Its Good to be Evil!
The first Drow city in all of Underkiln (or so the story goes), Valsharess’ Zenphe fills every niche of a massive vault that marks the crossroads of four major Underdark trading routes. These tunnels are ever guarded by Drow warriors, monstrous spiders, stealthy bands of assassins, and worse. Valsharess’ Zenphe is the capital of drow politics and theocracy in Underkiln.
The most prominent houses in the city are the First Four Houses: Baenre, Barrison Del’Armgo, Faen Tlabbar, and Xorlarrin; but the Dominant House is Baenre, which enjoys the support of Houses Mizzrym and Duskryn. High Priestess Sikudis Rinteith Rilyn Baenre is the Arch-Matron and claims rulership over all Drow; she directly controls other cities through her Governesses, notably Inthuul Velve in Olath Jess and Elg’ cahl Rah in Lanke Darla.
Shar Ktonos Rilyn Baenre (Mind Slayer of House Baenre), brother of Sikudis Rinteith (the Arch-Matron), is High Commander over all the Drow armies; he keeps his Del’Armgo and Faen Tlabbar advisors close at hand in Valsharess’ Zenphe at all times. The citadel-town Olath Jess, under the command of Venorik Aphyon Rilyn Mizzryn (Silent Death of House Mizzryn), is loyal to him. However, his influence over the Fey-Branche dominated city of Lanke Darla, with its strong Del’Armgo support, is somewhat less; so he concentrates his spies there. Commander Aphyon Tizzin Rilyn Baenre (The Death Lizard of Baenre) is head of the military force in Lanke Darla; she is supported by Fey-Branche and Del’Armgo officers, and she in turn supports the Arch-Matron’s governess. Of course, as a Baenre, she fully cooperates with Shar Ktonos.
The School of Wizardry is based in Valsharess’ Zenphe and at its head is the revered father of both Shar Ktonos and Sikudis Rinteith, Qos Vress’lve Rilyn Baenre (The Dread Claw of Baenre). Not many know how old Qos Vress’lve is but he has plotted behind the scenes of the Baenre family for centuries and his power is legendary.
Lolth is the main deity and indeed the only deity worshipped openly in Valsharess’ Zenphe. However, there are rumours of a secret good cult of Alessa the Creator having some members and it is widely believed that worship of Leoric the Trickster has infiltrated some of the male population of the city. Slaves of other races may worship their own gods in private but open public worship of any of these is punishable by death. All matters religious are presided over by Sikudis Rinteith or one of her nine high priestesses, advised behind the scenes by summoned Yochlols (monstrous handmaidens of Lolth).
Valsharess’ Zenphe is not as great a trading city as Lanke Darla but it handles much more trade than Olath Jess and is also the closest route and hence main trading partner with the Duergar city of Snivelgarth. Valsharess’ Zenphe is the Drow Capital of the Slave Trade for two main reasons. There is not too much slave trade between the Lanke Darla and the Dwarves and surface dwellers, so this sort of trade is suppressed in that area. The Slave Death Rate in Valsharess’ Zenphe is so high (due in part to the whims of the priestesses in exacting their rituals and punishments) that continual replenishment is needed.
Major Houses of the Drow (In order of station)
Baenre, Barrison Del’Armgo, Faen Tlabbar, Xorlarrin, Mizzrym, Fey-Branche, Tuin Tarl, Duskryn
Picture artofhagan.com for WoTC
DM’s Note: much thanks to twiggs for writing this up. Oh, and to everyone else, this sort of thing is a great way to get in-game bonuses; just please be sure to clear stuff with me first. If you’re not sure, just create a stub page, and put the “to be reviewed” stuff in a player secret.