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 Rashemen and surrounding areas.
  • Ruler: Huhrong (Iron Lord) Thydrim Yvarrg
  • Capital: Immilmar (pop. 21,210)
  • Settlements: Citadel Rashemar (760), Mulptan (6900), Mulsantir (4848), Nathoud, Shevel, Taporan (1000), Thasunta (2150), Tinnir (540), Urling (400)
  • Population: 654,480 (99% human, 1% misc.)
  • Population Density: 1.73 people per mile², 0.67 people per km²
  • Area: 377,141 miles² (976,790.706 km²)
  • Military: Strong military culture, berserker lodges, standing militias and magical support from the Wychlaran
  • Languages: Common, Rashemi
  • Religion: Bhalla (Chauntea), Khelliara (Mielikki), the Hidden One (Mystra)
  • Exports: Carvings, cheese, firewine, furs, wool
  • Imports: Cloth, food, wood products
  • Sources: Spellbound (Anthony Pryor, 1995), Unapproachable East (Richard Baker, Matt Forbeck, Sean K. Reynolds, 2003)

Overview

Rashemen is a notable kingdom in the so-called “Unapproachable East” of Faerûn, lying north of the forbidding realm of Thay and east of Narfell and Thesk. Rashemen is surprisingly large, extending from the Lake of Tears to the Sunrise Mountains, and then north to the Icerim Mountains and south-east almost to the Lake of Mists, where the nation maintains the outpost of Beacon Cairn. This is surprising for a nation that is often portrayed (mainly by Thay) as a smaller and weaker neighbour of Thay, existing at permanent risk of destruction at Thay’s hands.

Rashemen is divided into two regions. The smaller, but far more heavily populated, lies east of Ashane, the Lake of Tears, and runs east to what the Rashemi call the High Country, the northern arm of the Sunrise Mountains. Rashemen’s capital city, Immilmar, lies in this area, as do most of its towns, villages and fortresses. The Mines of Tethkel in the High Country provide Rashemen with much of its wealth. In the south, along the Mulsanyaar Plateau, Rashemen has fortresses and defences against Thayan invasion, although the southern end of the plateau has been given over to goblin tribes hostile to both Rashemen and Thay. The geography of the region forces most Thayan attacks through the Gorge of Gauros, where it is possible for the usually-outnumbered Rashemi to hold their own.

To the north and north-east, Rashemen’s territory suddenly opens out into what it calls the North Country, a vast swathe of open, lightly-settled countryside which extends all the way north to the Falls of Erech and Icerim Mountains. The eastern boundary of Rashemen has never been formally set, as east of Nathoud it simply, amorphously blurs into the far north-western tracts of Taan, the so-called “Hordelands” whose eastern regions are claimed by the Tuigan. The great fortress of Citadel Rashemar guards Rashemen from attack from that direction, although even the battle-hardened Rashemi were not prepared for the sudden onslaught of Tuigan invaders in late 1359 that left the fortress in ruins. The Rashemi continue to hold the site of the fortress, but have only been able to moderately repair it since the invasion.

Rashemen is part of a strong alliance with Aglarond and a looser one with Thesk, designed to oppose Thayan expansion into their territories.

Rashemen’s people are strong, hardy and ready to fight at a moment’s notice. The country is replete with warriors, and every Rashemi is trained to defend themselves at a young age. Women with an aptitude for magic are quickly sent to the Wychlaran, the famed Witches of Rashemen, for training and evaluation. The hardiest and most promising fighters may join one of the berserker lodges, where they receive training in harnessing the battle rage to enhance their abilities in combat. Known berserker lodges include the Ettercap, Great Stag, Ice Troll, Owlbear, Snow Tiger and Wolf, each named for a hardy creature of the Rashemi wilderness.

Rashemen is overwhelmingly inhabited by humans, but recently some dwarves have arrived from the west to enhance trade with the country. These dwarves immediately earned the respect of the Rashemi for their skills in battle, brawling and drinking, raising the possibility of the Rashemi allowing permanent dwarven settlements in return for their aid in defending against Thayan incursions. However, the total number of dwarves (and nonhumans in general) in Rashemen remains extremely low.

History

Rashemen began life as Shemen. Shemen was founded in 4963 BDR (Before Dalereckoning) by a chieftain of the same name of a Raumviran tribe, and sprawled over much of the territory currently held by Rashemen. After 1500 BDR or so, Shemen fell under the influence of the empire of Mulhorand, which established control of the immense plateau of Delhumide to the south, moving from vassal to client state to fierce opponent and back again.

During the Orcgate Wars, Shemen was overrun by orcs pouring out of the Sunrise Mountains. The Raumvirans joined the Mulhorandi in their battles against the orcs, eventually helping defeat the creatures. Exhausted by the war, Mulhorand abandoned its attempts to keep control of the far north, allowing both the Raumvirans and the neighbouring Nars to establish their own kingdoms, Raumathar (900 BDR) and Narfell (946 BDR). Shemen became Raumathar’s frontier presence with Narfell, the two empires trading across Ashane, the Lake of Tears.

As related under the article on Narfell, Raumathar and Narfell fought to their mutual destruction during the Great Conflagration of 150 BDR. During this final war, the Nar demonbinders summoned the demon Eltab to fight on their behalf, but Eltab was bewitched by the spirits of Shemen and seized control of the land for himself. Around 108 BDR, an order of masked witches made itself known to the Shemi people around Lake Tirulag and began working with the people there to improve their lives. In 75 BDR, the warriors of Shemen allied with these witches to drive out the demon Eltab, declaring the founding of the nation of Rashemen. The two sides agreed to a permanent alliance, with the Witches of Rashemen preserving the lore of the land and providing the nation with magical defences, whilst the warriors would rule and defend the land from mundane threats. A huhrong, or Iron Lord, was elected from the warriors to rule the land overall, although the Witches ultimately gained the deciding vote in whom to name to the post.

In 45 BDR, a resurgent Mulhorand attempted to invade Rashemen via the Gorge of Gauros but was defeated, its armies destroyed in detail by both the magical and mundane forces of the nation.

In 189 DR, the berserker Bregg the Strong rebelled against the witches when they refused to name him Iron Lord. Bregg’s rebellion lasted a surprisingly long time, five years, before he was finally defeated.

Rashemen again proved its strength in 306 by defeating an orc horde descending from the Sunrise Mountains. In 595 the Witches of Rashemen themselves fell into civil war, before the wychlaran sect threw out the rebellious and dark durthan sect.

In 922, the Delhumide province of Mulhorand arose in rebellion, led by the Red Wizards. The Red Wizards, aided by none other than the demon Eltab, smashed the Mulhorandi armies at the Battle of Thazalhar and declared the founding of a new realm, Thay. Thay almost instantly gained a reputation for antagonistic expansion, and the Rashemi moved quickly to build new defences along the Gorge of Gauros. This proved wise, as in 934 the Thayans launched the first of many invasions of Rashemen, most of them crushed in the Gorge.

In 1320, Rashemen gained a powerful, if somewhat chaotic, ally when the Simbul arose to become Queen of Aglarond. The Simbul’s raw power formed a powerful bulwark against Thay, and the Aglarondans and Rashemi reached an informal understanding that Thay would not be able to move against one of their realms without exposing themselves to attack from the other (the same was also expected of Mulhorand, though there is no formal record of any negotiations with the realm of the god-kings). A tenuous balance of power therefore took shape in eastern Faerûn, with Thay kept contained by its neighbours, not to mention its own divisive, internal politics.

Near the end of 1359, the Tuigan invaded Thay across the Sunrise Mountains, destroying the vaunted Griffon Legion and destroying several of Thay’s frontier legions despite their superior magical might. Zulkir Szass Tam brokered a ceasefire and an alliance, where the Thayans and Tuigan would join forces to invade Rashemen, the Thayans from the south and the Tuigan from the south-east. Yamun Khahan agreed and Rashemen faced the two-pronged invasion just a few weeks later.

The Rashemi were aware of the Tuigan threat ever since they had closed intercontinental trade via the Golden War some years earlier, but they had believed an attack would come from the east. A Tuigan assault from the south was unexpected, and Citadel Rashemar was soon overrun and destroyed. Rashemen prepared to send reinforcements, but a Thayan army marched up the Gorge of Gauros. As usual, Rashemen was able to defend against the invasion, but not hold the Tuigan at the same time. The Witches of Rashemen instead deployed magic on a vast scale to assail the Tuigan with hit-and-run attacks, using summoned creatures to fight for them and delay the army as it crossed the High Country and descended into Rashemen proper. Fortuitously, the Tuigan moved south-west towards Mulsantir rather than north-west against the capital at Immilmar.

Rashemen caught a lucky break when bad weather descended on the Gorge of Gauros, forcing the Thayans to retreat or risk being destroyed by avalanches and starved out. The Rashemi army quickly moved northwards, positioned themselves behind the Tuigan and then attacked with overwhelming ferocity, backed up by magic. Despite superior numbers, the Tuigan were forced to retreat to the Lake of Tears. With the water at their backs, the Tuigan prepared to give battle, but the combined magic of the Red Wizards parted the lake behind them, allowing their troops to descend and cross the lake into Ashanath. The Rashemi did not pursue.

Subsequently, the Tuigan were defeated at the Second Battle of the Golden Way by King Azoun IV of Cormyr.

Rashemen continued to face opposition from Thay. In 1362, inspired by their own tactics during the Tuigan War, the Thayans sent an army north-west into Thesk and then swung north-east along the Golden Way, planning to part the Lake of Tears again and invade across it. The Witches of Rashemen had prepared for this plan, however, and used water elementals to destroy the army as it tried to cross.

Three years later, the Thayans hit on a new plan, sending a small, mobile force to advance along the foothills of the Sunrise Mountains whilst using magic to melt glaciers in the Icerim Mountains, flooding the northern parts of the country. However, the attempt to distract the Witches failed, and they summoned more elementals to drive back the Thayans.

Two years after that, in 1367, the Red Wizards razed parts of the Ashenwood, driving its monstrous creatures out of the forest and into the civilised parts of the country. Whilst the Rashemi tracked them down, Thayan assassins teleported into Mulsantir and Immilmar to target the country’s leaders, but they were quickly intercepted and slain.

By 1369, the trade route along the Golden Way had been reopened and Rashemen began to boom from the resulting merchant traffic. Trade outposts were established along the Golden Way in Rashemen, and a contingent of shield dwarves settled permanently in Rashemen to facilitate trade with their strongholds to the west. Rashemen welcomed all newcomers provided they agreed to help defend the country against Thayan attack.

In 1370 Thay again tried its luck using magically-propelled boats to cross Lake Mulsantir, but once again the Witches were able to defeat the attempt with their own magical vessels.

Government

Rashemen is ruled by the huhrong or Iron Lord, the senior-most warrior in the realm who serves as commander-in-chief of Rashemen’s armies. He is also the public face of Rashemen, receives overseas dignitaries and treats directly with the Witches. The huhrong serves at the agreement of the realm’s major powers, but the Witches have the last say in his selection and can remove a huhrong they believe is not acting in Rashemen’s interests.

The huhrong commands the fyrra, several war leaders responsible for the security of each settlement and region. The fyrra manage the defence and disposition of each region of the country. The fyrra and huhrong also take advice from several counsellors, including merchants, soldiers and bureaucrats.

Particularly honoured in Rashemen are the berserkers, warriors of formidable battle skill who can also descend into a fury that renders them almost immune to pain or fear. Rashemi warriors often undergo the dajemma, a coming-of-age ritual which sees them travel far across Faerûn to learn the ways of battle from other lands. This results in Rashemi sometimes showing up in the most random locations across the continent (as the misadventures of the infamous Minsc, arguably the best-known Rashemi in the wider Realms, can attest).

The ultimate power in Rashemen lies with the Wychlaran, the so-called Witches of Rashemen, an order of magic-users of formidable power. The Witches command tremendous elemental powers, able to summon water elementals to defend Lake Mulsantir and earth elementals to defend the Gorge of Gauros.

As a warrior society, almost every man and woman in Rashemen is trained to fight from a young age, giving the nation an immense militia reserve. This is why accosting Rashemi “civilians” is a bad idea, since more than one robber has come to a sticky end by thinking a Rashemi merchant or breadmaker will not resist when threatened.

Rashemen has improving ties with other nations, a result of its growing trade wealth garnered from along the Golden Way. It has friendly ties with Thesk to the west and positive, if restrained, relations with the Nar tribes to the north-west, beyond the Falls of Erech. It has cooler ties with the Tark, Chif and Dagranost tribes of the far north-east, as they attempted to take advantage of the Tuigan invasion to seize lands in northern Rashemen before being driven back. The Myir tribes of the north have been more firmly integrated into Rashemi society, with them making up the bulk of the population of Nathoud and the surrounding area.

Rashemen has friendly relations, possibly approaching an alliance, with Aglarond to the south-west. As Thay’s most hated foes, the two nations try to maintain communications and act in concert to keep Thay off-balance. This would be enhanced if the two nations could bring Mulhorand into their agreements and thus contain Thay from three sides, but the god-kings are reluctant to consort with “lesser” mortals in such a manner.

Religion

Many gods are worshipped in Rashemen but by far the most popular are Bhalla, Khelliara and the Hidden One. Bhalla and Khelliara are local names for Chauntea and Mielikki, whilst the Hidden One is an aspect of Mystra, worshipped by the Wychlaran.

Other gods are tolerated in Rashemen. Some escaped slaves from Thay pray to the Mulhorandi pantheon, whilst the elemental gods are worshipped for the lines of defence that elementals provide to the nation. Kossuth is particularly revered, although also with great respect (Kossuth’s annihilation of the armies of Narfell and Raumathar in the Great Conflagration has not been forgotten).

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