The Last Home of the Elves
Monday, September 15, 2008
For the last several months of Pathfinder's Second Darkness Adventure Path we've been neck-deep in drow, with one terrible question looming over our heads all the while: With such a history of fantastic dark elven cities, where do the drow of Golarion actually live? The answer started as a sketch on a single piece of graph paper and grew into a tape and grid work monstrosity that would dominate my dining room table for several weeks. From this ever-expanding madness eventually developed a vast underground metropolis I eventually dubbed Zirnakaynin, the Last Home of the Elves.
While the city of the drow won't completely take shape until Pathfinder #16, players at last Gen Con's Ascension of the Drow Pathfinder Society event got a first look at the massive, tri-cavern subterranean domain. For everyone who missed out on Ascension, though, here's a sneak peek of the heart of the drow race, their stockade and sanctuary: Zirnakaynin.
None, not even the drow, can say how long their ancestors wandered the darkness, but for more than 8,000 years settlements have stood among the severe cliffs of Cocyrdavarin, the great cavern that now holds Zirnakaynin. The first walls of the city rose upon the cavern's highest scarp, and like a glacier slowly crashed down upon the lower slopes. Over time, each level took on a distinct name and characteristics.
Atop the crowning plateau stand the ancient bladed walls of the Last City, the densely packed heart of Zirnakaynin, where the drow first clustered in fear of the dark. Today, it is home to the city's wealthiest and most powerful non-nobles, cruel artisans and performers, and purveyors of all manner of decadences. At the plateau's westernmost edge, amid gardens of dark stone, stands the topless tower of Ileccinoc, the seat of the city's ruling council, the many-spired column that looms over all Zirnakaynin.
Beneath the heights of the Last City sprawls Arsyrvhar, the Pale March, home to most of they city's drow population, many of its everyday shops and residences, and the markets of Ovessia. Mingling among the common drow, merchants from Zirnakaynin's slave cities and strange locales throughout the Darklands travel here to bargain and curry the favor of drow nobles. Those traders whose wares are considered unworthy for elven consumption are banished from the bustling district to the slum-bazaar of Drashes in Ghenavoc.
The lowest span of Cocyrdavarin, the Pit of Ghenavoc hosts the most worthless of drow society: the low-born, the deformed, the city's few freed slaves, and foreign residents. Among workhouses, slave pens, drug dens, and warehouses, the least of Zirnakaynin's society scrape out pitiful lives.
F. Wesley Schneider
Pathfinder Managing Editor