Forgotten Realms: Empire of Ashes
The Empire of Netheril
The greatest magical empire in the history of humanity has returned from the grave. The immortal Netherese Patricians – once-human mage-aristocrats who have existed outside of reality for millennia – rule from the Black Citadels, darkly magnificent flying cities that act as the nexus of Imperial power. In the occupied lands, order is kept by the faceless Legions, black-armored soldiers who execute the orders of their Patrician commanders without question or hesitation. The enslaved populace cowers beneath the harsh rule of their new governors, awaiting whatever unknown fate their masters have in store for them.
The Prelacy of Thanatos
Servants or allies of the Empire, the Circle of Bones was a shaky, opportunistic alliance of several nefarious factions that aided the Empire in their original conquest of the south. The remnants of that alliance, the undead Prelacy of Thanatos, now hold the lands of Amn, Tethyr, and Calimshan – nominally in the name of the Empire, but few doubt that Orcus, the vengeful demon prince behind the Prelacy, has plans of his own. Dark magics have blotted out the sun over these lands, and the unliving servants of the High Prelates roam the countryside at will.
The Thayan Protectorate
The Red Wizards of Thay, fortified in their mountain sanctuaries, are among the last holdouts against Imperial dominion of Faerun. When they were able to mount a magical counter-attack powerful enough to drive back one of the Black Citadels, and promised even more powerful retribution should Imperial aggression persist, they forced an uneasy truce, and a halt (or at least a several-year hiatus) in the Empire’s eastward advances. They have extended their protection to several neighboring nations (read: buffer states), and doubtless search for a way to turn the situation to their own advantage.
Hidden pockets of resistance survive, even within Imperial lands; the Underdark as a whole remains largely free of Imperial influence thus far. Unlikely alliances have formed against the common foe, and onetime enemies struggle together to break the Empire’s stranglehold – the Alliance of Fallen Stars in the east, whose core includes the remaining Harpers and the Prince-in-Exile of Cormyr, and the Moonshae Alliance in the west, lead by the surviving Lords of Waterdeep and the elves of Evermeet.
Lands Yet Free
A few lands still lie beyond the reach of the Empire, at least so far. When the Thayans halted the Legions’ first sweeping campaign across Faerun, they almost inadvertently extended their umbrella of protection as far as the Chondalwood, the Vilhon Reach, and the various islands in the Sea of Fallen Stars. In the south, the Prelacy found themselves unable to make much progress into the jungles of the Chultan peninsula, nor into the veldt-lands of the Shaar. Armies that tried to penetrate these fronts vanished into the wilds, never to be seen again … popular theories include Halruaan, Thayan, or even Yuan-ti involvement in these events, but little is known for sure. A circle of human and elven arch-mages (including several dark elves) cursed the forest of Cormanthor to ensure that the Empire couldn’t plunder the potent magics of Myth Drannor; the druids of the Great Dale called upon a terrifying, primal spirit of the forest to protect their lands.