My Slice of Silverymoon (Part One)
By Chesmyr Morrowynd (as told to Ed Greenwood)
I'm pleased with the way The Silver Marches turned out. Jason Carl does great "crunchy stuff," and Rich Baker did yeoman work knitting it all together and filling in all the design gaps. The result is both useful and "crunchy." Yet no book (and certainly no game book!) ever has space enough between its covers. To squeeze in all that crunchy, we had to leave out a lot of smooth.
What follows isn't something that was cut from the book. Instead, it's something new (or rather, adapted from some of my oldest Realmslore notes) that was written to address a comment from a DM who wants to set her campaign in the Gem of the North. Upon reading The Silver Marches, she said, "I feel like I've read a tourist brochure about Washington, D.C. I know a little about a lot of important civic buildings, now . . . but if I go to live there, I don't know where I'm going to buy my milk!"
Good point! (Swift answer: the Market, from a pail freshly taken from goats or cows driven in for the purpose. Two copper coins per jug, half that for a tankard, but bring your own container.)
So for that DM and the many fans who want to see more of Silverymoon, here's a little dollop of smooth...
My Slice of Silverymoon
By Chesmyr Morrowynd (as told to Ed Greenwood)
A stringer of harps, I am. A maker of strings, to speak brighter truth. Neither these fine metal wires nor the magical strangenesses some elves deal in, but the old ways. Out in the backlands, I hunt and trap the long days away, gathering not mere meat and hide, but the mane hair of rothé and wild horses, and the gut of wyverns and firedrakes, to make the finest strings this side of magically enhanced. I carve the best wyvernbone flutes, too, bar none.
So, given that grandly stated personal greatness, why've you not heard of me? Well, I'm not one for cities -- all stink and crowding and noise and unpleasantness and thieves, with so many grasping folk penned up together like hogs in a slaughter-stall. Not for me. I walk with my shadow and stay happy.
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But Silverymoon, now . . . aye, the Great Silver Hearth is different. There I go gladly, to see the sights and the folk and know I'm not alone in my love of music and beauty, and not the only beast who thinks kind thoughts in this cold, clawing land of rocks and endless trees and whistling wind.
Let me take you to my Silverymoon. Not the grand halls and towers and shining-armored guards you hear of from others, mind. I'll tell you of the little lanes I walk, and the folk I know, and what it all smells and looks like, and the tales they tell.
Like most wilder-folk, I've my favorite places, and also whole streets I never go near, so others may tell different of the Gem of the North. What I spit your way is my little slice of this great city.
We begin where I always do: slipping in through Hunters' Gate, with a nod to the guards who know me and a patient pause before the "Watchful Post" they flank. This Post is no more than a little wooden booth holding a duty mage who peers through a gem of seeing to make sure all who enter are as they appear to be. No darting or running here, for she has a wand of hold person and who knows what else besides -- and the guards are veteran Knights in Silver, and most of them can run and hurl blades swift and sure, not like your sweating sourbellies of Athkatla and suchlike, who growl and wave halberds but can't run down anything faster than a hurrying slug.
Afoot, there's no fee for entry into Silverymoon, and you won't see one for citizens known to the guards who ride, or who have but one cart or coach. A wagon, now, is 1 cp empty (of all but empty containers, tarps, and lashings) and 4 cp laden (no matter how little is carried within), and a mounted, coach-carried, or aboard-a-cart visitor is 1 cp/head. If you dismount well out of sight of the gates and lead a pack beast in, your entry will be free -- but not if the guards can see a saddle under all the satchels and lashings you've artfully arranged atop old Thunderhoof.
Trying to fox the guards into thinking you're Silvaeren true? Well, be sure to call this northern entry "Bow Gate," as in arrow, or if you're really trying to pose as old Silvaeren blood, 'tis "Bucksword's Gate," after the adventurer who died holding the gate's shattered mouth against forty orcs one frigid night some sixty winters back. Or so the tale goes.
Beware, though: The guards see many folk trying to slip into the Market with goods to sell and are watching for false "citizens" or folk who leave their friends and a wagon out in the woods and trudge back and forth through various gates bringing a sack of wares at a time. Pay the "point" (as a copper's called, hereabouts; a silver's a "brighthead" and a gold piece is a "glimmer" or "a little sun" if you're feeling all formal and bardic -- and I hear Southbank and the grand folk who dwell east of the Market have their own prettier names for coins, too) and just get inside without any bother.
You can dispute having to pay your way if you really are a citizen and not bringing a conveyance in, but be warned: The guards will hold you until a second mage can be brought to peer into your mind . . . and do you really want that? No secrets at all that you mind all Faerûn knowing? If so, you must be fair on your way to being a god, or perhaps the gods owe you money -- and either way, you don't need to be wasting your time listening to me! All the rest of us, however, would be far wiser to just give over a coin, send a gentle jest with it for good measure, and stroll oh-so-nonchalantly away. . . .
What Makes the Wagons Groan
Another thing: Any roundskull can think of outlander wagons bringing food and goods from afar into the Market in the snow-free months, but how many of you have ever watched wagons at any city gate and seen their traffic cycles?
Well, at Hunters' Gate, think on this: Wagons come in not just from afar, but also from nearer. Those from the forests bring in cured hides, furs, and three sorts of wood: firewood, building lumber, and carving wood. They take back fancy-goods, tools, knives, clothing, maps, wagon wheels, sledge runners, and harness.
Those from the farms bring in hay, greens, and table vegetables -- and take back dung, harness, clothes, and sometimes laundry.
Some trade-wagons for the Marches north and east bring bars of workable metal, gems, and sometimes coal to Silverymoon, and they take back all manner of worked goods from the crafters of the city and from outlander merchants who came to Market. Oh, and if you're too old, infirm, or weak to ride or walk and swing swords to defend yourself, all of these wagons'll take you as a passenger, too -- bounced and slung along none too gently, and for stiff fees. Even to Quaervarr or Everlund, the fare's typically 2-4 gold coins, depending on your ability to bargain (and a minimum of 4-8 if you've a chest or satchel you need help with).
Once inside the gate, I turn sharp west, not right along the inside of the wall where the dung-carts groan and the Knights in Silver ride, but up the narrow cobbled lane that runs southwest from the Westwatch. More properly, it's called Westwatch Tower; that's the westernmost of the two gate-towers. It's the one that has all those green-and-gold banners hung from it to hide the guards' washing, that hangs behind. (And why hide trews? Perhaps 'tis that a lot of them tall-jawed, grim warriors like to wear silken underthings, though it might be they've a care for modesty and discretion. I've never asked.)
If you must know, the banners commemorate battles -- and why they remember some and not others is one of the great mysteries of Silverymoon. Top to bottom, oldest to newest, the battles are as follows: Splitskulls (a winter fray against the Granitefang orcs) in 614 DR; the Field of Fire (a rout of the same orcs thanks to old Truesilver's spells) in 628 DR; Thadanthiir's Bridge (wherein the orcs invaded the city itself but were turned back) in 631 DR; Brokenfang (a great victory over the orcs) in 634 DR; Wolfdown (Lady Wolf's defeat of an orc horde) in 882 DR; Tumbleskulls (whereat High Lady Alustriel's Harpers helped us defeat another orc horde) in 1235 DR; Walking Bones (defeat of an attacking undead host) in 1272 DR; and Moonlights' Triumph (the heroic lay-down-their-lives defeat of an orc horde by the Moonlight Men mercenaries) in 1343 DR.
Back to that lane I was telling you about. 'Tis called Nutting Lane, and it runs not far: around a gentle curve to an end-moot with a larger, busier cross-ways, Lavarpard Street, that's been thickly planted with the soft, moss-like tough grass known as haethindel, or some such. Nothing wears it away, and 'tis like the softest silks underfoot. Yes, you can eat it, but . . . ho, bitter! As bitter as an orc's kiss in a sleet storm! (Urrhmph. Don't ask.)
Ah, but I can speak prettily myself when the fancy takes me: Nutting Lane's short, curving career sees the even shorter Druinwood Way branch off it, to westward (to curve its own way back north and west, to the Wallrun). Nutting and Druinwood are the heart of my slice of Silverymoon -- a little corner of the city called "Hollowhar" for reasons I've never known for certain, but which probably have to do with an early family who settled and built here, only to vanish long ago and leave only their name behind. More of an achievement than many can claim, I suppose.
So here we stand. Not a glamorous corner of the Gem of the North, mind, but a useful one.
A Glance Farther
I know Hollowhar best, and that's all I'll wag my tongue about here. I can say that the next neighborhood (south of Lavarpard) is known locally as Falconturret, after a distinctive mansion once owned by a falconer. He's long in his grave, but the place still stands. I'm not talking official names on maps, mind, or anything larger than a few streets -- streets that in Falconturret today house jugglers, bards, scribes, guides, and adventurers-for-hire.
The best dry-vaults in the city (because they're farthest from the Rauvin's flooding reach) are east of Hollowhar, across "the Draw" (the northern throat of the Market, running from Hunters' Gate and widening to the real chaos of stalls and pens closer to the river). Those granary-cellars are dug out of solid stone and are the well-guarded backbone of the city, holding food enough to see us all through a harsh winter and a cropless summer to follow.
The rest of us must make do with less grand vaults. Hard west of Hollowhar stands the oldest and most ramshackle warehouse district of Silverymoon. Though it has its cellars, all are crowned by huge old storage sheds made of stone at street level, giving way to wood higher up. Some of those barns were built around the remnants of old towered mansions, which can still be seen thrusting out of the corners. These few streets are known as Timbervaults, for obvious reasons. Though most of the warehouses still serve for storage, increasingly they're being converted to carriage sheds, where wagons for Silvaeren who dwell elsewhere in the city are stored and repaired and repainted. There are also at least two shops I know of in Timbervaults: a glassblower and a silversmith.
So those're the neighbors beyond, and all I'll say about them.
A Hiding Hole
Oh, one more thing about the streets of Hollowhar: Some smuggler or other long ago built a hiding-place right into them at the waymoot of Nutting and Druinwood. You've seen the north-pointing arrows that adorn the cistern-covers at every waymoot in Silverymoon, yes? Well, the large flagstone directly west (along Druinwood) from the one at that waymoot can be turned just a little counter-clockwise, to expose a tiny hollow under its edge that lets your fingers in. Lift the stone, and you'll be looking into the inside of a buried, cracked earthen vessel about the size of a "smallkeg" set on end: about as deep as the easy stretch of a man's arm, and about as wide across as his chest.
Sometimes there're cryptic messages in there, scratched on flat stones; sometimes I've found daggers therein with someone's blood still on the blade . . . and sometimes other things I'll say no more about. Local whispers say it was once found filled up with freshly-severed heads!
All Hollowhar and most of the Rods this side of the city know of this "hiding hole," but at least two score folk (and mayhap many more) know all about how to find and open it. If truly private stowage is what you're after, best buy a cellar, and search for the little movable "hidestones" in the walls of most of them. The cavities behind some of those can (and have) held good-sized corpses.