History of Rashemen
Politics and Power
Rashemen has had the same form of government for over 1,400 years. Not long after the empires of Narfell and Raumathar collapsed, the tribes of the Rashemi were united with the help of a mysterious band of women spellcasters, the wychlaran. The women swore to protect Rashemen, its people, and its native spirits until the end of the world. In exchange, they asked only for the power to choose Rashemen's kings and war leaders. The Rashemi, having seen how effectively the wychlaran battled against the Nars and Raumathari, gratefully agreed, and the first Iron Lord was selected sometime around seventy-five years before the start of the Dale-reckoning calendar.
History of Rashemen
Rashemen's history is a long series of invasions by hostile neighbors, followed by the invaders' defeat by berserker fury and hathran magic. These enemies include old Narfell and Raumathar, Mulhorand (seeking to expand its holdings from its northernmost territory), the Tuigan Horde, and Thay, which is responsible for at least twenty major invasion attempts in the past 450 years. Because Rashemen is isolated and communicates little with the outside world, the details of most of these attacks are not well known, but the following events have become common knowledge.
|-5000||First human tribesfolk settle in Rashemen.|
|-1967||First Mulhorand-Unther War. Rashemi, Raumviran, Sossrim, and Nar tribesfolk are employed as mercenaries by both sides.|
|-1076||Orcgate opens on the plateau of Thay. Mulhorand and Unther ally against the threat. Rashemen is overrun by orcs.|
|-1069||Orcgate is destroyed; many orcs flee into the Sunrise Mountains.|
|-970||Nentyarch of Tharos builds his capital at DunTharos and forges the Crown of Narfell. He begins a campaign to conquer the various petty Nar realms and unite them beneath his rule.|
|-946||Nentyarch's armies destroy Shandaular, capital of Ashanath; all Nar kingdoms are united.|
|-900||Raumvirans establish the realm of Raumathar, with its capital at Winterkeep.|
|-160||Year of Stone Giant||Narfell and Raumathar destroy each other with terrible magic. Rashemen is ravaged by demons and destructive spells.|
|-148||Year of Black Marble||Rashemen falls under the rule of the demon lord Eltab.|
|-108||Year of Wands||A secretive order of Witches surfaces in Rashemen. Of Raumviran ancestry, they are sworn to preserve the lore and learning of the Empire of Raumathar.|
|-75||Year of Leather Shields||Aided by the Raumviran Witches, Yvengi defeats Eltab and frees Rashemen from demonic rule. Mulhorand invades Rashemen but is driven off by the combined efforts of the berserkers and Witches. The Witches demand the right to name the Iron Lord of Rashemen.|
|189||Year of Cowled Defender||Bregg the Strong, a mighty berserker, launches a rebellion against the Witches when they refuse to name him Iron Lord on the death of the previous lord. Berserkers loyal to Bregg cut down dozens of hathrans in the first hours of his revolt.|
|194||Year of Coiling Smoke||Bregg's rebellion is finally crushed. The hathrans take to wearing masks as a consequence of Bregg's war.|
|306||Year of Fanged Horde||A mighty host of orcs descends on Rashemen from the Sunrise Mountains but is driven off.|
|595||Year of Coven||durthans, a secret sect within the wychlaran, attempt to overthrow the order and seize Rashemen. Strife between the hathrans and their dark sisters lasts for decades, but the durthans are eventually driven out.|
|922||Year of Spouting Fish||wizards of Thay rebel against Mulhorandi rule and sack the provincial capital at Delhumide.|
|934||Year of Fell Wizardry||Red Wizards launch their first invasion of Rashemen but are repelled.|
|1319||Year of Fallen Throne||Tuigan Horde attacks Thay. Zulkir Szass Tam arranges a truce with the Tuigans and builds a great portal to transport them north to Rashemen. The Tuigans besiege and destroy Citadel Rashemar, with the main force moving west across the High Country to attack forces rallied by the Witches at the Lake of Tears. Pinned by the Thayan army south of Lake Mulsantir, the largest force of Rashemi berserkers is unable to support the Witches, who can only delay the immense horde.|
|1360||Year of Turret||Winter snows hold the Thayan army in place, allowing the berserkers to move north again and attack the unsuspecting Tuigans in their camps. The Battle of the Lake of Tears forces the Horde to fall back. The Red Wizards part the waters of Ashane to allow the Tuigans to retreat. The Rashemi do not pursue. The Tuigans are eventually defeated in Thesk by a multinational army rallied by King Azoun IV of Cormyr.|
|1362||Year of Helm||Thay attempts to invade Rashemen by moving forces through Tliesk along the Golden Way, but they are overwhelmed by water elementals summoned by the Witches. The Thayans retreat after using magic to scorch the western shore to bare rock. The Witches spend a month repairing the damage.|
|1363||Year of Wyvern||An unusually cold winter in Rashemen allows a large number of cold-loving creatures to move southward from the Icerim mountains into the North Country and beyond.|
|1365||Year of Sword||Thay invades Rashemen from the east, while Red Wizards melt glaciers in the Icerim Mountains, causing severe flooding in Immilmar and Mulsantir. While the hathrans are distracted, the Thayan forces cross the foothills of the High Country but are driven back by angry elementals.|
|1366||Year of Staff||Thesk offers to improve part of the road along the Golden Way to facilitate traffic. The Witches accept the offer under certain conditions of construction, and the building begins in late summer.|
|1367||Year of Shield||road builders complete the stretch from Mulsantir to Tinner.|
|1368||Year of Banner||Thay causes chaos in Rashemen by igniting the western portion of the Ashenwood, driving its fell creatures eastward into civilized areas. During the confusion, gangs of cutthroats teleport to Mulsantir and Immilmar to slay important Rashemi but are cut down by berserkers.|
|1369||Year of Gauntlet||Increased eastward trade inspires merchants from other countries to establish outposts in Rashemen. One group of settlers arc shield dwarves. The local Rashemi welcome the dwarves after testing their ability to forge, fight, and drink.|
|1370||Year of Tankard||Thay attempts to invade Rashemen by crossing Lake Mulsantir on magically crafted boats, but a storm created by the hathrans dashes their vessels against the southern shore.|
|1371||Year of Unstrung Harp||Thydrim Yvarrg, Iron Lord of Rashemen, is slain by a Thayan assassin. Rather than raising him from the dead, the Witches opt to replace him with Volas Dyervolk, whom they feel will chafe less under their guidance.|
|1372||Year of Wild Magic||Khalia, a Thayan emissary, approaches Mulsantir under the flag of peace and asks permission to create an enclave. She is refused but allowed to leave safely. The return of Bane puts the hathrans on alert for any news of Banite activity in the area.|
At its simplest, each community is led by a fyrra ("lord" or "war leader"), usually a warrior of renown from a clan of good standing. Technically, a fyrra wields power only over the soldiers he trains and commands, but he often keeps the peace and settles matters of traditional law and judgment. A fyrra is advised by the Witches and normally defers to their judgment. The fyrras of each settlement report to the Huhrong, or Iron Lord, the highest-ranking leader in Rashemen.
The Iron Lord is always a man, chosen by the Witches, and rules at their whim; they may replace him at any time. The Iron Lord is expected to rule wisely and in the best interests of the people of Rashemen. It is his duty to keep travel between settlements reasonably safe, secure the frontiers, and control raiding monsters from the wilder parts of the country. In times of invasion, the Iron Lord is the supreme warlord of all Rashemen's forces except the Witches, who usually follow his suggestions as if they were orders.
The Iron Lord represents the physical ideal of Rashemi men and personifies all their virtues: He should be able to out- fight, out-ski, outswim, outdrink, and outrun all his warlords. In practice, no Iron Lord has been able to do this, though many have come close.
Justice in Rashemen is swift and precise. People who steal have their property confiscated. People who kill are killed or exiled. The Witches dispose of people who offend them or the spirits. Fortunately, most problems in Rashemen are the result of drunken brawls and lusty spouses, and such things can usually be worked out without serious harm to either party.
The absolute rulers in Rashemen are the Witches. They prefer to remain behind the scenes, but if thwarted in their tasks - most involving the safety of Rashemen - they are ruthless in eliminating a potential spy or traitor. The Witches have the power of life and death over the people but exercise this right only when absolutely necessary (such as when someone deliberately harms a Witch within Rashemen's borders) to avoid a bad reputation. Disobeying the direct order of a Witch is considered treason and may be punished by death as well, although the Witches normally give a warning and repeat the order before exacting this punishment and are more lenient with the young, the ignorant, or other Witches.
Despite its remote location, natural barriers, and lack of mineral resources, Rashemen has a number of enemies who would like to see it destroyed, pillaged, or enslaved.
Chaul of Citadel Rashemar
With the fall of Citadel Rashemar, a power vacuum opened in the eastern end of Rashemen, and in stepped Chaul, a devious hag with many minions and significant abilities as a sorcerer. She is one of the durthans (see below) and is power-hungry like all of her sisterhood. Since she isn't human, some humans in that organization fear what would come to pass if she gained too much power. As it stands, she has close ties with the annis hags of the Ashenwood, the bheurs of the Running Rocks, and the shrieking hags of the Endless Wastes.
Chaul is busily gathering an army in the eastern slopes of the Sunrise Mountains, rallying goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, and ogres to her banner. While she loathes Rashemen and the wychlaran, she knows she cannot overthrow the hathrans with a humanoid rabble, and so she is seeking a subtler strategy. She dreams of finding some way to turn the people of Rashemen against the Witches, and to this end she has been working to entrap young ethrans and seduce them to her way of thinking with offers of power and wealth. So far she has had little success, and any Witch who falls into her hands soon winds up dead.
Below the Sunrise Mountains lies a strong kingdom of duergar known as Darzalstaukh, the City of Dark Dreams. So far, the gray dwarves have not engaged in overtly hostile actions. However, given their generally evil nature and the rarity of their expeditions to the surface, most Rashemi assume the duergar are up to no good. Drow are rumored to appear in the Running Rocks from time to time, so if the Underdark beneath Rashemen is contiguous, the gray dwarves may be able to strike at any portion of the country from below.
Already, duergar outposts in surface caves come into conflict with Rashemen's miners over the land's meager supply of iron ore. The miners are preparing for inevitable war and don't plan on being the victims of a surprise attack. The hathrans suggest patience and caution, for the numbers of duergar are unknown, and they might be interested in trade rather than war. The duergar may be unsavory trading partners, but peace with Darzalstaukh would give Rashemen access to iron and other valuable metals.
The wychlaran aren't the only female spellcasters manipulating events in Rashemen. The durthans are a generally evil group of women with powers similar to those of the hathrans, but they are focused more on the spirits of destruction and vengeance that live within the land. The durthans believe the only way to protect Rashemen is to be as ruthless to its enemies as its enemies are to the Rashemi people. They dream of mounting attacks into Thay and Narfell, stealing magic, and eliminating powerful foes. They would tax the Golden Way and demand tribute from Thesk to allow eastern goods to reach that country. The Great Dale, a similarly forested and natural place, would become a target of Rashemi expansion; the durthans are certain they can awaken the spirits in that land and make it a place much like their home.
As it stands, the durthans are greatly outnumbered by the Witches, but because they work in secret and sometimes pretend to be hathrans themselves, the extent of their power is unknown. The Witches are grateful for the respite from Thayan attacks, which gives them time to concentrate on this danger from within. Most durthans take the durthan prestige class, although they are grooming many underlings for membership in their dark order, much as the hathrans count the ethrans among their number despite the inexperience of the "untried."
Old Narfell may be long dead, but the descendants of those evil priests live on as bloodthirsty marauders and raiders who fight with one another and anyone who stumbles into their cold lands. From time to time, aggressive Nar tribes cross the
River Erech to battle the Rashemi, and when the two groups of berserkers meet, blood stains the ground for many miles. Fortunately, weather and water discourage this behavior, but when populations grow large in Narfell and resources grow thin, foolish young Nars are willing to raid Rashemen. Recently the Witches have encouraged the berserkers to leave defeated raiders alive, but only after removing an arm. These grim survivors of pointless Nar raids are sent home to remind their fellows of the consequences of attacking Rashemen.
The most aggressive of these horse-raiders are the Ragnor tribe, a powerful band of barbarians who live on the steppes north of the Firward Mountains. The Ragnor tribe is led by a vicious killer called Ghur-Tha the Cleaver (CE male human Bbn4/Clr9 of Orcus) who delights in capturing enemies alive and sacrificing them to his demonic patron.
Red Wizards of Thay
The primary enemies of modern Rashemen are the Red Wizards of Thay and their servants, slaves, and armies. Even though the common people of Thay have no reason to hate the Rashemi, Thay's history of war with Rashemen and the constant exhortations of the Red Wizards have convinced the lower classes that the Rashemi are a horrible and debased people.
Fortunately for Rashemen, the Red Wizards have been incompetent in execution of their goals of conquest, wasting resources fighting one another instead of focusing on their opponents. They might take the field with an army of orc troops and a new magical crossbreed that loves to eat orcs, or send a squadron of griffonriders to aid a gnoll tribe that hates all flying creatures. They give imprecise orders to mindless undead, so that thousands of troops walk aimlessly into the forest or march themselves into a lake. The Red Wizards are best when dealing with opponents directly - using spells and magic items they wield themselves - but they avoid such tactics, which put them directly in harm's way.
Now that the Thayans are focusing on trade rather than military conquest, it will be interesting to see what happens to their long-term relationship with Rashimen. The Rashemi aren't going to forget five hundred years of conquest attempts overnight, and the Red Wizards aren't going to forget their defeats at the hands of the hathrans, nor the phenomenal magic hoards of the Old Ones. Even if the Thayans succeed at spreading their trade enclaves throughout the nearby lands, the Rashemi will be a tough sell.