Capital: Shade (none for the Bedine)
Population: 114,048 [not including the city of Shade] (humans 77%, asabi 17%, gnolls 5%)
Government: Magocracy (city of Shade); tribal (the Bedine)
Religions: Beshaba, Elah (Selûne), Kozah (Talos), N'asr (Kelemvor), place spirits, Shar
Imports: Livestock, wooden goods
Exports: Salt, spices
Alignment: NE, CE, CG
Anauroch (Ah-nor-ach) is a barren wasteland that has grown to split the north of Faerûn into eastern and western halves. Also known as the Great Desert or the Great Sand Sea, Anauroch swallowed the ancient empire of Netheril more than fifteen centuries past, then devoured the shining kingdoms that rose in its wake. For generations Anauroch's relentless encroachment has destroyed realms and driven monsters into the neighboring lands.
Anauroch is the greatest of Faerûn's deserts, but far from empty. A nomadic race of noble barbarians known as the Bedine roams its wastes. Zhentarim garrisons and patrols hold down a line of oases along the Black Road, the trade route that winds west from the ruins of Teshendale to Llorkhninder the eaves of the Graypeak Mountains. Finally - and most significantly - the Empire of Shadows has settled over the anvil once known as the Shoal of Thirst. Shade, a city of Netheril that escaped that land's fall by removing itself to the Plane of Shadow, has now returned to Faerûn, and its masters contemplate the current shape of the world and consider what conquests to undertake next.
Life and Society
The Bedine, human nomads who survive by raiding and leading caravans through the hidden passes make their homes on the surface of the wastes. They are divided into dozens of small tribes led by sheiks, whose wealth is measured by the size and well-being of their herds. The Bedine roam from oasis to oasis, rarely staying long in any one place.
The Zhentarim have spent decades seeking a safe caravan route across Anauroch. The northern routes across the High Ice are plagued by monsters too numerous to fight, and the southern routes are bedeviled by humanoid raiders and subject to interference from the Dales and Cormyr. Through years of painstaking work the Zhents created a chain of caravanserai at oases in the Sword, the sandy southern portion of Anauroch. The Zhentarim marauders and garrisons fought for years against the Bedine but they hold only the land on which they stand at any given moment
As in many deserts, the secret life of Anauroch takes place below the surface. Only the most learned scholars know that the race of evil creatures known as the phaerimms were imprisoned in a magical bubble beneath the Great Desert. The phaerimms, once all-powerful within the confines of their desert prison, are scattered and broken now. A race of evil lizardlike humanoids, called the asabi, also dwells below the desert sands.
The new masters of Anauroch are the archwizards of Shade. Their black citadel - a whole city-state capable of shifting from one place to another or through the barriers between dimensions-rests near the desert's center. The Shade-folk have a regimented society, and they are devoted to their. city and loyal to the city's princes, the most powerful mages of the realm. They have ignored the other desert-dwellers as beneath their notice.
Major Geographic Features
Although outsiders think of the Great Desert as a single gigantic waste, it is in fact a succession of different types of deserts: sere dust- bowls turn to wind-scoured rocky steppes that give way to frozen tundra, inhospitable mountains, and finally the gigantic glacier known as the High Ice. Anauroch can be divided into three broad regions: The High Ice, the Plain of Standing Stones, and the Sword.
Azirrhat: These cloven, rocky spires rise on the east side of At'ar's Looking Glass. The deep crevices in the rocks lead down to caverns infested with aggressive asabi tribes, which plague the desert for dozens of miles about
Saiyaddar: Not far from the Shoal of Thirst lies the Saiyaddar, a region of arid grasslands home to wild grazing animals. It is the hunting ground of the Bedine tribes - a hundred miles of plenty in the middle of the Sword.
Scimitar Spires: These dark, obelisk-like rocky spires separate the Shoal of Thirst from the stony waste known, as At'ar's Looking Glass. The black, jagged blades of stone rise out of dusty sand without foothills, ravines, or any trace of vegetation. Two passes, the Gap of Skulls and the Road of Jackals, break the mountains.
The Shadow Sea: Formerly this was the Shoal of Thirst, a great basin stretching for miles in all directions, a salt flat completely devoid of water. With the return of the city of Shade, some great magic has been worked here, for a clear, cool lake perpetually shrouded in dark clouds and fog now lies where thousands of square miles of the most forbidding terrain on Toril once existed. The city of Shade rests at the lake's northern edge.
The Sword: The Sword is a region dominated by sandy desert and great dune seas. Its heart is the Quarter of Emptiness, where not even the Bedine choose to go.
No travel in Anauroch is truly safe. Dust storms, blistering heat, and freezing cold in winter can kill even those hardened to difficult journeys.
City of Shade (Metropolis, 25,000+): Early in the Year of Wild Magic, a mysterious flying city of black walls and high spire's materialized above the Dire Wood. Shortly thereafter, it came to rest near the Scimitar Spire mountains in southern Anauroch. Its appearance coincided with the flooding of the Shoal of Thirst. The inhabitants of the newly arrived city are the descendants of Netherese wizards who slipped into the Plane of Shadow to escape the destruction of Netheril Legions of dark-armored wizard-warriors patrol the city's streets and new surroundings, and a circle of archwizard shades infused with the power of shadowstuff leads the city, just as the Netherese mage-princes ruled these lands in olden times. The city of Shade represents one of the most potent concentrations of arcane might on the face of Toril, and its unexpected arrival troubles the councils of the wise and the powerful across Faerûn.
Hlaungadath: About forty miles east of the ruined city of Ascore on the northwestern border of the desert, another abandoned city rises from the sands. Old but largely intact, the ruins are home to a powerful and arrogant clan of lamias. The lamias prowl nearby oases in search of careless Zhent caravans or unwary Bedine, but Hlaungadath has an evil reputation among the desert-dwellers, and they give it a wide berth. The lamia leader is said to be a mighty sorcerer.
Anauroch is the work of the phaerimms, a race of powerful nonhuman wizards who rose in the Underdark beneath the heart of Netheril thousands of years ago. As Netheril reached the zenith of its power, these secret enemies created terrible lifedrain magic, a curse that desiccated the lands of Netheril and drove the mighty archwizards into a dozen different lands.
The phaerimms attempted to eliminate all life on Faerûn; fortunately, they succeeded only in wiping out Netheril. To contain the damage they had caused, another primordial race, the sharns, imprisoned all but a few of the phaerimms underneath the ruins of the Netherese empire.
After the fall of Netheril's great wizards and the flight of its people; three successor states arose in the borderlands of th& old empire in regions unblighted by the phaerimm curse. The cities of Anauria, Asram, and Hlondath survived for centuries after Netheril had vanished. But the desert continued to encroach on these lands, fed by the unhuman fury of the phaerimm. Hlondath, the last to fail did not vanish until almost three hundred years after the raising of the Standing Stone in Cormanthor, but now all three of the Buried Realms, as they are known, have been abandoned for more than a thousand years. Their folk became wanderers in the wastelands of Anauroch and mixed with the Bedine who had been magically transported here from Zakhara, producing a hybrid culture
The Bedine were left alone in their desert home for many years, since few invaders could tolerate Anauroch's wrath. Until early this year, the phaerimms were still imprisoned beneath the sands of Anauroch, honing their wizardly skills and searching for a way out, but the coming of Shade has shattered the Sham Wall. That would be good news for the phaerimms, except that the shades are their worst foes. This year may see a major battle in the depths of Anauroch. Divinations concerning the outcome of the battle yield nothing but shadows.
Plots and Rumors
Adventurers have come to Anauroch for generations in search of the magical might of fallen Netheril and the fabulous treasures of the Buried Realms. It remains to be seen whether the soldiers and wizards of the city of Shade will take note of this activity and move to stop it... or, for that matter, what the shades are likely to do next.
Desert Deadline: At the end of one of their adventures, the PCs recover a map to a fabulous treasure buried in the Great Desert of Anauroch, a map drawn by a Zhent agent and intercepted on its way to Zhentil Keep. Curiously, the map is attached to another document, a selection of prophecies from Alaundo of Candlekeep, who believed that some large-scale magical catastrophe was going to hit the Great Desert some time in 1372 DR.
The map's creator was principally concerned that Zhentil Keep would not have enough time to put together a powerful party capable of retrieving the treasure. This, in fact, has turned out to be true, since the Zhents no longer have the map. But the PCs have time. Don't they?
Realms Personality: Hadrhune