The Stockwood Scrolls
Today, common most folk equate “Red Wizard” with merchants of magical goods rather than with the sinister nation of Thay, but the title has a far more convoluted history.
In times past the Red Wizards were most associated with the nation of Thay. There they once ruled in council of eight zulkirs, who were the most powerful wizards of the land, each specializing in a different school of magic. Even in those times, the Red Wizards had a reputation for being cruel humans who relied on slavery to provide them with the wealth and luxury they needed to support either their magical research and/or their dreams of conquest, depending on the individual. However, around 1385 DR Szass Tam, the zulkir of necromancy, overthrew the council and murdered the other zulkirs, proclaiming himself the Thayan Regent.
Since that day the Red Wizards have been split into two main factions – those loyal to Szass Tam, and those who are not – most of whom had fled the country. The Red Wizards of Thay have largely isolated themselves from the world to pursue the grand schemes of Szass Tam, which often involve conquest of nearby realms or the pursuit of even greater arcane power. Such schemes have been foiled multiple times either by heroic adventurers or the “rebel” Red Wizards over the past century.
However, Thay is a nation very far from the cities of the Sword Coast, and as such many are completely unaware of such schemes. Due to Thay’s isolation and the increasing prevalence of Red Wizard traders throughout Faerûn with no association to Szass Tam, most people now think of “Red Wizards” as magic-item merchants, and little more. This has allowed the Thayans to reopen embassies in many major Sword Coast cities, including Waterdeep.
Those Red Wizards not loyal to Szass Tam either fled Thay, or were not present during the Thayan Regent’s purges of the subsequent century. The latter group persists as a small confederacy of magic-item dealers, still calling themselves “Red Wizards”, operating primarily in the coastal cities around the Sea of Fallen Stars – enjoying no protection from Thay. In fact, Szass Tam has declared all Red Wizards that do not declare their loyalty to him as enemies of the state, an offence punishable by death and worse.
A splinter group of these “rebel” Red Wizards, led by the illusionist Rath Modar, have since allied with the Cult of the Dragon, and are key players in the attempt to return the goddess Tiamat to the world. Although Modar met his end at the hands of the Heroes of Skyreach, a successor eventually arose in Vengal Nahumon, a powerful conjurer. Under Vengal’s leadership, the Red Wizards have worked more closely with devils of the Nine Hells, even going so far as to create an arcane forcefield around the Well of Dragons powered by hellish energy sourced from Avernus. Some of these Red Wizards also played a key role in the Virgin Square Massacre, something which would not soon be forgotten by the citizens of Waterdeep.