|Ruler||Queen Abrogail II|
|Government||Imperial bureaucracy of noble families|
|Religions||Abadar, Asmodeus, Erastil, Iomedae, Zon-Kuthon|
|Images of Cheliax|
Source: Cheliax, Empire of Devils
Infernal Cheliax (pronounced CHEL-ee-ax) remains one of the most powerful nations militarily in the Inner Sea region. Its control of the Arch of Aroden, the passage between the Inner Sea and the Arcadian Ocean, also gives it a vital role in much of the region's trade. Nevertheless, as important as the nation may be today, it pales in comparison to its former Imperial glories. Today, in the eyes of most external observers in other parts of the Inner Sea, Cheliax suffers from extreme diabolism and a tyranny which prevent it from truly achieving its full potential. Internal observers, including the new nobility of Cheliax, firmly believe that Asmodeus and Hell serve Cheliax and assist in maintaining the power necessary for Cheliax to assume its rightful role among the leading nations of the Inner Sea.
- See also: Timeline of Cheliax
History in infernal Cheliax is a slippery thing, especially if it deals with events that occurred before the ascendance of House Thrune. Cheliax's current rulers understand history's power to inspire, and therefore have actively worked to eradicate any mention of the nation's imperial past. They have even done this to former allies, and more than a few noble families have found themselves excised from official records after offending the Queen. Every three months a new state-sanctioned history is printed and disseminated to the nation's universities and libraries. The now outdated, older copies of these books are collected by the Hellknight Order of the Rack and burned on so called clarity pyres, and heavy penalties are imposed on any organization that fails to offer up its previously assigned volumes. The new histories invariably have large gaps and omissions, sometimes to the point of making them unreadable. Despite this, records survive that have escaped the Imperial Ministry of Historical Accuracy's frequent revisions. These publications can fetch a high price on the black market, providing one can find a buyer who is not a paid informant for the Ministry.
Cheliax was founded as the westernmost frontier prefecture of the Taldan Empire in 3007 AR. It would remain a part of the Taldan Empire for more than a thousand years, until two years after the massive invasion of Taldor by Qadiran forces in 4079 AR. Aspex the Even-Tongued, the Taldan governor, knew that Taldor could not fight a massive war on two fronts thousands of miles from each other, and declared independence in 4081 AR. Knowing Taldor would remain focused on its titanic struggle with Qadira, King Aspex of the new nation of Cheliax incorporated the Taldan territories of Galt and Isger by force and Andoran and the winged men of Devil's Perch by diplomacy in what became known as the Even-Tongued Conquest. Due to its size, military power, and boundless ambition, Cheliax would continue to dominate Avistan for the next 600 years.
By 4137 AR, ongoing friction between Absalom and Cheliax over control of trade in the Inner Sea region led Prince Haliad I to lay siege on Absalom. Although the siege was unsuccessful, Cheliax was left the major naval power in the Inner Sea and gained control of both sides of the Arch of Aroden. In 4138 AR, Cheliax also established a new colony in Western Garund at Sargava.
Chelish expansion to the north continued when King Haliad III launched the Everwar in 4305 AR. Over the following century, and spanning the reigns of five Chelish monarchs, the empire conquered or annexed lands in what are now Molthune, Nirmathas, Isger, parts of the Hold of Belkzen, Nidal, and Varisia. The Everwar came to a close in 4410 AR when Cheliax renounced all hopes for further territorial expansion in Varisia and Belkzen. During this expansionist period, Cheliax installed a foreign ruling class in its newfound territories, and the descendants of these people still hold positions of power today, even if Cheliax withdrew its control some time ago.
Even though the Everwar had come to a close, Cheliax's ambitions continued unabated within its homeland and colonies, supported in part by the Starfall Doctrine. This prophecy stated that the god Aroden would reappear in Cheliax in 4606 AR and lead humanity to a new Age of Glory, with Cheliax at the helm. In anticipation for this, Cheliax went to extraordinary lengths in the last decades of the Age of Enthronement. The first Hellknight order, the Order of the Rack, was founded in 4576 AR in the capital of Westcrown. In 4605 AR, King Gaspodar himself began the preparations for the reappearance of the god.
Chelish Civil War
In 4606 AR, Cheliax's patron deity Aroden died, and so did its centuries-long dominance of the Inner Sea region. Robbed of his divine mandate, King Gaspodar lost control of the empire as fractious noble houses challenged the crown and each other for dominance. The first to do so was House Thrune, which rekindled a feud over land in 4608 AR with a rival family whose name has since been erased from history by the Chelish government. Cheliax descended into three decades of civil war, as the various noble houses fought for supremacy. Molthune took the opportunity to declare independence in 4632 AR.
The Chelish Civil War was a fractious and destructive endeavor. Brother turned against brother, with small tyrants rising to power, promising shelter from the increasingly worsening conditions. These leaders quickly were brought down by others seeking power, or were eradicated by the many diseases that accompany such drawn-out anarchy. As the years stretched into decades, the people of Cheliax became more and more desperate, looking for any possible solution to their national nightmare. The golden dream of Imperial Cheliax long since forgotten, they increasingly turned to darker methods to quell the fighting and restore order. It was one of these darker methods that finally brought a resolution to the fighting, but one that came at a very steep cost.
With no clear victor to the war after decades of terrible fighting, Abrogail of House Thrune signed a pact with the powers of Hell, placing herself and her family under their control. In return she received a number of devils to bolster her forces, and others to assist her as advisors. With their help, she brought the Chelish heartland under her control, which gave her a certain amount of legitimacy. Baron Grallus of the Chelish colony of Sargava backed House Davian in the war, but Davian's ambitions were shattered by House Thrune at the Battle of a Hundred Kings. Held near the city of Corentyn in 4639 AR, the defeat of House Davian's forces here was the climactic battle of the war, signaling the doom of all who opposed House Thrune.
Epilogues of the civil war
Even though the people did not particularly like being under the rule of devil-worshipers, they liked the anarchy of war even less. Within a year, House Thrune had defeated all other comers and Queen Abrogail I was crowned in 4640 AR. Thrune had not forgotten the betrayal of Baron Grallus, and sent a fleet to enact revenge on Sargava in 4643 AR. Expecting the attack but unable to mount a large-enough fleet to defend himself, Grallus had hired the Shackles Pirates to patrol the waters north of Sargava; the pirates sunk the Chelish fleet in Desperation Bay. A second fleet sent in 4660 AR fared little better and Sargava has managed to hang on to its fragile independence ever since.
A new order
With order restored throughout the land, the new ruling class of the land began to consolidate and reinforce its power and control over a widespread empire still reeling from decades of war. Their first command was to establish diabolism and the worship of Asmodeus as the official state religion. They then moved the capital from Westcrown to the inland port of Egorian and demanded renewed fealty from Cheliax's outlying provinces. Unable to stomach being ruled by blasphemous devil-idolators, the people of Andoran and Galt rebelled, each seeking their own destiny. Galt declared independence in 4667 AR, but quickly devolved into score-settling by short-lived governing coalitions in the Red Revolution, while Andoran steered a more stable path beginning in 4669 AR. The crown let these provinces secede, content to focus on the more profitable colonies of Sargava in Garund and Anchor's End in Arcadia.
Despite the iron-fisted rule of House Thrune, Cheliax was not without its own political turmoil in the years that followed. This was particularly true when it came to the process of who succeeded to the nation's throne. After 32 years of rule, Queen Abrogail I was murdered by her own son in 4672 AR, who crowned himself Antoninus I soon thereafter. Antoninus' reign lasted only two years, as he died from incorrectly prepared safu'u fish in 4674 AR, and was succeed by his cousin, Terthule Thrune. Terthule managed to last a bit longer than Antoninus, but disappeared mysteriously in 4682 AR after only eight years on the throne. Upon his death, Terthule's niece Carellia was crowned as queen. Much like her predecessors, Carellia's rule was brief and marked by tragedy, and she drowned under mysterious circumstances in 4696 AR. Her death was not investigated by her cousin and heir Infrexus, although he did not fare much better: he fell through the ice and drowned in the Adivian River in 4709 AR. That same year, Abrogail I's great grand-daughter, the young Abrogail Thrune, was crowned Infernal Majestrix, and has managed to avoid a tragic death ever since.
The empire runs on the backs of fiends now, a perfect machine of hellfire and blood, where morality surrenders to the needs of law and order. It's easy to curse Cheliax as a nation of devil-lovers, but few can argue with the results of their fiend-binding craft. House Thrune, the greatest of its diabolic noble families, has brought the empire under control once more. Cheliax rises like a dark star, as strong as ever, despite the losses of Galt and Andoran to rebellious forces.
Asmodeus proves as powerful a divine patron as Aroden ever did, shepherding his people toward glory and dominance of the Inner Sea. His plans reach eons into the future, and the minor setbacks of yesterday are all factored into the cost of doing a devil's business. The Chelish always plan for a long campaign, and never trifle over today's skirmishes. In the end, all will burn in hellfire. It is only a matter of time and calculated conquest.
Since the Thrune Ascendancy of 4640 AR, Cheliax has been ruled by House Thrune along with a new configuration of noble houses made up of those willing to follow the philosophy of Diabolism. Much of the power of House Thrune was gained through the initial bargain struck between Abrogail Thrune and the rulers of Hell, although rumors abound that additional pacts have been made since that time in the quest for still greater power. Currently Queen Abrogail II, the great-granddaughter of Abrogail I, rules Cheliax with the aid and support of Gorthoklek, her pit fiend advisor.
Her Infernal Majestrix, Queen Abrogail of the Twice-Damned House of Thrune rules as absolute monarch in her nation. Her word carries the full weight of law, and is as inescapable as any devil's contract, even if she frequently changes her mind and has her former edicts and laws erased from the books of Chelish history. She maintains control of the nation's complex bureaucracy of titled nobles through fear and the hope of earning the queen's favor.
House Thrune may currently be the most powerful of the noble houses, but it is certainly not the only one. Some of these other noble houses have existed for centuries, while others were commoners raised after the civil war in payment for their loyalty to the House of Thrune. Most of the oldest houses survived the civil war, although those who aligned themselves with the diabolists early in the war have claimed the greatest prestige and wealth. Whatever can be said about the new nobility's morality, they objectively rule more effectively than the old nobility did before the war. Chelish nobility are arranged in a strict hierarchy of three broad categories (dukes, counts, and barons), each with their own subcategories, for a sum of nine ranks modeled after the nine levels of Hell; the Majestrix and her family are above this order.
Most members of the nobility continue making pacts with various devils in exchange for incredible temporal power. Those who do not espouse diabolism keep it to themselves, as any talk against the methods of the current regime can lead to the complete eradication of an entire bloodline.
Governmental policy within Cheliax is focused upon maintaining order and quelling dissent. This is in direct response to the 30 years of internecine warfare and chaos that preceded the Thrune Ascendancy, as well as the absolute order inherent in the support of Hell. There is a great deal of physical peace and order which allows the lives of ordinary citizens to proceed normally, but it carries a high moral price. Cheliax is far from the abomination of twisted evil imagined by many outsiders, but it does not allow room for any dissent. Nationalistic feelings run deep and are practically required to avoid suspicion. Ambition causes normal citizens to turn in those that they suspect as traitors to Imperial Cheliax, for the perceived promise of wealth and advancement. Organized secular and religious forces such as the Hellknights and the Inquisitors further strive to quell any organized dissent.
The laws of Cheliax are based upon the Asmodean Disciplines, which also serve as the primary religious text for the Church of Asmodeus. These laws are expansive and intrusive, and attempt to regulate nearly every element of a citizen's public and private life. Because of this, many of them are not enforced, and may not even be enforceable, but they nevertheless serve the purpose of the government by allowing the prompt removal of undesirable elements of society under some perceived or interpreted infraction, or as incentive for citizens to spy on one another.
In addition to the Hellknights who handle dissension within the Empire, Cheliax also boasts one of the largest military organizations in the Inner Sea region. Along with humanoid troops, they continue to use bound devils as well.
Imperial Cheliax covers a large part of southwestern Avistan and, although currently less than half its former size, it is still one of the largest countries in the Inner Sea region. Beyond the Mendador Mountains in the north, it is bordered by the former provinces of Nidal and Molthune. To the East it is bordered with Isger, and Andoran across the Aspodell Mountains. The Inner Sea lies to the south, across which is Rahadoum on the continent of Garund. To the west lies the Arcadian Ocean.
Cheliax is divided into six regions or archduchies, each of which is subdivided into duchies, which further split into counties, which then can be separated into baronies. Not every grouping can be divided into a smaller grouping. For instance, several very small counties do not divide into even smaller baronies. The six archduchies are fixed; there can never be more or less, as there can never be more than six archdukes, and are as follows:
- Archduchy of Hellcoast: The hills of Devil's Perch and the settlement of Pezzack are the home of the strix, a race of winged humanoids. These fliers protect their homeland diligently although more from a dislike of any foreign rule as much as distaste for the current House of Thrune and its organized devil worship.
- Archduchy of Ravounel: The Ravounel Forest, the North Plains and the settlement of Kintargo in the northwest are the least insular areas of Cheliax and therefore subject to the most outside influence and contact.
- Archduchy of Menador: The Menador Mountains are the religious homeland of Cheliax. It is also the home to scores of Hellknights prepared for a life of unending servitude by the unforgiving nature of the land they inhabit.
- Archduchy of the Heartlands: The Whisperwood, the Barrowood and the Central Plains are the heart of Cheliax.
- Archduchy of Sirmium: The Aspodell Mountains and the River Keld form a natural eastern border to Cheliax.
- Archduchy of Longmarch: The Inner Sea forms the southern border of Cheliax and port cities built upon bluffs dot the coast.
The current capital, Egorian, rests near the center of the nation on the banks of Lake Sorrow. North of the lake stands the Barrowood, and the River Adivian flows south from the lake, past Westpool and East Rikkan, into Gemcrown Bay past Westcrown. Cheliax maintains a foothold in Garund as well, holding the southern end of the Arch of Aroden (the province of Kharijite) and thus controlling access to the Inner Sea. It's most distant holding is Anchor's End in far-off Arcadia.
Three-quarters of Cheliax's human population are ethnic Chelaxians, with Taldans and Kellids the most populous minorities (the latter clustered in Cheliax's northern reaches). The pale-skinned Chelaxians believe themselves superior to all other peoples. Their compact with great devils gives them power beyond measure, and no other nation of the Inner Sea can compete with their summoners and warlocks when it comes to trafficking with dark forces. These devils require payment for their service, often offered up in the form of tender flesh and boiled blood. Slaves are an important resource of the Chelish as are artifacts of ancient power whose secrets are revealed to them by their timeless patrons. Most of Cheliax's inhabitants have become used to their repressive government with its infernal ties, seeing it as the price they had to pay to be rescued from the anarchy of civil war. Those who actively support the government tend to receive the greatest chances at wealth and social advancement, while those unable or unwilling to contribute to the hellish regime reap no such rewards or are even the targets of recrimination and ridicule.
Most gnomes in Cheliax live in the town of Brastlewark and enjoy a relatively peaceful existence in comparison to other minority races. Many gnomes are architects and engineers and the best of these provide innovative designs and inventions for the Chelish government. The community is left mostly unmolested as a result.
The strix are a race of winged humanoids native to the Devil's Perch, a dangerous and inhospitable region of western Cheliax's Menador Mountains. Due to past conflicts with their lowland neighbors, the strix refuse to have anything to do with the untrustworthy humans. The strix have inspired many grisly rumors among the Chelish, who vilify and fear them.
Cheliax has had a long history as a religious nation going back hundreds of years. The goddess Iomedae was of Chelaxian stock, and in the middle of the 5th millennium AR, the church of Aroden, humanity's patron deity, moved its headquarters from decadent Taldor to the capital of Westcrown. This was done in response to an ancient Azlanti prophecy known as the Starfall Doctrine that predicted Aroden's return in 4606 AR. Aroden's unexplained death voided the prophecy and plunged the nation into a decades-long civil war.
The rise of Asmodeus worship since the beginning of the Thrune Ascendancy has hardly been surprising. Every Chelaxian pays at least lip service to the Prince of Darkness, even though numerous older gods such as Abadar and Erastil remain popular among the common folk, and nearly every house contains at least one shrine or red pentagram honoring the devil-god. Cheliax is also one of the few nations where the other archdevils are worshiped in any large number, although their cultists always stand in the shadow of the much larger and more powerful church of Asmodeus. Even those Chelaxians who are not interested in personally serving the Prince of Hell or one of his subordinates, often believe that Hell provides a model for how mortal society should be structured, a philosophy known as diabolism.
According to an edict issued by Queen Abrogail II, the worship of gods other than Asmodeus or one of the other powers of Hell is permitted, but can be revoked by the government at any time. The worship of these gods is considered a generous allowance by the Prince of Hell, as long as no one supplants him as the foremost in the hearts of Chelaxians. Cheliax does not openly tolerate worship of Achaekek due to the church's support of piracy along the western coast of Garund, but the assassin of the gods still has several hidden shrines devoted to him within Cheliax.
For additional resources, see the Meta page.
- James Jacobs on the Paizo messageboards, October 9, 2015: "We went with Chelaxian instead of Cheliaxian because it's easier to say the 4 syllable word than the 5 syllable one. The 4 syllable one flows off the tongue easier. And because minor variants in the way those word constructions work add verisimilitude to the world—as folks pointed out, there's lots of variations in the real world, so it stands to reason there would be in Golarion as well."
- Pathfinder First Edition uses the term Chelish, but this is "phased out entirely" as of Pathfinder Second Edition's Lost Omens Character Guide, per Luis Loza on the Know Direction Discord server, August 25, 2019, and September 19, 2019.
- Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 247. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
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