Population: 9,770 (lizardfolk 99.9%, lizard kings 0.1%)
Religions: Semuanya, Tiamat
Imports: Gladiators, weapons
Alignment: LE, NE
The City of Lizards lies on the northern shore of the Deepwash, in the shadow of the Deepwing Mountains. Although Surkh maintains cordial relations with the Emerald Enclave, Lachom (an agricultural community between the Deepwash and the Vilhon Reach), Lheshayl, and Nimpeth, it remains largely isolated from its neighbors. Surkh's inhabitants make their livings by fishing in the Deepwash, and they fear only the ancient dragon turtle that dwells in the depths.
Life and Society
The lizardfolk of Surkh have attained a degree of civilization unmatched by their kindred elsewhere in Faerûn. Despite their isolationism, however, their practice of eating both humanoids convicted of serious crimes and the losers of deadly gladiatorial battles engenders fear among the Scaleless Ones in the surrounding city-states.
Surkhites evince a high degree of loyalty for their monarch, King Griss'tok (CN male lizard king barbarian 9). Griss'tok remains an enigma to outsiders because he receives nonlizardfolk visitors only if they speak Draconic, and then only rarely. A council of tribal chieftains advises the king, but since he can promote or demote them as desired, they usually accede to his will.
Although traditional clan and tribal distinctions remain in force in Surkhite society, Griss'tok actively discourages such loyalties, regularly issuing edicts that force various clans and tribes to unite or divide to weaken their importance. Surkhites are expected to settle their individual and collective differences through ritualized gladiatorial combat at the Arena of Scales. Gladiators can be hired to serve as proxies for one or both parties to a dispute, but the battle's outcome must be honored whether or not the principals physically participate.
Most Surkhites dwell in houses fashioned of baked mudbricks that are built around shaded, communal pools. Labor is confined to the early morning and late evening hours so that most Surkhites can retreat to the cooling waters during the hottest portion of the day. Many of Surkh's inhabitants work as fisherfolk, harvesting the bounty of the sea, and most of the remainder are employed as soldiers or gladiators.
Major Geographic Features
Surkh claims some of the most beautiful landmarks in all of Faerûn.
Deepwash: So named for its unplumbed depths, the Deepwash is the largest freshwater lake between the Shining Sea and the Sea of Fallen Stars. Its clear, cold water teems with countless kinds of fish in sufficient quantity to feed most of Surkh without seriously depleting the supply. Drained by tributaries flowing from the Cloven, Deepwing, and Snowflake Mountains and from Impresk Lake, the Deepwash is drained in turn by the Wintercloak River.
The Deepwash is the home of an immense dragon turtle (advanced to 36 HD), which is known only as the Dragon of the Deeps. Surkhite fisherfolk regard death in the creature's jaws as an honor, though not one that they actively seek. Some sects within the city respect the Dragon of the Deeps to the point of worship and make periodic offerings to it, though the beast has never acknowledged such veneration in any way. The dragon turtle lairs in a flooded, subterranean cavern system that winds its way deep beneath the Spines of Surkh, opening into the lake several hundred feet below the surface. Somewhere within this maze lies the terminus of a one-way portal from the Dragon Eyrie.
The western arm of the Deepwash, known as Shalane Lake, is much shallower than the rest of the lake and largely free of the dragon turtle's depredations. Humans from the Shining Plains and Erlkazar usually confine their fishing expeditions to this end of the Deepwash.
Spines of Surkh: The southwesternmost peaks of the Deepwing Mountains, which overlook and encircle the City of Lizards, are known as the Spines of Surkh. Because the Surkhites bury their dead amidst these mountains, the region is littered with shallow tombs. Semuanya's clerics are somewhat lax about erecting wards around such crypts, so many of them have become home to scaled undead creatures, particularly ghouls. At least three of the crypts in this area house the bodies of Okothian sarrukh. Crypt looting is a crime in Surkh, and anyone caught in such an enterprise is consumed alive.
Only a few points of interest stand out from the generally peaceful land of Surkh.
Arena of Scales: This vast amphitheater in the heart of Surkh is rivaled only by those in Manshaka and Reth. The structure is fashioned to resemble a circle of carved stone dinosaurs with their necks, limbs, and tails intertwined. Gladiatorial events are held here twice each tenday, drawing large crowds on a regular basis. Although the majority of the gladiators are lizardfolk, other races (particularly humans) can earn good money fighting on the Scaled Field as proxies of the various factions. Most combats are not to the death; they simply end when one side or the other yields. However, should any participant or sponsor demand a battle to the death, the loser is eaten by the king or one of his nobles.
Deepwing Portal: In the Spines of Surkh, high above the City of Lizards, stands a portal in the form of a stone slab with serpentine symbols inscribed on its eastern side. This portal links the Vilhon Reach with the mouth of the Great Petrified Serpent in the Serpent Hills. Although the lizardfolk of Surkh lay claim to this region, several yuan-ti in the employ of the Serpent Sibyl have recently built a small fort around the portal, which they have defended against repeated assaults.
The portal activates only when the early-morning sunlight shines full upon the stone. During this period, any creature touching the stone is drawn through the portal and deposited in the petrified serpent's mouth in the midst of the Serpent Hills. The nature of the portal makes its defense particularly important, since traveling yuan-ti typically arrive at the stone several hours before it can operate and need a safe place to wait for dawn.
Shrine of the First Lizard: Beneath the streets of Surkh lies the Shrine of the First Lizard, a house of worship for the Cult of Tiamat. Led by Deiros Forktongue (LE male Mulan human cleric 9 of Tiamat/hierophant 5 of Tiamat) and Fire of the First Lizard Ssenidak Wyrmspear (LE male lizardfolk fighter 5/cleric 9 of Tiamat/divine champion 5 of Tiamat), the Dragon Queen's followers are growing rapidly in strength and number. At present, the cult controls most of the illicit activities in Surkh, including trade in slaves and black market goods. Members of the cult must still keep their faith secret, but the day is coming when they will be able to challenge the primacy of the church of Semuanya. The Cult of Tiamat is fiercely opposed to the Cult of the Dragon and recently fought off an attempt by its Hlondethan cell to establish a base in the City of Lizards.
The City of Lizards began as a nameless human fishing village much like Elupar and Ulkan are today. It was settled by emigrants from Lachom and Nimpeth in the Year of the Deep Wellspring (167 DR).
In the Year of the Cloven Stones (1159 DR), a dragon turtle pursued a band of Okothian sarrukh from the Dragon Eyrie through a portal into a flooded cavern system beneath the Spines of Surkh. The sarrukh fled into the Deepwash and then onto the nearest shore, which was coincidentally the site of the aforementioned fishing village. There the dragon turtle finally slew them, destroying much of the village in the process and causing the few human survivors to flee in terror.
In the years that followed, increasing numbers of lizardfolk migrated to the site, drawn by reports that servitors of Semuanya had been seen battling a great wyrm of the depths. The first tribes discovered the bodies of the sarrukh and interred them with honor in the peaks above the village. Their tribal leaders began studying the skins (scrolls) that the sarrukh had left behind, and in time they began to ape their creators in custom and practice.
In the Year of the Claw (1299 DR), Griss'tok's grandfather finally united the tribes and declared himself king. He established the system of gladiatorial combat that serves even today in lieu of normal intertribal and interclan feuding. His son established the precedent that the most powerful offspring of the current king must establish his or her right to become the heir through gladiatorial combat.
Plots and Rumors
Surkh is a relatively peaceful place, but occasional events can draw interest from outside the realm.
Wyrmlings' Exodus: A clutch of black dragons has emerged in Surkh via the portal from Dragon Eyrie and fled into the depths of the Deepwash. The wyrmlings seem to be hunting something - possibly an artifact stolen by the sarrukh from Tiamat's hoard. Although the dragons are not yet a threat, King Griss'tok has sent word of his need for brave adventurers to nearby cities, fearing that the wyrmlings will threaten his realm when they grow up. Surkh's monarch dares not employ lizardfolk for such a task because they might establish cults to Tiamat instead of destroying her followers.