Hlondeth (City of Serpents)
Population: 453,600 (humans 84% [Chondathans 56%, Turami 41%, Shaarans 3%], kobolds 15%, yuan-ti 1%)
Religions: Cult of the Dragon, Ilmater, Llira, Talona, Talos, Tempus, Tyr, Varae (Sseth [now Set])
Imports: Slaves, timber, weapons
Exports: Basalt, green marble, seafood, statuary, wines
Alignment: N, LN, LG, LE, NE, CE
The City of Serpents lies on the northern shore of the Vilhon Reach, opposite Sespech, in the shadow of Mount Ugruth. This port city is linked to Alaghôn via the Halondar, and to Ormath via the Pikeman's Folly. Hlondeth claims all the lands within 50 miles of the city's walls, including a dozen or so minor villages and seemingly endless vineyards.
Life and Society
Despite the omnipresent influence of the serpentfolk, life in the City of Serpents is not unlike that in other cities along the shores of the Vilhon Reach. Trade is king, ritualized combat is glorified, nature (particularly all things serpentine) is accorded its due, and arcane spellcasters are regarded with suspicion. Members of the kobold underclass are treated as either slaves or vermin.
Hlondeth is ruled with a light hand by Dediana Extaminos (LE female halfblood yuan-ti sorcerer 10], the matriarch of House Extaminos, who has a snake's tail and no legs. Her current mate is First Consort Ssibalentanamas (CE spirit naga cleric 11 of Sseth [now Set]), also known as First Keeper of the Sacred Eggs. Ssibalentanamas slithers through the length and breadth of Hlondeth's catacombs, guarding yuan-ti brood chambers.
Dediana's heir is Dmetrio Extaminos (LE male pureblood yuan-ti fighter 7), who is affianced to Glsena Foesmasher, eldest daughter of Baron Thuragar of Sespech. Besides serving as Hlondeth's ambassador to Sespech, Dmetrio secretly leads the Hlondethan cell of the Cult of the Dragon. He uses the cult to undermine his mother's rule and increase his personal power so that he can one day seize control of Hlondeth and the surrounding region. A recent attempt to extend the cell's influence to Surkh failed, thanks to the Cult of Tiamat active in that city. The Hlondethan cell has been far more successful creating ur-broodguards (broodguards with the dread warrior template plus one or more levels of barbarian).
Major Geographic Features
The area around the City of Serpents is particularly rugged.
Churning Bay: The city of Hlondeth lies at the head of a froth-filled, narrow gulf. Its powerful tides challenge even skilled navigators except at slack tide. Numerous wrecks line the floor of Churning pay, attracting brave explorers who are willing to risk the dangerous waters.
Mount Ugruth: This long-smoldering volcano looms high above the City of Serpents. Despite a few rumbles in the Year of the Serpent (1359 DR), Mount Ugruth has not erupted since the Year of the Speaking Mountain (257 DR). Nevertheless, the recent volcanic activity was sufficient to briefly open a portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire and release dozens of magmins into the volcano's steaming heart. Some of these creatures emerge to cause havoc in the surrounding area from time to time. At the base of the volcano is a prominent Talassan temple called the Sacellum of Slumbering Fire.
Southsands: This beach south of Hlondeth is the site of quadrennial mock wars between representatives of Turmish and Chondath. The winner of this Shieldmeet contest, which dates back to the Year of the Late Sun (300 DR), receives certain trading privileges, initial resource claims, and a tithe of slaves.
Hlondeth has been the recipient of some of the most beautiful art and architecture that the yuan-ti have ever produced.
Aviary of Extaminos: This great aviary, which took nearly two decades to construct, is now home to all manner of exotic birds, most of them native to the Black or Mhair Jungles. Because many of these birds are quite dangerous, visitors must submit to a protection from avians spell before entering. Senior members of House Extaminos are secretly permitted to hunt within the aviary when the facility is closed.
Cathedral of Emerald Scales: Dedicated to Varae, a beast cult, power of snakes and aspect of Sseth, the Cathedral of Emerald Scales thoroughly dominates the religious, political, and architectural life of Hlondeth. Constructed over the course of thirteen centuries by the Extaminos family, the structure served first as the family villa and then as a small shrine to Ilmater on the periphery of the family compound. When the Extaminos family shifted its allegiance to Varae's cult, its members expanded the shrine into a small chapel and reconsecrated it. Although nearly everyone in Hlondeth realizes that Varae is simply an aspect of the yuan-ti god Sseth, the priests of the cathedral still maintain the facade of venerating Varae.
The leader of Varae's clergy is Emerald Boa of the Vilhon Medusanna Mhairdaul (CE female yuan-ti abomination cleric 17 of Sseth [Set]) of the Se'Sehen tribe, whose human head sports countless poisonous snakes in lieu of hair. Medusanna personally loathes the relatively cold climate of Hlondeth, the city's inhabitants, and House Extaminos, and the feeling is reciprocated. This mutual dislike only exacerbates the already high tensions between the Se'Sehen tribe and the ruling family of Hlondeth. The Knights of the Forked Tongue defend the temple, and the clergy consists of ophidians, yuan-ti purebloods, tainted ones, and halfbloods.
The Wall of the Amphisbaena encircles the temple. This defensive barricade was sculpted in the form of a giant, two-headed snake, with the two heads serving as gate towers. Within the wall lies the Shrouded Jungle, a mist-shrouded fragment of the Black Jungles that is much larger than the space would apparently permit. At its heart is the Emerald Canopy, a semitranslucent hemisphere of emerald marble and steel-hard green glass that sits atop of the Forest of Serpents - a thicket of columns carved to resemble intertwined snakes. A giant constrictor snake carved from serpentine stone wraps its coils around the entire dome. Bejeweled statuary and guardian jaculi fill the Forest of Serpents, and the whole area is inundated with constant rain. Just north of the Emerald Canopy stands Semorav's Tower, home to Semorav of the Cobra's Hood (LE male pureblood yuan-ti necromancer 14).
A massive, open pit in the center of the cathedral leads down to the armories, brood chambers, laboratories, prison pantries, and residences below.
Hlondeth (Metropolis. 45,360): Towering walls of emerald marble encircle the city, and its architecture is marked by tall, graceful arches and coils of verdant stone. Ramps and poles have replaced stairs, and at night, the city glows green because of the interaction between magical lighting and the emerald-hued stone.
Scaled Halls of Varac: In the deepest catacombs beneath Hlondeth lies an ancient temple, built when one of the Twelve Cities of the Sword stood here on the shores of Jhaamdath Bay. In the early days of the realm, Jhaamdathah explorers brought back the worship of Varae from the Black Jungles and constructed the Scaled Halls of Varae - a nearly identical copy of the Pit of Vipers in the ruins of Ss'inthee'ssaree. The temple was abandoned after the destruction of Jhaamdath in the Year of Furious Waves (-255 DR), only to be rediscovered centuries later (after 527 DR) by the scions of House Extaminos. The Scaled Halls have been largely neglected since House Extaminos began openly ruling Hlondeth in the Year of Smoldering Spells (1020 DR). It is now visited only by complacent state clerics who are more loyal to House Extaminos than to the yuan-ti as a whole.
The Serpent Sibyl (see page 140 SK), chosen avatar of Sseth during Time of Troubles, appeared in the Scaled Halls in the Year of the Wild Magic (1372 DR). Since then, she has built up a cult of serpentfolk followers who worship at the long-neglected altar. So powerful has her cult become that she now schemes to unite yuan-ti holdings across Faerûn into a grand empire on a par with Mhairshaulk at its height. The Sibyl's Chosen are growing rapidly in strength and number, and they may soon pose a threat to the primacy of House Extaminos.
The heart of ancient Jhaamdath now lies beneath the waters of the Vilhon Reach. The Twelve Cities of the Sword were smashed in the Year of Furious Waves (-255 DR), after Jhaamdath Bay was inundated by a gargantuan tidal wave raised by the elven High Mages of Nikerymath (now the Chondalwood). This event reshaped the coastline into the contours of the Vilhon Reach known today.
The survivors attempted to refound the realm in the wake of Jhaamdath's fall, but such efforts faltered in the face of continued skirmishing with the elves of Nikerymath. Most of the surviving humans migrated north across the Sea of Fallen Starsi to settle the lands along the southern slopes of the Earthfast Mountains. The first of these settlements was Proeskampalar (later Procampur), founded in the Year of the Starry Shroud (-153 DR).
The founding of Iljak in the Year of Fallen Fury (20 DR) marked the end of the large-scale Jhaamdathan exodus and the beginning of efforts to build a human realm along the shores of the Vilhon Reach. By 50 DR, humanity had founded the cities of Arrabar, Asple, Daroush, Mussum, Samra, and Torl. The port city of Hlondeth was founded in the Year of Dark Venom (37 DR), at the western end of the Turmway (now known as the Halondar) from Alaghôn. Such Vilhonese efforts nearly came to naught when plague wracked the Vilhon Reach in the Year of Clinging Death (75 DR), killing more than half of the population in less than a decade.
For nearly a century, Hlondeth was ruled by a succession of warlords from House Gestin. During this period, the humans of House Extaminos rose to prominence, quarrying green marble from the Osraun Mountains and trading it at ports throughout the Vilhon Reach and the rest of the Sea of Fallen Stars. In the Year of the Pirates' Port (145 DR), Dempster Turmish marched Alaghôn's armies down the Turmway to besiege Hlondeth. The city's ruling warlord prevailed by enlisting various pirate ships to attack Alaghôn's navy in exchange for the promise of a safe port. This tactic enabled the city to bring in supplies by sea and thereby outlast the besieging army. Hlondeth defeated Dempster Turmish again the following year, thanks to the invoker Riliton Mandleweave and the Company of the Howling Harpoon. A third attack planned for the Year of the Lost Library (150 DR) collapsed after the death of Dempster Turmish.
The century that followed is known as the Calmwaters because civilization in Turmish and along the Vilhon Reach flourished during this period. The increased trade throughout the Reach greatly enhanced the fortunes of the human Extaminos clan, and a succession of Extaminos patriarchs slowly expanded their primary villa, transforming the original manor house into an opulent shrine to Ilmater.
In the Year of the Speaking Mountain (257 DR), Mount Ugruth erupted, and the resultant popular backlash led to the fall of House Gestin. But before House Extaminos could seize power in Hlondeth, House Illistine, whose members ruled Chondath, seized the so-called jewel of the Vilhon. For nearly three centuries, House Illistine ruled Hlondeth as well as the rest, of the Vilhon Reach, while House Extaminos turned inward, focusing on trade and hedonistic pastimes. During this period, the Extaminos compound was ringed in a wall of emerald-hued marble, and Ilmater's shrine was encircled by a lush garden of exotic plants harvested from distant jungles. Small outbuildings throughout the walled compound house a menagerie of exotic beasts - primarily reptiles.
In the Year of the Tatters (527 DR), Hlondeth was besieged by kobolds of the Tattered Cloth Legion that had been secretly dispatched by Nathglaryse, drow queen of Undraeth. The rulers of Chondath did nothing, but Lord Shevron Extaminos welcomed all who managed to escape the kobold army into his family's compound. During the subsequent siege, Shevron received a vision from Ilmater that caused him to dispatch swarms of "pet" snakes from his gardens against the kobolds, routing Nathglaryst's host. Shevron himself was killed in the battle, but no defender of House Extaminos was slain by the serpents.
After Lord Shevron's death, House Extaminos reawakened from its centuries-long indolence and lethargy. Many of the younger family members began adventuring in the long-neglected sewers of Hlondeth, ostensibly seeking their escaped "pets" and the connection to the Underdark through which the kobold army had gained access to the city. In the city's catacombs, the young Extaminos nobles uncovered a long-forgotten temple of Varae, as well as Lord Sheveron's lost army of snakes.
Discounting the former lord's dedication to Ilmater, the next generation of House Extaminos began to resurrect the long-dormant cult of Varae. Following ancient rituals described on tablets in the temple's vaults, the humans of House Extaminos made contact with the Se'Sehen tribe via an ancient portal network linking the Scaled Halls of Varac to the Pit of Vipers in the ruins of Ss'inthee'ssaree. After forging an alliance with the serpentfolk there, they began to interbreed with Se'Sehen in the nearby Osraun Mountains in an attempt to literally join with the snakes they venerated. They also began secretly extending their family's political influence through all levels of the government's hierarchy. Eventually, they acquired enough influence to engineer a series of rebellions against Chondath's unwanted rule. Hlondeth finally regained its independence in the Year of the Shattered Scepter (614 DR).
While House Extaminos did not directly seize power in Hlondeth after Chondath's governor was overthrown, its members ruled from behind the throne for the next four centuries. Within a decade of Hlondeth's reclaimed independence, Ilmater's shrine in the Extaminos family compound was renamed the Chapel of Emerald Scales and consecrated to Varae. Hlondeth's citizens accepted this alteration with little fuss, since House Extaminos was still highly regarded for its past beneficence and bravery.
In the Year of Smoidering Spells (1,020 DR), House Extaminos began openly ruling Hlondeth with little opposition. By this time, the aboveground temple of Varae had been expanded fivefold, the adjoining compound of House Extaminos had sprawled throughout much of the noble's district, and the bloodline of the ancient ruling house had become fully and completely yuan-ti. From this point forward, House Extaminos was considered a great yuan-ti tribe in its own right, wholly distinct from the Se'Sehen tribe, with the city-state of Hlondeth firmly constricted in its coils.
Plots and Rumors
Hlondeth has always been a hotbed of yuan-ti intrigue. The following plot is only one of many that can be investigated here.
Plague of Serpents: Leaders of the Plague-Mother's Children, a human cult based in Hlondeth and dedicated to Talona, have forged an alliance with the Sibyl's Chosen. Together, the two groups aim to create tainted ones on a vast scale. Dediana Extaminos is working in secret to oppose their plot, fearing the power it would give the Serpent Sibyl. The Serpent's Secession, a secret society of humans led by Gonthril Astinar (NG male Chondathan human fighter 7/rogue 5) also opposes the plot, since its members are sworn to actively resist the spreading influence of the serpentfolk.