|The gates of Erelhei-Cinlu, as depicted in Drow of the Underdark (2007). Art by Tomas Giorello.|
|Government||Feuding noble houses ruled by priestesses|
|Races||Drow, bugbears, demons, goblins, ghouls, illithids, troglodytes, trolls, vampires, yugoloths, others|
|Languages||Elvish (Drow), Undercommon|
|Religions||Lolth*, Keptolo, Kiaransali, Zinzerena, Nerull, Boccob, Erythnul, Ralishaz, Beltar, Raxivort, Vecna, Olidammara|
Erelhei-Cinlu is the principal city of the drow, built after the wars between the light elves and dark. It is uncounted centuries old.
Against the Giants/Vault of the Drow
House Eilservs was long the most powerful of Erelhei-Cinlu's noble houses, and long believed that the city should be ruled by a single queen of their house. When the other noble houses allied against the Eilservs to prevent this from happening, the Eilservs renounced the worship of the demon queen Lolth, turning instead to an Elder Elemental God. They then attempted to establish a puppet kingdom in the surface world dedicated to the worship of their new deity, hoping this would bring them enough power that their claims to supreme power in the Vault could no longer be denied. This scheme was thwarted by a band of adventurers in the Against the Giants series of modules.
The same adventuring party, including Frush O'Suggill, Beek Gwenders of Croodle, Cloyer Bulse the Magsman, Faffle Dwe'o-mercraeft, Flerd Trantle, Fonkin Hoddypeak, Gleep Wurp the Eyebiter, Redmod Dumple, and Roaky Swerked, then entered the Vault itself and assaulted the Eilservs estates and the Great Fane of Lolth itself. In the aftermath the Eilservs were ruined, their wealth and power shattered, and vengeful priestesses of Lolth turned on them to exile what remained. Many fled to the lesser drow city of Angrimm, which was subsequently overrun by the ghouls of the White Kingdom.
The Greyhawk Wars
During the Greyhawk Wars, the priestesses of Lolth in Erelhei-Cinlu allied with giants controlled by the Sakhut cloud giants to once again attempt to create a puppet kingdom on the surface world, this time controlled by Lolth rather than the Elder Elemental Eye. Geoff and Sterich fell to the giant marauders.
The Priestess Wars
Back in the city, the remaining noble houses squabbled for dominance. The Tormtor and Kilsek houses were the chief claimants, and the Tormtor elected to reject Lolth and embrace the worship of Kiaransalee to challenge the Kilsek's claim that their long devotion to Lolth had earned them the right to supremacy. The houses of Everhate and Aleval allied with the Tormtor, as did a group of extraplanar githyanki. With the Kilsek faction was aligned the houses of Despana, Noquar, Godeep, as well as the illithids who naturally opposed their githyanki enemies (most likely these were the illithids of nearby Dra-Mur-Shou).
As chaos and savage battles overtook the Vault, hundreds of drow died, as did hundreds of their mercenaries.
The war was finally ended after Eclavdra abased herself before Lolth and underwent a horrible punishment to prove herself. Surviving unmarred, she made a pact with her goddess whose nature remains obscure, but evidently involved seducing and betraying the demon lord Graz'zt. In reward, Lolth intervened personally to end the war. Though turning her concentration to this conflict cost the Demon Queen of Spiders her holdings in Geoff and Sterich, the war was ended definitively. House Eilserv was reinstated in power and House Kilsek was banished, replaced with House Vae.
Most recently, House Xaniqos has risen to power by exterminating the last of House Everhate. Also, House Norquar was displaced by the up-and-coming House Shi'quos by using rather nefarious means, such as assassination and extortion, along with leveling accusations of treason.
The drow of Erelhei-Cinlu have gained a certain perspective from these tumultuous events, replacing overt military schemes with more subtle scheming, at least for the time being.
Erelhei-Cinlu lies in a huge cavern, over six miles long and nearly as wide, beneath the Hellfurnaces known as the Vault (also known as the Vault of the Drow). A huge chunk of turnkeoite on the ceiling of the Vault gives the appearance of an alien moon, whilst much smaller deposits of other exotic minerals give one the impression of an starry night sky.
Much of the Vault is filled with forests of lichens, crystalline growths, and fungi. Merchant estates are scattered south of the city, as are fortresses for the male and female orders of warriors. The city itself is built on the southern bank of the Pitchy Flow in the northern corner of the Vault. A single structure, the Flying Bridge, connects Erelhei-Cinlu with the other side of the Pitchy Flow. Across the river is a plateau containing the estates of the noble houses, and a tunnel leading to the Great Fane of Lolth.
The city of Erelhei-Cinlu is surrounded by a 30-foot-tall wall of seamless polished basalt, interrupted by 40-foot square towers at regular intervals. On the shores of the river, the wall is 50 feet high and without towers; the river wall is the exclusive domain of female soldiers.
The buildings of Erelhei-Cinlu are alien and strangely disturbing to human eyes, its streets narrow and crooked.
Erelhei-Cinlu boasts a population of some 27,000 souls. 40% of these are drow, 15% are troglodytes, 12% are bugbears, 10% are surface dwellers and undead, 4% are mind flayers, 4% are trolls, 4% are yugoloths, 3% are kuo-toans, 3% are demons, 1% are svirfneblin, 1% are orcs, and 1% are githyanki or githzerai.
The principal religion of Erelhei-Cinlu is the worship of Lolth, the Spider Queen, whose greatest temple on Oerth is the Great Fane. Other deities worshiped by the drow of Erelhei-Cinlu include Keptolo, who is Lolth's Eager Consort, Kiaransali, and Zinzerena. Keptolo's temple is found in the center of the Concourse, where the main streets of the city intersect like the nexus of a web. The priesthood of Kiaransali is dominant in the Ghetto of Chattels, though always under the supervision of Lolth's priestesses. The Great Fane of Lolth is located in a separate cavern; worshipers must leave the city and cross the Pitchy Flow and the nobles' estates to reach it. In the Ghetto of Foreigners, along the Street of Lies, the drow permit the temples of deities worshiped by other races, including Nerull, Boccob, Ralishaz, Incabulos, Erythnul, Beltar, Raxivort, Vecna, and Tharizdun, though the temple of Tharizdun is more of a museum than an active place of worship (Dragon #298, 77). After the resurrection of Orcus, one of his temples is said to be found here as well (Underdark (2010), 71).
The drow speak their own dialects of the Elven language mixed with Undercommon, the common tongue of the Underdark. Drow often use Elven and Undercommon interchangeably, creating an effective pidgin language at times. Other races who come to the Vault of the Drow, including duergar, illithids, humans, and others, have their own languages but Undercommon serves as the lingua franca for trade.
A road leading from nearby tunnels and caverns opens from a fissure in the Vault's southern wall, leading past a fortress called the Black Tower a mile north before reaching the city proper. All non-citizens must stop at the Tower to be inspected; they are given green silk cloaks to indicate that they have been cleared. Foreigners without these cloaks are normally killed or enslaved by the drow in short order.
Erelhei-Cinlu was created by Gary Gygax, and was first detailed in Vault of the Drow (1978). The name is a amalagam of the first few letters of the names of his children: Ernest, Elise, Heidi, Cindy, and Luke.
- Gygax, Gary. Descent into the Depths of the Earth. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1978.
- -----. Vault of the Drow. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1978.
- Gygax, Gary, David C. Sutherland III, David Cook, and Jeff Grubb. Queen of the Spiders. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1986.
- Heinsoo, Rob, and Andy Collins. Underdark. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2010.
- Marmell, Ari, Anthony Pryor, Robert J. Schwalb, and Greg A. Vaughan. Drow of the Underdark. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2007.