History of Halruaa
Magic is the most venerated form of power in Halruaa, and those who can wield it most effectively tend to wield political power as well. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the wizards of Halruaa seldom see eye to eye on any topic. Thus, Halruaa's power structure consists of numerous factions of wizards, all working at cross-purposes in their quest for mere magic.
Zalathorm, the present Wizard-King of Halruaa, is a diviner whose ability to foretell the future has extinguished several threats. before they could become serious. In fact, Zalathorm and the other diviners have been so successful in protecting the nation that most citizens favor placing divination specialists in leadership positions from now on, rather than entrusting the nation's fate to evokers, conjurers, and the other kinds of wizards who ruled in the days when Halruaa had to defend itself actively.
History of Halruaa
The earliest people to settle the warm, rain-drenched plains of Halruaa were Lapal tribes that had fled from their oppressive yuan-ti masters in the jungles to the west. These sturdy folk settled along the banks of the wide, gentle rivers and around the lake, becoming farmers, fisherfolk, and shepherds. Because the three mountain chains around Halruaa formed a natural barrier against the outside world, the tribes were left mostly in peace.
No others arrived in the valley until nearly 1,400 years later, when a group of Netherese wizards led by the archmage Raumark fled the scourge of the phaerimms and the destruction of the empire of Netheril by skyship. Raumark had foreseen the doom approaching his native land and begun planning such an escape even before Karsus's' fateful act and Mystryl's death. Upon crossing the mountains, the Netherese found a beautiful and rich country, sparsely populated by Lapal shepherds and fisherfolk, and decided to adopt it as their new home.
The two ethnic groups embraced one another rather than fighting over such a bountiful and available land, and they quickly learned to coexist. The wizards provided the simple folk of Halruaa with an organized ruling class, laws, justice, and wondrous works. Native Lapalians with a talent for magic were accepted as students with no hesitation, and the presence of so many powerful wizards soon discouraged the raiders and monsters that had once plagued the lowlands.
In the years after the arrival of the Netherese, Halruaa grew and prospered as a nation of wizards in relative isolation. But although its citizens have never shown much interest in occurrences beyond the Walls of Halruaa, the converse has not been true - Halruaa's neighbors have made numerous attempts at conquest despite the country's fabled defenses. Envious of Halruaa's riches and magical treasures, the Dambrathans have been the most frequent pests, invading Halruaa for brief periods on several occasions.
In 585 DR. a fleet of Dambrathan galleys attacked Halruaa's coasts and occupied the country south of Lake Halruaa for several months, until the great Halruaan wizard-king known as Mycontil defeated the invaders and slew their leader. The last serious invasion occurred about one hundred years ago, when a charismatic satrap of Lapaliiya led a great raid through Talath Pass. The Halruaans drove off these invaders easily.
|-1732||Lapal tribes begin to settle the Lake Halruaa basin.|
|-339||Year of Sundered Webs||Karsus causes the fall of Netheril, and the archmage Raumark leads a cadre of Netherese south. This group eventually finds and settles Halruaa.|
|-125||Year of Banished Wisdom||Hetel Hastalhorn, a prominent Halruaan archmage, founds Mhairhetel, now known as the City of Renegades, in the southern tip of the Mhair Jungles.|
|147||Year of Iron Colossus||Azuth worshipers formally break with the Church of Mystra and establish the House of the High One Ascendant in the mountains near Lhair.|
|173||Year of Screaming Sharn||Several followers of Leira, dissatisfied with the stranglehold that worshipers of Mystra and Azuth have gained over the Council of Elders, depart Halruaa in skyships. These wizard lords eventually settle in Nimbral.|
|426||Year of Black Dawn||Ongild, a wizard of some renown, crafts a magic gem that stores spells and gives it his name. The Ongild eventually winds up in the belly of a red dragon named Hoondarrh.|
|546||Year of Rusted Sabre||Gulkuluster begins creating a series of powerful wands, one of which is currently in the possession of a sapphire dragon named Malaeragoth, who lairs beneath the Graypeak Mountains.|
|553||Year of Gnashing Tooth||Arkaiun barbarians from Dambrath invade the coast of Halruaa and occupy numerous cities for several months.|
|554||Year of Waving Wheat||Mycontil, the Wizard-King of Halruaa, assembles an army to drive the invaders out. During the battle, he slays the barbarian king, Reinhar I, with a devastating spell that also consumes Mycontil and his circle of apprentices.|
|585||Year of Ogling Beholder||A fleet of Dambrathan galleys attempts to sail into the channel leading to Lake Halruaa and conquer Halagard. Devastating magic launched from both shore and skyships sinks almost every ship.|
|638||Year of Menial Phrases||first rumors of a temple dedicated to Grumbar, hidden in the West Wall, arise on the streets of Halruaan cities.|
|827||Year of Sacrificed Fortune||wizard Omm Hlandrar of Halruaa engages a Red Wizard named Velsharoon in a spectacular magical battle in the skies over the Shaar. The contest ends in a draw.|
|973||Year of Emptied Lair||Crinti shadow marauders begin raiding the Nath Valley through the pass connecting the two nations.|
|1144||Year of Giant's Maul||Halruaan archmage Ootheraum Deirin slays the dragon Thokiastees over the Shining Sea east of Orlil in an aerial battle.|
|1146||Year of Tardy Guests||necromancer Akhlaur opens a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water, releasing the larakens into the swamp where his tower sits.|
|1260||Year of Broken Blade||Lapaliiya attempts to invade Halruaa and is repulsed.|
|1262||Year of Black Wind||Zalathorm, the current wizard-king, ascends the throne of Halruaa.|
|1263||Year of Tressym||Netyarch Zalathorm moves the capital of Halruaa from Halagard to Halarahh for defensive purposes.|
|1312||Year of Griffon||Thongameir "Stormspells" Halargoth acquires a young bronze dragon as a mount and is frequently seen flying to and from his secluded mountainside keep, known as Narthtowers.|
|1321||Year of Chains||Darsson Spellmaker, later renowned for creating numerous spells, is born.|
|1332||Year of Sword and Stars||Hansandrar Ilmeth, an archmage of Halruaa, creates the Mighty Rune of the Master, a magic "spelltome" of Deneir.|
|1355||Year of Harp||Dwalimar Omen, an agent of Zalathorm, departs Halruaa in the Realms Master, a special skyship equipped with the Astrolabe of Nimbral, to collect dangerous artifacts across Faerûn.|
|1357||Year of Prince||Netyarch Zalathorm goes briefly mad while divining the Time of Troubles and is replaced on the throne by Gabrela for a period of two weeks.|
|1372||Year of Wild Magic||Wizardwar occurs. Akhlaur and Zalathorm, who owe their long lives to certain magic they created together in their youth, face off against one another. Zalathorm destroys the red gem around his neck that houses the last remaining portion of their life-extending magic, killing them both. Immediately afterward, the survivors of the battle, together with the Cabal - a group of elf spirits recently freed from another, larger gem - resurrect Zalathorm.|
Halruaa's ruling body is the Council of Elders - a tumultuous body of more than four hundred powerful wizards headed by the netyarch, or wizard-king. Though all the elders are independent thinkers' with widely differing opinions, they somehow manage to work together well enough to govern the country effectively.
The leader of the council and current netyarch of Halruaa is Zalathorm Kirkson (LN male human diviner 20/Loremaster 4/Halruaan elder 5), who is rumored to be several centuries old. His tower stands in the middle of the temple complex dedicated to Mystra in Halarahh. The netyarch's palace is an ornate building protected by a wide variety of magical guardians and defenses.
Zalathorm uses a special magic item known as the Crystal Orb to call a meeting of the council. The Orb allows him to contact all the elders at once with a single command, and those who respond remain in telepathic contact with Zalathorm and the other respondents for as long as desired. The use of this device means that the elders need not actually travel to the palace to participate in a meeting, though most of them have the magical wherewithal to do so easily. On most occasions, fewer than half the elders respond to the telepathic summons, since many of them are involved in arduous magical research or other personal business when a meeting occurs. Unless the issue at hand is of the direst nature, only one-tenth of the council members need to vote to render a decision. When an issue seems serious enough to warrant the participation of the entire council, a special vote is called. If it passes, a magical summons is sent out to every single elder, requesting that she proceed with all due haste' to the palace because important business is afoot. When feasible, a waiting period is established to allow every member a chance to arrive. Once the full council is in session, however, those unable to attend must live with the decisions of those present.
To become an elder, an individual must demonstrate a certain minimal arcane aptitude and petition the council for entry. In general, the wizards already on the council perform a "background check" with a few perfunctory divination spells to ensure that the potential member isn't going to create a problem later. Most of the time, this check is a mere formality, since every wizard worth her salt in Halruaa already knows every other one (either as a potential ally or a rival) and is keenly aware of the dynamics of all the various factions in the Council of Elders. Once accepted into the council, each individual member finds a level of participation that is both useful and comfortable.
When the netyarch dies or steps down, the full Council of Elders convenes to select a new one. The elders are supposed to choose the most powerful among their number, but the succession meetings have always been contentious, politically charged affair. The last three netyarchs have all been specialists in the school of divination, primarily because diviners have demonstrated the value of ferreting out threats to the nation before they actually occur.
Since most Halruaan wizards worship Mystra, her church plays a key role in the government. Priests of the Lady of Mysteries serve as judges for the state, determining truth and intent in all criminal trials via divination spells. More recently, the legal side of the governing process has opened up a bit more to servants of Azuth, giving this segment of the population better representation in all facets of Halruaan politics.
The Council of Elders determines policy for the nation at large, but each town and city elects a mayor to handle local matters. In practice, the citizens almost always vote a Council Elder to the post of mayor, since they believe that the most powerful wizards are also the most qualified to run their communities. The mayors manage the mundane issues in their communities and appoint worthy individuals to fill all manner of government posts - particularly those that involve keeping the peace and defense. Patrols, city guards, and, occasionally military forces are common sights on the streets. Such a defensive unit almost always includes a priest and a mage to serve as judge and executioner.
To a Halruaan, people of any other nationality are enemies. The Halruaans view natives of other nations as a bunch of greedy, magic-grubbing freeloaders who can't wait to get their hands on the results of all the wizards' hard work. Perhaps this attitude is a residual effect of Halruaa's early days, when the displaced Netherese believed that the phaerimms were coming for them, or perhaps it results from the various raids on Halruaa in the not-too-distant past. Whatever the cause, most folk in Halruaa believe that everyone outside their nation covets their magic and wishes to steal it.
Perhaps the most irritating foes Halruaa faces are the endless hordes of bandits that seem to worm their way over, through, and under the North Wall from the Bandit Wastes. While divination is a useful tool in forecasting major threats to the land, it does not do as good a job predicting the arrival and movements of small hands of raiders. Thus, the Halruaans from the northern part of the country have learned to keep an eye open for trouble and a hand near their spell components at all times.
Realistically speaking, few countries would dare to take on a wizard nation directly. Thus far, the boldest such challenger has been Dai'hbraeh, but historians have always found the wisdom of that country's pre-Crinti barbarian leadership suspect. More recently, raiding the Nath has become great sport for the Crinti of Dambrath, though such raids are typically forms of entertainment sponsored by independent-minded nobles rather than actual invasions organized by the queen and her advisors. Since the rise of the diviners has led to better preparedness and more effective defenses against outside attacks overall, the Crinti have been gradually losing interest in annoying their neighbors. Still, the range of formidable mountains and the vast swamp that separate the two countries are probably a boon to both. So long as they do not venture far from the docks, Crinti merchants are welcome to trade in Halruaan cities, and this courtesy seems to appease both sides.
This loose confederation of city-states has decided before that raiding Halruaa would be beneficial. The acquisition of magic is the most likely explanation for this decision, but that same magic resulted in resounding defeat for the Lapaliiyan invaders, and that situation isn't likely to change any time soon. Currently, healthy levels of trade flow in both directions through Talath Pass, and as long as the Lapaliiyans are willing to stay on their side of the mountains, the Halruaans are happy to do business with them.
Though overt hostilities have never broken out between these two great magic-using nations, no one who understands the two countries at all has any doubt that they distrust one another. For their part, the Red Wizards would like nothing more than to get their hands on Halruaa's more extraordinary secrets, and they have tried repeatedly to establish an enclave in Halruaa, though all such attempts have been firmly rebuffed. The Halruaans suspect that letting the wizards to the north get a foothold in their country would just be inviting endless trouble, no matter what pretense the Thayans offered. Individual Red Wizards have occasionally been caught sneaking into and around Halruaa, though what they were doing there is anyone's guess, since Halruaa's policy is to deal swiftly and summarily with all such trespassers before they have a chance to cause any damage - and often before they can be made to talk. Not surprisingly, guesses as to the true reasons for their presence usually involve the theft of magic.