Cormanthor: War Amidst the Trees
By Eric Boyd (Dragon #354)
Well met again, gentles; Volothamp Geddarm, at thy service!
This time I bring lore of fabled Cormanthor. The deeps woods of the elves, whose mysterious shadows hide ruins, drow, marauding and stalking beasts, the proud Fair Folk and dangerous adventures - a place most folk of Faerûn love to hear about, but would not dare to set foot in; a vast realm of pastoral beauty and lurking deadliness
Well, that's where Volo comes in. You need not venture into such peril; I'll do it for you. Spell-disguised as a tree or daring to scramble and trot about as myself, I went everywhere and saw (almost) everything. I nigh-perished in this fair cause, but am all the more proud to lay the fruits of my boldness before you. If you could do as I have done, and stand on the mossy banks of a clear, shimmering forest pool in the moonlight, gazing up past gigantic gnarled oaks and shadowtops at the stars overhead, listening to the hooting calls and rustling of the Elven Woods all around you... you could die happy.
(And probably would, in a breath or two, when something pounced on you.)
For millennia, the great forest of Cormanthor has been known as the Elven Woods, home to the Fair Folk of Cormanthyr who held their domain against the ever-encroaching threat of humanity. Since the Weeping War (712-714 DR), the capitol city of Myth Drannor has been in ruins, overrun by all manner of monsters, while elders of the Elven Court ruled the rest of the woods. After centuries of deliberation, the Elven Court declared a Retreat in the Year of Moonfall (1344 DR), which led to a mass decampment of the Fair Folk for Evermeet, the Green Isle. Although they left traps and wards to guard their ancient homeland, even the Fair Folk were surprised at how quickly their ancient nemesis - the drow - infiltrated the Elven Woods. The dark elves were but the first of many groups to rush into the vacuum created by the Retreat, with the demon-tainted gold elves of House Dlardrageth and their fey'ri legions following soon thereafter. Now, in the wake of a great crusade launched from Evermeet, Myth Drannor has been reclaimed, but the struggle for control continues beneath the fabled boughs of Cormanthor's great oaks.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, Cormanthor has been convulsed by war. The following timeline summarizes the conflict.
|The Year of Wild Magic|
|Eleasis 28||Lolth falls silent.|
|Eleint 23||An army of goblins, ogres, giants, and demons led by Kurgoth Hellspawn, a half-fiend fire giant, attacks Maerimydra. Although most of Maerimydra's drow are slaughtered or enslaved, small bands of refugees escape into the surrounding Underdark, known as the Deep Wastes. House Dhuumiv, which fell into disgrace after forging the Spider's Truce during the Weeping War, is the only Maerimydran noble house to survive with significant holdings, as most lie outside the city.|
|1373 The Year of Rogue Dragons|
|Hammer 1||Sammaster completes his transformation of the Dracorage mythal, precipitating a Rage of Dragons independent of the appearance of the King-Killer Star in the heavens.|
|Ches 28||Lolth's Silence ends. Halisstra Melarn, Lolth's Lady Penitent, begins harrying the surface-dwelling drow of the Darkwoods, Eastern Fringe, and Velarswood.|
|Tarsakh 17||Zarlandris emerges from Glaun Bog and attacks the town of Highmoon. After a desperate battle, the great black wyrm dies amidst the rubble of the Tower of the Rising Moon. Lord Theremen Ulath vows to rebuild.|
|Mirtul 22||Sirvinhandra, thought dead for centuries, emerges from a hidden lair in the Dun Hills and lays siege to the Abbey of the Just Hammer. After inflicting terrible devastation, the great green wyrm is laid low by Lord High Justiciar High Avenger Deren Eriach.|
|Elesias 7||Thraxata the Flamefiend, a red dragon, sets fires across Battledale that consume large swaths of woodlands.|
|Taraskh 5||Narlgathra, a red wyrm, emerges from the ruins of Myth Drannor and flies south to attack Tangled Trees. The summertime inhabitants are slaughtered, leaving only a handful of survivors later discovered by far-wandering residents upon their return.|
|Taraskh 12||A band of dragon hunters destroys the Zhentarim garrison of Elmwood and three war galleys.|
|Uktar 13||Verthandantalynx, a green wyrm lairing in the depths of Cormanthor west of Myth Drannor, succumbs to the Rage and attacks the village of Trenahess, leaving it in ruins.|
|Nightal 6||Sammaster is destroyed and the rage comes to an end.|
|1374 The Year of Lightning Storms|
|Taraskh 12||In the wake of a failed assault on Evereska, the half-fiend gold elves of House Diardrageth return to Myth Drannor, accompanied by a legion of fey'ri liberated from the Nameless Dungeon.|
|Mirtul 6||House Dlardrageth's legions destroy the Morninglord's temple in Myth Drannor, killing most of the clerics, although a few escape through a portal.|
|Mirtul 10||Scyllua Darkhope learns of the fey'ri presence in Myth Drannor.|
|Mirtul 13||Lady Sarya, Dlardrageth, matron of House Dlardrageth, summons Malkizid, an exiled archdevil, to Myth Drannor.|
|Mirtul 19||Araevin Teshurr and his adventuring companions uncover the portal network Sarya used to move her army from the ruins of Myth Glaurach, her bastion near the High Forest, to Myth Drannor.|
|Mirtul 22||Scyllua Darkhope begins preparations to march a Zhentarim army south to Yûlash.|
|Mirtul 24||Lord Seiveril Miritar of Elion, leader of the Crusade from Evermeet that rescued Evereska, convenes a Council of War in the ruins of Myth Glaurach. The commanders of the Crusade agree to travel via the portal network discovered by Araevin to Semberholme in hopes of defeating House Dlardrageth once and for all.|
|Mirtul 28||By the shore of Lake Sember, Seiveril revives the Dales Compact with Battledale, Deepingdale, Mistledale, and Shadowdale.|
|Kythorn 1||The Crusade marches north toward Mistledale and Shadowdale.|
|Kythorn 4||House Dlardrageth forms an alliance with Hillsfar and Sembia. Hillsfar begins mustering an army to send south down the Moonsea Ride to Mistledale and Battledale. Sembia recruits a mercenary army to send north along Rauthauvyr's Road through Featherdale and Tasseldale.|
|Kythorn 12||Hillsfar allies with Zhentil Keep. The Black Network agrees to invade Daggerdale and Shadowdale.|
|Kythorn 16||Sembia's mercenaries cross Blackfeather Bridge and occupy Battledale.|
|Kythorn 21||Hillsfar reneges on its alliance with House Dlardrageth.|
|Kythorn 24||The Crusade routs Scyllua Darkhope's army, forcing them to retreat to Yûlash.|
|Kythorn 26||House Dlardrageth attacks the city of Hillsfar and Hillsfar's army based at the Standing Stone. The First Lord's tower is destroyed, but Maalthiir, ruler of Hillsfar, escapes.|
|Flamerule 3||House Dlardrageth breaks Hillsfar's army at the Standing Stone, forcing it to flee back to Hillsfar. Sembia's army begins to dissolve under repeated assault by the legions of House Dlardrageth.|
|Flamerule 21||House Dlardrageth destroys the Standing Stone and allies with the House Jaelre drow.|
|Eleasis 5||Emissaries of the Crusade reach a truce with the Sembians. House Dlardrageth launches a raid against the Crusade encampment at Semberholme, but is repulsed.|
|Eleasis 6||Zhentil Keep's army crushes the Hillsfar garrison at Yûlash. (Final Gate)|
|Eleasis 9||House Jaelre attacks the Sembian and elven delegations in Tasseldale; all three groups suffer casualties. Maalthiir decamps from Hillsfar; destination unknown.|
|Eleasis 10||The Zhentilar invades Hillsfar's western territories.|
|Eleasis 11||The Crusade allies with Sembia against House Dlardrageth.|
|Eleasis 17||Fzoul issues his terms to Hardil Gearas, High Warden of Hillsfar (Final Gate).|
|Eleasis 17||The Crusade battles the legions of House Dlardrageth in the Vale of Lost Voices. The Zhentilar besiege Hiisfar.|
|Eleasis 18||Malkizid is banished. House Dlardrageth retreats from the Vale of Lost Voices. Hillsfar capitulates to the army of Zhentil Keep.|
|Eleasis 20||The Crusade surrounds Myth Drannor.|
|Eleasis 22||The Crusade overruns Myth Drannor and House Dlardrageth fails. A handful of fey'ri escape. Seiveril Miritar is slain.|
|Eleasis 27||Fzoul Chembryl meets in secret with Jezz the Lame of House Jaelre and representatives of the Auzkovyn Clan. The three groups agree to work in concert to destroy the Fair Folk before they can truly reestablish the City of Song.|
|Eleasis 29||Fzoul Chembryl orders Scyllua Parkhope to seize control of the Moonsea Ride by establishing a series of fortifications along the road south from Hillsfar.|
|Eleint 3||Skirmishes between the Zhentarim and Myth Drannor erupt along the Moonsea Ride. Masked drow support the Black Network with targeted assassinations. This marks the beginning of the Cormanthor War, pitting the Army of Myth Drannor against the Army of Darkhope and the Masked Brigades (Vhaeraun-worshiping drow of House Jaelre and the Auzkovyn Clan). In the months that follow, a series of increasingly deadly raids and counter-raids are mounted by each side.|
|Eleint 12||Storm Silverhand, Dove Falconhand, and the rest of the Knights of Myth Drannor arrive in the City of Song to aid in its defense. Within hours they are engaged in a series of hit-and-run battles with drow skirmishers in the forests to the east.|
|Uktar 3||A Sharran priestess, Esvele Greycastle, forges an alliance with Fzoul Chembryl, Tyrant of the Moonsea.|
|Feast of the Moon||Esvele Greycastle forges an alliance between the Lolth-worshiping drow of House Dhuurniv and the Zhentarim.|
|Nightal 1||Scyllua Darkhope returns to Zhentil Keep to lead an additional division into the field. To her surprise, Fzoul orders her to invade Shadowdale again; but this time with support from the Church of Shar and the drow of House Dhuurniv.|
|Nightal 15||Sharran assassins infiltrate the village of Shadowdale and attack Elminster's Tower. After a fierce battle, Elminster vanishes and his tower is blasted into ruin and hurled into another plane.|
|Nightal 16||In the early morning hours, the Zhentarim army led by Scyllua Darkhope overruns Shadowdale with the aid of the Church of Shar and House Dhuurniv. The Army of Myth Drannor is unable to respond as Zhentarim brigades to the east launch simultaneous attacks on several key elven fortifications.|
|Nightal 18||Lord Mourngrym Amcathra publicly embraces the Army of Darkhope as allies and defenders of Shadowdale.|
|Nightal 27||Scyllua Darkhope begins preparations to march south with two brigades to attack Mistledale, leaving behind the Brigade of Shadows to occupy Shadowdale.|
|Nightal 29||The triggering of ancient wards alerts Coronal Isevele Miritar that Ary'velahr'Kerym, the fabled Warblade, has returned to the Realms Above (or the uppermost reaches of the Underdark) in the vicinity of the Twisted Tower.|
|Nightal 30||Storm Silverhand and Dove Falconhand lead an elite contingent of elves into Shadowdale. The Chosen of Mystra are grievously wounded upon their arrival due to the interaction of their silver fire with the local Weave and forced to teleport away. Their comrades-in-arms are left behind to an uncertain fate.|
Although Myth Drannor has been purged of the Cult of the Dragon, House Dlardrageth, the phaerimm, and Zhentarim-summoned devils, the Elven Woods are still home to many competing factions who battle each other amidst the trees.
Army of Darkhope
The Army of Darkhope, consisting of Zhentilar troops supplemented by mercenary companies who equal them in number is ensconced in Hillsfar, Shadowdale, and newly built fortifications along the Moonsea Ride. High Captain Scyllua Darkhope reports to Fzoul Chembyrl, Tyrant of the Moonsea. He has ordered her to work with the Masked Brigades to dislodge the Army of Myth Drannor from the City of Song before the Fair Folk can reestablish their power in the region.
Army of Myth Drannor
In the wake of the Seiveril's Crusade, the Fair Folk and their allies have reclaimed the City of Beauty. Although at this point the settlement is little more than a fortified encampment amidst the ruins of a once-great city, the new inhabitants have plans to restore Myth Drannor's former glory. The newly ensconced defenders, under the command of Isvele Miritar, have renamed their legions the Army of Myth Drannor. Isvele's forces now control the Heartwood (the region of forest surrounding Myth Drannor) and are actively skirmishing to extend their control north into the Beast Marches, west toward Shadowdale, south toward Mistledale and east to the Moonsea Ride.
Cult of the Dragon
The Followers of the Scaly Way have suffered a series of reverses in the Eastern Heartlands in recent years, from the loss of their base in Myth Drannor to the death of Sammaster. In the wake of the last Rage of Dragons, the Followers of the Scaly Way have retreated to three major strongholds in the Cormanthor region: the environs of Dretchroyaster's Lair, Haptooth Hill, and the ruins of Aencar's Manor. Although the Wearers of the Purple hope to recruit one or more new Sacred Ones (dracoliches) from the ranks of those wyrms awakened by Sammaster's Rage, the bulk of their efforts are directed at undermining the burgeoning influence of the Zhentarim.
Two clans of Vhaeraun-worshiping drow dwell beneath the boughs of the great forest of Cormanthor. The reclamation of Myth Drannor has prompted the two groups to unite against their common foe. The alliance is known as the Masked Brigades for the many mask-wearing clerics of Vhaeraun in their ranks, a practice that has since spread to most of the assassins and skirmishers who fight from the shadows. The Masked Brigades are strongest in the Darkwoods surrounding the Elven Court, although they have been driven from the seat of elven rule, but small bands of dagger-wielding drow stalk Cormanthor from the outskirts of Mistledale to Halvan's Wood.
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