More of the Western Heartlands!
By Rand Sharpsword
Rand Sharpsword, collector of bits of travel and geographical information, brings you further details about the Waterdeep and Lands of Intrigue areas. Rand provides these to supplement the information found in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
Western Heartlands Locations
Corm Orp: The mayor of the town is human but Corm Orp's culture is halfling dominated. The town has thirty human militia members who wear chain and sport green felt strips on their right arms and left thighs -- the town has another thirty or forty halfling militia members who don't make the mistake of identifying themselves so openly, preferring to strike from the shadows.
Those unfamiliar with Corm Orp's actual defenses wonder how a halfling town with a small militia can stay nearly unharmed within screaming distance of the Zhents of Darkhold. Rumormongers whisper that certain of Corm Orp's inhabitants have cut deals with the Zhents, receiving promises of protection for information on rival caravans, adventurers, and whatever else passes through the town's zone of control. Stating this rumor out loud is a good way to receive the unpleasant halfling equivalent of a punch in the nose -- a blow that lands smack in the groin.
Dunkapple Castle: An upside-down flying castle hovers above the center of the Marsh of Chelimber. Some laugh at first hearing the castle's nickname, but few adventurers who actually see it join in the laughter. Once upon a time, the castle clearly hovered proudly in mid-air, but magical artillery and centuries of neglect have undone a portion of its levitation magic. Once every 30-60 seconds, the castle's highest (now lowest!) towers bob 2-6 feet above the marsh down to 2-6 feet below the marsh waters. The bobbing motion is accompanied by wet slooshing sounds, or by enormous sucking noises in the rare instances in which the tips of the towers stick all the way into the muck. The entire process is somewhat sickening to observe, but nausea is the least of the problems faced by adventurers who climb or fly up into the upside-down castle's traps, treasure rooms, and menagerie of flying monsters and anti-social wizards. As with a few other powerfully magical adventuring sites, Dunkapple Castle has an interior life of its own, changing its layout and contents according to some inhuman schedule.
Durlag's Tower: Adventurers who consider digging through the volcanic rock composing the tower and its base should be warned that even the tomb tappers, masters of tunneling into hidden treasure troves, have given this up as a suicidal approach to Durlag's Tower. Adventurers who are not so wed to tunneling through the earth, and who can fit within the tower's standard-sized doorways without needing to alter the tower's basic structure, might not trigger the same devastating defenses.
Fields of the Dead: The area now known as the Fields of the Dead has been a battlefield since the earliest days of Faerûn, long centuries before the reign of the dragons and thousands of years before the arrival of the elves and dwarves. In the earliest days, when only the deities and the Eldest Races walked or flew above the oceans and lands of Toril, the sharn and the phaerimm fought a great war in the mountains of what would become the west coast of Faerûn. As the phaerimm's magic cascaded off the sharn's shields, the land beneath the battle warped and shrank. Mountains that had formerly soared to scrape the foundations of the homes of the divine powers collapsed in upon themselves until they turned into low hills. The great western mountain range of Faerûn disappeared, seen only in garbled visions of the cataclysmic past, by seers who misstep while viewing the future.
Greenest (Hamlet, 150): Greenest is a caravan stockade town near the edge of the Green Fields with one good inn, two mediocre ones, and all the sundries that caravans and travelers need to keep going. Whether it survives for another five years is anyone's guess. Agents of Darkhold prefer that it disappear before it makes it onto the map, so life in Greenest is likely to turn interesting.
Reaching Woods: The Reaching Woods surround the River Reaching from the Dusk Road in the north, down to Scornubel, and farther south to the Uldoon Trail that connects Berdusk and Asbravn. The river splits the woods into northern and southern halves.
Compared to the Forest of Wyrms to the north and the Wood of Sharp Teeth to the south, the Reaching Woods is a pleasant and beautiful forest, and it's also an easy place to maintain a shrine to the Green Gods and visit the peoples of the woods. Unlike most younger forests of the west and north, the Reaching Woods is mainly deciduous -- full of elms, maples, beeches, and oaks. The woods are cared for by the druids of the centaurs, hybsils, and satyrs, as well as human druids and rangers who cooperate with the nonhumans to fight goblinoid tribes that despoil the shrines to the Green Gods. Curiously, the woods' small population of gnolls tends to cooperate with the fey and human druids against the goblinoids, as long as they are otherwise left alone.
Serpent's Tail Stream: This wild highland stream provides water and occasionally waterborne transport to various creatures lurking in the High Moor and Serpent Hills. Upon descending to the lowlands beside the Forest of Wyrms, the Serpent's Tail Stream joins the Winding Water.
Trielta Hills: The hills to the north and east of Triel provide shelter for many quiet communities of gnomes and a few somewhat louder bands of halflings. Miners occasionally find silver and gold deposits in the hills, occasioning a small-scale gold rush, but the veins never last for long and most of the humans soon leave, allowing the gnomes to fade back into the shelter of the hills.
The Forest of Wyrms, to the south, troubles the region with wandering dragons. Most of these dragons can be tricked into turning back by the gnomes or driven off by halfling heroes, but occasionally the gnomes of the hills have to engage adventurers to deal with a dragon that doesn't know when it is not wanted.
Sites of interest in the West include the final refuge of the moon and sun elves in Faerûn (Evereska), the graveyard of dragons (the Well of Dragons), the monastery that keeps the Roll of Years (Candlekeep), the western headquarters of the Harpers (Berdusk), the western headquarters of the Zhents (Darkhold), and the most tolerant free port west of Westgate and south of Waterdeep (Baldur's Gate).
Plots and Rumors
A New Map: The existence of a new map for Durlag's Tower floats in to tantalize nearby adventurers. Rumor has it that it shows a magical way to get into the tower. Some say a halfling found it and intends to sell it, but others state that it rests within a traveling wizard's chest. Where is it? If the heroes find it, do they intend to seek out the tower?
Visions of Glory: Each night for a tenday, all humanoids have a dream that shows them drifting through a castle. The one strange thing about the castle is that it seems to be upside down. Each person sees the same room, also. What is this dream? Can anyone figure this out?