Curse of the Crimson Throne
Roughly a century ago, Cheliax was an ambitious ascendant nation poised to wrest much of the Inner Sea region from the declining empire of Taldor. The return of the god Aroden was prophesied to take place in Cheliax and usher in an age of glory, an era the Chelaxians—as Aroden’s chosen people—assumed they would lord over. Instead, at the appointed hour, wild storms wracked the land and clerics of Aroden found themselves cut off from the power of their god. In the chaos, confusion, and civil war following the death of the god of humanity, an ancient noble family named Thrune made a pact with Hell and, backed by infernal power, seized control of the shattered society.
Due to this diabolical bargain, Cheliax remains a dominant force in the region. While its military power has not completely regained its former imperial glory, Cheliax is confident it can retake its rightful role as the leading nation of the Inner Sea region— and perhaps the world. Chelaxians’ vain self-assurance is bolstered by their long, rich heritage and flair for organization, which has allowed them to undercut the power of Taldor and dominate the surrounding region. Their love of detail and thirst for knowledge manifests in theology, arcane studies, and mechanical invention, while their pride in their culture and heritage shows in their long and regal-sounding names and the sobriquets they attach to themselves and their family members whenever they’ve achieved any measure of status or renown.
Chelaxians inhabit the lands formerly under Cheliax’s imperial sway and beyond, and “Chelaxian” can refer both to citizens of Cheliax and to those descended from them but living elsewhere. Not all Chelaxians are evil, but the strict, often deeply inequitable social hierarchies of their homeland and its complex, infernally influenced legal systems cause most non-Chelaxians to view them with suspicion, if not outright distrust, forcing even those beyond Chelish borders to contend with the rippling effects of House Thrune’s sinister alliance. Haughty, cultured, intelligent, organized, and ruthless, Chelaxians have become a dynamic force in the world—not always to its benefit.
Chelaxians are the descendants of their former Taldan rulers and Ulfen raider-merchants from the north, though Chelaxians prefer to trace their descent from the ancient Azlanti rather than their Taldan rivals. They offset the dark hair and deep-brown or midnight blue eyes of their Taldan forebears with the paler skin tones of the Ulfen. Their features are sharp and distinct, including narrow jaws, strong noses, protruding cheekbones, and thin, arched eyebrows. Most Chelaxian nobles comport themselves with regal imperiousness, but they are self-aware enough to leaven it with dark humor. They know how to command an audience, and if a Chelaxian appears to be oblivious to the reactions of those who watch him, it is likely an act.
Among most residents of the Inner Sea region, certain characteristic Chelish features are thought to be indicators of diabolic influence on a bloodline. For example, some might whisper that a Chelish woman with bright red hair must hail from a family that carries Hell’s favor. A man’s crimson eyes, a very rare Chelish trait, may earn him a reputation as a fiendish scion or even a tiefling in disguise. Outside Cheliax, possessing such features may mark one as an individual to be hated or feared, due to Cheliax’s harsh reputation. However, within their homeland, Chelaxians f ind these traits often work in their favor, allowing them to exude an aura of power or darkly divine favor, even as their jealous neighbors whisper disapprovingly.
Chelaxians love rich fashion, jewelry, and art that recalls their glorious imperial roots; however, they consider themselves modest compared to Taldans, whose tastes they dismiss as gaudy and impractical. Their clothing tends toward velvet or silk with ornate brocades and lace trim, often with an edgy, infernal-influenced flair.
Most cultures in the Inner Sea region would describe making a deal with Hell as terminally foolish. Legends abound of individuals who thought they had gotten the upper hand in such deals, only to find out too late that the fine print of their contracts contained a clause that delivered power right back into the hands of their diabolical partners. For those willing to take the risk, such a bargain is a shameful secret.
For Chelaxians loyal to House Thrune, however, the alliance with Hell is a source of pride: proof that they can outmaneuver even Asmodeus himself, and turn Hell’s power, legal acumen, and strict organization into tools that serve the goals of the Chelish elite. Every Chelaxian learns at a young age to read in full before signing anything, to be explicit and thorough in outlining one’s obligations, that a transcription error can be damning, and that whatever the spirit of a decree, the power lies in the letter of the law. The characteristic Chelish obsession with detail may frustrate others, but when most residents of the Inner Sea f ind themselves in legal trouble or need to evaluate a contract before signing, they are eager to have the exacting attention of a Chelish lawyer on their side. Even those Chelaxians who oppose House Thrune find a certain amount of satisfaction in the idea that their people have so far managed to avoid suffering any obvious disadvantage as a result of their infernal agreement.
Ambition defines Chelaxians, and this often causes the state church of Asmodeus—which holds that all citizens should serve the Prince of Hell—to butt heads with the Thrune-loyalist aristocracy. The nobility and the church are united, however, in their admiration of Hell’s rigid structure and their enforcement of a similar hierarchy in their own nation, which leads to much inequity. The lower classes struggle and connive to gain enough wealth to buy off the oppression of their superiors, and the avaricious upper classes strive to ensure that such freedoms remain just out of reach for those below them. Outside of their homeland, Chelaxians’ aspirations are more muted, but social climbing is always on their minds. For the most part, a Chelaxian’s status is hereditary and fixed—except where it concerns Queen Abrogail II and House Thrune, who use their supreme authority to rewrite history with the stroke of a pen.
Power that is not channeled into the service of a higher ideal almost inevitably corrupts, and the streak of brutality that existed among the Chelish nobility even before House Thrune’s infernal alliance has been honed into a keen edge under Hell’s influence. Chelish gentry delight in hosting vicious blood-sports, and Chelish corporal punishments are designed to be long and painful excruciations. Chelaxians who oppose House Thrune, while not uncommon, generally keep their rebellious and seditious opinions out of the public discourse lest they attract retaliation from the throne and its allies.
Social expectations within Cheliax carry a dark undertone, as the nation’s Hellknights and Asmodean inquisitors ruthlessly enforce a battery of complex laws and church tenets. Chelaxians play by the rules, and take pride in knowing better than everyone else. They are deadly serious about oaths, contracts, and promises, and dislike chaos. A common joke posits that where others would form an angry mob, Chelaxians organize themselves into a well-ordered, disapproving queue. Outside their nation, however, Chelaxians still take great care and pride in following their communities’ laws, though their ambition drives them to find favorable loopholes in every tenet, as a favored Chelish axiom instructs: “If the law doesn’t smile on you, simply read it in a different light.”
For centuries, Chelaxians worshipped Aroden, the god who once handed Cheliax its divine mandate. His death sent them spiraling into a religious crisis. Now, with House Thrune’s ascent, Chelish nobles are eager to curry favor with House Thrune by proving their loyalty to Asmodeus. Even common folk pay lip service to the Prince of Hell, although many quietly keep the traditions of their ancestral gods.
The most popular deity among Chelaxians who reject diabolism, especially those outside Cheliax’s borders, is Iomedae, who was not only a mortal Chelaxian before her apotheosis via the Test of the Starstone, but also had served as Aroden’s herald. Many also worship Abadar and Erastil, and though a few worshipers still remain loyal to Aroden’s memory, their numbers are dwindling as members are gathered into the church of Iomedae. Zon-Kuthon is particularly popular among Chelaxians in Nidal, where the Midnight Lord enjoys the fealty of most of the populace. Anti-Thrune rebels often revere Milani, whose faithful strive to throw off the shackles of diabolic oppression. Regardless of the deity they worship, most self-respecting Chelaxians view religion as a means to an end: power, riches, or merely survival. Any deity who can grant those boons to followers usually grabs Chelaxians’ attention.
For 1,600 years, Cheliax embodied imperial wealth, excess, and pride. Now, the country has experienced more than 70 years of diabolism, ruthlessness, and totalitarianism. As a result, Chelaxians have become a storied and entitled people, and many of them seek to warp their nation’s strict and twisted laws in their favor. This complex dynamic has created a culture of vast and depraved injustices, and in other lands, Chelaxians’ dark reputation often follows them.
Perhaps the most common epithet f lung at Chelaxians is “devil worshiper.” The majority of Chelaxians have never even seen a devil, but many non-Chelaxians believe that all Chelaxians regularly make bloody sacrifices to infernal powers, a stereotype that clings even to those whose families have lived outside of Cheliax for generations and who are devotees of virtuous deities.
Within Cheliax, however, infernal taints and the favor of devils are flaunted openly. Most Chelaxians have an innate sense of power hierarchies, and they believe the strong always rule the weak. To Chelish sensibilities, oppression and even slavery are necessary to societal order. Although theirs is a lawful, contract-based culture, Chelaxians believe clever deceit should always be rewarded, while compassion and kindness are simply pretenses with which the weak comfort themselves.
More so than any other aspect of their heritage, Chelaxians abhor the decline of the Chelish Empire that once dominated Avistan. Historically, Chelish influence validated their attitude of privilege and superiority. Now that the empire has begun to fade, losing its hold over Andoran, Galt, Molthune, Nirmathas, and other territories, many Chelaxians sincerely believe that Hell and its minions will pave the nation’s way back to greatness. Chelaxians, particularly those from well-off families who reside in the nation, do much to preserve their sense of superiority over the underprivileged or oppressed, clinging to noble titles that no longer have meaning under House Thrune’s rule. Regardless, Chelaxians are famous for their love of antiques, artwork, drama, and fashion that recall their imperial grandeur.
Other peoples of the Inner Sea region respect Chelaxians’ power and intelligence, and step lightly around them, though Chelish nationalist pride, opportunism, and sense of superiority often rub others the wrong way. Chelaxians’ assumption that they’re the most qualified individuals to solve problems is often true, particularly because they are raised to value learning and are trained in organization and keen-edged logical analysis. Although they’re often rivals, Chelaxians and Taldans share an appreciation for art and personal finery. Chelaxians have little tolerance for Varisians, Shoanti, or Ulfen, whom they consider uncultured. They have a guarded respect for Keleshites, whose worldly sophistication often influences trends in Cheliax, and whose economic dominance Chelaxians both envy and distrust. The arcane prowess of the Garundi likewise inspires conflicting feelings of admiration and competition.
Where in Golarion?
The southern portion of Avistan teems with Chelaxians, although nowhere are their numbers larger than in their home nation of Cheliax. Chelaxians can also be found across the former Chelish Empire and beyond— even in Taldor.
Due to the Everwar, a hundred-year period during which Cheliax pushed farther north into Avistan, Chelaxians can also be found in small numbers in former border nations, including Druma, Lastwall, and the River Kingdoms. These populations grew somewhat after the ascendancy of House Thrune, which chased its enemies and those of diabolism far beyond the country’s borders. Chelaxians can also be found in Garund. The former Chelish colony of Sargava still has a significant Chelaxian population, though it has broken away from its old rulers and fiercely defends its fragile independence. Cheliax continues to control a sliver of land on the southern coast of the Inner Sea, much to Rahadoum’s displeasure. This Chelish settlement, called Khari, lies just beyond the ruined Arch of Aroden. Here, Chelish blood is a point of pride, and most residents consider themselves more Chelish in culture than Rahadoumi.
Chelaxians in Korvosa
Korvosa was originally founded as a city-state of Cheliax, lots of colonists left to inhabit the city and over the years of living with the Varisian’s there are very few pure-blood Chelaxians left, though many of the elite still refuse to mingle with those they consider to have impure traits and return to the motherland to marry before returning.
All of the Korvosan noble houses are of Chelish descent.