Shadowdale 1372 DR
Population: 14,020 (humans 78%, half-elves 8%, elves 6%, gnomes 4%, halflings 3%)
Government: Elected lordship
Religions: Chauntea, Lathander, Tymora (Mielikki, Silvanus)
Imports: Jewelry, manufactured items, ore
Exports: Ale, looted magic items, produce
Alignment: CG, NG, CN
Shadowdale is the best known of all the Dales because of its history of successful battles against drow, Zhents, and would-be conquerors such as Lashan of Scardale. Although small, Shadowdale makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity of citizens. The dale is notorious as a home for adventurers who now prefer a quieter life but are capable of exerting extreme force when necessary.
Life And Society
Though not quite as spread out as Battledale, Shadowdale's population lives beyond town walls or village fences, in small farms and cottages that may be within eyesight of a neighbor's chimney but not within earshot of that neighbor's disputes.
The folk of Shadowdale have a history of choosing their lords by popular acclaim. The last two lords were suggested by Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun of Waterdeep, but the tradition still holds, marking Shadowdale's proud refusal to be ruled by anyone but most deserving heroes. The town of Shadowdale is the center of the dale's civic life and the home of its heroes, its lord, and the lord's militia.
Major Geographical Features
Unlike Mistledale to the west, which was swept clean by a meteorite, Shadowdale alternates patches of cleared land with small forests and thick brush. The Northride between Cormyr and the Moonsea runs south to north through the dale, and the River Ashaba cuts west to east. The town of Shadowdale and the looming presence of the Old Skull dominate the forested area where the Northride and Ashaba cross.
Old Skull: When the drow ruled Shadowdale, this white granite promontory located on the north side of the Northride and just east of the River Ashaba loomed over the town like a message from the grave, a sign of bad things to come. Now that the dale is free and has proven itself against many enemies, its folk think of the big white dome fondly. Shepherds herd their sheep from town into the hills beyond the Skull, which keeps its sparse vegetation from getting any thicker.
Beneath the surface, Old Skull tells a different tale. The Twisted Tower was only the tip of the drow's power in the dale. Old Skull's depths descend to the Underdark itself. Nowadays, Old Skull's monstrous inhabitants seldom trouble the townspeople, particularly not since 1350 DR, when Elminster took up residence in an abandoned windmill on the south side of the hill. Adventurers who insist on finding routes into the old volcanic dome pass beyond Elminster's zone of protection and must rest their hopes for survival upon their wits. Every few years, adventuring groups confide that they have cleaned Old Skull out once and for all, but an equal number of Old Skulls Underdark residents can boast that they taught the Shadowdale fools the price for trespassing.
Shadow Gap: This pass through the Desertsmouth Mountains south of Shadowdale marks several borders. First; Shadow Gap is the place where the Desertsmouth Mountains give way to the Thunder Peaks. Second, Shadow Gap separates the eastern lands controlled by the Dales from the western lands controlled by Cormyr. Third, now that Tilverton is a smoking black pit, Shadow Gap marks the point where travelers from the north gird themselves to pass by that magical ruin.
Spiderhaunt Woods: Sorcerers and wizards whose spell components call for the webs, eggs, or fangs of giant spiders have cause to venture into this dark forest. All others are well advised to keep a wary eye on the tree line as they ride along the Northride Trail toward Shadowdale or Shadow Gap. Ettercaps and chitines are known to swarm out of the woods to seize captives and drag them away.
Most noteworthy sites in the dale cluster in or around the town of Shadowdale in the forest at the valley's western end.
Druid's Grove: Just outside Shadowdale's town limits to the north-west, one of Faerûn's most powerful druidic circles previously met to conduct rituals to increase the strength of the forest. The circle disbanded some time after the Time of Troubles. Powerful druids who may have been members of the Circle occasionally visit the old clearing and its circle of ancient menhirs, but none comment the Circle's current whereabouts.
The grove is undoubtedly a place of power. The ancient standing stones undoubtedly hold many secrets, some of which could be used to help fight the battle against the drow of the forest.
Elminster's Tower: If Elminster is not the most powerful if being in Faerûn, it's not clear who is. He lives in an unpretentious tower that looks like an old silo or windmill on the south side of the Old Skull. He doesn't encourage visitors.
Morningdawn Hall: Even Lathander might blush at the ostentation of his temple in the town of Shadowdale. The building is a miracle of unbreakable rose-tinted glass blown into the shape of a phoenix, its wings outstretched to greet the dawn. Bane himself destroyed the first version of Morningdawn Hall during the Time of Troubles. Lathander's zealous clergy then recreated it in every detail - to the private dismay of Shadowdale's residents, who think highly of Lathander himself but not so well of the priests who have twice raised this gaudy monstrosity in their town.
Old Skull Inn: The inn at the base of the Skull is around one hundred years old. It's known throughout the Heartlands as one of the finest adventurer lairs in Faerûn, so much so that in lands outside the Dales, adventurers use "oldskull" as an adjective to describe an excellent place to drink. The proprietor, Jhaele Silvermane (female human Exp2/Ftr4), has a no-nonsense approach that endears her to her regular patrons and rids her quickly of skulkers and lay-bouts. Many adventurers hint that the tavern's cellars have passageways into the Underdark beneath Old Skull itself, a rumor that seems so obviously true to anyone with the least bit of experience in these matters that whispers to this effect are enough to mark someone as a novice.
Shadowdale (Small Town, 1,402) Shadowdale's sleepy appearance and the retiring ways of its people have lulled half a dozen would-be conquerors into underestimating their target. Inside these wood and stone buildings, built to survive winters that send Sembians trotting back to the warm plains, Dalesfolk maintain a curious balance between commonplace lives and unshakeable courage and determination.
Unlike the folk of other Dalelands towns situated along routes, Shadowdale's people don't go out of their way to cater to merchants, nor do they turn caravan folk aside. They just refuse to orient their civic life around the needs of traders who are just passing through.
Twisted Tower: If the ability to withstand overwhelming powerful Zhent invasions is an indicator, the helix-shaped Twisted Tower is the strongest fortress in the Dales. The tower earned its because of its off-balance appearance. The lord of Shadodale, Mourngrym, rules from this former drow stronghold. The tower's garrison is nearly a hundred members strong. The tower is presently used as a landing site for hippogriffs that serve as aerial mounts for several of the Tower's guards.
Before the founding of Shadowdale, Lolth-worshiping drow took advantage of the fall of Myth Drannor to conquer the area known as the Land Under Shadow. Humans and elves fought the drow for nearly two centuries, until the great water wizard Ashaba drove the dark elves from the Twisted Tower in 906 Dk. For his trouble, the people of Shadowdale proclaimed Ashaba their first lord.
In the four centuries since Shadowdale's founding, the Pendant of Ashaba, the magical symbol signifying Shadowdale's lordship, was passed to good men, great men (Aencar the Mantled King), and a couple of false kings. The worst of the lot, a deceiver named Jyordhan, became lord of Shadowdale in 1339 DR, ruling first in secret, then openly, on behalf of the Zhents. Jyordhan was killed six years later by the wizard Khelben of Waterdeep, who later supported a new candidate for lordship, an adventurer named Doust Soulwood.
The present lord, Mourngrym Amcathra (NG male human Ftr8) was suggested by Khelben when Soulwood retired: For services rendered to Lord Soulwood and the dale, the people acclaimed Mourngrym as lord. He wed a Cormyrian agent named Shaerl Rowanmantle (LN female human Rog5), who soon renounced her allegiance to Cormyr to work for the good of her adopted people. The couple has a fourteen-year-old son, Scotti. Mourngrym has raised the boy as if he is to inherit the lordship from his father, a proposition that may test the dale's resolve to avoid hereditary rulers.
Given Shadowdale's history as a battle zone between humans and drow, it's ironic that Lord Mourngrym has thus far kept his military out of the struggle against the Vhaeraunian drow. The surface drow settling into Cormanthor have chosen not to raid or infiltrate Shadowdale. Other dales accuse Mourngrym of turning his back on the Dalelands' common plight. The truth is probably that Mourngrym is more worried about other threats that he does not discuss out loud for fear of distressing the anxious delegates to the Dales Council.
Plots and Rumors
Adventurers come to Shadowdale for three reasons: to explore the Underdark caverns below the Old Skull, to mount forays into the Elven Court, or to pester Elminster for some tiny glimmer of his knowledge. Few of those who come to Shadowdale for the third reason leave with much satisfaction, although on occasion they learn something.
Not from Around Here: A curious group of adventurers accumulates in the Old Skull Inn over the period of a fortnight. Although they drift in from all different roads, they know each other and share a military bearing, even the magicians. As they gather supplies and make plans, it becomes clear that they intend to explore Castle Krag (see 'Known Dungeons of Faerûn') in force. The group could be Silver Ravens from Sembia, or a War Wizard party from Cormyr. In any case, they appear to have a line on information that has eluded the PCs - for one thing, they seem far more competent than necessary for simple exploration of Castle Krag.
If the PCs simply turn their back on the problem, the military group succeeds and takes semipermanent possession of Castle Krag, or fails spectacularly, releasing a gibbering evil upon Shadowdale. Elminster and similar pillars of the community are waging larger battles, forcing the PCs to sort out the mess.
Dales Personalities: Storm Silverhand
Dales Personalities: Elminster
The area around the Old Skull is blessed with rich farmland. In far distant times the flow of the river may have been different, or a blockage may have flooded the area with a shallow lake or swamp, but the thick soil of the region is now perfect for a wide variety of crops - corn, wheat, and oats, as well as vegetables, including pumpkins, gourds, beans, berries, and grapes. Apples and other orchards are rare in this part of the Dalelands.
The farmers of Shadowdale come in two varieties - Dalesmen and retirees. The Dalesmen are the descendants of the first Dalesmen who crossed the Dragon Reach and made their agreement with the elves of Myth Drannor. They are self-reliant, strong-willed, and independent by nature, but also have a strong sense of community and the need to pitch in to help their compatriots. They are taciturn around strangers, if polite, and know enough to clear out should adventurers start swinging swords madly in the area. Given the nature of Shadowdale and its recent turbulent past, all the farmers are proficient with both sword and spear, and can be considered to have 2-12 hit points.
The retirees are former adventurers who have decided to settle in the area and take up a quiet life. Unfortunately for player characters who bully around townspeople, they are often indistinguishable from other farmers, save for perhaps a unique feature such as unusual hair or eye color, or a favorite memento of the past kept on hand. Most of the retirees choose to stay that way unless Shadowdale itself is threatened. A mere lure of gold would not be enough to pull these worthies from their beds. While they might (and the word is might) be willing to part with the knowledge and experience of their lifetime, it would be in exchange for service, as opposed to gold (that service being helping to repair the roof or bring in the harvest as opposed to any monetary award).
Visitors to Shadowdale are advised to be polite to the natives. This is because a good relationship with the area is instrumental to success in trading or adventuring, and because the dirt-splotched farmer one shoulders aside in the bar may have been 20 years ago a dragon-slaying wizard who has lost none of his former power.