A series of brief memoirs is made available to each and every member of House Tza’dorin, be they present in the city, staying abroad, or estranged, so long as they are capable of receiving such correspondence. This information would come to be common knowledge to those inhabiting the city of Mithuth, shedding light on some small sliver of it’s founder’s origins, for better and for worse.

Birth and Origin

My name is Shena’la, of the Tza’dorin bloodline, born in the city of Barra Kai’niar, located beneath the eastern lands of Kara-Tur on the world known as Toril. I was born to House Tza’dorin, to a mother of modest status within the House, and that House itself being of middling Status in a humble cavern city of merely a dozen Houses. Let these writings serve as an extremely brief memory of my life, leading up to my intentions for those currently claiming allegiance to my thrice resurrected House.

Barra Kai’niar, as with all traditionalist Lolthite holdings, was a place of zeal and paranoia, with each House being locked into a rigid Station that dictated it’s status in society, and whose power ultimately flowed from the Spider Goddess herself. Even for the most esteemed members of such a society, the life of an Ilythiiri, or drow as other species call us, is one of constant paranoia and strife. We are spawned as so many of the arachnids we are raised to idolize, and much as they, taught to cannibalize and compete with each other from birth onward. In Lolthite society, there are no contemporary words for things like friendship, love, affection, compassion, or mercy in the sense that other species, or even Eilistreean dark elves would understand. Should such a word even be used, it would be spoken with far more venom and murderous intent than even the most dire threat. Our mothers saw us as potential rivals who might some day end their life, and most often did, and sought to groom us for such in keeping with Lolth’s doctrine even as they orchestrated our discrete downfall. Our fathers were little more than breeding stock and soldiers, whose lives were measured in only so many years as they remained useful to their Matron and those she deemed worthy of taking a mate.

Mine was a world of duplicity, where words were to always have several meanings, no meal was safe from poison, no shadow could be assumed to be free of an assassin in a heat-masking piwafwi, and the threat of our Goddess’ yochlol, or handmaidens, masking themselves as Ilythiiri and reading the very minds in our skulls for thoughts of betrayal against her control was a constant risk. As such, those of us who survived long enough to reach maturity and functionality in society, knew well how to be precisely what we needed to be, down to the very ironclad thoughts in our minds, and to be as slippery with those thoughts as the great serpents that lurked at the bottom of cavern lakes. We conceptualized the world not in factual representations of the moment, but in abstract concepts, with heavy compartmentalization, that were designed to protect our intentions as they played out across a web of our design that could stretch for many decades, and were all intended to protect ourselves and our House whilst scavenging for greater status.

This was the will of Lolth. This was how she sought to give us strength, for she was the Dark Mother. When our creator, Corellon, cast us aside and abandoned us, she came to our aid and took pity upon those first Ilythiiri. She ushered us into our promised land beneath stone and far from skyfire, that we may be safe from our treacherous paleskin brethren upon the surface. Our constant demands for magic, for prosperity, for wealth, for more proved too much for her however, and thus she became that which my people worship even now – the Spider Goddess. Her webs envelop most of my species from birth to death, bludgeoning and slashing us into apex predators capable of resisting mental manipulation, of surviving in a harsh realm where little survives, and of thriving where few species may. But such comes at a cost, with our souls destined to be consumed by her in the Demonweb Pits, in the end.

Fall of the Birth House

I was doomed from the time I was born, doomed to displease the one we called Dark Mother, for I was a half-breed in a society where only absolute purity of the Ilythiiri bloodline could be tolerated. In a short-sighted grasping for power, before I was ever conceived, my Matron deigned to import a black dragon which was kept sequestered away in the recesses of our House. Those like my Mother who were worthy in the Matron’s eyes were drafted to breed with the beast, that a generation of stronger, more capable family may be spawned.

We were the product of what I have come to learn is known as eugenics, with those whose traits were too obvious being discarded whereby simple physical alteration was insufficient. Wings were to be severed, scales were to be clipped, ground, polished down to the nerve and smoothed away with magics that they may not be visible. The reptilian slit of pupils would be masked by instilling belladonna, or nightshade, extract into the eyes, that the blacks of our eyes may become round again. These efforts and more were made to salvage those who were capable of passing as pureblood, and I was selected of this stock to be permitted to live.

The end result was a generation who, even in a society of utter paranoia, were groomed to be even more vigilant and untrusting of those not of the House. We were stronger, faster, and more cunning than our pureblood counterparts, being half black dragon by birth and carrying that ancient heritage in great proportion. We were, as with the black dragons, more aggressive and capable of performing feats of cruelty that might bring shock and pleasure even to the most sadistic of our city. House Tza’dorin, for a time, for a single generation that spawned for roughly five centuries, became a force to be utterly feared in my home city. Such a grand deception however, such a great gamble, could never have succeeded for long. Not in a world where the direct and baleful gaze of Lolth and her yochlol was an ever-present risk, not where scrying magic was a constant concern should even a single protective seal upon a House’s structure be damaged, not where chaos was a part of daily life and treachery was of constant concern.

Our downfall could have been predicted by even an umbrehulk’s simple mind, and so it came to pass despite all of our advantages, for our strength came not from Lolth, but from ourselves, and that could never be enough in the homeland. As is traditional when a House is deemed heretical, we were assaulted in the twilight hours without notice. Our House was bathed in magical darkness from top to bottom, surrounded by soldiers under the effects of invisibility magic, and invaded. We were purged, all of us, save myself and a single sister. She was fortunate enough to have been missed out in the pre-purge census, and was abroad in another city, thus was spared a quick demise. I was less fortunate, having been in the breeding chamber with our black dragon captive and in the midst of coitus. I’ll not explain precisely what occurred, but it was degrading, and served enough amusement to the opposition force that they deigned to risk a breach of law by sparing my life and instead strike my name and identity from the city’s history entirely, before entering me into black market slavery. I spent several years in a state of perpetual punishment and humiliation, before even this ceased to amuse my captors. I remained patient, and retained my cunning, with the decision that I would either day or bide my time until an opportunity presented itself for my escape, and so it did. I convinced a regular visitor of mine it would be more profitable for him to sell me rather than simply execute me, and so he did – to a mercenary gang of surfacers who sometimes had back room dealings with my people for surface abductions.

Life as Nightshade

To say that my life improved upon being sold would be an understatement. There are few fates more dire than being an illicitly held half-Ilythiiri slave in an Ilythiiri city. Every possible degradation and display of hatred was unleashed upon me, so my time with the mercenaries was, as I later learned to be the word, an act of unintentional mercy by the greedy soldier who sold me. Freedom was yet elusive, however, as my new handlers ensured an enchanted collar was placed about my neck that would tighten to the point of suffocation or decapitation should I refuse their will or attempt to flee. Even guided them into a trap would have put me at risk of the enchantment being activated before their demise.

While the degradation continued in a physical sense, the mercenary group took less interest in my flesh than they did in my talents, given I was capable of guiding them through the winding caverns of the local Upperdark far more efficiently than they ever could have alone. This drastically augmented their operation of abducting and selling surfacers to several Ilythiiri cities for purposes of sacrifice to Lolth, alongside black market exchange of drugs and poisons. This latter alchemical facet was one which they found me to be of great benefit for as well, with me having spent most of my life dedicated to such duties for my House. Having no name up to this point, I was granted the freedom to choose a new one for myself. I chose to be known as Nightshade.

As Nightshade, I spent several decades in service to this band, eventually coming to live amongst them nearly as an equal, but with the implicit understanding that I could never be so. I learned to speak the Common tongue, how to deal with surfacers, how to navigate the skyfire-blasted realm of the surface, what food was safe to eat upon the surface, and other such vital skills, as if entering a new realm and a new life. In the fashion of humans, my captors forgot my age, my background, and my nature. They grew lax in their vigil. They grew long and grey of beard. As they aged, and weakened, and changed, I became stronger. Whilst I should like to say this cleanly lead to my freedom, my fate was not quite so fortuitous, and in the end I was sold yet again.

I was sold to the Kingdom of Haven, across the vast expanse of water to the west, in a region known as the Moonshea Isles, and this was where my metamorphosis would begin.

Arrival in Haven Kingdom

The Kingdom of Haven was, for lack of a better term, a pleasure island and likely a paradise to creatures of the surface. The skyfire burned bright in the sky and seared my eyes, over a sea of blue, the hue of which I had never seen before save in sapphire gems under candlelight. It was surrounded all about by greenery, which I learned to be something called a jungle, and immediately gained an affinity for as the heat and moisture felt pleasing to the draconic portion of my heritage in a way that cold stone had never done.

I had not come to that Kingdom as a visitor or citizen, however. I arrived in chains, but was greeted with smiles and offerings of gifts and pleasure rather than the stomp of a boot. Much of the citizenry roamed about without clothing, with many of the women having large phalluses akin to what I had seen on surface creatures known as horses, and quite often tugging behind them women who were, as I, tethered to collars and chains but bore pleased smiles as if they had no desire for any other life. I was disgusted by the entire display. In some ways, this was a less desirable fate than that which I had left behind. The people appeared as brain-washed and placid as victims of Illithid mind control, and the thought of such sent a pulse of rage through my form.

It took little time before I was purchased by one such creature – a woman with horns, grey flesh, and a large phallus, and was informed I was to be her servant. They did call us servants, as well, rather than slaves, perhaps to obfuscate the reality of their flesh trade from their simplistic morality. I’ll not delve much into my experiences here except to say I was subjected to precisely what one would likely expect when bound to such a creature, but at this point I saw a weakness I could exploit. These were not hardened mercenaries or Ilythiiri. These were pleasure-seekers with no iron in their spine, who I was willing to gamble would never execute me or subject me to real pain. I poisoned my mistress on several occasions, and at one point even pierced her ribs with a dagger. I made myself so difficult to keep that I was sold back to the Kingdom itself and directly met by it’s leader, the Viceroy.

Viceroy Telron Elvenforge made it clear to me that freedom was not an option for servants of the Crown, and yet I was not deterred. Through time, blackmail, violence and general threats to be far too much trouble than I was worth, he created a loophole whereby if I submitted to him willingly once and lay with him as would a docile wife, he would see me free. And so, I fell back to the duplicity of my upbringing, and became what I was required to be for so long as it was required, until finally the collar was removed from my neck.

I was free, at last. And the first thing I did was flee the skyfire and retreat into a cavern beneath the jungle island known as the Valley of Death. It was a difficult existence, one of solitude, with constant assaults from large arachnids ensuring I found difficulty even in the rest of reverie, but I was finally free. Free from Lolth, free from my Matron, free from my city, free from the slavers, free from the mercenaries, free from the Haven Crown. The time to plan my future, as I should like, was upon me.

Reforming the House in Haven Kingdom

In time, I came to find there were many people in the Haven Isles who, like me, were disinterested in a life of idle pleasure. There were also a large number of Ilythiiri, I found, who lacked the same xenophobic zeal found in the homeland but craved the comforts of familiarity and combined heritage. I cast aside my name of Nightshade, and reclaimed my birthright as a daughter of House Tza’dorin – of being Shena’la Tza’dorin, and resurrected my House in defiance of those who annihilated it. My intentions were simple – I would see a House brought to full might, I would overtake the island and harden it’s people into warriors, and I would return to my city in force to enact it’s own laws against it. By the law of tradition, should a House fail to fully annihilate another House and evidence of such be brought to life, they would have failed in satisfying Lolth’s will. I should have expected opposition by virtue of me being a half-breed, but such would have been ended swiftly by the blade, in my grand vision.

Of course, this was the firey vision of one who required such spite to survive. It served well in the reformation of the House, but never could have come to pass as I had envisioned in my moments of utter despair and rage. What played out instead was the slow and methodical establishment of a city in the caverns beneath the Haven Isles, which came to be known as Mithuth, meaning Sin in my language, for in that is what my people and I represtented by Lolth’s doctrine. I was impure, they were heretical, and we created our own doctrine which fused the Dark Mother’s will with those pieces of dogma from our shared cultural backgrounds that served us well. Mithuth became my bastion of security, my Shield from rape and abuse, the Mask that misguided my perceived enemies from finding the means to turn an army against me, and the Poisoned Well that would turn back the blade of my detractors and rot their own guilds and Houses from within should they seek to disrupt my own.

I was, for the first time in my life, truly secure. My mind was my own, to think as I may. My will was my own, to act as it might. And I had, beneath me, a dozen men and women who were prepared to act on the slightest gesture or smallest whisper I might speak, for to them I was their Dark Mother, the one who protected them and brought a piece of their homeland to them. It was intoxicating, and I allowed it to intoxicate me, in more potent form than any of the lethal drugs we distributed to surfacers to fuel our House’s coffers.

Control and Downfall

Mithuth eventually grew in size to such an extent that multiple other Houses rose up, leading to strife. I was incapable of leading my city as the Matron of only my House, and so exercised my right as it’s founder to place myself in the role of Valsharess, Matron of Matrons, that I may put an end to the conflict. This worked, to an extent, but not without intertwining an elaborate doctrine into the fabric of the culture itself. I found the dogma of Bane, the god of tyrranny and control, to be most expedient in this, and exercised my contacts with the Zhentarim to establish a Church of Bane in the city which disrupted the growing push for more purist Lolthite dominance in the city.

As the blackened iron gauntlet of control tightened, so to did prosperity in my city, though it came at the cost of enemies. Those who were drawn toward Lolth to extremes saw me as erasing their one chance at igniting their heritage fully in the Moonshea isles. Those that saw me as an existential threat to the isles themselves saw me as asserting the sort of militaristic control that Banites are known for. Those who enjoyed the chaos of the past saw me as restricting the very freedom of wonton assault and recreational intoxication they once enjoyed. The Poisoned Well was being turned back upon me, and the Mask was falling, even as I raised the Shield. All the while, I found myself drawn ever more toward the call for bloodsport that appealed to the draconic portion of my bloodline, so Mithuth was a frenzy of controlled combat and execution, punctuated by elaborate decorum and discipline, in some form of juxtaposed reality the likes of which likely exists in few places in Faerun to this day.

I did have a mind for perpetuity, however, and some sentiment for a continuation of my bloodline. I have long believed myself to be incapable of bearing offspring, so saw my single surviving sister as the only hope for an everlasting House Tza’dorin. I groomed her to be my successor, even as I guarded against any potential treachery from her. In the end though, treachery came, though I will likely never know the source. My final memory of Toril is sitting upon my throne and feeling an oddly wet sensation spill down upon my breasts, almost satisfying in one sense, as if a lover had trailed a talon across the flesh of my neck before kneeling to please me. Then, there was only black – I’ve little doubt an assassin slit my throat from behind during a singular moment of solitude.

I entered Aloria with a sense of my Shield having fallen, of being vulnerable once again, and having been, in a sense, ravaged one final time and cast to my fate. Aloria was not the Demonweb Pits nor Banehold as I had expected to awaken in for an eternity of torment, but that could not have stopped me from preparing for the worst, as I always had.

Mithuth Enclave in Aloria

Whilst I have always had some facet of charisma that leads others to entrust themselves to me, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to amass a House in what I later discovered to be an afterlife realm, in Aloria. I rapidly assessed the residence of this world, and found them to be largely similar to those of Haven Kingdom. There was a great deal of variation in species and background, with a strong emphasis on nudity and pleasure, and this was precisely the sort of environment I thrived in – by offering an alternative to it. I saw weakness to be exploited, because that is the lens through which I have viewed life, and so I slowly laid out my web such that it may entangle and guide others toward another grand vision of a sprawling empire whose existence would be measured in decades rather than years. I am, for any fault I may have, a creature of great patience.

Though I’ll not belabor every step of my plans in Aloria, I should say that my ultimate goal was to establish my House, and eventually a city under my command, as an indomitable force that could not be toppled, such that me and mine would never be assaulted or taken against our will, never be degraded, and never pass into whatever eternity awaits us beyond Aloria. I went about this the only way I knew how. I sought to first instill the Mask into my peoples’ hearts, that they may deceive others into believing we were never of concern, and to see us as benign allies and little more than scholars and entertainers, and so this was our path in Bal’hara, at our first foothold, known as the Festhall.

Having amassed our fortune through these means, and earned a reputation as little more than a troupe of entertainers, our first foothold in Synthe brought the instilling of the Shield philosophy. I had long heard threats of a Dragon Queen who sought to consume all, and so I ensured our walls were tall and strong. Our first true city was built to withstand a large scale siege for an extended war of attrition, such that my budding family would never be victims. Even as we rebuilt our Festhall and entertained, I sought to instill a sense of fear and dread in those who visited, such that they would question any decision to act against us. And that was how the Poisoned Well philosophy was enacted. This was the implicit, unspoken threat that bringing aggression against me or mine would be far too difficult a pursuit for any to pursue, and lead to utter downfall to any attacker, regardless of where they may retreat to.

I put in place laws intended to indirectly protect us even from political intrigue from abroad, and obfuscated our leadership structure by claiming to step down as Matron, even as I groomed my adopted feline-kin daughter, Safiri Tza’dorin, to act as our city Advisor. All of these actions were intended to act as forms of protection for what I have come to realize was a threat that never truly existed, in this place, and groom a successor that will never truly be needed.

Of the Courts

Of succession, I have long had more foresight than most Ilythiiri, with a desire to see that which I cultivate last long after I have perished, rather than enact any final vengeance for my demise by destroying all that I have built. As is the fashion of my people however, I conceptualize my goals not in firm plans to be transparently laid out and dictated, but rather as lessons and paths to elicit the expansion of my web, be that for the benefit or downfall of others. When I speak of succession, I speak of benefit for all, though my motives may be of great question for those who see my species and my firm bearing before the fruits of my efforts.

I saw a need for a House that could prosper in my absence, and required leaders who could function without me in a way that mirrors those methods which have brought me success in the past. I designated Nizana and UgPak for such, being two facets that represent divergent disciplines. I took my leave, on occasion, to force the House to adapt to not having me and learn through a trial by fire. The ultimate goal would have been that each Court grew strong enough to recognize, of it’s own awareness, that it could act independently but doing so would be redundant, thus leading to a recombining of both into a singular unified House once again.

The Courts, and the roles they offered, were never more than training grounds. There was never a Valsharess, because one cannot be a Matron of Matrons if there is only a singular House. There was never a Matron and Patron, because one cannot be a Matron or Patron without a full House under one’s control. The Courts were a means by which I intended to empower my people with a sense of autonomy and authority, such that they would be prepared for a potential future where I am held captive or outright executed by an enemy force, and would be required to carry on in my absence.

I have come to see the Courts were never required. There is no rival empire, there is no true risk of my demise, and the lessons I might teach are not required nor of benefit. In fact, my inability to convey simplistic information in lieu of long-spanning lessons has lead to internal strife which has greatly degraded the House’s integrity. In seeking to strengthen my House, I fractured it, and I cannot say for certainty if I will be capable of undoing this damage.

Of the Future

It is time for me to be a Dark Mother, once again, but likewise time for me to evolve. I need not crush and mold my family into creatures of war and distrust as did Lolth to the Ilythiiri. It is time for me to place trust in those who have pledged themselves to the House, that they will not fade, that they will be prepared for conflict, that they are capable of persevering, without my machinations, regardless of how well-intended they were.

The Courts will remain as physical designations of areas in the city, but will no longer serve as segregated branches of governance. The Matron of Masks role will be dissolved. The Patron of Shields role will be dissolved. There will be no Arbiter. I will reassert myself as Matron of a singular, unified House, without further usage of Mask doctrine to misdirect and control House members and citizens. I will tend my garden and seek out the meaning of peace as creatures of the surface understand the word, and spend the coming years learning to sacrifice control and vigilance for the sake of prosperity.

There will be no double-speak, nor grand vision of a mighty empire with poisoned blades, at least not unless we face a genuine threat that necessitates such. There will merely remain the House, and that which is not of the House, and it’s Matron Mother who will act as it’s lynchpin for so long as the House remains. And should the House come to fall once again, let it not be by my hand or by genocide, but rather through the slow attrition of time.

Should there be questions of what all of this means, I should think it likely I would be tending my garden, Nightshade’s Serenade, or whiling away the hours in the nearby baths.

Signed & Sealed,
Shena’la Tza’dorin
Matron Mother

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Maintainer: Shena'la Tza'dorin

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