The capital and sole city-state of the Drow nation, Gyre is an enclave built within a massive cavern deep below the surface of the world. Originally filled with volcanic strata eons ago, all that remains is a single massive pillar of obsidian that rises from the floor of the cavern up to the ceiling. Gyre grows outwards from this pillar to fill the rest of the cavern, forming districts in circular loops and whorls, much the same way as a mollusk shell.
There are three districts within the city, all connected by a confusing network of curving roadways designed to make invasion of the city as difficult as possible. At city center is the Obsidian District, seat of government, bureaucracy and scholarly striving. Here sits the Palace of the Cabal, the conclave which forms the ruling body of the city. Out from here extends the Onyx District, where most of the Great Houses keep their compounds, and the majority of middle-class craftsmen and businesses lair. The final district, Ebony, circles out until it reaches the cavern walls, the spaces in between filled with slave enclaves, fungus fields, spider pens, mining quarries, and the very few religious temples tolerated within the city cavern.
Drow society within the city is almost completely self-sufficient – when seen from the outside. In reality, each controlling faction of society has access to resources the others lack, which necessitates fruitful trade. This does not prevent the Drow from attempting to gain advantage however. Dark elf money is anything that will be accepted by another party in exchange for a service. Usually though it takes the form of Threats, Feuds, and Quarrels, all formed out of inscribed pieces of spider-chitin.
As a largely martial society, the most advanced scholarly items and complex artifacts of arcane power are beyond the reach of the Drow. For this reason, several treaties, portals, and trade routes to the Infernal Scar have been opened.
The Cabal is the primary ruling overbody of Gyre. Composed of the heads of each Great House, no major city-affecting action can be taken without the approval of the Cabal. A Primus is elected to lead the council every decade, who gets to set the agenda for dealing with issues within the body. Backstabbing and politicking are extremely common.
The Gauntlet is the closest thing the city has to an educational institution, and is where each Drow learns to harness and control their arcane abilities. It also serves as a training ground in lesser skills, but more importantly it teaches young Drow the importance of intrigue, politicking, back-stabbing, and Ambition. Every young Drow is required to attend, taking on a master-student relationship with an older instructor, the Tyro and the Domini. Accidental deaths among the students are extremely common.
Finally, there are the Great Houses. Originally eight military “divisions” defined by their sorcerous bloodlines, they now represent the seven great political and familial bodies of Drow society. Each one is responsible for one facet of the city’s functions, and cannot do without the other six. Internal structure is dependent on each House, but all possess a few loose similarities, such as a strong matriarchy. Internal politicking and infighting is extremely common.
Culture within the city has grown far beyond original military origins of the Drow. As such, a few things stand out as unique among their culture. Spiders of all kinds, for example, are commonplace. They form a common item for jewelry, tattoos, architectural designs, and House sigils. This is likely due to the importance of the Giant Spider in providing both food, clothing, and poison weaponry, all the way back to the original exiled inhabitants of Gyre. Each house possesses a spider-farm, and wanton sabotage or destruction of such a place is considered one of the few taboo actions in society.
Seven great houses rule the city of Gyre. Originally numbering eight, the final House has been long lost.
House d’Amal was originally created to be artillerists, infused with elemental might to rain down fire, lightning, and frost upon the enemy. In modern times these energies are devoted to maintaining the climate of Gyre, and individual parts of the city. One oft-repeated rumor concerns the meddling of the Chromatic Dragon Nesnatoth in the bloodline of the House, several centuries ago.
House d’Zrak were originally created as diplomats. Today they bend their efforts in controlling all trade with the outside world, primarily with the Infernal spirits whose powers they are infused with.
House d’Vom were originally constructed as siegeworkers, and now make up the bulk of architects, miners, and craftsmen within the city with their powers over earth and stone.
The Destined of House d’Shin are considered the finest warriors alive. Their mercenary services are often in demand.
House d’Chiss act as record-keepers, assassins, spies, and infobrokers using their powers of shadow and darkness.
House d’Wayl were originally created to control masses of undead infantry. Now they use their abilities to manipulate the majority of slave labor in the city, working them to death only to raise them back up as undead laborers.
House d’Renx were originally given mastery over verdant and growing things. Today they possess a monopoly on non-spider foodstuffs and gardens throughout Gyre.
Lastly, House d’Omna are known for their many narcoticists, and the elaborate entertainments they can evoke with their control of dreams and nightmares.
House d’Malic deserves special mention. Originally infused with the ill-luck and intended to bring misfortune amongst their enemies, they were never able to truly find a place in the evolving Drow society. A few centuries ago the house vanished overnight. None know the reason behind it, but most suspect that their ill-luck finally caught up with them.