Proper Name: Empire of the Bright Lands
Ruler: His Percipient Magnificence, the Archmage Rary, Monarch of the Bright Lands (NE male human Wiz20+)
Government: Dictatorship; realm functions as a minor city-state surrounded by barbaric nomad tribes
Capital: No capital; “empire” administered from Rary’s tower in the Brass Hills and through military leaders at outposts throughout the Bright Desert
Major Towns: Ul Bakak (pop. 900)
Provinces: One oasis town, many desert nomadic tribes around the Brass Hills
Coinage: Currently none, but may be produced in near future
Population: 26,500—Human 79% (Fsob), Dwarf 20% (hill), Other 1% (mostly centaurs)
Languages: Flan (native tribesmen), Ancient Suloise (native tribesmen), Baklunish dialects
Alignments: NE*, CN, N, CE
Religions: Beory, Obad-Hai, Pelor (tribesmen); Geshtai, Istus (Paynims); various goblin gods (goblinoids)
Allies: Nomads of the Bright Desert
Enemies: Greyhawk, Duchy of Urnst, Circle of Eight, tribesmen of Abbor-Alz
Overview: In the midst of the Bright Desert, atop the craggy peaks of the Brass Hills, a single tower stands proud, defying the harsh, arid winds. Unlike the hide and cloth tents of the desert’s villages and oasis settlements, this tower is finely crafted of stone, topped by an onion dome common to the Baklunish West. It is the tower of Rary the Traitor.
From this tower, the archmage claims the entire Bright Desert as his personal demesne. From the feet of the Abbor-Alz to the rocky shores of Woolly Bay, armies of desert nomads, goblinoids, and mercenaries ride, enforcing the will of their liege upon the simple folk of the desert, proclaiming every oasis for their reclusive ruler.
As befits its name, the Bright Desert offers an oppressively unpleasant climate, with high summer days hot enough to cook food without fire. Evenings bring cool temperatures. Colorful desert plant life exists, if not thrives, in the more temperate regions near the coast, and along the northern hills, where sickly bushes and centuries-old pine trees live a meager, pathetic existence.
Settlements and Locations within the Empire of the Bright Lands:
- Barren Point
- Brass Hills
- Bright Desert
- Dagger Rock
- Darkbridge Temple, Ruins of
- Fort Whiterock
- Gai Hur
- Geshtai’ Spring
- Kalki’s Leap
- Knife’s Edge Pass
- Kolum Oasis
- Plain of Spears
- Rary’s Tower
- Shembai Oasis
- Tulwar Oasis
- Tower of the Sands
- Twisted Canyon
- Ul Bakak
- Unaagh, Necropolis of
- Unath, The Uplands of
- Utaa, Ruins of
- Var Oasis
- The Zochal
Nomadic villages, a scattered handful of oases, several landmarks, and the few remaining sand-shrouded ruins of once mighty Sulm all lie within the Bright Lands. Primitive villages such as Ul Bakak, Histak and Kalundi act as focal points for the civilization that maintains a precarious toehold here, while other less permanent settlements can be found huddled around oases and along the few seasonal rivulets. Of the permanent settlements located in the Bright, only Ul Bakak yet maintains a precarious neutrality.
No roads cross the Bright Desert. Land closer to the Abbor-Alz tends to be rocky and less sandy than the desert proper, so most caravan routes avoid the heart of Rary’s lands altogether. Sparse traffic from Urnst arrives through Knife’s Edge Pass, though the duke has forbidden all trade with those who fly the banner of the archmage. Hardby, however, is not so moralistic. Despite strict instructions from Greyhawk, the despotrix of Hardby personally (though secretly) authorizes trade with Rary’s go-betweens in the neutral village of Ul Bakak, on the eastern end of Hardby Pass.
Rary’s armies are commanded by the doughty Lord Robilar. They range far and wide, seeking out enemies of the state, protecting emissaries to enclaves in the Abbor-Alz, or causing trouble for local tribes and desert centaurs, who resent claims of empire upon their sovereign homelands. The independent and reclusive dwarves of the Abbor-Alz have not yet been troubled by Rary or Robilar’s forces.
History: The roots of evil in the Bright Desert grow deep within the ground, beneath the shifting, windswept sand to the unhallowed ruins of an ancient civilization. The remnants of that fallen land’s people, primarily Flan nomads, have populated the desert for ages. In the more than two thousand years since cities last flourished here, few nomads had conquered enough territory, or gathered enough pretense, to claim anything approaching statehood.
That changed in Harvester 584 CY, thanks to disastrous events in the city of Greyhawk. The Day of Great Signing was to have been a celebration of the end of three years of brutal conflict that touched nearly every nation in the Flanaess. Instead, the day ended prematurely in a brilliant display of destructive magical fire that swallowed the building where the event was to have taken place only hours later.
When the smoke cleared, two archmages, Tenser and Otiluke, lay dead. A badly wounded third, Bigby of Scant, claimed that their assailant had been their one-time ally, Rary, member of the Circle of Eight. Rary and his co-conspirator, the wily Lord Robilar, were nowhere to be found, and Rary’s Tower in Lopolla, also vanished. Months later, the duo and the tower surfaced in the Bright Desert. Robilar led his fanatically loyal men from desert village to desert village, systematically defeating the local warlords and incorporating their warriors into an ever-growing army. Rary, too, had transported several bands of Paynim horsemen from the west, who promised glorious death in service to the mage they called “The Rider.” Early victories against nonhumans and the Tukim, the most powerful human tribe in the desert, bolstered the armies. Few openly defied this powerful force.
Wherever the armies went, so too ventured immoral adventurers in Rary’s employ. These humans, mostly sages and enchanters, scoured the desert, paying particular attention to local ancient ruins. Rary seldom left his tower, but all knew that he sought some object rumored to be terrible and powerful.
Rary’s forces have grown significantly since 584 CY. More than ninety percent of the desert nomads now swear fealty to the Monarch of the Bright Lands. The native desert centaurs, who remained neutral immediately after Rary’s arrival, now bitterly oppose Robilar’s armies. In 589 CY, Chief Strongbow, an influential leader and strong proponent of balancing the nomads against Rary and staying out of the conflict, was found murdered in his quarters. Though there was very little proof, the young bucks among the centaurs called for a guerilla war against the westerners—a plan that has met with some success.
Despite the centaur attacks and certain stubborn native tribes, Rary’s searches continue, often with frustrating consequences. In late 590, an entire company of Robilar’s best Paynim and nomad guards vanished while investigating an abandoned necropolis. Rary’s response, ordering Lord Robilar’s own personal guard after the lost soldiers, so enraged the warrior that he left his post for a week, not returning until he single-handedly slew an old blue dragon that had been considering an alliance with the archmage. The two have patched up their differences, but tensions between them remain strong.
It has been suggested that all is not as it seems here. Rary was renowned for his complex plotting in the Circle of Eight, and some of his former associates refuse to believe that he has turned to evil of his own accord. Still, rumors that the former Archmage of Ket now consorts with fiends have caused most of his family and friends to brand him a traitor forevermore.
Conflicts and Intrigues: Thousands of desert folk have suffered under Rary’s armies. Many fear that he is close to achieving or finding that for which he searches; few believe the result will benefit anyone but him. Robilar, though a villain, has a soft spot for adventurers, and he is tired of playing catch-up with Rary’s schemes. If there exists a path into the archmage’s organization, it likely lies through friendship with this gregarious one-time lord of Greyhawk.