Netherese Ethnicity in Faerûn | World Anvil


The Netherese were a human ethnic group that were dominant in Faerûn prior to Dalereckoning. The Netherese are most closely associated with the empire of Netheril, which was founded in -3856 DR by Nether the Elder. The defining feature of Netheril was its flying enclaves, cities that floated high in the air over the land for thousands of years.


The Netherese began south of a body of water called the Narrow Sea, which has since been replaced by the High Ice and the Frozen Sea. They existed in a multitude of small fishing communities in the shadow of Eaerlann, a wood and moon elf kingdom. The human villages eventually formed a confederation in -3859 DR named the Alliance of Seventon, but this was renamed to Netheril (meaning Nether's Land) a few years later at the demand of the shaman king Nether the Elder. Two decades later, the elves of Eaerlann formally established diplomatic relations with Netheril, and offered to instruct its inhabitants in the Art. This began the Netherese tradition of magical ability. Every citizen was taught at least the basics of magic, and even commoners widely knew cantrips.

Nether Scrolls

Three hundred years after contact with the Eaerlanni, a group of Netherese researchers discovered the Nether Scrolls within the ruins of Aryvandaar. While there are a number of competing theories on the origins of the Scrolls, the most common theory is that they were created by the Sarrukh; a reptilian creator race that existed over thirty millennia ago during the Days of Thunder. The sheer amount of magical knowledge and theories contained within the Scrolls caused a drastic upheaval within Netherese society, and they abandoned elvish magic in favour of the new kind detailed in the Nether Scrolls. The Nether Scrolls form the basis of modern magical tradition, carried down through practices created by the Netherese.

Mythallars and Enclaves

The invention of the first mythallar by the archwizard Ioulaum in -3014 DR heralded another drastic change in Netherese society. Quasi-magical items could be created at a tenth the cost of traditional magic items. While quasi-magical items only functioned in the radius of a mythallar, they did not require the sacrifice of life-force to create. The creation of mythallars led to a burgeoning middle class focused on crafting and trading quasi-magical items. However, sixty years later, the first enclave was raised with the aid of a mythallar - a flying city, hovering high above the ground. Over the next several centuries, hundreds of flying Netherese enclaves were raised. This led to the split of the Netherese culture into High Netherese (those living in luxury and safety in flying enclaves) and Low Netherese (those living in the demesnes below).

Over the course of millennia, the Netherese came to dominate human society in Faerûn. Their incredible magical advancements, life extension, exploration, and architecture were (and continue to be) widely renowed. However, the amount of magic that Netheril tapped into came with a price. The magical residue left over from Netherese magic seeped into the ground, causing great harm to subterranean creatures called the phaerimm. In -461 DR, the phaerimm began casting a spell that drained the life and magic from Netherese lands and enclaves in an attempt to save themselves. This magic created barren wastelands from lush fields, and in at least two cases caused the mythallars of enclaves to fail, dropping the cities from the sky.

Karsus' Folly

As the effects of the phaerimm spell worsened, many Netherese fled for other lands. In a last-ditch effort to save his people and empire, the archwizard Karsus developed a spell called karsus' avatar in -340 DR. Using this spell the following year, he attempted to wrest divinity from the goddess of magic herself, Mystryl. However, as the six-hour long ritual finished and the spell was cast, the Weave was thrown into chaos. Mystryl, unable to prevent the Weave from tearing itself apart, sacrificed herself and blocked the connection between Karsus and the Weave. This momentarily caused all magic within Realmspace to cease functioning - including the mythallars that kept the Netherese enclaves aloft. In his last moments, as he turned to stone, Karsus witnessed almost every Netherese enclave plumment from the sky.

In the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Netheril, there still remained many Netherese survivors. Even though Mystryl died, she was almost instantly replaced by Mystra, the new goddess of magic, who was able to save three Netherese enclaves. One group from these enclaves would head south, eventually founding the nation of Halruaa. Another group, guided by the dwarves of Ascore, went on to settle in the dwarven realm of Delzoun. One of the first acts of the new goddess of magic was to enact Mystra's Ban - preventing mortals from casting any spell higher than 9th level, and preventing the tragedy of Karsus' Folly from ever happening again.


The legacy of Netheril and its people can be felt all across Faerûn. The phaerimm spell continued until it drained all the life from the old empire, creating the Anauroch Desert. However, they were eventually defeated by the mysterious sharn, trapped behind a shimmering magic wall. The magic developed from the Nether Scrolls continues to be the basis of most modern magic in Faerûn and most of Realmspace. Many magic items, such as the ioun stones, have been left behind in fallen enclaves and later discovered by intrepid explorers - either to be used or replicated.

The Netherese themselves, for the most part, ceased to exist. Most of the High Netherese were killed as their cities were destroyed, with the few survivor states falling to outside invasion. The High Netherese people eventually were absorbed into the Chondathan and Vaasan ethnic groups. While the Low Netherese mostly survived Karsus' Folly, they had their life force drained by the phaerimm spell. As such, in the 5th century DR, they departed from their homelands. One group went west, merging with the Illuskan people. Another group traveled southwest, being absorbed by the Tethyrians.

Empire of Shadows

In the days before the casting of karsus' avatar, Lord Shadow, leader of the enclave of Thultanthar, successfully shifted his city into the Shadowfell. However, the city was unable to return for several weeks. When it reappeared back in the Material Plane, its inhabitants found their empire completely destroyed. Although plans were made to exact vengeance on the phaerimm, who were assumed to be responsible, they were abandoned and the city transported back into the Shadowfell. Over the course of nearly two millennia, the people of Thultanthar fought the denizens of the Shadowfell and became infused by its energy, becoming known as the Shadovar.

The city returned to the Material Plane once more on 1 Hammer 1372 DR, appearing above the High Forest. It repositioned itself to over the Anauroch Desert shortly after it appeared. In 1374 DR, the nation of Sembia became a vassal of the newly-restored empire of Netheril, also known as the Empire of Shadows. The Shade Princes expanded their empire, with Sembia becoming a protectorate by the start of the 15th century DR. A number of annexations in the Dalelands in the following decades further expanded Netheril. In 1484 DR, as the Second Sundering struck Faerûn, Sembia took the opportunity to invade the Dalelands. Cormyr came to their ally's aid, and Netheril invaded Cormyr in return. Although Shadovar forces came to the gates of Suzail, the empire was defeated and withdrew from Cormyr.

Having been defeated in Cormyr, the Empire of Shadows instead turned its attention to the city of Myth Drannor and its powerful mythal. The ruler of Thultanthar, Telamont Thanthul, intended to use it to allow Shar to usurp Mystra as the goddess of magic. However, his plans were foiled by the Netherese lich and arcanist Larloch, who instead intended to become the new god of magic himself. Larloch in turn was foiled by Elminster Aumar, who disabled Thultanthar's mythallar and brought it down atop the now-evacuated Myth Drannor, destroying both cities and the empire of Netheril for good.
Encompassed species


  • -3859 DR

    Alliance of Seventon

    The Alliance of Seventon is founded south of the Narrow Sea (modern day High Ice and Frozen Sea). The confederation consists of seven fishing villages seeking mutual protection.

    North Faerûn
  • -3856 DR

    Renaming to Netheril
    Diplomatic action

    Demanding increasingly greater tribute from the Alliance of Seventon, the shaman king Nether the Elder has the Alliance renamed to Netheril, meaning "Nether's Land".

    North Faerûn
  • -3830 DR

    Elvish Magical Instruction
    Political event

    The elves of Eaerlann formally establish diplomatic relations with Netheril and begin instructing humans in the Art.

  • -3533 DR

    Discovery of the Nether Scrolls
    Discovery, Exploration

    Netherese researchers discover the Nether Scrolls amid the ruins of Aryvandaar. The Netherese abandon the forms of magic taught by their elven neighbours to instead adopt the kind provided by the Scrolls. The majority of arcane magic in present-day Faerûn is based on the theories established by the Nether Scrolls.

    Additional timelines
  • -3014 DR

    Mythallar Invented
    Scientific achievement

    The archwizard Ioulaum invents the mythallar, a magical device that is able to dig deep into the Weave to create quasi-magical items.

  • -2954 DR

    Xinlenal Established

    The archwizard Ioulaum raises the first of the Netherese enclaves, Xinlenal. This begins the split between High Netheril and Low Netheril, and the practice of an archwizard dictating an enclave's laws.

  • -2642 DR

    Palter Established

    The enclave of Palter is established by the archwizard Halavar. It becomes known as a bastion of magical innovation and progress.

  • -2612 DR

    Orbedal Established

    The enclave of Orbedal, also known as Sanctuary, is established. It is created as a haven for peace, promoting non-violent behaviour among the Netherese.

  • -2510 DR

    Spiel Established

    The enclave of Spiel is established. It becomes a centre of learning for Netheril, hosting more universities and educational institutions in the city than taverns and festhalls.

  • -2267 DR

    Aquessir Established

    The enclave of Aquessir, also known as Shadowtop Borough, is established. Aquessir becomes notable for its friendly disposition towards outsiders, unlike many other Netherese enclaves.

  • -2019 DR

    Akintaer Estabished

    The enclave of Akintaer, also known as Quagmire, is established. It later becomes known for its worship of Targus and the strength of its army.

  • -2019 DR

    Jockteleg Established

    The enclave of Jockteleg is established by the wizard Quantoul as a center for variator (most similar to modern transmutation) arts.

  • -1926 DR

    Selûnarra Established

    The enclave of Selûnarra, also known as Opus, is established by the mentalist Chever. In time, the city becomes known for its artists, performers, and scholarly minds, and is a cultural hotspot.

  • -1647 DR

    Phylornel Established

    The enclave of Phylornel, also called Buoyance, is established by the archwizard Buoyance. It is notable that it floats a very short distance from the ground, two hundred feet - as opposed to the thousands of feet or miles of other enclaves.

  • -1471 DR

    Thultanthar Established

    The enclave of Thultanthar, also known as Shadow, is established.

  • -1401 DR

    Delia Established

    The enclave of Delia is raised by Lady Polaris with the aid of druids and elves. They later depart after the enclave becomes more typically Netherese.

  • -1227 DR

    Nhalloth Established

    The enclave of Nhalloth is established over the Sea of Fallen Stars.

  • -1114 DR

    Spelljamming Developed
    Scientific achievement

    Netheril begins experimenting with spelljammers, taking occasional journeys into the wildspace around Toril.

  • -1014 DR

    Spelljamming Abandoned
    Political event

    Netheril abandons spelljamming, having determined that it is too dangerous and expensive. They refocus on exploring Toril instead.

  • -674 DR

    Eileanar Established

    The enclave of Eileanar, also known as Karsus' Enclave, is established by the wizard Karsus of Netheril.

  • -502 DR

    Lathery Established

    The enclave of Lathery is established by the arcanist Veridon. Its mythallar uses a continuous teleport spell to catch massive quantities of fish (and other creatures) from the Narrow Sea.

  • -461 DR

    Phaerimm Magic Begins
    Metaphysical / Paranormal event

    Unbeknownst to the Netherese, their mass use of magic is destroying the underground homes of the phaerimm. In an effort to ensure their own survival, the phaerimm develop and cast a powerful spell that begins to drain the life from Netherese lands and their flying enclaves.

  • -343 DR

    Destruction of Ythryn
    Disaster / Destruction

    The enclave of Ythryn's mythallar fails, causing it to plumment into the Reghed Glacier. The goddess Auril claims the ruined city as a prize, sealing it in ice.

  • -342 DR

    Aquessir Destroyed
    Disaster / Destruction

    The enclave of Aquessir is destroyed when its mythallar fails, due to the influence of the Crown of Horns.

  • -339 DR

    Thultanthar Disappears
    Metaphysical / Paranormal event

    The enclave of Thultanthar is shifted into the Shadowfell mere days before Karsus attempts apotheosis. Unable or unwilling to return after Karsus' Folly, it stays in the plane for over a millennia.

  • -339 DR

    Karsus' Folly
    Disaster / Destruction

    The wizard Karsus casts the spell karsus' avatar in attempt to usurp the goddess of magic, Mystryl. It backfires horribly, causing Mystryl to sacrifice herself to protect the Weave. This causes all magic to cease functioning for a short time - including the magic that keeps the flying enclaves aloft. Most of Netheril is destroyed in a matter of minutes.


1 DR and beyond

  • 1372 DR

    1 Hammer

    Return of Thultanthar
    Population Migration / Travel

    The enclave of Thultanthar returns from the Shadowfell, appearing above the High Forest. Its inhabitants, infused with the energy of the Shadowfell and transformed into the Shadovar, begin re-establishing the empire of Netheril.

  • 1484 DR

    1486 DR

    Cormyr-Netheril War
    Military action

    Sembia invades the Dalelands, and Cormyr aids the latter. While Cormyr's defences are weakened, forces from Thultanthar attack across the Stormhorns. Despite heavy casualties, Cormyr is able to repel both invasions and win the war.

  • 1487 DR

    Destruction of Thultanthar
    Military action

    The lich Larloch takes over the minds of many citizens of Thultanthar, and attempts to seize the power of the mythal in Myth Drannor. While the elvish city is evacuated by his fellow Chosen of Mystra, Elminster Aumar disables Thultanthar's mythallar, sending it crashing onto Myth Drannor and destroying both cities.


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Sep 9, 2022 14:46

You have done a good job condensing a lot of the information out there into the word limit. The article could use some pictures or other things to break up the formatting a bit more and help with readability, but it is broken up nicely. I also understand the desire to not just grab official artwork be another Forgotten Realms Wiki, art is a challenge.

Feel free to stop by some of my WorldEmber articles if you want. My favorites are The Book of the Unquiet Dead, Outpost of the Moons, and The Emerald Hills. Feedback is always appreciated.
Sep 9, 2022 14:52 by Chips Dubbo

Thanks for liking it! I'd use art if I could, but I prefer to use content I know I have permission for.

Why not come visit the fantasy realms of Faerûn? Or our spacefaring future in the Milky Way?
Sep 15, 2022 14:22 by K.S. Bishoff

This was well put together

Come vist my worlds
Sep 15, 2022 17:17 by Chips Dubbo

Thank you!

Why not come visit the fantasy realms of Faerûn? Or our spacefaring future in the Milky Way?