Population: 434,510 (humans 99% [Tashalans 80%, Chultans 19%, Halruaans (Nimbrese) 1%], yuan-ti 1%)
Government: Monarchy (vassal state of Nimbral)
Religions: Leira (Gyric), Squamata the Black (Sseth [now Set])
Exports: Pearls, salt, spices
Alignment: CN, GE
The Hidden Kingdom of Samarach lies along the southern shore of the Chultan Peninsula, between Thindol and the Jungles of Chult. Although independent of Nimbral, Samarach is a vassal state of the Seahaven ruled by one of the twelve Nimbral Lords. Mountain passes leading to Samarach are cloaked in veils of illusion (treat as widespread hallucinatory terrain effects made permanent), and the kingdom's settlements are protected by high walls and overlapping permanent images.
Life and Society
The ophiophobic inhabitants of Samarach are consumed with the fear that traitors lurk in their midst: Trust is rare, even among family members, and lying is the cultural norm.
While all adults are expected to contribute to the defense of the realm, those who practice spellcasting - particularly spells from the school of Illusion - are most highly regarded. A sharp cultural split divides the Nimbrese nobles from the Chultan and Ta'shlutan commoners. Although there has been no hint of rebellion, cultural and class differences continue to rankle a sizable percentage of the populace.
Samarach is governed by an individual known as the High Phantasmage. The position rotates among Nimbran archmages, each of whom assumes the title and rules from a few years to a few decades before surrendering the rulership to another. The current ruler, High Phantasmage Meleghost Zoaster (CN male human illusionist 20/archmage 5), has already governed for many years, and whispers among the Nimbrese nobility suggest that he has no intention of returning to Nimbral. Some attribute this decision to the burgeoning power of the Leiran (Cyricist) priests, who settled in Samarach in large numbers after the Time of Troubles, when the Nimbral Lords banned any state religion or organized priesthood in the Seahaven.
Samarach is extremely unwelcoming to outsiders. In fact, its nobles often use scrying to spy on unwanted visitors and then afflict them with nightmares from afar until they leave. Any outsiders who seem to pose a true danger are attacked repeatedly from the shadows by phantasmal killers. Although foreign merchants are not permitted in the Hidden Kingdom, a handful of Samarachans who have approval from the High Phantasmage to act as merchants occasionally set sail from the port of Samargol or travel overland via the Sormarl Pass. Despite all these precautions, the Hidden Kingdom's inhabitants are consumed with ophiophobia, and pogroms against suspected agents of the serpentfolk are not uncommon.
Major Geographic Features
Numerous natural landmarks dot the realm of Samarach.
Beacon Rocks: This cluster of a dozen or so barren islets lies in the Great Sea, almost midway between the Snout of Omgar and the Seahaven of Nimbral. On the largest of these rocks stands the Beckoning Tower of Shoon (formerly the Beacon Tower of Shoon), which was built as a lighthouse during the reign of Shoon IV. Like the Sea Towers of Irphong and Nemessor, its better-known cousins in the Nelanther Isles, the Beckoning Tower is 40 feet high and 2Y feet across. A wooden door at the base leads to a winding stair along the outer wall, which gives access to three levels of empty chambers. At the top of the tower shines a continual flame effect that is visible for miles.
After the fall of the Shoon, an unknown spellcaster attached a powerful effect similar to a sympathy spell (caster level 20th) to this tower, and now any human who sees the structure or its light is magically drawn toward it. Efforts to dispel this effect have come to naught, and now the light that once guided ships to safe passage far from the shores of the Wild Coast instead forces vessels rounding the Horn of Chult to hug the peninsula's southern coast or risk foundering on the Beacon Rocks.
Narubel Pass: This all-but-forsaken pass connects the city-state of Narubel with the town of Taruin by way of the depths of the Samarlogh. Even if trade were still permitted between the two cities, the dangers of the Samarlogh make such travel infeasible.
River Samar: This peaceful river arises from a confluence of creeks near the town of Taruin and winds its way to the Bay of Omgar, draining the Sanrach Basin. The banks of the river are lined with small farming hamlets, and flat-bottomed merchant scows ply its waters. Because the populace lives in fear that water-dwelling serpentfolk might swim up this vital artery, massive dwarf-forged nets block the mouth of the river, and smaller versions are raised and lowered at checkpoints spaced approximately 10 miles apart between Samargol and Taruin.
Samarlogh, The: Northwestern Samarach includes the Samarlogh - the southeasternmost tip of the Jungles of Chult, which is cut off from the rest of the great forest by the western Sanrach Mountains. Samarachan legends speak of Squamata the Black, the embodiment of the ever-encroaching jungle that swallows up anyone who dares the dark depths of the Samarlogh. Although Samarachan warriors regularly patrol the jungle's borders, the depths of the Samarlogh are true wilderness areas inhabited by flocks of corollaxes and carnivorous forest sloths, as well as countless other monsters. A few abandoned strongholds of the Sauringar yuan-ti tribe also lie within its depths.
Sanrach Mountains: This semicircular mountain chain partially surrounds the Sanrach Basin, nearly dividing the Jungles of Chult from the rest of the Chultan Peninsula. The heavily forested eastern slopes of the western Sanrach Mountains form the western edge of the Samarlogh. These jungle-covered foothills support scattered populations of blood apes and cloaked apes.
Snout of Omgar, The: This rocky, uninhabited peninsula extends south into the Great Sea, separating Samar Bay from the waters of the Wild Coast. The Snout is named for the great sea serpent (treat as a sea drake advanced to 36 HD) that lairs in a large sea cave on the western side of its tip. Omgar's outrageous toll varies according to the beast's whim, but most ships quietly pay it regardless of amount, since ships that stray too far away from land risk foundering on the Beacon Rocks. The area's lesser caves are home to tribes of yurians (known locally as aldani, or lobster-men).
Sormarl Pass: This narrow pass winds through the southwestern reaches of the Sanrach Mountains, connecting the Thidolian town of Samagard with the Samarachan town of Sorl. The pass is cloaked in hallucinatory terrain spells, and only heavily armed caravans dare to traverse it. From time to time, an individual vanishes from a passing caravan, leaving only an eerie, high-pitched whine in his wake. This phenomenon has given rise to rumors that at least one ethereal marauder haunts the area.
Samarach boasts several significant towns and cities.
Mines of Selgol: First established in the waning days of the Shoon Imperium, the mines of Selgol are among the most productive salt mines of the Chultan Peninsula. Their output has been shipped east and north to the lands bordering the Shining Sea and the Lake of Steam for centuries.
In the Year of Writhing Darkness (172 DR), deep-digging Thindolese miners broke through to the Underdark region known as the Firelands. In the centuries since, firenewt marauders and salamanders from the Burning Rift have plagued the mines of Selgol, and they still pose a constant threat to the doughty miners.
Rassatan (Small City, 10,936): The City of Gilded Pearls nestles in a steep-sided bowl at the head of Rassatan Bay. A high stone wall divides the city from the docks below. A single gate leads through the center of the wall, and a well-patrolled tunnel leads through the back of the bowl to another fortified gatehouse overlooking the fields of the Sanrach Basin. The inhabitants of Rassatan dwell in small burrows carved into the terraced walls of the bowl. The City of Gilded Pearls is best known for the oyster beds that lie beneath the shallow waters of the bay. These prolific beds produce the highest-quality golden pearls available in Faerûn.
Samargol (Metropolis, 105,731): On the eastern bank of the River Samar, at the head of Samar Bay, is the City of Veils, the home of nearly a quarter of Samarach's population. Although most of the citizens (both male and female) do wear masks or veils in public, the city's name actually stems from the countless illusions woven by the Nimbrese. These dweomers make the city appear to be little more than a handful of shacks and a small lord's keep from the outside and the grandest city in all of Faerûn from the inside.
A heavily fortified double ring wall protects this sprawling city. The inner wall encircles a low hill on which most of the Nimbrese aristocrats dwell, including the High Phantasmage. The majority of the city's real wealth is concentrated in this district. No gates mar the inner wall's strength, so at least in theory, only those who can fly (either magically or mounted on pegasi) can enter or escape this isolated enclave. In fact, a handful of tunnels penetrate the foundations of the wall, but their use is illegal, as are attempts to climb the wall.
The outer wall encircles the bulk of the city and is pierced by only three tiny gates. One leads north to Taruin, another leads east to Rassatan and Sorl, and the third opens onto the river. The city docks lie outside the walls within arrow range of the guards atop them. All traffic into or out of the city is physically and magically searched. This high degree of security results in a general scarcity of most goods and prices that are double those elsewhere in Faerûn.
Sorl (Large Town, 4,612): This garrison town protects the western end of Sormarl Pass. Built into the walls of the steep-sided gorge that marks the western end of the pass, the town is divided into two halves: Northface and Southface. The cave mouths that honeycomb both sections are linked by narrow stone staircases carved into the rock. Northface serves as living quarters for the legion of troops based here, while Southface is home to the merchants who cater to the needs of the soldiers and their families. A pair of stout, fortified walls known as the Westgate and the Eastgate block the western and eastern ends of the gorge, respectively.
Taruin (Large City, 23,899): The City of Seven Spices lies near the confluence of the creeks that form the River Samar. Many of the rare spices for which Samarach is known are gathered in the fields surrounding Taruin, and salt caravans from the mines of Selgol regularly pass through this walled town on their way to the scows that will transport their cargo to Samargol. A large contingent of Samargol's army is based in Taruin, and its leaders use the city as a staging area for extended patrols along the borders of the Samarlogh.
The isolated realm of Samarach was once the western half of Thindol. At that time, its populace was dominated by Tashlutan immigrants who settled the Sanrach Basin after the Tashalar Campaigns (circa 300 DR). (See the Regional Histories of the Tashalar and Thindol, below, for more details.)
In the Year of Many Serpents (605 DR), the Thindolese in both the Chultan-dominated east and the Tashlutan-dominated west unmasked a host, of yuan-ti infiltrators in their midst. During the months of anarchy that followed this event, roving bands of ophiophobes attacked anyone they suspected of possessing serpentine ancestry. Unlike the eastern Thindolese, the folk of western Thindol fled en masse, marshaling a great flotilla of ships and sailing for the fabled isle of Nimbral.
After a great storm dashed much of this slapdash fleet against the Beacon Rocks, a legion of pegasi-mounted Knights of the Flying Hunt appeared above the remnants of the fleet and ordered the Thindolese to return to their homes. After listening to their pleas for mercy, Lord Samar, a Nimbral Lord and the commander of the Nimbran legion, agreed to return to the Chultan Peninsula with the refugees and drive the yuan-ti from the Sanrach Basin.
Once the survivors returned home, the archmage Samar cloaked the mountain passes and roads of the realm in veils of illusion, then began a decades-long hunt for the agents of the yuan-ti. In time, the western Thindolese began calling their isolated land Samarach, after the first Nimbral Lord to rule it actively, and the inhabitants of the realm came to consider it a vassal state of distant Nimbral.
Plots and Rumors
Despite the tight security of Samarach, rumors abound of serpentfolk plots.
Harim of the Jahi: Rumor holds that a debauched, hedonistic cult of serpent-worshiping sorceresses known as the Harim of the Jahi dwells in the jungle's depths. Any woman who vanishes in the jungle is assumed to have joined the cult, and any man who disappears is said to have fallen prey to its members. In truth, the Harim of the Jahi is a cabal of pureblood yuan-ti from the Sauringar tribe. Its leader is an undead, three-headed serpent known as a jahi that embodies the unfulfilled desires of the yuan-ti to reclaim the Chultan Peninsula. The jahi's current chosen one is Ssentenna Di'Nastassa (CE female pureblood yuan-ti cleric 5 of Sseth/sorcerer 5/mystic theurge 8), a snake-tongued seductress of unparalleled beauty.