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.
Imperial Cheliax dominated Avistan for more than 600 years after Chelish King Aspex the Even-Tongued broke from Taldor, diplomatically absorbed Andoran, and conquered both Isger and Galt. These events launched a centuries-long tradition of expansion and glory, propelling Cheliax to the height of human civilization. The nation soon dominated and subsumed many native peoples and cultures, so that many regions had a ruling elite or caste of Chelish origin, or with a strong Chelish heritage and blood ties running back to the empire. The empire continued to expand, and with the expected return of Aroden, patron god of Cheliax, none of the Chelish people had any doubt that it would eventually attain the power (and riches) of ancient Azlant.
Then the inexplicable occurred. Instead of returning, Aroden died, and a part of Cheliax died with him. With the emperor stripped of his divine mandate, certain powerful noble houses rose up, plunging the imperial heartland into civil war. Anarchy and war plagued Cheliax for more than 30 years, until House Thrune and its allies took and held the throne. Queen Abrogail I, Infernal Majestrix of Cheliax, placed among her armies bound devils from the depths of Hell. She quelled dissent in the empire’s heartland and in so doing gained her new regime a measure of respect and legitimacy. Few among the gods-fearing citizens of Cheliax approved of the diabolists’ fearsome methods, but wherever they installed themselves, the opportunistic savagery of the last generation soon ceased, and a dark peace embraced the kingdom.
Shortly after taking control of the nation, the new government moved its administrative center to the inland port city of Egorian and wasted little time in demanding subservience from Imperial Cheliax’s many holdings. For several months, the new regime not only maintained the borders of Imperial Cheliax but also stood poised to expand beyond them. Unfortunately for the Egorian government, though, the infernal blasphemies of House Thrune turned public opinion against Cheliax. The people of Galt and Andoran rose up and threw off Cheliax’s imperial shackles. Reluctantly, House Thrune allowed these vassals to secede, focusing its attentions on the lucrative colonies of Sargava in Garund and Anchor’s End in distant Arcadia.
Despite losing almost half its holdings, Cheliax remains one of the largest nations on Golarion. The far-reaching influence of Cheliax stretches north to the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, south to the nation of Sargava in Garund, and east into Taldor and Qadira. Elements of Chelish culture appear in all those places and more, mostly in the ports and trading cities of dozens of nations – indeed, art, theater, and music (particularly the opera) have seen a striking explosion in popularity in modern Cheliax, if only because the nation’s beleaguered citizens increasingly need an escape from reality.
The diabolists currently in charge of Cheliax serve the empire as its new aristocracy. Many of the ruling houses claim titles such as paracount or paraduke, with the loftiest titles frequently going to those families who only gained nobility with the rise of House Thrune. Noble Houses that existed before the death of Aroden for the most part retained their power and influence over the past century, although those in favor with the ruling House of Thrune saw the greatest increase of prestige and wealth. Despite their pretensions, questionable morality, and recent rise to power, the noble houses that currently rule Cheliax do so more effectively than their imperial counterparts prior to the civil war. Under the red-and-black standard of Asmodeus, Cheliax once more claims its former glory, if not the righteousness of years past.
The House of Thrune and much of Cheliax’s nobility work with devils and other infernal agents. Aristocrats from noble families old and new enter into arrangements with citizens of Hell, gaining from these deals incredible power for a sometimes-unclear price. Not every noble house so eagerly welcomes the influences of Hell, but those that do not wisely remain neutral on the subject or quickly find themselves eradicated. Yet despite this infernal allegiance, the House of Thrune sees itself as the master. The government in Egorian relies both on its infernal allies and servitors and its all-too-human subordinates to retain and exert power. Among its most powerful mortal tools are the unsubtle, skull-breaking Hellknights. The Hellknights and their infernal allies root out rebellion and dissent in the imperial heartland, and make for the most iconic representation of infernal Cheliax’s absolute dedication to law and order. In addition, Cheliax maintains a massive regular army and navy, and is militarily one of the most powerful nations on Golarion.
Despite the government’s promotion of diabolism, slavery, and other sinister influences, the common folk continue living their lives much as they have for centuries. Unlike in the past, though, they also mainly live in fear. Most of the major gods remain popular, although every Chelaxian at least pretends to primarily worship Asmodeus, and every house, cottage, and rented room contains a small shrine or holy symbol of the devil-god.
The government’s many dissent-quelling policies make the people untrusting and insular. Even citizens with no investment in the diabolic order turn in suspected traitors to achieve wealth and social advancement. Those who work within the cruel new system – and even those who merely pay it lip service – continue to gain power and prestige within the nation, while those unable or unwilling to play along continue to suffer constant torment and indignities.
Queen Abrogail II, great-granddaughter of her namesake and the sixth to wear the crown since the House of Thrune gained control of Cheliax, is a beautiful and ruthless woman. Her command of the pit fiend Gorthoklek, the same devil who aided her great-grandmother in the conquest of Cheliax 7 decades ago, is but one of her resources to maintain rule over her nation. Queen Abrogail II also counts in her court the Contessa Lrilatha, an erinyes said to have been sent by Asmodeus himself instruct the young monarch. Despite these infernal advisors, Queen Abrogail’s quick wit and daring schemes are her greatest resources, and it is as a direct result of her rule that Cheliax today has a real chance at regaining a significant amount of its former glory.