Thay is ruled by cruel wizards who rely on slavery to provide them with the wealth and luxury they need to support their magical research and dreams of conquest. The country is ruled by 8 Zulkirs, one representing each school of magic. The Zulkirs choose Tharchions, civil governors who manage the mundane affairs of the land and serve at the pleasure of the Red Wizards. The Red Wizard constantly scheme and plot against one another and their neighbors. Thayan armies have marched on Aglarond and Rashemen many times, and most people think it's only a matter of time before the Thayans return to their old habits of taking what they want though force of arms and magic.
Overview Of Thay
Most of Thay is
located atop the heavily settled, lush Thayan Plateau, accessible only at a few
well-guarded locations. The nation is otherwise surrounded by high cliff walls
known as the First Escarpment, which have proved virtually impregnable to large
central volcanic peaks of Thaymount sit atop the inner fortress of the Second
Escarpment (another series of cliffs). From the mountains pour the three major
rivers of Thay-- Eltar, Umber, and Lapendrar.
of Thay has been thoroughly tamed, cultivated, and settled by the Red Wizards
and their subjects. The bulk of the plateau is covered with slave plantations,
villages, and small fortresses known as tax stations. Commerce and travel in
Thay centers along two great highways: the north-south High Road, and the
east-west artery called the Eastern Way.
Thay is known more for its inhabitants than its geography. The Red Wizards are
a threat to all of Faerûn, held back by the Simbul and Rashemen and their own
disorganization. Those who know Thay realize that it is the Red Wizards’ own
lack of a coherent structure and their refusal to combine forces that keeps
them from conquering the rest of Toril.
nation is divided into 11 political regions known as Tharchs. The rulers of the
Tharchs--the Tharchions and Tharchionesses-- are selected by the Zulkirs, the
council of eight powerful Red Wizards who truly rule the land. Within a Tharch,
the Tharchion or Tharchioness has absolute power only so long as his or her
will does not conflict with that of the Zulkirs. In Thay, the Zulkirs rule
Geography of Thay
Alaor is an island south of Bezantur, constituting the smallest Tharch in Thay.
Its size belies its importance. Although it is craggy and rugged, with
virtually no arable land, the island houses Thay’s main naval base.
atop one of the highest peaks of Thaymount, the Citadel was already here when
the Kingdom of Raumathar first claimed the land millennia ago. Its original
builders are unknown, but dilapidated wall paintings and bas reliefs at the
lower levels of the fortress suggest that they may have been an advanced race
of lizard men.
The First Escarpment
This long line of
sheer cliffs, ranging from 50 to over 200 feet in height, forms Thay’s
western border and first line of defense. A natural fortress protecting Thay’s
fertile highlands, the First Escarpment provides the land with greater security
than the largest army.
This is not to say
that the Thayans skimp when it comes to their military defenses. The high
cliffs are honeycombed with tunnels, barracks, and fortresses carved from the
living rock. Here, garrisons of gnolls and other troops keep watch at all
likely invasion points. Small citadels, also manned by gnolls or elite human
troops, are liberally sprinkled along the edge of the Escarpment as well. These
fortresses serve the double purpose of strengthening Thay’s defenses and
keeping an eye out for escaped slaves or refugees.
There are only a
handful of major routes up the Escarpment and onto the Plateau of Thay beyond.
These routes are detailed below and are all well guarded by the Thayan
The High Road and the Eastern Way
two main arteries of travel in southern Thay were originally constructed by the
god-kings of Mulhorand. Elevated several feet above the ground and covered with
sturdy alchemical tar, the roads are carefully maintained by the Red Wizards,
who constantly send out teams of slaves to repair and resurface them. Tax
stations and their attendant villages lie at regular intervals along the roads,
and patrols of humans and gnolls are a constant sight to travelers and merchant
vast and deep lake is located in central eastern Thay and feeds both the Thay
and Thazarim Rivers. Both the ruins of the old imperial capital of Delhumide
and the Thayan capital of Eltabbar are located along Thaylambar's shores. Lake
Thaylambar contains rich fishing grounds but also harbors a number of dragon
turtles in its icy depths.
The Long Portage
the River Thay flows north toward Lake Mulsantir, it descends the slopes of the
First Escarpment. Although most of the Escarpment is quite sheer, the River
Thay has carved a relatively gentle descent down the cliffs. It is still far
too rough and swift moving for upstream boat travel, and passage downstream is
fast and hazardous. Land portage in this area is required for efficient travel.
300 years ago, the Guild of Portagers charged exorbitant rates to haul vessels
overland. The Red Wizards took exception to the rates charged by the
guildmaster, killed him and most of his guildsmen, and transformed them into
zombies who, to this day, haul vessels and goods up and down the escarpment.
The Plateau of Thay
Although Thay’s borders stray beyond the
line of the First Escarpment in a few places-- most notably in the Priador and the lands
surrounding Surthay-- for the most part the nation occupies the highlands known
as the Plateau of Thay.
Plateau is a vast and fertile region, covered with farmsteads, Red Wizards’
demesnes, and the villages that surround Thayan tax stations. Completely
cultivated and tamed, the Plateau contains vast plantations, orchards, and tree
farms, where slaves tend crops, pick fruit, fell timber, and perform other
tasks under the watchful eyes of their overseers. Gnoll and human troops
constantly patrol the area, keeping a sharp lookout for escaped slaves and
150,000 free Thayans inhabit the Plateau, living in small villages or
overseeing slave farms. Vast barracks house over 1,000,000 slaves and their
gnoll guards. These slaves are worked mercilessly, tilling the land, planting,
and harvesting Thay’s crops. The realm’s enormous free (slave) labor pool
enables Thay to produce huge amounts of grain and other food crops, which are
exported throughout the eastern realms, bringing further prosperity to the Red
on the Plateau is dangerous, since this land comprises the heartland of Thay
itself. The small fortresses known as tax stations are located at strategic
points throughout the regions; each contains dozens of troops, and most have
small villages attached to them.
Red Wizards maintain towers or palaces throughout the region, and keep tight
control of the land around their domains. Trespassers on Red Wizards’ estates
are dealt with harshly-- lucky ones are enslaved, while the less fortunate meet
horrific fates in the wizards’ dungeons or laboratories.
the south of the Plateau of Thay, beneath the sheltering ramparts of the First
Escarpment and between the Lapendrar and Thazarim Rivers, lie these coastal
plains and rolling grasslands. With the exception of independent small slave
farm complexes and the coastal settlements of Bezantur, Thasselen, and Murbant,
the Priador remains in a largely wild state. It also harbors a number of
preserves where the Red Wizards keep monsters required for research and spell
components. There are no restrictions on these creatures, and Thayan law states
that the creatures’ owners are not liable for any damage they do or deaths
under the nominal control of the Tharchion of Lapendrar, the region was given
full Tharch status after the capture of the coastal cities and the Salamander
War of 1357. The old Tharch of Bezantur was incorporated into the new region,
and that thriving port city now serves as the Tharchion’s seat. The Priador
is under the control of the sadistic Zulkir of Evocation Aznar Thrul.
The River Eltar
relatively short river originates in the Thaymount region, then flows swiftly
down to Lake Thaylambar. Legend
claims that the river was created by the Red Wizards themselves when they
summoned a powerful extraplanar being to aid them in their battle for
independence from Mulhorand. Today, the Eltar provides much of the water to
Thay’s capital city Eltabbar and helps to create the canals that divide its
The River Gauros
river flows from the Sunrise Mountains, through Thay’s eastern regions and
down the First Escarpment, joining the River Mulsantir in the rocky Gorge of
Gauros. The Gorge of Gauros was the site of the last invasion into Rashemen.
The River Lapendrar
second longest river in Thay is also known as the River of Sorrows, in memory
of the miners who died in the gold mines near its headwaters and the warriors
of Aglarond and Thay who died along its banks during Halacar’s invasion of
Thay in 1260 DR.
The Lapendrar is also an important avenue of trade and travel in the
southern tharchs, flowing down from Thaymount and past the ihindependentl. city
of Amruthar, where the Eastern Way crosses its waters at the Feldsparr Bridge.
The Lapendrar also forms part of Thay’s border with Aglarond and has been the
scene of many clashes and confrontations over the centuries.
The River Sur
river forms part of Thay’s northern border with Thesk. Narrow and swift at
its origin, a spring located along the top of the First Escarpment, the Sur
slows and widens rapidly, becoming wide, shallow, and infested with
disease-carrying insects as it flows past the Surmarsh, finally emptying into
Lake Mulsantir. Despite its proximity to Thay, the Red Wizards have little
influence over the Sur and its environs, though vessels from Surthay
periodically sail here to fish.
The River Thay
for almost its entire length, the Thay is the major artery of travel and
commerce for the northern Tharchs. River traffic from Surthay to Eltabbar is
heavy, and the Thayans patrol the river heavily, keeping a watch out for
unauthorized travelers and occasional raids by skrags or lacedons that
apparently originate near the ruins of Delhumide.
The River Thazarim
clear blue river Thazarim originates in Lake Thaylambar, flows south across the
Plain of Thay, then turns abruptly eastward, cutting a deep gorge through the
Surague Escarpment before once more flowing southward in a series of
magnificent waterfalls from both the Surague and the First Escarpment and
finally terminating in the deep waters of the Alamber Sea. While much of the
Thazarim is used for travel, the regions near the Escarpments are impassable
due to the falls.
The River Umber
Umber originates on the slopes of Thaymount and tumbles down the First
Escarpment at Nethentir. Though it is not important to Thay’s economy, it
forms an important part of the defense of Aglarond.
The Ruins of Delhumide
Eltabbar is the capital of modem Thay, so was the city of Delhumide the
imperial seat when Mulhorand ruled the land. Shattered by the powers of the Red
Wizards’ summoned tanar’ri, Delhumide lies in ruins today. No structures
higher than one story remain intact above ground, although extensive,
labyrinthine tunnels still exist below.
The Second Escarpment
above the Plateau of Thay is another ring of cliffs called the Second
Escarpment. Similar in appearance to the First Escarpment, these cliffs rise up
to a second plateau, then swiftly to the craggy peaks of Thaymount. Not much is
known about the Second Escarpment and its features. The Thayans maintain
several garrisons in the same manner as the First Escarpment, and access to the
lands surrounding Thaymount is tightly controlled. This may be due to the many
secret goings on at Thaymount itself. The Second Escarpment contains extensive
gold mines, worked by slaves and overseen by the Tharchion of Thaymount.
The Surague Escarpment
another line of towering cliffs forms Thay’s eastern borders. Beyond the
Surague Escarpment lie the Sunrise Mountains, guardians of the Endless Waste
and the far eastern lands beyond. This is a wild and underpopulated region of
Thay, and the Red Wizards maintain minimal forces here beyond a handful of
dreary, fever-ridden swamp is claimed by Thay and inhabited by tribes of lizard
men, possibly the degenerate descendants of the Citadel’s original builders.
Thayan nobles sometimes venture into the swamp on hunting expeditions, hoping
to bring home a black dragon, roper, or otyugh-- all of which are known to
dwell in the Surmarsh.
tax station is a small fortress featuring a tower and defensible keep and
containing a garrison of 30-50 gnoll or human fighters. Villages have sprung up
around most tax stations, providing such services as smithies, wheelwrights,
livery stables, inns, and caravan suppliers. Each tax station is responsible
for taking a fee from travelers for the upkeep of the road and maintenance of
its garrison. Ambitious young civil servants often volunteer to manage tax
stations as a way of gaining recognition from their superiors.
stations are maintained by their region’s Tharchion or Tharchioness, who sets
the tax rate and oversees maintenance of roads and trade routes. The tax rate
varies from Tharch to Tharch but is rarely exorbitant.
to the traveler who refuses to pay, however, for the Tharchions have little
patience with lawbreakers.
up in the center of Thay are the rugged volcanic peaks known collectively as
Thaymount. Access to Thaymount is tightly controlled by the Red Wizards, who
maintain numerous fortresses in and along the edge of the Second Escarpment.
Exactly what the wizards do on Thaymount is not known for certain. It is known
that Thaymount contains the ancient fortress complex known as the Citadel and
the thriving gold mines that help maintain Thay’s prosperity.
tharchion of Thaymount, one of the most powerful nobles in Thay, has an
extensive estate here, built into the slopes of Thaymount itself. This vast
fortress and palace contains barracks for Thay™s military reserve-- thousands
of gnolls, darkenbeasts, and other fell creatures. In addition, a number of
minor earthquakes and ash clouds rising from the higher peaks of Thaymount
suggests that volcanic activity in the area is increasing.
eastern bank of the Thazarim River, once a prosperous farming region, is now
considered nothing more than a vast graveyard. Thousands died here in the
struggles between Thay and Mulhorand. Today the land is largely uninhabited,
though caravans sometimes travel here en route to Durpar and Raurin. Some
travelers’ stories tell of numerous undead, the troublesome spirits of slain
warriors which haunt the region.
People and Society
In Thay, there are
four societies: the Red Wizards, the nobility (mostly the Mulan), the commoners
(mostly the Rashemi), and the slaves. The slaves far outnumber the others, and
the commoners labor nearly as strenuously as the slaves; the nation is
controlled absolutely by the Red Wizards, and they share their authority with
common people of Thay are descended from the same racial stock as the
inhabitants of nearby Rashemen, but they differ greatly in history and culture.
They are tough and sturdy, averaging a little over five feet in height, dusky
of skin and dark of eye. Men are hirsute, often bearing bushy beards, and are
handsome in a somewhat ursine manner. Women tend to be short and muscular, and
wear their black hair long, often in elaborate braids. Both sexes are strong,
hard workers and make good warriors.
in Thay dress simply, in baggy trousers, tunics, or smocks. Personal decoration
is limited among the lower classes, though an occasional earring, bracelet, or
ring is not uncommon. Wealthier Thayan Rashemi wear rich robes and cloaks and
often shave their heads and bear tattoos in imitation of the ruling Mulan
common Thayans are the most likely to be encountered by visitors and
adventurers, the real power in Thay lies with the Mulan, the descendants of the
renegade Mulhorandi who first founded the nation. They are tall, spare, and
sallow complected. Fashion dictates that the Mulan remove what little body hair
they possess, usually replacing hair with fanciful tattoos-- stylized
representations of dragons, fiends, legendary monsters, cryptic runes, or
abstract designs. Among the Red Wizards, tattoos are often magical as well as
decorative. This passion for tattooing has spread throughout Thay, and it is
said that the skin artists in the port city of Bezantur are the best in all the
other races inhabit Thay as well, but most are not considered civilized beings
by the general populace. These are the slaves, and they come to Thay from many
lands. The most common slaves are those from neighboring Rashemen and Aglarond,
captured in slaving raids by the forces of various Red Wizards and Tharchions.
Humans from dozens of other nations may also be found here along with dwarves,
halflings, gnomes, orcs, goblins, gnolls, and other nonhumans. Elves are the
most prized slaves in Thay, but they are rare, being hard to get in the first
place and having a tendency to die rather than submit to captivity. Drow are
the rarest slave race but seem to take to it better than their Elven cousins.
crouch at the lowest rung of Thayan society. They are considered nothing more
than property and are treated as such-- bought, sold and traded, mercilessly
punished or thoughtlessly put to death for the smallest infraction. Most
agricultural and mining slaves wear only the most minimal clothing: rags,
loincloths, or tattered tunics. To distinguish them from their masters, slaves
are forbidden to cut their hair, and one can tell the length of their
enslavement by this.
or freeing, of slaves is forbidden in Thay. Once an individual is sold, he or
she is considered a slave for life and nothing short of escape can bring
freedom. Particularly beloved or successful slaves are sometimes given their
own estates by grateful owners, or are given positions with considerable
authority and freedom, but in the eyes of Thayan law they remain slaves. The
children of a slave are likewise considered slaves and can never be freed,
The Red Wizards
most important group in Thay, and the one most often associated with the
nation, is the Red Wizards. Originally a dissident faction of Mulhorand
magicians, they have evolved into the elite ruling class of one of the most
evil and corrupt nations on Toril.
Wizards are always Mulan. It is forbidden by custom for a Red Wizard to take on
an apprentice who is not of Mulan extraction. They are the only group in Thay
allowed to wear red- anyone else foolish or ignorant enough to wear such color
is rewarded by instant death at the hands of the Red Wizards themselves.
wizards choose eight representatives, or Zulkirs, from among their ranks, one
for each school of magic. Zulkirs are usually the most powerful member of each
school, though occasionally the rank falls to the most politically astute.
Competition for the position of Zulkir is intense, since Zulkirs are the most
powerful individuals in Thay. Once elected to the position, a Zulkir serves
until they can no longer hold the position.
identities of the various Zulkirs are usually kept secret from the general
public, though rumor and high level “leaks” usually reveal their identity.
The current known Zulkirs and their political positions are listed below.
Cities of Thay
Although the vast majority of Thay’s
population lives on slave estates scattered throughout the land, the cities are
critical to the nation’s survival. Crowded and dirty, Thay’s cities are
bustling centers of trade, industry, and government.
independent of Thay, the thriving trade city of Amruthar is actually controlled
the ruler known as the Hierarch. The Red Wizards generally leave Amruthar in
peace as long as the tribute continues to flow.
is surrounded by stout stone walls and boasts a population of over 30,000. Its
city guards are professional and efficient but are only lightly armed, serving
as a police force rather than a true defensive army; the Zulkirs would never
allow the city to develop a real army. Beyond the walls lies a vast tent city
where merchants sell their wares and migrant workers live. This area is
somewhat on the lawless side and rarely visited by Amruthar’s authorities.
atmosphere here is far less oppressive than that in the rest of Thay. Wide
streets are lined with many shops and inns, and the central marketplace is
alive with colorful pavilions and booths. Several parks are maintained by the
Hierarch at considerable expense for the enjoyment of the populace.
was once home to Zulkir Maligor, a major rival of Szass Tam who sought supreme
power in Thay. Since Maligor’s defeat at the hands of Tam, (with the
unwilling cooperation of several Harper agents), no Red Wizard has lived in
Amruthar, although they still make extended visits to the city.
occasional presence of Thayan wizards, nobles, or gnoll soldiers adds an uneasy
edge to all this beauty and reminds both visitors and the city’s inhabitants
that Amruthar remains under the thumb of the Red Wizards. In reality, the broad
avenues, bustling shops, and colorful pavilions are nothing more than a facade,
one which the residents know the Red Wizards can crush any time they choose.
Hierarch and his nobles are all lost in their world of luxury and decadent
living, doling out much of the city’s considerable treasury on public works,
festivals, and other activities to keep the populace happy. The Hierarch’s
palace, once a stem military citadel, has been transformed into a fanciful
fairy-castle with many slim towers, buttresses, slender bridges, and attached
buildings. Here the nobles engage in endless celebrations and feasts,
purposefully ignoring the wicked land to which they are beholden.
rest of the city is not as enchanted with the Thayan shadow. Outside the
palace, three major factions vie for influence. The largest of these, the
Realists, wish to maintain the status quo: keeping the Zulkirs happy while
maintaining the city’s ostensibly free status. Amruthar may be a puppet
state, the Realists claim, but at least the Thayans allow the city’s
inhabitants a relative degree of independence. The Thayans are aware of the
Realists’ existence and leave them alone, since their stated goal is
consistent with the Zulkirs’ aims in the region.
next largest faction, the Independents, favors severing all ties with Thay.
Most Independents realize that this is a long-term goal and that an immediate
break with Thay would lead to war and the inevitable destruction of the city.
The Independents therefore favor a slow buildup of the city’s power, coupled
with covert contacts outside of Thay to secure military or magical help if
The smallest faction, the Aglarondians, favor union with the nation of Aglarond and crave the protection of the Simbul. Due to Aglarond’s geographical distance and the fact that the small nation lacks the military force to hold the city, most consider the Aglarondians’ goals to be hopelessly unrealistic. Not surprisingly, prominent sympathizers tend to disappear, which is taken as proof that the city exists only at the Red Wizards’ indulgence.