Life and Death with the Sulzthul

In document The Tome of Drow Lore (Page 130-137)

The Sulzthul reproduce more quickly than do other drow.

Whether this is something done to them during their transformation by the aboleth or whether it is merely a lingering effect of the intensive breeding programme the aboleth began on them, the Sulzthul are unsure.

Without any religion in their society, the Sulzthul have no access to healing magics, refusing even to trade for them with other drow, as they do not want the taint of religion entering their culture. The Sulzthul have compensated for the lack of healing magic as best they can by learning the healing properties of the underwater plants of the Underdeep. Such poultices cannot replace the simplicity and efficacy of a healing spell or potion, but they are effective nonetheless.

When Sulzthul die, the body is carried out of the water by the family and cremated on dry land.

Clothing

The Sulzthul wear little in the way of clothing. The hides of most beasts would be quickly ruined by constant immersion in water, and most fabrics would simply get in the way of swimming.

What clothing they do wear is made of fish skin, usually with the scales still attached. This delicate-looking material is

known as ‘thryssal’ and is actually quite strong, though not useful as armour. Cunningly cut and crafted to be nearly skin-tight, clothing made of thryssal (roughly translated to ‘scaled skin’) provides the Sulzthul with some measure of protection against sharp rocks and other minor hazards without impeding their speed or agility in the water.

Thryssal is always white when first constructed, the same colour as all the fish in the Underdeep. However, it takes dye well, and the Sulzthul have learned to create a myriad of colours using plants and minerals easily available to them. The colours will eventually leech out after long exposure to water, but Sulzthul do not consider this a bad thing. The thryssal can be quickly dyed again, creating an entirely new pattern of colours. The Sulzthul tend to enjoy a multitude of bright hues, which are often garishly clashing to the eyes of other races.

Through trade and raiding, the Sulzthul have acquired more traditional fabric clothing which they keep available but only wear when outside the water for any significant period of time. Doused with water, such clothing will remain wet for hours, keeping the Sulzthul comfortable as they journey on dry land.

Obviously, footwear is unknown among the Sulzthul. In the water, it would be a foolish and impeding weight to carry, and even on land they will not wear such things unless some strange set of circumstances demanded it.

Combat

Sulzthul prefer to strike from the water against a land-based foe using hooks, nets and spears to pull their enemies into the water and drown them. Though they do not use bows or crossbows, they are adept with the sling and javelin.

Obviously, life in the underwater environment of the Sulzthul precludes the use of most metals for weapons and armour. However, the aquatic drow have compensated for that loss in several ways. They are skilled in making weapons, particularly knives and spears, from the bones of the mammoth fish that troll the waters of the Underdeep.

Additionally, they frequently trade with House Pelshothe for the ceramic weapons and armour that House has mastered the making of.

The preferred armour of the Sulzthul is formed of aboleth skin, stripped from the body and specially treated to create a pliable suit of slippery leather. Though it makes excellent armour, light and highly protective, it is all but useless to anyone not of the Sulzthul, as it cannot remain out of the water for any significant length of time without becoming irrevocably ruined, eventually becoming as thin and fragile as paper.

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Though the Sulzthul constantly conspire to keep the locations of their cities secret, they know it is impossible to ensure no one ever discovers them. Indeed, there have been several wars with the aboleth in the centuries since the aquatic drow won their freedom, wars which have sometimes spilled into the homes of the Sulzthul. For protection against the aboleth, and against any other aquatic attacker, the Sulzthul vigorously guard the borders of their territories, employing both their well-trained soldiers and the deadly bloodridge eels, which they have domesticated to serve as guard animals of the deep. Additionally, all means of entry into a Sulzthul community of any appreciable size will surely be laid with dozens or hundreds of magical traps, ranging from mere alarms to cascading series of symbols programmed to activate at the approach of any non-Sulzthul.

In the event of a large-scale attack on a Sulzthul city by an air-breathing enemy, the aquatic drow will, naturally, first attempt to drive the invaders out. Should the enemy be determined, however, the Sulzthul have the option of merely retreating to the depths of their city to wait the invaders out.

The Sulzthul can withstand the pressure of up to almost 1,000 feet of water, the crushing weight of which will kill most landbound enemies. For those who continue to press the attack, which usually requires magical assistance for any land-dwelling assailants, a few volleys of dispel magic spells from the aquatic drow sorcerers should be enough to make them break off their assault.

Culture

The Sulzthul’s long enslavement by the aboleth has informed every aspect of their society today. It is a memory that still burns in the minds of every one of the aquatic drow, though none are alive today who actually endured it. The Sulzthul fear a return to such an existence above all other things.

They trust no one outside their own race, and even have a difficult enough time trusting other Sulzthul.

The Sulzthul culture is built around strength and independence, of both the individual and of the race. Traits and skills that work for the benefit of the people are highly prized, be it strength of arms, sorcerous power or talent at some particular craft. Each Sulzthul is expected to be able to fend for himself, to have some degree of ability in everything from finding food to fighting a battle. Weakness and sloth are not tolerated in Sulzthul society, as such traits weaken the race as a whole.

Though the Sulzthul have struggled to rid themselves of everything thrust upon them by the aboleth, there are some things which have not changed. One is the altered, mutated form they inhabit. They are not grateful to the aboleth for the changes worked upon them, but neither are

they ashamed of what they are. It is simply a fact of their life and something they accept.

Another remnant of the aboleth control is not a physical thing, but social. The aboleth divided the Sulzthul into three groups, castes which are still strongly demarcated in their society today. These castes are the warrior caste, the craftsman caste and the gathering caste. Among the Sulzthul, it is the warrior caste which guards the borders and ventures forth to war, the craftsman caste which does everything from create thryssal to performing the intricate dances of the Sulzthul and the gathering caste which tends to the fields of underwater vegetation, nets fish for food and collects the oyster pearls commonly used for currency among the aquatic drow. The caste to which an individual belongs indicates that individual’s primary function within society, but in no way indicates an ignorance of all the ways of the other castes. As mentioned earlier, every Sulzthul is expected to be able to make his own way in the world, alone if need be. A member of the gathering caste will certainly have some knowledge of battle, just as a member of the warrior caste will be able to find his own food.

Additionally, the lawful evil mindset of the aboleth rubbed off somewhat on the Sulzthul, muting but not replacing their chaotic nature, making neutral evil the most common alignment of their culture.

Economy

The economy of most of the Sulzthul is rudimentary at best. Their needs are few and their contact with other races is sparse. Most communities of Sulzthul are fairly small, and tend to exist using a simple barter system. Some very small groups dispense with even that, merely sharing all things equally among the community, but the suspicious nature of the Sulzthul makes such an arrangement difficult and when more than a few dozen are gathered together, it becomes impossible.

There are several cities of the Sulzthul scattered in large lakes or small seas in isolated areas of the Underdeep. The size of these settlements precludes the Sulzthul from being as insular as they would normally wish to be, forcing them to engage in trade with other races.

Trade with the Sulzthul is a difficult process. As they will not allow any other race to enter the areas of their cities and settlements, it is impossible to directly approach them about opening trade without triggering an armed conflict.

Anyone wishing to open relations with the Sulzthul on a more peaceful note is limited to making such aspirations well known, and hoping the Sulzthul in turn contact them about beginning trade.

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The only reason anyone would go to such trouble is that trade with the Sulzthul can be very profitable indeed. The Sulzthul have ready access to a number of goods they dredge from the deeps, most of which can otherwise only be obtained through the use of water-breathing magic. The few seas and more common deep lakes of the Underdeep are among the most fertile areas of the world beneath the surface, home to a multitude of edible plants for which the landbound drow are quite eager, as such things provide them a break from their otherwise dull diet of mushrooms and are less expensive (though also not so prized) as food brought from the surface. Additionally, the Sulzthul cultivate large beds of Underdeep oysters from which they harvest black pearls, an expensive and highly sought item in many drow cities. Even the thryssal the aquatic drow wear is valuable as a trade item, for in recent years the other drow have grown enamoured of its shimmering look and sensuous feel.

Among themselves, Sulzthul use pearls as currency, but rely instead on a simple barter system when dealing with other drow.

Education

The primary education for children of Sulzthul is in skills needed for survival and knowledge of how to serve in the caste to which the child was born.

Many Sulzthul are illiterate. Most have no need of such knowledge, and the Sulzthul have very limited access to the written word anyway. Paper, books and other perishables are kept in a dry cave, and are rare enough that they certainly cannot be wasted teaching every Sulzthul how to read. Rarer still are the books of metal pages, usually gold, with the words engraved on the thin sheets. These books can survive indefinitely beneath the waves, but there are pitifully few of them.

The Sulzthul make up for their lack of the written word with a strong oral tradition, concerning mostly the torments the aquatic drow endured while enslaved by the aboleth and the heroic tale of their rebellion and dearly bought freedom. Any Sulzthul can recite large sections of this at will, so firmly is it embedded in his mind from childhood.

The constant retelling of this oral history helps keep the Sulzthul hatred for the aboleth and all their servants burning brightly with the passing of years.

The children of the craftsman caste are given the best education of the three castes, as it is through this caste that trade with other races is conducted. A child of the craftsman caste will likely be taught how to read, and will also be tutored in a simple understanding of mathematics.

Engineering

The cities and communities of the Sulzthul are widely varied, depending on the number of Sulzthul in any given settlement and the relative safety of the area.

Small groups of aquatic drow, especially those in an area near populations of other races, will frequently dwell in natural caves beneath the water’s surface, bringing air down on a daily basis in large bladders and storing it at the highest point of the cave’s ceiling. They live with a minimum amount of impact on the local environment, not out of a concern for nature, but rather to conceal any evidence of their existence.

Larger communities of Sulzthul, those which have existed for centuries and boast a population numbering into the thousands, and which are living in relative safety in areas of the Underdeep inhabited by no other races, are a very different story. These cities achieve an incredible, ethereal beauty which is nonetheless alien in appearance to any race that does not call the water home.

The Sulzthul will typically use the existing geography of an area when building their cities, blending their buildings and homes in with the natural formations of rock and coral to achieve a flowing, harmonious effect. They prefer to build vertically where it is possible to do so, be it in a rocky cliff plunging towards the distant bottom of an underground abyss, or wrapped around a fluted column of natural stone in the midst of a great Underdeep lake. Bridges, walkways and streets are completely absent, as the Sulzthul have no need of such things, although in some cities there are the graceful arcs of supporting columns and structures that serve to buttress and reinforce. In areas where such vertical building is impossible, the Sulzthul like to make their homes in caverns with multiple pools joined by connecting caves, much like their original settlement at Uthzo Tesslath.

The Sulzthul always make their homes in a body of water with at least some discernable current that will constantly wash the people’s waste downstream or out into the sea.

They vastly prefer areas of bare rock, and will not live in a rude cave gouged out of mud or clay, nor will they take up residence in an area of still or silt-filled water.

Sulzthul are adept at tunnelling underwater, a process aided immensely by the race’s sorcerers. Cities of the aquatic drow are marked by dozens, even hundreds of caves excavated from the bare rock. The caves have multiple chambers in them, the number, size and depth of which is usually indicative of the family’s status within the community.

Such dwellings would seem incredibly sparse to the eyes of a land-bound race, should anyone from such a race ever see them. The Sulzthul have none of the furnishings and trappings of everyday life taken for granted by those who

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make their homes on dry land. Chairs, beds, tables, all are noticeably absent, as the Sulzthul have no use for any of them.

Every city will have several ‘dry caves’ used for everything which simply cannot be done underwater, from cooking to tanning thryssal to storing items like books or anything else which cannot survive immersion. These caves are often on the surface or very near it, connected to the air above by a narrow chimney to carry the smoke away. As they are commonly the most exposed area of any Sulzthul settlement, they are not connected in any way to the remainder of the community.

The greatest of the Sulzthul cities is Ssil, originally founded by the descendants of Ssil na’Than after leaving their first settlement at Uthzo Tesslath and named in his honour. Built around a wide, fluted column of rock in the midst of a deep lake, it is home to nearly 20,000 Sulzthul.

The pillar of stone itself is pierced with hundreds of multi-chambered caves dug out of the rock by the Sulzthul for use as homes and businesses. The city is constantly lit by literally thousands of luminescent jellyfish of varying colours swimming lazily along with the currents, creatures whose dangerous sting has no effect on the peculiar skin of the Sulzthul. Fresh air for the Sulzthul is provided by several tiny one-way gates to the elemental plane of air which the sorcerers of the Sulzthul constructed at the base of the city. Air pours from these gates in a constant stream, jetting towards the surface to be caught in the smooth, scalloped overhangs at the entrance to the Sulzthul caves.

Ranging out from the city in all directions are the farmlands of Ssil. The rich soil at the bottom of the lake, combined with the light provided by the jellyfish, allow the Sulzthul to grow and harvest a variety of underwater plants. Most of these plants are edible, making them a valuable trade item in the Underdeep. Others are used for everything from dyes to healing poultices.

Entertainment

Life beneath the waves has dramatically altered the kinds of entertainment available to the Sulzthul. Many amusements common on dry land are either impractical or simply impossible here. What little music they make, for example, is limited to simple percussion instruments. The Sulzthul can hear perfectly well underwater, but most instruments simply will not function when wet.

Gladiatorial contests are much less common among the Sulzthul than they are in other drow cultures. Sulzthul warriors frequently compete against one another to hone their abilities, but the aquatic drow do not have the same ease of access to slaves and other unwilling combatants other drow enjoy. Water-breathing sentient races are comparatively few, the aboleth being the most significant in the Underdeep, and the Sulzthul slaughter those creatures the moment they find one, they do not bring it back to a drow city for gladiatorial combat. Further, a water-based race is not as easily confined as a land-bound race; while a simple pit or ornate coliseum can contain land-bound combatants, it is impossible to build such a structure underwater than can prevent an unwilling combatant from fleeing.

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The exception to this is the rare occasion the Sulzthul capture land-bound trespassers in their domain. Those not killed when captured will often be used as gladiatorial combatants, equipped with a water breathing spell (and little else) and pitted against an array of the finest warriors the Sulzthul have to offer.

The most remarkable form of entertainment the Sulzthul have is dancing. Not confined by gravity, the aquatic elves have created amazingly intricate and complex dances involving dozens of performers floating and swimming in

The most remarkable form of entertainment the Sulzthul have is dancing. Not confined by gravity, the aquatic elves have created amazingly intricate and complex dances involving dozens of performers floating and swimming in

In document The Tome of Drow Lore (Page 130-137)