People of Halruaa
Perhaps because they are descendants of the mighty Netherese wizards, Halruaans have never lost their love of and fascination with magic. It permeates their lives, affects every facet of their existences, and provides a standard of living found nowhere else in Faerûn. Though not all Halruaans have mastered the Art, everyone feels comfortable around it. The nation's wizards pursue the Art with fanatical devotion and consider all other studies to be inferior pursuits. Thankfully, the Halruaans have thus far avoided the soul-blindness that doomed Netheril, and if they remain vigilant against such hubris, they might enjoy the fruits of their labors for many years to come.
Races and Cultures
Halruaa is predominantly (90%) a human nation, and Halruaan humans make up 80% of the human population. In the country's earliest days, the great valley formed by the three Walls of Halruaa was sparsely populated by Lapal tribes that had fled the jungles to ,the west. With the fall of Netheril, a group of Netherese led by the great wizard Raumark moved southward, arriving in magnificent skyships to find a land that seemed like paradise. Within a generation, they had begun to blend with the natives. Not long after that, waves of Arkaiun tribespeople who had come west from Dambrath intermingled with the early Halruaans, creating the ethnic group that exists today.
Most modern Halruaans are dark-haired - a trait shared by both their Netherese and Lapal ancestors. Though the fair-skinned Netherese originally dominated the population, the darker, olive-colored skin tones of the Lapal tribes proved more suitable for the sunny clime and became a dominant trait. Today, the typical Halruaan has dark hair and skin in any shade from, ruddy to deep olives though an occasional paler-skinned child is born. Eye color ranges from black to chocolate brown to deep green. Halruaan men average about 5 feet 9 inches tall, and women about 3 inches shorter.
Halruaans speak Halruaan, which is simply a modern dialect of ancient Netherese. They employ the Draconic alphabet in their writings.
The remainder of the nation's population consists primarily of dwarves and halflings. Most of the dwarves live in the mountains that form the eastern perimeter of the country, where they work the gold mines. Some adventuresome strongheart halfling traders from Luiren have settled in trading communities near the coast, while small populations of lightfoot halflings have been established in Halruaa's urban centers for several generations.
A few elves and half-elves also call Halruaa home, though they are rare enough to be considered oddities anywhere in the interior of the country: For the most part, those with elf blood who have made themselves at home in this nation of wizards either have sufficient aptitude to vie for the power that comes with magic, or have chosen to serve as counselors to others who do. A small handful of elves and half-elves make up one bloc of the governing Council of Elders (see Government, below).
Life and Society
Most folk who have never been to Halruaa hold a couple of mistaken assumptions. The first is that all Halruaans are wizards. Though far from true, this assumption has doubtless been fostered in the minds of foreigners by the few Halruaans with whom they have had contact. In fact, only about one-third of all Halruaans have the gift of wizardry; the other two-thirds just act as though they do. The second bit of misinformation shared by those not native to Halruaa is that all the country's wizards seclude themselves in dark, brooding towers built in desolate areas, where they cackle gleefully while working on their latest magical experiments. Again, though this notion is quite understandable, it isn't accurate.
In truth, Halruaans live their lives in much the same way as other people in Faerûn. They marry, have families, and live in communities where they have friends and engage in trade and gossip, just like other folk. The difference is that magic pervades their lives on an everyday level, and they don't think twice about its presence. In most of Faerûn, those who understand magic are considered mysterious outcasts, but in Halruaa, they have the inside track to health, wealth, and happiness, and those who don't have the spark of magic feel as though they're on the outside looking in. Although it is not necessary to practice magic in order to live well in Halruaa, it does help - a fact that might explain why so many Halruaans at least pretend to know a bit of wizardry.
Of the third of the population with magical skill, approximately two-thirds have never been able to get beyond a simple trick or two (as noted in the description of the Magical Training feat). The rest - a little more than 10 percent of the total population - actually understand the intricacies of casting spells. To Halruaans, the true Art is wizardry - they view sorcery as a dangerously undisciplined and primitive approach to magic. Those few Halruaans whose gifts lead them to sorcery instead of wizardry either downplay the extent of their powers or leave the country.
With all that magic at their fingertips, it's no wonder that Halruaans practice exaggerated courtesies with one another. Halruaan social interactions usually involve lengthy declarations of intent, ritual sharing of spell components, and other elaborate niceties, usually as part of formal visits to one another's homes. Such practices might be considered ail unnecessary waste of time in a society that doesn't feel the weight of magic every day, but for Halruaans, they represent self-preservation as much as politeness. To the eyes of visiting outsiders, these courtesies initially seem to be a whirlwind of gestures, bows, and ritualistic exchanges that are too rapid and confusing to figure out. Eventually, though, patterns become discernible, and visitors soon learn to follow along and participate.
Halruaans as a whole are self-satisfied people more interested in staying at home than in exploring or exploiting the rest of Toril. Wizards enjoy pursuing their research in the privacy of their laboratories and don't see much need to get beyond the Walls. Those who do leave their native land are often merchants or agents in search of unusual spell components. A few such agents are important enough to travel in one of the fabled Halruaan skyships, but these flying vessels are fragile and so valuable that they are not sent outside the Walls for anything less than major missions.
While Halruaan wizards do spend a substantial amount of time on their studies, they still manage to make time for family life, though they rear smaller numbers of children on average than citizens of other nations. As a result, children in this country tend to get more individual attention. Halruaans receive public schooling until at least the age of thirteen. Screening for magical aptitude occurs at age five, and magic-capable students often master cantrips by the time they are fifteen.
The smaller than normal number of offspring also means that Halruaa is not a densely populated nation. In fact, it has no large cities, and almost every urban center that does exist is less crowded than one would expect. The streets are wide, stately boulevards, the homes sit on spacious lots with plenty of open grass, and public parks and squares are numerous and open.
To its citizens, Halruaa is truly a land of plenty. Much of its countryside consists of open plains that are well watered by frequent rains. Farming is a significant part of the economy, and because of the relatively sparse population, the farms around Lake Maeru and north of Lake Halruaa can produce most of the food the country needs. Fish abound in the wide rivers and along the shores of the lakes, and fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat are daily fare on most tables throughout Halruaa.
The nation's largest exports are gold and Haerlu wine. The gold is mined out of the mountain's on the eastern side of the nation, and the wine is made in vineyards throughout the countryside. Some of the gold is smelted directly into ingots and used as trade bars, but a significant amount is crafted into fine works of art, either alone or alloyed with silver to form electrum. Gold and electrum jewelry and Haerlu wine fetch fine prices all along the southern coast of the Great Sea, and in nations such as Lapaliiya and Chondath.
Halruaans could rival the Red Wizards in the export of magic if they chose to do so, but oddly enough, spells and magic items do not often make their way beyond the country's borders. Halruaans are decidedly possessive about their magical creations and do not easily let them spread into the wider world beyond their borders. As it is, more than a few folk in prominent positions scowl every time they hear another tale of a skyship racing along somewhere beyond The Walls.
Magic is perhaps first on the list of Halruaa's imports. The appetites of the Halruaan wizard's for new and unusual magic from other lands knows no bounds, and their habit of taking magic without giving any back doesn't seem to bother them in the least. In addition to arcane imports, Halruaa is also a viable market for precious metals and other rare and valuable goods - particularly those useful in the creation of magic, such as spell components. In a nation with such a high quality of life, the demand for exquisite jewelry and other fine art is always high, and ostentatious wizards prefer to craft their magic items out of the best materials.
Law and Order
Perhaps the greatest dangers in living in a society so steeped in magical ability are the threats of escalating magical combat and the effects such battles could have on innocent bystanders. Because Halruaans recognize the danger of the magic they wield, such awesome and deadly displays are few and far between. Nonetheless, magic seems to hang in the air of every village and town, and wizards of every persuasion magically check out anyone who might appear to be a threat. Scrying is common, and divinations of every sort are flung about on the streets of Halruaan communities like trinkets at a parade. The result is that for the most part, Halruaa is a self-policed nation.
When a problem does arise, justice is swift but carefully measured. The Halruaan magehounds, who are tasked with enforcing the laws regarding magic, track down renegade practitioners and bring them to justice. No trial is convened without thorough wizardly research, and no case is ever presented without ponderous magical proof to back it up. Once sufficient proof has been offered that a person is guilty of a crime, punishment is not far behind - assuming that punishment is deemed appropriate. Intent figures significantly into the justice system, and an argument of, "He pointed something at me that looked like a wand, so I slew him," is an acceptable defense - provided that the defendant really thought her life was in danger.
All the magical power at everyone's beck and call actually serves to make Halruaa a peaceful nation, at least internally. Few can expect to get away with crimes if people on every street corner have the means to magically force a confession out of the perpetrator.
Defense and Warcraft
A simple glance at a map reveals that Halruaa is geographically well protected. The mountains that surround it on three sides are high and forbidding, and they completely isolate the country from all its neighbors.
The best means that Halruaans have found to ensure their own safety is prevention. One good bit of intelligence goes long way toward avoiding military disasters, and divination is often the best way to gain knowledge of the enemy. Over the centuries, diviners have earned great prestige for their ability to forecast impending danger - be it monstrous threats, hazardous weather, or invasions by hostile countries - and Halruaa's military has managed to turn back numerous attacks in recent decades simply by knowing what was going to happen before it did.
Still, all the preparation in the world wouldn't do any good without a strong military presence to back it up, and Halruaans learned long ago that magic alone cannot make the difference. Though skyships can whisk soldiers; supplies, and support magic from place to place quickly, the vessels are fragile enough that the wizards rarely waste them in actual battle. Instead, skyships are typically set down to unload troops, and more traditional military tactics often decide the day.
The five mountain passes are the biggest weaknesses in the Halruaan armor, but those are easily defended. Though less forbidding than the high ridges that flank them, the passes are not easy routes for an advancing army, especially if a smaller force is determinedly entrenched in its path. The few times that enemy forces have managed to reach the interior of the country (a rare event, thanks to timely divinations), the Halruaan military has met them with a force that included a large percentage of light cavalry to take advantage of the open ground. Historically, only the Crinti just to the east have given as well as they have taken in mounted combat.
The Halruaan navy can mount a strong force for defense against invasion by sea. Several fast, maneuverable warships are docked in every port city, and more patrol the nearby waters. Since the majority of the population dwells it the interior (around Lake Halruaa), any invading navy would have to sail straight up the channel between the lake and the sea to mount an invasion. Few armadas would be able to survive such a confined route, particularly with the agile warships darting around them and both banks of the river lined with wizards defending their homeland. The only other viable option for invasion would be to land on the outer shores of the country and unload troops, which would then have to march overland. At that point, the superior mobility of the Halruaan skyships would quickly gain the defenders the upper hand.
But even in the face of such defenses, more than a few enemy nations and hordes of monsters have attempted forays against the nation of wizards, lured by the enticing rumors of magic to be gained. The reality of Halruaa's magic is a little less flashy than the stories indicate, but the locals nevertheless put it to good use in protecting their own.
Though religion has its place even in a society dominated by arcane magic, it is not at the forefront of everyday life in Halruaa the way it is in some locales. Nonetheless, almost all Halruaans offer at least a token nod to the gods, knowing full well the folly of turning their backs on the deities that granted them the marvels of magic. To believe that they could get by without such veneration would be the height of arrogance.
Most Halruaans worship either Mystra or Azuth. The vast majority of the population pays homage to the Mother of All Magic, praying to her to watch over the Weave and thus ensure that the Halruaan way of life continues undisturbed. Every community of village size or larger has, at the very least, a shrine dedicated to Mystra, and an extravagant temple honors her in every major town and city. While some of these temples verge on ostentatious, they all pale in comparison with Mouth Talath, the center of magic in Halruaa. High on the mountain slopes along the north side of Halruaa is Mount Talath, the site of the largest temple to Mystra in Faerûn. It houses not only a grand worship center, but also one of the most complete and coveted archive and library in Faerûn - at least so far as magic is concerned.
Not everyone in Halruaa chooses to venerate Mystra - a sizable faction follows the teachings of the Lord of Spells. Indeed, the rise of Azuth's following during the earliest days after his ascension to godhood took place largely in Halruaa, and his worshipers here have constituted the nucleus of his church for more than a millennium. Their collective voice has grown stronger in the years since the Time of Troubles because more than a little dissent grew among the ranks of the Mystra-worshipers during that period, causing significant numbers of wizards - even among the elders - to shift their patronage.
As if the rivalry between the two faiths did not create enough strife, rumors have begun to surface that a new secret cult dedicated to Shar has emerged in Halruaa. Such whispers suggest that some Halruaans - perhaps even a few elders - have heeded the Mistress of the Night's call and turned to the Shadow Weave. Although such tales might be exaggerated, they probably do contain seeds of truth. While the members of the Council of Elders traditionally have difficulty finding common ground on much of anything, those among them who have embraced the Dark Goddess are almost certainly united in their own dark causes.
No other faith has established much of a foothold in Halruaa so far. The churches of Savras and Velsharoon are the most prominent of the minor faiths, but both of these have been largely absorbed into the Church of Azuth, and the populace works to keep it that way. While priests of other deities might visit coastal ports for short durations (perhaps in the service of traders or as emissaries from another nation), they are not welcome to venture deeper into Halruaa, nor are they permitted to spread the tenets of their faith among the locals. Those who attempt to do so quickly draw attention to themselves and are politely asked to leave. Any who persist are magically discharged from Halruaa to the other side of the nearest border, typically landing high in the mountains or in the midst of the Great Sea.
Because Halruaans are fond of their isolation, few of them appreciate outsiders traipsing around the countryside. The nation does accept a small number of local adventurers who periodically visit the more remote regions - particularly the Walls of Halruaa, Akhlaur's Swamp, the jungles of Mhair, and the Swagdar in Dambrath - in search of profit and adventure. But folk from other lands who come to Halruaa to hunt treasure and slay monsters are seldom welcome. Those few who manage to slip in are not forcibly removed as long as they don't cause trouble and do not try to spread the tenets of an unwelcome faith, but the locals keep a suspicious eye on their activities.
Some career adventurers also find alternate means of making a living in Halruaa. Veteran combatants can usually find work with the military, while mages might be able to pay or trade for training, especially if they bring knowledge and samples of outside magic. Foreign thieves, however, are not tolerated. Like rival priests, those who are caught plying the thief's trade are either asked to leave or magically evicted from the nation.