Border Lands (1372)
The five lands of Aglarond, the Great Dale, Rashemen, Thay, and Thesk stretch nearly 700 miles from north to south and 900 miles from east to west. Bounded by the Sea of Fallen Stars and the Easting Reach to the west, the Unapproachable East is surrounded by the Wizards' Reach and the Alamber Sea to the south. To the southeast stands Mulhorand, the former ruler of what is now Thay. To the east, beyond the Sunrise Mountains, the Endless Wastes march seemingly forever toward Kara-Tur. To the north, the Icerim Mountains and once-proud Narfell hem in the region. Impiltur and Damara complete the circle to the northwest.
Sea of Fallen Stars
The Sea of Fallen Stars, also known as the Inner Sea, is the largest landlocked body of water in Faerûn. It reaches all the way from Suzail in the Dragonmere to Gheldaneth in the Alamber Sea to the east, a distance of over 1,800 miles. It also stretches nearly 1,200 miles from Ilmwatch in the northern part of the Easting Reach all the way down to Nimpeth in the southern portion of the Vilhon Reach. With the exception of Rashemen, every station of the Unapproachable East has a portion of the Sea of Fallen Stars crashing on its shores.
Ships of all sorts ply the Inner Sea, and a hundred ports crowd along its shores. While piracy is a major problem in some of the other lands bordering the Sea of Fallen Stars, these cutthroats have learned to give Aglarond and Thay a wide berth. Corsairs come to a bad end in both lands, destroyed by powerful magic. Thesk and the Great Dale are not so well protected, but the Royal Navy of Impiltur, one of the strongest war fleets of the Inner Sea, shields the Easting Reach. The Impilturans are under no obligation to protect the far side of the Reach, but most captains try to capture pirate vessels anywhere they encounter them.
The Easting Reach
The Easting Reach is the northeastern arm of the Sea of Fallen Stars, stretching up along the western coasts of the Great Dale and Thesk. Most travelers consider Cape Dragonfang, just off the westernmost tip of the Dragonjaw Mountains, to be the place where the Easting Reach meets the Sea of Fallen Stars. The Easting Reach effectively separates Impiltur from the Unapproachable East, but trade across these waters is common, mostly from Ilmwatch and Sarshel to Telflamm.
Sea of Dlurg
The Sea of Dlurg is the body of water between Aglarond and southern Thesk. Dominated by the spectacular Dragonjaw Mountains plunging into its northern reaches, the Sea of Dlurg is more of an Aglarondan lake, although the Theskian city of Milvarune sits on the northern shore.
Today, the Thayans have made this region into a major shipping lane, sailing from Nethentir down the River Umber to its mouth on the Sea of Dlurg. In times of war, the Aglarondan fortress at Emmech bars the passage of Thayan vessels, but for now the tenuous peace between the Simbul and the Red Wizards holds, and Thayan ships pass into the Inner Sea unhindered. The Aglarondan fisherfolk here avoid the Thayan ships, recalling all too well the times when Thayan dromonds raided their shores.
The Wizards' Reach
Between the Thousand Swords of Altumbel and the Akana peaks of Chessenta, the Sea of Fallen Stars narrows to little more than 100 miles in width. This broad eastern arm of the Inner Sea extends almost 1,000 miles to the east, linking the Old Empires with the ports of western Faerûn. The portion of this arm from Delthuntle in the west to the Alaor in the east is known as the Wizards' Reach. It forms the southern borders of both Aglarond and Thay, separating them from the Old Empires to the south.
The Wizards' Reach sees a lot of traffic these days, mostly moving from Bezantur to Thayan enclaves around the Sea of Fallen Stars and back. The sahuagin who live here have learned to recognize Thayan ships from the red sigils painted on the bottom of their hulls, and they give such vessels a wide berth.
The Alamber Sea
This body of water is an extension of the Wizards' Reach, running south from Bezantur all the way to Gheldaneth on Mulhorand's southern coast. Ships from Bezantur sail up and down its coast constantly, bringing Thayan goods to major cities in both Unther and Mulhorand. The Alamber Sea is occupied mostly by the sahuagin of the kingdom of Aleaxtis, a good portion of which actually surrounds the Alaor. Thay had problems with these creatures in the past, but the Red Wizards treated the sahuagin so mercilessly that the sea devils grudgingly allow Thayan vessels free passage through the Alamber Sea.
North of the Rawlinswood rise the rugged, snowy Giantspire Mountains. Claimed by both Damara and the Nar tribes, the range is, in fact, occupied by the folk of neither land, for hobgoblins, bugbears; and evil cloud giants hold the peaks.
The Long Road crosses the Giantspires, right through a region of rolling foothills known as the Giant Gap. Snows close the gap in the wintertime, but few travelers come this way even at the height of summer - marauders and monsters harry travelers in this lonely and desolate land.
The hobgoblins of the Giantspires are ruled by King Kardobbik (LE male hobgoblin Ftr12), a particularly dangerous warlord. The king's primary advisor is Lady Farkattle (LE female hobgoblin Nec11). She has managed to animate the corpse of a long-dead, very old deep dragon that once made its home here but was slain in the war that brought the old empire of Narfell to a bloody end. This skeletal dragon looks like a dracolich to the uninitiated, but it is entirely under Farkattle's control. Kardobbik uses this fearsome monster to keep the hobgoblin tribes of the Giantspires in line - no easy task.
Mulhorand was once a sprawling empire that encompassed all of Thay as well as the lands of Murghôm and Semphar to the east. The Thayans have not forgotten this part of their history, no matter how many hundreds of years ago it may have been. They guard their border with Mulhorand carefully, ready to beat back any invasion force that may come their way. The two nations have fought terrible wars on several occasions, the last less than a hundred years ago.
Mulhorand has its collective hands full these days, trying to absorb what it can of Unther in the wake of that nation's dissolution. This makes the Mulhorandi much too busy to worry about Thay. Despite the rivalry between the two nations, Mulhorand is actually the closest thing Thay has to an ally. The Thayan nobles and zulkirs are Mulan, sharing a common language and heritage with the Mulhorandi. Also, since slavery is legal in Mulhorand, Thay imports a great number of slaves from its ancient fatherland.
Mountains of Copper
The Mountains of Copper march east from the Sunrise Mountains and are an ancient spur of that mighty range. This was once the home of a proud dwarven race that fought bitterly against Mulhorandi rule hundreds of years ago. Although many of their southern holds were destroyed, the surviving dwarves have taken up residence on the north side of the chain, facing the wide expanse of the Endless Wastes. The Mulhorandi eventually gave up on the idea of subjugating the dwarves.
The copper dragons of the Dragonjaw Mountains are descended from the even larger family of dragons who make their home here. They live in the western potion of the range, overlooking the gap of the Clearflow River.
The Ganathwbod is a strange and dark place nestled against the southern portion of the Sunrise Mountains. The place was once occupied by wild elves, much like the Yuirwood of Aglarond, but this people died out entirely. Today, the place is home to wild creatures and bloodthirsty monsters. The largest group in the Ganathwood is a tribe of escaped slaves from Thay and Mulhorand who have gone native, returning to an almost feral state in the heart of the forest. Cut off from the outside world, these people have learned to make do with what little they can scrape together. Some here dream of leading a rebellion against the leaders in the Mulhorandi capital of Skuld, but such ideas are the ramblings of madmen.
The Endless Wastes
The Endless Wastes encompass some of the most inhospitable terrain on all Toril. This is a vast, waterless wasteland alleviated by only a handful of oases. The only people who live here are the Tuigans, which is why this region is also known as the Hordelands. For many years, raiders here plagued the merchants traveling along the Golden Way between the Unapproachable East and Kara-Tur. These same raiders united under the banner of Yamun Khahan and invaded Faerûn. They were destroyed in a massive battle in the heart of Thesk, greatly reducing the power of the Tuigan folk.
Today, those who travel the Golden Way only occasionally have to worry about bandits. The greatest danger now comes from the monsters that roam the wastes, creatures that were previously kept in check by the now-reduced Tuigans.
The Golden Way
As the main trade route to the east, the Golden Way has long been one of the most important assets of the Unapproachable East. As it passes east out of the mountains and down into the wastes, the Golden Way ceases being a proper road. Instead, it becomes a series of stone markers, each visible from the last, leading out into the broad expanse. The Golden Way is valuable not because it's well maintained, but because it connects oases and other precious sources of water. Without these vital watering holes, it would he nearly impossible to cross the Hordelands without dying of thirst.
The Shadowmasters and the Red Wizards both have big plans for the Golden Way and the communities along it. With the Tuigans out of the picture, both groups feel the time is right to expand into Shou Lung and the rest of Kara-Tur. This is a vast, untapped market for peddling their particular brands of evil.
Lake of Mists
The Lake of Mists - so named for the water that continuously evaporates off its surface - is the largest body of fresh water in the Hordelands, a veritable paradise in the desert. This means, of course, that it is the likeliest place for brigands to settle, which is one reason why the Golden Way gives its shores a wide berth.
Few people have extensively explored the Lake of Mists, and most who have gone off to do so have never come back. Legend has it that it once covered most of the Endless Wastes, but some nameless evil in its center created a permanent gate that drains away most of the lake's water to this day. For what purpose this may have been done, no one can say. If the legends are true, finding and sealing the gate could flood the whole of the Hordelands, transforming the region from a barren waste into the largest lake on the face of Toril.
Great Ice Sea
The Great Ice Sea is a large body of salt water in the far north of the Endless Wastes, about 1YO miles north of the Golden Way. Most travelers have no reason to deviate from their path to reach the always-frozen waters of this massive sea.
Long ago, the Raumathari kings used to winter in a palace on the Great Ice Sea's southern shore, at a place called Winterkeep. The city has long since been abandoned, and all that is left is a set of ruins where the palace once stood. The Tuigans in the region give Winterkeep a wide berth despite the legends of great riches in the underground levels beneath the palace ruins. These same legends also tell how the angry ice gods of the sea rose up from the frozen waters to seal the Raumathari in solid blocks of ice. These ice gods - or "ice demons," as many of the Tuigans call them - are said to still haunt Winterkeep's weathered remains.
The Icerim Mountains form the northern border of this portion of Faerûn. Beyond these perpetually snow-mantled peak there is little but snow and ice.
The Icerims are home to all sorts of cold-loving creatures that don't care for the relatively warm plains of the North Country of Rashemen: frost giants, frost worms, remorhazes, taers, and white dragons. Only the hardiest of peoples would dare to live in such an environment, much less thrive on hunting such beasts. Yet the tribes of humans, dwarves, and orcs that live here do just that - although the dwarves cheat a bit by living in the sheltering warmth of the mountains themselves.
There are stories of a warmer land beyond the Icerims, almost at the top of the world, surrounded by a ring of active volcanoes that keep the place steamy. Another legend has this pleasant valley centered upon a permanent gate that permit creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire to wander about the place. However, no reliable sources have ever been able to verify such tales.
Narfell, frigid land of barbarian tribes, was once the heart of a vast empire that included all of the Great Dale, much of Thesk, and part of the Plateau of Thay, among other lands. In those days, evil priests ruled Narfell, maintaining power through horrid blood-pacts with demon lords. However powerful it may once have been, this great civilization fell over 1,500 years ago in a climactic battle with its ancient enemy Raumathar. The few survivors from the old empire fell back to Narfell's current borders to purse their wounds, vowing to rebuild their mighty realm. That dream has long since fallen by the wayside. Today; most Nars have little inkling of their high and sinister past, concerned as they are with simply surviving the region's harsh winters.
The plains of Narfell are littered with ruins, most of which are ignored by the Nars. They have learned that there are usually good - and often lethal-reasons why these places have remained undisturbed for so long. Still, every now and then, a group of adventurers gets it into their collective head to poke around in these places. The Nars don't discourage this, since they can pick up the pieces after the foolhardy foreigners trip any long-dormant traps.
Merchants who don't wish to travel through Thesk sometimes use Narfell as an alternative trade route. The Long Road starts in Damara and enters Narfell through the pass in the Giantspire Mountains before intersecting with the Cold Road at N'Jast. From there, it continues on toward Nathoud, which stands in the shadows of the Icerim Mountains in northern Rashemen. However, the Giant Gap, as it's commonly known, is impassable for much of the winter and plagued by hobgoblins.
The unofficial capital of Narfell is little more than an open plain in the shadow of Mount Nar, a massive, snow-capped peak visible from the crossroads at N'Jast. For one tenday each summer, this humble plain becomes a thriving city of over 30,000 Nars. This festival - also named Bildoobaris - is the largest and most important holiday in Narfell, and even the cruelest and most fierce Nar tribes come to drink, feast, and trade.
The ancient rulers of Jastaath, one of the petty Nar kingdoms that existed before the rise of the Empire of Narfell, ruled over their homeland from a massive fortress high atop the western slopes of Mount Nar. In those days, the magic of the great priest-kings kept the weather around the fortress pleasant and warm even in the dead of winter. Today, the ruins of that once-great city lie lost beneath never-melting snow.
To this day, no modern expedition to the peak has even found the buried ruins of the castle, much less penetrated them. Such efforts are no doubt hindered by the presence of Kryonar, the white dracolich wyrm who lives in an icy cavern in the mountain's northern face.
Sharing only a small border with the Great Dale along the Rawlinswood, Damara has little to do with the lands of the Unapproachable East. Damaran merchants trade with Nar tribes and the folk of Rashemen via the Long Road from Trail's End to Nathoud, and Damaran foresters log the western verge of the Rawlinswood, but these are rare and hardy souls.
In recent, years, the rise of the Rotting Man and his blightlords in the Rawlinswood has posed a new threat to the kingdom of Damara. Blightspawned monstrosities have made woodcutting and trapping in the Rawlinswood a dangerous proposition, and blightspawned volodni warriors have attacked and burned numerous homesteads near the forest. The Talontar have become strong enough to force an unlikely alliance between the Nentyarch and King Dragonsbane of Damara, who in years past differed over logging the ancient wood.
This large Damaran city lies close to the Rawlinswood. Long a center of trade in the region, it has recently built a reputation as the perfect launching point for one adventure or another. From Trail's End, adventurers set out to explore the ancient ruins of the Rawlinswood, harry the evil marauders of the Giantspires, and travel the Long Road to Rashemen.
The Icelace River
This river runs fast and wide enough that it never freezes over, even in the middle of the harshest winters. Its icy waters are cold enough to kill within minutes any human unfortunate enough to fall in. This makes the river the first line of defense for Damara against raids by the more aggressive Nar tribesfolk. For the most part, King Dragonsbane has refused to push beyond the edges of the Rawlinswood, but if the Nars of the steppes and the blightlords of the forest continue to harry his eastern frontiers, he may decide it's necessary to claim that land to make his borders more defensible.
In this part of the world, Impiltur is second only to Thesk in the unabashed importance it places on commerce. This is reflected in the fact that almost all of the country's largest cities are arrayed along its coast, stretching from Ilmwatch in the far north of the Easting Reach all the way down to Lyrabar on the edge of the Gray Forest and the Vast. Impiltur is a good neighbor to the Great Dale and to Thesk. Traders from Dilpur, Sarshel, and the other cities of the kingdom bring much prosperity to Telflamm and Uthmere.
Impiltur is an old, strong land that has existed in one form or another along this coast for well over a thousand years. Impilturans settled much of Damara, the Great Dale, Thesk, and even the northern coasts of Aglarond. On rare occasions, the kings of Impiltur have stood with the folk of these younger lands against threats from the east, such as the Red Wizards or the Tuigan Horde, but Impilturans have a history of avoiding involvement in the troubles of other lands.
The Red Wizards have opened enclaves in Lyrabar, Dilpur and Ilmwatch, all with the permission of the Council of Lords and their figurehead, Queen Sambryl. The paladins on the council are loath to have any dealings with the evil Thayans, but they believe it's better to have the Red Wizards where the people of Impiltur can keep an eye on them. Also, trade with the Thayans is so profitable that the merchants of Impiltur have strongly lobbied on the foreigners' behalf.
More a fortress than a city, Ilmwatch is a large town that guards trade traveling to and from Damara and the Great Dale. Despite its strategic position at the head of the Easting Reach, Ilmwatch is not an extremely busy port; the Great Imphras River is navigable up to Heliogabalus for most of the year, so shipping from the Sea of Fallen Stars to Damara usually proceeds up the river instead of offloading in Ilmwatch. However, many coasters and sailing ships ferry trade across to Uthmere. The road leading north to Damara is known as the Herald's Road, and numerous small villages dot its length.
The lord of Ilmwatch is Heskar Brandosk (NG male human Ftr6), a doughty leader who vigorously patrols the nearby coasts to discourage piracy. He has earned the enmity of the Shadowmasters of Telflamm, who have made several attempts to kill the Impilturan and replace him with a less zealous lord.
Sarshel was one of the four city-states that united to form the nation of Impiltur beneath the banner of the great Warcaptain Imphras almost 300 years ago. The city serves as Impiltur's gateway to the East and the North. It is governed by two of Impiltur's Twelve Companions, Lords Rilaunyr (LG female human Pal13) and Silaunbrar (LG male half-elf Pal12).
During the long years of the Bloodstone Wars, Sarshel's trade came to a virtual standstill, and the city declined. Gareth Dragoosbane's victory over the Witch-King's forces 15 years ago did little to change Sarshel's fortunes, since the bustling town of Ilmwatch captured much of the Damaran trade that formerly passed through Sarshel, and the cities of Dilpur and Hlammach drew away much of the highly profitable Golden Way traffic that formerly came from Telflamm to Sarshel.
Hard times in Sarshel have led to the rise of brigandage, piracy, and smuggling. Several of Sarshel's most prominent merchants secretly sponsor piracy in the Easting Reach. The most powerful of these merchant-pirates is Strengedar Hammerfist (NE male shield dwarf Rog7/Ftr5). Strengedar owns a fleet of six large ships and dozens of small coasters and skiffs that ply the inlets and uninhabited isles of the Reach.
Surprisingly, the Shadowmasters of Telflamm have nothing to do with the rise of crime in Sarshel, and so far the shady merchants of Sarshel have resisted intrusions by the powerful Telflammar guild. The city is growing restless, and Sarshel's wealthiest and most powerful citizens harbor schemes of secession from Impiltur in order to gain a free hand in their true business.