Some Quick Links


If you want to go to the very first post on the Atlas of Ice and Fire, click here.

Some other useful links:

Malazan Book of the Fallen Atlas.

Wheel of Time Atlas.

Forgotten Realms Atlas.

Nations of the Forgotten Realms.

How big is the world anyway?

The Size and Extent of Westeros (revised) and The Size and Extent of Essos, Sothoryos and Ulthos (revised).

A Political Map of the Known World.

Terra Incognita: Beyond the Known World.

The Population of the Seven Kingdoms and The Population of the Free Cities.

Unreliable Timelines and Confused Dates.

A Song of Lines and Latitude.

Wonders Made by Man and The Seven Natural Wonders of the Known World.

Historical Map 1: The Dawn of Days and other Historical Maps.

Geographic Map 1: The Known World and other Geographic Maps.


Historical Maps of the Forgotten Realms 03: The First Flowering

In this series I will look at the history of the Forgotten Realms world and publish a series of maps depicting the continent of Faerûn and the wider world of Toril at various points in its past. Like my previous series, Nations of the Forgotten Realms, this series draws on The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas and other Dungeons & Dragons resources for the setting, particularly The Grand History of the RealmsNetheril: Empire of MagicCormanthyr: Empire of Elves and Lost Empires of Faerûn.

The work of Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Eric L. Boyd, James Butler, Thomas Costa, Ed Greenwood, Dale “slade” Henson, Brian R. James, George Krashos, Steven Schend and Travis Stout was particularly useful in compiling this series, along, obviously, with the work of everyone who has ever put pen to paper for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting (officially or unofficially)

The elves had established many great civilisations stretching across much of Merrouroboros. Their power and greatness were unmatched, but many elves were wary and weary, feeling their new kingdoms were becoming too concerned with maps and borders. They yearned for the simpler life they had known in Tintageer and Arvandor, bound to the land spiritually rather than materially. But they also did not want to forsake Toril, at least not yet. They decided to create a new homeland for the elves on Toril, but away from the hustle and politics of the mainland.

To this end, circa 17,600 Before Dalereckoning, the elven High Mages came together in a ritual like nothing seen since the days of Tintageer. The elves chose a mighty fulcrum of magic, the High Mage Starleaf, and through her cast a spell which combined the best of the material world with the best of Arvandor, with the blessing of the Seldarine themselves. Some elves were uneasy about the prospect, recalling myths that it was a High Magic ritual gone awry which destroyed Tintageer, but their fears were dismissed.

The ritual began in a mighty white tower, erected in the very centre of the continent. Magical energy coursed outwards, consuming all of the High Mages in the ritual bar only Starleaf. Then it found faultlines and fissures deep underground, extending through the very rocks of Toril for dozens, maybe hundreds, of miles below the surface. The world tore apart, the single supercontinent of Merrouroboros blowing apart to form a number of lesser landmasses, scattering islands like leaves in its wake. The land quaked and the seas rose. In far Ilythiir to the south, where the dark elves did not worship the Seldarine so had not been invited to take part in the ritual, the seas rose and destroyed the capital city of Atorrnash, consuming it outright. Ka’Narlist, ruler of the realm, was killed. The devastation was extensive, and the dark elves furious when they discovered their erstwhile cousins were responsible.

By all rights, such a cataclysm – the Sundering, now sometimes called the First Sundering – should have destroyed Toril outright, or at least rendered the planet unable to sustain life. But, it is believed, the gods and Ao himself intervened to dissipate the damage with magic, even scattering the forces involved through time. Histories of this period are confused in the extreme, speaking of the Shining Sea, the Chultan Peninsula and the Sword Coast many millennia before they were formed in this event.

The elves assumed their plan had failed and returned to their lives, relieved that their realms had survived the cataclysm mostly intact. But Starleaf awoke to find herself on a peaceful island far out in the new sea that had formed to the west of the elven homelands (the continent they continued to call Faerûn, now just one of many). This was the promised land of the elves, the island called Evermeet, a piece of Arvandor incarnated in the mortal Realms. Starleaf became the first ruler of Evermeet, but for now the island was cloaked in magic. The time was not right for the elves to learn of the success of their plan.

The continent of Faerûn that formed in the wake of the Sundering. The major elven and nonelven powers are depicted roughly 12,000 years before the beginning of Dalereckoning, on the eve of the Crown Wars.

In the aftermath of the Sundering, the three elven kingdoms of the Satyrwood – Thearnytaar, Eiellûr and Syòrpiir – continued their discussions for an alliance. Alarmed, the dark elves of Ilythiir used magic to slay the leader of the Syòrpiir delegation, framing the representatives from Thearnytaar for the murder. War broke out between the two kingdoms, and in their haste to come to blows they violated the territory of Eiellûr that lay between them. The War of the Three Leaves raged for three centuries (17,100-16,800 BDR) before it was confirmed that Ilythiiri agents were responsible. Ilythiir disavowed their actions, and the three kingdoms ceased their conflict, but were now too mistrustful of each other to continue their discussions for an alliance.

This was also the era when other sentient species began to call Faerûn home. From the east came the dwarves, a diminutive people who had build vast mines and mansions under the towering Yehimal for many millennia. The origins of the dwarves, whether they were created on Toril by their god Moradin Soulforger or came to this world from elsewhere via magical means, is unknown. What drove them from their homes under the Yehimal is also unknown, although historians note the proximity of their exodus with the Sundering. By 15,000 BDR, it is known that the dwarves had tunneled under the plains of the Shaar, which narrowly extended from the Satyrwood to Ilythiir, and then under northern Ilythiir itself to established the kingdom and city of Bhaerynden.

From the west came another species, known as humans. The origin of humans is likewise unknown, although it is believed with greater certainty that they originated on a different world and were brought to Toril by the Creator Races. The earliest reports of humans speak of small, primitive tribes dwelling in what is now Katashaka as early as 32,000 BDR. Some human tribes had spread through Katashaka into what is now Chult and Mhair ere the Sundering, and there had fallen under the yoke of the yuan-ti. Other humans later crossed the Shining Sea to settle along the forested banks of the River Wurlur (the modern Ith, in Tethyr). The elves of Keltormir viewed their arrival with initial mistrust, but, around 14,000 BDR, granted them tracts of land to take as their own and co-existed with them with success for millennia afterwards. Around 11,700 BDR, when dragons burned the southern forests of Shantel Othreier, clearing much of what is now the kingdom of Amn, humans were also granted those lands to dwell in.

Around 15,300 BDR, Ivósaar Vyshaan became Coronal of Aryvandaar, marking the ascendancy of House Vyshaan. The Vyshaan had a powerful vision, of all Faerûn united under the rule of Aryvandaar, united in a single powerful elven empire that would make all of the worlds and all of the planes tremble. In 14,700 BDR, Aryvandaar extended a proposal of alliance and friendship to the dark elves of Miyeritar. But the Miyeritari remembered their disdainful treatment in Aryvandaar many millennia earlier and turned them down. To the fury of the Vyshaan, Miyeritar then underwent a Renaissance of art, culture and power. In 13,900 BDR, Miyeritar was acknowledged the centre of elven art, learning and High Magic on Toril, and elven High Mages flocked to the wizard colleges of Miyeritar to learn the ways of sorcery, disdaining those of Aryvandaar. Circa 13,200 BDR, Aryvandaar accused Miyeritar of blocking its trade routes to the south and trying to stymie Aryvandaari growth.

Tension between the two powers continued to rise, despite efforts by the other elven kingdoms to mediate. But by 12,000 BDR it was clear these efforts had failed.

What followed is known to the elves by many names, such as the Time of Great Regret, but to both the elves and other species it is better-known as the Crown Wars.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

Historical Maps of the Forgotten Realms 02: The Dawn Age

In this series I will look at the history of the Forgotten Realms world and publish a series of maps depicting the continent of Faerûn and the wider world of Toril at various points in its past. Like my previous series, Nations of the Forgotten Realms, this series draws on The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas and other Dungeons & Dragons resources for the setting, particularly The Grand History of the RealmsNetheril: Empire of MagicCormanthyr: Empire of Elves and Lost Empires of Faerûn.

The work of Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Eric L. Boyd, James Butler, Thomas Costa, Ed Greenwood, Dale “slade” Henson, Brian R. James, George Krashos, Steven Schend and Travis Stout was particularly useful in compiling this series, along, obviously, with the work of everyone who has ever put pen to paper for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting (officially or unofficially).

The supercontinent of Merrouroboros during the time of the domination of the giants and dragons, when the elves had only just first appeared on Toril.

The coming of the dragons, spawned some say in the Tearfall, ended the time of the original Creator Races on Toril. The aearee were destroyed, or forced to flee to remote corners of the globe. The dragons were triumphant, but the nature of dragons is individualistic and they soon fell to bickering and infighting. The murder of Nagamat, General-Priest of Tiamat, by followers of Xymor (as Bahamut was then called), triggered the Dragonfall Wars, themselves part of a wider religious conflict known as the Draco Holy Wars. The dragons eroded their own numbers, slaughtering themselves in the thousands. The early draconic “nations” of Argissthilliax, Caesinmalsvir and Tharkrixghontix were soon destroyed, leaving only Darastriverthicha to survive somewhat longer in the lands later claimed by Netheril. Notable at this time (c. 30,000 Before Dalereckoning) was the establishment of Darastrixhurthi, a vassal-state of the horned, lesser dragon-kin known as kobolds.

As the rule of the dragons weakened, there was a resurgence from the giantkin. As already related, the titan-led Jotunbrud clans had emerged from the uttermost north to establish dominion over parts of the continent before being driven back by the ferocity of the batrachi and their primordial allies. The giantkin then returned to establish the Colossal Kingdom of Ostoria and its allied states of Darchar, Grunfesting, Helligheim, Nedeheim and Rangfjell.

Relations between the dragons and giants were respectful if cool. The giants of this age were powerful warriors and employed mighty sorcerers and wizards among their ranks. They were also vastly more numerous than the dragons. The dragons decided that coexistence was a wiser course than conflict, and since, for the most part, their territorial requirements did not overlap, there was plenty of room for everybody.

However, the fourth Creator Race now began to impugn upon Toril. The Fey were not native to Toril, having instead established control of their own plane or dimensional realm known as Faerie, or, in more recent terminology, the Feywild. The Feywild had been created by the primordials circa 34,000 BDR, but the Fey had now taken it as their own and was used by them in their creation of lesser species including the korreds, pixies and sprites. The Fey also had a strong kinship with the eladrin and the elves, the species native to the realm of Arvandor (on the plane of Arborea). Many eladrin and elves moved to the Feywild, attracted by its magical nature.

The relationship between the Feywild and the primordials gave the Fey the ability to observe events on Toril, a world much to their liking. They were wary of the raw power of the dragons, fearing what would happen should they gain access to the Feywild, so starting c. 27,000 BDR, the Fey sent their minion species to Toril with the aim of undermining the power of the dragons. These minion races took root in the vast forests covering much of Merrouroboros. The first elves soon followed, including aquatic elves, avariel (winged elves) and lythari (elvish lycanthropes). Some of these settlements were more successful than others, with the aquatic elves flourishing in both the inner and outer seas, but the avariel being decimated in conflicts with the dragons and other winged species. A second wave of green and wild elf settlement began within a few centuries, settling the vast southern jungles and negotiating with the dragons to establish the first elven kingdom on Toril: Ilythiir, with its capital at Atorrnash.

In 26,000 BDR the detente between the dragons and giants ended at the command of the draconic god Garyx, who ordered his followers to destroy the Colossal Kingdom. The resulting Thousand Year War saw both giantkin and dragonkind bloodied, and the dragons reduced to a bare few thousand in number. Realising both species were threatened with destruction, at least according to legend, the giant god Annam All-Father and Garyx played a game of wah-ree to decide the matter. The game ended in a draw, so it was decided to end the war with the battle lines where they stood. Ostoria were reduced to the northern fringes of Merrouroboros (in the land now called Hartsvale, and some parts eastwards), several of the other giant kingdoms were destroyed, and others became enclaves in territory otherwise controlled by the dragons.

Merrouroboros on the eve of the Sundering, showing the major elven empires which had arisen in the preceding millennia.

Circa 30,000 BDR, the Seldarine, the (relatively) newly-established pantheon of elven gods, was riven by war and civil war. Araushnee, the elven goddess of destiny and artisans, had become the lover of Corellon Larethian, the chief god of the Seldarine. But she was also jealous and bitter, desiring his power. She arranged for a coalition of the enemies of the Seldarine to invade Arvandor and slay Corellon so she might usurp him. She was aided in this task by her son, Vhaeraun, but opposed by her daughter, Eilistraee, whom history and myth would later call the Redeemer.

During the final battle in Arvandor, Araushnee’s machinations were exposed and thwarted by Eilistraee and Sehanine Moonbow. Corellon was saved from death and he condemned Araushnee and Vhaeraun to exile. Eilistraee volunteered to go into exile as well, so she might redeem those whom her kin would seek to corrupt. Araushnee was given a further punishment, transformation into a tanar’ri, a demon of hideous, spider-like aspect. She took a new home on the 66th layer of the Abyss and also a new name and title: Lolth, Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

Almost five thousand years later, c. 25,400 BDR, the great island kingdom of Tintageer, in Faerie, was attacked by unknown warriors. The elves used High Magic to destroy the invaders, but this display of power had an unintended side-effect, namely the flooding of Tintageer and its inundation. Barely fifty elves, led Prince Durothil of the sun elves and Sharlario Moonflower of the moon elves, escaped through a portal. They found themselves on Toril, in what would later be called the High Forest, and Durothil uttered the word the elves would take to describe their new home: “Faerûn.” The elvish word for “One Land.”

Almost immediately the elves found themselves in a battle for survival with the ruling dragon of the region, Mahatnartorian, but were aided in their struggle by both lythari and avariel. They built the first great elven city of the north, Sharlarion, and Sharlario and his son travelled this new world in search of allies. Hearing of an elven kingdom in the far south, they arrived in Ilythiir and struck up friendly relations with its ruler, Ka’Narlist. However, they were wary of the dark gods Vhaeraun and Ghaunadaur worshipped in the kingdom. Eilistraee also appeared to Sharlario in a vision to warn him of the southern elves’ amoral nature. Ka’Narlist gifted Sharlario with a dagger ensorcelled so he might spy on events in the north. Upon Sharlario’s return home, he witnessed the great battle between Durothil and his silver dragon ally, Silverywing, and the dragon Mahatnartorian. All three perished in the conflict.

In 25,000 BDR, elven High Mages unleashed the power of their sorcery to create the Dracorage Mythal, an artefact of tremendous power. Drawing on the magic of the Kingkiller Star, they drove every dragon on Toril insane for several days, resulting in mass casualties among the draconic race. Every few centuries, the Rage of Dragons would strike again, keeping draconic numbers low enough so that they would never threaten the elves again.

Six centuries later, the demonic lord Haeshkaar invaded Toril with a vast horde of orcs, the first of the creatures to appear on the planet. He destroyed the gold elf city of Occidian but was unable to take Sharlarion. His forces were defeated, but he captured the high priest Anarallath in the process. Anarallath’s lover, the great archmage Kethryllia Amarillis, purused him back to the Abyss and, aided by the capricious goddess Kiaransalee, slew Haeshkaar in battle and rescued her lover. To this end she employed the magical dagger of Ka’Narlist. The presence of this weapon in the Abyss drew the attention of Lolth to Toril, where she located Ka’Narlist and allied with him, subverting of the worship of the Ilythiiri to her dark cause. By 23,200 BDR, Ilythiir had strengthened its hold over a vast swathe of the south, extending from the fringes of the Mhair Jungles through what would later be the Forest of Amtar and Lluirwood.

Occidian’s destruction saw Sharlarion become predominantly a sun or gold elf city. After their victory over the orcs, the elves flourished and numerous colony towns and cities were established across the High Forest, the vast woodland located south-west of the Narrow Sea. By 23,900 BDR these communities had allied into the kingdom of Aryvandaar.

Other elven kingdoms followed. Other sun and moon elves allied to found the realm of Shantel Othreier around 23,600 BDR, located in the forests north of the Cloud Peaks and extending east to the Gods’ Theatre (the modern Tunlands). A moon or silver elf colony state was also established at Ardeep to the north, near the mouths of the Dessarin and Delimbiyr, the two great rivers of the north. Syòrpiir was founded in the what later became the Ankhwood and Chondalwood (23,100 BDR), followed by Illefarn to the north-west of Ardeep, in the forested mountains along the coast (22,900). Orishaar was established in the lands immediately to the north-east of the Pourounkorokale (22,500), and Thearnytaar in what would become the Thornwood (21,400). Eiellûr followed in the Winterwood (21,000).

Relations between the kingdoms were mostly good, but occasionally strained. Orishaar and Ilythiir’s borders clashed south of what is now the Border Kingdoms and the two skirmished for a time around 20,000 BDR before settling a common frontier. The three kingdoms of the vast Satyrwood, namely Eiellûr, Thearnytaar and Syòrpiir, also had initial tensions before becoming more friendly and allied, known as the Kingdoms of the Three Leaves. Indeed, their rulers would occasionally ponder the positives of allying together into a single empire to rival Ilythiir or Aryvandaar.

Circa 18,800 BDR, a major political schism within Aryvandaar saw the nation’s wild and dark elf kindreds, fed up with centuries of being treated as inferiors, departing the realm. They crossed the Delimbiyr and established the realm of Miyeritar. In 17,800 BDR, moon and wild elf explorers from Thearnytaar crossed the mountains of the Iltkazar Range to colonise the vast woodlands that later generations would call Tethir, Darthiir and Mir. The great kingdom of Keltormir grew up in this region.

Despite their sheer power and profligacy, some elves began to experience pangs of regret for their species’ increased interest in politics and borders, and a retreat from the spirituality and mysticism their ancestors had experienced in Arvandor and Faerie. Many elves began to call for the creation of a new homeland, a land apart from the petty concerns of the mainland where the true spirit of elvenkind could be enjoyed. The elven High Mages began to prepare for the casting of a tremendous spell to establish such a homeland, where the mortal world of Toril and the elven spiritual homeland of Arvandor could mingle.

The effects of this spell would be extremely far-reaching…and disastrous.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

Historical Maps of the Forgotten Realms 01: The Days of Thunder

In this series I will look at the history of the Forgotten Realms world and publish a series of maps depicting the continent of Faerûn and the wider world of Toril at various points in its past. Like my previous series, Nations of the Forgotten Realms, this series draws on The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas and other Dungeons & Dragons resources for the setting, particularly The Grand History of the Realms, Netheril: Empire of Magic, Cormanthyr: Empire of Elves and Lost Empires of Faerûn.

The work of Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Eric L. Boyd, James Butler, Thomas Costa, Ed Greenwood, Dale “slade” Henson, Brian R. James, George Krashos, Steven Schend and Travis Stout was particularly useful in compiling this series, along, obviously, with the work of everyone who has ever put pen to paper for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting (officially or unofficially).

The supercontinent of Merrouroboros, which existed in the millennia preceding the First Sundering. The supercontinent later split apart to form the continents of the modern era: Maztica, rumoured Anchôromé, Katashaka, Faerûn, Zakhara, Kara-Tur and Ossë. Please click for a larger version.

This first world map looks at Abeir-Toril, as it was then called, in the period after the Age of Creation. This is circa 40,000 BDR (Before Dalereckoning), some 41,500 years before the present day.

According to myth, the star system of Realmspace was created by the Hidden One, the entity Ao of whom little is known. Ao charged the first two gods of this realm, the twins Selûne and Shar, with nurturing life within the system. The two goddesses created a third, Chauntea, to help them in this task. Chauntea’s recommendation was to create light and warmth within the system, but the twin sisters quarrelled; Shar, Sister of Night and Darkness, hated the idea. The two sisters warred and Selûne proved victorious, creating the Sun. However, this activity attracted the attention of the primordials, powerful beings who desired dominion over all worlds in the multiverse. The goddesses united their power to defeat the primordials, driving them into hiding or imprisoned in remote corners of Realmspace. A fourth goddess, Mystryl, Lady of Magic, was created during this period. Mystryl withheld her powers from both sisters, bringing an end to their warring.

Although life flourished on all worlds in Realmspace, the most promising was Abeir-Toril, third planet from the Sun. The planet was completely covered in water, but a multitude of life grew in the deep oceans, during what became known as the Blue Age. Many other gods formed at this time, as sentient life spread through Abeir-Toril’s oceans and their need for faith and worship grew.

Alas, the primordials returned. One of the mightiest of their number, Dendar the Night Serpent, consumed the Sun to plunge Realmspace into freezing cold, an era known as the Shadow Epoch. His opposite number, the god known as Ouroboros, the World Serpent, led the gods of the system into battle. A long war resulted, but the two sides were too evenly matched. In the end, the primordials were defeated by one of their own; Ubtao swapped sides, helping the gods defeat the primordials in return for lands and worshippers of his own. The primordials were destroyed, or forced to flee across the planes.

The Sun was kindled into life once more, and Abeir-Toril again flourished. But this time the seas had retreated, much of their mass being locked away into ice. A single, enormous supercontinent was revealed: Merrouroboros. More than 10,000 miles across, the landmass contained all the lands that would later be scattered as the continents of the modern day.

For untold millennia or maybe even tens of millennia, life on Abeir-Toril developed. Then, circa 36,500 years ago, the first sentient lifeforms began to build cities, learn the ways of magic and ascend to greatness. This marked the beginning of the Days of Thunder, also known as the Age of the Creator Races.

A map of western Merrouroboros, depicting the reign of the sarrukh. Three powerful sarrukh empires ruled over the lands between c. 35,000 and 33,500 Before Dalereckoning. The sarrukh created the successor races known as the yuan-ti, naga, lizardfolk, pterafolk, troglodytes and other types of serpentfolk and scalykind.

The Creator Races, or Iquar-Tel’Quessir in the tongue of the elves, were immensely powerful, pre-human and even pre-elven species that ruled over Toril and, before it, Abeir-Toril, in the earliest of days. There are five credited Creator Races, although only three existed in this remote epoch.

The first to arise were the sarrukh. Also called the saurians or Progenitors of the Scaled Ones, the sarrukh established the first-known empires: Okoth, Mhairshaulk and Isstosseffifil. They also built the oldest-known surface cities in the Realms: Sar’Rukoth, the capital of Okoth, now believed to be buried under Azulduth, the Lake of Salt south of Mulhorand; and Oreme, long-since buried under the sands of Anauroch, the Great Desert. They worshipped the World Serpent, who first accepted their faith directly but then through vassal incarnations.

The sarrukh were also the first power – but far from the last – to suffer the depredations of the phaerimm. They encountered the phaerimm in the lands north of Oreme, where the creatures seemed to hail from caverns many miles below the surface (the ancestor tunnels of the modern Underdark). The origins of the phaerimm are unknown, but the creatures, then as now, were unrelentingly hostile. The sarrukh did successfully defeat the phaerimm and drive them back into the Underdark, but only through the unleashing of powerful magic to shift the entire course of the Narrow Sea, flooding the caverns below with millions of gallons of water.

Roughly 2,500 years after their first rise to power, the sarrukh peaked as a civilisation. Isstosseffifil collapsed as a result of the war with the phaerimm, although its capital Oreme endured as a multi-species library city for the study of magic. Mhairshaulk endured under the rule of the yuan-ti, but its sarrukh rulers left to explore other planes. Okoth continued to endure until around 31,000 BDR, when it abruptly vanished. Sages assumed it had declined and faded away, but some evidence suggests that the realm was transferred to the shadow-world of Abeir instead. The truth of the matter remains unclear.

A map of western Merrouroboros, depicting the reign of the batrachi. Four powerful sarrukh empires ruled over the lands between c. 33,500 and 31,000 Before Dalereckoning. The batrachi created the successor races known as the bullywugs, doppelgangers, kopru, kuo-toa, locathah, sivs and tako. The rule of the batrachi came to a rather abrupt end in the event known as the Tearfall.

Next to emerge were the batrachi, an amphibian species originating in the seas around Merrouroboros. With the sarrukh in decline, the batrachi were able to emerge onto the dry land and forge their own empires: Nadezhda, Boitumelo, Kolophoon and, greatest of them all, Zhoukoudien, the domain of the High One. These empires flourished for two thousand years before they came into contact with the Jotunbrud, a towering race originating from the freezing lands in the north-east. This race, whom history would recall as the first titans, were formidable but appeared slow and ungainly. Bazim-Gorad, ruler of Nadezhda, urged caution in dealing with the creatures, but the High One Zhoukoudien scoffed at such an idea and treated them with disdain. This led Omo, the titan thane, to slay Zhoukoudien in battle. This sparked a bloody war between the two species.

The titans proved the batrachi’s match and more, driving them back in defeat. In desperation, the batrachi sought magical allies and and found them in powerful spirits imprisoned in various parts of the world. Unfortunately, these were not allies at all, but some of the imprisoned primordials from the most ancient times. The primordials renewed their war against not just the titans, but also the gods of the Realms, who were taken by surprise by the return of their foe. Despite this, the gods were more numerous and more powerful, and quickly gained the upper hand.

In apparent desperation, the primordial Asgorath, the World-Shaper, also known as Io, hurled a moon of ice at Abeir-Toril, intending to destroy that which the primordials could not conquer. The moon was destroyed before it could hit the planet, but the resulting inundation of meteorites, rocky fragments and ice caused widespread destruction. The centre of the continent, between four great lakes or small seas, collapsed, resulting in the creation of the Sea of Falling Stars, also called the Inner Sea. Many of the smaller fragments of the moon which missed the planet looped back around it in a never-ending orbit, becoming known as the Tears of Selûne. Batrachi civilisation collapsed and the titans beat a hasty retreat into the lands of the uttermost north. This apocalyptic event became known in history as the Tearfall, and took place circa, 31,000 BDR.

Ao intervened, furious that, one again, the Balance that was in his care had been endangered. He split Abeir-Toril into two worlds, identical but separated by a whisper of a thought. He gave Abeir to the primordials and Toril to the gods, and split them apart so the two worlds could not meet or be travelled between, thus ending the great war.

But the Tearfall had an unexpected consequence: many of the rocks and stones that had poured out of the shattered moon were actually eggs. And, soon after the Tearfall, they began to hatch.

A map of western Merrouroboros, depicting the reign of the aearee. Three mighty aearee “flocks” ruled over the lands between c. 31,000 and 30,000 Before Dalereckoning. The aearee created the successor races known as wyverns, aarakocra, kenku and owlbears.

The third Creator Race to emerge were the aearee, an avian species originating on a large island in the Silver Sea. Some of the aearee had been enslaved by the batrachi, so the rest of the species kept a low profile until the destruction of the batrachi in the Tearfall. The aearee then moved to the mainland, establishing mighty holds at Viakoo (on Mount Havraquoar, in the lands north of what is now Maztica), Phwiukree (on the Star Mounts of the High Forest) and Shara (in the Orsraun Mountains of modern Turmish.

The rule of the aearee was rather brief. Having established three great holds, the aearee were hard-pressed fighting against enemies such as the lammasu (who assailed Viakoo but were driven back by vast numbers of wyverns) and the gnolls of Urgnarash, who sought to destroy Shara using a plague. The desperation of the times saw the aearee reluctantly join forces with their old enemies, the few surviving batrachi and sarrukh at Oreme, where they undertook great magical feats together. There, the magic of the three races united to create the greatest repositories of magical knowledge in the history of the world. Later history would call them “the Nether Scrolls.”

But word was already spreading from the east of a ferocious new threat, winged and fanged creatures of immense strength and cunning, not to mention magical power. The dragons born of the Tearfall had, after a thousand years, come of age. Led by Nagamat, a draconic general and worshipper of the goddess Tiamat, the first great Flight of Dragons seen on the face of Toril scoured the three aearee holds from the face of the world. The surviving aearee, sarrukh and batrachi were destroyed or forced to flee across the planes. Some believe that some aearee survived on Toril by returning to their original homeland in the uttermost west, but the truth of the matter remained unclear.

The Days of Thunder had ended and the Dawn Age, the Time of Dragons, had begun.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

Nations of the Forgotten Realms: The Full Guide

In this series I looked at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series was based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR), as borders have changed and some towns and cities have fallen, whilst newer ones have risen.

A “master map” of the Nations of the Forgotten Realms series. Please click for a larger version.

Related maps of interest:

The full list of articles follows:

  1. Aglarond
  2. Amn
  3. Calimshan
  4. Chessenta
  5. Chondath
  6. Cormyr
  7. Damara
  8. Dambrath
  9. Durpar, Estagund & Var the Golden
  10. Erlkazar
  11. Evereska
  12. Evermeet
  13. Gundarlun, Ruathym, Trisk & Tuern
  14. Halruaa
  15. Hartsvale
  16. Impiltur
  17. Lantan
  18. Lapaliiya & Tharsult
  19. Luiren
  20. Luruar (The Silver Marches)
  21. Mintarn & Orlumbor
  22. Moonshae
  23. Mulhorand
  24. Murghôm & Semphar
  25. Narfell
  26. Nimbral
  27. Rashemen
  28. Samarach, Tashalar & Thindol
  29. Sembia
  30. Sespech
  31. Sossal
  32. Tethyr
  33. Thay
  34. Thesk
  35. Turmish
  36. Ulgarth and the Utter East (Parsanic, Doegan, Edenvale & Konigheim)
  37. Underhome (The Deep Realm)
  38. Unther & Threskel
  39. Waterdeep

Some more coverage of the Realms is to come in the future, with historical maps and a guide to some of the other regions of the continent.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

Nations of the Forgotten Realms 39: Waterdeep

In this series I will be looking at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series is based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR), as borders have changed and some towns and cities have fallen, whilst newer ones have risen.

A map of the region surrounding Waterdeep. Please click for a larger version.
  • Ruler: The Lords of Waterdeep, represented by Open Lord Piergeiron Paladinson
  • Capital: Waterdeep (pop. 132,661)
  • Settlements: Amphail (600), Rassalantar (200), Tharqualnaar (517), T’Quession (240), Zundbridge
  • Population: 1,347,840 (64% human, 10% dwarf, 10% elf, 5% halfling, 5% half-elf, 3% gnome, 2% half-orc, 1% misc.)
  • Population Density: 21 people per mile² (8.41 people per square km²)
  • Area: 61,853 miles² (160,198.53 km²) – very approximate area of influence
  • Military: The City Guard (inc. the Griffon Legion), the City Watch, Force Grey, various mercenary and adventuring companies, the clergy of Tempus, a formidable number of resident powerful mages and clerics
  • Languages: Common, Chondathan, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Illuskan
  • Religion: Baravar Cloakshadow, Deneir, Gond, Lathander, Mielikki, Mystra, Oghma, Selûne, Sharess, Siamorphe, Silvanus, Sune, Tempus, Tymora, Tyr
  • Exports: Ale, arms, cloth, fish, furnishings, leather goods, pottery, refined metals, finished goods
  • Imports: Grain, livestock, leather, ore, timber, exotic goods from other lands
  • Sources: Waterdeep and the North (Ed Greenwood, 1987), The Savage Frontier (Jennell Jaquays, 1988), City System (Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood, 1988), Eye of the Beholder (video game, Westwood Studios, 1991), Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon (video game, Westwood Studios, 1992), City of Splendors (Steven E. Schend, Ed Greenwood, 1994), Volo’s Guide to Waterdeep (Ed Greenwood, 1994), The North (slade, Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb, Julia Martin, Steven E. Schend, Jennell Jaquays, Steve Perrin, 1996), City of Splendors: Waterdeep (Eric L. Boyd, 2005), Environs of Waterdeep (Eric L. Boyd, 2006)


Waterdeep, the Crown of the North or, more famously, the City of Splendours, is the largest and grandest city-state on the north-western coast of Faerûn. Located at the meeting point of the Trackless Sea and the Sea of Swords, at the far southern end of the Sword Coast North (or the far northern end of the Sword Coast proper; cartographic blood has been spilt in the debate), where the North meets the Western Heartlands, the city is superbly placed for trade, defence, political influence and supply. The city also projects immense and unrivalled soft power over much of the north-western quarter of the continent.

Waterdeep lays no formal political claim to any land beyond its walls, but in practice the forty miles or so immediately surrounding the city is covered in farmland dedicated to feeding the city and supplying it with raw materials. The land for a further sixty miles beyond that is regularly patrolled by Waterdeep’s militia and aerial cavalry. The hamlet of Rassalantar and the larger village of Amphail are both defended by Waterdeep’s military and their economies depend on trade with the larger city, although they remain autonomous in terms of their civil governance. Waterdeep also maintains a garrison at Zundbridge to defend the mouth of the Dessarin from pirates and raiders. As many people live within Waterdeep’s sphere of protection as do in the entire kingdom of Cormyr.

Waterdeep is also the de facto head of the Lords’ Alliance, a formidable military, political and economic bloc dominating western Faerûn and acting as a bulwark to the ambitions of groups such as the Black Network of the Zhentarim, the Red Wizards of Thay and the Cult of the Dragon. Other members of the Alliance include Silverymoon, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter, Amphail, Berdusk, Elturel, Goldenfields, Gundarlun, Iriaebor, Leilon, Longsaddle, Mirabar and Sundabar. The founding of the kingdom of Luruar in 1369 brought the entire Silver Marches into the Alliance as well, including Everlund, Citadels Felbarr and Adbar, and Mithral Hall. Several nearby towns are not formal members of the Alliance, but had friendly ties to it, including the towns of Secomber and Yartar, the elves of Evereska, the kingdom of Cormyr and the island kingdom of Moonshae.

Waterdeep itself is an impressive sight, with the city located on the flanks of the mountain of the same name, rearing over the ocean. The city extends for around two miles along its longest axis and is surrounded by stout walls, not to mention the sheer cliffs and escarpments of the landward side of the mountain. The mountain forms the western boundary of the city, acting as something of a windbreak against the worst storms rolling in off the Trackless Sea. Deepwater Isle performs much the same task to the south. Castle Waterdeep, the centre of governance, is located on the south-eastern edge of the mountain, whilst the mountain peak is the home of the city’s griffons.

The city is divided into six districts: Sea Ward, North Ward, Castle Ward, Trades Ward, South Ward and Dock Ward. A seventh subdivision is applied to the City of the Dead, the city cemetery, which also doubles as a park and place of reflection. Deepwater Isle is sometimes named as an eighth subdivision, although it is reserved for military use. The floor of Deepwater Harbour is also home to a merfolk village (Tharqualnaar) and a sea elf settlement (T’Quession), both of which are formally allied to Waterdeep and help keep the harbour clear of aquatic threats.

Waterdeep is home to over 132,000 permanent residents and during the height of the trade season the population can swell immensely with an influx of merchants and visitors. During such times tent towns form beyond the city’s gates to provide additional accommodation. Requests to expand the city beyond the walls have so far been denied by the Lords for security reasons, although it is becoming something of a necessity to deal with the population increase.

Waterdeep has a legendary reputation for wealth, fairness and equality. The city goes to immense lengths to keep crime to a minimum, if not eliminated altogether. However, it is something of an open secret that the subterranean city of Skullport lies below Waterdeep, and is where the region’s criminal activity is centred. Fortunately, the scoundrels of Skullport spend so much time bickering and scheming against one another that their ability to hurt the people of Waterdeep proper is limited. Some believe a more organised thieves’ guild does exist both in and under Waterdeep, headed by a beholder named Xanathar (despite near-annual rumours of the beholder’s death), but this is unconfirmed, and may just be a rumour.

More disturbing is the colossal dungeon which lies below the city. Undermountain, the largest known dungeon in Faerûn, extends for many levels and thousands of feet into the Underdark below the city. The dungeon is the playground of the so-called Mad Mage, Halaster Blackcloak, but he mostly keeps his crazed interests to himself. The upper levels of Undermountain are considered safe enough for adventurers to explore without too much concern (the main entrance is even located in a popular bar, the Yawning Portal), but the lower levels are considered extremely lethal. The status of Undermountain is monitored by various worthies, including the city’s famed archmage, Khelben Arunsun, the Blackstaff, but far from putting off visitors and migrants, the dungeon seems to attract them.


The site where Waterdeep stands today was, of old, part of the great elven realm of Illefarn. Founded in 22,900 BDR (Before Dalereckoning), Illefarn extended down the far north-western coast of Faerûn, including the then-forested flanks of the single mountain in the area. In 17,600 BDR, the Sundering took place and the modern coastline was formed. Illefarn was plunged into the Crown Wars (12,000 – 9000 BDR) which afflicted the six Great Elven Empires, resulting in the destruction of four of them (Aryvandaar, Miyeritar, Shantel Othreier and Ilythiir). Only Illefarn and Keltormir far to the south (in the forests of Tethir and Mir) survived.

Illefarn suffered severely during the Crown Wars, being defeated by its eastern neighbour of Aryvandaar and undergoing occupation. After the end of the Crown Wars, Illefarn underwent a renaissance of power. This led to the decision to found a new capital city, Aelinthaldaar, in 8500 BDR. Aelinthaldaar grew to impressive size and became surrounded by a mythal, which encompassed the entire mountain and city around it, preventing the mountainous plateau from collapsing despite mining activities below the surface.

In 1288 BDR, a shield dwarf explorer and prospector named Melair visited Aelinthaldaar and petitioned the Coronal to be allowed to explore the area under the mountain for rare minerals. The Coronal agreed and Melair discovered significant deposits of mithral. The elves and dwarves came to an agreement for the dwarves to mine the mountain and the elves would sell their goods on. The mountain became known as Mount Melairbode and within a few centuries was all but hollowed out, as the dwarves of Clan Melairkyn mined out substantial quantities of mithral and other metals.

In 1100 BDR the Coronal called the Great Retreat, ordering all the citizens of Aelinthaldaar to leave the city for Evermeet. In an impressive feat of High Magic, the city was apparently dissolved into nothing, leaving behind no trace it had ever existed. The dwarves were left to mine the mountain alone. The elves did leave the mythal intact, however, lest the dwarves’ delving cause the entire plateau to collapse.

The capital was abandoned and Illefarn effectively dissolved, although some nearby elven sub-kingdoms decided not to follow the call and remained behind. Most notable were Ardeep, Iliyanbruen and Rilithar. Remarkably, the remaining elves and dwarves in the region would later (around 342 DR) ally and found a new or successor kingdom also called Illefarn, which would encompass later realms such as Phalorm.

Around 1088 BDR, the first humans settled the area, with formerly nomadic tribes settling the bay. The fortunes of these tribes would wax and wane considerably, with them sometimes establishing fairly significant towns only for them to be swept away by an orc horde or civil war and the area left uninhabited for years or decades before a new settlement was established.

Around 800 BDR, the Netherese established an outpost in Mount Melairbode with the permission of the dwarves (as part of Netheril’s alliance with both Illefarn and Delzoun, the greater Shield Kingdom of the North). Sargauth Enclave was used as a base of operations for magical experimentation in the safety of the underground vaults. When Netheril collapsed in 339 BDR, the resulting chaos in the Weave resulted in Sargauth’s supporting pillars failing and the underground city being destroyed. The thirteen most powerful mages of the enclave survived, after a fashion, as their skulls were converted into magical, free-floating entities, later called the Skulls of Skullport.

In 34 DR, a combined army of drow and duergar invaded Mount Melairbode and routed the dwarves, forcing them into the deeper levels. By 211 DR the dwarves had been forced out of the mountain altogether, and the drow claimed ownership of the dwarf-halls instead, which they named Kyorlamshin.

In 168 DR, the mysterious and ancient mage known as Halaster arrived at the foot of Mount Melairbode and founded a holdfast. Using the holdfast as a base, he struck into the mountain to explore its secrets. The drow grew annoyed by his intrusions and tried to kill or enslave him, but failed miserably; Halaster’s magic was far too powerful and soon all the drow of Kyorlamshin were dead, mad or ensorcerelled puppets of the mage.

By 307, Halaster had effectively moved into the mountain and abandoned his holdfast, which fell into ruin (today the Yawning Portal Inn stands on its site). As he explored further into the dungeon, he populated the levels with various monsters to study them in this unusual habitat. He eventually disappeared into the lowest levels of the mountain, reappearing usually only to deal with intruders or those who vexed him, such as the Guild of Naturalists of the elven empire of Cormanthyr, who started investigating the dungeon themselves in 658, stealing monsters away to study them. Halaster retaliated by kidnapping elf-mages to experiment on. When the Guild stopped invading his territory, Halaster ceased retaliating. The elves may have taken stronger action to recover their missing mages, but this was precluded by the destruction of Cormanthyr and its capital, Myth Drannor, in 714.

In 472, Ulbaerag Bloodhand united the human tribes in the vicinity of Mount Melairbode and founded a primitive castle overlooking the harbour, with the first proper palisades built around it. This expanded into a small village. In 882 Nimoar the Reaver then invaded the area, capturing the castle and village, which he renamed Nimoar’s Hold. The Hold resisted several attacks by orcs, rival tribes and pirates and expanded, with the first stone buildings being erected. The mountain had become known as Mount Waterdeep and the bay as Deepwater Harbour. “Waterdeep” became an established nickname for the Hold by the early 10th Century.

In 932 the First Trollwar saw vast numbers of trolls spread down the Dessarin River Valley from the Evermoors, bringing death and destruction in their wake. Nimoar led a retaliatory strike which seemingly eliminated the threat. However, the Second Trollwar (940-952) proved much more devastating and displaced thousands of refugees down the Dessarin, many of them settling in Nimoar’s Hold. They were followed by the powerful wizard Ahghairon of Silverymoon, who settled in the Hold in 952 and was soon named the first Archmage of the town.

Under Ahghairon’s guidance, the town fortified Deepwater Isle and accepted the founding of a temple to Lathander, which brought many worshippers of the Morninglord to the nascent city. By 1010 the city had constructed its first stone walls and exceeded Silverymoon in size. It was formally renamed Waterdeep by this point, with Lauroun as its first Warlord and Ahghairon as the first Archmage.

Lauroun died in combat with the Black Claw orc tribe in 1026 and her deputy, Raurlor, became Warlord. In 1032 Raurlor decreed the founding of the “Empire of the North,” and ordered Waterdeep’s army to prepare for a war of conquest. Instead, Raurlor was summarily executed by Ahghairon, who took over direct governance. Ahghairon proclaimed that wisdom, temperance and reason would rule Waterdeep, not aggression and greed. Ahghairon then created a council known as the Lords of Waterdeep to help him rule, with the other Lords’ identities kept completely secret.

In 1235, the city withstood siege for several months as the Black Horde of orcs overran much of northern Faerûn. The orcs were unable to breach the walls and the city remained resupplied by sea and magical means. The orcs eventually fled before they starved themselves. During the siege, the city’s defenders tamed the griffons of the mountain and used them for reconnaissance, leading to the formal establishing of the city’s Griffon Cavalry.

In 1246, the wizard Kerrigan, a masked Lord of Waterdeep, tried to seize control of the city. He was defeated by Ahghairon. In 1248 the Guilds of Waterdeep were founded to regulate trade in the city.

Waterdeep expanded enormously in this time, spreading along the mountainside and then out onto the northern fields. Its economy boomed, as did its political power. However, there was grumbling and discontent over the government structure, especially from the Guilds. In 1256, when Ahghairon died of old age, the Guildmasters launched a coup. They identified and killed the Secret Lords, though two – Baeron the woodworker and Shilarn the wizardess – survived and went to ground. The Council of Guildmasters ruled for six years before turning on one another, unleashing the Guild Wars in 1262. When the dust settled, the two surviving Guildmasters – Lhorar Gildeggh of the shipwrights and Ehlemm Zoar of the gemcutters – proclaimed themselves the Lords Magister.

The Magisters’ rule was unpopular. Lawlessness increased and Waterdeep’s reputation turned sour, with cities like Neverwinter and Baldur’s Gate benefiting from increase trade as merchants chose to avoid the chaotic city. The Shadow Thieves gained a toehold in the city at this time as well.

Baeron and Shilarn returned in 1273 and slew the Lords Magister. They refounded the Council of Lords, but enlarged it and recruited more widely from all ranks of the city. By 1276 the council had expanded to sixteen lords, with Baeron as the Open Lord. The city had also opened talks about a formal alliance with Tethyr, but the talks were constantly sabotaged with numerous deaths of Tethyrian nobles and even one king. A Waterdhavian noble was eventually found to blame and was executed.

The Lords of Waterdeep restored honour and integrity to the city, but rooting out the lawlessness took longer. Lhestyn, daughter of Baeron and Shilarn, infiltrated and destroyed the Shadow Thieves in 1298. Baeron died in 1308 and Lhestyn became Open Lord. She in turn died in 1314 and was succeeded by Piergeiron Paladinson, a young and intelligent officer of the City Watch. Piergeiron maintains his position to this day.

In 1306 the famed adventurer Durnan founded the inn known as the Yawning Portal in Waterdeep, sponsoring expeditions into Undermountain in search of treasure and ancient knowledge. In 1312 Durnan founded the Red Sashes as a vigilante group to keep peace and order in Waterdeep when the City Watch failed to do so.

In 1322, Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun became the Archmage of Waterdeep. A powerful wizard and known ally of Elminster, the Old Sage, Khelben would single-handedly save Waterdeep from magical plots many times over the next five decades, and commission adventurers to help defend the city many more times. In 1357 Khelben would rescue Laeral Silverhand of the Seven Sisters, who had been cursed to madness by a magical item known as the Crown of Horns. Laeral would take up residence in Blackstaff Tower, providing Waterdeep with a second mage of absolutely formidable power (adding to the dozens more of middling and impressive power residing in the city at any one time).

In 1358, Faerûn was struck by the Time of Troubles, when gods walked the Realms as mortal avatars. Waterdeep initially sat out the crisis, but as it approached its climax it became clear that Ao, Overgod of Realmspace, had established a Celestial Stairway atop Mount Waterdeep. Ao’s decree was that the Godswar would continue until the missing Tablets of Fate were returned to him. The adventurers Midnight, Kelemvor and Cyric recovered the Tablets of Fate and defeated the undead legions of the God of Death, Myrkul, who sought to stop them in Waterdeep (Bane, Bhaal and Myrkul had stolen the Tablets themselves, precipitating the crisis, and paid the price). The three companions succeeded, but Cyric betrayed his companions and (apparently) slew Kelemvor to seize one of the Tablets to present to Ao. Ao restored normality to the Realms, raising Cyric to godhood to replace Bane, Bhaal and Myrkul and Midnight to replace the slain Mystra.

The death of Myrkul – who fairly spectacularly exploded in the skies over Waterdeep – resulted in strange and bizarre happenings being reported in the city for some considerably time afterwards until his magical essence finally dissipated.

Shortly after the Time of Troubles ended, Khelben Arunsun hired an adventuring party to investigate rumours of a thieves’ guild operating in the sewers of Waterdeep. The party slew the beholder known as Xanathar, apparently ending the threat. However, within a few months the guild was operational again, with another beholder taking up the name of Xanathar.

The same adventurers were later dispatched to investigate the disappearance of one of Khelben’s agents as she investigated the mysterious Temple Darkmoon. The adventurers discovered a draconic priest raising an army in the temple and slew him, with Khelben later destroying all trace of the temple himself. In 1363 Waterdeep then allied with Daggerford to defeat an army of monsters out of Dragonspear Castle.

The discovery of the western continent of Maztica in 1360 sparked interest in Waterdeep. By 1365, Waterdhavian adventurers had established their own colony called New Waterdeep north of the native kingdom of Kultaka, with which it attempted to forge good ties. New Waterdeep proved successful enough to spawn a second colony, Trythosford, within a couple of years.

In 1368-69, Waterdeep lent military and supply support to Zaranda Rhindaun in her attempt to restore order to Tethyr. Her Reclamation War was successful. By the end of 1369, Waterdeep had established strong trade and political alliances with both Tethyr and Moonshae, following a state visit by Queen Alicia Kendrick.

Also in 1369, Waterdeep played a key role in the defeat of Iakhovas the Taker, after his war against the undersea nations of Faerûn had raged across the Inner Sea and then, via portal, into the Trackless Sea.

A map of the city wards of Waterdeep. Please click for a larger version.


Waterdeep is ruled by a sixteen-member council known as the Lords of Waterdeep. The council, controversially, keeps all but one of its members a secret. The methods by which the Lords are chosen are unknown, but the Lords are believed to represent every social strata of the city, from nobles to commoners, usually with representation from the guilds, the City Watch, the clergy and the mages.

Since an attempted coup a century ago where the Lords were assassinated, the identities of the Lords are kept secret by magical means – notably the Lords’ Helms that all members wear in public which obscure their faces – and augmented by a bewildering array of rumours, misdirection and flat-out lies, to the point where each the number of rumoured lords outnumbers the actual council by at least ten-to-one at almost all times.

The remaining post on the council is made up of the Open Lord, whose identity is known publicly and who speaks on behalf of the council, negotiates with foreign emissaries and directs the defence of the city in times of trouble. The current Open Lord, Piergeiron Paladinson, a paladin of Tyr, is hugely respected for his political skill, military leadership and sense of civic duty.

In addition to the Lords of Waterdeep, the city Archmage commands tremendous respect and authority. The current Archmage, Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun, is one of the most famed mages in all of Faerûn. A close ally of the Harpers and the Old Sage, Elminster of Shadowdale, Khelben commands considerable power and even greater respect. He was widely-suspected to be one of the hidden Lords of the city, which he confirmed in 1367 and promptly resigned from the post.

Waterdeep has a strict code of laws, enforced by the well-organised City Watch and the judiciary, known as the Magisters. The Magisters dispense justice and can refer appeals directly to the Lords should it prove necessary.

Waterdeep’s extremely thorough law enforcement system means that the surface streets are largely clear of organised criminal activity. Such activity is restricted to Skullport, a subterranean city below Waterdeep Harbour. Skullport is technically a sovereign city-state so Waterdeep does not enforce its laws there. It’s also believed that the Lords think it may be useful to have Skullport as a “pressure valve” so villainy and criminal behaviour can find an outlet far from the streets of the city itself.

The closest to a criminal guild operating in Waterdeep is the rumoured Xanathar Thieves’ Guild, led by the beholder of the same name, which came to light in the late 1350s and was promptly destroyed by adventuring companies operating at the behest of the Open Lord. However, rumours persist that the guild has since reformed and continues to operate in the city’s sewers, with redoubts in nearby Undermountain where the City Watch does not operate.

Waterdeep’s direct writ extends directly to around 40 miles out from the city and indirectly out to around 100 miles. Most settlements within this area can expect a swift response if they call upon Waterdeep for aid. Around 130,000 people in Waterdeep directly, but around ten times as many live within the authority and area of protection for the city, exceeding many entire “proper” nations in population.

Waterdeep is the central trade hub for the entire north-western quadrant of Faerûn. The city is the natural outflow for goods from across the North and the Western Heartlands, despite competition from Luskan and Neverwinter to the north and Orlumbor and Baldur’s Gate to the south. Cities and towns far inland, up the Dessarin-Surbrin-Rauvin river network, can ship their goods to Waterdeep by river at speed and from there to markets along the Trackless Sea and Sea of Swords, and even down into the Shining Sea. If something cannot be bought in Waterdeep, it may not be possible to buy it anywhere in the Realms.

The city is defended by two military forces: the City Guard is the city’s standing military force and holds the walls and patrols the surrounding countryside. The Griffon Cavalry patrols the city’s skies and undertakes long-range reconnaissance and scouting to prevent sneak attacks on the city. Allied merfolk and sea elf forces patrol the bottom of Deepwater Harbour to prevent a sneak attack by sea.

The City Watch is the local police force and operates mainly within the city walls, keeping a lid on crime, investigating murders and ejecting troublemakers from the city’s many inns and festhalls.

For more clandestine operations, Waterdeep is rumoured to operate Force Grey, a deniable intelligence agency which specialises in eliminating problems behind the scenes before they become pressing. Waterdeep is also the base of operations for at least a dozen adventuring and mercenary companies of repute, including the Dawnbringer Company, the Company of Crazed Venturers, the Defenders Three and the Heroes of Waterdeep. Waterdeep is also home to more retired adventurers, powerful mages and high clerics per square mile than almost anywhere else on the continent, most of whom would happily turn out to defend their home. The city can also call upon extremely powerful allies from across the Realms, most of whom could teleport to the city in an instant. Several gods also take a direct interest in the welfare of the City of Splendours, most notably Mystra, the Goddess of Magic who ascended to godhood from the top of Mount Waterdeep just thirteen years ago, and Siamorphe, the closest thing the city has to a local, patron goddess.

Despite this formidable array of defences, various hostile forces have tested the city over the years. Most formidable of these was Myrkul, the God of Death, himself, who assaulted the city with an army of undead at the culmination of the Time of Troubles. This did not end well for him, with the ashes of the deity being cleaned off the streets for some time after the battle.


In terms of faith, Waterdeep is the most cosmopolitan city in the Realms. Oghma, Tyr, Tempus, Gond, Selûne, Mystra, Silvanus, Mielikki, Lathander, Sune, Tymora and the gnomish deity Baravar Cloakshadow all have temples in the city. Chauntea, Lliira, Sharess and Siamorphe also have shrines and minor holy houses dedicated to them. There is also a large non-denominational temple called the Plinth, which open for the use of all faiths.

Worship of the dark gods is unpopular and discouraged in the city, although Shar, Auril and Umberlee have shrines in or near the city. The clergy of Cyric practice clandestine pilgrimages to Waterdeep, as their deity ascended to godhood from atop Mount Waterdeep at the end of the Time of Troubles, along with Mystra.

The worship of Eilistraee and Valkur is also gaining ground in the City of Splendours, though as yet they do not have formal sites of worship.

Waterdeep was also the home of the Cult of Ao, which formed after the Time of Troubles and saw people worshiping the enigmatic “Overgod” of Realmspace directly. Ao did not respond to any of their prayers or supplications and after a while the cult disbanded due to lack of interest.

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Nations of the Forgotten Realms 38: Unther and Threskel

In this series I will be looking at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series is based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR), as borders have changed and some towns and cities have fallen, whilst newer ones have risen.

A map of the nations of Unther and Threskel, and surrounding regions. Please click for a larger version.


  • Ruler: Various local militias, bureaucrats, criminals and the Northern Wizards of Messemprar
  • Capital: Unthalass (pop. 164,627 according to census, but currently much less)
  • Settlements: Dalath (6000), Firetrees (7000), Kaoll, Messemprar (98,776), Red Haven (1500), Sadamzar, Shussel (9150), Ssintar (4000)
  • Population: 4,263,940 (94% human, 3% dwarf, 2% halfling, 1% misc.)
  • Population Density: 13.94 people per mile² (5.38 people per km²)
  • Area: 305,889 miles² (792,248.873 km²)
  • Military: None, the Untheric Army has effectively dissolved following the God-King’s death; some cities maintain local militias
  • Languages: Common, Mulhorandi, Untheric
  • Religion: Assuran (Hoar), Bane, Mystra, Tempus, Tiamat, the Mulhorandi pantheon, some hold-outs still worship the Untheric pantheon, despite the latter’s effective dissolution
  • Exports: Ceramics, cloth, gold, iron, minerals, sculpture, seed oil
  • Imports: Food, mercenaries, slaves, weapons
  • Sources: Old Empires (Scott Bennie, 1990), Powers and Pantheons (Eric L. Boyd, 1997), Dragons of Faerûn (Eric L. Boyd, Eytan Bernstein, 2006)


  • Ruler: The Great Bone King Alasklerbanbastos the Undying, a powerful dracolich, claims dominion over all of Threskel and parts of Chessenta
  • Capital: Mourktar (pop. 10,107)
  • Settlements: Thamor (5163)
  • Population: 52,781 (93% human, 2% duergar, 2% dragonkin, 1% troll, 1% half-dragons, 1% misc)
  • Population Density: 1.75 people per mile² (0.68 people per km²)
  • Area: 30,151 miles² (78,090.732 km²)
  • Military: Local militias
  • Languages: Common, Mulhorandi, Untheric
  • Religion: Bane, the Mulhorandi pantheon, Tchazzar, Tempus, Tiamat
  • Exports: Crops, fish, horses, precious metals
  • Imports: Food, weapons
  • Sources: Dragons of Faerûn (Eric L. Boyd, Eytan Bernstein, 2006)


Unther and Threskel are the two nations which make up the western shores of the Alamber Sea, the south-eastern-most arm of the great Inner Sea.

Unther, by far the larger and more important of the two realms, extends from the River of Metals in the north to the Winding River in the south-west and the River of Swords in the far south-east, which forms the border its old rival and sometimes-ally Mulhorand. Technically, Unther’s borders continue to the Chondalwood in the far south-west, the Unthangol Mountains in the far south and the northern-most plains of the Eastern Shaar in the south-east, near the Lake of Salt. In practice Unther has not projected significant power or influence past the Alamber and Angol rivers, and the Black Ash Plain, for many decades.

The Winding River and the Riders to the Sky Mountains form Unther’s western border with its former vassal state of Chessenta.

Unther consists of three distinct geographic regions. The Menesankh or Plain of Life is a continuation of the region of the same name in Mulhorand, which wraps around the southern end of the Alamber Sea. This area is highly fertile and heavily populated. The Green Fields, a sub-division of this region in the south-east, between the Alamber and Angol rivers, is even more fertile than the rest thanks to the volcanic ash that blows downriver from the great active volcanos Fussell and Temmikant, and serves as the breadbasket of Unther. The Methtir or Northern Plains extend between the sea and the Methmere, and are less fertile than the Menesankh but still well-settled. Trade and fishing are more important in this region. Finally, the Marthessel is the rocky uplands region, consisting of the Riders to the Sky mountain range, the Smoking or Smoky Mountains, the Unthangol Mountains and the Ship of the Gods volcanic island. These areas are more lightly settled.

Unther has spent two millennia under the rule of the God-King Gilgeam, the head of the Untheric pantheon. However, Gilgeam’s rule has slowly declined over the centuries, becoming ever more shambolic and unhinged. This has led Unther itself into a long-term stagnation and decline. The last few decades have been especially chaotic as Gilgeam was distracted by a long-running feud with the goddess Tiamat, culminating in Gilgeam’s death two years ago. Since then, Unther has collapsed into chaos, with some cities breaking away from central governmental control, and criminals and bandits seizing control of parts of the nation. The capital at Unthalass, which for many centuries was acclaimed the most beautiful city in Faerûn and one of its largest before it was partially levelled in the final battle between Gilgeam and Tiamat, has fallen into lawless anarchy. Although the northern city of Messemprar is attempting to re-establish some form of control, there are fears of the nation splintering apart altogether, to the consternation of its neighbours. In recent months Mulhorand has heavily fortified the border and even sent “peacekeeping” troops into Unther to restore order in border towns. The Pharaoh of Mulhorand, Prince Horustep III, is said to be “deeply concerned” about the suffering of the Untheric people.

The much smaller and less-populous realm of Threskel lies directly north of Unther, from which it is divided by the River of Metals. Threskel firmly controls all the lands north to the Long Beach and west to Mount Thulbane and Dragonback Mountain, which flank the Fields of Pryollus. Recently, a powerful dracolich has laid claim to Threskel and forced the supplication of the capital city at Mourktar. The dracolich has also laid claim to the north-eastern part of Chessenta as well, most notably the major city of Mordulkin, but this has not so far been recognised by other realms.


Unther’s history begins with that of its predecessor empire, Imaskar. Imaskar was forged by the Warlord Nemrut, a tribal leader of the Durpari, who led his people to settle the fertile Raurin Plateau circa 8350 BDR (Before Dalereckoning). Nemrut and his successors built great cities and also developed a form of powerful magic. The great city of Inupras was founded in 8130 BDR and the Lord Artificer Umyatin declared himself the first Emperor of Imaskar in 7975 BDR.

Imaskar spread rapidly across eastern Faerûn. By 6422 BDR the Empire’s borders stretched from the Great Ice Sea in the far north almost to the Golden Water and Great Sea in the south, from the Katakoro Plateau of western Kara-Tur to the Dragonsword Mountains. The Empire built Bukhara Spires, great portals to facilitate travel across the empire and even to other planes and worlds. In that year, rampaging krakentua razed Inupras, splintering the Empire into the territories of the Upper Kingdom (comprising the provinces of Taanga, Khati, Katakoro) and the Lower Kingdom (comprising Nemrut, Semphar, Raurin and Limia). The Durpari tribes along the Golden Water and Great Sea became a vassal state, never fully annexed into the Empire but also not permitted their freedom.

The Empire rebuilt, but circa 4370 BDR a terrible plague more than decimated Imaskar, killing around 15-20% of the population and plunging the Empire into an economic crisis that seemed unsolvable. Lord Artificer Khotan resolved the crisis by building two immense portals leading to an unknown world with no knowledge of sorcery. Imaskari warriors and wizards journeyed through these portals, enslaving hundreds of thousands of humans and bringing them back to Toril as slaves. These people, the Mulan, soon became a slave underclass in Imaskar. They prayed to their gods for salvation, resulting in the eventual arrival of the Mulhorandi and Untheric pantheons on Toril in 2489 BDR. For various complex and inscrutable reasons, the gods could not form connections to Realmspace, and instead had to send powerful avatars known as manifestations directly to Toril. The gods encouraged a great rebellion, which lasted over a year and saw the slaying of the Emperor Yuvaraj by the Mulhorandi chief god, Horus. Inupras was destroyed and the magical backlash saw the formation of the Raurin Desert. The Mulan people then travelled north and west to found the kingdoms of Mulhorand (in 2135 BDR) and Unther (2087 BDR).

Enlil, chief god of the Untheric pantheon, led his people westwards. He found a great inlet of the Alamber Sea which was covered in pearls, and there declared the founding of the great city of Unthalass. This became the capital of Unther.

Mulhorand and Unther fought a brief war between 1967 and 1961 BDR. The war ended with the ruling deities of both nations agreeing to the River of Swords as the common border between their two nations. They swore an oath to uphold the agreement and not break it, apparently sealed by magic. The border between the two realms has remained continuously stable for 3,332 years (as of early 1371 DR) as a result. The two nations also agreed to zones of influence and expansion, with Unther expanding westwards and southwards, and Mulhorand eastwards and northwards. Unther expanded to incorporate all the lands of modern Chessenta, Threskel and the south coast of the Aglarond Peninsula, whilst Mulhorand expanded to dominate the lands of modern Semphar, Murghôm and Thay. Unther also expanded southwards, taking under its control a vast swathe of the north-eastern Shaar before it overreached by making war on the dwarves of the Great Rift and the Deep Realm circa 1250 BDR. Unther’s armies were soundly defeated and driven back across the plains. Unther refocused its attentions westwards, driving out the native Turami people and taking their lands for their own. This brought Unther’s borders close to those of Jhaamdath and, after border skirmishes, the two powerful empires also agreed to a common border.

In 1087 BDR, the Theurgist Adept Thayd, the Last Apprentice of Imaskar, rebelled against Mulhorand and Unther. He conquered the northern provinces of both empires (modern Thay and the free cities along the Aglarond Peninsula) before being defeated. As his enemies closed in, he opened a large gate in the Sunrise Mountains, lacking Toril to the homeworld of the formidable grey orcs. Thayd was executed but, in 1081 BDR, his portal was discovered by the orcs, who assembled a vast host and invaded Faerûn. The Orcgate Wars saw Unther and Mulhorand join forces to repulse the invasion, but they were extremely hard-pressed. Eventually their gods had to join the conflict, resulting in the Battle of the Gods in 1071 BDR, when Mulhorandi, Untheric and orc deities directly engaged in combat. The Mulhorandi chief god, Re, was slain by Gruumsh, whilst the Untheric deities Inanna, Girru, Nergal, Nanna-Sin, Ki and Utu were also killed. Tiamat attempted to slay Gilgeam in a treacherous attack, but she was stopped and apparently slain by Marduk (Bahamut’s Untheric aspect) instead.

Despite Re’s fall, Mulhorand proved victorious. Horus was able to save Re, somewhat, by merging their essences into a new being, Horus-Re, who became the new chief of the Mulhorandi pantheon. Despite this, Mulhorand’s power started to wane. Over the next few centuries both Murghôm and Semphar declared independence. Mulhorand’s age-old alliance with Unther also fractured after Enlil, chief god of the Untheric pantheon, departed Realmspace in 734 BDR and his son, the brutal Gilgeam, took over Unther and began running it into the ground.

Gilgeam, a formidable warrior, was not the most skilled at politics. The only reason Unther prospered at all in the next two thousand years was because the God-King retired to his palace in Unthalass and left relatively skilled bureaucrats to the day-to-day running of the realm. But Gilgeam was also vain and easily flattered. He named the year of his ascension as Year 1 of the Untheric Calendar, ignoring the 1,353 years of Untheric history that had already unfolded to that point. Gilgeam was also cruel and sometimes neglectful, ultimately damaging his own following in Unther. In 108 DR Unthalass was partially destroyed by flooding and Gilgeam ignored the supplications of his followers to save them, and seemed baffled by the idea that he should take responsibility for solving the problem. The eventual rebuilding of the city happened in spite of Gilgeam’s inaction and incompetence.

Gilgeam was briefly reinvigorated when the Arkaiuns invaded Mulhorand and Unther’s southern borders in 202 DR, and the two empires joined forces to defeat the invaders three years later.

In 482, Unther began to lose control of its northern cities, located along the south coast of the Aglarond Peninsula. Delthuntle and Laothkund declared independence and formed the League of Samathar. In 504 Unther launched a concerted effort to reclaim the cities, but they were quickly joined by Teth and Nethra, bolstering their strength. Escalant joined the League in 625. A furious Gilgeam sent a huge fleet to complete the reconquest in 677, but the fleet was destroyed by a storm. The few surviving ships retreated to Unther without landing. In 679, Unther finally admitted defeat, recognising the League. This year became known for the end of the Second Untheric Empire, and the collapse of Unther’s continental influence.

In 731 Unthalass was devasted by flooding a second time, but Gilgeam again ignored the calls for help to seize the mountainous stronghold of the slain brown dragon Vulpomyscan, renaming it the Citadel of Black Ash.

Unther’s influence continued to weaken over the next few centuries. In 823 the northern city of Mourktar seceded from Unther’s control. In 928 all of the city-states of western Unther united under Warlord Tchazzar and seceded as well, forming the new nation of Chessenta. According to Chessentan histories and legends, Tchazzar stood against Gilgeam in single combat and defeated him, driving the God-King from the field in disgrace. Untheric histories, unsurprisingly, do not mention this. In 1018 Tchazzar disappeared from Chessenta without explanation and was elevated to godhood by his grateful followers. It was later revealed that Tchazzar had in fact been a powerful red dragon with a flair for the dramatic who had taken human form and ruled over Chessenta for a century out of amusement, but had gotten bored and decided to abandon his post.

By 1117 Unther had abandoned efforts to retake both Unther and Threskel, the new nation which had taken shape around Mourktar, and even recognised both nations in order to begin trading with them. By 1154 Chessenta as a tightly-bound nation-state had ceased to exist, becoming more an alliance of city-states, but Unther no longer had the power or will to try to reconquer them.

By 1301 the Cult of Tiamat had become strongly active in Unther, which was again visited by catastrophe when it was devastated by the Plague of Dragons (1317-24).

For Threskel, the small nation expanded from the city of Mourktar alone (823) to incorporate much of its surrounding territory by 1117. Threskel fell under heavy influence from Chessenta, but resisted attempts to annex the region and with Chessenta effectively falling back into a land of city-states by 1154, that threat receded. However, in 1365 the Great Bone Wyrm Alasklerbanbastos (an undead dracolich) descended from the Riders to the Sky to lay claim to all the lands of Threskel. The vampiric green dragon Jaxanaedegor, named Viceroy of Threskel, then flew to Mordulkin in Chessenta to declare it pay tribute to the Dragon King. These disturbing events were quickly outshone by events in Unther, however.

The final collapse of Unther was precipitated by the Time of Troubles of 1358 DR, also called the Avatar Crisis, Avatar Wars or Godswar. Tiamat, who had been a sworn enemy of the rest of the Untheric pantheon for millennia, had been effectively destroyed by her arch-nemesis Bahamut (under his Untheric name Marduk) during the Battle of the Gods at the conclusion of the Orcgate Wars (1071 BDR). Tiamat was effectively banished from Toril, becoming an archfiend in the Abyss in the service of Asmodeus.

However, Gilgeam’s long-misrule of Unther saw people turning to icons and images of Tiamat for succour. The fact that Tiamat was a brutal, evil goddess in her own right was brushed over in the hope that Tiamat could return to Unther and destroy Gilgeam once and for all. In 1346 the Cult of Tiamat succeeded in summoning Tiamat back to Toril, and taking the aspect of “the Dark Lady” she fermented rebellions against the God-King’s decrepit rule. During the Time of Troubles, Tiamat moved against Gilgeam directly.

Unfortunately, Tiamat had underestimated Gilgeam’s power and he defeated her. However, whether due to the mis-coursings of the Weave caused by the Time of Troubles or some contingency plan of Tiamat’s, her divine essence was split between the three powerful dragons Tchazzar, Gestaniius and Skuthosiin. Over the next eleven years, Tchazzar slew the other two dragons, reuniting their essences with his own, resulting in the recreation of Tiamat in a new, more powerful, five-headed form.

This reinvigorated form of Tiamat descended on Unthalass in 1369 and engaged Gilgeam in a titanic battle. Tiamat’s cult had propelled her worship across Unther and through allied organisations (such as the Cult of the Dragon in the Heartlands) to raise her to the rank of a lesser power, whilst Gilgeam’s incompetence and unpopularity had reduced him to the rank of a demigod. Despite this, the battle was still hard-fought, with half of Unthalass being laid waste in the initial skirmishes. Then Gilgeam fled to the Outer Planes, pursued by the draconic god, resulting in a running battle through multiple portals. Gilgeam then returned to Unthalass to make a final stand atop the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory, a name which proved to be erroneous when Tiamat finally killed him there. Defiant to the end, Gilgeam’s death throes devastated the palace grounds and apparently destroyed Tiamat, although in reality merely banishing one of her avatars.

Gilgeam’s death saw the dissolution of the Untheric pantheon. The sole survivors, Tiamat and Bahamut, instead petitioned to join the general Faerûnian pantheon and this was granted by Ao. Gilgeam’s demise also marked the collapse of Unther. Unthalass itself had been devasted in the battle with Tiamat and civil control of the city had collapsed. Criminal gangs took control of the streets, the Untheric army effectively dissolved and bandit activity in the countryside increased dramatically, to the point where food production was endangered throughout the southern half of the country. The northern half fared better, with a sorcerous consortium known as the Northern Wizards assuming control of Messemprar and the surrounding towns and countryside. Some other cities also secured their gates and deployed militia to keep themselves safe from the anarchy taking hold elsewhere.

Around the same time that Gilgeam was slain, the Ship of the Gods, a volcano in the Alamber Sea claimed by Unther, exploded with impressive force, sending a tidal wave north-eastwards to slam into the island of the Alaor, site of a might Thayan naval base. Mulhorand surprisingly invaded the island and seized control of it immediately thereafter, the first sign of a resurgent Mulhorandi military and a renewed political ambition by the young Pharaoh Horustep III to turn Mulhorand into one of Faerûn’s premier powers once again.

At the start of 1371, Mulhorand sent “peacekeeping troops” across the border into Unther, citing damage to trade and security in the border regions. They were also concerned over bandit activity in the farmlands that would raise the risk of famine in the Green Fields and Menesankh regions that would send unacceptable numbers of refugees into Mulhorand. These border troops restored order in Kaoll and halted bandit activity east of the Angol. Commentators have suggested that Mulhorand might have a bolder move on its mind, since from Kaoll to Unthalass is barely a three-day march, and with Mulhorand also enjoying total naval supremacy on the southern Alamber, it would be relatively easy for Mulhorand to seize the capital itself. Indeed, with the Untheric army disbanded and many in Unthalass begging for a restoration of order, even under a foreign invasion, there would appear to be nothing to stop them.

The fate of Unther hangs in the balance.


Between 734 BDR and 1369 DR, a period of 2,103 years, Unther was ruled by a single leader, the God-King Gilgeam. A formidable warrior, Gilgeam was a poor politician, a disinterested administrator and hopeless at discerning the needs of his subject-worshippers. For many centuries, Unther was prevented from complete collapse by a strict social hierarchy and semi-competent bureaucrats who could get on with their responsibilities with a minimum of interference. However, in recent centuries both Gilgeam and his church began to meddle more in areas outside of their expertise, interfering with the country’s economy and military organisation, usually to their detriment.

As an immortal, Gilgeam made no plans or preparations for a line of succession: the idea was completely bewildering to him since, of course, he would live forever and rule Unther forever. As a result, Gilgeam’s death left no obvious successor. The manner of his death, which brought fire and ruin to one of Faerûn’s great cities, obliterating much of the nation’s administrative class, was also a massive blow to any hope of a peaceful transition to a new form of government. Most likely, Unther would have become an alliance of independent city-states like Chessenta to the west, but the unravelling of the nation’s social fabric and its plunge into anarchy prevented this from happening, aside from in the north where the Northern Wizards quickly assumed control of Messemprar and have been attempting to stabilise other, nearby cities as well. Meanwhile, Mulhorandi forces have been trying to bring order to the southern frontier, basing their efforts in the border town of Kaoll.

Unther, as a whole, is effectively lawless at the moment and its future is highly uncertain.

Threskel, on the other hand, was established as a hereditary monarchy, with a line of kings that extended down to King Theris. In 1357 Theris became terminally ill and held a great tournament to choose his heir. However, the results of the tournament were inconclusive and no heir was announced. After Theris died in 1358, he was succeeded by the Dread Imperceptor of Bane, Kabarrath Telthaug.  Despite Bane’s apparent destruction during the Time of Troubles, Telthaug maintained control of the realm until 1365, when the dracolich Alasklerbanbastos descended from the Riders to the Sky and declared himself ruler of Threskel. Telthaug ignored these edicts until the Wyrm King’s minion, the regent Jaxanaedegor, attacked Mourktar and burned part of the city as a demonstration of their might. Telthaug relinquished his claim to the throne to merely become administrator of Mourktar on the Bone Wyrm’s behalf.


Unther was, obviously, the centre of worship for the Untheric pantheon for over three thousand years before its final dissolution by Ao following Gilgeam’s death. Most of the Untheric pantheon had been destroyed during the Orcgate Wars, with many of the remaining hold-outs (such as Ishtar) fleeing Toril after Gilgeam’s death.

In post-Gilgeam Unther, the most popular and notable gods are Bane (in himself and worship of his “successor,” Iyachtu Xvim), Mystra and Tempus. The Cult of Tiamat holds significant power, but the planned replacement of Gilgeam with Tiamat never took place, and many Untherics now blame Tiamat for unleashing the current misery and chaos on Unther. The Mulhorandi pantheon has become popular in the border regions and among the slaver underclass. Assuran, the local name for Hoar, is also growing in popularity.

In Threskel, the gods of Unther and Chessenta remain popular, most notably Tchazzar, Tiamat and the Mulhorandi pantheon. Assuran, Bane and Tempus have also made inroads in this area.

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Nations of the Forgotten Realms 37: Underhome (The Deep Realm of the Gold Dwarves)

In this series I will be looking at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series is based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR), as borders have changed and some towns and cities have fallen, whilst newer ones have risen.

A map of the Great Rift and the surrounding lands. Please click for a larger version.
  • Ruler: Queen Karriva of Clan Simmerforge and the Council of Deep Lords
  • Capital: Underhome (pop. 49,650)
  • Settlements: Daunting (12,000), Eartheart (44,008), Firecaverns (39,000), Glitterdelve (26,000), Hall of Echoes (9000), Hammer & Anvil (8000), Harlending (11,000), Khôltar (7643), Magkstok, Rimmator (10,500), Sundasz (8000), Tarnhall, Thuulurn (5600)
  • Population: 1,308,960 (dwarves, gnomes, halflings, human)
  • Area: due to vertical changes and Underdark caverns and tunnels, incalculable
  • Military: The Steel Shields, a standing army of 14,000 headquartered in Eartheart; the Peacehammer aerial cavalry, consisting of dwarven griffon-riders, who can quickly traverse the length of the Great Rift
  • Languages: Common, Dwarven
  • Religion: The dwarven pantheon, particularly Moradin Soulforger, Clangeddin Silverbeard, Dugmaren Brightmantle and Haela Brightaxe
  • Exports: Gems, gold, jewellery, magic items, silver
  • Imports: Fruit, grain, livestock, produce
  • Sources: Dwarves Deep (Ed Greenwood, 1990), Underdark (Bruce R. Cordell, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, Jeff Quick, 2003), Shining South (Thomas M. Reid, 2004)


Many dwarven kingdoms remain extant in Faerûn, but these mostly take the form of isolated mountain holdfasts and remote mining communities. Even some of the better-known kingdoms, like Citadel Adbar or Earthfast, span at best a single large city and then a number of smaller outposts. The true, great dwarven kingdoms of the famed past – like mighty Delzoun of the North or Deep Shanatar, below what is now Amn, Tethyr and Calimshan – are long since gone to dust.

With one exception. Underhome, the Deep Realm, the Gold Empire. It has many names, but is the last remaining large dwarven nation in Faerûn, possibly on all of Toril. It meets the surface realms through the spectacular land formation known as the Great Rift, (in the dwarvish tongue, Aglandar, the Sword-Slash) a massive scar on the surface of the planet which must rank as among the most spectacular sights in all the world. Here dwarven towns and cities can be found with both surface parts and corresponding settlements thousands of feet below in the Underdark, linked by ingenious lifts and magic. The Deep Realm then extends for hundreds of miles to the east and north, with hundreds of large tunnels and thousands of small ones linking dwarvish settlements far below the surface, along with some allied gnomish settlements. The extent of the Deep Realm is startling, with its north-eastern-most border lying under Azulduth, the Lake of Salt on the far south-western borders of Mulhorand.

The empire’s greatest strength is found at the Great Rift. The Rift extends for some 340 miles from north-west to south-east and is around 1,000 feet deep, with the walls dropping almost sheer into the ground. Climbing the walls of the canyon is ill-advised. The floor of the rift would be quite arid if it was not for the Riftlake, an immense body of water fed by the River Shaar which links to the Rift via a narrow gorge, where in some places the river disappears completely underground (thus, travelling by boat to the Riftlake from the Shining Sea is impossible, with the river navigable only as far as the ruins of Peleveran on the side of the Landrise). In the north, the rift is wide enough (over 70 miles) that the opposing walls are virtually invisible in the haze, but in the south where the canyon narrows dramatically to less than 30 miles, it becomes an impressive sight.

The edges of the Rift are fortified, with no less than sixty-two watchtowers guarding the edges, some separated by only a few miles. Some of the towers are large and elaborate affairs with a garrison of many dozens or hundreds of dwarven warriors. Others are more modest affairs with just a few observers on assignment. Some of the larger forts have lifts or switchback stairs allowing access to the floor of the Rift, or entrance into the Deep Realm alongside it. Most of the Riftedge Towers are cunningly designed so they can only be entered from below.

Several larger settlements can be found on the edge of the Rift. Notable is the Iron City of Khôltar, a nominally independent city dedicated to the smelting and forging of iron, relying on raw materials traded from the Deep Realm. In practice, Khôltar is dependent on the Deep Realm for its trade and existence.

More impressive is Eartheart, the largest dwarven surface city in Faerûn. The city is mostly contained on the landward side of the south-western Rift, protected by a massive curtain wall, but parts of it jut out over the Rift, with immense lifts and pulleys connecting the city to the floor of the Great Rift below. Mines dot the surrounding area, and it is a constant source of activity. Eartheart is home to the Steel Shields, a standing army no less than 14,000 strong (much of which is dispersed on guard duty around the Rift), and the Peacehammers, an aerial cavalry of griffon-riders who can quickly reinforce any part of the Rift within a few hours.

Access to the city was originally restricted to dwarves, so a tent city sprung up outside the walls to facilitate trade with other races. Over the centuries this has become a more permanent suburb of Eartheart known as Hammer and Anvil, a town 8,000 strong by itself.

Below Eartheart, a trade road winds its way north and east across the floor of the Great Rift to the opposite side of the valley. There stand the Great Gates, two massive 70-foot-tall doors apparently made of solid gold (various ingenious attempts to steal the gates – which by themselves could build a moderately-sized empire – have been foiled over the centuries) and covered in magical runes to strengthen them and bring warning of any attack. The Gates are resistant to magic and formidably strong: according to legend, the Gates once resisted a suicide-ram by a spelljammer dropping on them from orbit and showed no signs of damage afterwards, and reflected the magic from an enraged elder wyrm with such force it was killed instantly. Some believe the Gates are alive, fuelled by the souls of the greatest dwarven warriors who stand guard over Underhome in eternity. Others more drily suggest that the dwarves have incredibly effective bards writing stories about the Gates for them which are majestic exercises in hyperbole.

Beyond the Gates lies the Guardcavern, a fortified guardhouse and customs area. Beyond that lies three sequential caverns, each thousands of feet high and miles wide, each covered by a bewildering array of bridges and buildings. These collectively form Underhome, the capital city of the Deep Realm (although the Deep Realm is also frequently called Underhome as well), as impressive a sight underground as Eartheart is above it.

Beyond Underhome, a maze of caverns, tunnels and shafts open up, extending for hundreds of miles through the Underdark. More than a million dwarves and gnomes live in the Deep Realm, inhabiting dozens of settlements, mines and fortresses and patrolling the tunnels between them all. Daunting is the breadbasket of the Deep Realm, feeding the rest of the empire with its snail, fungi, mushroom, lichen and lizard farms. The Firecaverns are home to the realm’s artists. Glitterdelve is the site of the empire’s richest mines. The remote Hall of Echoes has a dark reputation. Harlending is located near deep tunnels dropping thousands of feet further into the Underdark and comes under frequent duergar and drow raids. Rimmator is a relaxed, easy-going mining town with an odd hunger for gossip from the rest of Faerûn. Sundasz is an aloof city with a superiority complex. Thuulurn is a dedicated monastery to Moradin, the chief dwarven god, and frequently sponsors expeditions to clear out the surrounding Underdark of monsters.

This entire area of the Underdark is relatively cut off from the rest, although a few isolated passages are believed to link north and west into the Deepwild. This area is the home of Llurth Dreier, the largest and most powerful drow city below Faerûn and Underhome’s mortal foe. Much of Underhome’s military and intelligence is focused on defending against drow incursions.

A map of the Deep Realm of the dwarves in the Underdark (border in red). Please click for a larger version.


The origin of the dwarves on Toril is the subject of much debate, with some sages concluding that Toril is the original dwarven homeworld and they originated in vast, long-lost mines under the Yehimal, the gigantic mountain range in the far east separating Faerûn from Kara-Tur and Zakhara. Others believe that dwarves, much like humans and elves, migrated to Toril from other worlds in remote epochs for reasons long lost to the mists of time.

Whatever the case, it is known that dwarven settlements under the Yehimal were extant by 16,000 Before Dalereckoning (BDR), although this was merely the time when they first made contact with the elves and other surface races, and they could have existed for many millennia or tens of millennia before that. By 15,000 BDR a large number of dwarven clans had migrated west onto the plains of the Shaar and then the stretch of Underdark beneath the plains, founding the kingdom of Bhaerynden. Bhaerynden soon became enormously wealthy and sponsored the founding of satellite kingdoms across southern Faerûn, then extending northwards. They traded with the elves but steered clear of elven politics. When the Crown Wars began in 12,000 BDR, the dwarves refused to get involved, even as the armies of Ilythiir marched to war far above their heads. Around 11,000 BDR, Taark Shanat the Crusader and his eight sons led a large exodus from Bhaerynden, heading north and west to become the ancestors of the shield dwarves. Those who remained in Bhaerynden became known as the gold dwarves.

 The shield dwarves of Shanatar – founded in 10,800 BDR with the establishing of Brightaxe Hall below the western elven empire of Keltormir – were less aloof than their southern brethren and soon provided weapons and armour to the Keltormiri as they struggled to protect their borders from both the Ilythiiri to the east and the expanding empire of Aryvandaar to the north.

In 10,000 BDR, the depredations of the Ilythiir triggered the Descent of the Drow, the cursing of the entire dark elven race by Corellon and the Seldarine. Ilythiir collapsed overnight, the dark elves fleeing the burning light of the sun to become the dhaerow or “Accursed,” drow for short. The drow of Ilythiir fled into the Underdark below their homeland, expanding in the depths and eventually coming into conflict with the dwarves of Bhaerynden. The gold dwarves soon found themselves fighting a canny and magically powerful enemy, and blamed the surface elves for making the drow someone else’s problem rather than dealing with it themselves. Within just decades the drow had founded the great Underdark empire of Telantiwar and were aggressively pushing into Bhaerynden’s territory.

Around 9000 BDR, as the final defeat of Aryvandaar on the surface signalled the end of the Crown Wars, Telantiwar successfully defeated Bhaerynden’s armies and took their capital city. The gold dwarves withdrew eastwards to other redoubts. Unbeknown to the drow, the dwarves had prepared a great trap against their advance and weakened the supports of their capital city, undermining it many times over. In secret, dwarven forces returned to complete this work.

In either 8800 or 7600 BDR – neither dwarven or drow records of the time are precise due to the ensuing chaos – the entire cavern containing the city collapsed downwards further into the Underdark. The dwarven undermining efforts proved far more successful than expected and the entire cavern network extending around the city for almost 350 miles collapsed as well, created a cataclysmic roar that could be heard clear across the continent. Vast amounts of rock and dust were catapulted into the skies, obscuring the sun for months. By the time the smoke had cleared, a vast canyon had formed in the midst of the Shaar, with the entire drow empire of Telantiwar lying obliterated below it. The gold dwarves returned in force, seizing and fortifying the Great Rift and building the surface city of Eartheart, the underground city of Underhome and the Great Gates to link them together. Telantiwar was reduced to a series of outposts, the greatest of which was Llurth Dreier in the north-west (founded in 7600 BDR). The dwarves may have killed as many dark elves as the entirety of the Crown Wars, and the drow numbers in the south of Faerûn were reduced to such an extent that it took millennia for them to become a threat again. Unfortunately, the same was not true of the dark elves of the North (who were descended from Miyeritar instead).

The establishing of both the Deep Realm and the western dwarven empire of Shanatar reaching the height of its power may have marked the highwater mark of dwarven civilisation in Faerûn, with at least two empires and numerous smaller kingdoms scattered across the continent. By 6000 BDR trade between the Deep Realm and the human tribes who had started to settle the Shaar had begun. Circa 1250 BDR, the empire of Unther attempted to expand onto the Shaar and faced resistance from both the human tribes and the dwarves of the Great Rift, alongside the elves of Nikerymath and the Yuirwood in the far north. The Yuir elves were forced to give grounds, but the dwarves were victorious in their struggles, preventing Untheric expansion to the Rift. Much of the northern Shaar fell under Untheric influence until 734 BDR, when the collapse of the first Untheric Empire saw a retreat from the region. Unther proved resurgent a few centuries later, but by 679 DR Untheric expansion across the Shaar was no longer practical.

Throughout all of this, the Deep Realm remained secure. However, the nation’s long prosperity and wealth saw it grow decadent and overconfident. Around 657 DR, the realm was shaken by a series of raids by neighbouring duergar and drow city-states, which seemed to shake the nation from its lethargy. The government was streamlined, with the Council of Deep Lords established to advise the monarch, whilst the nation’s army was revamped into its current form as the Steel Shields. The realm’s action saw it become more militaristic, but also more secure, with a major war with the drow of Llurth Dreier averted thanks to these new measures.

In 1306, Moradin Soulforger granted the Thunder Blessing on the dwarven people. This dramatically increased the notoriously-poor reproductive rate of the species, and many more dwarves were born in the succeeding several generations, including large numbers of twins (previously almost unheard of). The Deep Realm, whose thinning numbers had become a matter of growing concern as distant outposts and entire towns were abandoned due to falling numbers, was particularly reinvigorated and in the sixty-two years since then, the realm has seen a boost in both population and its holdings, with abandoned towns resettled, its army expanded and even more wealth generated. The Deep Realm has even established new holdings, in the North Wall of Halruaa, the Smoking Mountains of Unther and even in the Giant’s Run Mountains near Tethyr.

Today the Deep Realm seems secure and prosperous, but its strength has also made it arrogant, and many sages, including Elminster, have warned that its overconfidence may prove its weakness.


The Deep Realm is ruled by Queen Karriva of Clan Simmerforge. She is advised by the Deep Lords, a council consisting the most powerful dwarven nobles of the Deep Realm. At least fourteen Great Clans each has four representatives on the council. They debate and set policy for the Deep Realm in consultation with the Queen and their military and economic advisors. Representatives from the gnomish settlements of the Deep Realm can also make representations to the council.

In terms of foreign relations, the gold dwarves have the advantage of possessing immense mineral wealth and metalworking that is the envy of all Faerûn and the disadvantage of overwhelming arrogance and a belief in themselves as superior to all other dwarven nations (especially the shield dwarves of the North, whom they consider rustic and in terminal decline) and superior to most other non-dwarven nations as well. The relative remoteness of the Deep Realm from other civilised nations prevents this from being a major problem, but also means they have few allies to call upon should they face a major war with the drow of Llurth Dreier in the future.

The Deep Realm has a standing army no less than 14,000 strong, the Steel Shields (one of the largest standing militaries in Faerûn), but in times of war it can expand that number immensely. Most dwarves are trained to defend themselves at a young age and the increasing aptitude of dwarven magic has made them strong in that arena as well.


Unsurprisingly, the Deep Realm of Underhome overwhelmingly favours the dwarven pantheon in its worship, with the chief dwarvish god, Moradin Soulforger, being the most popular deity. Clangeddin, Dugmaren and Haela are also widely-worshipped.

Dwarven Settlements and Rulers of the Deep Realm

  • Underhome (pop. 49,650, ruled by High Queen Karriva of Clan Simmerforge)
  • Daunting (pop. 12,000, Queen Haraura Shimmerhand)
  • Firecaverns (pop. 39,000, High Princess Royal Rathauna Forgesilver)
  • Glitterdelve (pop. 26,000, King Gnarlgar “Halfgnome” Flamebeard)
  • Hall of Echoes (pop 9,000, War Princess Uranda Rythyn)
  • Harlending (pop. 11,000, Deep King Hauroch “Swordbeard” Deathhammer)
  • Rimmator (pop. 10,500, High Duke Dunderlau Bloodaxe)
  • Sundasz (pop. 8,000, Axe Prince Ansal Thundermace)
  • Thuulurn (pop 5,600, First Hammer of Moradin Thungalos Truetemper)

The Deep Clans of Underhome

  • Clan Belindorn of Underhome
  • Clan Bladebite of the Firecaverns
  • Clan Brakeadder of Harlending
  • Clan Crownshield of Daunting
  • Clan Gemscepter of Daunting
  • Clan Ghalkin of Underhome
  • Clan Gordrivver of Underhome
  • Clan Malthin of Underhome
  • Clan Mastemyr of the Firecaverns
  • Clan Sorndar of Rimmator
  • Clan Talnoth of the Hall of Echoes
  • Clan Undurr of Glitterdelve
  • Clan Velm of Sundasz
  • Clan Zord of Glitterdelve

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Nations of the Forgotten Realms 36: Ulgarth and the Utter East

In this series I will be looking at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series is based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR), as borders have changed and some towns and cities have fallen, whilst newer ones have risen.

A map of Ulgarth and the surrounding lands. Please click for a larger version.

  • Ruler: King Drasna Bluemantle
  • Capital: Orvyltar (pop. 21,000)
  • Settlements: Dralpur (8000), Esbresh, Halahanyl, Kaspar (10,000), Kelazzan (5000), Kellesar, Ravvan, Suntar, Suormpar, Surbar (15,000)
  • Population: Unknown, but mostly human with small numbers of dwarves and halflings
  • Area: 275,434 miles², 713,371 km²
  • Military: A strong standing army and fleet
  • Languages: Common, Devic, Durpari
  • Religion: Lathander, Torm, Tymora, Tyr
  • Exports: Mingari, foodstuffs
  • Imports: Exotic goods, horses, spices, foodstuffs, textiles
  • Sources: The Shining South (Tom Prusa, 1993), Blood & Magic (video game, Tachyon Studios/Interplay, 1996), Faces of Deception (Troy Denning, 1998), the Double Diamond Triangle Saga (J. Robert King, James M. Ward, David Wise, Ed Greenwood, Roger E. Moore, Dave Gross, David Cook, Peter Archer, Richard Baker, 1998), “Darkly, Through a Glass of Ale” (Peter Archer in Realms of Mystery, 1998)


Ulgarth is a large kingdom located east of the Golden Water, beyond Durpar and Var the Golden. For this reason, it is sometimes counted as part of the Shining Lands region. However, the nation has a notably different character to the three nations of the Shining Lands, leading to it being counted apart.

The realm’s precise boundaries are the Great Sea and the Golden Water to the west, Xonthuil Bay and the Xon River to the north-west, the Ice Peaks to the north, the A-Ling Shan to the north-east, and open plains to the east (beyond which lies the towering mass of the Yehimal). The border to the south is ill-defined, with Ulgarth’s influence petering out short of the towns of Kellesar, Esbresh and the Stony Waste. Beyond the Stony Waste lie the Free Cities of the Parsanic, most notably Tharkar and Whitevale (Esbresh and Kellesar may also be part of this loose league).

The plains to the east of Ulgarth are the home of nomadic warriors, known in Ulgarth as “the Horde” for their ferocity in battle. However, in recent years Ulgarth has moved to trade and treat with the nomads on more equal terms, lessening tensions and encouraging more intermingling. The Ulgarthans may hope to pacify and domesticate the tribes so they can expand their borders all the way to the Yehimal proper.

Ulgarth is remote and, beyond the borders of the Shining Lands, almost unknown. Its capital city of Orvyltar is just over 4,000 miles from Waterdeep.

It lies in the shadow of the A-Ling Shan, a north-western arm of the mighty Yehimal which links the main mass of the range to its northernmost range, the Katakoro Mountains. The A-Ling Shan is, individually, one of the most impressive mountain ranges on the entire planet, with peaks of 17,000 feet counted as mere foothills to the central range, where the peaks touch 24,000 feet. However, the main mass of the Yehimal itself, which rises directly to the east of Ulgarth, is even more impressive, with several peaks exceeding 30,000 feet lying on the continental divide between Faerûn and Kara-Tur. These peaks include the tallest on the planet, and are so high that they are virtually impossible to summit without magical aid, since the air is so thin at the peaks that it is unbreathable.

Ulgarth is internally divided into six administrative regions. These include the king’s lands surrounding the capital city of Orvyltar and the five baronies, which are each centred on a major city of the realm: Dralpur, Kaspar, Kelazzan, Suormpar and Surbar.

Ulgarth is primarily a human nation, with a small number of dwarves in the Galuil Mountains working in the gold mines. There are small numbers of halflings in the realm. Elves are uncomfortable with Ulgarth’s feudal system and are almost unknown there; drow and half-drow exiles from Dambrath are a more common sight.


Some believe that the area of the Utter East and the Yehimal was originally the home of the dwarven race on Toril. They either were first created here by their gods, or arrived on Toril from some other world, possibly long prior to 35,000 BDR (Before Dalereckoning). According to legend, the dwarves established vast, gigantic cities under the Yehimal before moving (or being displaced) westwards into Faerûn proper. The truth of the matter remains unknown, as human settlement of the region is so sparse that not much exploration has taken place.

The lands around the Golden Water became the home of the Durpari tribes, who settled the lands south, west and north of the bay by c. 8500 BDR. In 8350 BDR, the Warlord Nemrut led his people over the Mountains of War to settle the fertile Raurin Plateau. In 7975 BDR, Lord Artificer Umyatin declared himself the first Emperor of Imaskar. Around this time the Ulgarian people first appeared in the lands east of the Golden Water. Whether they were a native tribe, or an offshoot of the Durpari, is unknown.

In the following centuries, the Imaskar Empire expanded north to Brightstar Lake, east to the Katakoro Plateau and west to the Dragonsword Mountains. Beyond this core area, the Empire established outposts and colonies in what are now Mulhorand, Taan, parts of Shou Lung, the Shaar, Durpar and Ulgarth. These outer colonies were not considered part of Imaskar proper but were ruthlessly exploited to fuel the empire’s economy, and the very first incarnations of Durpar and Ulgarth may have existed as vassals of the empire. Around 2700 BDR the eastern Durpari tribes allied with the Ulgarian tribes and local dwarven clans to build the Gate of Iron in the Mountains of War, a huge magical barrier to inhibit Imaskari conquests to the south-east, possibly as part of a greater rebellion against the Imaskari.

In 2488 BDR, Imaskar was destroyed and its lands were consumed by the Great Dust Desert, Raurin. The Durpari and Ulgarians reverted to a more nomadic existence.

By around 1700 BDR, the Ulgarian people had been unified under the rule of the enlightened Prince Surtava. Surtava abandoned his crown, power and wealth to become a beggar and left his kingdom to seek wisdom. After many years he achieved his quest and became the Padhra, founding the Padhran religion which became popular in parts of Taan and Kara-Tur.

At some point in the next thousand years, it appears that Ulgarth again fell into decline, with its people again become nomadic barbarians. By 83 BDR the Ulgarians, now referred to as Ulgarthans, had commenced raiding the cities of the Golden Water to the west. In 202 DR, the armies of Mulhorand swept into the Shining Lands in an attempted annexation. A Mulhorandi army invaded Ulgarth and almost wiped out the barbarian tribes, but withdrew due to problems maintaining supply lies over such vast distances.

In 348, outlaws fleeing from Mulhorand made their way to Ulgarth and allied with the native people. They encouraged the Ulgarthans to abandon their nomadic lifestyles and instead founded the first cities of Ulgarth. Ulgarth grew quickly, but continued border clashes with Durpar to the west. In 1002 the two nations finally signed a peace treaty.

King Caladorn the Wise reduced the power of clerics in Ulgarth by barring them from serving as justices of the law. Later, Ulgarth was fiercely raided by the bandit Maelin Rascalin until Rascalin was captured and convicted. Rascalin offered to serve in the army as part of his prison sentence, and remained in the military even after his sentence was completed. Rascalin then rose from the ranks to become commander of the entire eastern frontier, retraining and rebuilding the army into a more modern force. He repelled a barbarian invasion and was ennobled by the king, eventually becoming Baron of Suormpar.

In the early part of the 14th Century, Ulgarth opened a trade route to Kara-Tur over the A-Ling Shan. The path was hazardous and dangerous, frequently closed by snow, but provided an alternative route to the far northern routes over Taan or between Semphar and Khazari.

In 1359 this route was closed when Ambuchar Devayam, the infamous necromancer-emperor of Solon, began assembling an army to overwhelm the region. The advent of the Tuigan Wars played into his hands, weakening the realms of Khazari and Ra-Khati, so in 1360 he could overwhelm and conquer both realms. However, in 1362, bold adventurers struck into Solon and slew Devayam with the famed Stone Sceptre of Shih. The trade routes to Ulgarth reopened.

In 1367, word came that the grey orcs of the Dustwall were gathering a horde for a major assault on Durpar or Ulgarth, or both. In response, the barons of Kaspar and Suormpar hugely reinforced the border worked alongside the Durpari city of Flyndagol to assemble an army capable of resisting the attack. The attack never came, possibly due to internal conflicts within the orc tribes.


Ulgarth is a hereditary monarchy, currently ruled by King Drasna Bluemantle, the Fortunate. Drasna, a paladin of Torm who travelled the region for many years before becoming king, is a popular ruler. He is noted for his charity, even-handedness and his preference for diplomatic solutions to problems but being resolved to fight if pushed to it.

Below the king in authority are the five barons: Kevin Olwynson of Dralpur, Montar Kaspar of Kaspar, Larid Herokimal of Kelazzan, Redinald Rascalin of Surompar and Kasnchil of Surbar. They each have wide, discretionary powers to rule their baronies effectively, but the king and his agents keep a careful eye on them to make sure there is no misuse of power.

Ulgarth practices a feudal system comprising nobles, freemen and serfs. However, the lines between the groups are not strict and people can move from one tier to another through hard work or leal service.

Ulgarth has traditionally been a militant nation, but in the present it has prioritised diplomatic relations with its neighbours. Its old foe of Durpar is now a key ally as they work together against the orc tribes of the Dustwall. Ulgarth has also instigated strong trade relations with Durpar, Var the Golden, Estagund, Luiren and Halruaa. Ulgarth’s fortunes have boomed since its made spice export, mingari, has become hugely popular in the rest of Faerûn. The spice is only sourced in Ulgarth and through some limited Durpari merchants, resulting in huge profits for these kingdoms. The Halruaans, in particular, have taken to the spice with a relish and have provided Ulgarth with magical aid and trade in return for large supplies of mingari. Ulgarth is also one of the few Faerûnian sources of coffee.

Ulgarth has six standing militias, each based in one of the baronial seats. Baron Montar of Kaspar leads his troops directly, but the rest delegate military command to a trusted subordinate. The King, despite being a fine warrior in his own right, employs General Sinveri Trollkin as the commander of Ulgarth’s armies. A renegade half-drow from Dambrath, Trollkin’s skill at war is impressive.

Ulgarth has an impressive navy, based at the Panglassest, the main shipyard in the city of Kelazzan. Twenty warships are permanently assigned to defend the coast and more protect the sea lanes leading from Ulgarth to other realms. Orvyltar’s harbour is defended by three ballistae from Durpar, which have been magically enchanted by a Halruaan mage.


Torm is the most popular deity in Ulgarth, although Tymora, Lathander and Tyr also have strong followings. Ulgarth is a secular state, however, and has laws ensuring the separation of church and state. Even the current king, a paladin of Torm, follows these laws.

A map of the entire Utter East region. Please click for a larger version.

The Lands of the Utter East

South and east of Ulgarth lie lands that virtually nobody has heard of, and would not even be counted as part of Faerûn if it were not by simple default geography: the vast Yehimal forms the continental divide with Kara-Tur, so these kingdoms lying to the west of the mountains are not part of that continent, and Zakhara does not truly begin until the coast swings westwards out to Pearl Bay and the borders of the hostile Yikarian Empire, and these kingdoms lie north of that divide.

Immediately south of Ulgarth lie the Free Cities of the Parsanic. The cities of Tharkar and Whitevale, both ports on the Great Sea, are known to be part of this loose confederation; Kellesar and Esbresh may also be part of this region. The Free Cities are completely independent, although they are reliant on trade with Ulgarth, Durpar, Var and Estagund for their income.

South and east of the Parsanic lie the three linked kingdoms of Doegan, Edenvale and Konigheim.

Doegan is descended from the Ffolk, settlers from the Moonshae Isles who came to the region by magical means in 621 DR. The realm is relatively peaceful, with its capital at the pleasant city of Eldrinpar. The realm lies along the coast, a region known as the Doegan Shores.

Edenvale lies higher up in the mountains, with a river linking it to Doegan. Edenvale is also a Ffolk-descended realm. Its current ruler is Queen Rosalind.

Konigheim is the most militant of the three kingdoms and has the strongest Northman influence. The realm remains militant, most likely due to its proximity to the far northern border of the Yikarian Empire, the hostile yak-men who effectively bar overland travel between Faerûn and Zakhara. Konigheim has anomalous borders, including what appears to be lands in the far north-western corner of Sempadan Forest, despite its distance to the south-east, beyond the World Pillar Mountains. It is possible magical gateways link locations with Konigheim (and possibly Edenvale) with that region, as otherwise the distances and geographical obstacles would seem to complicate, if not prohibit, easy access and travel.

Beyond Konigheim lies the goblin Kingdom of Nix, which lies close to a glacier in the Wu Pi Te Shao Mountains.

The history of the region is obscure, mainly due to its utter remoteness. It is known that the Mar people were the original inhabitants of the region and dwelt in peace in the Utter East for millennia. That peace abruptly ended in 621 DR when ships of both the Ffolk and Northmen passed through a portal in the northern Trackless Sea and arrived in this region. The Ffolk established the kingdoms of Doegan and Edenvale, whilst the Northmen established the nation of Konigheim further south. The Northmen brutally enslaved the Mar. The Ffolk initially treated the Mar with greater respect, but after centuries of continuous border wars with the Northmen, they came to treat the Mar almost as badly.

In 648, the newcomers discovered the bloodforges, powerful magical items which could create golems. Able to summon entire armies into being which did not tire and did not need food or supplies, the result was the Bloodforge Wars, a series of massive conflicts in which golems battled one another. In 657 the wars had weakened the magical prisons of ancient fiends located under the Utter East, resulting in a rampage of demonic entities. The natives held their ground but the situation appeared to be getting out of control, eventually alarming diviners in the court of the Grand Caliph of Huzuz himself, far to the south in Zakhara.

Grand Caliph Arash bint Sanjar was unusually proactive and determined this was a long-term threat to his realm. He sent a massive armada and army to the region to remove the problem. The Zakharan army destroyed the bloodforges and used magic to banish the fiends, but also burned every city they found to remove what they saw as corruption.

The Zakharans departed and the battered kingdoms rebuilt themselves. The Ffolk granted the Mar their freedom and they became equals in their kingdoms. The Mar also launched a rebellion to take their freedom by force in Konigheim, earning the respect of the Northmen.

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Nations of the Forgotten Realms 35: Turmish

In this series I will be looking at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series is based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR), as borders have changed and some towns and cities have fallen, whilst newer ones have risen.

A map showing the nation of Turmish and the surrounding region.
  • Ruler: The Assembly of Stars, chaired by Lord Herengar
  • Capital: Alaghôn (pop. 75,000)
  • Settlements: Ayakar, Banathar, Bistal’s Bottom, Centaur Bridge, Daroush (0, technically abandoned), Dauntshield, Faerie Well, Five Lions, Gildenglade (48,384), Holdensword, Illowwood, Ironcloak, Ironfang Deep, Jathrin’s Jump, Karthoon, Merrydell, Moonhunt Down, Morningstar Hollows, Nonthal (12,902), Peldrathan’s Pool, Oberiner’s Well, Quorngar, Ravilar’s Cloak, Regalia, Sambryntyn, Starfall, Swordslake Creek, Tamring, Ulver’s Lance, Velorn’s Valor, Vollermore, Wyvernstone, Xorhun, Zustild
  • Population: 1,693,440 (78% human, 9% dwarf, 5% halfling, 3% elf, 2% gnome, 1% half-elf, 1% half-orc, 1% misc.)
  • Population Density: 12.41 people per mile², 4.79 people per km²
  • Area: 136,421 miles² (353,328.768 km²)
  • Military: Local militias, a strong standing navy and various mercenary companies, most notably the Call to Arms
  • Languages: Common, Chondathan, Turmic
  • Religion: Chauntea, Eldath, Helm, Lliira, Loviatar, Nobanion, Silvanus, Selûne, Tempus, Tyr
  • Exports: Glass, grain, lumber, mercenaries, salt
  • Imports: Luxury goods, metal
  • Sources: Elminster’s Everwinking Eye: Mysterious Turmish (Ed Greenwood in Polyhedron #96, 1994), Elminster’s Everwinking Eye: A Treasure Tour of Turmish (Ed Greenwood in Polyhedron #103, 1995), Vilhon Reach (Jim Butler & Ed Greenwood, 1996), The Jewel of Turmish (Mel Odom, 2002)


Turmish is a large nation on the south-western coast of the Sea of Fallen Stars, south-east of the Dragon Coast and north of the Vilhon Reach. Turmish is famed for its merchants and adventurers, who range widely across Faerûn before returning to their well-defended homeland.

Turmish’s borders are defined by the Orsraun Mountains to the west, the Mountains of the Alaoreum to the north and the Aphrunn Mountains to the south, with the Inner Sea lying to the north-east. A major highway, the Halondar, runs the length of Turmish and passes through the Halondar Vale to connect the Turmish capital, Alaghôn, to the independent city-state of Hlondeth on the Vilhon and, beyond, to Ormath and Lheshayl on the Shining Plains. West of Lheshayl the highway joins the Tethir Road which runs west to the great kingdom of Tethyr.

Turmish is a verdant and beautiful country, noted for its especially fertile soil, which is enriched by volcanic ash from the three great volcanoes on the nation’s borders; Mount Andrus to the west, Mount Ugruth to the south and Mount Kolimnis to the south-east. The Halondar is notable as the only major highway through the kingdom, with Turmish’s other settlements being linked by a confusing maze of lanes and backcountry roads. Turmish is also unusual for having only two large cities, Alaghôn and Gildenglade, although Ayakar, Nonthal and Xorhun are fairly significantly-sized towns. All of Turmish’s other settlements are villages, at best.

Turmish is also notable for having no long rivers, with the runoff from the mountains either flowing north into Starmantle Bay or south into the Vilhon Reach instead. The only exception is the Alaoreum, which flows from the Mountains of the Alaoreum into Evenstar Lake, whilst a myriad of small streams flown down from the Aphrunn range to fill the Lake of Drifting Stars. Curiously, the lakes appear to have no visible outflows, leading to speculation that they connect to the Inner Sea via underwater tunnels or water instead outflows straight down to the Glimmersea, the vast subterranean ocean that lies twenty miles under the surface.

Turmish is the only democratic republic in Faerûn, with all citizens voting for a representative on the Assembly of Stars. Other nations have scoffed at the idea, but the quality of life in Turmish is impressive and the nation is (at least currently) one of the least-warlike on the continent, only deploying its military for defensive purposes and to keep open the sea lanes.

Turmish is a multicultural country, with a large dwarven population in the surrounding mountains, halflings living along the lower Halondar and a relatively large population of pureblood elves in and around the city of Xorhun.


The Turami people were displaced westwards by the fall of the Imaskar Empire in 2488 Before Dalereckoning (BDR). The Mulan people, former slaves of the Imaskari, migrated westwards and settled both the western and eastern sides of the Alamber Sea, forming the empire of Mulhorand (east of the Alamber) in 2135 BDR and Unther (west of the Alamber) in 2087 BDR. The Mulan expanded westwards onto the fertile plains of the Akanal, where they came into conflict with the native Turami. The Turami felt squeezed between the encroaching Mulan and the empire of Jhaamdath to the west. Some remained and were absorbed into the Untheric Empire, whilst others moved west, across Jhaamdath Bay, into the sheltered lands known as the Granite Gates. The Turami were allowed to settle this region in return for swearing fealty to Jhaamdath.

Jhaamdath was destroyed in a war with the elven nation of Nikerymath in 255 BDR, which resulted in a High Magic ritual that flooded the lands to the south, forming the Vilhon Reach. The Turami people took no part in the conflict and were glad to be able to forge their own destiny. By 37 BDR, the Turami had founded the city of Alaghôn on the ruins of an old dwarven port. In 75 DR, the city was badly impacted by a plague, but local druids played a key role in purifying the water supplies and helping mitigate the plague in the surrounding lands.

In 132 DR, the mercenary commander Dempster Turmish seized Alaghôn and conquered the surrounding towns after a brief civil war. He expanded the nascent kingdom’s borders to the outskirts of Hlondeth by 145. Turmish lay side to the city, but the mercenary group known as the Company of the Howling Harpoon, aided by the invoker Riliton Mandleweave, successfully broke the siege and forced Dempster to retreat. Turmish died in 150 and his wife Florentine succeeded him. She brokered a peace and trading deal with Hlondeth and abandoned military expansionism as a policy for the new nation. Florentine herself died in 154 with no heir and the nation became divided over the succession issue. However, the Turami chose not to fall into civil war, instead embarking on a leadership competition that was to last no less than 116 years. During this interregnum, Turmish was ruled by a coalition of leaders from its various cities and townships. In 227 Turmish became aware of the existence of the dwarves of Ironfang Deep when the dwarves emerged from under the mountains to defeat the great red dragon Stormcrossing, and struck up trade and diplomatic relations with the reclusive kingdom.

The nation of Chondath launched an invasion of Turmish in 270, just as Alesam Mischwin emerged as the strongest candidate to lead Turmish. Under Alesam’s leadership, Turmish repulsed the Chondathan attack, fortified the border along the Vilhon and brokered a peace deal. Curiously, this deal saw Turmish and Chondath fight a mock war every Shieldmeet, with the two nations represented by their greatest warriors. This tradition has continued every four years without fail since 300 DR, over a thousand years ago. The next one is due next year. The mock wargames are hugely popular, with people from around the Inner Sea wagering on the outcome. The free cities of Amah, Nleeth and Reth were originally founded as training centres for these games but grew in sizeable cities in their own right.

Also in 300, the Academia Vilhonus was founded and started the custom of painting dots on the foreheads of the learned. This custom became most popular in Turmish, and continues to this day.

In 352, Alaghôn was crippled by a massive fire that destroyed its food stores, threatening the capital with famine. The rest of the nation rallied to help save the capital, but were not helped by the nobility, whose bickering over responsibility and cost made the problem worse. In 374, the House of Silvanus was founded on the island of Ilighôn. As well as its religious duties, it kept a close watch on passing ships, improving the security of ships entering the Vilhon Reach. The House quickly became the base of operations for the Emerald Enclave, an alliance of druid circles and nature worshippers which quickly spanned the entire Vilhon region and worked to stop the deforestation of the area.

In 512, Turmish was invaded by the Candlekairn clan of orcs. Three Turmishan cities were sacked and the orcs took their wealth back to their base of operations near Mount Andrus. In 517 the mountain erupted, devastating the tribe but also destroying the stolen wealth. In 522 the Emerald Enclave and elves from the Turmishan city of Xorhun appealed to Lord Arton Githsberry, then the ruling lord of Alaghôn, to halt logging operations in Turmish. Githsberry made appeasing noises, but did little to prevent the practice. By 552, the druids and elves had weakened logging efforts through peaceful protests, political campaigns and constant harassment.

In 717 Turmish fell under the control of wizards’ council known as the Windlass. The Windlass launched an attack on Cedarsproke, determined to destroy one of the two centres of power for the Emerald Enclave. The attack was a miserable failure. The Windlass tried again seven years later, this launching an attack on Ilighôn. This attack was likewise a failure and the Windlass were defeated and executed, being replaced by a merchants’ council.

In 992, Lord Saros led a military coup and seized control of the nation. He rebuilt Turmish’s fleet into the strongest on the Vilhon Reach and established a key military alliance with Hlondeth. Trade was enhanced and by 1150 Turmish’s wealth had exploded, as had its population. In 1220, Warlord Sjorn Sendreth instigated a war against the dwarves of Ironfang Deep to secure the kingdom’s resources for Turmish, but the war was a costly failure (the dwarves caused a massive cavefall to block off Turmish’s main invasion route). Turmish was almost bankrupted, until Sendreth sponsored adventuring companies to bring back treasure to the motherland. Remarkably, this plan was successful and Turmish was able to rebuild its economy over time.

One such treasure-seeking group broken into the lair of the ancient blue dragon Anaglathos and made off with a sizable part of his hoard. Anaglathos refrained from destroying the interlopers, instead tracking them back to their homeland. Anaglathos discerned Sendreth as the man responsible for despoiling his hoard. Late in 1242, Anaglathos landed outside Sendreth’s residence in Alaghôn and killed him instantly. On a whim, the dragon declared himself King of Turmish and was crowned early in 1243.

Anaglathos was an ancient dragon with tremendous knowledge of various matters but absolutely no practical experience in running a human realm. By 1247 the realm was almost beggared into penury, as the dragon demanded its wealth be given over to him entirely. Corwin Freas, a skilled warrior and mighty paladin, slew the dragon and restored hope to the realm. Corwin was proclaimed King of Turmish by popular acclaim but was uncomfortable with the role. After one year, he abdicated and abolished the throne, forming instead the Assembly of Stars and proclaiming Turmish to be a free republic, the first in Faerûn. Corwin then retired. In 1254 there was an attempted coup in Alaghôn to destroy the nascent democracy, but Corwin came out of retirement to defeat the ringleaders, although he lost his own life in an assassination attempt. Turmish’s government survived and prospered.

In 1369 Turmish was briefly cut off from the Inner Sea when the Twelfth Serôs War erupted below the waves. Before he was done, Iakhovas the Taker had plunged the Inner Sea nations into chaos, wiped out the entire population of the Whamite Isles and caused enormous bloodshed. He was defeated in battle at Myth Nantar and teleported into the Trackless Sea (where he was later defeated for good). After the war ended, the Emerald Enclave claimed the now-empty Whamite Isles for their own and began to encourage fresh settlement of the archipelago.

In 1370, the dread mohrg Borran Klosk was freed from a long imprisonment under the Temple of the Trembling Flower in Alaghôn. He summoned an army of drowned ones to his aid and attacked the rest of the city, but was defeated by the Emerald Enclave.


Turmish is unique amongst all Faerûnian nations by not having a single ruler or an appointed mercantile or noble council. Instead, the nation is governed by the Assembly of Stars, a democratically-elected body. Representatives are chosen from across the realm and sit in the Assembly building in Alaghôn.

In theory, anybody can run for the Assembly. However, farmers and other workers usually lack the time, so members of the Assembly tend to be those with the free time to be able to spend campaigning: nobles, wizards, some clerics and merchants. With trade being Turmish’s lifeblood, unsurprisingly merchants make up a majority of the seats on the Assembly, though not all.

The Assembly Speaker, known as the Lord of Turmish or First Lord of Turmish, represents Turmish in dealings with overseas powers and in times of war can take emergency action to protect the realm. Lord Herengar, former head of the Call to Arms mercenary company, is the current Lord of Turmish, a level-headed and practical ruler.

Turmish has been a warlike nation in the past and maintains an impressive fleet to defend its coasts. It has, on occasion, worked with other maritime Inner Sea nations like Cormyr, Sembia, Impiltur and Aglarond against the activities of the Pirate Isles. The pirates try to avoid antagonising Turmish too much, as Turmish is the nearest major power to the centre of the Pirate Isles and could make an excellent base for any attempt to destroy them for good. Turmish today is a much more peaceful nation and maintains only small standing militias to defend individual towns. It does maintain several large mercenary companies which can help protect the nation at need.

Turmish is friendly with the Emerald Enclave, a powerful organisation consisting of druids and worshippers of Silvanus. The Enclave has multiple bases of operations, including Cedarsproke in the Gulthmere Forest to the north-west of Turmish and the island of Ilighon to the north-east (the Enclave also controls the neighbouring islands of Ixinos and Wavecrest and has recently resettled the Whamite Isles). The Enclave works to protect nature in the Vilhon Reach region.

Turmish also enjoys a very long alliance with the city-state of Hlondeth on the Vilhon itself. Remarkably, the yuan-ti of Hlondeth have held fair to their side of the alliance and not attempted to infiltrate or destroy Turmish. The two powers are also aligned with the free city-states of the Vilhon in a not-so-subtle alliance to resist the power of Chondath along the south coast of the reach (an alliance that also includes Sespech, despite the latter’s wariness of the yuan-ti). Turmish and Chondath directly have a pretty good relationship, foreswearing war in return for wargames and exercises that the two nations have practice every Shieldmeet without fail for 1,071 years. So far there have been 268 such games, with the 269th due to take place next year.

Turmish follows the Code of Enlil, a civic code set out by the god Enlil of the Untheric pantheon. Unther and Chessenta also follow the Code, and Turmish picked up on the idea after its founding. The Code is unusual in that it gives the right of reply and fair trial to anyone accused of a crime that would result in their execution.

Turmish’s code of laws, right of reply for commoners and democratic institutions have baffled other Faerûnian nations, who confidently predicted that Turmish would collapse into total anarchy within a few years. More than a century later, the nation is prospering under its anarchic-seeming process, worrying some rulers who fear what might happen if their own people also start getting ideas about ruling themselves.


Turmish values the worship of the gods of nature, such as Chauntea, Eldath and Silvanus, patron of the Emerald Enclave. Its strict code of laws also makes Tyr a popular deity. Nobanion has a large following in Turmish, considering his relative obscurity elsewhere. The darker gods have little pull in Turmish, although Loviatar does have a strong underground following. Turmish’s mercenary companies venerate Helm and Tempus in particular. Surprisingly, given the importance of trade in the nation, Waukeen and Tymora only have limited followings.

Turmish lawmakers venerate the code of laws left behind by the Untheric deity Enlil. However, Enlil himself fled Realmspace in 734 BDR and has not been seen since, and does not respond to prayers from his faithful. Such respect is thus historical in nature, not religious.

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Nations of the Forgotten Realms 34: Thesk

In this series I will be looking at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series is based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR), as borders have changed and some towns and cities have fallen, whilst newer ones have risen.

A map of the country of Thesk. Please click for a larger version.
  • Ruler: Merchant council
  • Capital: Effectively none, but Telflamm (pop. 23,361) exerts tremendous influence over Thesk, whilst Phsant is the largest country within the nation
  • Settlements: Culdorn, Ethvale, Fullpoint, Hill Town, Inkar, Milvarune (6029), Nyth (11,501), Phent, Phsant (21,564), Tammar (3594), Thassalra, Two-Stars (4854), Tezir-on-the-Marsh (Ethdale, Gref’s Ferry and Culmaster hold fealty to Telflamm)
  • Population: 855,360 (85% human, 8% gnome, 6% orc, 1% misc.)
  • Population Density: 5.10 people per mile², 1.97 people per km²
  • Area: 167,745 miles² (434,457.556 km²)
  • Military: Mercenary companies, some local militias
  • Languages: Common, Damaran
  • Religion: Chauntea, Cyric, Mask, Shaundakul, Tymora, Waukeen
  • Exports: Food, gnome goods, iron, Kara-Turan goods
  • Imports: Gold, horses, trade goods
  • Sources: Spellbound (Anthony Pryor, 1995), Unapproachable East (Richard Baker, Matt Forbeck, Sean K. Reynolds, 2003)


Thesk is a mercantile trading nation located west of Ashane, the Lake of Tears, and east of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Thesk straddles the Golden Way, one of the two major trade arteries of eastern Faerûn (along with the Road to the Dawn in Mulhorand) and has grown immensely rich on the transcontinental trade routes to Kara-Tur and the Shou Lung Empire.

Thesk’s borders are not well-defined, but broadly speaking run from the Forest of Lethyr in the north to the south-eastern foothills of the Dragonjaw Mountains in the south. The open countryside further south, the Singing Sands, are part of Aglarond. To the east, the shores of Lake Umber are claimed by Thay. The border of Thesk runs east to near Lake Umber and then north around the curving walls of the First Escarpment of Thay, then along the River Sur to where it flows into Lake Mulsantir. The western shores of Lake Mulsantir and Ashane then form Thesk’s north-eastern border.

The western border is formed by the coastline of the Sea of Dlurg, the Inner Sea and Easting Reach, except the broad stretch of land between the rivers Flam and Eth which are claimed by the nominally independent city-state of Telflamm and its vassal towns of Ethdale, Gref’s Ferry and Culmaster. The town of Nyth is Thesk’s north-western-most outpost, although it is effectively cut off from the rest of the realm by Telflamm’s territory.

Thesk is less of a coherent single kingdom that an alliance of quasi-autonomous cities that have joined together for mutual defence. The largest such city, and sometimes counted as the realm’s capital, is Phsant. The other major members are Phent, Tammar, Two-Stars, Milvarune and Nyth.

Thesk has an anomalous and sometimes confusing relationship with Telflamm, a large city-state on Easting Reach. Telflamm is easily the largest city in the region, is frequently labelled as a city of Thesk and often called its capital, despite being independent of Theskan control. However, Telflamm acts as the major port for cargo travelling along the Golden Way, the highway starts in the city and Thesk’s prosperity relies in great part on the goodwill of the Prince of Telflamm and his merchant advisors in how they set tolls and fees. At times the Prince exerts such authority over the other merchant lords of Thesk that he is effectively the head of state for the nation; at other times the two polities act with complete independence from one another. It has been suggested that the Prince of Telflamm could probably take effective control of Thesk if he so wished, but really cannot be bothered.

Thesk’s north-eastern territory is known as Ashanath, and consists of a vast, windswept wilderness and harsh, cold plains extending between the shores of Ashane and the eastern eaves of the Forest of Lethyr. On some maps Thesk’s borders are shown as encompassing all of Ashanath as far north as Lake Murthil; in reality, there are no Theskan towns or cities of note north of Two-Stars, and such hamlets or villages as exist in this region are completely independent. The region of Ashanath is divided between uninhabited wilderness and stretches located within the borders of both Thesk to the far south and Narfell to the far north.

Thesk is an unusually multicultural nation. Humans make up the bulk of the population but there is a strong gnome populace, particularly in the Dragonjaw Mountains, where a friendly family of copper dragons also resides. Isolated numbers of dragonkin can also be found. Central Thesk is also home to numerous orcs, members of the army that Zhentil Keep left behind to help guard against a Tuigan resurgence. Subsequent troubles for the Zhentarim meant these orcs have been more or less forgotten about, and other orcs have arrived from across Faerûn to bolster their numbers. Remarkably, these orcs have taken to more civilised pursuits, finding gainful employment in mines in the Thesk Mountains, as well as caravan guards along the Golden Way. Orcs are often found in taverns and markets in Theskan cities behaving no worse than any other citizen.

Thesk is also home to not-insignificant numbers of Shou, both traders from the Empire who have remained behind to open markets in Faerûn and a successive wave of immigrants searching for new opportunities in the lands to the west. Even some Tuigan can be found in Thesk, survivors of Yamun’s army who were unwilling to make the long trek back to their homeland and have found new employment as guards or bandits.

Until recently Thesk has been an obscure and almost unknown nation, but its fortunes have risen due to the opening of the transcontinental trade routes. Thesk was also the site of the final battles of the great Tuigan War of 1359-60 DR, and saw the defeat of the Tuigan army outside Inkar. Since the end of the war, Thesk has enjoyed much greater and more profitable trading relationships with the nations that came to its rescue, particularly Cormyr across the Inner Sea.


In ancient times, Thesk was considered too windswept and barren for settlement. The Mulhorandi expanded north-westwards to envelop all of the Plateau of Delhumide in their empire, but did not proceed further, instead fighting several inconclusive wars with the Rashemi people to the north and then holding their borders.

After the Orcgate Wars concluded with the Battle of the Gods in 1071 BDR (Before Dalereckoning), a group of ex-mercenaries founded the realm of Ashanath along the western shores of the Lake of Tears in 1064 BDR. Some of their fellows established territories in the Great Dale to the west. By 946 BDR the Nentyarch Thargaun Crell had unified all the tries of the Great Dale into the founding clans of Narfell. Ashanath resisted and was destroyed. Narfell expanded west to the Easting Reach and south to encompass all the lands today controlled by the Great Dale and some of northern Thesk. In 160 BDR, Narfell was destroyed in the Great Conflagration with its neighbour Raumathar, and the scattered remnants of the Nar tribes moved far to the north. Thesk was left uninhabited once again.

By 800 Dalereckoning, citizens of Impiltur, tiring the nation’s constant wars against the demons striking out of the Rawlinswood, moved south and east across Easting Reach, settling the coastlands almost as far south as Aglarond, or Velprin as it was in those days. Scattered homesteads, isolated farmlands and small towns were established between 800 and 850.

In 917, an enterprising and well-funded merchant from Impiltur, Windyn Balindre marched from the Inner Sea to Lake Mulsantir in search of a trade route to the furthest east. He negotiated passage across Rashemen and then through the northern-most arm of the Sunrise Mountains (the High Country) onto the plains of Taan. Remarkably, he was able to strike a route across Taan, through the Quoya Desert and to the gates of the Dragonwall. In 920 he returned to Lyrabar laden with silks and spices, becoming the talk of the city. He founded the Royal Company of Shou Lung, obtaining a royal charter from King Peverel to back his efforts to establish regular trade with the far east.

By 925, the Royal Company of Shou Lung had established a number of waystops and supply posts along the route from the coast to Taan. The largest and most important of these was a permanent port on the coast, between the rivers Eth and Flam. However, the death of King Peverel with no issue in 924 had plunged Impiltur into instability and chaos. By 926 the Royal Company of Shou Lung had relocated to the burgeoning new port on the Easting Reach, which Windyn Balindre named Telflamm, with himself as its first Merchant Prince. Nominally, the city retained ties with Impiltur.

Almost immediately, in 927, the thieves’ guild known as the Shadowmasters were established in Telflamm. The guild was unusual in that that instead of merely worshipping Mask, God of Thieves, they dedicated themselves fully to his tenets, becoming as much a religious organisation as a criminal one.

In 958, the next-largest supply post along the new trade route had grown large enough to become a city in its own right, and was named Phsant. Other trade towns, including Phent, Inkar and Tammar, soon followed. By 1038 the Great Glacier had retreated from Damara in the north, sparking renewed settlement of that region and the start of trade goods flowing south to the Easting Reach, further enriching the region through increased economic development.

The collapse of Mulhorandi control north of the River of the Dawn and its replacement by the bellicose new nation of Thay in 922 sparked concern in Telflamm, but the new kingdom took some time to begin moving in their direction. In 1086 Thay captured the towns of Nethjet and Nethentir on Lake Umber, and in 1110 launched a brief invasion towards Phent. The towns and cities of the region allied with Telflamm and Impiltur to turn back the invasion. Around this time the region of Thesk became the country of Thesk, with the city-states unifying for mutual protection. Telflamm’s role in this alliance became debatable, as it drifted back and forth between being a vassal of Impiltur, part of Thesk and an independent city in its own right.

In 1099, there was a renewed push to open trade routes from Faerûn to Kara-Tur, and by this date the trade route from Telflamm to Shou Lung had become known as the Golden Way.

In 1177, Princess Delile Balindre finally renounced all of Telflamm’s ties with Impiltur and declared Telflamm to be an independent city-state.

By 1351, Thay had established good diplomatic relations with Telflamm and established an embassy and trade concession in the city, to the concern of some locals. However, it was deemed worth the risk to discourage Thayan interests in an invasion of Thesk.

In late 1359, the Tuigan armies of Yamun Khahan invaded Thay, allied with the Red Wizards and then invaded Rashemen. Despite initial successes, the Tuigan were eventually driven to the shores of Lake Ashane and may have been destroyed had the Red Wizards not intervened to open a dry path across the lake to allow the Tuigan to escape. This left almost 100,000 Tuigan troops on nominally Theskan soil, albeit a remote part of the nation.

Thesk appealed for aid to the rest of Faerûn. Fortunately, it found a willing listener in King Azoun IV of Cormyr. A year earlier, King Azoun had been in Dhaztanar in Semphar when the Tuigan began their massive, continent-spanning war and was deeply concerned about the threat they might pose to Faerûn. Even as the Tuigan moved into Rashemen, Azoun was busy calling in every diplomatic favour he could to assemble an army large enough to meet the Tuigan in battle before they could reach the Inner Sea. Azoun was surprised at the success he had, with the dwarves of Earthfast, the rulers of Zhentil Keep and the rulers of Sembia, the Dalelands and Impiltur agreeing to commit troops to the operation. Additional mercenary forces were hired, and Azoun committed a large detachment of Cormyr’s own Purple Dragons and War Wizards to the operation.

The Tuigan had been delayed by the notoriously poor weather in Ashanath, which had prolonged their winter stay, but they had also started moving. They began moving on Tarsakh 17th, taking Tezir-on-the-Marsh eight days later and Two-Stars on Mirtul 17th.

More than 30,000 troops from across Faerûn landed in Telflamm and by Kythorn 8th were swiftly marching up the Golden Way. On Kythorn 15th the Tuigan encircled the town of Tammar, compelling its immediate surrender, and immediately marched on Phsant. Phsant, a much larger and more heavily defended city, was besieged.

On Kythorn 24th the Alliance army reached Inkar and established a camp outside the city. The two sides agreed to a parlay, meeting on Flamerule 2nd. Azoun suggested that the Tuigan take the loot they had so far secured (which was considerable) and return home. Yamun refused. Yamun was particularly unimpressed with the Alliance army, which he outnumbered at least two-to-one and possibly three-to-one, although he was intrigued by the various nonhuman creatures who fought alongside it, particularly the thousands of orcs sent by Zhentil Keep under the command of their charismatic General Vrakk. Azoun believed that the Alliance’s mages would tip the balance against the Tuigan, possibly unaware that that Tuigan shamans and various allied spirits had so far defeated the magic of the Dragonwall, the Shou wizards and briefly humbled the Red Wizards and Wychlaran of Rashemen. However, the Tuigans’ own magical resources had been sapped by the long war and its troops had suffered grievous losses over the previous year, with only a third of their original numbers remaining following the battles in Semphar, Khazari, Shou Lung, Thay and Rashemen.

The First Battle of the Golden Way was fought outside the city of Phsant on Flamerule 3rd, 1360 DR. The initial stage of the battle was successful, with Azoun’s troops using both superior ranged weaponry and magic to inflict massive casualties on the Tuigan side. However, several Heartland cavalry commanders, believing their heavy horse would chase these barbarians’ light steeds from the field with barely an effort, mounted a charge without Azoun’s command. The Tuigan drew the Alliance cavalry into a trap and almost wiped it out completely. Only Azoun’s steadfast leadership and, to his surprise, the steel battle discipline of Vrakk’s Zhentilar orcs prevented a rout. The late arrival of the dwarves of Earthfast turned the tide. The Tuigan dispatched a cavalry force to wipe out the arriving dwarves and were quite unprepared for the dwarves’ devastating crossbow volleys, followed by forming tightly-packed pike squares which obliterated the Tuigan horse with ease. The dwarven squares then marched into the melee and acted as the anvil to the orcs’ hammer, squeezing a large chunk of the Tuigan army between the two and destroying it. Yamun, sensing the tide had turned, managed to withdraw the rest of his army in good order.

The battle had been somewhat inconclusive, with the Tuigan failing to unseat the Army of the Alliance from its position. However, the battle had turned into exactly what Azoun had tried to avoid, a battle of attrition. The result of the tally was that the Tuigan had suffered over 30,000 casualties to the Alliance’s 15,000, but the Tuigan could afford to lose a third of its army to crush almost half of the Alliance. The loss of the Alliance’s heavy cavalry was a serious blow. However, the Alliance’s heavy infantry had not suffered any significant losses at all, and both the orcs and dwarves had make an excellent accounting of themselves. The Tuigan’s ability to absorb and negate magic also seemed to have reduced from early battles.

The Alliance army pulled back west to near Inkar, where two thick forests closed in on the Golden Way. The army established a new defensive line and the dwarves set to digging thousands of holes across the road. Illusionists then masked the holes with magic.

On Kythorn 5th, 1360, the Tuigan attacked once more. Exploratory skirmishing began, with the Tuigan trying to burn out the forests to stop any flanking manoeuvres and the Alliance mages summoned water magic to extinguish the fires and start turning the field into a muddy quagmire which would prevent the Tuigan horses from charging. Yamun realised he had a narrow window to employ the Tuigan cavalry advantage so launched a massive charge on the Alliance position. Realising the khahan was personally leading the attack, Azoun’s wizards created a magical bridge over the holes in the field and then collapsed it behind Yamun; the Tuigan leader and his bodyguard thus crashed into the Alliance lines whilst thousands of Tuigan troops and horses behind them were killed in a massive crush as the front ranks fell into the holes across the battlefield. Azoun and his handpicked bodyguard of 200 men engaged Yamun’s elite and slaughtered them, Azoun himself ending the khahan’s life.

At the news of the khahan’s death, the Tuigan horde broke apart into several bickering factions and retreated east. It appeared their plan was to return to the Tuigan homeland to pick a new leader and then return, but this never came to pass. The sons of Yamun fell to infighting and the tribes conquered by the Tuigan years earlier rebelled. Many of the retreating Tuigan were killed as they tried to re-cross Rashemen to get back home, though some did eventually escape via Thay or going the long way around north via Narfell.

For Thesk, the victory saved the nation. The destroyed towns were quickly rebuilt, and the grateful nation established new, generous trade alliances with Cormyr, Sembia, Impiltur, Earthfast and Zhentil Keep. The Theskans particularly honoured King Torg mac Cei, Ironlord of Earthfast, who gave his life in the Second Battle of the Golden Way to ensure victory. However, the orcs of Zhentil Keep had been ordered to remain in Thesk and establish a Zhentarim outpost in the kingdom. The Theskans cautiously agreed to this, whilst Azoun hoped he had not delivered Thesk from the Tuigan only to give them to the Black Network. Fortunately, this was not the case, and the Zhentarim orcs soon became integrated into Theskan life and society. As the Zhentarim became distracted by various issues at home, they almost forgot about the orcs, who for their part seemed happier to align themselves with a friendly and even grateful nation that was happy to pay them for honest work.

Within a few years, the Golden Way had been fully reopened and gold started flooding into Thesk’s coffers once more. There were still problems, though. In 1362 Thay’s armies crossed into Theskan territory and then swung north-east to approach Lake Mulsantir. Thesk readied its armies, but the Thayans avoided attacking any Theskan troops or towns, instead using Theskan territory to try to springboard an invasion across Ashane into Rashemen. The attempt was defeated by the Wychlaran.

In 1364, the Sharkjaw pirates of the Inner Sea launched a surprise attack on Telflamm, securing the port and then the palace. Telflamm’s militia was unable to fully dislodge them. Mercenaries and troops from across Thesk responded, but it was the activity of the Shadowmasters which finally unseated the pirates. The priest-thieves of Mask undertook clandestine assassinations of the pirate leaders, trapped them in festhalls which were then burned down and carried out a brutal, ugly war of cloak and dagger in the shadows. By the end of the process, the Sharkjaws had been annihilated and Telflamm returned, nominally, to the control of the Merchant Prince. But the Shadowmasters let it be known to the prince  who he had to thank for his salvation, and it was a debt they fully intended to collect.


Thesk is a loosely-governed nation, with each city-state having its own individual governmental structure. Each city choses a representative, and all of the representatives then meet once a year in a different city to discuss matters of common import. If an emergency situation arises, the representatives gather more quickly (usually by magical means). The cities of Nyth, Phent, Phsant, Tammar, Two-Stars and Milvarune, and the smaller settlements of Thassalra, Ethvale and Tezir-on-the-Marsh are usually represented at such councils. A representative of Telflamm also attends, and sometimes representatives of the nation’s orc and gnome populations if they have matters to raise with the rulers.

Thesk has no capital city as such, but Phsant nominally fulfils that role as the largest city within Thesk, and Telflamm is sometimes used as a meeting place and fallback position given both its location on the Inner Sea and its substantial size.

Thesk enjoys good relations with Aglarond, Rashemen and Impiltur, and excellent relations across the Inner Sea with Cormyr, Sembia and Zhentil Keep. Its relations with Thay used to be quite frosty, but in recent years Thay has invested in an embassy in Telflamm and improving trading relations. The Thayans using Theskan territory without permission to attack Rashemen nine years ago has not been forgotten, but the fact that Thesk is militarily the weakest of the four nations surrounding Thay and the most likely to fall should Thay ever launch a concerted attack is also well-understood in Thesk, which tempers expectations of how the relationship should develop.

Spearmouth Dale, to the north of Phsant, is technically part of the Great Dale but enjoys good relations with the city of Phsant, with Lord Thellblade engaging in significant trade with the city. Mettledale, further to the north-east, has fallen under the rule of a tyrannical mage named Vosthor who rules over the dale with an army of cutthroats and thieves. The rulers of Phsant and Tammar have complained about Vosthor’s conduct to the Nentyarch of the Great Dale, but to little avail so far.

Thesk has complex relations with Telflamm, with the general feeling that Telflamm should “cast the spell or stop gesticulating,” with regards to its on-off status as part of Thesk or not. In past years the rest of Thesk was wary about being dominated by Telflamm, but with Phsant growing rapidly into a viable rival to Telflamm’s power and Milvarune and Nyth developing as alternative ports, that fear is no longer as pressing, and Telflamm’s economic might and riches would be considered great assets to the fledgling nation.

Thesk has no standing army as such, but each city maintains a small, well-trained militia, and the presence of thousands of battle-hardened orcs who have agreed to fight for Thesk if the need arises again is, oddly, reassuring. Thesk also has one ace in the hole in the form of the copper dragon Filauxerimos and his family who lair on Cape Dragonfang and have developed good relations with Thesk and could come to the nation’s aid in dire need, although some believe that the dragon is too fickle and his understanding of the urgency of non-draconic affairs is limited to be a reliable ally.

Thesk does have one significant internal threat: the Shadowmaster guild has spread from Telflamm to have chapters in most settlements of the realm. The guild is busy manipulating affairs in the country from behind the scenes to its own, inscrutable purposes.


As a mercantile nation, Thesk is strong in its devotion to Waukeen, Goddess of Trade and Wealth, and Tyrmora, Goddess of Luck. Thesk’s wide-open plains are home to many farmsteads, so Chauntea is also venerated. Thesk is often the jumping-off point for great journeys and adventures into the vastness of the east, so Shaundakul, patron of travellers and explorers, is also a popular god.

Thesk does have a darker side though, with an underground religious movement dedicated to Cyric present, and the Shadowmasters are strong in their devotion to Mask, though some are believed to have also flirted with worshipping Shar, Goddess of Shadows, instead.

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