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.
- 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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