History of the Shaar
No centralized power base exists among the peoples of the Shaar, with the possible exception of the gold dwarves in the Great Rift, who keep to themselves, anyway. The nomadic tribes constantly skirmish with one another - both verbally at Council Hills and on the field of battle - over territory,, water, and food. When planning attacks, the chief of each tribe must balance the desire for greater glory against the wisdom of making enemies of too many other tribes. Some chiefs are more charismatic than others, but none are powerful enough to unite all the tribes under a single ruler, or even to command superiority at the biannual meeting at Council Hills.
For the most part, the city-dwellers of the Shaar desire nothing more than to pursue trade. A few assertive folk might have designs on dominating a trade route or a marketplace, either financially or militarily, but no location is so strategically valuable that trade could not continue without it. Were one area to fall under the control of a tyrant, trade would simply continue somewhere else. The Shaar simply was not made to be conquered or ruled.
The gold dwarves, on the other hand, practice enough politics for all the races combined. For many centuries, the Great Rift and its immediate subterranean surroundings were awash in royalty. These petty, decadent ruler~ squabbled incessantly, and with the drow and duergar growing in power, their endless feuds, bickering, and private wars began to threaten the survival of all the gold dwarves. To end the infighting and bring peace and stability to the realm, the ruling body known as the Deep Lords was created some 700 years ago. Today, although the gold dwarves' homeland is still ruled by a monarch (currently a queen), the Deep Lords make policy for the realm.
History of the Great Rift and the Shaar
The Shaar has little formal history. Nomads have roamed its plains since before recorded history began, and they have changed little, though the outer world has disturbed them numerous times.
|c. -8800||Great Caverns of Bhaerynden collapse, creating the Great Rift.|
|c. -6000||Human nomads start to roam the Shaar in numbers. Trade with the gold dwarves of the Great Rift begins.|
|-1064||A two-way portal between the Kingdom of Ashanath and Council Hills is opened. The village of Shandaular is founded around the southern terminus.|
|-946||two-way portal in the Council Hills area is shut down, cutting off the remaining people of Shandaular from the north.|
|-373||Year of Whispering Stones||Year of Whispering Stones: The town of Lhesper is founded.|
|-304||Year of Erupting Crypts||Yuan-ti slavers regularly raid the western end of the Shaar, taking newly captured slaves back to Serpentes.|
|-54||Year of Tomes||A lost tribe of Illuskans begins arriving through the portal in Council Hills. Eventually, these people merge with the Nar to create the Arkaiuns.|
|211||Year of Spoiled Splendors||Arkaiun tribes flee the Council Hills region to escape the invading Untheric and Mulhorandi armies. The Arkaiuns migrate southwest.|
|297||Year of Wailing Mothers||Forces of the Shoonach Imperium conquer and claim all the lands between the Shining Sea and the Landrise.|
|316||Year of Vibrant Land||city of Khôltar is founded by the dwarves for humans to trade with them and each other.|
|411||Year of Wavering Shadow||Shoon Imperium is finally driven out of the Shaar.|
|435||Year of Willing Sacrifice||Several towns along Lake Lhespen and the River Shaar rebel against their distant rulers, the Shoon.|
|437||Year of Silver Holly||Seven Burnings campaign kills many native Shaarans and brings the western portion of the Shaar back under Shoon control.|
|640||Year of Fanged Beast||Gnoll tribes raze Lhesper. The survivors found Shaarmid.|
|1018||Year of Dracorage||Gargauth arises from a pit at Peleveran, which is later destroyed by a horde of dragons, dracoliches, and members of the Cult of the Dragon.|
|1306||Year of Thunder||Moradin grants the gold dwarves the Thunder Blessing.|
Since it is not a nation, the Shaar has no single, unifying government. Each of its major population groups - the nomadic tribes, the citizens of the settled communities, and the gold dwarves of the Great Rift - operates independently of the others and has its own kind of government.
City Dwellers: Though more structured within the towns and cities, the government of Shaaryan towns is minimal compared to many of the urban centers elsewhere in Faerûn. Usually, the leader is a mayor or similar officeholder - often the wealthiest merchant or the most powerful warrior. This leader works with a council of the most influential people to meet the community's critical needs, such as building a wall, raising military forces for defense, deciding the level of taxation needed to pay for services, and so forth. In most cases, the citizens want as little control and restriction on their activities as possible, and they rely on the governing body to do only what is necessary to keep trade flowing.
Gold Dwarves: In the surface portion of the gold dwarves' realm, the government focuses on the military, with officers in command of various defenses and police forces acting as nominal governors. Underground, the situation is more political. The affairs of the Deep Realm are administered by the Deep Lords, the governing council of the gold dwarf clan elders, which consists of four representatives from each clan. This body dispenses justice, commands the dwarf armies, and decides matters of policy. The council answers to Queen Karriva of the Simmerforge clan (LG female gold dwarf aristocrat 13).
Nomads: Government is least formal among the human tribes. Though not anarchistic, the tribes accept only enough government to ensure survival and promote prosperity. Each tribe functions under the watchful eye of a group of elders, generally men and women at least thirty years old. These elders select a chief from among their number, typically by secret vote. Male chiefs rule most of the tribes, but a few have elevated women to that position. The chief, in consultation with the elders, makes decisions that affect the tribe as a whole, such as movements, trading, warfare and raiding, and punishments for crimes committed by tribal members and enemies. In some cases, the chief is part of a powerful, charismatic family that has held the seat of power in the tribe for many years.
For the most part, the tribes vie with one another for territory, horses, and food to so great an extent that they need no external enemies. When beset by threats from beyond the edges of the Shaar, however, they manage to band together and fend off attacks by outsiders. Though the gold dwarves do their best to remain aloof and separate from the rest of the peoples of the Shaar, they too are ready and willing to fight to maintain the sanctity of their homeland.
This coastal nation has a long history of attempting to cultivate and colonize the interior of the Shaar. On more than one occasion, its citizens have settled towns along the Shaar's riverfronts and attempted to tame the barbaric nomads by a variety of means. Also, Lapaliiya has sometimes been under the thumb of some other nation with designs on civilizing the plains, including the yuan-ti of Serpentes (see Serpent Kingdoms for more information) and the old Shoon Imperium. Every time conquerors arrived, however, the tribesfolk simply vanished or avoided the invaders, then returned to their traditional lands as soon as the troops were recalled. Past failures are no insurance against future attempts - perhaps even in the near future.
Though this aggressive theocracy has not made any untoward movements into the Shaar as yet, it has a history of dominating the regions surrounding it. The invasion of neighboring Unther has given the tribes that wander closest to the Shaar's border with Mulhorand pause. If the time comes for the Mulhorandi clergy to consider invading the plains - perhaps to control the trade routes there - the nomads will face a formidable foe, indeed.
The ancient enemies of the gold dwarves, especially the drow and the duergar, are scattered throughout Great Bhaerynden and are never far from the Deep Realm. Any one of these felt races could renew its hostilities with the gold dwarves at any time. The drow cities of Llurth Dreir and T'lindhet are both within striking distance and bear constant watching. (See Underdark for more information on these races and their plans.)
The serpent people are closer than most folk of the Shaar realize, and they present a constant threat. Most recently, the yuan-ti have returned to the ruins of Lhesper, where they have begun to dig for ancient artifacts from the long-forgotten kingdoms of the sarrukh, their creator race. Serpentfolk have also begun to awaken in and around Azulduth, the Lake of Salt. Tribes roaming close to either of these locations might become pawns in the yuan-ti's nefarious schemes. (See Serpent Kingdoms for more information on the yuan-ti and their plans.)