The Mighty Nein are heading into the neighboring country of Xhorhas, a land shrouded in mystery and fear, in order to rescue Yeza. Ahead, we lay out everything we know so far about the Dwendalian Empire’s foe, and Yasha’s homeland. We’ve compiled a relevant quote compendium that you can also read through here.
Xhorhas exists in the central/southeastern side of the continent of Wildemount as part of the Wynandir region. Like any region of its size, its landscape isn’t uniform, containing badlands and swamps alike. Probably more so than any region we’ve seen in Exandria, Xhorhas was profoundly shaped by the events of the Age of Arcanum and the Calamity. We discussed this history in our Attack on Zadash Context post and Historical Context to Siff’s Underground Lab post.
To summarize, in the beginning, the gods created elves, humans, and dwarves, and then the other races. Thanks to a crisis involving the Primordials and how to handle their destruction, a rift formed between the gods. Some gave into madness and warped their creation. After a struggle, those Betrayer Gods were locked away. During the Age of Arcanum, the Betrayer Gods were loosed on Exandria by a power-hungry mage, and made the city of Ghor Dranas in Xhorhas their home. By their evil nature, they warped the land and the creatures in it. After their attack on Vasselheim, the Prime Deities and their followers struck back, sparking the conflict known as The Calamity. The Prime Deities and their followers eventually destroyed Ghor Dranas before the Prime Deities dragged all the Betrayer Gods with them behind the Divine Gate.
The Spider Queen and the Drow
Before the the Betrayer Gods were locked away the first time, one of the gods that decided to focus their energy on twisting the peoples of Exandria to their will was the Spider Queen (Lolth). She convinced a group of elves to follow her, and they took on some of her visage: purple skin and silver hair. This branch of elves became known as the drow. The drow were not originally underground-dwelling; that happened sometime after their transformation (Lolth blames the Archeart, their original patron god, for driving them underground).
When the Betrayer Gods reemerged and gathered their armies, many of these drow were drawn to Ghor Dranas to fight for their queen. During the Calamity, the Stormlord impaled the Spider Queen, leaving her armies leaderless (and contributing to the Betrayer Gods’ ultimate defeat). For this, the Spider Queen hates him. The only god she truly fears is the Chained Oblivion, who drives her favored drow towards madness and away from her.
After the Calamity, the drow and others who had been drawn to Ghor Dranas went underground to reform their kingdom there. In the ensuing years, their worship of the Spider Queen and the Chained Oblivion greatly decreased in favor of a new false god, The Luxon.
Kryn Empire vs. Dwendalian Empire
From what we have learned about Xhorhas so far, the “wastes” of its land and Ghor Dranas are ruled by Empress Leylas Kryn, a drow that has been in power for upwards of 600 years. That means she began her rule 235 years after the Divergence of the gods from the Prime Material Plane. She’s old, even by elf standards. Elves can live upwards of 750 years and reach adulthood at around 100 years old.
The Dwendalian Empire has kept a mistrustful separation from Xhorhas, setting up garrisons along the Brokenveil Bluffs and Ashkeeper Peaks, which provide a natural barrier between the two kingdoms. Even as the Empire continued to make land grabs further west and south into the Julous Dominion, they steered clear of Xhorhas.
The people in the Dwendalian Empire are very racist against anyone from Xhorhas, especially from the Kryn empire. The DE citizens freely use the slur “crick” to describe them, stemming from the sound created by their chitinous armor that sings like crickets when they charge into battle. They play a card game called The Crick-Queen’s Call. The banned book, The Courting of the Crick, looked on the eponymous Xhorhasian assassin as someone in need of rescuing by someone from the right side of the mountains. Without necessarily being familiar with Kryn empire life, the author wrote about how monstrous society is over there, detailing how everyone from there were manipulative, power hungry savages. And when the assassin was found out by the Empire and put to death, it was considered fitting. When Beau told Expositor Dairon about the Nein’s encounter with Thuron, one of the infiltrators from the Kryn empire, she immediately discouraged Beau from showing pity on him or anyone from there.
Prior to the major attack on the Ashguard Garrison, the citizens of the Dwendalian Empire did have a legitimate gripe with the Kryn Empire: they have increasingly been kidnapping children from cities along the border, like Nogvurot. Throughout history, there have been skirmishes along the border, but nothing like what is going on now. Sometimes, creatures that are like nothing found in the Dwendalian Empire cross over the border. Kylre, the “devil toad” nergaliid, was one such individual, who maneuvered his way into Gustav’s circus.
Thuron and his compatriot were sent by Empress Leylas to retrieve a Xhorhasian artifact that had been taken by the Dwendalian Empire, the beacon. Much is still unknown about them, but it was important enough to the Empress that she sent them far into the Empire to retrieve it, and if meant toppling one of the biggest structures in Zadash, all the better. Thuron insisted that the beacon, and others like it, were responsible for giving the Kryn the possibility of rebirth, with the goal of ultimate perfection.
The Kryn also use the magic associated with it, dunamancy, it in their combat strategies to attack swiftly and unpredictably. So far, the Nein have discovered that looking into a beacon for a minute lets them see various versions of themselves, something that resembles the woven tapestry of fates lorded over by the Matron of Ravens, and then grants them a fragment of possibility for the day. As mentioned in the notes the M9 recently found on dunamancy, it’s entirely possible the Matron of Ravens isn’t 100% on board with the Kryn’s apparent interference in her domain.
Sometime in the last two years, the Cerberus Assembly reached out to Yeza for his superior alchemy skills. They needed his help to experiment on one of the beacons to distill dunamis into tangible vials, with the eventual goals of refining it and the process to create it without needing a beacon, allowing untrained soldiers to utilize dunamancy en-masse. As experiments go, sometimes the side effects were unpredictable, and 1-2 months ago, a dumanis field encompassed a portion of Felderwin, making the residents feel ill.
The beacon in Felderwin drew the attention of the Kryn, who had been searching for the ones stolen from them by the Cerberus Assembly. Three weeks ago, the Kryn soldiers attacked Felderwin. The assault was two-fold: take back the beacon, and hurt the Empire with which they were at war in the meantime. To get there, they followed an underground cavern system, potentially using an underground river as quicker transport. Once reaching the edges of Felderwin, they used worm-like creatures as big as 10 feet wide to dig their tunnels before popping out of the ground to initiate their attack. As Jeff indicated, Yeza’s shop was their last stop in Felderwin, apparently getting what they came for- the Beacon and Yeza- and taking off through their tunnels to go back to Ghor Dranas. Yeza was taken by four Kyrn soldiers in particular. It is unknown if the entire army was heading back to Ghor Dranas, or if a small party was taking Yeza and the beacon back and the rest continuing on elsewhere.
Yasha is from a region much further south of Ghor Dranas called Iothia Moorland. Unlike the northern badlands (“the wastes”), her home is swampy. From what we saw in her vision from the Stormlord, the people in her clan weren’t necessarily drow (her wife had brown eyes, the person who complimented her had red skin and wings). Her people almost never dared go near Ghor Dranas because of how horrible it and its people were. Her people hunt and fight, and do not consider themselves part of the Kryn empire. Notably for Yasha is that she is now a follower of the Stormlord, who you’ll recall from earlier is the Spider Queen’s greatest enemy, so Yasha has even more reason to distance herself from those who live in Ghor Dranas.