Cities and Sites of Shining Land
The vast majority of Shining Lands communities hover around the bay known as the Golden Water. Originally established as trading sites for the tribes that roamed the shores of the bay, these settlements slowly grew into centers of civilization where nomads could turn to sedentary pursuits in exchange for safety.
Trade always has been the foremost function of these communities, and most of that trade is conducted by sea. Thus, every city of note has both a large, permanent marketplace and a good harbor with sufficient capacity for oceangoing ships to dock. Even the few cities that lie inland from the water were founded on the banks of rivers large enough to support shipping vessels.
Assur (Large Town)
Founded as a small trading community to serve the Durpari tribes that roamed the western shores of the Golden Water, Assur was originally part of the kingdom of Veldorn. But in the Year of the Prowling Naga (142 DR), several clans of beholders swept down out of the Curna Mountains from the region known to the barbarians as the Beastlands and overwhelmed the city in a matter of hours. Any who resisted were slain; the rest were enslaved. In the course of a day, the beholders had firmly entrenched themselves as the undisputed totalitarian rulers of the town.
Humans were unable to drive their monstrous overlords out of Assur until the Year of the Chaste Maiden (1102 DR), when they finally sent the beholders fleeing toward the safety of the plains to the northwest. After its reclamation by humans, Assur existed first as an independent city-state and more recently as a part of Durpar. Little evidence of the time of the eye tyrants remains, and today the community is as vibrant and prosperous as most other trading centers around the bay.
With a population slightly in excess of 3,200, Assur sports a sizable marketplace, which sits very near its deep water harbor. Many of the natives make their livings fishing; others harvest pearls and coral - though unusually intense shark activity in the nearby waters has made these trades hazardous in recent years.
The First Nawab of the Assur Council, Turmli Valshu (LN male human aristocrat 7) of the Valshu Chaka, specializes in textile imports. He currently seeks a group of adventurers to find and return his wayward daughter to him. She recently ran off with several Sharess-loving acquaintances who enticed her to wander the wider world and partake of its pleasures with them.
The capital of Estagund, Chavyondat is the largest city in the Shining Lands that is not actually on the coast of the Golden Water. Originally known as Klionna, the city was founded by its namesake tribe in -862 DR. In the Year of the Tempest (1027 DR), Rajah Numambi Seltarir renamed the capital in honor of his firstborn daughter. Chavyondat has been raided numerous times by both land and sea - most often by Dambrathans (both the Arkaiuns of the fifth and sixth century DR, and the Crinti of more recent times). The city was the first to fall when Reinhar I of Dambrath launched a full invasion of Estagund. in the Year of the Barren Chamber (551 DR).
Chavyondat (Metropolis): Conventional; AL LG; 100,000 gp limit; Assets 337,441,000 gp; Population 67,489; Mixed (human 82%, halfling 7%, half-elf 4%, dwarf 3%, gnome 2%, half-orc 2%).
Authority Figures: Rajah Ekripet Seltarir (LG male human aristocrat 5), ruler of Estagund and head of Chaka Seltarir, the wealthiest chaka in the country.
Important Characters: Indamu Podo (LG male human fighter 8/Maquar crusader 6), the leader of the Maquar; Mulad Shaulim (LG human male cleric 5 of Waukeen/hand of the Adama 7), High Priest of the Temple of the Adama; Venz Krulmir (wizard 7/Red Wizard 4), head of the Thayan Enclave.
Market And Docks
The marketplace in the city's old district, near the docks, consists of rows and rows of permanent, roofed stalls. The Chavyondat Commerce Authority - the governing office that manages trade, the docks, and the public works - rents these structures to merchants by the day, the tenday, or the month. Because of its distance from most other communities of the Shining Lands, merchant ships from western lands that dock at Chavyondat don't have to sail as far to sell their wares or acquire new cargo. Thus, Chavyondat gets a slightly better trade value for both imports and exports.
Five of the rajah's warships patrol and protect the harbor and the Bay of Kings from invasions, pirates, and sea monsters. Also based here are another twelve warships owned and operated by major chakas, including six that belong to Chaka Seltarir. The chakas use their ships both to defend the city and to escort their merchant ships through troubled waters.
House Of The Vanquisher
This structure, just a little West and downhill from Seltarir Palace, serves as the traditional home and training center for the Maquar. At present, more than two thousand Maquar warriors live here, and three times that many are scattered among various other cities, where they serve the nobles. During a military crisis, the Maquar can either form into elite units or assume command of militia formed from the ranks of the country's population.
House Of Chakas
All the business behind the business is handled in this building. The Commerce Authority, which answers directly to the rajah, maintains its offices here, and all public business records for the various chakas are kept on file in this building as well. The chakas convene a Leadership Council in the hall's great auditorium on a regular basis to discuss business practices, set loan rates, address grievances, and elect advisors to Rajah Seltarir.
The largest temple in Chavyondat, located near the center of town, is dedicated to the Adama. Mulad Shaulim (LG human male cleric 5 of Waukeen/hand of the Adama 7) presides over the faithful, conducting services daily at dawn and dusk.
On the west edge of town, the halflings have dedicated a small shrine to Cyrrollalee in their sizable community.
Anything and everything is available for sale in the market of Chavyondat, but one notable shopping area is separate from the market. The Thayan Enclave, established three years ago, is a walled manor house in the wealthy district of town from which the Red Wizards sell all sorts of imported goods - particularly spell components. Their specialty is discounted magic items, and, their prices are lower than those of most other merchants in the city (consistently 10% lower than the prices given in Store Builder for a thriving city.
The rajah's palace sits on the highest ridge along the eastern end of Chavyondat, overlooking the whole community and the bay below. The palace was built more than three hundred years ago out of white limestone and highlighted with salmon-colored coral details. Constructed on the site of the watchtower that protected the city when it was no more than a trading camp, the palace has been expanded three times since it was built. It houses the rajah's extended family and is defended by a host of three hundred Maquar.
Old Vaelen (Large Town)
This ruined city once served as the capital of Veldorn, but many tragic events have befallen it since. The community was founded in -1234 DR. on the site of a natural spring amid a cluster of hills. In the Year of the Dun Dragon (245 DR), an army of werecreatures led by a wererat prince swarmed up out of the hidden places in the city and wrested control of it from the human population. Since that time, the place has been known as a haven for werecreatures of any sort, as well as a dangerous thorn in the side of every caravan that tries to cross the open plains from the Golden Water to reach Mulhorand and more distant points.
Tired of taking so many losses on the caravan route, Mulhorand marched an army on Old Vaelen and destroyed it in the Year of the Twilight Campaign (1046 DR). Although the city had been reduced to rubble, a significant number of the werecreatures survived - mostly by hiding underground, where the Mulhorandi feared to go. Two years later, a newly transformed vampire named Saed, who had been a nawab on the Turelve Council, fled to Old Vaelen and quickly established a following. Soon enough, the majority of the creatures inhabiting Old Vaelen recognized him as the lord of the city. A year after taking control, Saed somehow managed to convince the other beast-chieftains to unite against their common foes by forming a mutual protection pact. With such an agreement m place, the werecreatures serving under Saed were free to raid caravans with impunity once more.
Today, Old Vaelen appears to be nothing but grassy knolls with a scattering of stone rubble. Beneath those hills, however, lies a huge complex that serves as a lair for a sizable population of wererats, wereboars, werewolves, and other lycanthropes, as well as a number of undead servitors. In all, more than 2,000 creatures dwell in the former capital of Veldorn.
Ormpé (Large Town)
Like Assur and Vaelan, Ormpé started out as a small fishing village and eventually grew into a sizable trading community before beholder princes seized control of it in the second century DR. But though the beholders held the other two cities for centuries, they did not last long in Ormpé. In the Year of the Wolfstone (153 DR), a horde of demons led by a particularly nasty ghour attacked the city, driving the eye tyrants out and assuming control of their human slaves. The ghour and its minions maintained a reign of terror in Ormpé for the next 950 years, until Durpar, Estagund, and Var managed to uproot them through a combined effort. Many humans and demons were slain in the fighting, but the ghour managed to escape, fleeing toward the Giant's Belt Mountains where, according to rumor, he took up with the native hill giants.
Today, Ormpé is a rustic mining community with approximately 4,500 residents. Several chakas have built their fortunes here through the sale of beautiful gemstones and jewelry. The Gemstone Chaka, a dwarf merchant house, recently roared to the forefront of Durpari politics when its discovery of a rich lode of emeralds catapulted its leader, Krakus Stoutgut (LN male gold dwarf aristocrat 2/expert 9), into the High Council. With Nawab Stoutgut's help, the High Council successfully relocated the capital of Durpar to Vaelan, a move that brought the Gemstone Chaka certain tax benefits and cheaper shipping prices (due to an agreement with the nawab from Vaelan, offered in exchange for the Gemstone Chaka's vote).
The influx of both wealth and people seeking it has caused the population of Ormpé to grow rapidly - far faster, in fact, than the Ormpé Council had anticipated. As a result, the city has a rather large slum section where those with little money and few prospects for work congregate, waiting for a break. Part of the problem is that the Gemstone Chaka prefers to employ only dwarf miners for the digging and gnome gemcutters for preparing the emeralds, leaving the desperate humans unemployed. If something isn't done about the squalor soon, the situation could quickly turn ugly.
The capital city of Var the Golden, Pyratar (population 44,389) is one of the largest cities on the Golden Water - second in size only to Heldapan. Besides serving as the center of government for Supreme Potentate Anwir and the three power factions of Var, Pyratar is also its most cosmopolitan city, thanks to the various outside influences that have gained a stronger foothold here than elsewhere. The drift from the tenets of the Adama represented by these outside factions runs deeper than most folk realize. A sect of Mask-worshiping thieves has established a lucrative operation in the bowels of the city, headed by Fourth Nawab Kelsipal Turamir (LE male human rogue 5/cleric 11 of Mask) of the Pyratar Council.
Like Assur and Ormpé Vaelan once fell to the monsters of the Curna Mountains but was eventually reclaimed. In the earliest days of Veldorn, it was simply a fortified caravan stop called Vaelantar - a waystation set up to protect goods until the ships that would carry them to distant ports arrived. Gradually folk who catered to traders began to set up businesses there, and soon enough it became a thriving little market community. While the beholders held the town, they actually built it up considerably, turning it into a veritable armed fortress filled with magical defenses. After a hard-fought and bloody battle, the trading nations reclaimed the city, and the portions of it that were still standing when the dust cleared were quite impressive.
In the two and a half centuries since Vaelan was freed, it has been transformed into a thriving port and marketplace that rivals the other major trading centers in the region.
Old Vaelen or Vaelan?
Over the centuries, merchants and explorers from the Heartlands have visited the Shining South and returned with numerous maps of the region. Unfortunately, few could agree on both the location and the spelling of the city known as Vaelan. Some claimed that they had visited a bustling, fortified trading port by that name on the western coast of the Golden Water, which was under Durpar's banner. Others insisted that Vaelen was actually a monster-filled ruin, far inland from the bay, nestled near a natural spring in some hills about a half-day's ride from a great river. Only recently was this confusion resolved, when a scribe named Loducius the Laughing returned from the shining Lands to Waterdeep with an explanation.
In the early days of the Shining Lands, the Veldorn tribe gathered yearly in some low hills, where a spring bubbled forth and trickled away toward the Liontongue River. Eventually, when these tribesfolk settled down to engage in trade; they founded the community of Vaelen at their old gathering site. In later years, when rival tribes began to attack their caravans, the Veldorn built a fortified trading port on the coast of the Golden Water and named it Vaelantar, which meant "Little Vaelen" in Durpari. The caravans could store their goods there until ships arrived to pick them up.
When monsters began pouring forth from the Curna Mountains in the second century DR, Vaelantar fell to beholders and was lost to Veldorn. A century later; the capital of Veldorn also fell, this time to werecreatures. Then Mulhorand, tired of having its caravans harassed by the werecreatures of Vaelen, sent an army that reduced the former capital of Veldorn to rubble in 1046. A half century after that, Durpar reclaimed Vaelantar for the human population by finally driving out the monsters, sending them north and west. The nawabs of the High Council, recognizing the advantage of controlling more ports on the bay, claimed the territory between the Golden Water and the Curna range as part of Durpar and began to resettle the old communities. Somewhere along the way, the name Vaelantar was shortened to Vaelan, and the original capital became known as Old Vaelen.
Heroes and Monsters
Characters from the Shining Lands are most often humans or half-elves, though a few might be halflings whose ancestors migrated from Luiren or dwarves from the Curna Mountains. Among the humans of the region, the vast majority are Durpari, though some are Mulan or Arkaiun. In addition, various kinds of monster characters hailing from Veldorn might have decided to leave the oppression of that region behind for a life of adventuring.
A wide variety of monsters can be found in the lands around the Golden Water, especially in Veldorn. The dark tree, cyclops, and mantimera are indigenous to the region. Other monsters native to Veldorn include beholders, werecreatures, leucrotta, demons, and various giants.