Capitol: Ss'khanaja (formerly Ss'thar'tiss'ssun)
Population: 273,820 (ophidians 52%, lizardfolk 28%, muckdwellers 10%, yuan-ti 7%, nagas [bone, dark, and spirit] 3%)
Religions: Semuanya (lizardfolk, muckdwellers), Sess'innek (lizardfolk nobles and lizard king), Shekinester (spirit nagas), Sseth (now Set) (ophidians, yuan-ti), Ssharstrune "the Ghost Naga" (dark nagas), Varae (aspect of Sseth [now Set]) ophidians), various dragons (ophidians, lizardfolk)
Imports: Herd animals, human slaves, lizardfolk eggs
Exports: Artwork, deinonychus eggs, weapons
Alignment: LE, NE, GE
Najara, the Kingdom of Snakes, is an ancient realm of serpentfolk that encompasses the eastern reaches of the High Moor, the Serpent Hills, the Forest of Wyrms, the Marsh of Chelimber, and the river valleys that meander through the area. Centuries ago, Najara was centered in the western reaches of the Forest of Wyrms, around the now-ruined capitol city of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun. Now, however, the epicenter of this realm has shifted decidedly north into the Serpent Hills (once the exclusive territory of the lizardfolk kingdom of Kalran), and the serpentfolk are strongly influential in the surrounding lands.
Najara is arguably the largest and most powerful kingdom of the Western Heartlands, yet its existence as a realm is almost unknown, even to its nearest neighbors. The serpentfolk do not post guards along the kingdom's borders, or attack every humanoid that passes through their holdings, or extract tariffs from passing caravans. No gnome-dug mines dot the landscape, and no great cities attract visitors from miles around. The region is known to be dangerous, but its neighbors do not believe that its monstrous inhabitants are organized in any real sense. Those who stumble across the truth are rarely seen again, and those who return to human-ruled cities knowing the truth often vanish before their tales can gain any credence.
Life and Society
The king of Najara is the dark naga Ebarnaje, a direct descendant of the ha-naga Terpenzi, who founded the kingdom and served as its first ruler. Ebarnaje is served by a noble caste composed of dark nagas (known as collectively as the nagara), spirit nagas (relatively recent immigrants), and yuan-ti. The majority of the population consists of lizardfolk, muckdwellers, and ophidians.
The lizardfolk native to this area believe themselves to be citizens of the independent kingdom of Kalran. In truth, however, the rulers of Kalran have been vassals of the kings of Najara for many generations. King Amiskal (CE male lizard king fighter 15), the present ruler of Kalran, retains that same relationship with Ebarnaje.
The typical lizardfolk of the northern Serpent Hills are primarily brown, with striking green markings along the arms and upper chest and limbs that are more humanlike than those of other tribes. These alterations reflect the breeding experiments of the Najaran yuan-ti.
Kalran has a militaristic culture in which the strongest warriors serve as chieftains (essentially nobles), and artistic pursuits are held in low esteem. The lizardfolk of Kalran trade with their kin in the Marsh of Chelimber but often battle with their serpentine neighbors. Ebarnaje secretly encourages this state of perpetual low-grade warfare to strengthen the combat-readiness of both groups.
The nagas of Najara form the ruling caste of the Kingdom of Snakes. The dark nagas and free-willed bone nagas are all descendants of Terpenzi, and each is accorded the status of a prince of the realm. Upon the death of the king, the most powerful living dark naga can claim the throne by ritual combat.
Traditionally, approximately a dozen spirit nagas serve the King of Najara. By dint of an ancient pact dating back to the Nejizar's accession to the throne, each spirit naga functions as a protector of and servitor to the royal line, answering directly to the reigning monarch. Some serve as guardians, others inspect ongoing activities in population centers, and the rest function as inquisitors.
The ophidians of Najara, known locally as snakemen, have hides mottled with green and deep yellow, although they can adjust their coloration to blend with their surroundings. Ophidians have simple, snakelike bodies with arms and hands similar to those of humans, and they lack the cobra hoods of southern tribes. Najaran ophidians make up the laborer and warrior castes of the Kingdom of Snakes. They spend their time raising herd animals, hunting, digging tunnels, building subterranean cities, and fighting. Although some ophidians command their fellows, all must answer to the naga and yuan-ti nobility. The religious caste of Najara is dominated by yuan-ti, but a few ophidian priestesses are permitted within the ranks of the Ssethssar. In general, Najaran ophidians are much more religious than members of the ruling castes.
With the exception of histachii and tainted ones, all Najaran yuan-ti are members of the Hss'tafi tribe. The dispassionately intellectual yuan-ti make up the administrator, merchant, and religious castes of the Kingdom of Snakes. Although they never perform physical labor, they supervise most ophidian activities and act as advisors to the ruling nagas. Yuan-ti tainted ones are equal to ophidians in rank and are included in the warrior and merchant castes. Yuan-ti histachii are considered little more than bestial slaves.
Najaran society is cold and lacking in emotional vibrancy. The logical and precise serpentfolk enjoy puzzles, mind-expanding exercises, and games that simulate the strategy of war. They favor art that features elaborate, repetitive patterns and eschew representative art. Such attitudes lend themselves to the study of the Art, and many Najarans pursue the path of sorcerer or (more rarely) wizard.
Muckdwellers are the slaves of the lizardfolk, who are in turn secretly controlled by the serpentfolk. Primitive packs of muckdwellers dwell in muddy pools and streambeds across the northern Serpent Hills, fighting an unending battle with the snakes of the region. From time to time, the lizardfolk of Kalran call on the muckdwellers to supplement the ranks of their armies, but otherwise muckdwellers are largely ignored or eaten.
Major Geographic Features
The major features of Najara are known to humanoids in the area, though few know them as well as the Najarans themselves.
Backlands, The: Named by coast-dwelling humans for its location relative to them, the area known as the Backlands encompasses the sparsely settled region east of the Serpent's Tail Stream, the Forest of Wyrms, and the Trielta Hills, which are north of the River Reaching, west of the desert Anauroch, and south of the Greypeak Mountains. Fertile Netherese farms once covered this region, but now it is home to all manner of fearsome monsters. Yuan-ti and naga hunting parties, guarded by bands of ophidian warriors, often wander the Backlands seeking new types of prey. The serpentfolk have been known to hunt humanoids - particularly cocky bands of adventurers - for sport.
Forest of Wyrms: The Forest of Wyrms is one of the last remnants of the great forest that once stretched from the Sunset Mountains to the Sea of Swords, and from the western and southern edge of the High Moor down to the Cloud Peaks. Despite the incredibly rocky terrain, the great redwoods and thick pines of this forest soar to incredible heights, suggesting that at least parts of this woodland may have been magically grown by the elves of Shantel Othreier. Logging the forest is almost impossible due to its formidable terrain and the creatures that dwell within.
The Forest of Wyrms has been home to all manner of snakes since the arrival of the yuan-ti in Ss'thar'tiss'ssun. Some of the more dangerous varieties include deathcoils, jaculis, and tree pythons. In addition, the Forest of Wyrms is home to at least a half-dozen immature green dragons. Descended from the legendary Agyrtclughwaur, these creatures effectively rule the forest's depths. Driigon slayers often come here, to hunt, but no one has yet recovered the fabled hoard of the Forest Wyrm.
Marsh of Chelimber: This vast marsh is home to thousands of lizardfolk, bullywugs, muckdwellers, and sivs. Their numbers were sorely depleted in the Year of Wild Magic (1372 DR), when beholders enslaved many tribes to fight on behalf of the phaerimms, but the populations have since rallied. The marsh-dwelling tribes battle constantly amongst themselves, uniting only to repel incursions of serpentfolk from the Serpent Hills.
King Kront (CE male lizard king barbarian 13) nominally rules the lizardfolk, bullywug, and muckdweller tribes, but in practice his influence rarely extends farther than his immediate attendants. The siv-dominated Order of the Frog is the real power of the marsh, although individual beholders of the shattered Greypeaks Hive are given wide berths, and the catoblepases are feared by all.
The marsh was formed when the Principality of the Snarling Boar (457 DR to 692 DR), named for the legendary adventurer Boareskyr, was inundated by water elementals in the aftermath of a spell battle between two powerful archmages. Today, many of the Boareskyrn ruins that still dot the marsh are inhabited by brotherhoods of monastic sivs. Other ruins are too magical or intimidating for the marsh, inhabitants to tamper with.
The waggishly named Dunkapple Castle, which hangs upside down with its spires in the muck at the head of the Winding Water, was once the abode of the Wizard of the Crag but is now home to a huge thirst of stirges. The most famous ruin is the Keep of the Drowned Prince, which once served as the royal seat of Boareskyr. The realm's last ruler, Prince Chelimber the Proud, has become a powerful wight, guarding his riches in the depths of the flooded keep. His courtiers, a ravenous pack of lacedons, attend him there.
River Catherine: This small stream winds through the southern Serpent Hills until it joins with the Serpent's Tail Stream and, eventually, the Winding Water. This waterway is home to many of the same creatures as the Serpent's Tail Stream. The central arch of the Great Petrified Serpent spans the River Catherine at its widest point.
Serpent Hills: These rocky hills roll along a great expanse, broadening to the west until they become the High Moor. The Serpent Hills average Y00 feet i~ height, with the tallest just below 1,000 feet. This region gets more rainfall than the moor, and its scrubby growth and groves of hardy trees provide cover for the region's innumerable snakes. Many streams, the largest of which is the River Catherine, emerge from freshwater springs and then carve their way through the rocky hills to join with the Serpent's Tail Stream.
Most of the rock faces have been carved or quarried, and the landscape is dotted with ruins, many of which are Anaurian crypts that date back to the era immediately following the fall of Netheril. The hills themselves are primarily granite, though deposits of iron and silver ore; veins of salt, and pockets of fine marble make them a rich resource. Much of the exposed marble has already been quarried, but many deposits remain underground. Only a few shallow caves lie directly beneath the hills, but some of them connect with the more extensive limestone caverns that make up the uppermost reaches of the Underdark.
In addition to lizardfolk, nagas, ophidians, and yuan-ti, the Serpent Hills support a colony of black caimans (crocodiles), a school of bulettes, a handful of beholder variants with vipers in lieu of eyestalks, dinosaurs (deinonychus, known locally as razortails, and small stegosauruses, known locally as spiketails), firedrakes, giant frogs, muckdwellers, urds (treat as kobolds with the winged template), and strange monstrosities bred by the yuan-ti. The harmless forms of wildlife include frogs, at least four varieties of skinks, snake-necked turtles, and toads. All manner of snakes make their homes here as well, including adders (Small vipers), loopsnakes (amphisbaena), striped boalisks, tree pythons, two-headed adders, whipsnakes, winged vipers, and other harmless varieties.
Known dragons include Borcher (male adult bronze dragon), Chellewis (female adult copper dragon), Girac (male old brass dragon), Janic (female old brass dragon), Narbdy (female young adult brass dragon), Nusas (female adult bronze dragon), Naelere and Thyka (female old bronze dragons), Kasidikal. (female mature adult black dragon from Orogoth), Landillew (female very old red dragon), Mejas and Miteach (male young copper dragons), Topher and Sivert (male adult brass dragons), and Troberdene (male red wyrm).
Serpent's Tail Stream: Winding along the eastern edge of the Serpent Hills, the Serpent's Tail Stream is fed by countless streams as well as the River Catherine. Like the Winding Water to the south, which it eventually joins, this small river serves as a hunting ground for the black caimans (crocodiles) and many swimming snakes that live along its banks. Ophidian hunters often fish from the western bank of the river, regularly landing scaled salmon and horned trout. Periodic floods cause the Serpent's Tail to rise high above its banks, and from time to time the rising waters reveal the entrance to a long-forgotten Anaurian crypt.
Eastern High Moor: The eastern reaches of the High Moor are desolate and rocky. The small ravines and narrow ridges that mark this portion of the wilderness gradually rise up to form the Serpent Hills. The moors due west of the central Serpent Hills are home to numerous hobgoblin tribes, most of which venerate one of the resident wyrms of the region and war intermittently with the serpentfolk. The moorlands to the west of the northern Serpent Hills are home to savage human tribes of Tethyrian heritage, descended from the long-ago union of House Orogoth's Netherese servitors with scattered clans of primitive humans. The human tribes have long warred with the ophidians of the Serpent Hills, but in recent years pureblood yuan-ti interlopers have transformed many of their human chieftains into tainted ones in order to keep the barbarians in check.
Tor of Swords: This granite up-cropping stands just east of the most northeasterly loops that the ever-twisting Winding Water makes. Named for the quintet of Anaurian blades entombed within the hill before the erection of the Standing Stone, this tor is often confused with the nearby Dungeon of Swords and hence rarely visited by adventurers.
The hill once marked the northern border of the Helbryn, the great hunting preserve of the long-ago dwarven kingdom of Oghrann. Caverns hewn from the base of the tor form Endar Aglandtor, the Sword Grotto, which serves as an abbey of Haela Brightaxe. The ablest swordswomen of Haela's Host now wield the magic blades for which the tor is named, often clashing with the serpentfolk who venture down from the hills to plunder the battlefields where dwarf warriors fell in ages past.
Upper Winding Water: The upper reaches of the Winding Water wend from the heart of the Marsh of Chelimber to Boareskyr Bridge. Above the bridge, the river's water is potable, but many intelligent creatures avoid it anyway for fear of consuming "Bhaal water." The Winding Water is slow and turbid, making its way along a wide and marshy bottomland and leaving small swamps and oxbow lakes in its passing. Black caimans (crocodiles) and swimming vipers are the most common predators along the river, but many monsters haunt its banks as well.
The Serpent Hills feature numerous sites of interest to travelers and adventurers.
Anaurian Crypts: Ancient tombs of the Netherese dating back to the time of Anauria (-339 DR to 111 DR) are scattered throughout the Serpent Hills. Each of these crypts is linked to the rest via a network of portals, with the lower levels of the Dungeon of Swords serving as the portal nexus. One portal in the Dungeon of Swords leads to an empty tomb in the Evermoors, and at least one other exits in the undercroft of a vanished temple of Jergal beneath the shifting sands of what was once Anauria, in the eastern reaches of Anauroch.
More than half of Anauria's tombs remain undiscovered, or at least unbreached. Lurking within are sword-wielding, spell-hurling mummies that practice the ancient traditions of Anaurian battlemages. The serpentine inhabitants of the Serpent Hills have plundered most of the breached crypts, and many now serve as armories or garrisons for small companies of ophidian warriors. The ophidians have linked the lower levels of most plundered tombs to the network of Serpent Tunnels that extends beneath the hills. Although each tomb is thought to contain at least one portal, most of them remain undiscovered, even in tombs that have already been plundered.
Boareskyr Bridge (Small Town, 1,112): Great Prince Boareskyr, "the Snarling Boar," was a noted adventurer and the founder of the realm that bears his name. Boareskyr built the first bridge over the Winding Water at this site to attack the rampaging orcs of the Bloody Tusk in the eponymously named year (661 DR).
Over the centuries since Boareskyr's overwhelming victory, the bridge has been rebuilt several times. The most recent version, made of black stone, dates back to the Time of Troubles, when its predecessor was destroyed in a battle between Bhaal and Cyric. Statues to the two gods now guard the way across.
The Bridge, a near-permanent tent city of caravanners, usually lines the road south of the Winding Water. This settlement was abandoned during the Phaerimm War (1372 DR), but it has since reappeared as a local hub for commerce. Yuan-ti purebloods, tainted ones, and even ophidians frequent the tent city's markets, selling Najaran artifacts and making careful note of travelers passing along the Trade Way.
Dungeon of Swords: The Dungeon of Swords lies in the heart of the southern Serpent Hills. The only access is via a natural cavern that opens on the shadowed face of a small hill. From there, a narrow shaft leads down to a series of worked mining tunnels and small rooms carved decades ago by the rock gnomes of Clan Argentum.
In the Year of the Gate (1341 DR), the gnomes were forced to stop mining for silver when they broke through to a natural chasm in the earth. On the far side of the gorge, the gnomes discovered an ancient Netherese crypt, buried long ago by the same earthquake that had sealed off the chasm. A handful of gnome warriors dared the crypt's forechambers, only to find them guarded by animated flying swords, elaborate magical wards and traps, and ghostly and skeletal warriors. The gnomes fled in panic, but reports of their discovery inspired a succession of adventuring bands to take up residence in the gnome clan's former living chambers and explore deeper into the crypt. A careful study of the tomb's inscriptions by the second company that, entered revealed that it was the Tomb of Thausimbel Thardresk, the greatest king of the distant and now-fallen realm of Anauna, which was renowned for swordmaking and gems.
In the Year of the Unstrung Harp (1371 DR), agents of the Cult of the Dragon drove out the last of the adventuring bands and began to mount their own forays into the Dungeon of Swords. After battling many lizardfolk and other reptilian horrors that had crept down from the surface and taken up residence in the catacombs over the years, the Dragon Cultists discovered that the Tomb of Thausimbel Thardresk was but a false front for many hidden levels and additional crypts below. An initial foray into these lower levels revealed the presence of numerous portals but eventually proved disastrous because of the many Underdark creatures that had migrated up from below (including a mature adult deep dragon). After slaying the wyrm, the Dragon Cultists were forced to retreat from its mate through a randomly chosen portal that deposited them amongst some ancient, sunken ruins in the depths of the Evermoors.
Great Petrified Serpent (Large Town, 2,730): In the midst of the Serpent Hills, astride the upper reaches of the River Catherine, the petrified body of a gigantic serpent lies mostly buried in the ground. One coil of its immense body forms an arch over the flowing waters, while its head and tail protrude from the rocky ground some 500 feet apart.
No one knows whether this massive statue was once a living snake that was petrified by some powerful working of the Art, or whether it is the remnant of some ancient golem. In either case, if it traveled in a straight line to get to this point, its must have come directly from the village of Serpent's Cowl on the western edge of the Forest of Wyrms - and hence the ruins of Ss'thar'ti~ss'ssun.
Ere the death of Terpenzi, first king of Najara, the yuan-ti took over the Great Petrified Serpent and transformed it into a fortress. The tail had already been hollowed out by a Netherese archwizard during the Netherese Age of Discovery (-1205 DR to -696 DR) and turned into a sorcerer's tower (now home to Ssenstyr Sresshin, CE male halfblood yuan-ti sorcerer 16 of the Coiled Cabal). Deep beneath the serpent's tail, ophidian craftsmen have since fashioned a stunning palace built around a pool that has magical healing properties - a favorite retreat for wounded nagara.
The central arch of the serpent, which spans the River Catherine, has been hollowed out to serve as both a covered bridge and a merchant's trading area. Beneath the serpent's head, one tunnel leads away into some ancient, gnome-dug salt mines, which now serve as waystations for visiting yuan-ti and connect to the network of tunnels that crisscrosses the Serpent Hills region. Lower still, another level serves as a subterranean prison.
The mouth of the great petrified serpent is the destination of a one-way portal from the outskirts of Surkh, and the observatory atop the tip of the tail holds a skull-shaped portal that leads to Skullport (specifically the bowels of Zstulkk Ssarmn's private residence) when used with the correct key (a live snake or snake and skull). The wrong key (a disembodied skull alone) deposits the unwary in the Barrens of Doom and Despair. The two portals are now part of a network linking the Black Jungles, the outskirts of Surkh, the Serpent Hills, and the depths of Undermountain. The portal to Skullport, however, dates back to the era of the Netherese, when it connected a Netherese demesne with the Sargauth Enclave.
Harkstag: The ruined village of Harkstag lies northeast of neighboring Serpent's Cowl. Because it lacked the protective wards of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun, Harkstag was destroyed in the Year of the Snarling Dragon (1279 DR) by one of the green dragons living in the Forest of Wyrms.
Before its destruction,. the village was home to Garshond of Helm and his fledgling temple-keep, the Watch-Tower of the Vigilant. Backed by the merchant families who attended his Council of Helm, Garshond founded the Vigilant Riders to protect the roads linking Waterdeep, Baldur's Gate, and Irieabor in the Year of Flowers (1265 DR). Garshond's efforts incited the brigands and goblin tribes of the region, uniting them against him in a series of battles that became known as Garshond's War (1266 DR to 1268 DR).
Today, the ruins of Harkstag and the Watch-Tower serve as a secure base for the yuan-ti of Najara. From there, the serpentfolk can keep a close eye on events in and around Serpent's Cowl, the Trade Way, and the banks of the Winding Water.
Heartwing Estate: Heartwing Estate is a pegasus-breeding farm owned by Aluena Halacanter (N female human wizard 9/Harper mage 3), one of three adventurers who used to maintain order in the tent city south of Boareskyr Bridge. With the departure of her companions and the rising threat of the yuan-ti in the forest, Aluena is so preoccupied with keeping her holdings and the village of Serpent's Cowl safe that she can spare. little time for policing the tent city downstream. She continues to sell trained pegasi to wealthy adventurers for 5,000 gp each.
Illith'arear: In the eastern reaches of. the Forest of Wyrms lies the Redwood Ring, an ancient druid circle thought to date back to the height of Shantel Othreier. Unlike most such circles, which consist of stone menhirs, the Redwood Ring is a circle of living redwood trees, each of which has a rune-graven menhir embedded in the depths of its trunk. This abandoned druidic circle is barely identifiable as such because so many other trees have grown up in and around the original ones. Potent weavings of the Art still linger amidst the trees of Illith'arear, but the jaculis that infest the region quickly devour most interlopers.
Ithkyxan's Lair: Ithkyxan, one of the twelve spirit nagas currently serving King Ebarnaje, is also the appointed guardian of a pair of portals linking the border of the High Moor and the Serpent Hills with the depths of Halaster's Halls. The portal from the Slitherswarnp level of Undermountain opens onto an area of rolling grasslands in the shadow of the Serpent Hills. Some 3 miles away, in a bowl-shaped valley between two rocky ledges, lies an ancient Anaurian tomb that Ithkyxan plundered two decades ago. Now guarded by a company of fifty yuan-ti warriors, the old tomb opens onto the subterranean Lake of Bones, which is fed by an underground waterfall from a spring deep in the hill. An ancient shrine to Mask lies in the depths, near a portal that has two keyed destinations. One key operates a one-way portal that opens in the depths of Skull Pool on Level Three of Undermountain; the other opens a two-way portal to the Dungeon of Swords. Only Ithkyxan and its fellow spirit nagas know the secret of the portal keys.
Keep of the Lizard King: King Amiskal rules the lizardfolk and muckdwellers of the Serpent Hills from an ancient Anaurian tomb that, once plundered, was converted into living quarters. The former crypt is carved into a hillside in the northern reaches of the Serpent Hills, and Amiskal's throne rests atop the dais where the sepulcher once lay. A secret portal somewhere in the crypt connects with the portal network centered on the Dungeon of Swords.
Lyran's Hold: Due east of Boareskyr Bridge, on the western edge of the Forest of Wyrms, lie the ruins of a stronghold built by Lyran, a well-known bandit lord. The ravages of time and several battles between green dragons in search of lairs long ago destroyed the keep itself. All that remains is a dark, overgrown stone tower atop an extensive underground complex of storage caverns and passages - now monster-infested.
Harpers and other heroes used to journey to the forest to battle a fallen archlich who lived here, but two adventurers finally slew him and occupied the tower in the Year of the Prince (1357 DR). Durg Earthforge (NE male shield dwarf rogue 10) and Songya of Baldur's Gate (LE female Tethyrian human cleric 11 of Loviatar), now the self-styled lords of the hold, nurse ambitions of controlling the lucrative trade that passes over Boareskyr Bridge. Skeletons and zombies, still following their dead master's instructions, patrol the surrounding forest, and serpentfolk are said to inhabit the catacombs beneath the ruins.
Netherese Villas: The ruins of Netherese villas dot the hilltops along the Serpent Hills. Dating back to the Silver Age of Netheril (-2758 DR to -2207 DR), most of these villas have been claimed by the ruling nagas and yuan-ti of Najara. The new owners typically leave the surface structures in ruins but make extensive changes to the dungeons that lie beneath. Many such subterranean complexes are linked via the Serpent Tunnels to sites elsewhere in the Serpent Hills.
Orogoth: Founded in -2482 DR, the ruined villa of House Orogoth dates back to the Silver Age of Netheril and has long been a beacon for treasure seekers. The Netherese wizards of this family sought to acquire draconic powers as well as the ability to assume dragon form. The elder wizards disappeared to live elsewhere as dragons (or so rumor holds), leaving their gigantic, sprawling abode to their decadent descendants. These latter-day Orogoths magically compelled dragons (possibly their elders in draconic form) to seize treasure from the hoards of fellow wyrms and other sites across Faerûn and bring it back for their amusement.
Almost inevitably, the cruel scions of House Orogoth destroyed one another in -2211 DR in a great battle that involved pitting dragons against their kin. The great villa's towers toppled, and the survivors fled for their lives. Exactly what the Orogoths battled over is unknown, but in the Year of Moor Birds (90 DR), the yuan-ti of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun recovered a host of artifacts dating back to the empires of the sarrukh (including at least one tome of ancient spells) from the ruins.
Today, the ruins of Orogoth are home to "the Old One," a black dracolich great wyrm, and the offspring of its great-grandson, Wastirek (black wyrm). Wastirek's mate is Vilholin (black wyrm), and their children include Awsidorg and Woklef (male adult black dragons), Cheleen (female young adult black dragon), and Kasidikal (see the Serpent Hills). Efforts by adventurers and the Cult of the .Dragon to plunder Orogoth's treasures have come to naught - those who dare try are slain, transformed into beast shape, or sent fleeing across the High Moor. The serpentfolk of Najara have linked the depths of Orogoth with the Serpent Tunnels beneath the Serpent Hills, and yuan-ti explorers continue to haunt the ruins despite the dragons' efforts to drive them away.
Serpent's Cowl (Village, 795): This small village sits on the western edge of the Forest of Wyrms just upstream of Boareskyr Bridge, where the waters are safe enough to fish. Named for the ruins of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun on which it stands, Serpent's Cowl consists of a handful of cottages clustered around a small square.
The only guesthouse is the Dusty Dragon, whose owner sells food to Visitors. The populace consists primarily of woodcutters, hunters, farmers, and fishermen.
Local legend deters the villagers from digging cellars or pits, for fear of opening a route into the ruins below. The villagers continue to live amidst the dangerous ruins because of the protection provided by the Netherese wards that still cloak Ss'thar'tiss'ssun. These wards were designed to prevent the passage of Scaled Ones, dragons, and all other reptilian horrors. But unbeknownst to the Cowlers, the wards have started to fray, and Medium and smaller serpentfolk and scalykind can now enter the lower ruins through subterranean tunnels aligned with apertures in the lower wards. Should a large hole in the encircling ward ever open aboveground, one of the dragons living in the Forest of Wyrms is sure to make a quick snack of the village's inhabitants.
Serpent's Cowl (Village): Conventional, Monstrous; AL CG, CE; Assets 200 gp limit; Population 795; Mixed (79% human, 9% halfling, 7% yuan-ti (tainted ones), 5% gnome).
Authority Figures: Aluena Halacanter, N female human wizard 9/Harper Mage 3 (Harper agent, breeder of pegasi, and town leader); Helskar "the Sly" of Soubar, CE male yuan-ti tainted one commoner 9 (bartender, leader of the tainted one faction, and agent of the yuan-ti); Delwyn Whitedyke, LG male human paladin 2 (leader of the Town Guard).
Important Characters: Atad Yelloweyes, CG male yuan-ti pureblood ranger 8/Harper Scout 1 (agent of the Harpers who never actually enters the village but can be contracted as a guide into the Serpent Hills at the Dusty Dragon); "Dusty" Helmspoke, CG male human commoner 5 (proprietor of the Dusty Dragon).
Town Guard: Fighter 4 (1), fighter 2(4), fighter 1 (8), paladin 1 (2), warrior 4 (1), warrior 2 (2), warrior 1 (30).
Yuan-ti Tainted Ones: Aristocrat 1 (1), adept 3 (1), adept 2 (2), adept 1 (3), bard 2 (1), commoner 3 (1), commoner 1 (33), expert 4 (1), expert 1 (3), fighter 7 (1), fighter 4 (1), ranger 2 (1), ranger 1 (1), warrior 1 (6). The fighters and warriors in this list are also part of town guard.
Others: Aristocrat 1 (3), bard 4 (1), bard 2 (1), bard 1 (4), cleric 3 (1), cleric 1 (2), commoner 5 (1), commoner 3 (3), commoner 2 (8), commoner 1 (615), druid 4 (1), druid 2 (2), druid 1 (4), expert 7 (1), expert 4 (1), expert 2 (4), expert 1 (18), ranger 1 (1), rogue 5 (1), rogue 3(2), rogue 1 (4), sorcerer 3(1), sorcerer 2 (2), sorcerer 1 (4), wizard 1 (1).
Serpent Tunnels: A subterranean network of tunnels links the holdings of the serpentfolk in this area. With Ss'essethen'ss at its nexus, the tunnel network serves as an underground highway system for much of the Serpent Hills. Beyond the heart of Najara, the Serpent Tunnels extend under the southern and eastern fringes of the High Moor to give access to the Lair of Ithkyxan and the ruins of Orogoth. They also lead under the Forest of Wyrms to connect with Ss'thar'tiss'ssun and Ss'zuraass'nee, and out to the caverns beneath Mount Hlim, at the southern tip of the Greypeaks Mountains.
Ss'essethen'aa (Large City, 24,572): The City of Sunning Serpents lies at the heart of the Serpent Hills, atop and within the largest tor of the chain. Ophidian laborers have constructed a host of gardens, chapels, and shrines on the spiraling terrace that winds its way up the hill, making seven full revolutions before reaching the top. At the apex of the tor lies a sprawling temple complex to Sseth, shaped like a massive serpent head. The yuan-ti and ophidian clerics who rule the city live here, and the rest of the inhabitants live within the twisting tunnels and chambers that honeycomb the hill.
Since Ss'essethen'aa is the nexus of the Serpent Tunnels, a great deal of traffic passes beneath its terraced slopes. At the heart of the city lies a two-way portal to the Elemental Plane of Earth. Ophidian miners pass through it each day, mining the rich vein of gems adjacent to its terminus and fending off elemental predators.
Ss'khanaja (Small City, 5,278): Located in the western Serpent Hills near the border with the High Moor, the city of Ss'khanaja (also known as the Snake Pit) is the modern capitol of Najara. Beneath a small valley surrounded by hills, the city encircles a narrow shaft that descends deep into the Underdark. A spiraling ramp coiling down the walls offers access to side chambers every quarter revolution. The shaft is warded with a permanent levitate spell that allows the city's inhabitants to navigate its many levels with ease. At the bottom of the shaft (more than a mile beneath the surface), water that drips down from above passes through a one-way portal to the Elemental Plane of Water.
Ss'khanaja is a restricted city, inhabited only by Najara's ruling dark nagas, their attendants, and their guards. Small family groups of yuan-ti and individual dark nagas live in subterranean chambers that line the central shaft, each attended by a host of ophidian servants. The primary palace of Ebarnaje lies about thirty revolutions below the surface, surrounded by the palatial abodes of the highest-ranking nagara. Six spirit nagas and Terpenzi, the bone ha-naga who was Najara's first king, constantly attend Ebarnaje.
Slaves garrisoned elsewhere in the Serpent Hills regard the Snake Pit with well-deserved horror. The decadent serpentfolk who dwell therein are well known for the gruesome experiments they perform in their ongoing attempts to recreate the ancient practices of the sarrukh.
Ss'kowlyn'raa (Small Town, 1,573): The City of Spellskins dates back to the reign of Terpenzi, when Ss'thar'tiss'ssun was the capitol of Najara. Long the preserve of serpentfolk wizards interested in rediscovering and advancing the ancient magics of the sarrukh, Ss'kowlyn'raa was abandoned in the Year of the Vanished Tattoo (92 DR), following Najara's defeat by the Shadowking's forces two years before. In the Year of the Grimoire (1354 DR), yuan-ti wizards of the Coiled Cabal reoccupied the City of Spellskins, making it a base for their explorations of neighboring Ss'thar'tiss'ssun.
Ss'kowlyn'raa lies within the southern reaches of the Forest of Wyrms, in the depths of an overgrown ravine lined with cavemouths. Each cluster of caverns is now home to a different school of magical inquiry, and magic-hewn tunnels link them all together. The subterranean reaches of Ss'kowlyn'raa are linked via the Serpent Tunnels to the depths of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun and the Serpent Hills to the north. Ophidian-driven caravans of pack lizards regularly bring fresh supplies to the City of Spellskins and pick up recovered relics for transport elsewhere.
Ss'thar'tiss'ssun: The ruined City of Fountains dates back more than thirty millennia to the era of the sarrukh empires, although it was one of the lesser realms of that age. Built as a temple-city by the cult of Ssharstrune, it was abandoned. after the death of the god and left for eons to the guardianship of the bone ha-naga Terpenzi. Thousands of years later, Ss'thar'tiss'ssun was rebuilt by ophidian followers of Terpenzi as the capitol of Najara, then transformed once again by the yuan-ti they had magically summoned. In the Year of Moor Birds (90 DR), Netherese wizards in the employ of the Shadowking destroyed the city for a second time, and its serpentine inhabitants fled north into the Serpent Hills.
Today, the ruins of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun lie at the western edge of the Forest of Wyrms, beneath, and around the village of Serpent's Cowl. Flickering Netherese spell barriers that were erected by agents of the Shadowking to expel the serpentfolk still deter most would-be explorers. The Coiled Cabal, however, finally penetrated the magical wards in the Year of the Serpent (1359 DR).
At the heart of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun lies the Shrine of Cowled Serpents, a temple of Ssharstrune that was rededicated to Sseth after the arrival of the yuan-ti. This buried shrine contains the legendary Naja Fountain, which served as the lair of the bone ha-naga Terpenzi while it. guarded the legacy of the sarrukh before the arrival of the ophidians.
The ruins of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun are home to all manner of monsters, many of which were summoned as guardians from the southern jungles by the arcane spellcasters of the Coiled Cabal. Ti-khana dinosaurs, bone dark nagas, and sword spiders guard treasures dating back to the sarrukh and the first Kingdom of Snakes, as well as Netherese artifacts plundered from Orogoth and other ruins throughout the Serpent Hills.
Ss'zuraass'nee (Large City, 17,998): The City of Abominations lies in the depths of the northern Serpent Hills, about one-half mile below the lizardfolk kingdom of Kalran. Ss'zuraass'nee is situated along a dry subterranean riverbed that once drained runoff from the southern Greypeaks into the depths. The serpentfolk have carved the city's walls to resemble the digestive tract of a massive snake. This disturbing image is reinforced by the faint acidic tang that clings to the air, making breathing uncomfortable for creatures unused to this environment.
Ss'zuraass'nee serves as the serpentfolk's primary trading link with the Underdark. The yuan-ti who rule this place still honor a centuries-old alliance with the illithids of Llacerellyn, which lies in the Middle Underdark north of the Serpent Hills. As a result of the good relations between these races, numerous yuan-tillithids (half-illithid/half-yuan-ti), with their distinctive, viper-headed, scaly tentacles, roam the City of Abominations. Drow merchants from Eryndlyn (beneath the northern High Moor) and Sshamath (beneath the Far Hills) are frequent visitors to Ss'zuraass'nee, as are derro traders from Tsenviilyq, which lies in the lower Underdark beneath the border between the High Moor and the Serpent Hills. Grimlocks from the Underdark settlement of Reeshov also frequent the City of Abominations.
During the Silver Age of Netheril (-2758 DR to -2207 DR), the Netherese began establishing outposts in the wild lands to the west, which are now known as the Western Heartlands and the North. Some of these pioneers sought badly needed resources, while others set up isolated bases from which to perform their magical experiments. A handful of outposts established in the southern reaches of the High Moor and the area now known as the Serpent Hills were linked by a network of portals with the heartlands of Netheril.
The Netherese wizards of House Orogoth built a fortified villa in the southern reaches of the High Moor in -2482 DR. near the northern edge of the Serpent Hills. Several generations of Orogoths sought the power of Faenin's wyrms, and legend has it that some eventually obtained it - at least after a fashion. One early byproduct of House Orogoth's research was the Serpent Curse, a magical malady that transformed humans into a snakelike race that Orogoth's elders named ophidians. Many of House Orogoth's Netherese servants succumbed to this plague and were driven into the hills to the west circa -2300 DR. Unable to rid the place of the curse, the wizards eventually replaced their former servants with constructs and undead servitors.
In the centuries that followed, the ophidians organized into savage tribes. These clans battled each other, the nearby clans of lizardfolk, the barbaric descendants of Orogoth's exiled human servants, and the scattered tribes of gnomes that had settled the hills after their emancipation by the Netherese in -2387 DR. During this era, many of the ophidian tribes began venerating dragons, perhaps in keeping with House Orogoth's obsession with the great wyrms.
In the Year of Bold Pioneers (-461 DR), the phaerimms beneath Netheril began casting the lifedrain spells that would eventually transform all of Low Netheril into the Great Desert of Anauroch. While High Netheril's nobles conducted business as usual in their sky cities as if nothing of import were occurring, the rich farmlands that employed and fed the bulk of Netheril's populace quickly fell barren. The residents of Low Netheril began migrating west and south, felling great swaths of the Far Horns Forest within just a few generations. The Netherese settlers put increasing pressure on the eastern territories of the ophidians and lizardfolk, forcing the reptilian races to retreat farther south and west. Eventually, the Scaled Ones had to concede the eastern slopes of what the Netherese called the Serpent Hills.
In the Year of Mageserpents (-361 DR), a band of ophidians stumbled across the ruins of an ancient sarrukh city, hidden beneath what is now the western end of the Forest of Wyrms. During their explorations, the ophidians discovered the Naja Fountain, an ancient artifact of the sarrukh inhabited and guarded by a powerful ha-naga named Terpenzi. Claiming to be the prophet of the World Serpent, the creature proclaimed itself King of Najara and began a decades-long campaign to subjugate the scattered tribes of ophidians to its rule.
In the Year of Sundered Webs (-339 DR), the fall of Netheril precipitated a final and nearly wholesale exodus of humans from the lands of Low Netheril. Many Netherese migrated south and west into the area now known as the Backlands. This exodus in turn prompted the remaining "free tribes" of ophidians to migrate to Ss'thar'tiss'ssun, leaving the Serpent Hills to the scattered clans of lizardfolk and gnomes. Unbeknownst to both groups, Netherese from the distant realm of Anauria began constructing tombs beneath the hills, accessing them via the ancient portal established during the Silver Age of Netheril.
Under the tutelage of Terpenzi, the ophidians studied the ancient magics of the sarrukh and learned to summon all manner of reptilian monsters. Anticipating the rising power of the Netherese survivor states, the ophidians summoned the Hss'tafi tribe of yuan-ti from the southern jungles of Faerûn in the Year of Netted Dreams (-320 DR). While Terpenzi plotted, the yuan-ti built a great temple at the heart of the city, with the Naja Fountain at its core, and firmly established themselves as Najara's ruling caste.
Meanwhile, to the north, the scattered clans of rock gnomes were forced to withdraw to the Trielta Hills by the growing power of the lizardfolk, who had formed the tribal confederation of Kalran in the central and northern Serpent Hills. By the first century Dalereckoning, the Kingdom of the Snakes had emerged as a regional power in its own right alongside such human states as the Talfirian- and Netherese-ruled Duchy of Indoria (located in the area known today as the Fields of the Dead), the Talfirian city of Talis in the depths of the Reaching Woods, and the Netherese-ruled subterranean realm of Philock, which lay just east of the Wood of Sharp Teeth (now known as the Netherese Caverns).
In the Year of Purloined Power (34 DR), a Talfirian bard named Verraketh Talember discovered the Shadowstar, a mysterious artifact that fell like a shooting star into the High Moor. While the artifact slowly transformed him into the Shadowking, Verraketh gathered an army of shadow-spinners and began forcibly assimilating the Netherese and Talfirian realms of the Chionthar river valley into the empire of Ebenfar.
In the Year of the Faithful Oracle (89 DR), the heretofore immortal Terpenzi foresaw its own death at the hands of the Shadowking. In response, it ordered its subjects to seek out the magics of ancient Netheril while it searched for a mate. In the Year of the Moor Birds (90 DR), the serpentfolk plundered the ruins of Orogoth and brought back many Netherese artifacts, while Terpenzi hid its dark naga offspring in a secret hold in the Serpent Hills. Thus prepared, Terpenzi assembled a great army of ophidians commanded by yuan-ti to attack the growing might of Ebenfar.
The serpentfolk might well have prevailed had it not been for a band of Netherese wizards in Verraketh's employ, who teleported into great temple of the serpentfolk and expelled Terpenzi from the Naja Fountain. Although the ha-naga and its followers escaped, the armies of Ebenfar destroyed the city of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun, cloaked its ruins in powerful warding spells, and scattered the serpentfolk of Najara. Terpenzi led its remaining armies into battle with the Shadowking but was destroyed. The surviving serpentfolk fled the battlefield (now called the Fields of the Dead) with their king's remains, but the Kingdom of Snakes was no more.
In the centuries that followed, scattered tribes of ophidians battled the lizardfolk of Kalran for control of the Serpent Hills, all the while harried by the Shadowking's armies. But unbeknownst to the humans of Ebenfar, the followers of Terpenzi were plotting the rebirth of their realm. The surviving yuan-ti labored in the depths of their secret hold to raise Terpenzi's brood and school the young dark nagas in the ways of magic. One of the ha-naga's offspring, Jacinica, became the new king-in-exile of Najara in the Year of the Prowling Naga (142 DR). As its first official act, Jacinica ordered the remains of Terpenzi to be transformed into a bone naga and enslaved to the bearer of the artifact known as the Marlspire of Najara.
The greatest obstacles to the resurgence of Najara were the empire of Ebenfar and the kingdom of Shavinar, which lay between the Troll Hills and the River Chionthar. Shavinar eventually fell to trolls in the Year of Broken Flame (277 DR), and Ebenfar collapsed after the imprisonment of the Shadowking in the Year of the Miscast Shadow (323 DR), thus clearing the way for a new regime. But before the rulers of Najara could establish much influence, both the Shoon Imperium and the Kingdom of Cormyr decided to extend their influence into the Western Heartlands in the Year of the Fearless King (361 DR). Among the immigrants in the ensuing wave of human migration were some Varae-worshipers from the Shining Plains who came north in search of Ss'thar'tiss'ssun. When these humans unleashed an artifact created by House Orogoth and left behind by the yuan-ti, they were transformed en masse into ophidians.
The collapse of the Shoon Imperium in the Year of the Corrie Fist (450 DR) once again left the way clear for the serpentfolk. But the sudden death of Jacinica in the Year of Rolling Heads (452 DR) precipitated a decades-long power struggle among the nagara that lasted until the Year of the Fortress Scoured (511 DR), when Nejizar finally ascended to the throne of Najara. The new dark naga king established its rule over the serpentfolk in the Year of Trials Arcane (523 DR), thanks in large part to its alliance with a dozen spirit nagas. By then, however, the Tricrowned Kingdom of Phalorm had claimed the High Moor and begun constructing a chain of fortresses along the western border of the Serpent Hills.
Since Najara was too weak militarily to confront the Realm of Three Crowns directly, Nejizar sent yuan-ti infiltrators south to the Reaching Woods in the Year of the Alabaster Mounds (577 DR). Their mission was to incite the hobgoblin tribes of the region to march northward in a great horde. But infiltrators dispatched by Phalorm dealt the hobgoblins a sharp check at the Battle of Notched Axes, then ensured the victory of King Ruardh Lightshiver's armies at the Battle of Blunted Fangs by assassinating the serpentine provocateurs. This defeat forced the serpentfolk of Najara to retreat into the Serpent Hills.
The Principality of the Snarling Boar was destroyed in the Year of the Slain Mountain (993 DR), when a great spell battle erupted at the head of the Winding Water between Taskor the Terrible of Irieabor and the Wizard of the Crag. After both archmages vanished, imprisoned water elementals ran amok, inundating Boareskyr and leaving behind the Marsh of Chelimber in their wake. Many of the lizardfolk tribes that had long inhabited the northern Serpent Hills took advantage of this development to migrate eastward into the newly forming marsh. Those left behind were too weak to oppose the armies of Najara, which had grown strong since the fall of Delimbiyran, the Kingdom of Man, in the Year of the Shrouded Slayer (671 DR). Thus, the lizardfolk kingdom of Kalran soon became a vassal state of the Kingdom of Snakes in all but name.
Over the next three centuries, Najara slowly grew in power under the guidance of various dark naga kings counseled by the nagara and the yuan-ti nobility. Cognizant of the risks posed by humanity and its allies, the serpentfolk of Najara contented themselves with claiming the Serpent Hills and continuing to influence the rest of western Faerûn from the shadows. One by one, the human-ruled successor states to Ebenfar that had once ruled the Western Heartlands were undermined by yuan-ti infiltration. Eventually, the Winding Water river valley was devoid of major human settlements, and the Western Heartlands were free of human-ruled realms larger than city-states.
Since its ascension to the throne in the Year of the Ormserpent (1295 DR), the dark naga Ebarnaje has continued the cautious strategy of its predecessors, but it dreams of reclaiming the city of. Ss'thar'tiss'ssun as its seat of power. Although its forces could easily conquer the village of Serpent's Cowl, the dark naga king is well aware of the response such an outright attack would provoke from the Lord's Alliance. Instead, the dark naga king has dispatched a succession of agents to the village with orders to gradually transform its inhabitants into tainted ones. The king has also backed the Coiled Cabal's efforts to explore the ruins below Serpent's Cowl. The dark naga king believes that such a two-pronged campaign will eventually bring the region under its direct control without any outside challenge. In anticipation of the day that Najara must wage war with its neighbors, Ebarnaje has backed the rise of the Cult of the Dark Naga, a far-wandering organization of dark nagas pledged to recover all manner of spells and magic that might advance the power of Najara.
Plots and Rumors
Najara is rich with opportunities for adventure by virtue of its many inhabited areas and the factions that control them.
Cult of the Dark Naga: The Cult of the Dark Naga is loose-knit organization run by a septet of Najaran dark naga nobles known as the Seven. The group is discreetly backed by Ebarnaje, the king of Najara. Long allied with Manshoon and the Zhentarim, the Cult of the Dark Naga arrived in force in the Dalelands after the Year of Moonfall (1344 DR) to plunder the ruins of Myth Drannor.
Such plans quickly ran afoul of the phaerimms, whose subtle hand had guided the nagara to the City of Beauty in the first place. To gain control of the nagara, the Myth Drannan lich Druth Daern perpetrated a complex deception. Speaking though a wraithlike apparition that he created above a certain Myth Drannan altar, he claimed to be Ssharstrune, the Ghost Naga - a long-dead naga god. With Daern's unseen help, the Ghost Naga revived the nagara who had not survived the thornbacks as bone nagas to serve their living kin. Since then, the Ghost Naga has been guiding the Seven in a hissing whisper and creating a veritable army of undead nagas. Now that the Myth Drannan phaerimms have finally been severely weakened, if not destroyed, the Ghost Naga's followers (and hence Druth Daern) are actively contesting with the resident devilkin for control over the city's ruins.
Subversion of Serpent's Cowl: Akiena Halacanter and some older residents of Serpent's Cowl believe they have a sacred duty to watch the area lest the yuan-ti return. They grow nervous about the increasing number of ophidians approaching the merchants at Boareskyr Bridge, apparently hoping to purchase any Netherese artifacts unearthed from nearby ruins. They also fear the rising numbers of snakes and snakelike creatures within the Forest of Wyrms.
But the brave defenders of Serpent's Cowl remain completely unaware of the true threat to their city, which has little to do with ophidian traders or mutant serpents. The yuan-ti of the Serpent Hills have recently developed a technique for infecting humans with a tiny portion of their corrupted essence to create a new kind of servitor called a tainted one. Such altered humans can pass freely through the wards that encircle the village. In recent years, numerous villagers have been waylaid during furtive forays outside the wards and turned into tainted ones, who now carry out missions within the village for their yuan-ti masters. Others have disappeared from the village altogether and now serve as broodguards in the yuan-ti brood chambers.