How can one be happy if one cannot serve their lord with their whole heart?
Every servant has one's place, no matter how lowly or modest. To know it is one's greatest comfort, to excel within it is one's greatest solace, and one's master's contentment is one's greatest reward.
An empty mind is like unto a freshly turned sod; if not sown with the seeds of the Red Wizard, the insidious weeds of heresy will take root.
Let the strength of your will match the stone of your walls and the strength of your ships. Blessed is the mind too small for doubt.
Those who scale the pinnacles of glory have the furthest to plunge into the abyss.
Gaze at Alaor, children of Thay, dream of reaching that pinnacle, but who dreams of the road that ascends the mountain side or the seas that meet its shores? The road to the peak is hard and murderous and the waters we travel fickle and deep. Countless have broken upon its rocks. Their splintered bones lie scattered upon it, paving the way for others. At every step you will hear the bones crumbling under foot, and maybe you shall hear the wind-blown voices of the dead - guiding you forward or leading you to your doom. Yes, my children, the way is cruel and unforgiving.
Success is commemorated; Failure merely remembered.
The lot of courage is to be sacrificed on the altar of battle.
We shall carry our sword,
Weigh the fist that strikes men down
And salutes the battle won.
Thay! How mighty its aspect! How far-reaching its boundaries!
The Alaor comprises two islands off the southern coast of Thay, where the Wizards’ Reach meets the Alamber Sea. While this is the smallest of the eleven tharchs, its position makes it one of the most vital. The bulk of the Thayan navy is housed here, along with the primary Thayan shipyards. The principal harbor of the Alaor is an expansive cove guarded by a sea-arch. In the rock of the headlands lies a network of sea caves large enough to hide an entire fleet. The rugged islands have no other good landing spots or sheltered bays, which is one reason no other country thought to use them as a naval base.
Tharchion Thessaloni Canos ((LE female human Ftr17)) commands the tharch; the evoker Mur Vhol ((N male human Evo7/Red5)) assists her, supervising the various magelings assigned to the tharchion’s fleet. Over 15,000 souls call this tharch home, including sailors. The fleet consists of a dozen slender, deadly dromonds, powerful galleys each crewed by over one hundred well-armed warriors and twice that number of slave rowers. Each warship carries a pair of Thayan bombards, as well as a ship’s mage and a ship’s acolyte—a wizard and a cleric specializing in battle magic. The pride of the Thayan navy—a massive warship known as the Red Scourge—lies at anchor here when not escorting Thayan merchant ships in and out of the area. Most pirates flee at the first sight of the ship’s crimson-colored sails, for they know that to confront such a powerful vessel is to invite a swift and sorcerous death. Altogether, the fleet is crewed by almost 5,000 officers, soldiers, and slaves; most of the remaining folk who call this barren island home are carpenters, stevedores, provisioners, sailmakers, shipwrights, and all the other artisans and professionals needed to maintain a fleet in port.
With the advent of Thay as a mercantile power, the Alaor has become even more vital to the nation’s interests. The Thayan navy had long worked to keep the waters of the Sahuagin Sea (as the Alamber Sea is also called) free of pirates. They have since extended their operations to include a good stretch of the Wizards’ Reach. Between the forces of Thay and Aglarond, there are few safe places for pirates to operate in this region. Several naval ships have even been converted into mercantile vessels carrying Thay’s goods to the rest of the world. Merchant ships from Bezantur carry much of Thay’s trade to other lands, but shipments to and from major enclaves are entrusted only to Thay’s navy.
The Alaor is well defended. The zulkirs know the islands are Thay’s first line of defense against an invasion by sea. If the islands were to fall into a foreign power’s hands, the results would be disastrous. Any foe who had control over such a base could attack up and down the southern coast of Thay with impunity.
Besides the garrison of 1,000 soldiers on duty here at all times, the islands are outfitted with dozens of batteries of Thayan bombards.
Religion Major Temples: Umberlee, Waukeen Minor Temples: Bane, Cyric, Beshaba, Tymora Shrines: Istishia, Garagos, Red Knight, Tempus
The southern Alaor Isle is the largest of the islands, and home to the main Thayan Naval Base located on its western coast. Overlooking a sheltered bay, the Alaor Naval Base contains the Red Keep which is home to Tharchioness Thessaloni Canos and the land-based legionnaires and marines of the Alaor. Anyone interested in joining the Alaor Legion or Thayan Navy will need to speak with the Master Sergeant there. The Naval Base also contains a public marketplace that does offer slaves, there are also stables, and the Way Inn for non-military visitors to stay while visiting the base.
Underneath this island is an extensive series of caverns that house the bulk of the Thayan fleet. The only known water entrance to these caverns large enough for a ship to enter is located at the base of the cliff just below the Red Keep. Upon entrance to these caverns, ships reach the Fleetgrotto where the primary shipyard facilities for the navy reside. A shrine to Umberlee can be found in the Fleetgrotto, along with additional barracks for the navy’s sailors, and the true Naval Headquarters which is where the Naval quartermaster can be found as well.
Beyond the walls of the Naval Base, the island itself boasts some interesting and unique locations.
Located near the center of the isle is the entrance to a series of inland caverns. Within these caverns are found many of the Thayan Navy and Legionnaire deserters, along with ‘freedom fighters’ working to break Thay’s grip over the Alaor and return it to Mulhorandi rule - or (better yet) self-rule. Despite being terribly outnumbered and occasionally almost decimated by forays made into their caverns by the Alaor Legion itself or the mercenaries it hires, those who survive recruit others and return all the stronger. Unless one of the freedom fighters themselves, mercenaries of less than 5 seasons should avoid entering this stronghold.
Many years ago, a small fishing village existed on the eastern island at the base of the ancient tower of Tazal Thaingard - a powerful Red Wizard of Conjuration. The details of exactly occurred there are still unknown, however one night there a terrible explosion from within the tower shook the village. By the next morning, it was overrun by planar creatures and in flames. The Alaor Legion suffered heavy losses over the next several months fighting back the planar creatures - eventually killing or driving the planar beings back into the gaping maw of the now abandoned tower.
Regular patrols to the devastated village keep most remaining planar creatures in check. However whatever magic summoned the original horde is still active as stories from brave (or foolhardy) adventurers speak of terrible creatures such as Slaad, Tieflings, Hell Hounds, and even demons and devils within the tower and the catacombs below it, with what appears to be the sounds of more creatures being summoned all the time. Any adventurers with less than 7 seasons of experience are warned to stay well away from its horrors.
The few hardy and self-sufficient survivors of the attack eventually found protection near the House of Holy Tides, a temple of Istishia on the southern coast of the island and a new village sprung up around it. One of the most unique and enigmatic temples in Thay, it is a completely flooded structure, but yet it is well above sea level. However, any who enter find they can still breathe within its flooded confines (usually after a few seconds of panic). A place of strange beauty and magic, many visitors come here simply to view the aquatic arboretum, however a few faithful may choose to make this home and gain the benefits of the Temple’s most closely guarded secret - the water-breathing ability granted by the temple member’s turquoise cloak.
The smaller northern Alaor Isle is, strangely enough, a tropical paradise compared to its southern neighbor. Perhaps shielded from the wrath of the Sea of Fallen stars by the rocky and rugged southern island, or perhaps through some type of Red Wizard magic, the northern island remains a warm and inviting haven year-round.
It holds only one ‘civilized’ location - the White Beach Resort along its southern coast. The Resort’s men-at-arms patrol the southern beaches and stay ever vigilant against the few dangerous creatures that may stray from the northern reaches of the island. However, the proprietor of the Resort, Arathorn Thenesen, also insists that all guests keep their weapons (and spells) sheathed and to keep their problems on the mainland. None may walk the resort with any drawn weapons and his men-at-arms are expected to stop any altercations between guests before they start.
The White Beach Resort contains multiple smaller rooms and several luxurious suites. That, along with the security afforded by the Resort’s men-at-arms, make this a popular vacation destination not only for ‘normal’ Thayan visitors, but for even the mighty Red Wizards as well.
Despite the security provided by the resort along the southern beaches, the interior and northern beaches remain somewhat wild and dangerous - especially at night. At the heart of the isle, high in its peaks, lies the entrance to a dormant volcano. The volcano is home to a variety of fire-based creatures, and is also said to contain a young, yet extremely powerful, dragon as well. It is also the only known location in Thay where the rare and beautiful Pink Fire Rose grows.
On the northern half of the island lie the infamous Flooded Caverns of the Alaor. A natural habitat for sahuagin, sharks, and other lizardfolk, these submerged caverns can only be traversed by those with some ability to breathe underwater. Due to this rather obvious restriction, stories abound of vast treasures horded by its denizens within its murky depths that few have the stamina or fortitude to reach. Even if an individual somehow does have the ability to traverse under the waves, it is recommended they have at least 5 seasons of experience before attempting to enter these caves.
Typically, a Grand Major House was a familial dynasty that ruled a Tharc.
A Major (or Great) House would usually have its own standing army, flag, symbol, coat-of-arms, and representative colors. Thus, a delicate balance is struck between the Great Houses that oversee Tharcs and the Eight Zulkirs of the Red Wizards.
Each Great House maintained trade and business interests, and some Minor Houses could, over time, be granted Great House status through amassed wealth from entrepreneurial endeavors.
Houses Minor, were aristocratic dynasties that did not rule Tharcs but were regarded as nobility nonetheless, either through bloodlines or through the accumulation of wealth. Houses Minor were frequently guests in the dining halls and entertainment events of Great Houses.
Presumably, Houses Minor would be found in large numbers in Tharcs with strong trade or locations where the Great Houses ruling them maintained large extended families. Some Houses Minor were more famous than others, depending on the items they were known to trade.
Major House Canos Grandest House of the Alaor, Great House Canos commands and oversees the Tharc. Tharchion Thessaloni Canos currently holds the highest position of power within her house. Given that the House directly oversees the bulk of the Thayan navy, it holds great sway both within the tharc of Alaor, as well as the rest of Thay. What is trade without protection? They control a monopoly on the sea routes.
House Dureth is a vassal of House Canos, filling the need for judicious insertions of a small and skilled forces to address issues that arise.
Major House K'nut The K'nuts were one of the most powerful of the old Great Houses in the Alaor. Their forces were sizeable and well trained, supported by one Minor House and several lesser houses.
Following one of the first Thayan military campaigns into Aglarond, their forces were obliterated and their house is no more. Made an example by Aglarond's Simbul, House K'nut was destroyed in a spectacular fashion as the Simbul used far more magic than necessary to accomplish the task. No Red Wizard in their right mind would have faced the Simbul, and even her own subjects in Aglarond sometimes feared and avoided her, thinking her mad.
Following the fall of House K'nut, House Dureth become one of the many Minor Houses to fill the power vacuum and need for skilled military leaders and troops.
Major House Odakul House Odakul is a mercantile Great House with holdings primarily in dockside storage facilities. Their wealth is based entirely on trade and smuggling. Aside from wealth, they have the smallest standing force of any of Alaor's Major Houses, relying mostly on mercenary, assassin, and thieves guilds. Odakul lacks strong leadership from their head of house, rather a reclusive cartel of wealthy merchants appear to control the finances of House Odakul, and thus, House Odakul itself. House Odakul faces stiff competition from House Canos, though is not often at odds with them. Despite its great wealth, they hold no hope in standing toe-to-toe against the forces House Canos can muster, so they resort to more veiled and unseen methods. Most of their holdings are in the larger southern island that houses the majority of Thay's fleet. They have notable but fewer holdings in the smaller northern island.
House Dureth has provided services for both House Canos and House Odakul, it is unknown if House Odakul had a hand in House Dureth's current fate.
Minor House Vonef House Vonef was a Minor House and an ally of House K'nut. House Vonef was renowned throughout the Tharc for its Swordmaster School. Presumably, many Great Houses would send a gifted soldier to be trained at this school. Swordmasters were more than mere soldiers and often functioned as chief tacticians, military advisors, and even tutors to the Houses whom they served. Their holdings were primarily in the northern island.
House Vonef met its end at the hands of the Simbul during House K'nuts Aglarond campaign. This allowed for the rise of House Dureth.
Minor House Kelk House Kelk is a relatively new Minor House. It was supposedly established with assistance from House Odakul. They do not seem to specialize in any form of wealth generating practice. Their few holdings are in the northern island.
The appearance of House Kelk, following the fall of House Dureth in Alaor, is deemed by most to be both suspicious and unwise to speak of.
Minor House Orit House Orit is one of the oldest Minor Houses within the Alaor. The majority of House Orit's wealth is in the slave trade. The increasing numbers of undead servants within Thay has been eating at House Orit's bottom line. House Orit has a long-standing fued with House Vorn for that very reason. Their holdings are evenly spread in both the north and the south island.
House Orit has few relations with House Dureth as their respective fields rarely overlap.
Minor House Kor House Kor is a cautionary tale to any Minor House that might catch the disfavor of the Major Houses as a whole. The House had been all but obliterated, their holdings liquidated following the assassination of the main and secondary branches of their family. History appears to not have deemed it important to note where this House's holdings lie... either that or the information was removed by the powers that be.
House Kor has no relations with House Dureth, as the rise of House Dureth occurred long after the fall of House Kor.
Minor House Vertome A relatively young Minor House, House Vertome specializes in the necromantic arts and the creation of undead servitors. After an intense economic war with House Orit, they won the rights to work the farming fields as their supplied staff did not require rest nor food. Their holdings, though few, are competitively placed on both islands.
House Vertome enjoyed a cool rivalry with House Dureth as the former began to expand into the military field from the labor field prior to the fall of House Dureth.
Minor House Nefeln House Nefeln is a Minor House that trades in faith, protection from the fickle sea for a price. It is very likely that House Nefeln is a political marionette of the priesthood at Istishia's House of Holy Tides. Their holdings were primarily in the south island.
House Dureth was certainly one of the many that paid for good favor and safe passage for their journies.
Minor House Dureth A House known for tradition and shrewd leadership House Dureth was slow to adopt the later habits of other Houses with respect to contracting with Outsiders and heavily relying on the undead. Instead they had a preference for the old magic of summoning fantastic creatures and golems, as well as the study of the traditional longsword. Furthermore, House Dureth's holdings were in a relatively lush area of the Alaor's northern island and there was no wont for change. The House was proficient in war; and maintained Swordmasters, Warmasters and Wizards to train and lead soldiers that often served in a more technical capacity than orc shock troops or gnoll garrisons.
Through contracts and diligent effort and planning, House Dureth had acquired significant respect and credibility in the Alaor. That is until...