Thay came, Thay saw, Thay conquered!
Thay is a nation found in the east of Faerun. It’s a powerful magocracy ruled by archmages of different magical disciplines known as Zulkirs who form a ruling council. Thay’s red wizards form much of the endless string of beaurocrats that help run the nation and they seek greater magical knowledge at any means necessary. The nation is supported by a huge number of slaves that perform all the labour. Usually, these slaves come from the ranks of conquered nations.
At the top of Thay’s social hierarchy is the high regent; a powerful archmage who rules the nation. The current incumbent is Szass Tam, a lich and the Zulkir of Necromancy. The high regent is supported by a council of Zulkirs; each the foremost expert in their field of magic with each having a different magical expertise. Below the Zulkirs are the Red Wizards, a magocratic noble class that rule and experiment in the arcane. Other noble classes such as beaurocrats, priests, merchants, soldiers and artisans hold positions of medial respect within Thay. While semi-skilled workers and labourers occupy a lowly position in Thayan society, they still stand above the extensive class of slaves, brought to the kingdom from all over Faerun to prop up the noble classes. Slaves in Thay are of all races though Thayans tend to show prejudice towards any non-humans though dwarves and gnomes tend to be treated worst while orcs are generally viewed as having use as guards and enforcers so are tolerated more easily.
Szass Tam, as a lich himself, encouraged a mindset that encouraged undeath as a superior form of existence to mortality. This encouraged others to seek after the power of undeath, particularly as those that did not embrace it, were often found to have few opportunities for progression within Thayan society. For centuries, Thay has also utilised undead zombies as a mindless workforce that has only grown with Szass Tam’s rise to power.
Absorbed into Thay are 2 particular groups that follow distinct traditions; the Mulani and the Rashemi. The Mulani strongly adhere to the traditions of their past and are indoctrinated from a young age to obey the laws of the land and honour the Red Wizards of Thay. They typically shave their heads and what little body hair they have on their bodies. The Mulani are great respecters of art and would often send their children to be apprentices under experienced Red Wizards.
The Rashemi are less concerned with tradition though do seek to emulate the aristocratic Mulani, shaving their heads for instance. Their dark skin and strong build tend to give away their heritage however.
Thayans generally consider strength of will as far superior to attitudes like compassion or kindness. This is reflected in the pass times Thayans enjoy which tend to include entertainment like gladiator fights. The more ferocious and deadly the combat, the more Thayans enjoyed it. For this reason, the gladiator rings of Thay are considered some of the finest in the realms.
For Thayans, arcane pursuits are of the greatest importance with religion occupying a distant 2nd place. Most Thayans have little time for matters of religion and despite the common misconception, they do not worship demons, though the arrogant among Thay would attempt to ally or even use powerful demons to accomplish their will.
The Mulani have kept some of the old traditions of their gods while evil-aligned deities have garnered dedicated sects throughout Thay with gods such as Shar, Umberlee, Lolth and even Jubilex gaining strong followings. Cyric in particular has enjoyed particular prominence in Thay, especially during the Time of Troubles.
The nation of Thay began centuries ago in 922 dr when sect calling themselves the Red Wizards broke away from the god-Kings of Mulhorand, declaring their independence. This group was led by the archmage Thayd. It wasn’t until Ythazz Buvaar took over leadership of the Red Wizards that they became their own nation having destroyed the city of Delhumide.
Thay grew quickly as the militaristic nation took lands for itself which also allowed it to prosper. During their first century of existence, they settled on their abiding form of rule; a council of 8 Zulkirs, each an expert in the 8 fields of magic.
As a militaristic nation, Thay set out to conquor other nations to subjugate them to their machinations. Ultimately, they were able to expand through such efforts, though were not always successful. Their first attack was on Rasheman in 934 DR but the Thayan forces were repelled by the witches of Rasheman in the Gorge of Gauros. About a century later, the rulers of Thay decided upon a method of ruling and government that would persist to current times forming the council of 8 Zulkirs, each one a master of the 8 schools of magic. Not everyone was happy with this decision and a rebellion of dissidants was formed who attempted to take control of the government though this rebellion was quickly quelled.
Perhaps the most ambitious conflict waged by Thay was the Salamander Wars. In 1357 DR, the tharchion Lapendrar Hargrid Tenslayer along with the Zulkirs of evocation and conjuration summoned Fyzzar, the Lord of Salamanders and Grand Sultan Marrake of the efreeti. The armies of these extra-planar beings were to help Thay take the coastal cities of the Alambar sea and the sea of fallen stars. In return, the Zulkirs were to maintain a portal to the prime material plane from the elemental plane of fire.
Upon completion of the conquest, the Thayans intended to banish the 2 armies back to the elemental plane of fire but only succeeded in banishing the army of the efreeti. Having failed to banish the army of salamanders, the salamanders ran rampant across Priador, a coastal portion of Thay. Having failed to stop the army of salamanders, the 3 Zulkirs appealed to the rest of the council of zulkirs who raised an army of goblinoids, gnolls, Szass Tam’s undead forces and many other monstrous humanoids. However, the salamanders weren’t repelled fully until Aznar Thrul appealed to Kossuth, the Lord of Flame to bring his forces to repel the salamander army. This led to greater worship of Kossuth throughout Thay.
By 1375 DR, a rift had formed between the council of Zulkirs with factions forming in favour of Aznar Thrull and Szass Tam. To turn the council and other nobility in his favour, Szass Tam fabricated various threats. First, he had his strongest ally (Druxus Rhym) killed with Aznar Thrul implicated as the murderer instead, removing the Zulkir from the council. Then he orchestrated a Rashemi attack, rescuing the Thayan armies at just the right time to demonstrate himself as Saviour. He then secretly created an army of undead leading the people to believe they were under a dire threat.
These events gave Szass Tam the pretext to appeal to the council that he be named regent in an emergency role. However, Tam’s amchinations had been discovered by the lich Dmitra Flass and had warned the council of Szass Tam’s plans. The council voted against Tam’s proposals and riots broke out throughout the capital of Eltabbar demanding Tam’s ascension as supreme leader. Tam withdrew from the council and worked to take Thay by force.
This led to decades of civil war with Tam taking the northern portion of the nation and the Zulkirs occupying the south. That is until the 2 factions fought at the Keep of Sorrows. The tide of the battle was swinging in Szass Tam’s favour when Mystra (the goddess of magic) was killed and the Spellplague began with magic turning to chaos and the land reshaping itself. Chaos ensued on the battlefield. Both armies withdrew and a new stalemate arose until Tam invoked the powers of Bane to understand the nature of the Spellplague and to offer up his soul in return for the ability to rule Thay for 1,000 years. Thay became dedicated to the worship of Bane from that time forth and Szass Tam was able to take leadership of the nation of Thay.
Following these wars, Tam began work on great fortresses known as the Dread Rings that could perform the Ritual of the Unmaking. Completing such a ritual had the potential to even destroy all of reality as it is now known.
Tam also demonstrated favourability towards the undead of his kingdom during the period following the civil war. Seats in government were taken up by vampires, liches and other people that had embraced undeath while mortal people of Thay found their station and progress diminished.