Tyranny of Dragons
The Church of Lolth
Lolth (pronounced LOALTH), sometimes Lloth in the Drow dialect, the Queen of Spiders or Queen of the Demonweb Pits, was a goddess of the drow, a chaotic evil deity who reveled in chaos. She patterned her life and the lives of her worshipers on a regimen of chaotic acts and the veneration of spiders. The way that new-born spider broods tore each other apart to survive especially appealed to her. She promoted this by encouraging her worshipers to kill their rivals, thus ensuring that they were the strongest of the “brood”. Her love of chaos often made her appear mad but the wise saw her as a calculating individual who was always several steps ahead of those who believed that they could anticipate her. She was cruel and domineering, forcing her will upon her followers and her enemies, a will that instructed the strong to crush the weak in the most torturous way imaginable.
Lolth’s clerics had no set uniform, but spider motifs and darker clothes were the norm. Some rites required the worshiper to wear no clothing at all. Her sacred animals were arachnids. Lolth was worshiped almost exclusively by drow, and in the lands of Faerun, almost exclusively females as seen in the matriarchal drow city of Menzoberranzan. However, other sentient races venerated the Lady of Spiders as well. Her clergy sacrificed the living and treasure to her glory.
Militant Myrlochar, Order of Soul Spiders
The Militant Myrlochar, sometimes known as the Order of Soul Spiders, was an elite fighting organization comprised exclusively of crusader males and found in the dark elven cities where Lolth was worshiped and males were allowed entrance into her priesthood. The Militant Myrlochar directly served the reigning Matron Mothers of the city, as workers of irrepressible chaos.
Handmaidens of the Spider Queen
The Handmaidens of the Spider Queen were an order of female crusaders with no permanent ties to any individual city. Also known as the “Daughters of the Yochlol”, the Handmaidens served as instruments of Lolth’s will in times when the Spider Queen needed to bring an entire city into line. At least three times in recorded history the Handmaidens of the Spider Queen assaulted and destroyed an entire dark elven city that threatened to drift from Lolth’s web of chaos. When not assembled into an army of chaos and vengeance, the Handmaidens worked in small companies scattered throughout the Underdark, harassing merchant trains that looked to other deities for protection and conducting hit-and-run raids on cities ruled by the clergy of other deities.
Lolth was a fervent enemy of the Seldarine, especially Corellon Larethian. She felt a deep hatred for Sehanine Moonbow and Fenmarel Mestarine in particular, for the parts they played in foiling her scheme to overthrow the Seldarine. She was also an enemy of both her children Vhaeraun and Eilistraee (who knew her as “the Tyrant Poisoner”), though she appreciated all the effort her son put into his plans to get rid of her. It was in accordance with her views on the chaotic nature of the drow.
Gruumsh was a former ally, later her enemy. He blamed her for the failed attack on his arch-nemesis Corellon.
Lolth shared an enmity with Ghaunadaur, and was opposed every non-drow deity of the Underdark.
Lolth had tentative alliances with Loviatar, Malar, and several tanar’ri lords, including Errtu, who was the caretaker of Menzoberranzan, her favorite city, during the Time of Troubles. The only alliance she ever had that could possibly be described as solid would be the one she had with Selvetarm. He was her champion and consort, although he harbored a deep hatred for her. In 1375 DR, Selvetarm was slain by a worshiper of Eilistraee wielding the Crescent Blade (with the help of the transformed Halisstra Melarn), leaving her alone for about a century, until he was restored to life during the Second Sundering.
During the War of Winter, Lolth attempted to wrest the Weave of Magic from the departed Mystra, aided by the goddess of winter, Khala. Corellon, Pelor, and Sehanine, aided by the ascending lesser goddess, the Raven Queen in what is known as the Autumnal Alliance, rose to oppose them. While distracted battling Khala, Lolth was able to access the Weave by channeling the power of fate for it to flow into her domain. However she ultimately failed to assimilate its power before the Autumnal Alliance bested Khala, the Raven Queen decapitating her with a vorpal scythe. Driven back, she not only lost control of the Weave, but also her power over the web of fate, which the Raven Queen inherited, rewriting the fates upon the many branches of a snowflake of winter.
Lolth has been silent since, but awaits a time to strike again, knowing what the power of both the Weave and the reclaimed power of fate could bring her. Present rumors amidst the folk of Faerun claim she has thrown in with Tiamat and her followers, claiming the rise of the Dragon Queen is mutually beneficial to her ambitions. Such claims are reinforced by the continued presence of drow magic in the Silver Marches.
Lolth was formerly Araushnee, elven goddess of destiny, artisans, and dark elves. She was the lover of Corellon and had him completely smitten by her grace and beauty, but she grew power-hungry and a sense of never-before-seen greed and cruelty entered into her mind. She began to aid Corellon’s enemies. In a fight with his nemesis Gruumsh, Araushnee aided the orc god and Corellon had to flee. She then sent her new ally Malar to hunt her weakened lover but, through sheer skill of arms, Corellon, with the help of Sehanine Moonbow, managed to defeat the Beastlord.
Corellon still had no idea that his beautiful consort was behind the attacks but Sehanine Moonbow found out the truth after discovering that Araushnee had started an affair with Fenmarel Mestarine in an effort to have him aid her in an upcoming rebellion. Although at first entranced by her advances, he eventually spurned her. Sehanine confronted Araushnee and was imprisoned as a result. The Weaver, with the help of her son Vhaeraun, then gathered a host of evil deities opposed to the Seldarine (like Malar, Ghaunadaur, Gruumsh, Auril, and a host of other gods of goblinoids, orcs, giants, and kobolds), and convinced them to attack Arvandor, in an attempt to overthrow Corellon. She had planned for the assult to ultimately fail, as her actual goal was for his consort to be killed during the battle and to replace him as Coronal of Arvandor. She was almost successful in tricking Eilistraee into slaying her own father with a stray arrow, but the Weaver’s conspiracy was ultimately thwarted by Sehanine Moonbow (who had managed to free herself), Hanali Celanil, and Aerdrie Faenya (who joined their powers, forming the goddess Angharradh) and Corellon’s life was saved. After her betrayal was revealed, Araushnee was banished by Corellon and turned into a spider demon, while Vhaeraun was simply exiled. Even though she was cleared from all guilt, Eilistraee chose to share her mother’s and brother’s punishment, because she knew that the drow would need her light in the times to come.
Araushnee took the name “Lolth” and turned the 66th layer of the Abyss into her new home. She had to struggle to gain control over the layer, fighting the power of both Ghaunadaur and of Kiaransalee. The latter was a dark elven lich from the world of Threnody. After being banished by her consort, the king of Threnody, for her experiment on undeath, she fled with a group of loyal followers to continue with her research elsewhere. Eventually, Kiaransalee managed to raise an army of undead and exact revenge upon the inhabitants of her former world, rendering it lifeless, and to find home in the Abyss, where she ascended to divinity as a demipower. She wasn’t however able to prevent Lolth from gaining control of the plane, and was subdued by the Spider Queen, reduced to an unwilling vassal. Ghaunadaur, on the other hand, became the author of his own defeat, as his failure to destroy Lolth drove him to steal the intelligence from all the oozes that worshiped him in a fit of rage, leading to a great loss of followers, and therefore of power. Lolth also learned of the demon prince Zanassu, who claimed divine dominion over spiders. Considering her new body, she thought it was her sole right to own such a portfolio and angrily tricked Selvetarm into attacking the demon prince, killing him. She gained a divine portfolio and a new consort. She used her regained divinity to turn the 66th layer into the Demonweb Pits, morphing it into a giant funnel-shaped web to fit her spidery appearance.
Lolth’s attention turned to Toril only when the moon elf Kethryllia Amarillis (founder of the house that brought her name) intruded into the Demonweb, reminding the Spider Queen of a way to regain more of her divinity by having the surface elves worship her once more. During a battle in defense of her city—Sharlarion—while wielding the dagger (imbued with scrying magic) that Ka’Narlist had given to Cornaith Moonflower long before (and that had become part of the treasures of Sharlarion), Kathryllia chased a demon to the Abyss. Lolth noticed the dagger and followed the magic to Ka’Narlist, deciding that he would make a fine consort. She planned to act through him and gain the worship of the dark elves, to exact revenge on Corellon through his own people.
While Lolth was trying to establish an influence in Toril, in -17,600 DR, the Ever’Sakkatien (the first Sundering) caused the destruction of great part of Ilythiir (including its capital, Atorrnash), and the death of many followers of Vhaeraun (one of the main patrons of the empire) with it. The Masked Lord’s influence ebbed with the loss of his worshipers, granting Lolth the opportunity to fill the void.
During the Second Crown War, she sent the balor lord Wendonai and other demonic servants to offer corrupting power to the ruling families of Ilythiir. Just before the Ilythiiri were turned into drow, Lolth had become one of the deities worshiped by them (alongside Vhaeraun, Ghaunadaur, and even Eilistraee, although the latter had few followers there).
Although she attempted to inspire a couple of invasions of Evermeet, Lolth seemed to have been content to sit and watch her worshipers killing each other in the Underdark, at least until the Time of Troubles. She spent most of her time as an avatar tracking down the new drow demi-power in the realms, Zinzerena. She killed Zinzerena easily and became more chaotic in nature as a result, actually spreading the faith of Zinzerena (who wanted to rebel against Lolth) in Menzoberranzan, and granted spells in her name seemingly just for the sheer irony. When the Time of Troubles ended, Lolth also began granting spells to the followers of Moander after he was killed by Finder Wyvernspur.
Silence of Lolth
The Silence of Lolth came in 1372 DR. Clerics suddenly could not receive spells, throwing the entire theocratic drow society into turmoil. Two great drow cities were destroyed, while others were taken over by Vhaeraunites. A band of drow led by Quenthel Baenre, the Mistress of Arach-Tinilith in Menzoberranzan, attempted to discover what had happened to their goddess. They sought the help of Tzirik Jaelre, a high priest of Vhaeraun. Through communion with his god, Tzirik discovered that Lolth was denying contact to everybody but did find that she was still alive, simply sealed in the Demonweb Pits. The group felt they had been summoned to the Demonweb Pits and so they traveled there with Tzirik via astral projection. They found Lolth’s black temple but were unable to enter or provoke a response. Tzirik opened a gate for Vhaeraun, who attempted to destroy Lolth. However, Selvetarm, the champion of Lolth, appeared. They fought and fell from Lolth’s temple as the group escaped the plane by killing Tzirik.
Lolth eventually re-emerged. She had moved the Demonweb Pits from the Abyss to its own separate plane, where spiders destroyed each other every day and Lolth weeded out the weak, even from among her dead as they had to traverse the plane’s barren, mad spider-infested lands to get to the Demonweb itself.
Lolth had taken the soul of a drow, Danifae Yauntyrr, and added her as the eighth aspect of her divinity. Whether this was a replacement or addition to Lolth’s combined mind was not clear.
Several key events occurred that led up to Lolth holding her undisputed place and status as queen of the drow for about a century:
Eilistraee defeated and subsumed her brother Vhaeraun, in a botched attempt to slay her.
Kiaransalee faded from existence when her name was deleted from the minds of all Torilians in 1377 DR, by a High Magic spell cast by Q’arlynd Melarn(represented in a cosmic game resembling the drow game of sava).
Ghaunadaur retreated from the Demonweb Pits to the Dismal Caverns.
During Flamerule 1379 DR, the Lady Penitent (aka Halisstra Melarn) killed Qilué Veladorn using the Crescent Blade, while Eilistraee was inhabiting the priestess’ body, supposedly killing the goddess as well.
However, Lolth discovered too late that hundreds of drow were forever out of her reach, as Q’arlynd Melarn, with the help of Eilistraee, managed to turn those drow back to their dark elven status with another High Magic ritual. Corellon Larethian took those elves under his protection, allowing them into Arvandor.
At some point in the years leading up to 1479 DR, Lolth ordered her servants to begin collecting blue fire items and relics important to Mystra. Her ultimate goal was to become the new goddess of magic.
After the event known as the Second Sundering, Lolth was no longer unrivaled as the goddess of the drow (even if she still retained her position of dominance). In the 1480s DR, Eilistraee and Vhaeraun—her two children—managed to return to life, united by a new reciprocal understanding and friendship. Both siblings personally appeared to their followers through avatars and manifestations, and their cults began to practice once again.
Kiaransalee and Selvetarm were also restored during the Second Sundering, and their faiths saw a resurgence as well.
Like all religions, the worship of Lolth involved a number of rituals and rites. Many of them included sacrifice. The following was a secret sacrificial prayer in Abyssal known only to high priestesses:
“Great Goddess, Mother of the Dark, grant me the blood of my enemies for drink and their living hearts for meat. Grant me the screams of their young for song, grant me the helplessness of their males for my satisfaction, grant me the wealth of their houses for my bed. By this unworthy sacrifice I honor you, Queen of Spiders, and beseech of you the strength to destroy my foes.”