Tarkhaldale (the Lost Dale) 1368 DR
"Once Tarkhaldale was a strong and fair land of farmers and miners, akin to the lands of Sessrendale or Archendale. The people traded with the elves of the Border Forest and the dwarves of the Desertsmouth. The Tarkhaldalesmen were allies and trading partners of the buried kingdoms that once sprawled over Anauroch, Asram and Holondah.
"The Dale's decline began when the great human empires of Anauroch were swallowed by the sands. No one knows when the Dale was abandoned; the folk just drifted away as time went by. The fall of Teshendale was the final blow, or so I have heard. For 50 years or more no one contested the rule of orcs and goblins.
"Ye must swear not to reveal what I tell ye now - Tarkhaldale lives again. A wandering people known as saurials have found homes there. The saurials are strange creatures, found nowhere else in the Realms, but I've found them to be stalwart allies and good friends." - Elminster
Also known as the Lost Dale, Tarkhaldale is the most remote of the Dales. In ancient times, it was a flourishing mining and farming community, but its people slowly vanished as the land declined and came under the attacks of orcish raiders. Three events spelled the end of Tarkhaldale: the fall of the Anauroch empires, the destruction of the dwarven mines at Tethyamar, and the advance of Zhentish power into Teshendale.
For many decades, Tarkhaldale was left to the orc and goblin tribes that had finally overrun the land. The evil raiders feuded and squabbled over the remnants of the dwarven mines and human towns. Zhentarim agents browbeat the humanoids into allowing the Zhentish caravans free passage while all other trespassers were attacked mercilessly. The years after the Time of Troubles greatly weakened the goblins' grip on the Dale. Many Zhentarim were recalled, and those that remained could not dominate the tribes as before. The orcs and goblins fell to bitter feuding.
In the year 1360 DR, the saurials appeared in Tarkhaldale. They had been enslaved and carried from their home dimension by the god Moander, but broke free of his domination when they arrived. Few in number and weakened by their transit from one world to the next, the saurials suffered greatly in their first few winters in the Realms.
Eventually, the saurials managed to carve a home for themselves in the forested hills of the Lost Dale. They survived the attacks of the remaining orcish tribes; their size and strength more than compensated for their lack of numbers. For several years now, the saurials have been at peace. The goblins and orcs have learned to leave them be.
Unlike the human residents of the other Dales, the saurials have chosen to live together in a large village. The saurial village is located near the ruined town of Tarkhaldan, and some of the travelers familiar with the area have given the old town's name to the saurial's home. (The saurial name is untranslatable.)
There are now about 150 saurials living in the Lost Dale, including a number of young children. The saurials maintain some small fields near their village, but rely heavily on hunting and gathering in the wooded hills that surround their home. The saurials are rather shy of visitors and avoid contact with travelers.
The leader of the saurials is a powerful hornhead wizard called Grypht. Grypht understands that his people are alone in a wide, cold world and is correspondingly cautious in his dealings with others.
Deep in the foothills of the Desertsmouth Mountains is an orcish stronghold known as Swordcrag. It was once a mining village of Tarkhaldale, but it fell early in the Dale's history and became an evil fortress. Swordcrag is marked by its stark, grey spire, easily seen from many miles away. The orcs hold the old mines beneath the rocky crag.
The orcs of Swordcrag have spent several years conquering the other orc tribes in the area, trying to forge a confederation of tribes to take on the saurials. Unfortunately, they are succeeding. The chieftain Durang Head-taker is an extraordinarily strong, fierce, and crafty orc who despises the saurials and takes great pleasure in springing small ambushes and traps for far-ranging hunters. Durang has an ogrish guard of 10 warriors and is aided in his efforts by a powerful, evil shaman named Yegg Blackteeth.