Best known for the crimson-robed Red Wizards who rule the land with an iron fist; Thay is a realm shrouded in mystery. Few outsiders have traveled extensively within its borders unless abducted and sold into a short life of slavery there: The Thayans who do talk about their homeland speak of it with such pride as to make most listeners doubt their amazing claims - were it not for the fact that these same rumors surface again and again from a dozen different sources.
The Thayans have endeavored constantly to expand their borders since they won their independence from Mulhorand in 922 DR. In fact, it was only twelve years after that momentous date that the Thayans launched their first invasion of Rashemen. The Thayans have been beaten back numerous times from both Aglarond and Rashemen, but though their armies failed to subjugate these realms, they still brought the Alaor, the Priador, the Sur and Umber vales, and the cities of the Wizards' Reach under Thay's control.
The borders of Thay have changed little since the conquest of the Wizards' Reach fifteen years ago. The Red Wizards keep their armies at home these days, while their merchants have spread throughout the lands of the Inner Sea, selling valuable magic items in well protected concessions and Thayan enclaves. Rivers of gold, goods, and slaves pour into the zulkirs' coffers from this expansion of Thayan trade. Szass Tam and his colleagues have come to understand that gold can conquer lands that resist swords and spells, and Thay's monopoly on the manufacture and sale of magic items might be the weapon that brings the Red Wizards dominion over all Faerûn.
The country of Thay, once a large portion of the Mulhorandi Empire, extends from the borders of Thesk and Aglarond in the west to the Sunrise Mountains in the east. It stretches nearly 500 miles from north to south and 450 miles from east to west. Rashemen is directly to the north, across Lake Mulsantir, while the Alamber Sea arid Mulhorand form Thay's southern edge.
Most of Thay consists of a great plateau almost 350 miles across. These arid tablelands are about 2,000 feet above sea level at the outer edges and slope up to an elevation of about 4,000 feet in the vicinity of Lake Thaylambar and the foothills of the Sunrise Mountains. The plateau's southern, western, and northern borders are a band of broken cliffs and rugged canyons known as the First Escarpment. While few of these cliffs are more than a couple of hundred feet in height, the Escarpment rises on a dozen or so such precipices in the space of ten or fifteen miles, like the tiers of a wedding cake. A small party on foot can pick their way up the Escarpment over a day or two of difficult paths and short scrambles, but an army of any size is limited to a small number of passes and roads, which the Thayans guard well.
Atop the Plateau of Thay, the land consists of broad, rolling vistas broken by low mesas and chains of jagged rocks. Within its bounds rises the Ruthammar Plateau, a second, smaller plateau roughly 150 miles in diameter, which is more often referred to as the Thaymount (its most prominent feature) or High Thay. The Second Escarpment, a chain of cliffs and gorges even more forbidding than the First Escarpment, bounds High Thay. It averages almost 6,000 feet in elevation and is noticeably colder and more arid than the tablelands below
At the center of High Thay stand the volcanic peaks of Thaymount, in actuality a hundred-mile chain of fanglike ridges and smoldering cinder cones whose highest point is more than 17,000 feet high. In the youth of the world, basalt flows from these now-slumbering giants formed the mighty plateaus of Thay. While a number of people live in High Thay, few settlements stand close to the peaks of the Thaymount - minor eruptions are common, creating ash falls and clouds of sulfurous fumes that drift northeast, rendering a large area of the plateau virtually uninhabitable.
At the eastern edge of the country, amid the foothills of the Sunrise Mountains, rises a third series of cliffs - the Surague Escarpment. This forms a shelf atop the First Escarpment, and like the plateau of High Thay, averages about 6,000 feet in elevation. Numerous streams spill down from the heights of the Sunrise Mountains, creating a tangled maze of gorges and canyonlands in this corner of the country.
Just east of High Thay, near the eastern foot of the Second Escarpment, lies Lake Thaylambar. Fed by the River Surag, born of the snowmelts of the Sunrise Mountains, this deep, cold body of water is nearly eighty miles. across. Its outlet is the River Thay, which flows north to Lake Mulsantir near the Surmarsh. The Sunrise Mountains also give rise to two other great rivers - the Thazarim in the south and the Gauros in the north. The soot-covered glaciers of the Thaymount feed two more great rivers - the Umber, which flows west to Aglarond and the Sea of Dlurg, and the Lapendrar, with flows southwest through the Priador to meet the Wizards' Reach at Escalant.
Thay is a naturally warm, dry land whose lofty elevation prevents the moisture laden winds from the Sea of Fallen Stars from bringing much precipitation to the interior. Never ones to be satisfied with their lot, the Red Wizards have created a network-of spells that maintains pleasant weather conditions all year round, This plays havoc with the weather in Thesk, but the Thayans do not concern themselves with the difficulties of their neighbors. The days are warm but not unpleasantly so. The plains are regularly soaked with rains, but only in the dead of night, just about every day in Thay is a fine one, in stark contrast to the miserable lives most people lead here. The weather spells ensure fine growing conditions for vast croplands, worked by the uncounted thousands of slaves upon whom the Thayan economy depends.
Major Geographic Features
Thay is blessed with many special natural features, from the glaciers and volcanoes of the Thaymount to the beaches of Bezantur. Those traveling along one of the few main roads are treated to breath-taking views as they mount first one escarpment and then another. The distant snow-covered peaks of the Thaymount seem to watch over it all like sleeping kings, a landmark visible from almost any spot in the country.
Most travelers enter Thay through one of five major routes. In the north, those following the Golden Way come first to the port city of Surthay on the southern shore of Lake Mulsantir. Traditionally, travelers ride or walk the Long Portage from Surthay up to the top of the Plateau of Thay. The River Thay is one of the, great highways of the land, and slave-pulled barges ferry goods and passengers from the First Escarpment to Lake Thaylambar. Once on the lake, it's an easy voyage to Eltabbar, the capital city, located on the south-western shore.
In the southeast, travelers forge, their way up the River Thazarim to the First Escarpment. An old Mulhorandi road leads through the gorge of the Thazarim and meets a track bound for Pyarados. From there, one can either take the path along the Sunrise Mountains to Lake Thaylambar, or go by the well-maintained Eastern Way to Tyraturos, then north along the High Road to Eltabbar. Few people enter Thay by this route, as the tharch of Thazalhar is a desolate and forbidding land, plagued by restless undead and hungry monsters from the mountains.
Most people bound for Thay put in at the great port of Bezantur, one of the largest cities along the Sea of Fallen Stars. The High Road leads straight north through Tyraturos to Eltabbar. The Thayans expect visitors to enter by this route, so inns and taverns catering to foreigners are common along the High Road - as are spies and agents of the Red Wizards, who keep a close eye on folk of other, lands.
In the past, armies seeking to invade Thay have come by way of the River Lapendrar. The Lapendrar itself is not navigable past the First Escarpment, as a waterfall tumbles over the edge of the Plateau of Thay, preventing passage. However, the gorge of the River of Sorrows is one of the broadest and most gentle ascents of the First Escarpment, at least for travelers on foot. When Halacar of Aglarond led his ill-advised expedition into Thay a century ago, this was the route he chose.
Lastly, some prefer to sail up the River Umber to Nethjet, located on the eastern side of Lake Umber. From here, one can follow the Eastern Way until it. meets up with the High Road at Tyratturos, then head north to Eltabbar. Monsters haunting the passage through the Dragonjaw Mountains make this route somewhat dangerous, and the Nethjet end of the Eastern Way is poorly maintained, a magnet for gnoll brigands and similar undesirables. Folk from northerly lands along the Inner Sea find this a faster but more dangerous route than the long walk up the Golden Way to Mulsantir and Surthay.
In addition to the natural defenses of Thay, a number of small citadels sprinkle the slopes of both. the First and Second Escarpments. These well-built stone structures ostensibly keep out enemies, but in truth, they are home to patrols of humans and gnolls who spend more of their time keeping Thayan slaves in. Most roads on the Plateau itself (especially the Eastern Way and the High Road) are impeccably maintained. Raised a, few feet above the surrounding land, they are covered with an alchemical tarmac for durability and ease of use. Work crews constantly repair the roads, keeping them in near-perfect shape. Small fortresses known as tax stations line the roads and appear at all other points of entry into Thay.
Thay is filled with these small fortresses. Each houses a garrison of thirty to fifty gnoll or human warriors, ready to put teeth into the implied threat each visitor faces when accosted by the tax collectors.
Tax stations stand not only at the edges of Thay, but also at the border of each tharch and at every other point along which people are likely to pass. The revenues collected help to fund the tharchs, one of the reasons for Thay's excellent public services. Taxes vary greatly from tharch to tharch, not to mention from station to station. They are rarely exorbitant, as the tharchions don't wish to discourage traffic through their territories. The amount ranges from as little as 2 cp to as much as 1 gp. Guards also check for passes or traveling permits while they collect the coins, and folk abroad without the proper documentation are usually jailed on the spot.
The tax stations also keep the slave population under control. Few slaves have any money, and those who try to pose as Thayan citizens are sure to run into problems without cash. The fees may not be that high, but they must be paid. The station's soldiers do their utmost to make tax evaders see the error of their ways.
The Alaar comprises two islands off the southern coast of Thay, where the Wizards' Reach meets the Alamber Sea. While this is the smallest of the eleven tharchs, its position makes it one of the most vital. The bulk of the Thayan navy is housed here, along with the primary Thayan shipyards. The principal harbor of the Alaor is an expansive cove guarded by a sea-arch. In the rock of the headlands lies a network of sea caves large enough to hide an entire, fleet. The rugged islands have no other good landing spots or sheltered bays, which is one reason no other country thought to use them as a naval base.
Tharchion Thessaloni Canos (LE female human Ftr17) commands the tharch; the evoker Mur Vhol (N male human Evo7/Red5) assists her, supervising the various magelings assigned to the tharchion's fleet. Over 15,000 souls call this tharch home, including sailors. The fleet consists of a dozen slender, deadly dromonds, powerful galleys each crewed by over one hundred well-armed warriors and twice that number of slave rowers. Each warship carries a pair of Thayan bombards, as well as a ship's mage and a ship's acolyte - a wizard and a cleric specializing in battle magic. The pride of the Thayan navy - a massive warship known as the Red Scourge - lies at anchor here when not escorting Thayan merchant ships in and out of the area. Most pirates flee at the first sight of the ship's crimson-colored sails, for they know that to confront such a powerful vessel is to invite a swift and sorcerous death. Altogether, the fleet is crewed by almost 5,000 officers, soldiers, and slaves; most of the remaining folk who call this barren island home are carpenters, stevedores, provisioners, sailmakers, shipwrights, and all the other artisans and professionals needed to maintain a fleet in port.
With the advent of Thay as a mercantile power, the Alaor has become even more vital to the nation's interests. The Thayan navy had long worked to keep the waters of the Sahuagin Sea (as the Alamber Sea is also called) free of pirates. They\ have since extended their operations to include a good stretch of the Wizards' Reach. Between the forces of Thay and Aglarond, there are few safe places for pirates to operate in this region. Several naval ships have even been converted into mercantile vessels carrying Thay's goods to the rest of the world. Merchant ships from Bezantur carry much of Thay's trade to other lands, but shipments to and from major enclaves are entrusted only to Thay's navy. The Alaor is well defended. The zulkirs know the islands are Thay's first line of defense against an invasion by sea. If the islands were to fall into a foreign power's hands, the results would be disastrous. Any foe who had control over such a base could attack up and down the southern coast of Thay with impunity.
Besides the garrison of 1,000 soldiers on duty here at all times, the islands are outfitted with dozens of batteries of Thayan bombards.
Once the most populous district of old Thay in the days of Mulhorandi rule, the tharch of Delhumide is now thinly settled. Stretching from Lake Thaylambar to the Gorge of Gauros and bounded on the east and west by the River Thay and the River Gauros, Delhumide is a broad land of open plains and few people. The tharch could easily support a much greater population, except that demons, ghosts, and sleeping spells of deadly malevolence taint the countryside for miles around the ruins of the old capital and the province's abandoned estates.
With the exception of some farmland along the river valleys, Delhumide is mostly used as open range for large herds of cattle. Tharchion Invarri Metron (LE male human Ftr11). governs the land from his palace at Umratharos, a small city at the bend of the River Thay. He has little interest in the ruins of the old capital but is happy to collect a cut of any wealth recovered by adventurers picking through the wreckage.
Northwest Thay belongs to the tharch of Eltabbar, a curving swath of land that extends from the western shores of Lake Thaylambar and around the northern slopes of the Second Escarpment all the way to the River Umber, almost directly opposite the city of Eltabbar. Even though Thay's capital city is located in this tharch, large portions of it are lightly populated - most of the land between the rich valley of the River Thay and the Umber is scrubland, home to the roaming bands of gnolls and orcs who make up the julkirs' foot soldiers.
The tharchion of Eltabbar is the notorious Dmitra Flass (NE female human Ill7/Red8), the so-called First Princess of Thay. She spends all her time in the capital and gives little thought to anything that happens on the northwest frontier. The wreckage of old Nar ruins dot the remoter portions of the tharch, occasionally disgorging some forgotten demon that terrorizes the countryside until bound or destroyed by the Red Wizards.
Gauros is a relatively poor tharch with no major cities. The River Gauros flows down from the heights of the Sunrise Mountains and through northeastern Thay before tumbling over the edge of the First Escarpment to carve out the great Gorge of Gauros. From there, it flows into Lake Mulsantir on the nation's northern border.
Gauros is rocky, rugged, and forbidding, a wild land of dry pine forests and high, barren mesas. Swift, shallow snow-melt rivers from the Sunrises rush- through the land, but by midsummer they are reduced to dusty rivulets. Most of the folk in the district are Rashemi woodcutters and goatherds. Ruined towers and empty keeps crown many of the barren hills, the remnants of ancient Raumathar's foothold on this part of the Thayan plateau. The nearby mountains harbor dangerous monsters, including athachs, chimeras, and bands of feral gnolls.
The ruler of Gauros is Tharch Azhir Kren (NE female human Ftr15). An aggressive general, she is itching to lead Szass Tam's legions into battle. The zulkir's fascination with developing trade does nothing but frustrate her. Kren's troops constantly patrol the Gorge of Gauros, looking for any excuse to launch an invasion of her nation's northern neighbor, Rashemen. Kren only needs the thinnest of pretexts, and if she doesn't stumble across one soon, she'll manufacture the necessary evidence.
One of only two passes through the Sunrise Mountains, Daggertooth Pass follows the Gauros up to its headwaters and crosses a high saddle to come down in the upper vale of the Murghol, a tributary to the Clearfiow of the Endless Wastes. To one side of the main track a knife-like peak looms, the mountain that gives the pass its name. The top of the pass is a little more than 9,000 feet above sea level, and heavy snows linger on the shaded northern-sides of the peaks all year long. In some years, the Daggertooth is completely impassable. The narrow and steep track is unsuitable for anything approaching the size of an army, which is why the Tuigans have never troubled the Thayans by this route. The zulkirs maintain a sinister fortress called Chur-Gathos a little way down from the saddle on the Thayan side. This cold, lonely outpost is reserved for those soldiers unlucky enough to earn a posting in one of the worst spots in the land.
Gorge of Gauros
Well over 100 miles in length, the Gorge of Gauros cleaves the First Escarpment in a maze of deep, narrow canyons, dividing the plateau of Thay from the Mulsanyaar Plateau in Rashemen. Here the river Gauros joins a number of smaller streams racing down from the heights of the Sunrise Mountains. The northeast corner of the Plateau of Thay is more than 4,000 feet above sea level, and the Mulsantir basin has an elevation of about 1,500 feet, so the gorge averages half a mile or more in depth. It is about twenty miles wide for most of its length, its floor divided by numerous side-canyons, nameless cascades, and crumbling plinths of rock scoured by ancient floodwaters.
The Gorge of Gauros blocks all north and south travel east of Lake Mulsantir, except for a narrow strip along the foot of the escarpment right by the lake shore. It is one of Rashemen's most effective defenses against Thayan attack. The gorge is home to a number of monsters, including a very old female red dragon named Magrevystala, who lairs in a dry hanging valley somewhere in its heart.
Also known as the Plateau of Ruthammar or (mistakenly) the Thaymount, High Thay is that portion of the country above the Second Escarpment and below the Thaymount proper. Little is known of this land outside of Thay: Foreigners are not permitted to travel there except under the direct escort of a Red Wizard, and the Red Wizards do not bring outsiders to this portion of their land without very good cause.
While the center of High Thay is dominated by the ice-clad volcanoes of the Thaymount, a ring of cool, fertile highlands surround the smoking mountains. This higher plateau is only a dozen miles wide on its eastern side, but in other places it is a broad; lightly forested highland almost 100 miles across. Like the Plateau of Thay below, the land consists of low mesas separated by broad, rolling plains, but High Thay is cooler and more humid than the lands below and supports pine forests, vineyards, and great orchards of fruit trees. High Thay climbs steeply upward as one travels toward the Thaymount, and the foothills could be called mountains in any other land. For centuries, High Thay has been the refuge of the land's masters. Mulan noble families, high clerics of the faiths of Bane, Cyric, or Kossuth, and of course prominent Red Wizards own vast estates on this high plateau. The Thayans do not build great cities here, although a number of well-ordered towns populate the southern and western regions of the plateau. Most of these powerful Thayans are absentee landlords, spending their time in the cities of greater Thay and only retreating to their estates to escape the late-summer heat of the lower plateau.
Portions of High Thay, particularly the foothills and the northerly and eastern reaches downwind of the Thaymount, are quite barren, covered with ash falls from the volcanoes. These lands are unsettled except for the occasional Red Wizard determined to raise a tower in a particularly desolate spot. Wild gnolls, orcs, and other humanoids haunt these lands, mostly because the Red Wizards find them useful stock for their armies and have not made any concerted effort to exterminate them.
Hezass Nymar (NE male human Clr8 of Kossuth) is the tharchion of Lapendrar. This tharch begins at the southeastern edge of the Second Escarpment and rolls, down to the borders of Thesk and Aglarond. This territory features many important cities, including Nethentir, Nethjet, Amruthar, and Escalant. The River Umber flows through this territory before reaching Aglarond, while the River Lapendrar forms the tharch's southern border until it empties into the Wizards' Reach. The Eastern Way, one of the two major roads connecting the southern portions of Thay, bisects this tharch.
Lapendrar is one of the least strongly held of all the tharchs. Its border with Aglarond is constantly disputed, an its largest city, Amruthar, is nominally independent of Thay. This suits Nymar, who craftily maintains a compassionate and generous manner unknown in the other tharchs. Many of his fellows condemn Nymar as a well-connected weakling, but in truth he is a master of treachery - most of his victims don't even realize it was he who orchestrated their downfall. Nymar rules his tharch from an elegant palace of white marble in the city of Escalant (the most recent addition to the Thayan Empire) although he spends much of his time in Eltabbar, scheming against his peers.
Plateau of Thay
The Plateau of Thay includes everything within the First Escarpment, a long line of sheer cliffs surrounding the interior portion of the country, although the lands above the Second Escarpment - High Thay and the Thaymount - are distinctly different. The distance between the First and Second Escarpments ranges from little more than twenty miles on the western edge overlooking Nethentir to nearly 200 miles in the southeast and northeast reaches.
The First Escarpment guards Thay from attack and has daunted many who contemplated invasion. The natural walls are a better defense than any army. The cliffs are honey-combed with tunnels, barracks, and fortresses carved directly into the rock, highlighting the difficulty of challenging Thay on its own turf. In fact, the escarpment was one of the reasons the wizards of Thay were able to fight off their Mulhorandi overlords during their war of independence. Even though the Thayans were disorganized and divided by vicious feuds, the Mulhorandi army had a devil of a time getting up and over those cliffs.
The plateau itself is a naturally arid, rolling plain with occasional dusty mesas. Centuries ago, the Red Wizards crafted great weather-controlling spells to bring rain and moderate temperatures to this upland, and now vast tracts of former savanna are densely cultivated cropland. In the southern reaches of the plateau, every bit of land is put to use. Slaves tend the fields and orchards, planting and harvesting crops, felling timber, and picking fruit. Cotton and grain are the major crops, although citrus and olive trees and the occasional vineyard grow between the fields. Tax stations and the estates of noble Thayans and Red Wizards dot the land, along with small villages that sprout up around them. North of the Second Escarpment, the plateau is much less densely populated. The valleys of the rivers Gauros and Thay are heavily settled, but much of the rest is empty scrubland, inhabited only by goatherds, shepherds, and stonecutters.
Nearly 3 1/2 million people live on the Plateau of Thay. Of these, about 2 1/2 million are slaves or the evil humanoids who guard them (mostly gnolls and orcs). Both slaves and warriors live in squalor in massive barracks. The Thayan economy depends on slaves, a constantly replenished source of cheap labor who are routinely worked to death under the watchful eyes of cruel overseers and guards.
The Thayan merchant fleet ships surplus cotton, grain, olive oil, and citrus fruit all across eastern Faerûn. Thayan grain feeds Impiltur, Chessenta, and the Vast, as well as the cities of the Wizards' Reach. The success of this trade led to the current strategy of exporting more valuable goods - namely, magic items - to other lands. Thayan merchants already knew the trade routes and had demonstrated for decades that Thay could be a successful trading partner.
The entire plateau is impervious to scrying magic. The Red Wizards have set up an elaborate shield of overlapping wards that prevent such spying. Any spell with the scrying descriptor that targets a person or point within the First Escarpment fails automatically. Divination of other types usually works, but many Red Wizards screen their activities with additional defenses such as mind blank or nondetection. These wards interfere with the Red Wizards' own scrying spells as well, making it difficult for them to magically locate intruders. However, the patrols usually do a good job of watching.
Guards both human and gnoll patrol the plateau in the settled areas, on the lookout for escaped slaves and foreign spies. Despite the opening of trade agreements with many nations, few foreigners spend much time in the Thayan countryside. Most are issued passes permitting travel to only one or two cities along a specified route.
Lake Thaylambar is the largest body of fresh water within Thay's borders. It is wide, deep, and always cold, even in th middle of summer. Its waters feed the River Thay, which flows north to empty into Lake Mulsantir. Eltabbar - the capital of Thay, sits on the southwestern shore of Lake Thaylambar. Delhumide, the original provincial capital, once looked out from the northeastern shore, but it was destroyed in Thay's war of independence.
The fishing in Lake Thaylambar is wonderful. Large amounts of seafood from its depths find their way onto plates throughout the nation. The lake is not without dangers, though. Its depths are infested with dragon turtles that sometimes like to snack on fishing vessels. Over the years, the zulkirs have sent out hunting parties to thin their numbers, with limited success. Although these expeditions sometimes manage to find and kill dragon turtles, the hunters often become the hunted. On occasion, expeditions have been completely wiped out.
However, last year one group of hunters managed to capture a dragon turtle alive. Brazhal Kos (LE male human Enc7/Red4), a powerful enchanter, devised a magic harness that enslaved the creature to his will. Kos has offered its services to Homen Odesseiron, the tharchion of Surthay. Assuming the Red Wizards can transport the creature, this would put the captive dragon turtle in Lake Mulsantir to contest Rashemi control of the lake. Brazhal Kos makes this offer expecting something in return, of course.
From Lake Thaylambar, the River Thay flows north toward Surthay and Lake Mulsantir, marking the boundary between the tharchs of Delhumide and Eltabbar. The vale of the Thay is heavily populated, a fertile plain supporting vast orchards of fruit trees more suited to cool weather than the citrus groves of the south, such as apples and cherries. The river itself is the principal highway to the northern marches of Thay, and numerous keelboats and barges ply its waters, towed by slave teams along the banks.
Tharchion Aznar Thrul, the zulkir of evocation, rules this tharch with an iron fist. Thay's trade enclaves in other lands brings immense wealth into Bezantur, the tharch's largest city. Thrul has almost unlimited resources at his disposal, and there is little to stop him - other than the other zulkirs, that is. Thrul derided the notion of selling magic items early on when Thay was establishing the enclave system, so he has reaped little of the enormous profits of the Guild of Foreign Trade. The zulkir simmers over the lost opportunity. He believes a hefty cut of the Guild's take is due him as the tharchion controlling Bezantur, and he is considering how to claim his portion against the interest of those who supported the idea from the beginning.
The Priador extends along Thay's southern coast, from the River Lapendrar all the way east to the River Thazarim. It northern boundary is the Lapendrar and the First Escarpment. Along with the Alaor and Surthay in the distant north, the Priador is not actually part of the Plateau of Thay. Besides Bezantur, the tharch holds two other major settlements. Thasselen lies on the shore seventy miles west of Bezantur. Another hundred miles or so farther in that direction squats the port city of Murbant. Both of these ports are closer to the Sea of Fallen Stars - and therefore the bulk of Faerûn - than Bezantur, but they are poor sisters to the tharch's capital. Bezantur is one of the largest and wealthiest cities in eastern Faerûn, and its port is thronged with the ships of a dozen lands at all times.
The High Road, one of the nation's two major roads, starts in Bezantur. From there, it climbs the Firsts Escarpment, passes through Tyraturos, and ends in Eltabbar. Some of the locals call this road the Slave Way, for large numbers of slave are driven north along it to the markets of Eltabbar.
Unlike most of Thay, much of the Priador is still wild. In fact, a number of preserves throughout the region permit monsters to roam freely. These creatures are kept on hand for use in the Red Wizards' unethical experiments. Travelers accosted by the creatures are allowed to defend themselves, but more than one monster-slayer has discovered that damaging a zulkir's property brings more pain than claws and teeth.
The tharch of Pyarados runs between the eastern edge of Lake Thaylambar and the Sunrise Mountains, right to the lower portion of the River Thazarim and the southern edge of the First Escarpment. The tharch doesn't quite reach the High Road to the west, which is part of Tyraturos. The ruler of this tharch is Nymia Focar (CE female human Ftr9). Pyrados hasn't benefited directly from the influx of wealth brought about by the zulkirs' new trade policy, but Focar has been savvy enough to make herself rich through her own initiatives. She is more forgiving of the presence of foreign adventurers than most of her peers, granting them free rein to explore those portions of the Sunrise Mountains that lie within her tharch. The only catch is that the shops in Pyarados charge foreigners triple the normal prices and pass the bulk of the profits back to the tharchion.
In addition to monster dens and old ruins, this part of the Sunrise Mountains harbors all sorts of mineral wealth. Foscar can't be bothered with owning or operating mines herself, so she charges a stiff tax on those who do. Any who try to cheat her or refuse to pay find their claims sold out from under them to people more willing to go along with Focar's demands.
There is only one major city here - Pyarados, after which the tharch is named. Situated on the west bank of the River Thazarim, this is where the Eastern Way ends, just shy of the Surague Escarpment. Two well-worn tracks lead out of city. One follows the edges of the Surague Escarpment and the edge of Lake Thaylambar up to the city of Eltabbar. The other is on the east side of the River Thazarim, and it leads south through the tharch of Thazalhar into Mulhorand, eventually winding up in either Sultim or Rauthil, depending on which fork one follows.
The Pass of Thazar
A short distance north and east of the city of Pyarados is the Pass of Thazar, one of only two ways (Daggertooth Pass is th other) across the Sunrise Mountains into Thay. The pass climbs along the vale of the Thazarim River. At the top of the valley, a difficult road of switchbacks and precipitous drops snakes under the crest of the mountains for about ten miles before dropping into the upper vale of the Copper River, a tributary of the Clearfiow. A great stone wall raised centuries ago guards the top of the pass.
The Thazar is lower and easier than the Daggertooth, but it is not as strategically important. Most travelers to Mulhorand or Murghôm simply take the road south from Pyarados to Rauthil. In the ancient wars against Mulhorand, the Pass of Thazar was much more important, as it offered an eastern approach to Thay, but little of consequence has happened here in a long time.
Like the First and Second Escarpments, the Surague is a long line of steeply layered precipices climbing from the Plateau of Thay toward the Sunrise Mountains. It is much more broken and rugged than the other escarpments, sometimes vanishing entirely for dozens of miles before reappearing. Most of the Surague (the land above the escarpment) is at an elevation of about 6,000 to 7,000 feet and quickly merges with the steep foothills, and sheer peaks of the Sunrise range. The Thayans maintain few watchposts or fortresses along this frontier, since the Sunrises are virtually impassable to any but skilled mountaineers who know where they're going. Slaves hoping to escape into the mountains usually meet a quick end from the arduous conditions or the hungry monsters that plague the high vales. A few ragged bands of escaped slaves eke\ out a hardscrabble existence in the lower slopes, fleeing the approach of Thayan forces and raiding down onto the plateau when they dare. From time to time Thayan nobles organize expeditions to hunt these wretches for sport.
The Sunrise Mountains, which many consider to mark the eastern end of Faerûn proper, run all the way from the center of Rashemen to just past the southeastern border of Thay. They form the entirety of Thay's eastern border, towering almost 15,000 feet above sea level. To get to the Thayan portion of the Sunrise Mountains, a traveler must first tackle the Surague Escarpment. Few find even this to be worthwhile, as the Sunrises themselves are virtually impassable to those on foot. As well, the lands above the Surague Escarpment are wild and untended, nothing like the civilized plains of the First Escarpment. They are teeming with dangerous animals and hostile humanoids. From time to time, scouts from the goblin and kobold tribes living here forage into Thay proper. Every now and then, the tharchions of Surthay, Gauros, Pyrados, and Thazalhar send an expedition into the peaks. Old Raumviran towers and strongholds lie buried under the snows of the high slopes, as well as the ancient well-like fortresses of some even older people now forgotten by time. High and perilous passes cross the mountains at Daggertooth and Thazar, but there have long been rumors of a secret passage through the deeps into the Endless Wastes beyond. If this could be found and secured, it might divert the trade of the Golden Way south to Thay and increase tenfold the power of the tharchion whose people discovered the pass.
Scouts and adventurers have so far failed to discover such a way through, despite centuries of searching. The dangers of the mountains multiply the farther one descends from the surface. The caverns beneath the Sunrise mountains are filled with horrible creatures, including nagas, chimeras, and things unspeakably worse.
The patrols along this edge of Thay are not as alert as those of the nation's other borders. The denizens of the mountains rarely descend the Surague Escarpment to attack, and the idea of invading force coming through the mountains is preposterous. Border patrol here is considered one of the dullest and most miserable jobs a soldier can get, so it often draws the less ambitious of Thay's defenders. No one ever became a tharchion on such duty, after all.
Surthay is the northernmost of the tharchs. It stretches from the Surmarsh in the west to the Gorge of Gauros in the east, and it encompasses all Thayan land from the northern edge of the First Escarpment. down to Lake Mulsantir. Surthay was originally Thay's first line of defense against invasion from Rashemen, but over the years, it's become the springboard for attacks against the "barbarians" to the north.
While the Surmarsh is technically within this tharch, Tharchion Homen Odesseiron (LE male human Evo6/Red1/Ftr12) doesn't bother with it much. As long as the marsh's lizardfolk don't cross the River Thay, they are fine where they are. Odesseiron gave up membership in the Red Wizards to pursue a military career years ago, but he is not as foolishly aggressive as Tharchion Kren of Gauros. Kren often pushes Odesseiron to join her in launching an attack against Rashemen, despite the orders of the zulkirs. So far, Odesseiron has not been persuaded of the wisdom in that act, although he allows Kren to move her troops through Surthay on the pretext of "military exercises."
The Long Portage
The River Thay cuts through the middle of the tharch on its way from Lake Thaylambar to Lake Mulsantir below. It's impossible to navigate past the point where the river tumbles down the First Escarpment. However, there is a long tradition of portaging boats and goods up the escarpment, where a ship can then work its way upriver to Lake Thaylambar and the port at Eltabbar. The Guild of Portagers used to charge outrageous prices to move goods, three hundred or more years ago. The Red Wizards of the time grew frustrated with the arrangement - homicidally So. They killed most of the portagers and animated them as zombies.
To this day, tireless zombies handle the grunt work of portaging. Although they can be clumsy, they are also obedient, and they never steal from their masters or their clients. And, unlike traditional slaves, they don't have to be fed, clothed, or permitted to rest.
The Surmarsh is a wide, fetid swamp on the southern shore of the western end of Lake Mulsantir, at the point where the River Sur flows into the lake. This cold and dreary place lies beyond the effects of the Red Wizards' weather magic and is exposed to seemingly endless rains as the cold air of Ashanath and Rashemen meets the warm, stationary air mass artificially maintained over the Plateau of Thay. Fierce thunderstorms even in the depths of winter are not uncommon here. The Surmarsh swarms with tribes of lizardfolk. These primitive humanoids spend most of their energies struggling with one another for supremacy over this soggy piece of land. Some Red Wizards think the lizardfolk may be the descendants of the serpent-people who built the Citadel, an ancient fortress buried beneath the highest peak in the Thaymount. If that is true, a once-proud folk have fallen a long, hard way.
Almost all the tribes here have a treaty of some sort with the Red Wizards. The lizardfolk agree not to bother the Thayans of the region, and the Red Wizards promise not to annihilate the lizardfolk. The treaty specifically does not apply to foreigners wandering through, whom the lizardfolk capture or kill and turn over to the next Thayan patrol. This is usually rewarded with a bounty of 10 gp worth of food per captive or corpse.
The lizardfolk of the Surmarsh consider it a great honor to be drafted into any Thayan armed force. Many have proudly served in the distant Umber Marshes during numerous campaigns against Aglarond. Thayan nobles sometimes enter the Surmarsh on hunting expeditions, employing the local lizard-folk as porters and guides. The swamp is infested with dangerous creatures, including ropers, otyughs, and beasts even more threatening. The prize trophy of the land is the head of a black dragon. A clan of the creatures lairs in the depths of the Surmarsh, and dragons are routinely spotted soaring high above the swamp. Finding such monsters is hard enough, and besting them is even more unlikely, but several parties of nobles give it a try every year just the same.
The Thaymount is a not a single peak but a chain of volcanic mountains in the middle of High Thay, the plateau above the Second Escarpment. Knifelike ridges of rock and smoldering cinder cones reach an altitude of more than 17,000 feet, and soot-covered glaciers cling to their upper slopes. Access to this region is restricted to Red Wizards and their guests - unauthorized visitors are executed on the spot.
Three rivers have their sources in Thaymount's ice-covered peaks. The River Umber runs west toward the Sea of Dlurg. The River Lapendrar flows south to the Wizards' Reach, and the River Eltar pours east into Lake Thaylambar, the largest body of fresh water in the nation.
Eltabbar may be the capital of Thay, but Thaymount is the nation's heart. Private fortresses of the most powerful Red Wizards are scattered across the smoking slopes like black stars in a fiery sky. Gold mines, volcanic forges, and the dark barracks of elite monstrous troops, as well as the magical workshops and armories of the Red Wizards, cluster around the foothills of the Thaymount. Many of the magic items created for export, along with deadlier devices the Red Wizards keep for their own use, come from these forbidding factories.
The troops here - mostly gnolls, blood orcs, darkenbeasts, and other evil creatures - number in the thousands. They stand ready to be launched in any direction their masters send them. The current peace has left these aggressive warriors restless for action. This pent-up violence has been painful for the few foolhardy souls who have trespassed in Thaymount over the past couple of years, as the creatures take out their frustrations on folk unfortunate enough to cross their paths.
Many of the Red Wizards' fortresses contain laboratories for dangerous experiments in magically influenced breeding. The more promising results are sent out into the world to test their abilities, striking fear into all who encounter them. The greatest success so far has been the blood orcs, which have exceeded their creators' wildest dreams. Now the Red Wizards have started trying the same techniques on members of other races to build even broader populations of creatures under their control.
The Thaymount's peaks include a number of active volcanoes. Ash falls and pyroclastic flows are more common than lava fountains or explosive events. In recent years, the activity of the Thaymount has been increasing, giving rise to stories that demons imprisoned there before the founding of the realm may be close to escaping. The earthquake that shook Eltabbar a few years back broke the seals holding the demon prince Eltab under the city, and rumor has it that this creature was - or still is - behind the latest geological troubles too.
What's not in doubt is that the Red Wizards are more agitated and secretive than usual. The sinister mages are spending a great deal of time and effort on constructing new fortifications around their keeps. Some are even working to connect their fortresses for mutual defense, something that was almost unheard of just a few years ago.
Thazalhar is the smallest of the tharchs outside of the islands of the Alaor. It covers much of the land between the River Thazarim and the River of Dawn. This gives Tharchion Milsantos Daramos (LN male human Ftr14) complete control over any land routes between Thay and Mulhorand. In the realm's earliest days, this tharch was a vital point of defense between Thay and its old master. For a long time after that, it was a launching point for Thayan troops rolling into Mulhorand. Today, it is a primary conduit of trade between the two formerly bitter enemies.
Daramos is the only one of the tharchions who is not evil, and it shows in the way he governs his territory. Many of the other tharchions - and even some of the zulkirs - think the old man has gotten soft in his later years. In fact, Daramos has never cared for killing, but he saw it as necessary to protect the interests of his people. He's thrilled with the growing success of the trade enclaves. A true patriot, Daramos hopes this method will finally allow the vicious Thayans to lay aside their differences and work together. He knows he is past his prime and has no chance of bringing the factions under a single banner, but perhaps Szass Tam has finally managed it, using money not to purchase weapons but as a weapon. No other land could possibly stand against the might of a united Thay.
Thazalhar's main source of income is the bridge fees it charges to pass over the River of Dawn into Thay (1 sp each for Thayans and 10 gp each for everyone else). Some foreign merchants pay the fees, but many sell their goods at a cut rate to Thayans on the Mulhorandi side of the bridge, then turn around and go home again.
The tharch of Tyraturos is literally the crossroads of Thay. The Eastern Way crosses the High Road at the city that gives the tharch its name. This makes Tyraturos a hotbed of merchant activity, particularly in the slave trade. Just about any kind of slave can be found for sale here, including exotic creatures like lamias, centaurs, and the normally indomitable drow. The tharchion here is a former priest of Waukeen by the name of Dimon (LN male human Clr7 of Bane) who converted to the worship of Bane soon after the return of the Black Lord. The rampant corruption of Thay led Dimon to the worship of tyranny as a way to impose order on the squabbling factions of his homeland.
Tyraturos is the third-largest city in Thay, which makes it as one observer noted, "one of the filthiest and most unpleasant cities in a filthy and unpleasant land." Over 50,000 souls call this pit home, but that number can double during the high trade seasons of the spring and fall. While the city is not walled, it features a central citadel that houses a garrison of over 8,000 warriors who stand ready to quell any problems that may erupt. Here a traveler can purchase just about anything - or anyone - she could want. Contraband of all sorts used to be traded openly in Tyraturos, even though such crimes are punishable by a quick death. Before the tharchion's conversion, it was accepted practice to bribe any potential prosecutor, but Dimon has discovered a new zeal for law under the Black Lord, and he has put a stop to the corruption of his officers.
The tharchion taxes all goods moving along the great roads. Until recently, customs officials could be persuaded to be circumspect in their tax assessments, but under Dimon's new laws, they are no longer willing to accept such persuasion. After Dimon made public examples of both the briber and the recipient of the bribe by ordering both drawn and quartered, the merchants of the city have resigned themselves to paying up as a cost of doing business.
Born in the Thaymount's high glaciers, the River Umber is a steep, swift torrent with many cascades in the first hundred miles of its length. At Nethentir, it spills out from its rapids along the First Escarpment into the placid waters of Lake Umber. From Lake Umber, the river is navigable all the way to the Sea of Dlurg, passing through a broad gap in the Dragonjaw Mountains.
Vessels cannot ascend the Umber past Nethentir, but from the twin towns on the lake, vessels regularly carry Thayan grain, fruit, and timber out to the Sea of Fallen Stars. The Aglarondans at Emmech grudgingly allow Thayan cargo vessels to pass unless Aglarond and Thay are at war, which has not been the case for several years now.