Brotherhood of the Griffon
A collection of city-states bound by common culture and mutual defense, Chessenta isn't truly a nation. Each city boasts its own heroes, worships its own gladiatorial champions, and spends as much time insulting and competing with the other cities as it does on any other activity.
The city of Luthcheq is dominated by worship of the bizarre deity known as Entropy, while Erebos is ruled by the latest incarnation of the red dragon known as Tchazzar;the Undying. Heptios contains the largest library in Chessenta, a center of learning where all nobles aspire to send their children for tutoring.
That city is looked on with disdain by the people of Akanax, whose militant contempt for the "fat philosophers" of Heptios is widely known. Toreus welcomes all visitors, even those from lands that are despised or mistrusted, and foreign coin can buy nearly anything there. The floating city of Airspur still flies somehow, its earthmotes unaffected by the fall of its fellows when the Sundering came to a close.
BACKDROP: CHESSENTA LORE
Situated along the southern shore of the Inner Sea, the nation of Chessenta has undergone quite a transformation over the last century. Once a land of feuding city-states vying for the favor of ancient god-kings, the nation today stands unified under its indomitable war hero, ready to face the challenges of a world turned upside down.
Chessenta has a well-earned reputation as a nation of fierce warriors and cunning tacticians. A proclivity toward wine and hard drink also brands them as a riotous, drunken people. Although no one can deny that Chessentans fight and feast often, this description misses the fundamental facet of Chessentan character—passion. The people of this land are energetic and enjoy life to its fullest, commonly engaging in acts that outsiders might consider reckless or extreme. Athleticism and competition is equally important in Chessentan society; popular sports include wrestling and chariot racing.
Few nations in all Faerûn can claim to be as erudite in philosophy, astronomy, poetry, and history as Chessenta. Theatres and libraries are commonplace, even in smaller cities, where poetry is read and philosophers debate in public squares.
Despite their supposed enlightenment, subjugation by the artificers of ancient Imaskar instilled in Chessentans a deep-seated mistrust of all things arcane. This irrational fear of magic has left a black mark on an otherwise progressive society. No amount of double talk or hand waving can wash away the stain of elven enslavement or a culture that breeds fanatical mage-killers.
Chessenta is a human nation, its citizens predominantly of mulan ancestry. Chessentans are tall and slim, with a hint of olive in their skin coloring. Individuals typically have short, cropped hair ranging in color from black to deep brown. The folk of Chessenta have long mixed with neighboring Chondathan and Turami bloodlines, though some noble houses of Luthcheq claim to be “pure” mulan; these latter individuals can trace their unsoiled lineage to the god-kings of ancient Unther. House Karanok, it is said, has the divine blood of Nanna-Sin coursing through their veins. Despite such claims, respect and position in Chessenta is typically earned by acts of heroism and deed, not through birthright.
The Chessentan language, a dialect derived from ancient Untheric and written in the Thorass alphabet, is the predominant language spoken here. Scholars and noble born are still taught the older hieroglyphic style of ancient Untheric (incorporating Dethek runes employed by the dwarves of the Great Rift); carvings exist in ruins across the realms of the South.
War is the lifeblood of Chessentan commerce, or so the popular saying goes. Skirmishes with Threskel are common and demands for fresh troops an ongoing need. This constant state of conflict attracts mercenaries from far and wide to test their mettle with the legendary warriors of Chessenta. Here, sellswords are outfitted in arms and mail of superior artistry, forged from ore pulled from local hills and mountains teeming with valuable metals—notably iron, silver, copper, and gold.
Beyond implements of war, Chessenta traders are best known as purveyors of quality oils and fine wine. Salt, gleaned at some risk from the Adder Swamp, is also a substantial export. Chessentan literature and fine art also remain in high demand, particularly so among the decadent burghers of Vesperin.
Chessentan coinage, once unique to each city-state, was consolidated into a single currency under the reign of War Hero Ishual Karanok in the Year of the Fallen Friends (1399 DR). Bronze “bits” are roughly equivalent in value to 2 coppers from other lands, silvers are called talents, and gold coins are drakes. The distinctive authokh (5 gp value) and belbolt (20 gp value) replace platinum pieces as the preferred coinage of merchants and nobility. Minted in Luthcheq, coins feature the crowned bust of War Hero Shala Karanok on the face and the burning brand of House Luthcheq on the reverse.
Chessenta’s long and bloody history is chronicled using the Untheric calendar (UC), established by the god-king Gilgeam at the dawn of the Second Untheric Empire (–734 DR). Dates presented here use the Dalereckoning (DR) standard. Present day (1480 DR) equates to 2215 UC in the Untheric calendar.
Established in –1771 DR, Chessenta was founded as an autonomous province of the
First Untheric Empire; the fiefdom adopting its name from its first imperial magistrate, Grand Viceroy Iphram Chess. With his first official proclamation, Chess decreed the territory be cleansed of all indigenous species, notably the darker-skinned Turami of the Akana and the Batoi halfling populations along the Adder River.
Over the next several centuries Chessenta earned its reputation as a fierce warrior society, bolstered by decisive Untheric campaigns against eastern Jhaamdath and the fey of the Methwood. Unfortunately for the province, Chessenta’s many conquests and growing self-determination drew the ire of the godking Gilgeam, who quickly sent troops to bring them under heel. With the urging of the war hero Tchazzar, open rebellion soon spread. In the Year of Flashing Eyes (929 DR) the allied cities of Chessenta marshaled their forces and drove the legions of Unther back beyond the Riders to the Sky, forever securing their independence.
A pivotal moment in Chessentan history came in the Year of the Dracorage (1018 DR), when Overking Tchazzar disappeared fighting the sahuagin sea devils of the Alamber Sea. Chessentan faithful believed their king had ascended to godhood, and the Church of Tchazzar soon flourished throughout the realm.
Over time, though, the unified kingdom Tchazzar had built ultimately broke up into squabbling city-states. Decade after decade, territorial clashes threatened to bring the nation to utter ruin. Fortuitously, neighboring Unther and Chondath had their own problems to attend to and could not take advantage of the discord within Chessenta.
The civil strife that had long plagued the region came to an abrupt end in the Year of Rogue Dragons (1373 DR), when immortal Tchazzar returned to Faerûn to reestablish his dominion over Chessenta. As the dragon-king set his plans of conquest into motion, neighbors along the Inner Sea rightly feared the potential of a unified Chessenta. Only the ill-fated Spellplague and the unparalleled devastation that followed would halt Tchazzar’s indomitable machinations.
The Last Century
Still reeling from the upheaval of the Wailing Years, Chessenta soon found its borders overrun by aberrant horrors from the sea and hulking beasts from its inland frontier. Led by the dragon-king Tchazzar, the nation’s armies fought valiantly against their common foe. But when the Father of Chessenta one day failed to return from an expedition in the east, the nation’s fractious city-states began to waver and fall before the monstrous horde.
After decades of bloodshed and ruin, a new champion emerged to lead the despondent people—Ishual Karanok. Only through his insightful leadership and valorous deeds did Chessenta ultimately prevail. When the celebrations had ended and the armies disbanded, Chessentans discovered that they stood alone as the last of the “Old Empires of the grim and magical South.”
In recent months brigands and beasts have threatened settlements along the Threskel frontier while Imaskari pirates harry shipping along coastal waters. The call has gone out across the Inner Sea for mercenaries and adventurers to aid Chessenta in the fight against its enemies and help unmask a murderer known as the “Green Hand Killer.”
Over the last century, Chessentan faithful have largely abandoned the teachings of their old religions in favor of the contemporary human pantheon worshiped throughout greater Faerûn.
In the tumultuous years following the Spellplague, Amaunator’s faith gained a strong following in Chessenta. The faithful saw the resurgent sun god as Hokatep of old, returned to Faerûn to aid his long-suffering people in their time of greatest need. The colonnaded House of Amaunator, in Luthcheq’s Temple Square, is a grand site to behold; an enormous sundial reaches skyward in front of the temple.
Likewise, other mainstream faiths have gained a foothold in this ancient land by adopting many of the nation’s longstanding religious traditions and holy days. Here, warrior-priests of Tempus aggrandize the martial wisdom of Anhur, adopting the vestments and fighting tactics of the elite Militars. Oghman lorekeepers maintain a large temple in Erebos, where they preserve the scrolls of divine scrivener Thalatos. Also prominent in Chessentan society is the burgeoning faith of Waukeen, goddess of wealth and trade. Interestingly, with the absence of Kelemvor’s faith in the region, Waukeenar clerics also act as guardians of the dead, performing funeral services in the ancient Neselthian tradition. Finally, Sune’s exarch Sharess remains popular throughout Chessenta as patron of felines and sensuality, though she is known locally as Bast.
Faiths unknown outside Chessenta are detailed below. Each entity’s sphere of influence is noted in square brackets.
Chessenta is situated along the southern shore of the Sea of Fallen Stars (Inner Sea), between the nations of Akanûl and Tymanther. Much is said of its beautifully sculpted landscape; it has terraced vineyards upon gentle rolling hills, expansive orchards of olive trees, and verdant grazing pastures for sheep and rothé. The coastal countryside along the eastern shore of the great bay enjoys fertile soil and abundant crops. Living here is good and generally safe, though an occasional wolf pack or owlbear comes in from the deepest woods, but seldom anything fiercer. As one travels inland and south from the coast, the landscape becomes increasingly rugged and monster-infested. Settlements beyond the coast congregate along Chessenta’s largest watercourse, the Adder River.
The Chessentan countryside is dotted with numerous cities and small principalities (far more than are visible on the included map). Where in the last century each settlement would adopt its own customs and conscript its own army, today the nation’s provincial allegiances are largely solidified under the firm rule of Luthcheq.
Catalogued below are some of the more well-known settlements of Chessenta.
Descendants of ancient Imaskari slaves, the people of Chessenta are obsessed with physical conflict. They value their war heroes highly, hailing them as celebrities and potential rulers. Chessenta’s national enmity is focused mostly on the resurrected nation to the east, High Imaskar. Despite half the nation being devastated by a cast-off piece of Abeir, elements of the former Chessenta survive and even prosper. Although many Chessentan cities were destroyed in this tumultuous transposition, others survived and accepted refugees from the obliterated lands of Chondath, Unther, and even Mulhorand. The country involuntarily ceded all its western lands, those most radically altered in the Year of Blue Fire, to the Abeiran genasi of Akanûl.
When the surface lands partially collapsed into the Underdark, the smoldering volcanoes in the Smoking Mountains to the south touched off, as did Mount Thulbane to the north. From the Smoking Mountains, various disturbed creatures ravaged northward. In the north, the vampiric green dragon Jaxanaedegor was freed to forage even during the day, since the sun was obscured by an ashen sky. Faced with monstrous invasions so soon after massive
upheaval and changes to the land, Chessenta nearly failed.
The only city not devastated and broken was Luthcheq. There, the fractious, surviving inhabitants rallied under a war hero named Ishual Karanok. Fighting off marauding monsters, abolethic horrors, and opportunistic settlers from less disrupted lands to the north, Chessenta persisted. When the immediate hostilities cooled, Ishual returned to his family home in what remained of Luthcheq. The hero disbanded a wizard-slaying cult his family had long propagated (claiming that their aims had been met with Mystra’s death), but continued to enshrine the powerful tool that served as the old cult’s focus: a sphere of annihilation. The item, its powers somewhat modified since the Year of Blue Fire, now serves as
the Crown Jewel of Chessenta. Continuing the cult’s aims, if not its existence, the law of the land subjugates spellcasters.
Chessenta is the enemy of High Imaskar to the east. Although not initially inclined to return hostilities, High Imaskar has learned to guard against Chessentan war parties. The dragonborn of Tymanther are allies. Although at odds with many people, Chessentans look upon dragonborn with honor. They believe (rightly or wrongly) that dragonborn are in some way related to their own dragon lord, Tchazzar, who returned briefly to rule Cimbar before the Spellplague devastated the region.
Settlements and Features
Capital: Cimbar (theoretically)
Population: 3,386,880 (humans 82%, halflings 6%, dwarves 5%, half-orcs 4%, lizardfolk 2%)
Government: Varies by city (military dictatorship, theocracy, monarchy)
Religions: Anhur, Assuran (old name of Hoar), Azuth, Lathander, Red Knight, Tchazzar (aspect of Tiamat), Waukeen
Imports: Cheese, glass, horses, magic weapons, mercenaries, perfume, pork, slaves
Exports: Art, cattle, gold, grapes, olive oil, quality iron, silver, slaves (to Thay), statues, weapons, wine
Alignment: N, CG, LN
A group of cities considered a single nation by the rest of Faerûn, Chessenta is anything but united. The cities war against each other over old slights, philosophical differences, or economic leverage. Adventurers and mercenary companies make a good living here, hired by various governments for sneak attacks, strategic planning, or protection. The culture of Chessenta is obsessed with physical conflict, with war heroes considered very highly. The nation is friendly to dwarves and half-orcs, but uneasy with elves. The Chessentans appreciate the arts and are great fans of theater; the bardic profession is second only to that of fighters.
Life and Society
The people of Chessenta are passionate, living each day to the fullest. Seen by outsiders as a drunken and riotous people, the Chessentans feast and fight often, not doing anything halfway. Their athletic competitions are popular events, particularly wrestling, and almost every citizen has some skill at fighting.
Most of the rulers of Chessenta are retired soldiers, and the title of War Hero is one of the greatest honors a person can receive, with any particular battle rarely finding more than one person worthy of such a title. This dedication to war suits the Chessentans well, for their nation has prospered through the conflicts between their rival cities.
Chessentans practice slavery, although it is less widespread than in Unther and Mulhorand. Unlike in those countries, a slave-owner can grant a slave freedom at any time, often for exceptional work. Slaves are kept illiterate, except those in Cimbar. Chessenta’s sizable middle class controls the country’s money. The government encourages prosperity for all, so tax revenues remain high.
Major Geographical Features
Chessenta occupies a broad, fertile plain ringing the great Bay of Chessenta in the southeast of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Broken mountain ranges and rugged highlands mark its eastern, southern, and western frontiers.
The Chessentan people spent restive centuries under the rule of Unther during the zenith of that empire. The Chessentans grew uneasy with the decadence and religious oppression of their masters, and finally rebelled under a war hero named Tchazzar. Actually a red dragon secretly polymorphed into human form, Tchazzar managed to subdue Unther itself for nearly a century. Although the city-states of Chessenta swore fealty to a central monarch, each had a different idea of who that monarch should be, and Chessenta has since been rocked with wars between its city-states to determine supremacy. This near constant state of war has produced a nation of trained fighters and a reliance on external mercenary and adventuring groups to do dirty jobs. Chessenta engages in trade by sea with other nations and shows no signs of unifying again any time soon.