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The First Dark Emperor by Imperator-Zor The First Dark Emperor by Imperator-Zor
To understand Drow society one must understand the lone individual who had done more than anyone else to shape it. Her name was Kylith, though this is rarely used outside of the context of historical documentation and during her reign to all but a select few in private and afterwards she was known by Title. To the Dark Elves she is Menaith Dorveithron (rough translation "The Spider, the one with Authority over All" in an archaic Drow dialect). To the High Elves she is the Handmaiden of Ruin, The Desolator and similar titles. But while men and dwarves have called her many things, one title had it's origin in the Third Empire and has stuck since, the First Dark Emperor.*

What is known of her early life was that she was born on the street in the now destroyed city of Kreiseliath at some time from 4337 to 4334 BIA. There she lived as an orphan running with a gang of her fellow street urchins until around the age of eight when they attempted to rob the estate of a middling artisan house and was captured by their guards, but displayed some considerable magical abilities for her age. Seeing her potential the ruling familiarch took her in as a ward and had her trained to make the most of her potential for the benefit of the family. She excelled at training, was treated fairly well and eventually was married off to one of the lesser sons of Kreiseliath's great houses. Before and during said marriage she had earned a reputation in a series of wars on the battlefield and acquired the admiration of many, most notably the rank and file of the army. It was in this time she mastered the art of cultivating connections and supporters. With a foothold in a Great Household in 4295 BIA she became a general, where she earned a reputation in several conflicts. In 4287 BIA she had achieved a seat on the ruling council of Kreiseliath as she gathered and cultivated a network of allies. Eventually she managed to get the office of Triarch by a narrow margin in 4281 BIA, made calls for war and set up policies to strengthen their state while being confrontational in foreign policy. She made some powerful enemies, one of which sent an assassin to dispatch her. Said assassin was captured, interrogated and (using a variety of claims, some legitimate and some false) she declared him and several more of his followers as enemies of the state and ordered forces to deal with them. They fought back with their own troops, but she raised the ante by having the support of several accomplished commanders at her side as well as a few well connected rabble rousers to get support from the poor Dark Elves of Kreiseliath. She manipulated this into a successful coup, which she followed up with a Purge of her rivals (among them her husband's family) and installed herself as the absolute ruler of Kreiseliath. She took up the personal banner of a Spider, a creature who lurked at the center of her vast web sensing any distubance and devouring any prey that came her way.

This was the age of the Student Men and in this time the relationships between the Dark Elves and Humans, Dwarves and High Elves were peaceful if never cordial. Open trade was common between all parties. There were conflicts between human states and Dark Elvish states and did have something of a reputation for fearsomeness and ruthlessness on the battlefield but said wars usually ended with peace treaty and Conflicts between Drow States were often as intense. Though they might have shared a common heritage each Drow state was an entirely sovereign entity. All kept slaves, though slavery was common practice among the Student Men, the slaves that were kept also included some dark elves and slaves existed alongside human subjects. The High Elves encouraged an idea of "The Five Realms": The High Elves ruled Ivannas, the Wood Elves had their forest kingdoms, the Dwarves their Underground cities and mountain domains, Humans the majority of the land and the Dark Elves had their right to their small territories. Even so they also encouraged antipathy towards "The Exiles", forever barred from their realms save for a few trade districts in ports and the rare ambassador allowed to the High King's hall. They were deemed to be a degenerate line, a notion which they promoted both subtly and overtly.

Over the next half century she worked hard in unifying the then fifteen Drow States. Kreiseliath was the largest of the Drow States but it had been among the least warlike. In a decade she had mustered her houses and her state into raising a massive army. At the same time she played politics, forging alliances with Valnothron and Janilonas and gradually waging wars which one by one brought the other twelve states under her authority. She was adept at manipulating both the Great Houses and both appealing to the lower stratas of Drow Society as well. Human subjects were gradually put under tighter restrictions and enslaved while customs relating to manumission were made more and more stringent. After a series of subject revolts, she enslaved humanity. All the while she commissioned scribes, poets, artists and philosophers to expound on her ideals: the Dark Elves were the highest form of Elfkind, refined by the hardship of exile and adversity as a critical part of the ascent of life. They could thrive beyond enchanted realms and still retained the power of sorcery and magecraft. The High Elves in contrast had elected to embalm their society and embalm the world through their proxies. Men and Dwarves were beasts of burden who's place was to obey and for them rigid submission to masters was their ultimate role who needed to be brought under yoke and in the crucible of battle, which would forge greater strength still. Impulses such as compassion or generosity were denounced as weakness which encouraged dependancy and weakened drow society. All with a single ruler in place to ensure that the Master Race's efforts are not squandered against each other. These ideas were in truth not unknown beforehand among the Drow, but they were not yet dominant nor codified in such a manner. As time went on they were not only asserted, but enforced as dissenters were gradually assassinated and their works destroyed. Over the next 50 years one by one the other Drow States gradually capitulated by war or diplomacy. Once she had all fifteen under her control she began marshaling up armies. When hundreds of thousands of Drow Warriors backed by even more proto-janissaries were unleashed in 4209 BIA, the vast swath of destruction they wrought was enough to convince many human rulers that the end of days had come. For the civilization of the student men, this was not too far off as this war (or series of wars depending on how you look at it) would not be far off. Her actions ultimately convinced the High Elvish King that the only way to deal with the Dark Elves was extermination.

Her rule was a ruthless one, both to the countless millions slayed or enslaved by her armies and also her subject. Competition was encouraged in all fields of Drow Society and was often quite cutthroat. Great houses fell and new houses rose in their place. Above all she favored warriors and promoted the notion that the greatest test of one's abilities was on the battlefield, though she also valued magecraft and the management of estates. Artisans (especially those who who were not involved in military production or certain high end fields) were viewed with disdain as manual labor was seen to be the domain of slaves by her regime. The same was the case with merchants for they only moved stuff about, though she recognized the necessity of both. Families were encouraged and she did give birth to a number of children to reinforce this point, but she also madated the policy of Threshing where households were required to Discard a certain number of children they produce (somewhere between one in twelve and one in thirty two). She maintained an inner circle of fourteen ministers which were always in competition with each other and maintained agents to oversee the other fifteen states. She had no problems with retreat when that was the best call to make, but she despised cowardice and hated treason against the Dark Elvish race (surrender). There were numerous attempts at assassinating her, none succeeded. In part because she had a skilled force of bodyguard, not that she lacked for combat abilities. She was a master with a blade and was almost always clad in the finest runic armor, but more important were her magical abilities.

Her abilities were from childhood exceptional, but she always looked into ways to improve them. There are legends of this, but the most common and well substantiated of them was the regular consumption of enkindling potions. These potions, expensive and difficult to produce can grant a regular human a modest degree of magical ability. Wealthy nobles could afford one of these, but the Dark Emperor could and did have hundreds of them made which she regularly took. Thousands of problematic slaves were burned alive in great Essence Confligratioria to provide the Mana for these elixirs. The end result was a being that could throw an arc of lightning from her hands that could cut down a score of men in a second, fly through the air, throw around rocks the size of cattle with telekenesis, reach down into a pile of iron filings and ash and produce a sword with some basic runes and dominate the minds of others by grabbing their heads for a few seconds either to put them under her thrall or lock their minds in a cycle of agony. She had also managed to stop aging, as several powerful wizards have done. Despite this there were a few specialized fields of magic which she could not not master, most notably the art of Life Weaving, which her servants used to create Giant Spiders, Goblins, Orcs, Shadowsteeds and Nightdrakes. The one area which she never dabbled in was Necromancy and made a note of having necromancers publicly burned to death section by section. Never the less she did have a concern about her own mortality and while she could delay aging in her own body she was interested in various more permanent solutions. According to a few Drow accounts of her life, the one thing more than anything else that she despised was impotence, especially in herself.

Eventually she met her end in 3802 BIA after an event known to the Dark Elves as The Great Hypocrisy gave the High Elves the opportunity to muster a massive siege on Kreiseliath in a last ditch attempt to end the war. A hundred thousand High Elvish warriors, a hundred thousand dwarves, four hundred thousand humans and five hundred Dragons mustered for the siege which overcame the walls and watchtowers around it's perimeter and then got to the central city. There she joined the frey as her city burned. She cut down at least one Great Dragon herself along with several smaller ones as well as killing as many as ten thousand of the invaders herself. Despite this even her reserves of mana were not infinite and strikes from thousands of arrows, spears, axes and swords that were either runic or had been given a runebreaker buff took their tole. Her armor failed her even as she forged replacement parts on the go from fallen foes and eventually she was overwhelmed and killed. Who delivered the Killing Blow is a matter of contention, the Elves said that she was done in by a shaft of Telsiel, the maiden of the Ivory Bow. The Dwarves claim it was either Inger Ruhinson the Forgehearted or Gorthern Twinaxe. There are a number of human heroes who have claims on them doing the deed as well as various tales of team ups. What is known was that when she finally was done in her body exploded in a burst of fire light and lightning.

Ultimately this caused the end of the War of Four Centuries, for even though there were still twelve Drow states standing they soon turned on each other to try to claim Dominance for themselves. Three more individuals would claim the title of Dark Emperor afterwards (two by acclamation of the other states, one by blood succession) but none of them had either the drive, raw magical prowess or success. She is still held in reverence, especially among the more conservative warrior households and the laws that she wrote are for the most part viewed as being close to sacrosanct.

*Black Emperor is also used.
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December 17, 2017
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