The Wine-Dark Sea
General: Tethyr is a land of intrigue. It sports fertile rolling plains, tall mountains, an expansive seacoast, and deep forests. Most of the country is made up of grassland, and most citizens of Tethyr live in settlements along major trade routes through these plains. This abundant realm is a feudal one. Knights ride the roads, and land is essential for status. Common folk are free, and many are members of powerful guilds. Counts select commoners as sheriffs to oversee local areas. The counts answer to dukes subservient to the monarch.
History: Tethyr was once a great forest inhabited by elves and home to Shanatar, an ancient and magnificent dwarven kingdom. Over the centuries, monsters of all sorts have ravaged the lands now within Tethyr’s borders, and the nation has fallen to armies from old Calimshan. More recently, civil war ended with the crowning of Queen-Monarch Zaranda and her consort, King Haedrak III, whose line remains on the throne.
With the chaos of the Spellplague, Calimshan’s disintegration, and troubles with the monsters of Muranndin, the monarchy has weakened. Tethyr is too big to be ruled easily from Darromar, so dukes and counts have little help from the crown. Remote Velen, cut off by Muranndin, used this situation as an excuse to secede from Tethyr in 1423 DR.
Queen Anais has had a troubled rule, starting with the machinations of her half-sister Evonne Linden, who made a play for the throne. In 1469 DR, all the queen’s nieces and nephews were slain in what has come to be called the Children’s Massacre—all except for her niece Ysabel, the only surviving heir to the throne. That same night, in a coordinated attack in another town, Evonne Linden was also killed.
Nevertheless, Anais’s rule has seen a flowering of sorts. Rule has shifted from the ancestral fortress of Castle Tethyr to Darromar. Wealth has been steadily growing, as the roads and sea become safer and safer. From her palace in Darromar, Anais has been able to reinstitute a rule of law that is firm without being Draconian. Attempting to compete with nations like Amn and with the city of Waterdeep, the Queen has made efforts to assemble talented artists, bards, wizards, and scholars of all stripes in a court of ever increasing culture. Needless to say, this has been a long process, and the scholars at Candlekeep find it at once affronting and laughable whenever a new commission for manuscripts comes with the vellum supplies from Tethyr. Some two decades ago, the talent at the court reached enough of a critical mass that the Queen ordered the formation of a school for the arcane. The Queen’s Academy of the Arcane has not yet attained a position of unquestionable repute abroad, but its quality is impressive, particularly in view of its novelty.
Governmental Structure: The social hierarchy in Tethyr is, at first glance, extremely rigid. It derives from a long feudal tradition of production, service, and pageantry. The ruling monarch is the apex of the system, a figure to whom all owe allegiance. The Ducal court in its original form is at once a tool for administering the distribution of agricultural goods through the country and for levying and maintaining troops for the defense of the realm. As of some decades before the Spellplague, a number of prominent, wealthy, and fiercely royalist merchants were elevated to the rank of Duke in the port city of Zazesspur. These families remain dukes, and operate on a similar level to the landholding dukes, administering largescale international trade, and maintaining the Queen’s Navy, an important tool in protecting the foreign trade which has forwarded Tethyr’s international prominence.
Counts have smaller landholdings than Dukes and administer the day to day functions of managing peasant labour, agricultural production, and grain collection and processing. They also maintain the peace locally, appointing prominent and competent local citizens as shreves. Most of the peasantry are involved in agriculture, though every town has its smith, apothecary or chirurgeon, tavern keeper, and other necessary functionaries. In the cities a rising merchant class resides between the Count and the peasantry. While many of these are born and bred in the city, others are citizens of the outlying agricultural areas who have seen an opportunity for social improvement through entrepreneurial endeavor.
Economy: The economy of most of Tethyr is agricultural. Grains of various sorts, wool, grapes in the upland river valleys, and beef are the primary crops. Barleycorn, wheat, and oats form the backbone of Tethryian agriculture. Much of this goes to supplying the local population with groats, flour, and a prolific variety of local dark ales and stouts. Some of the raw grain is exported, but local landowners quickly found that the strong liquor they distilled in small quantities from grain surpluses had a much higher market price abroad. The process is labor and material intensive, as the liquid must be aged for decades in barrels made from old growth forest woods. Thus, this lucrative product has quickly become the domain of Rural Counts and Dukes, who have the space, manpower, and initial investment capital to make a large scale profit. This profit eventually trickles down to the local peasantry, who produce the raw materials, in the form of more frequent feasts thrown by the enriched liege-lord. Pasturage is used for a combined production of wool, mutton, and beef, though the former is by far the most important. Wool production serves the locals, but also forms one of the largest classes of Tethryian export items. Leather is another fairly important byproduct of meat production. Tanners and leather workers from Tethyr are quite skilled, and Tethyr provides a large percentage of the vellum needed by the Scholars of Candlekeep to continue their trade in copied manuscripts. Beef and Mutton are eaten fairly rarely by the local peasantry. They often tend the local Duke’s animals. What few animals a peasant can keep are more valuable for their dairy production or to be sold as meat at the local market. Peasant families can count on slaughtering perhaps two animals for themselves in a year. Any other meat consumption come from holiday feasts at the Dukes manor. Grapes are harvested primarily for wine production. While wine is produced, it is not known for its refinement. Most is a full bodied, acidic red, which most foreigners consider uncouth. Much Tethryian wine does not rate as an export and instead is the staple wine for members of the local elite at all levels. Special occasions merit imported wine. Timber from the forests is also of high quality. It is used extensively for the building of ships of the line in the Queen’s Navy and of merchant ships.
As noted, exports form one part of the Tethryian economy; another, perhaps more important portion, comes from the the placement of Tethyr as a gateway along the North-South trade routes, both by road and by sea. Through the combined income of tariffs, berthing fees, allowances for trading rights, cargo protection, and astute trade speculation, Tethryian merchants have again contributed immensely to the national economy and are key in the revitalization of Tethyr since the Spellplague. This creates some friction between them and established elites, even those who were once merchants themselves.
Adventurers find staves and bows made of Tethryian yew and oak to be of fine quality. Staves are particularly susceptible to magical enchantment. Leather and Hide armor are also of high quality and are simply, but attractively tooled.Cities and Areas: