Vault of the Drow
The Drow Houses
A summary of the Council of Eight
Yethendrin has a number of drow noble houses which compete against each other for status and power. Only eight of them will hold sufficient rank to hold the stalactite citadels of the Council of Eight, their holdings hanging down from the ceiling of the Vault. The lesser houses have their mansions in the Spider Quarter, and glare covetously up at their betters, hoping to one day climb to such power.
A hundred years ago, the Council of Eight looked quite different, but the civil war among the drow changed everything, destroying Houses Khodamal and Despayne, and bringing House Drok under heavy censure. The current ranking of the Houses is as follows:
1: House Xeliat: Known for their religious extremism and isolationism, Xeliat’s position comes from their triumph during the civil war. Xeliat compete ferociously with each other, but also unite against their rivals with ferocious determination. They are the preeminent spider-breeders of the Vault, known also for their weaving, and the ceremonial services they provide to other Houses and common drow. The current High Priestess of Lolth originates from this House.
2: House Sekhema: Sekhema experienced a meteoric rise during the drow civil war, when the avatar of Lolth—the Empyrean—was born to one of their daughters. Shipwrights and importers, many Sekhema have had experience on the Sunless Sea, and those that haven’t have still reaped the profits of trade across the Underdark. Sekhema remains one of the largest land-holders in the Ghetto of Foreigners, and has an ample appetite for slaves to staff their businesses. When peace was achieved in the drow civil war—and it was determined that the Empyrean would have authority over non-drow sections of the city—many Sekhema became actively involved in other aspects of city administration and the Court of Grievances.
3: House Myzzerym: House Myzzerym’s slave-taking and willingness to trade with foreign races has catapulted them to great wealth, even as it has drawn the contempt of House Xeliat. Their alliances with the quaggoth, and business relationships with duergar, svirfneblin, orcs, and the occasional mind-flayer have kept their coffers full, allowing some younger members of the House to pursue more dilettante pastimes in the arts and theater. Often called the “House of the Manacle,” Myzzerym has a formidable presence both in the slave markets of Yethendrin (and even across the surface-world, via proxies) and the Ceremonial Arena, commanding an exceptional stable of gladiators.
4: House Tarhad: Millennia-ago, House Tarhad made early avenues in the Wormwrithings, the great purple worm caverns, an investment which reaped mineral wealth and exotic spices for centuries. Tarhad is known for its exceptional alchemists and craftsmen, and has turned profit into investment into more profit for their long history, retaining a place on the Council of Eight while other Houses rose and fell. They are notorious for their moneylending practices, and for their mastery of the magical defenses which keep the Vault protected from scrying and teleportation—and they use both of these devotions to hold the citizens of Yethendrin at ransom. Tarhad arguably has the most long-standing business relationships with other Houses, but never let a Tarhad take the weight of your purse, or you’ll find their costs commensurate with exactly how much you had left to spend.
5: House Vileghul: There is no House on the Council of Eight more proud of its military might than Vileghul; sadly, they often turn the scorn they receive from their fellow Great Houses against their lessers in the armies of the Vault, causing a mixture of envy and contempt among fellow drow. Vileghul is notorious for giving more of a say to its sons than other Houses, gently pricking the matriarchal traditions of the dark elves. Still, it is dangerous to underestimate Vileghul, who command the demonic mercenaries bound by ancient drow pacts (many of them forged by fallen House Despayne). Vileghul’s active role in the defense of the Vault also generates revenue from tax- and tithe-collecting, filling their coffers with foreign coin. The four Houses above them in the ranking watch Vileghul carefully for betrayal, but so far have not rooted out their plans.
6: House Ingena: Rising from the Lesser Houses only a century ago, proving their loyalty to the victors in the Vault’s civil war, House Ingena is only newly-establishing its power base on the Council of Eight. Their years languishing as a Lesser House formed strong relationships with the city’s duergar population, making them foremost among the Houses in the understanding of city works. Artisans and craftsmen abound in Ingena, which fosters academic pursuits and hard work while some of their fellow Houses languish only in depravity. Of course, Ingena torture devices are among the wares they sell, as these are still dark elves. House Ingena has bold designs on the expansion of Yethendrin, though the conservatives on the Council continue to block their hopes of new tunnels, additional trade outposts, and exploration of more of the Underdark. House Ingena’s new responsibilities since their rise include the administration of wells and waterworks, and the management of the House of Abandonment (where unwanted drow young are often discarded).
7: House Agronné: Also rising from the Lesser Houses in the ashes of the civil war to fill vacancies on the Council of Eight, Agronné would likely hold the Eighth Position were it not for the deliberate decision to demote House Drok as part of their punishment for actions during the war. The House’s interests are primarily involved with active animal husbandry and agriculture in the Vault and beyond it—including fishing, raising beasts of burden, and farming in the fungal forests of the Underdark. Agronné might be viewed in more contempt by the other Houses were they not also exceptional vintners and providers of psychedelic substances which appeal to the hedonistic dark elves; it seems that every House comes to them sooner or later, whether it’s for zurkhwood to build Sekhema ships, food for Xeliat spiders, or provisioning Vileghul outposts or Myzzerym excursions. Agronné has yet to flex its ambitions in terms of political advancement, and some fear that if it doesn’t do so soon, another House might destroy them simply as a training exercise.
8: House Drok-Phallan: It was seers of House Drok which predicted the birth of the Empyrean and the upset it would cause in dark elf traditions in the Vault, bringing the news to Houses Khodamal and Despayne. The civil war which followed resulted in the annihilation of those two Houses, though House Drok managed to save themselves by betraying their erstwhile allies and secretly aiding House Sekhema and the newborn Empyrean. Though Xeliat screamed for Drok’s destruction and Tarhad eyed the Drok libraries with envy, an accord was struck, and the Council of Eight’s majority vote resulted in demotion in ranking for House Drok and a forced intermarriage with a lesser House—Phallan—as a form of censure. House Drok has always had exceptional skill with arcane magic, producing a larger number of drow sorcerers than any other House, and their academic bent continues to this day: it is considered a sign of prestige to have a Drok mentor or tutor (though of course one must heap scorn upon them periodically to remind them of their former failure). Drok provides magical assistance to Vileghul on the maintenance of their demonic compacts, and has been generous with scrying intelligence for Myzzerym.
Members of House Phallan rose from the Lesser Houses as a result of the judgment on Drok, intermarrying into the existing House. While this meant a rise to the Council of Eight, it is sometimes considered that Phallan’s own matriarchs seethe at their “half-acceptance” to the halls of power. The House has long had a reputation for musical skill, a fondness for hunting and long delves into the wilds of the Underdark, and loyal service to the priesteshood of Lolth.
House Despayne: A destroyed Great House, who fell during the Vault’s civil war.
House Khodamal: A destroyed Great House, who fell during the Vault’s civil war.