Current battle map: HERE - Caravan rescue
Character profile: Brevet Field Marshall, High Watchknight Bertram
As with many of the divine guardians' followers, Bertram was an orphan taken in by the temple of Helm; in his case, the Temple of the Vigilant Eye in Zazesspur. His parents murdered by the infamous Nightcloak ripper when he was but five years old, Bertrams' earliest memory is his delivery to the temple, with naught but the clothes on his back, still stained by his parents blood.
Being raised in the temple is, as a rule, a disciplined and loveless life; Bertrams' natural physical gifts, along with his keen eye and gift of simple wisdom, led to his training as a warrior priest and his ascension to the role of adept at the age of eighteen. In the thirty years since, he has distinguished himself in the service of Helm both within Tethyr and beyond its borders. Twelve years ago, he led all three Tethyran regiments in the Helmish crusade to eradicate the demonic corruption at Helm's Hold, in the distant north. His actions there earned him a solid reputation as a tactician and a strategist both; though the absence of those forces in the three years of fighting that followed allowed the situation in Tethyr to deteriorate and the final eradication of the remnants of the royal family to occur.
With the death of his predecessor just weeks ago, Bertram has ascended to the role of church leader for the grand temple in Zazesspur and, due to that temples' size and influence, has nominal control of all Helmish forces with Tethyrs' borders. Less cautious than more traditional Helmites, Bertram wants the church to take a more active role in pacifying the wild and lawless areas of his country: a position popular with the common people, but one that has drawn uncomfortable attention from some members of the nobility, who fear their own ambitions may be stymied by a more active church. Though constantly vigilant, Bertram cannot watch all the shadows that surround him....
In his middle years, Bertram is tall and lean, his brown hair cropped short in the fashion of the utilitarian Helmites. His green eyes are piercing, the most distinctive feature of an otherwise unremarkable face, and few have stood in his presence without feeling that Bertram has taken their measure in a cold and dispassionate way. He is stern, in the manner most associated with his God, but not unkind when confronted with the plight of Tethyrs' people or the suffering of the innocent. Few have seen him laugh, or even smile, since the death of his lover, the valiant paladin Arteris, under the claws of Gethharis, a mighty green dragon. Though it was five years ago, the dragon has never been brought to account for the young mans' death and Bertram ceaselessly pursues any good lead as to the monsters' location. When danger is afoot, Bertram wears his full plate armor and open faced helm, devoid of any rank or insignia, and bears a gleaming steel shield and his mighty mace, named Guardians Fury, known to be a holy weapon and the bane of the great demon Jarguth, who fell beneath its blows during the cleansing of Helms Hold.
Zazesspur, located on the Sword Coast just south of the Starspire Peninsula, is Tethyr's largest city. Its population (now up to 375,000) has swelled over the past ten years with the influx of refugees from Castle Tethyr and the surrounding area. Zazesspur is a major port, and its location on the Trade Way makes it a center for trading and commerce as well. The open land to the southeast is too dry for anything more than livestock grazing, but the Purple Hills to the south are very fertile and provide the city with a good deal of its food. Zazesspur is also the home of many of Tethyr's finest craftsmen and artists. Of particular repute are the towns leatherworkers, weavers, dyers, and tailors.
Zazesspur, though one of the "Big Four" of Tethyr's cities, has had to tread a fine line, politically. Most of the survivors of the destruction of Castle Tethyr fled here ten years ago, and not all the
Telthyr family sympathizers were found. As a result, there is a strong underground political movement trying to find a surviving Tethyr heir and reestablish the Tethyr monarchy. This will be difficult, as there are no known living members of the family left in Tethyr, but it doesn't stop this small but powerful underground group from trying.
A larger group, one that is actually gaining power in Zazesspur, is promoting the idea of a return to a royal family system of rule, with a new king chosen by some as-yet-undetermined method. The reasoning this group is trying to use is that while the overthrow of a decade ago was necessary, the problem was the excesses of the Tethyr family, not the system of monarchy itself. While this is still not the opinion of the majority, it is growing significantly. One sign of its growing acceptance is that proponents of a monarchy can say so in public today with little fear of being killed by a mob; this wasn't true five years ago.
Given time, this position has a good chance of winning over the majority, first in Zazesspur, then throughout Tethyr. There are many former bureaucrats and minor nobles living in the city under new names who are using their hidden wealth and still-considerable influence to bring about this return to monarchy. Of course, there are factions in Ithmong and Myratma who have other plans ..
Zazesspur is ruled, at least nominally, by Grand Duke Alain Axelschmidt, known popularily as "The Iron Duke" for his stout defence of Zazesspur from all manner of predation, and his inflexible and sometimes brutal championing of law withing the city. In truth, rule of the city rests with the duke, the major churches, and the mercantile guild; an unstable political situation which, even now, begins to sway as the winds of change begin to blow...
Argrum Blackspear, noted bandit chieftain
Little is known of Argrum Blackspear, though many rumours and tales surround this shadowy figure. First, the facts: Argrum is a half-orc, his mother taken against her will in an orcish raid on the small farming village of Heathervale, east of Zazesspur and south of the starspire mountains.
Unlike many notable half breeds, Argrum can pass for human; significant features that betray his father's ancestry include a grayish cast to his skin, pronounced canine teeth and eyes that glow red in the dark. In combat, Argrum has proven to be a dangerous foe, felling several knights from Tethyrs' many noble orders with his black yew bow, which is said to be the bane of men. In hand to hand combat, Argrum favours his broadsword, wielding a poisoned dagger in his left hand. This poison, a paralytic, enabled him to defeat and capture noted cavalier Evantha Haresdown, known for her skill and courage in battle. Her order, the errant knights of the sacred aster, have posted a large reward for her return, though if she yet lives, Argrum has shown no sign of relinquishing his hard won prize.
While his childhood is unknown, Argrum first came to authorities' attention five years ago as the leader of an organized, swift striking bandit group which terrorized the trade road between Sarahkhan and Marakir. His actions have shown him to be both intelligent and cunning; his choice of targets also lends credibility to the rumour that he is well connected to the thieves' guild in Saharkhan, and is being provided with good information as to which caravans are rich and which may be traps. His attempts at bringing the Zazesspur thieves guild into his pocket have failed, however; the guildmistress has repeatedly rebuffed his attempts, and has actually provided authorities with information as to Argrums' whereabouts and activities.
Argrum is also said to be trying to expand his rule to other bandit groups as well; a dangerous development that could further destabilize Tethyr. Other rumours claim that Argrum has made connections with the orcish tribes in the starspire mountains, and that his skill at arms and proven cunning have won him many supporters in the vicious orcish tribes of the region. He remains at large and is exceedingly dangerous.
Myratma, located in the southwest corner of Tethyr, is one of the country's "Big Four" cities. It is very similar in many ways to the great cities of Calimshan, which is understandable given its closeness to Memnon and the Calim Desert. Myratma depends greatly on commerce and trading for its livelihood, though there are small but important agriculture and manufacturing activities in town. Myratma handles nearly
all the bulk agricultural products from the center of Tethyr. Wheat and other grains come down the River Ith by barge, and are stored, sold, and shipped (both overland and by sea) throughout the area. Calimshan is a particularly important customer for Tethyr grain sold through Myratma.
The Purple Hills to the north are rich in fruits and vegetables, and Myratma does a big business in them, too. Ship building and repair is also a major business here. But the most famous business in Myratma is the Tethyr Mills, a huge textile mill right along the banks of the Ith known throughout the Forgotten Realms for its fabrics. Of particular fame are its silks, which are the choice for the finest clothes in both Calimshan and Amn, and a light canvas of such tight weave that it is waterproof. This canvas is in great demand for use in the sails of the largest ships on the Sea of Swords and beyond. It is also very popular for use in tarpaulins and tents in rainy areas.
The current Town Council, headed by a merchant named Reshtiva Gullifort, is ambitious enough to want to reunite Tethyr under their banner, but realizes it doesn't have the clout to pull it off ... yet.
It is rumoured that Gullifort has been negotiating with the Pasha of Calimshan for support in her plan. Rumours abound that Myratma's power play is being instigated by a new resident of the city - a Calishite Princess named Jaseera al-Tahir. This Princess - said to be both ruthless and calculating - is said to have ties to Tethyr's former ruling family. If true, her presence, and Calimshan's support, could make Myratma a major player in Tethyr's future. The involvement of a foreign power in Tethyr's affairs is guaranteed to be a controversial topic in the halls of power.
A quick treatise on race in Tethyr:
Ten years ago, Tethyr was almost exclusively a human nation. All that changed with the upheavals that deposed the royal family. Humans are still the predominant race in Tethyr, but their days of exclusive monopoly are over. There have always been rumors of a large elf tribe (perhaps several) in the huge Forest of Tethir, but the elves have been reluctant to show themselves in the past. (Given the former royal family's attitude toward elves, this should be no surprise.) Information on the elves of Tethyr is still sketchy, but one of two things has happened: either a large number of new elves have moved to the forest in the past five years, so that their sheer numbers make them more visible; or the elves that have always lived there have decided to become more outgoing. Travelers on the Trade Way have reported seeing (and sometimes meeting) large groups of elves. The towns on the edge of the forest, such as Velen, Mosstone, and Port Kir, have also reported increased contact.
There has never been a very large dwarf population in Tethyr, and things have not really changed in the past ten years. There is one small tribe in the eastern end of the Starspire Mountains that regularly sends trading expeditions into Zazesspur, but that's about the extent of it. Saradush and Ithal Pass have an increased contact with dwarves because of the large numbers living throughout the Snowflake Mountains.
Halflings are also common throughout Tethyr, though they are most often found in the Purple Hills near the seacoast. No halflings (or any other non-humans, for that matter) were allowed to participate in Tethyr government, even on a local level, but that has changed. Today, there are several halflings sitting on Town Councils in Tethyr; their influence is greatest in Myratma and Zazesspur.
Half-elves are very common and treated well; half-orcs are nearly as common, but not treated nearly as well. Orcs are considered monsters, not another equal race; they are shunned and hunted down at every opportunity. Half-orcs are barely tolerated in Tethyr society. Of course, there is no institutionalized persecution (there are no institutions), so even a half-orc can succeed in Tethyr, given luck, quick wits, and a strong sword arm.
How did Tethyr get in this mess? Here's a little about that fateful night....
For the past 1500 years, Tethyr has had a single, strong royal family ruling with absolute power. When a king died or became incapacitated, his oldest son took the throne. As the family trees of those close to power became more intertwined and complicated, there were the inevitable wars of succession and bickering over which second cousin was the "true" heir to the throne, but the civil wars were brief. And once the fighting was over, the system returned to normal, until the next major dispute in a few hundred years or so.
All that changed 10 years ago. The current ruling family had been in power for over 350 years, so long that they had dropped their own family name centuries ago (no one even remembers it now) and simply called themselves Tethyr. King Alemander IV was comfortably ruling from Castle Tethyr, and the country seemed happy enough. But there was a broad current of dissatisfaction among the people of Tethyr. Non-humans were forbidden by law to own land, and since most rights and privileges accorded citizens were based on land ownership, they became second-class citizens as well. Things were especially bad for elves, who were driven deep into the Forest of Tethir by royal armies. Alemander IV took land away from rightful owners and gave it to nobles who promised larger contributions to the royal treasury. These social and economic inequities, coupled with several harsh winters and bad harvests in a row, made the time ripe for a change.
But it takes more than just a couple of lousy winters to depose a king; it takes treachery. In the case of the fall of House Tethyr, it took an ambitious general and impatient royal heir. Prince Alemander grew tired of waiting for the robust Alemander IV to make room for him, so he struck a deal with General Nashram Sharboneth, commander of the king's largest army. While Sharboneth marched his army toward Tethyr, bringing along a sizable group of angry peasants recruited with the promise of land reform, the would-be Alemander V downplayed the alarming reports from the king's spies and advisors. The prince silenced his father's most persistent counselors permanently, either through murder or exile. By the time Sharboneth's army arrived and laid seige to Castle Tethyr, it was too late for loyalists to help.
The final step of the plan was ready to be set in motion. As Sharboneth launched a direct assault on the castle (using the expendable peasants as shock troops), a handful of elite soldiers let in a secret entrance by the prince would eliminate key guards and open the gates. At the same time, the prince (one of the few people allowed to see the king directly) would murder his father. A fire set by the elite troops would
destroy the evidence of treachery, and the general and the prince would emerge from the conflagration and announce a new, joint government.
The plan was executed perfectly, up to a point. Sharboneth double crossed the prince; his men were much too efficient in setting the castle ablaze, and Prince Alemander (along with most of his fellow conspirators) died horribly in the fire. At about the same time, a spy planted on the general's inner staff by the equally duplicitous Alemander murdered the general and dissolved his body with a powerful acid before anyone could come to Sharboneth's aid. To make matters worse, everyone had underestimated the resentment the people felt for the royal family. Once Castle Tethyr began to fall, there was no holding back the mob. In one night, the proudest, strongest castle in
all the country was reduced to a smoking ruin. Everything of value: fine tapestries, plates and silverware, furniture, jewelry, weapons, clothes, armor, paintings, statues, etc. was either stolen, burned, or just ripped apart and stomped into the dust.
As news of the fall of the royal family spread, so did the chaos. In what is now known as the "Ten Black Days of Eleint," anyone known (or even suspected) of blood connection to the royal family was put to the sword. This led to some darkly humorous moments, as social climbers who had bragged just a week before of being a sixth cousin twice removed of a royal aunt tried in vain to convince an angry mob that they were "only kidding."
The nobles who were the biggest supporters of the royal family also came under attack, and some baronial keeps fell. Local leaders who had adequately distanced themselves from the Tethyr family, or were popular enough (or feared enough, or strong enough), survived. These surviving nobles became the initial players in the fight to decide the fate of Tethyr.
One thing was certain; any leader or type of government that too closely resembled rule under the Tethyrs would not be accepted. "Royalist" became a dirty word in Tethyr society. Today, the power struggle continues, and there is no sign of it ending anytime soon.
Here's a little info about the third of Tethyr's four big cities:
Saradush is located in the southeast corner of Tethyr in the foothills of the Snowflake Mountains. As one of the "Big Four" cities in Tethyr, it has its aspirations of power, but unlike some of the other cities in the country, these aspirations are tempered by reason and motivated by more than just a blind lust for power.
Saradush is the headquarters for all agriculture in far eastern and southeastern Tethyr. Tobacco, cotton, teas and other herbs, and a few exotic vegetables are the most common crops. Hunting for wild game in the open lands to the northwest provides much of the food for the area, though there is little left over for export. There is some mining in the mountains to the east, but it is not particularly profitable.
In the days of the royal family, Saradush was an important government city, filled with bureaucrats and emissaries from the lands to the east. After the overthrow, the Royal Quarter (as it was called) cleared out overnight. Ambassadors returned to their native countries, and most bureaucrats took new names and tried to blend in with the population.
Saradush is not ruled by a Town Council, but by one man: the self-titled Lord Mayor Oon Santele. Santele is a popular and powerful leader, and most importantly - and this is a rarity in Tethyr today - a good leader. Santele has the welfare of Saradush first in his mind at all times. He is neither petty nor vengeful, and he administers justice to the rich and poor in the same fair way.
Santele is no saint; he is overly fond of titles, pomp, and ceremony. But these are minor faults in the eyes of the people of Saradush when compared to his strong points. Like any other leader in Tethyr, Santele has dreams of ruling a reunited country, but he is not ruthless enough to do the things necessary to seize power. He also thinks that an attempt to expand his power over all of Tethyr would keep him from doing a good job in Saradush, and since that is his first priority, he probably won't try.
Here's some info on the fourth in our big cities of Tethyr series - Ithmong!
Ithmong is one of the major powers in the new order of Tethyr. Its central location gives it many advantages over the Saradush and the coastal cities of Zazesspur and Myratma. Another reason Ithmong is on the rise is the appearance of a new, powerful leader ready to expand his influence throughout Tethyr.
Ithmong controls all east-west travel through Tethyr. The Ithal Road and the River Ith cross at this large (population:220,000) city. The river is a wide, strong one, and the only crossing for hundreds of miles in either direction is the Ithal Bridge in the middle of town. In addition to controlling the overland traffic, Ithmong has enough river patrols and troops on the bridge to also control river traffic. In the past two years, the city has begun charging small tolls to all traffic
passing through. The tolls are not large enough for the travelers to complain, but given the volume of traffic, a substantial boon to Ithmong's coffers.
Ithmong's location in the center of Tethyr's main agricultural region is another source of power. Grain and livestock are produced in great quantity throughout the region, and the city controls these valuable food shipments to all the other major cities of the country; while Ithmong has never used this power to blackmail these other cities, the possibility is always there.
The factors listed above have been true about Ithmong for decades, but this city's rise to power is a fairly recent phenomenon. The difference is the son of a blacksmith named Ernest Gallowglass. With the enthusiastic support of the populace, Gallowglass has begun a plan to put Ithmong, previously dismissed as an unsophisticated farm-and crossroads type of city, on the map as the focal point of a new Tethyr; a new Tethyr ruled by Gallowglass.
Gallowglass took over the Ithmong Town Council 3½ years ago, using a combination of fierce loyalty and generosity to his supporters and ruthlessness to his opponents to solidify his control in the next year. Gallowglass is very intelligent, and a consummate politician; he makes sure that the people of Ithmong see a direct benefit from any of his ideas, and this guarantees their support. For example, when he wanted to start charging tolls on the Ithal Bridge (defying over 80 years of tradition), Gallowglass designated 25% of the tolls to go directly to civic improvements, such as new roads, more water wells in the poor part of town, and stronger town defense. The townspeople went along cheerfully.
Gallowglass has begun flexing Ithmong's economic muscles to get the attention of the other major powers of Tethyr. Grain and livestock shipments to Zazesspur and Myratma are delayed unless additional payments to inspectors are made; imports from those cities and Saradush are refused entrance without the "proper permits." This is not a total embargo; only a few shipments each month get this treatment .. for now. But it could get much worse, and that's the message Gallowglass wants the other cities to get. They are paying more for Ithmong goods, and can't recoup the money losses with their own exports.
There is talk in Ithmong that the other major cities of Tethyr are raising an army to march on the city and put an end to these economic actions. There is no truth to this at all; in fact, it is a rumor started by Gallowglass. If the people believe an attack is imminent, it will make the next phase of his plan easier: the military conquest of Tethyr. While details are uncertain, it is rumoured that Gallowglass has already begun gathering forces needed for this military action to him, and that he may be reaching out to other, less savoury forces as well to further his ends.