The Peninsular War
Geography and Places of Interest
Across the wide lands of Faerûn, bards and travelers tell strange tales of the Unapproachable East, a distant land of proud barbarians, forest-grown ruins, and dreadful wizardry. It is a world filled with ancient mysteries and endless strife, a swirling maelstrom of exotic beauty and hell-spawned peril, where tribes value freedom more than their lives and slaves groan under the worst kind of sorcerous oppression. It is a crossroads and a battleground where East meets West and today struggles to claw itself free of the half-remembered past. So fantastic is the reputation of this region in western Faerûn that in the taverns and taprooms of a dozen western cities, skeptics greet an unlikely tale or fanciful fable with a snort and mutter, “In the East, perhaps!”
The story of the Unapproachable East is the roll of ancient empires, terrible magic, and the clash of Human races and realms. Unlike the lands of the west, where Elven and Dwarven realms of great antiquity shielded the young Human kingdoms from monstrous threats, few nonhuman realms have left their mark upon the east. Instead, ancient Human realms such as old Narfell, Raumathar, and the earlier dynasties of Mulhorand and Unther have battled over these lands for almost two thousand years, while the newer powers of Thay, the Tuigan Horde, and the cities of the Easting Reach continue to vie for supremacy. The battles of old were fought with mighty magic and great armies, but the struggle today is more often joined with deceit, guile, and coin.
So what, precisely, is the Unapproachable East? At the simplest level, it is a vast area encompassing the lands between the Easting Reach and the Sunrise Mountains, from the [[Wizards’ Reach]] to the Icerim Mountains of the frozen north, hard on the boundaries of the Great Glacier. More than half a million square miles of territory fall within its bounds, divided between five principal lands: Aglarond, Thay, Thesk, Rashemen, and the Great Dale. Dozens of independent cities, towns, and strongholds lie scattered in the lands between the recognized countries, although any settlement in the Great Dale or Thesk could be
considered “independent” too, as those lands lack any central government or authority.
Aglarond is renowned as the realm of the Simbul, a mighty sorcerer-queen who has ruled the land for generations. The Yuirwood, an ancient forest that once sheltered a powerful civilization of mysterious elves, blankets most of the peninsula, sheltering its coastal cities from Thayvian expansion. Unexplored ruins filled with deadly perils and wondrous magic lie beneath the dense woods.
East of Aglarond is mighty Thay, a populous land enslaved by the arrogant and ambitious magocracy of the Red Wizards. Few invaders have overcome the great escarpments and difficult mountains girding the Plateau of Thay, and the secretive and suspicious Red Wizards raise barriers just as formidable to discourage travelers from venturing into their lands. From their strongholds and estates, the Red Wizards plot the mercantile and military domination of all the Unapproachable East — and after that, the world.
West of Thay, in the thief-ruled city of Telflamm, the trade road known as the Golden Way begins. For thousands of miles it heads eastward, joining Faerûn to the fabulous lands of Kara-Tur. Along this road lie the merchant towns that comprise the realm of Thesk, the crossroads of the Unapproachable East. A dozen years ago, the mighty Tuigan Horde attacked Thesk. A great alliance of western powers halted the Tuigans near the city of Phsant, but Thesk is still recovering from the devastation of the war while struggling to accommodate thousands of Shou who fled their far eastern homeland before the horde.
North of Thesk lies a thinly settled land sandwiched between two of Faerûn’s greatest forests. The Great Dale is a long, fertile vale running 300 miles east from the town of Uthmere, dividing the Forest of Lethyr from the dark and deadly Rawlinswood. Governed by a council of druids, the independent clanholds of the Great Dale stand amid the ancient ruins of old Narfell, a demon-haunted realm whose dark legacy still threatens nearby lands a thousand years after its destruction.
East of the Great Dale, across the bitter Lake of Tears, lies the most remote land of the Unapproachable East: Rashemen. Long the mortal enemy of Thay, Rashemen is in its own way as unwelcoming of strangers as the realm of the Red Wizards. Here, the famous Witches of Rashemen guard secrets of magical lore and are vigilant against the next manifestation of Thay’s ambitions.
Each of these five different lands has its own perils and mysteries, villains and dangers. All are bound by the accident of geography and the memory of ancient empires, but each conceals its own secrets and threats. For characters from other parts of Faerûn, the Unapproachable East is inscrutable, unknown, and alluring, a place to venture where few westerners have traveled and explore mysteries few outsiders have penetrated. For the Aglarondans, the Rashemi, and other folk native to the East, these lands are less mysterious but still filled with ancient perils and deadly, never-ending strife.
Factions and Organizations
In the Unapproachable East, numerous factions vie for power in every country – and oftentimes in every city. Some of the factions are local, some are from nations far to the west, and some organizations are run by the leaders of the country they are based in – or the country is run by the organization, depending upon who is asked. Nonetheless, this wide variety of political interests in the region provides many opportunities for ambitious foreign adventurers and citizens alike.
Broadly speaking, the factions and organizations of the Unapproachable East can be divided into four overarching groups: National Factions (such as the Simbarch Council, the Red Wizards of Thay, and the Shadowmasters), Local Interest-Groups (including factions like the Cult of the Drowned God, the Arms of Arkenviir, or the Foresters), Foreign Organizations (such as the Fangs of Typhon, the Shou Refugee Council, and Immurk's Armada), and Class Orders (the Emerald Enclave, the Griffonrider Knights, and the Bardic Colleges being several famous examples).
Journals, Notes, and Books
Every group of adventurer slowly accumulates a small library of texts, tomes, letters, and ancient writings. Journals are usually only the beginning of this compendium of knowledge…
Tales and Rumors
As any group of adventurers travels around the lands they currently call home, they will almost inevitably attract a deluge of gossip, rumors, and old wives' tales from well-meaning citizens looking for answers or solutions to their problems. Most of the time these tales turn out to be little more than hot-air, but any seasoned adventurer knows that its always wise to remember as many rumors as possible… one never knows what information might someday be the difference between life and death.
Bits of paper and oral traditions are all well and good – and some scholarly adventurers would even claim such things are reason enough to seek adventure. But most of their colleagues would disagree, arguing that instead the true value of adventuring lies in the relics and artifacts they can recover. Some of these items may be magical, some may be cursed, a few will be blessed by a deity, and several may just be pretty pieces of gold and silver that ends up being used as a paper-weight. But whatever its purpose, adventurers will be drawn inexorably to these relics like moths to flame.