Beneath skies of ash and cinder lies the broken landscape of Thay. A forbidding place, much of Thay consists of badlands, deserts, rugged mountains, cinder cones, and active volcanoes that belch forth plumes of toxic steam and rain flaming debris on the lands below. Thay is a nation dedicated to magic and death—a land where undead are not only common, they hold great power. As long as there has been a Thay, it has been a ruthless magocracy, ruled by the sinister Red Wizards. But only in the years since the Spellplague have the Red Wizards been dominated by the dead.
The regent Szass Tam and his Council of Zulkirs—liches all—rule this warring, slaving nation with fists of bone and iron, and under their tyrannical dominion, the undead are the masters of Thay. They roam the land, twitching legions of rotten flesh that wait for the day when the lich-lord sends them forth in the name of conquest. Where life exists, it suffers terribly in the form of slaves, playthings, and chattel to be sacrificed, sold, or remade into undead thralls. Slavers prowl ruined cities, searching for fresh meat to sell on the auction blocks, while roaming bands of gnolls scour the rugged countryside for sacrifices to offer up to their masters.
Most of those who grow up under this regime don’t realize there is another way to live. They may live in fear or servitude, but they don’t find life in Thay abnormal. Those who have the proper magical skills and mindset can
even carve out their own place within the necromantic order. Yet not all accept the hellish landscape this country has become.
Many Red Wizards chafe under the rule of Szass Tam, remembering that Thay was once a land of learning and power. Now, death scours Thay while the lich lord ignores all concerns other than his quest to become a god. If his mad plans are left to run their course, no one in the country will be left alive to worship him.
In response to this threat, wizards of all schools of magic except necromancy founded the Thayan Resurrection, a secret rebel organization whose goal is the overthrow of Szass Tam and the necromancers from their rule of Thay. For all the power that the lich lord has accumulated, he has yet to fully stamp out these rebels. who occasionally stage uprisings to oppose him.
Part of the steadfastness of the group’s members arises from the horrors that led to the current tyranny. Amid the chaos leading up to the Spellplague, Szass Tam set in motion a series of events which would make him the one true power in Thay. Prior to his elevation to supreme ruler, the land was a slave-state ruled by a council of eight powerful mages known as zulkirs, each of whom specialized in a different school of magic. In those days, the lich Szass Tam was the zulkir of necromancy. He arranged the murders of the zulkirs of transmutation and evocation, crafted an army of undead from the bodies of slaves and prisoners of war, and falsified an invasion attempt by Rashemen, which he took credit for stopping.
By creating a climate of fear and demonstrating his own power, Tam made the people of the Thay believe only he could save the nation. When his attempt to make himself «temporary regent» was denied by his fellow zulkirs, he fomented riots which he himself put down, taking control over garrison commanders and summoning demons to kill the rioters while blaming the zulkir of conjuration for their presence. Eventually, Szass named himself regent, removing the existing zulkirs from power and replacing them with liches in his service. As a result, Thay is now ruled by necromancers rather than wizards of all kinds, and many those who were loyal to the other zulkirs yearn for their return to rule.
The movement was disorganized for much of its existence, but during the Second Sundering it was reinvigorated by some new leaders, including the former Red Wizard Umara Ankhlab and her ally, the Turmish corsair Anton Marivaldi.
Some dissatisfaction with the regime has been quelled in the last decade. For nearly a century, Szass Tam’s promoted undeath as the ultimate path to power, and held back those who disagreed, but recent battles with the demon Eltab prompted him to loosen this stricture. The living now have a hope of ascending within the Red Wizards, even if that hope is merely to advance to a high station within the cadre of Tam’s servants.
Nevertheless, necromancers are still highly favored, and many who follow other arcane traditions seek the equal opportunities of the past. Wizards are not the only rebels. Smugglers and pirates recruited by Anton Marivaldi see an opportunity to create a land where non-wizards can wield real power, and many of those who know the truth behind Thay’s demonic invasion seek revenge for the deaths of loved ones at the hands of fiends.
By necessity, the Thayan Resurrection avoids concentrating their activities or membership in any one location, but the Red Wizard rebels maintain control of a magical “Gatehouse” containing several permanent teleportation circles, within sight of the shore of Lake Thaylambar, not far from Thay’s former capital of Eltabbar. Syranna, the Overseer of the Gatehouse, can these circles to many strategic locations for the rebels and their allies. Rumors say Syranna and Mennek Ariz, a Red Wizard enchanter, seek help from adventurers to foil Szass Tam’s plans to attain godhood.
One of the first places outside Thay that members of this movement attracted notice was Neverwinter, where exiled Thayan Resurrection members—led by an exiled Red Wizard illusionist called Rath Modar—fed information to Lord Neverember about the plans of Valindra Snowmantle, an Overwizard of the Arcane Brotherhood who was also an aspiring ally of Szass Tam. In response, Lord Neverember led his armed forces to war against Valindra and her forces.
During the events known as the Tyranny of Dragons, Rath Modar led exiled members of the Thayan Resurrection living on the Sword Coast to ally with the Cult of the Dragon. In fact, their aid was key to the cult’s plans to open a gate from Avernus and allow Tiamat to return to the Realms. Modar’s plan was to ask the Dragon Queen’s aid in overthrowing Tam after performing this deed for her, but interfering adventurers and an alliance of the Harpers, Zhentarim, Lords Alliance, Order of the Gauntlet, and Emerald Enclave defeated the cult’s ambitions. It is unknown whether Rath Modar survived, and whether rumors that Szass Tam’s own forces aided in the cult’s final defeat are true.
The group’s membership ranges from sincere revolutionaries, hoping for a land more adapted to human life. to power-hungry individuals who want to replace one ruler with another. Many upstarts cause trouble on a small scale in their own bids to attain power, but small pockets of freedom fighters hope to break from Thay’s inglorious past and guide the nation to a new future. Members of the Thayan Resurrection are structured in autonomous cells composed of just a few members, in order to make it difficult for Tam’s followers to destroy them with a single blow. The folk of Thay have always believed that the gods sent luck to the strong and resolute, not to the gentle and compassionate, and these rebels make strength and resolution their watchwords in their struggle.
The Thayan Resurrection can be divided into two groups on the basis of geography. Those in the most danger dwell in Thay itself, covertly waging their hidden war against the hated lich lord from within. These are primarily members of the Mulan ruling class, with their shaved heads and elaborate tattoos, but occasionally their operations require the aid of the Rashemi save class as well. Since they know their lives could end at any time, most domestic Thayan Resurrection members are careful and cautious, but they also seek to make every moment count. They avoid most risks, but when a risk stands to strike a real blow against Tam’s tyranny, they take it. When death is inevitable, to seek to end their lives in ways that will prevent their transformation into servants of the necromancers.
The second group consists of the many Thayan exiles who fled the rule of Szass Tam for other parts of the Realms. Until the end of the Tyranny of Dragons, Rath Modar was the most well-known leader of this group. So great is the lich lord’s wrath that every single one of these exiles is under an immediate sentence of death if they should ever fall into the clutches of the Red Wizards or their agents. These exiles have recently become aware of agents of Thay seeking wielders of spellfire of various kinds as subjects for yet another series of experiments designed to vault Szass Tam into godhood, and they seek to stop these agents at every turn, though often the rare and secretive wielders of spellfire are loathe to trust anyone related to Thay, even if they claim to be rebels.