The History of Shadowdale (1368 DR)
Shadowdale's origins are relatively recent, at least as a home for humans and passing adventurers. Its first mention is as an evil place controlled by the drow communities who make the Depths Below, the Underdark, their home. The tunnels and caverns of these dark elves, and their evil allies, came close to the surface in the region of the Old Skull, an eruption of granite in the otherwise rounded and wooded hills of the region. Further, the river that flowed at the base of the Old Skull passed through the elven woods to the Dragon Reach and was navigable for its entire length. This made the region an excellent marshaling ground and jumping-off point for raids on the surface.
It was the drow who built the original Twisted Tower as a fortification to protect the major underground highways leading from the Moonsea region to the Storm Horns and beyond. It remains the oldest structure still in use in the area, though it has been expanded and sections have been rebuilt a number of times. With the Twisted Tower as a base of operations, the drow maintained a large surface occupation of small human (and other race) slave communities. The drow were fully driven underground only within living elven memory and still maintain extensive underground holdings. It was at this time that the drow-held region of the Dales was known as the Land Under Shadow, later shortened to Shadowdale.
The Fall of Azmaen,
Last Drow Marshall of the Twisted Tower
The drow rule of Shadowdale lasted until the early 900s Dalereckoning, when the increased human population in the area brought the dark elves into conflict with their now more numerous human neighbors. These were the Dalesmen, who a millennium earlier had crossed the Dragon Reach and made peace with the elves of Myth Drannor, settling at the borders of the great woods that was the elven home. The drow soon found themselves under continual attack and most of those who held overground settlements retreated back below before the onslaught. The last powerful drow leader was Azmaer, the marshal of the Twisted Tower in its last drow-held days. Azmaer oversaw the last retreat of the drow holdings in the face of a human uprising, and held the citadel against a year-long siege. With supplies and slaves brought up from the Underdark directly into the tower, the drow could conceivably hold out for forever. However, a human slave (family histories in the Dales indicate a number of possible individuals) poisoned the well in the Tower, and the citadel was easily overrun by human forces. Azmaer's body was not found among the dead, leading some to believe that he escaped back into the Depths Below to rejoin his people. Noting the fact that he would have to explain to his matriarch how he lost Shadowdale, it is much more likely that, should Azmaer have survived, he went into voluntary exile, hiding from both human and drow. Given that this occurred only 400 years ago, it is possible that Azmaer still lives.
Ashaba Becomes First Lord of Shadowdale
Upon taking the Tower and throwing off the drowish yoke upon the people, the Dalesmen fully established the Dale of Shadowdale, with its seat of power in the Twisted Tower. Its first lord was a water wizard who had aided in the final attack on Ashaba, who was great in age when he ascended, and ruled peacefully for 40 years thereafter. It is said that Ashaba realized he was dying and turned himself to water, merging with the waters of the river. Since that time the river, the ford, and the Twisted Tower bear his name. Before passing on, Ashaba chose one of his trusted lieutenants as the new lord of Shadowdale. He was presented to the people of the Dale, who made him the new lord by acclamation.
Lords Accepted by Acclamation
This acclamation of the people has formed the basis for choosing the lord of Shadowdale since that time. Usually a predecessor will step down as opposed to dying in office, and his chosen successor will be approved by the populace at large. This system has had its drawbacks, as will be shown below, but in general, it has served the independent, self-willed people of the Dale very well. They have avoided the "genetic lottery of which good bureaucracies and bad kingships are made" (Elminster's terms, not mine). The symbol of the lordship is the Pendant of Ashaba, a device owned by the original wizard, and used to determine the rightful lord of the Dale.
Joadath and the Tyrist Massacre
The past hundred years have been an example of the best and worst of the lords of Shadowdale. All have been non-native to the Dalelands, and have made the land their home. A century ago the lord of the Dales was one Joadath, a stiff-necked agnostic who denied the power of any god, good or evil, and used force to back up his beliefs. During this time there was a great deal of religious persecution in the Dale, including a massacre of Tyrists on Watcher's Knoll. Joadath was eventually killed by a beast of the nether planes summoned by parties unknown, which then proceeded to rampage through the town. The beast was killed and Shadowdale rescued by the spellcasters Aumry and Sylune. Aumry was proclaimed lord by acclamation.
Aumuy Rules in Peace
The longest period of peaceful rule was by Lord Aumry and his wife Sylune, better known as the Witch of Shadowdale. Both husband and wife ruled over the community for forty years, a period of extended peace with their neighboring dales, nations, and the elven peoples. It was this very peace and power which made the Dale the target for attacks and sabotage by the Black Network, known better as the Zhentarim. The Zhentarim sought (and still seek) to control the trade from the Moonsea to the Sword Coast, and desired to make Shadowdale a vassal state of Zhentil Keep.
Jyondhan the False Lord
Aumry was assassinated by Zhentarim agents, who in turn were captured and killed by the warrior Jyordhan, who presented himself as the new lord (with the Pendant gripped in his hand), and was so acclaimed by the people. Unknown to most of the people at that time was that Jyordhan was also an agent of the Zhentarim, and the entire proceedings were a hoax.
Jyordhan abandoned the Twisted Tower, instead establishing himself in Castle Krag east of Shadowdale. His court was soon overrun with agents of the Black Network. When the people revolted, Zhentil Keep sent peace-keeping forces to maintain Jyordhan's rule. Sylune, now aware of the deception but a firm pacifist, sought to keep the Dale healthy and intact during Jyordhan's evil rule.
Khelben Kills Jyondhan
Jyordhan's rule ended when he encountered Khelben Arunsun, also called the Blackstaff. The story at the time was that Jyordhan accepted an invitation from Khelben to visit Waterdeep, and there he took ill and died.
In reality, Jyordhan ambushed Khelben as the mage was leaving Shadowdale, and the Blackstaff killed him. In either case, Khelben took hold of the Pendant of Ashaba and returned to Waterdeep with it, promising to send a suitable candidate for lordship to the Dales. Jyordhan had ruled for five years, and without his advocacy, Castle Krag was abandoned and the Zhentil Keep troops routed. Jyordhan's previously chosen successor was a Melvauntan named Lyran, but without the Pendant this individual was considered a pretender to the throne.
The Time of No Lords
During the period when Khelben held onto the Pendant, Sylune was the de facto ruler of Shadowdale, though these years were known as the Time of No Lords. Sylune and an adventuring company known as Manes' Band were responsible for driving out the Zhentil Keep forces and keeping at bay the monsters in the area. The Twisted Tower remained uninhabited, and neither Sylune nor the companions of Mane's Band wished to assume the mantle of leadership. With time, Mane's Band passed on to other lands and adventures.
Doust Sulwood Becomes Lord of Shadowdale
After three winters, Khelben found a suitable candidate, or rather a group of candidates. They were called the Knights of Myth Drannor to show their interest in the elven territories and their connection with the elven peoples, and Khelben gave them the Pendant of Ashaba in return for services rendered to himself and to Shadowdale. Their leader, the ranger Florin Falconhand, refused the honor of the lordship, and it passed to Doust Sulwood, who was made the new lord with the support of Florin and Sylune (and the secret support of Khelben as well).
Doust reoccupied the Twisted Tower, driving out the last agents of the Black Network. He also re-instituted many of Ashaba's democratic ideals, including the Lord's Court where all citizens may speak freely and air their grievances without threat of reprisal. Doust ruled for five years and proved to be a capable ruler, beloved by the people. The regular presence of the Knights of Myth Drannor did much to ensure the protection of the area, particularly against incursions by Lyran Nanther the Pretender.
Elminster Moves to Shadowdale
It was also during this time that Elminster moved into Shadowdale. A semi-regular visitor up to that time, he took possession of a low, abandoned tower at the foot of the Old Skull, and declared himself to be officially in retirement. The nature of that retirement varies from active involvement in local affairs to long-term vacations on other planes. The natives of the Dale have come to the understanding that they cannot always count on Elminster to save them in times of need or danger, but that when he is present in these circumstances his aid is usually given.
Doust Chooses Mourngrym Amcathra to Succeed Him
Doust ruled for five years ("Seems like a millennium," he was known to have reported) before the tedium of court life and the lure of adventure caused him to retire his position and rejoin the Knights of Myth Drannor in regular adventuring. He handed the Pendant of Ashaba on to one of the younger Knights, a Waterdhavian noble named Mourngrym Amcathra. Mourngrym had been dispatched by Khelben from Waterdeep for other purposes, but Doust liked both the young man's straightforward honesty and his willingness to shoulder the burden of protecting the small community from myriad dangers.
Shaerl and Mourngrym Meet and Marry
The implications of Khelben Arunsun "choosing" the last two lords of Shadowdale were not lost on the Dale's powerful neighbor to the south, Cormyr. An agent was sent northward to divine Mourngrym's true intentions and to guarantee the Dale's continued good relationship with the throne of the Purple Dragon. This agent was a rogue named Shaerl Rowanmantle, sent by Vangerdahast (though all paperwork on this matter has been curiously incinerated in Suzail, so all is hearsay and tale). Shaerl discovered more than she intended and fell in love with young Mourngrym. The two married and became the lord and lady of Shadowdale. Shaerl's loyalty is now to her husband and to the land they co-rule. This was probably not the intention of the Cormyreans.
Mourngrym's rule has been less peaceful than he had hoped. A First Battle of Shadowdale occurred in the Year of the Prince (1357 DR), and involved Dalelands forces routing the forces of Lyran the Pretender. While significant, this battle pales when compared to the larger battle fought on the same site between Bane-led Zhentil Keep forces and the Dales during the Time of Troubles (1358 DR/0 PR). When the Battle of Shadowdale is referred to (without a number), it usually means this second battle. In addition, Mourngrym has had to deal with a large number of skirmishes, incursions, a possible invasion from below, explosions, and other sundry disasters.
Mourngrym and Shaerl have one child, Scotti, who is now nine winters old. By the customs of the area, he is not considered the heir apparent, and another suitable warrior or mage may take the reins of power of the small community. Most feel that Mourngrym will hold the Pendant until his son has reached his majority, then abdicate in young Scotti's favor once he takes his grown name. If this happens, it will be the first occasion of the lordship of Shadowdale passing down through a family.