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The sarrukh were a race of reptilian humanoids. They were one of the five progenitor, or Creator Races, of Faerûn. Eons ago, they built and maintained empires across most of the continent. In present-day Toril[as of when?], these ancient and evil creatures were almost extinct. Most sages who knew of the sarrukhs' past glory simply referred to them as the saurians, the sauroids, or the progenitors of the Scaled Ones.
The sarrukh left a lasting legacy in the form of the racial diversity of the scaled races of Faerûn. They took the scaly, reptilian animals and monsters native to Abeir-Toril and modified them into sentient beings such as the yuan-ti, nagas, pterafolk, asabi, lizardfolk, troglodytes, tren, and many other Scaled Ones.
Millennia ago, the sarrukh dominated all of the continent of Faerûn. Their mighty empires were the first in the world, encompassing the jungles along the shore of Azulduth, the eastern shore of the Narrow Sea, and the Chultan peninsula. The sarrukh enslaved or sacrificed other creatures in the name of their god, the World Serpent.
Problems of their own making eventually caused the sarrukh empires to crumble. This created a vacuum in which the sarrukhs' created races rose to prominence and established power centers of their own – many of which were still active to present day. However, the sarrukh still managed to remain relevant in modern-day Faerûn[as of when?]. Despite their small numbers, they could still command the loyalty and respect of the races that they had created. An immense rift had formed between the surviving sarrukh clans, and the enmity among them could lead to open warfare between the scaled races.
Sarrukh were shape shifters, though not to the same extreme as doppelgangers or lycanthropes. They were known to have two forms: One with a bipedal form and one with a more serpentine form. In their more serpentine form, they resembled certain yuan-ti abominations, with snake-like bodies and heads as well as powerful arms that end in vicious claws. The bipedal form of sarrukh had a humanoid upper torso, humanoid arms and legs, and a scaly lower body. All sarrukh had distinctive, gleaming red eyes that can strike fear into other races. It was because of the sarrukhs' dual form that they created a vast amount of reptilian creatures in a variety of different forms.
The sarrukh built the first significant civilizations of Toril, their empires rising and falling between −35,000 DR and −33,500 DR. This race of intelligent scaled creatures first appeared in the area known as Okoth, which is south of Mulhorand. The development of the sarrukh was relatively uncontested, and thus, their population quickly surpassed the level sustainable by the local resources. The sarrukh then spread rapidly throughout much of Faerûn, conquering other lands and starting new civilizations as they went. They met short-lived and disorganized resistance from the savages that inhabited the lands; furthermore, the sarrukh had already learned to smelt iron for steel weapons and armor, which made them virtually invincible. Within a hundred years, they had conquered most of Faerûn.
The Mhairshaulk Empire arose around −34,800 DR on the Chultan peninsula, and the Isstosseffifil empire followed in −34,500 DR, based in what is now the Great Desert of Anauroch. Okoth, the first of the sarrukh empires, still encompassed the sarrukhs' homeland. Lesser realms, which included the city of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun (located in what is now the Forest of Wyrms) and the city of Ilimar (which is now split between the Great Swamp of Rethild and the Gulthmere Forest), sprang up outside of the two great empires of Mhairshaulk and Isstosseffifil. These regions constituted the major hubs of sarrukh civilization, and the first stable portals in all of Faerûn were created to connect them.
As the sarrukh civilization expanded, they discovered that the shamans of the primitive races living in certain wilderness areas held magical lore that they had not yet encountered. The sarrukh studied these primitive forms of magic and consolidated their discoveries into a series of tomes. Upon completion, these books, which contained both easily researched magical knowledge and obscure information, were brought to Oreme, the capital of Isstosseffifil, for study, where the most magically gifted among the sarrukh and their servitor races pored over them. The sarrukh empires did not last long enough to gather the full fruits of their work, but this collection of minds grew into its own secret organization – the Ba'etith. This group's members consolidated and extrapolated the bounds of their newly found knowledge, penning the Golden Skins of the World Serpent (discovered by the Netherese centuries later and renamed the Nether Scrolls) many thousands of years after the fall of their empires.
The empires of the sarrukh continued to grow until the sarrukh eventually became the minority in their own empire (much like the Romans). Thousands of other races tended to them, fulfilling their needs and desires. The sarrukh savored the finest meats, surrounded themselves with gold, jewels, and other finery, and enjoyed all the luxuries of a civilization at its zenith. As with so many empires since, however, the sarrukhs' increasing dependence on other races would lead them in a spiral ever downward.
The first of their empires to fall was Okoth, collapsing circa −34,100 DR after a century of civil strife that caused many sarrukh to emigrate to different planes of existence. Isstosseffifil followed suit around −33,800 DR during a war with the mysterious magical creatures known as phaerimms. During this war, the leaders of Isstosseffifil rerouted the Narrow Sea, causing it to flood the Underdark (where the phaerimms resided) but also precipitating major climatological changes that doomed their own realm. Mhairshaulk was the last of the sarrukh empires to fall, its inhabitants sliding into deep hibernations circa −33,500 DR.
Many sarrukh died in the collapses of their great empires, but likewise, many also survived. The sarrukh of Isstosseffifil retreated into lichdom in the depths of Oreme, where they were protected by the asabis that they had once created and where they still sleep to this day[as of when?]. The sarrukh of Mhairshaulk were faced with starvation, so they began a cycle in which thousand-year hibernations alternated with brief periods of activity, during which food gathering and procreation could take place. The mighty clans of Okoth, however, wandered the planes of existence for millennia, but never did they find a plane where they wished to remain for more than a generation. This nomadic existence across foreign planes hardened them and turned them inexorably toward evil.
With the sarrukh of Okoth gradually turning to darker ways, a few dissenters emerged. They turned to a fragment of the World Serpent known as Jazirian. Jazirian transformed them into couatls. A war then took place between the couatls and the far more numerous Okoth sarrukh. The couatls managed to hold their own in the war until a darker fragment of the World Serpent known as Merrshaulk slew Jazirian, forcing the couatls to flee back to Abeir-Toril, where they came to settle in the continent of Maztica. There, the god Qotal embraced them as his divine minions, and the couatls considered him as a reincarnated Jazirian. A few couatls broke away from this group and returned to Faerûn in order to deal with the sarrukh residing in the Jungles of Chult. This splinter group looked to Ubtao as its patron deity.
The Okothian sarrukh began to explore the Barrens of Doom and Despair after the war with the couatls. There, they discovered a reptilian race known as the khaastas. The sarrukh believed the khaastas to be inferior and weak, so they attempted to enslave them. The khaastas resisted the sarrukh and declared war on them. Allied with demons, the khaastas ultimately won the centuries-long war. The few remaining Okothian sarrukh retreated to Faerûn, where they went into hiding in the crypt of Sar'Rukoth near the shore of Azulduth.
The Okothian sarrukh soon realized that Sseth had sunk into a sort of hibernation and was barely answering their prayers. During the Time of Troubles, Sseth stopped answering prayers altogether. Faced with the threat of the khaastas, the Okothian clerics turned to Set, the god of evil in the Mulhorandi pantheon. In their bargain, Set agreed to answer their prayers if they helped him in binding Sseth to eternal slumber. Thus, at the end of the Time of Troubles, Set absorbed Sseth's portfolio. About eleven years after the Avatar Crisis, Set began answering the prayers of his new worshipers. This included the yuan-ti, who still believed their prayers were being answered by Sseth.
The betrayal of Sseth had caused some undesirable consequences for the Okothians. Sseth was then beset by nightmares and thrashes against his bonds, awakening the hibernating serpentfolk elsewhere in Faerûn. The sarrukh of Mhairshaulk emerged from their hibernation. They sought to liberate Sseth and oppose the sarrukh of Okoth. The Mhairshaulk sarrukh worked to re-awaken the ancient yuan-ti empire of Serpentes, which was loyal to them.
Before the Spellplague
Pil'it'ith, the legendary albino sarrukh leader, was leading the Cult of Set in Okoth. Under him, the cult grew in strength. The cult's members were primarily Scaled Ones, but others had also joined its ranks. The khaastas had recently been appearing in the region of the Lakes of Salt, resulting in battles between them and the cult.
The sarrukh remembered distinctly the heights to which their race once climbed, and the fall to where it later lay. They were individually powerful, but their low numbers forced them to rely on the races that they created. During the height of their empires, the sarrukh became lazy and domineering. Instead of directly involving themselves with the rest of the world, they delegated their building and fighting to the lizardfolk, with the yuan-ti supervising those activities and acting as the sarrukhs' personal servants. The nagas were entrusted with the tasks of magical research, exploration, and guarding important individuals and places. Withdrawing into their palaces, the sarrukh never emerged without heavy protection. Despite the fall of their mighty and grand civilizations, the sarrukhs' attitude changed little. They were interested in the goings-on of the world but chose to remain apart from it. They instead sent out their yuan-ti servants or small groups of nagas to learn what could be learned and report back to them. The most important consideration for the sarrukh became preserving each and every member of their race.
- −35,000 DR
- The sarrukh establish the kingdom of Okoth, south of modern-day Mulhorand. Within a hundred years, most of Faerûn is theirs.
- −34,800 DR
- The sarrukh establish the kingdom of Mhairshaulk, on what is now the Chultan Peninsula.
- −34,500 DR
- The sarrukh establish the kingdom of Isstosseffifil, based in present-day Anauroch.
- −34,100 DR
- The Okoth Empire collapses after a century of civil strife, causing many sarrukh to flee to the planes.
- −34,000 DR
- Formation of the Ba'etith, a sarrukh organization that studies the various forms of magic practiced by other races.
- −33,800 DR
- In an effort to drown the Phaerlin and their other enemies, Isstossef wizards reroute the Narrow Sea. Although they succeed in driving the phaerimm deep into the Underdark, the massive ecological change causes the fall of Isstosseffifil.
- −33,500 DR
- The sarrukh-ruled empire of Mhairshaulk gradually declines and becomes the domain of the yuan-ti.
- −30,000 DR
- The Ba'etith create the Nether Scrolls.
- Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 270. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd, Darrin Drader (July 2004). Serpent Kingdoms. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 80–81. ISBN 0-7869-3277-5.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd, Darrin Drader (July 2004). Serpent Kingdoms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 59. ISBN 0-7869-3277-5.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd, Darrin Drader (July 2004). Serpent Kingdoms. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 190–191. ISBN 0-7869-3277-5.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd, Darrin Drader (July 2004). Serpent Kingdoms. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 54–58. ISBN 0-7869-3277-5.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd, Darrin Drader (July 2004). Serpent Kingdoms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 54. ISBN 0-7869-3277-5.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 5. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Greg A. Vaughan, Skip Williams, Thomas M. Reid (November 2007). Anauroch: The Empire of Shade. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 98. ISBN 0-7869-4362-9.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.