About the Dales
The people of the Dales are honest farmers and craftsmen, simple folk who believe in a day's work and a square deal. They are a tough, hardy race who has thrived despite the efforts of larger and more powerful neighbors. While they have little use for brigands or vagrants, they also recognize that skilled adventurers are their first line of defense against the threats that surround them.
What are the Dales?
The Dales are a group of small farming communities scattered throughout the vast expanse of the ancient Elven Court. As the forest has receded over time, the Dales have moved as well, continually encroaching on the old forest. In most cases, the Dales were not carved from the forest by fire and axe, but rather grew in the unforested areas between the arms of the forest. The Dales were first settled more than 1,300 years ago by humans who had permission from the elves of Myth Drannor. Recognizing no superior government, the Dales remain a loose confederation of small towns and farmlands.
Who are the Dalesmen?
The first settlers of the region were immigrants from across the Dragon Reach, but the modern Dalesmen have become a "nation" of tough, independent folk who are ready and willing to fight to preserve what is theirs. Other countries see Dalesmen as rustic and xenophobic people, but, few Dalesmen care what other people think of them.
What's There to Do in the Dales?
Most Dalesmen would be offended by that question. If you don't have an honest trade or craft to ply, perhaps you shouldn't stay in the Dales very long. But the fact remains that the Dalelands attract a large population of adventurers, both active and retired, and are home to some of the most interesting and powerful individuals in Faerûn.
Dalesmen are nothing if not adaptable, and they have grown accustomed to the presence of large numbers of glory-seekers and treasure hounds. Fortunately, there is plenty to keep wandering adventuring companies busy.
The borderlands around the Dales are the home of evil raiders and bandits. The mysteries of the ancient elven realm of Cormanthor beckon in the dark shadows of the wood. And older, more sinister ruins can be found scattered through the entire region. A ready sword and true heart won't lack for excitement in the Dales.
History of the Dales
Roughly 1,400 years ago, humans began to settle the regions surrounding the ancient elven forest of Cormanthor. The nations of Cormyr and Sembia took shape as small trading posts, slowly growing larger and more populous. The Dalesmen's ancestors immigrated to the area from the old cities of Impiltur and Damara, and asked the Lords of the Elven Court for permission to settle the rich borderlands of the forest.
The elves agreed, in return for the settlers' promise to aid the elves against non-human raiders and the encroachment of the growing human lands. To mark the agreement, men and elves together raised the Standing Stone in the heart of the elven forests. The raising of the Stone is considered to be the beginning of Dalereckoning (DR), the calendar that is commonly used in the area (and throughout this accessory.)
The Dalesmen settled only the unforested regions or areas unclaimed by the elves. Invaders and settlers later pushed into the forest, clearing lands and driving back the borders of ancient Cormanthor. As the woods receded, old Dales were abandoned and new ones founded closer to the new borders. During the early years of the Dales, the elves, remained as a strong and vital presence. In those days, the city of Myth Drannor was a center of learning and civilization, and was open to scholars and students of all races. By 660 DR, Myth Drannor was at the peak of its power and beauty. But the golden age was not to last.
Throughout its history, Myth Drannor had been besieged by endless armies of orcs, ogres, and worse who rose from time to time in the empty lands beyond the Moonsea. But in 712 DR, a power arose that made the other hordes pale in comparison. A dark archmage or other power summoned horrible fiends to lead the armies of the north. Captained by nycaloths, the Army of Darkness succeeded where the other hordes had not, and Myth Drannor was destroyed.
The elves eventually grew strong enough to reclaim their forests, but Myth Drannor was left in ruins. They continued to protect their woodlands as best they could In 884 DR, the elves defeated a large Sembian army at the Battle of Singing Arrows. But the encroachment of human nations was not slowed by this defeat.
One of the evil realms bordering on the ancient forest was the Land Under Shadow, which eventually became known as Shadowdale. Dominated by drow from the Underdark, it was the center of their surface realm and used as a marshaling ground for raids against the surrounding peoples. However, like the Elven Court, the Land Under Shadow was also pressed by human settlement. In 834 DR, Castle Grimstead was built to oppose the Twisted Tower of Ashaba and contest the control of Shadowdale. Although the drow eventually destroyed the rival fortress, they were driven from the Twisted Tower in 906 DR. The village of Shadowdale was founded in the shadow of the ancient keep.
At about the same time, Sembia threw off the chains of Chondath and became independent. A young, strong nation of traders, Sembia's wealth and power have grown ever since, and it is one of the principal realms of the Inner Sea today.
Over the years, several people or powers have tried to unify the Dales, but only one man ever came close to succeeding. In 1030 DR a warrior named Aencar became the Warlord of Battledale. A number of the Dales were hard-pressed by incursions of orc tribes and other monsters, and in 1038 DR Aencar united the Dales to face the common threat.
Aencar was known as the Mantled King, but he was left with little time to rule. His reign was a constant battle to drive out invaders, and he spent six years fighting the enemies of the Dales. In 1044 DR, he was slain by a sorcerer's minions, and without his leadership, the federation of the Dalelands drifted apart.
The first major inter-dale war occurred in 1232 DR. Archendale marched against Sessrendale, claiming that foul necromancy and evil raiders had found a harbor within their neighbor's borders. Sessrendale's ruler was a mysterious person known as the Dusk Lord, and during the war that followed, the forces of Sessrendale were supported by powerful magic. After three weeks, the superior forces of Archendale broke the Dusk Lord's resistance, and the Dalelord was slain. The Swords of Archendale ordered the utter destruction of the vanquished land, burning the buildings and salting the earth to annihilate Sessrendale.
A second inter-dale war occurred much more recently in 1356 DR, when Lashan of Scardale attacked and overran Harrowdale, Featherdale, and Battledale. The young lord dreamed of carving an empire out of the scattered Dalelands, but his success earned him the enmity of the other Dales as well as Cormyr, Sembia, Hillsfar, and even Zhentil Keep. The alliance crushed Scardale's invasions of Deepingdale and Mistledale, and Lashan's empire collapsed overnight.
The Dales have survived a number of foreign invasions as well as internecine strife. From time to time, dragons have attacked the Dales. Usually these are solitary affairs, but in 1356 DR - only 11 years ago - hundreds of powerful dragons overflew the cities of the Moonsea and the Dalelands. One of these, a strong red dragon, attacked Shadowdale and died at the hands of the witch Sylune, who herself died in the dragon's fall.
In the same year, King Azoun of Cormyr seized the free town of Tilverton in Tilver's Gap. To this day, Dalesmen find Cormyr's strength and imperialism to be a cause for concern. While Cormyr is a good, well-ruled realm, they are suspicious of Azoun's motives and believe that he plans to unify the Dales under Cormyr's flag.
Cormyr and Sembia are not the greatest threat to the Dalelands' independence, though. To the north of the Elven Court lie the powerful city-states of the Moonsea, including black Zhentil Keep. Teshendale was attacked and destroyed by a Zhentarim-led army in 1316 DR. The town of Teshwave became a Zhentarim camp.
Refugees from Teshendale sought shelter in Daggerdale. Unknown to Daggerdale, the refugees included a number of Zhentarim agents who incited a rebellion against the ruling family of Daggerdale, the Morns. A Zhentarim agent named Malyk was installed as the Dale's ruler, and he unleashed orcish mercenaries and human brigands on the folk of Daggerdale. In 1353 DR, Randal Morn, the last of his family, returned to Daggerdale and freed it from Malyk's grip. But to this day, Daggerdale is a community under siege.
The Zhentarim attempted a similar infiltration in Shadowdale, first assassinating Lord Aumry and then presenting the warrior Jyordhan as his heir. Jyordhan ruled from Castle Krag, and when his loyalties became obvious the people of Shadowdale revolted. Forces from Zhentil Keep were sent to retain control of the Dale. Jyordhan was killed by Khelben Blackstaff in 1345 DR, but not before he had designated a man named Lyran Nanther as his successor. Doust Sulwood, a brave adventurer, was proclaimed lord of the Dale after Jyordhan's defeat.
Lyran was known as "the Pretender", because he did not have the pendant of Ashaba to legitimize his authority. He claimed Shadowdale, and eventually mustered an army in 1356 DR to attack the Dale. Despite Zhentish support, he was defeated and Shadowdale remained free.
A far more serious battle occurred in 1358 DR, during the Time of Troubles. The avatar of Bane mustered a powerful army in Zhentil Keep to march on Shadowdale in search of the Celestial Stairway that had appeared in the Temple of Lathander. The Zhentish forces were stopped only with great loss of life.
Since the Time of Troubles, the Dales have enjoyed relative peace. A contingent of Dalesmen marched with King Azoun against the Tuigan horde, but beyond that things have been quiet. Old locals, however, are growing suspicious and expect trouble with every new season. They believe it's only a matter of time before the history of the Dalelands begins to write itself again.
Powers of the Dales
The strategic location of the Dalelands has brought them to the attention of many of Faerûn's great powers. The Dalesmen care little for the machinations of foreigners and spies in their lands; they take a dim view of outsiders' attempts to manipulate them, overtly or secretly. The men and women of the Dales believe in their hearts that good, hard, clean living will prevail over any amount of foul play and intrigue.
Then again, only a fool would disregard the dangers and perils that surround the Dales. Brigands, mercenaries, spies, and agents of the various lands meet and mix in the Dalelands in a tense atmosphere of thinly-veiled hostility.
The Cult of the Dragon
The sturdy folk of the Dales have little truck with evil cults and won't stand for any such organization in their borders. The Cult of the Dragon has found that there is little it can do in the Dales. Although the region has been marked for subjugation and punishment in the future, the Cult does not currently have the means of following through on its threats.
While the Cult has a limited influence on the Dales directly, it does wield substantial power over the entire area in the form of the dragons and dracoliches who lair in the mountains to the west and north of the Dales. Adventurers who challenge the dragons are often based in the Dalelands. More than once, the Cult's vengeful agents have pursued adventurers into the heart of the Dalelands and attacked them there.
Isolated functionaries of the Cult act as spies in some of the larger Dales, such as Archendale and Tasseldale. Cult followers keep an eye open for particularly rich caravans to be raided later. There is also some activity in the ruins of Myth Drannor. Heroes who dispatch a dragon or loot its lair should be careful of who they boast to in the Dales - the information might reach the wrong ears.
One of the strongest concentrations of Harper power is in Shadowdale, where Storm Silverhand makes her home. The Harpers have many allies throughout the Dalelands, including Lord Mourngrym and Elminster, the Sage of Shadowdale. The Harpers stand for many of the same things that the Dalesmen hold dear, and with a few exceptions are welcomed throughout the Dalelands.
Locally, the Harpers oppose the growing evil in the abandoned forests of the Elven Court, while they protect the forests against excessive clearing and settlement. They aid adventuring parties who confront monsters or bandits in the forest. The Harpers also oppose the insidious activities of the Zhentarim by assisting adventurers who challenge Zhentarim-backed brigands, spies, and mercenaries.
Harpers tend to be rare and secretive characters, but they operate more openly in the Dales than they do elsewhere. Heroes of good heart will find that Harper aid is not so far away as it is in other lands.
The Red Wizards
Historically, the zulkirs of Thay have had little interest in the Dales. With the elven Retreat, however, things have changed. Myth Drannor's powerful magic now lies waiting for the hand bold enough to take it, and some of the younger and more ambitious Red Wizards believe that they can find a shortcut to power in the ruins of the elven city.
To date, the Red Wizards have quietly moved in the Dales. On occasion, one will pass through Mistledale or Archendale on his way to explore one of the local ruins or Myth Drannor itself, but no more than half a dozen of the sorcerers have ever been sighted in the Dalelands.
Adventurers are those most likely to encounter one of the Red Wizards. A party exploring an ancient ruin may run across a Red Wizard and his retainers. Successful parties who recover powerful magical items may find that the Red Wizards have developed quite an interest in them.
Fortunately, the Red Wizards in the Dalelands are generally young, ambitious "loose cannons" without the support and resources of their native land. (Some individuals may enjoy the patronage of one of the zulkirs and act as an archmage's agent, though.) As a nation, Thay is unconcerned with the Dales - but individual Red Wizards seeking power are a source of some concern.
The Seven Sisters
While the Seven Sisters are not a power group per se, one would have to be a fool to discount their effect in the Dalelands. Three of them have lived and adventured in the Dalelands, leaving their mark on the region and continuing to play a major role in great events. Storm Silverhand and Dove Falconhand maintain residences in Shadowdale, and their sister Sylune was better known as the Witch of Shadowdale. The mysterious Simbul has been known to visit the Dalelands, too.
The Sisters also have a powerful ally in Elminster, Sage of Shadowdale. The Sisters affect their world as individuals, rather than as a group, and it is easier to consider the actions and motivations of each sister independently of the others. While they rarely cooperate or combine their efforts, all the Sisters have fought against evil in the defense of the Realms.
The Druids of Cormanthor
The scattered remnants of the forest of Cormanthor are home to one of the few Great Druids of the Forgotten Realms. While this powerful druid keeps himself in the fastness of the deep woodlands, he is supported by a powerful circle known as the Nine Druids of Cormanthor.
Each of the Nine Druids maintains smaller circles in various places throughout Cormyr, Sembia, and the Dalelands - wherever the ancient forest of Cormanthor still exists. The druids are few in number and are too weak to oppose the forest's enemies by force of arms. Instead, they seek to preserve the forest by quietly organizing and educating the common folk who live on its borders.
An excellent example of one of these organizations at work is the Circle of Shadowdale, led by the druid Mourntarn. Members meet in the so-called Druids' Grove north of the village, and watch over the forestlands near the Dale. Mourntarn is a powerful priest, and is sought out by the rulers of the Dales for advice and counsel.
Several of the circles are located in the Dalelands, including Mistledale, Deepingdale, and Archendale, while the remainder are found in Cormyr and Sembia. Player character druids or rangers may be contacted by a local circle and asked to assist in the guardianship of the forests.
Strong and expansive, Cormyr would like to incorporate the Dalelands within its borders. At first glance, this would seem to make Cormyr an enemy of the Dales, but this is not necessarily the case. Cormyr's rulers see a lot of similarities in the Dalesmen and honestly believe that they would make fine countrymen instead of neighbors.
Cormyr's agents almost never work towards destabilizing or weakening the Dales to bring them into the fold by force. Instead, they try to persuade the Dalesmen that it's in their best interest to voluntarily unite with the Forest Kingdom. The people of the Dales respect King Azoun and hold few grudges against Cormyr, but they're not entirely convinced that future rulers may not try to incorporate them by force.
The Dalesmen point at the example of Tilverton as a reason why they should be cautious of Cormyr. A few years ago, Cormyr took control of the free town of Tilverton during a period of civil unrest, and the Dales have not forgotten it.
Adventurers will find that Cormyr's agents do a lot of talking but take few actions that would be exciting or financially rewarding.
While Cormyr's attitude seems to be, "The Dales would be better off with us," the Sembian feeling is, "We'd be better off if we controlled the Dales." The productive farmlands and forests of the Dalelands are greatly desired by Sembian merchants, and they have made efforts to gain control of these resources in the past - usually by buying out local owners or opening new trading posts, but occasionally by force of arms.
Presently, Sembia has no formal policy or plans for the Dalelands. Instead, hundreds of merchants are independently seeking profits and markets in the Dales. This mercantile invasion may prove to be as effective as an incursion of soldiers, or even more so in the long run, The Sembian city of Ordulin is built on the site of the former Moondale.
As long as the Sembians trade fairly and respect the locals' right to make a fair profit from their wares, it is unlikely that any formal action will be taken against the growth of their trade. Some Dales, particularly Archendale, have considered demanding a tariff on foreign trade to give their own merchants an edge against the larger Sembian firms.
Adventurers in the Dales could easily become involved with Sembian merchants who are seeking caravan guards and mercenaries to protect their assets.
Other Sembian companies might try to hire adventurers to raid their rivals, Few Dalesmen companies, however, would resort to this tactic.
The most prominent and powerful of the enemies of the Dalelands, the Zhentarim are a group of mages, priests, and warriors who seek to control the Heartlands through dominating trade routes. Several of the Dales have been infiltrated or attacked outright by the Zhentarim over the years, including Teshendale, Daggerdale, and Shadowdale. There is no doubt in any Dalesman's mind that the Black Network will not rest until the free Dales have been defeated and enslaved.
The Zhentarim are based in three major fortresses: Zhentil Keep, the Darkhold, and the Citadel of the Raven. Zhentil Keep's factions are most concerned with the Dalelands themselves, although the Darkhold and the Citadel of the Raven occasionally interfere with the Dales by their control of trade routes in the borderlands. The Zhentarim are led by Manshoon, a powerful mage.
Before the Time of Troubles, Zhentarim activities in were extensive and widely successful.
Teshendale was destroyed and turned into a Zhentish camp, and Shadowdale and Daggerdale were briefly ruled by Zhentarim puppets. The ruins of Myth Drannor were explored covertly by Zhentarim parties.
Since the Time of Troubles, the Zhentarim have had few major successes in the Dales. The Zhentarim's recent silence is a cause for comment and concern among many of the Dales. The
Black Network has retreated to square one in its Dalelands policies, slowly rebuilding its infrastructure of spies, assassins, and secret sympathizers. Manshoon does not plan to be defeated by the Dales again, and the next attack will be a swift, certain stroke designed to instantly overwhelm any conceivable resistance.
With the elven Retreat, the Zhentarim are also moving to control brigandage and legitimate trade in the northern regions of the Elven Court. Fortunately, the city of Hillsfar vigorously opposes further Zhentish expansion in this area, and the two powers are locked in stalemate here.
Adventurers are not likely to confront Zhentarim agents directly at first, but may encounter their minions at work - bandits, raiders, and spies. Further investigation may reveal that the Black Network is supporting the activity, and interference by the Player Characters (PCs) may bring them to the attention of the Zhentarim.
While the Black Network members are preparing for their next offensive against the Dales, they are also keeping busy with nuisance tactics to draw attention away from their preparations. The Zhentarim are constantly stirring up the bandits and humanoids of the Desertsmouth Mountains and the Stonelands, encouraging them to raid and pillage the nearby Dales.
Elves of Cormanthor
While most of the elven forests have been abandoned, a few faerie folk have lingered in the woodlands of the Elven Court. Some of them stayed behind to guard their kindred's escape, while others simply tarried, unwilling to leave their homes. Even this small number of remaining elves constantly dwindles.
Despite their fading presence, the elves still enjoy the Dale's respect and friendship. Few Dalesmen are ready to challenge the ancient elven edicts protecting the forest; they know that the Elven Court is still guarded.
Most of the surviving elves are concentrated in the Dalelands areas of Tangletrees and Semberholme, but patrols of silent archers range widely through all Cormanthor's woodlands. The elves avoid contact these days, recognizing that their failing numbers are an invitation to mischief. The only exceptions to this policy are the Harpers and the druid Circles, who are still welcome in the elven camps.
Adventurers aiding Sembian merchants or unscrupulous Dalesmen in clearing the forest should be prepared for elven retribution. On the other hand, good adventurers who fight against the rise of brigands and monsters in the old elven woods may find that they have allies in the deeps of the forests.
The Dales Council
While the Council hardly fits the definition as a power organization of the Dales, it still deserves mention. On rare occasions, Dalesmen have found it necessary to set their hard-won independence aside and act as one nation. The war started by Lashan of Scardale was one such instance, as was the invasion of the Tuigan horde.
For the most part, the Dales Council is incapable of anything other than bickering and pointless debate.
However, a serious threat to all the Dales - for example, a Sembian annexation of Tasseldale, or a Zhentish invasion - may cause the Dales to forget their differences and unite against their common foe.
The Council meets once a year, at midwinter. The location rotates through the various Dales; the next one is due to meet in Highmoon, in Deepingdale. An emergency could cause a special session of the Council to be called. Each Dale's delegation has one vote in the Council.
Common issues debated by the Council include trade arrangements between Dales, maintenance of roads and bridges, setting borders for neighboring Dales, and issues of foreign policy.
Recently, the Council addressed the following issues:
Archendale wants to open up the Archwood for clearing and lumbering, arguing that the elves have left and that the Dales need the materials to keep up with the Sembians. The other Dales point out that Archendale wants to profit by a resource belonging to all the Dales.
Scardale wants an end to the occupation and the restoration of its voting seat on the Council. Most of the Dales are neutral on the issue, but Featherdale and Harrowdale still oppose the end of Scardale's occupation.
Daggerdale has been requesting financial aid and arms from the Council to clear the Zhentarim-backed raiders from its lands. Shadowdale and Mistledale would like to provide military assistance, but Daggerdale has so far refused offers of soldiers or men-at-arms.
Mistledale is arguing for a formal treaty binding the Dales to common defense, trade, and government - a key step in unifying the Dalelands. The Councillors of Mistledale are concerned with Cormyrian expansion and believe the Dales should unite themselves rather than wait for Cormyr to do it for them.
Several groups exert a lesser, but significant influence over the Dalelands. Prominent temples work to increase their influence throughout the Dalelands, including those of Tymora, Tyr, Chauntea, Cyric, and Lathander. (Cyric's followers have not had much success, though.)
Hillsfar's rulers are anxious to expand their influence in the Elven Court, and are considering action against Harrowdale. Unfortunately for Harrowdale, the city of Mulmaster also plots against the small Dale.
Harrowdale's port on the Dragon Reach make it a desirable addition to either city's assets.
Trade in the Dalelands
A discussion of the Dalelands would not be complete without some mention of the trade that flows through them. Trade, like history, is a powerful unifying influence among the Dales.
The Dales are exporters of raw materials and importers of finished goods. The rich farmlands and forests surrounding the Elven Court produce food consumed every day in Arabel, Ordulin, Selgaunt, Suzail, Hillsfar, and Mulmaster. Some nonperishables are carried as far as Tantras, Impiltur, Westgate, or even the Sword Coast.
Goods bound for Cormyr often pass through Ashabenford, Shadowdale, and Highmoon. Sembian trade usually passes through Archenbridge, Tasseldale, and Essembra. Harrowdale and Scardale often trade across the Dragon Reach or with the Moonsea cities.
The largest markets in the Dales are held at Ashabenford, Essembra, and Archenbridge.
The Dales export timber, hides, grain, bread, cheese, ale, fruits, and vegetables to Sembia, Cormyr, and the Moonsea. They import metalwork of all kinds, ranging from jewelry and cookware to weapons and armor. They also import finished products such as paper, books, glass, and textiles such as lace and silk.
Some of the major trading centers that deal with the Dales include Arabel, which trades jewelry and pewterwork for timber and fur; Marsember, which ships rare silk, spice, hardwoods, and exotic goods in return for cheese, ale, and grain; Suzail, which specializes in finished woolen clothing, lace, and other textiles in exchange for fruits, vegetables, and hides; Ordulin, which exports a variety of finished goods for timber and grain; Selgaunt, specializing in paper and glass; and Hillsfar, which manufactures weapons and armor in exchange for grain, fruit, and vegetables.
Trading Costers of the Dales
The Dalelands occupy a crossroads area in the Realms. Goods of all kinds pass through the Dales along major roads linking the Moonsea with Cormyr and Sembia.
Some of the major merchant houses and trading costers active in the Dalelands include:
- Mirksha, Mirksha, and Mirksha, based in Archenbridge.
- Jendalar's Fine Fruits, based in Archenbridge.
- The Darkwater Brand, based in Archenbridge.
- The Stone Crab Coster, of Archenbridge.
- The Silverhand House, of Highmoon in Deepingdale.
- Andelmaus Logging, of Highmoon.
- Hanseld's Emporium, of Highmoon.
- Velarstown Silver and Jewelry, of Harrowdale.
- The Treskeden Coster, of Harrowdale.
- The Harrowcoaster, of Harrowdale.
- The Black Eagle Coster, of Ashabenford in Mistledale.
- Jarwain's Imports, of Ashabenford.
- The Scardale Provisioner, of Scardeep in Scardale.
- The Red Wyvern Company, of Ordulin and Tegal's Mark in Tasseldale.
- The Sheathed Dagger Coster, of Selgaunt and Arrowmark in Tasseldale.
- The Tasselway Coster, of Glaun in Tasseldale.
- Riurmorn's Silks and Linens, of Moontassel.
Many of the Dalelands' merchants founded their enterprises with capital gained from adventuring careers. Tough and independent, these retired thieves and swordsmen are not easily cowed or intimidated. Let brigands beware.
Each of the Dales falls into one of three general categories: trading Dales, rustic Dales, and fallen Dales. The general lifestyle, attitude, and world-view of any given Dalesman depend greatly on where he makes his home.
The Rustic Dales
The rustic Dales include Featherdale, Battledale, the High Dale, Mistledale, and Shadowdale. Daggerdale is still considered a rustic Dale, although the endless fighting tends to distinguish it from the others of this group. Harrowdale and Deepingdale are both considered rustic Dales, but most Dalesmen are beginning to consider these communities major trading Dales.
Generally, the rustic Dales are quiet backwaters where farming is central to the lifestyle. Most of the Dalesfolk here are landowners who live off what they can raise on their homesteads. People make do with whatever they can make for themselves, and get along without fancy imports or luxuries. A common feature of the rustic Dales is the freehold - a large, independent farm worked by a clan or extended family with hired help. A freehold is a small hamlet all by itself, and is often dozens of miles from the nearest town or village. The freeholders are proud and independent people who rely only on themselves and defend their fields with their own hands.
The Trading Dales
The trading Dales are larger and more densely populated than the rustic Dales, and include Archendale, Scardale, and Tasseldale. As noted above, Harrowdale and Deepingdale are considered to be in-between lands. The trading Dales feature large and well-organized settlements and enjoy frequent contact with foreign powers. The people of the trading Dales are much more urban than their country cousins, and their homes are full of Cormyrian and Sembian imports.