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Zala'ess is the the fifth and youngest daughter of Val'Sharess Diva'ratrika. She is the political head of the Vel'Sharen clan. More Sharen descend from her than any of her sisters, making Zala'ess' bloodline the largest, at over 1000.
Appearance and Personality
Zala'ess is the youngest of her sisters, and as a result is sometimes given a reputation for being soft. Zala'ess fights against this line of thought, constantly trying to prove herself stronger and smarter than her older siblings. She is ruthless in her attempts to secure the empire for her own bloodline, and often acts without the advice of others.
Despite this, Zala'ess is an inordinately loving mother. She has plenty of children and other descendants, and she cares for them deeply. She does not tolerate the mistakes of protector twins of her children, and despite Vel'Sharen custom, she does not treat these commoner twins as if they were Val.
Zala'ess used to dye her wavy hair dark blue at the roots and ends, but she now keeps it naturally white and pulled aside in a long braid. Her old crown featured 5 bright points in the center, but since she declared herself empress, her crown bears 7 pointed gems. She is commonly seen wearing elegant dresses and robes in varying shades of teal with red accents.
Biography - Arc I
The Nidraa'chal Uprising
Zala'ess first appears during the events of the Nidraa'chal War, roughly 15 years before the start of the main story. As the Nidraa'chal's numbers grew under Diva'ratrika's blind eye, the nether-based clan grew ever bolder. They began attacking other clans without warning and used tactics that were heavily damaging to the civilian population. With open battles breaking out in the streets, Diva'ratrika began to organize a war effort against the Nidraa'chal. With the war distracting the bulk of Diva'ratrika's resources, Snadhya, Zala'ess, and Sarv'swati took advantage of their relatively unprotected mother's vulnerability.
They attacked her, forced her into her throne room, and sealed the entrance to leave her to die of starvation. The sisters forcibly tainted Nishi'kanta and framed the assassination attempt on Sil'lice, who was forced into exile. Snadhya and her sisters convinced the public that Diva'ratrika was alive, but in recluse. Aware that the true power after the coup belonged to her elder sisters, she focused her efforts on shielding Nishi'kanta from their wrath and began to bide her time, waiting for an opportunity to enact her own plans. With Snadhya'rune focusing primarily on Orthorbbae and Sarv'swati taking military command of the Vel'Sharen, Zala'ess began a slow push to usurp political control from her elder sisters.
Vychriel and Yaeminira
Following the conclusion of the war, the sisters put a law into effect that mandated tainting for the entirety of the clan, under the pretense of protecting against future use of nether summoning in battle. One of Zala'ess' daughters, Vy'chriel, refused to go through with the tainting procedure. Zala'ess argued with her over this, but loved her daughter too much to force the issue.
Vy'chriel's protector twin, Yaeminira, eventually took matters into her own hands. She was tainted, learned nether summoning, and used her new power to attack and kill Vy'chriel. Zala'ess was very much devastated by her daughter's death, intending to kill Yaeminira before being stopped by Sarv'swati and pressured into sparing her life. As was Vel'Sharen custom for protector twins, Yaeminira became Vy'chriel and Vy'chriel became a flesh golem serving her former protector.
Though Zala'ess agreed in the end, she never forgave Vy'chriel for what she had done and constantly reprimanded the girl no matter how hard she tried to please Zala'ess and the clan. She was epsecially disapproving when Vy'chriel opened a nether gate in a Sarghress district in an attempt to stir up a war between the Val'Kyorl'solenurn and the Vel'Vloz'ress.
When Chrys'tel, Zala'ess' youngest, was kidnapped by Ariel Val'Sarghress following an incident at Orthorbbae, Zala'ess left for the Val'Sarghress fortress in an attempt to negotiate her release. Quain'tana told her that Chrys'tel had defected, so Zala'ess disrespectfully left without permission, knowing that Chrys'tel would never do such a thing.
Her daughter was returned to her when Syphile Val'Sarghress, a Sarghress outcast, freed Chrys'tel and smuggled her out of the fortress. Zala'ess expressed doubts on whether or not she should believe Syphile's claim that she defected from the Sarghress. After all, when her mother came to claim Chrys'tel, Syphile was the first to buckle shamefully in Zala'ess' presence. The Fifth Daughter heard Chrys'tel's claim that Sharen always honor debts, but deemed the risk of her rescuer being a Sarghress plant was too high--and yet, she was impressed with her child's passion to debate Syphile's value. Syphile was given an objective to assassinate Quain'tana, and for her service she would then become a Vel of the clan.
Chrys'tel told her all she learned at the Val'Sarghress fortress - that Sil'lice, the greatest public traitor, was alive within the walls of the Val'Sarghress clan and that Ariel, Quain'tana's heir, was actually an abomination born of an aware spider and a drow.
Zala'ess' Power Play
Zala'ess, growing tired of being kept under the thumb of her older sisters, decided it was time to secure her line's dominance over the clan and to push the city to war against the Val'Sarghress, who she considered a major threat to the Vel'Sharen.
Attack on the Val'Sarghress Fortress
She called the first clan gathering since the Nidraa'chal war. She sent out invitations to all the Ill'haresses in Chel, but intentionally did not invite Quain'tana of the Val'Sarghress clan. Instead, she sent an Imperial envoy to the Val'Sarghress fortress that included a massive Imperial golem that destroyed the fortress' main gate. The golem cut a path for three key Vel'Sharen agents - Vy'chriel and Yaeminira to kill Sil'lice, and Syphile to kill Ill'haress Quain'tana.
Both assassinations failed, just as Zala'ess had expected. She was free of her daughter's killer and of the Val'Sarghress reject Chrys'tel had brought home. Zala'ess had effectively put the ball in Quain'tana's court, as the Sarghress would now either be required to wage war openly or to secretly dispose of the Imperial Vel'Sharen golem, cementing their stance as a rogue clan and a threat to the empire.
The Clans Gathering
Meanwhile, Zala'ess attempted to skew the discussion of the Ill'haresses to the danger of rogue clans like the Val'Sarghress clan. She brushed aside all discourse on surface colonization and conquest in favor of "restoring balance" to Chel. She claimed that the only way to do this was to punish clans who stepped out line.
When this was met with mixed response, she angrily reported that the Val'Sarghress clan had destroyed an Imperial envoy sent by the Val'Sharess regarding the declaration of a Ariel, technically a non-drow, as heir. She also revealed that Quain'tana had been harboring Sil'lice, the woman behind the Nidraa'chal coup, within her ranks. She tried to convince the council that in order for peace to be maintained, Quain'tana and the Val'Sarghress would have to fall.
Without the authority of the Val'Sharess of Chel'el'Sussoloth to back her claim, the other Ill'haresses were offended to hear Zala'ess attempt to abuse the council for her own goals. The Val'Illhar'dro considered Zala'ess' claim, but the Val'Kyorl'solenurn and the Val'Jaal'darya were disgusted in Zala'ess' obvious ploy. The gathering fell apart as multiple parties stormed out.
During the Moon's Age Festival, Zala'ess catches Chrys'tel seeking guidance from Yakuise Val'Kyorl'solenurn. While her daughter openly questioned what really happened to Diva'ratrika and Sil'lice's words on it, Zala'ess is adamant that Chrys'tel learn not to ask the wrong questions, or be labeled a traitor by Sarv'swati's line, the apparent bullies of the clan. Shinae is specifically warned never to leave Chrys to her devices, less she wander back to Sil'lice.
Biography - Arc II
Zala'ess' actions sparked a city-wide war between the Vel'Sharen and the Val'Sarghress clans. In order to gain support for her line, she marched to a contested Nuqrah'shareh with the majority of her troops, leaving only Sarv'swati's forces to defend the city.
Upon arriving in Nuqrah'shareh, she falsely informed the leading clans that Diva'ratrika was dead, and that Zala'ess had been crowned the new Val'Sharess. The Nuqrahn loaylists believed her, her they included Zala'ess' troops in their plans to retake the city from the rebel forces. In return, Zala'ess wished to have access to an ancient weapon the Val'Illhar'dro were rumored to own.
Despite this, Zala'ess managed to form an alliance between the Vel'Sharen of her line, the Val'Illhar'dro, the Balvhakara, and the Jie'yen. With this new support, she plans to return to Chel'el'Sussoloth.
Meanwhile, it is clear that Zala'ess is aware of Chrys'tel's constant investigations into the conspiracy she and her sisters hatched years ago. While this behavior is obviously traitorous to the clan, Zala'ess has stated that she trusts her daughter to do what is right and to never stop searching for the truth - if anything, these skills would only make her a better Overseer. Zala'ess concludes the conversation with expressing regret over Diva'ratrika's death, if only for the resulting chaos left in its wake.
The ancient weapon turned out to be a zeppelin airship, and Zala'ess had great interest in obtaining it for herself. She issued an order to Chrys'tel to retrieve it alongside former Dutan'vir Orthorbbae Master Quar'imar, but the team is stopped by Kalki and her Sul accomplices.
Return to Chel'el'Sussoloth
Zala'ess, her brood and their Nuqrah'sharian allies send out messengers to warn Sarv'swati's troops of their impending return to the city, three of which are Chrys'tel, Nau'kheoul and Shinae. Her orders were to have all loyal forces fall back and let the Sarghress troops gorge themselves on starving commoners, thus taking an even larger hit to their dwindling supplies. A few days later, Zala'ess and her forces arrived in Chel through the Vloz'ress gate--after negotiations made beforehand by Chry'stel--and now set up their base of operations in Vloz'ress lands, where her mate Sabrror leads Quain'tana for parley.
Zala'ess was quite frustrated with the Nuqrahn forces' lack of action--here they sat in Vloz'ress lands, and yet no actions were taken to move against the Sarghress. With Sonor'enai Val'Illhar'dro, Harci Jie'yen, and Ayana'sima Balvhakara each giving excused for their clans' inaction, Zala'ess could not march on the enemy forces surrounding the Vel'Sharen's fortress --with the Illhar'dro earning a disproving jab from Nehleanee. In the meantime, her elder daughter Kiri'dharma brings in little Suna'madhuri, who is more than happy to give Zala'ess the encouragement she needs to face the coming event...
Brokering Peace with the Enemy
The arrival of Quain'tana and her two Dragonslayers Zith and Tebryn, led by Sabrror, sparked immediate aggression between the opposing forces; Quain'tana's demands that the Vel'sahren surrender completely. Sonor'enai and Ayana'sima quickly comes to Zala's defense with strong words and a high-tech golem to show off Nuqrah'shareh's strength. After the clans have had their war of words, Zala'ess silences the room with an apology to the Sarghress Illhar'ess: although Quain'tana initially feels enraged about this, Zala'ess reasons that the war has cost both clans too much, and even if the Sharen were all killed, there would still be a void left behind that needed to be filled.
Quain'tana is assured that Ash'waren will rule, but Zala'ess counters that Ash'waren may rule, but the Sarghress will still be her pet soldiers to control--another fight broke out and the fifth Daughter found herself in quain's iron fist, calling for all parties to vacate the room. Now alone, Zala'ess plays her cards where it hurts: Quain's army of 12k strong is about to collapse. They were starving; the food shortage had hit the wolves the hardest, and Zala'ess' Nuqrahn allies had the upper hand with their own stash of supplies.
The Fifth Daughter proposes that the two clans work together to rule Chel, before Snadhya'rune undermines the city's leaders and takes over. She is confident that with Sharen administration and Sarghress military superiority, the two can restore peace to the city and assure the other clans of a stable environment to operate in. Zala intends to unite her clan with the Sarghress and Nuqrah'shareh beyond to become one conglomerate empire.
As Chrys'tel reports her evidence of Snadhya's involvement in the Nuqrah civil war, Shinae steals a servant's dish and places a mystery liquid in Zala's drink. Chrys'tell is immediately suspicious as the conversation drifts to the question of Shinae's baby--Zala'ess asks of its well being and is given an obvious lie from an altered Shinae that Chry'stel is nervous about. The conversation shifts to Chrys'tel reporting about Snadhya'rune's new weapon, a refined poison that attacks the mind and rots the body. Zala'ess reiterates that the First Daughter is not to be trusted, due to how easily it is for Snadhya to convince others to do her dirty work--ironic, as Chrys'tel was incredibly suspicious of Shinae handling Zala'ess' drink.
Still on the topic of Snadhya'rune, Zala'ess sees promise in the alliance with the Sarghress, and aims to topple her sister's plans before it's too late. Chrys'tel inquired about the ninth tower in Orthorbbae, but unfortunately all her mother can offer is a quip about how even she remembers gossiping about the mysterious place.
The Demon God Incident
When the red tide of demonic energy spread throughout every corner of Chel, Zala'ess found herself surrounded by her family and allies. She first thought it was an empathic attack lead by Ash'waren, but when Chrys'tel tries to choke her, Zala'ess is quickly overtaken. Even Sabrror was under control of this mysterious force; Zala'ess begged him to resist, to remember that he is stronger than this effect--what resulted was Sabrror falling to his demon and emerging a raging vel'akar with a sole desire to create an opening for Zala'ess to escape the horrors.
Along the way, she finds young Suna and attempts to escape with the child, but Zala'ess soon discovers that even her baby had been taken over. Shinae too tries to attack the Empress-to-be but the assassination fails, but the knife strike goes through a pillow that had been stuffed in her clothes to fake a pregnancy. Zala'ess once again finds herself surrounded by zombie-like citizens and warriors, with only a knife in hand to defend herself--when her fortunes change with the arrival of Quain'tana. She explains that her own troops had been converging on her, and Quain too had to cut her way out.
The pair are forced to make for the Vloz'ress keep on Quain'tana's hunch that their soldiers are being controlled by the beast the Vloz hide away. A moment of weakness in the tide of people sees an opportunity to send mana flares. The call to arms is answered, and both the Sarghress and Zala'ess' alliance converge on the Vloz'ress fortress, just as a massive nether demon emerges from within the keep. Once the battle is done, Zala'ess pounces on the opportunity to remind Quain'tana of the value of forging a cease-fire--Quain'tana shakes hands in agreement, but insists that this does not make the two entities allies.
Sarv'swati's Last Stand
A floater crashing in on the improptu agreement signals Sarv'swati's challenge to duel Quain'tana to the death. So her plans are not endangered, Zala'ess quickly orders her family to attack her elder sister: many soldiers happily oblige to take out the military leader, but Sarv'swati's prowess in arts combat tosses them aside like dolls. Zala'ess was determined to watch the fall of her sister--not before demanding that Sabrror and Suna be found--and see the end of her sister's torment over Zala'ess and her family. The duel went on for several bouts as she watched, until Zala'ess decided to intervene herself: she stealthily sent her mana through the ground to root Sarv'swati's foot, giving Quain'tana the opportunity to launch a sword chop straight for Sarv'swati's unguarded head.
After the battle, Zala is eager to congratulate the Wolf Queen on killing her sister, and insists on sending healers to tend to Quain's wounds for fear of poison. Quain refuses, but Zala'ess offers one last piece of advice: though Sarv'swati is dead, Snadhya'rune won't be as easy to stop. For it is the First Daughter that Zala'ess fears the most...
The Poison Spreads
When the Alliance with the Sarghress is sealed, Zala'ess is informed that the Third Daughter had returned to Chel, but he is momentarily unable to recall her sister Sil'lice--this sparks worry in her daughter, and Zala is informed that they should move to intercept her sister. With Suna in hand, Zala'ess calmly calls for her sister in anticipation of a reunion, but Sil'lice would have none of her antics, going straight to the point. 31 years of rage pours out in the form of Sil'lice's words and the ice affinity she bears, giving Chrys'tel and Al'tesh Vel'Sharen more than enough trouble. Zala'ess argues that any actions she took against Sil'lice could be repaired in light of her new alliance with the Sarghress. Sil'lice continues to pour our her rage, declaring that Zala'ess chose to fall in line with their elder sisters; Sil'lice left Zala'ess with a declaration that she recognized no tainted as her family.
The very next day, Zala is with her children as she is being tested for infections by Jaal'darya scientists, Dia'heira Jaal'darya and her servant Felis'nuul. By now, She shows a noticeable weakness when Zala'ess loses her grip on a bottle, while addressing Suna. The results are grim: Dia'heira states that Zala'ess is indeed infected with the poison engineered by Snadhya's Jaal minions, prompting Zala'ess to order Saph'ala and Chrys'tel to do whatever it takes to maintain the alliance with the Sarghress.
Degeneration of the Mind
The following day, Zala'ess sits in a gathering of clan representatives on what to do with Chel now the war is over. While the leaders argue, Zala'ess unleashes her plans for the remaining Chelian clans while reiterating that Snadhya'rune cannot be trusted to lead the city back on track due to her threats of poison. Zala'ess was about to explain the Vel'Sharen's role when the hallucinations begin; she no longer sees the other leaders as allies, and shouts when Sonor'enai tries to reach for her. Chrys'tel is quick to pull Zala'ess away, but not before her mother shouts in confusion of being unabel to remember anyone.
Two days after the gathering, Zala'ess is left alone in her quarters within the Vloz'ress lands. Her hallucinations are constant now; she recalls faint memories of her sisters speaking to her. The visions intensify when Zala'ess witnesses a red-eyed shadow oozing through the windows with a malicious aura, one that soon take the shape of her missing mate Sabrror. It momentarily disappears, and emerges right behind Zala with the words "My love," scaring the Fifth Daughter senseless.
Her guards Al'tesh, Nona and Sorn'mal burst into the room, expecting intruders, but only found a ranting and raving Empress who was adamant that someone had been in her room. The three came to the conclusion that Zala'ess' madness must not spread to the Sarghress at all costs.
Thirteen days after the allied assault on the Vloz'ress fortress, Zala'ess' illness remained at a critical state. She heard her daughters' attempts to reach Zala and call for the Jaal'darya, but she perceived only blurred images and distant memories of the past. The Fifth Daughter no longer knew who her family was.
When her guardians vacated the room, Zala'ess witnessed several shapes appearing, including the vague shape of Wi'am Val'Jaal'darya with a syringe in hand--suddenly, Zala'ess knew clarity once again. After a moment of confusion, Wi'am led Zala downstairs, claiming to be ushering Zala and her guardian Al'tesh to the Jaal's leader. Representative Jhane Jie'yen attempted to reach out to the Empress with urgent news from the Nuqrah leaders, but was shooed away by Zala'ess' Jaal'darya saviors.
Soon, she found herself in a small room, facing none other than her dreaded sister Snadhya'rune, who had a proposition to offer. Snadhya looked beaten and seemingly paralyzed, but still had that power to manipulate the situation that Zala'ess learned to fear. The Nidraa'chal matriarch reveals that Zala'ess' efforts to form a pact with the Sarghress were about to dissolve; news had spread of a disturbance in the Sarghress cavern, and Snadhya had knowledge that rogue Wolves were braying for Sharen blood as they spoke. Her sister stood shocked at the news though still believed that Quain'tana would never turn on the Alliance, but Al'tesh's word of events unfolding confirmed Snadhya's words.
With no other choices left, Zala'ess agreed to hear Snadhya's plan, but not without terms of her own: among these is the installing of Chrys'tel as the Captain of the Imperial Guard.
Biography - Arc III
Three years following the conclusion of the District War, recover efforts in Chel'el'Sussoloth had been stalled to a crawl--food was still in short supply, the Val'Sarghress had become a dangerous rogue element, and the fruits of the flower plague engineered by Jaal'darya radicals had taken hold of parts of the city. Sizable swaths of districts were left abandoned and quarantined off, for fear of the infection spreading--not to mention, the Nidra'chaal's ambitious dream of a tainted drow populace had finally manifested out of control.
By authorization of the Imperial family, the Kyorl'solenurn conducted a targeted demon purge in many of the southern districts, and this had caused a great rift in relationships between the Chelian and the Nuqrahn clans over the swift, brutal execution being carried out. Yakuise had returned to her position as an emissary to the Sharen, and argued her clan's case in Zala'ess' court. During the hearing in the Val'Sharess Tower, Yakuise insisted that the Kyorl'solenurn be granted access to more infested areas where they believed an open nether gate was hidden away. The Balvhakara and Beldrobbaen representatives, Himani'khuni, Vaas'tile, Melas'ryon stood staunchly against the request to which Zala'ess agreed, citing that uncontrolled purging would frighten the populace. However, the Empress agreed that purges should continue, albeit under tight supervision.
Meanwhile, Zala'ess struggled to convince the Jie'yen representative that his clan should not abandon the effort, but Jhane insisted that they had left their home city unchecked for far too long and had to leave. The Balvhakara also had plans to leave Chel for their Nuqrah homeland as well. With her Alliance dissolving from the long years at war, Zala'ess had become hard-pressed to keep her house intact. Under Snadhya'rune's direction, the Nidra'chaal had been injected into the clan's inner structure to attempt to save the Alliance from collapsing, but brought great tension between Zala'ess' loyal family and her sister's treacherous minions, as shown with the blatant disrespect one "Imperial Guard" shown Chrys'tel during the council meeting.
"Diva'ratrika was never one to trust others, even her own daughters." --after Chrys'tel presses the question of seeing her grandmother.
"We could fight for years, win every battle in Chel'el'Sussoloth, and still lose the war. The clans no longer obeyed the edicts of my mother. The old world is as you have said, Nega'fanae: the key to the future is the old world's re-colonization as you have preached for so many years. It is a race that we cannot win without the great Illhar'dro clan's assistance. We need your people's skills, your network of outposts, your resources... and a certain ancient weapon that your engineers have brought back to life." --addressing the Nuqra'shareh war council during the Nqurah'sharen Civil War.
"They cannot control you! Love, you fought against terrible odds, resisting the progress of your taint for years! Be the master of your own will! I believe in you--" --desperately trying to reach out to her mate, during Kharla'ggen's attack on the city.
"Everyone needs a moment, even those who ought to be dead and disposed of. Snadhya'rune will hear of this mess, if she has not already, and you are doing your best to aggravate her." --referring to Chrys'tel's actions against her sister's agents within the Imperial Guard.
- Zalaess nightwear.png
Concept art of Zala'ess' home wear.
- Concept ZalaDemon.png
Official concept art of Zala'ess' transformation, Chapter 57.