhaeraun, after having awakened him from his dream.
  2. As said here, in answer to this question, only the following lines of text in the last reference are to be considered canon: "After Flamerule 1489, Vhaeraun and Eilistraee are separate deities with the same powers and portfolios they had before 1375, but a new understanding, respect, and even friendship for each other. Some of their followers still war with each other, but the two deities do not. Thus far, Eilistraee’s teachings after the Sundering are the same as before the Sundering"

AppearancesEdit

Novels
Sourcebooks

ReferencesEdit

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