The Western Heartlands (1372)
Population: 1,641,600 (humans 78%, elves 7%, half-elves 4%, halflings 4%, half-orcs 3%, gnomes 2%, dwarves 1%)
Government: City-states, each with a different government
Imports: Ale, fish, herbs, iron, rugs
Exports: Gold, pottery, silver, wool
The Western Heartlands cover a vast area between the Storm Horns of Cormyr and the Sword Coast south of Waterdeep, from the Lizard Marsh in the northwest to the Lonely Moor on the fringes of Anauroch in the northeast, down to Beregost and Green Fields in the southwest and Easting on the border of the Dragon Coast in the southeast
To the caravan drivers of Amn and Sembia, the Western Heartlands are known as "miles and miles of miles and miles" - windswept, grassy flats skirting impassable bogs, badlands, rolling hills, high moors, and lonely forests, all of which are filled with monsters. The farmers, frontier folk, walled-city dwellers, and other hardy souls who live here are strong and independent enough to carve successful lives out on the frontier where skill and intelligence count for more than one's bloodline. The Western Heartlands are home to dozens of separate walled cities, racial enclaves, farm towns, monasteries, fortified strongholds, and armed domains.
The Western Heartlands welcome ambitious adventurers. A dozen crumbled empires have sought to conquer or dominate the region, leaving behind fortifications built upon by waves of subsequent would-be monarchs. Others left behind treasure troves, high and perilous magic, or both. Unlike the densely packed regions in the Heartlands and the North, the Western Heartlands require long stretches of overland travel between destinations - but at least no one freezes en route.
Life and Society
Inhabitants of the Western Heartlands live in scattered wilderness settlements. The people of the west tend to be stubborn, independent, and proud of their ability to thrive in a challenging environment. Their frontier spirit is complemented by a trader's willingness to greet strangers as potential friends rather than potential enemies. Unlike some civilized people of the eastern nations, the folk of the west look upon adventurers favorably, viewing them as potential customers, good allies in a fight, and possibly even as neighbors.
Major Geographic Features
The term "Western Heartlands" is something of a catch-all. It includes a broad swath of land between Amn and the North, stretching from the Sword Coast to the Dragon Coast of the Inner Sea. Its arbitrary borders are subject to debate.
Battle of Bones: As travelers approach the region known as the Battle of Bones, the rolling grassland of the west gives way to chalky white soil dotted by stunted trees. Bones and other signs of an ancient battle begin to outnumber rocks, until the explorer stumbles through a wasteland of bleached bones that has resisted nature's cleansing elements for nearly three hundred years.
In 1090 DR, a horde of goblins and orcs out of the Stonelands met an army of humans, elves, and dwarves north of the Sunset Mountains. The warriors of Tyr, Corellon, and Moradin triumphed, killing uncounted thousands of the invading orcs in a six-day battle. Even the elves' healing magic and the clerics powers of resurrection could not prevent thousands of the defenders from joining the orcs in death. Three hundred years later, the site of the great battle is still a cursed and haunted land, covered with bones and remnants of the battle that are nearly a foot deep and sometimes pile into great drifts.
The sixty square miles covered by the battle are horrid hunting grounds for undead: zombies, skeletons, ghouls, wights, wraiths, spectres, and even liches. Young clerics of militant faiths frequently journey to the Battle of Bones to prove themselves in battle against the undead. Their efforts are countered by clerics of Velsharoon and other deities who view the battlefield as a site for their own unholy pilgrimages.
Cloak Wood: South of Baldur's Gate and north of Candlekeep, the Cloak Wood is a thickly overgrown ancient forest that looms along the shore south of the Sword Coast. Unlike the cliffs to the north, the Cloak Wood's shoreline theoretically allows a ship to moor and send a small boat to shore for water and supplies. In practice, only desperate mariners dare the wood's nasty population of beasts, monsters, and vicious fey.
The sages of Candlekeep assert that Cloak Wood contains portals to several other parts of Faerûn.
Far Hills: If they were not dwarfed by the peaks of the north and south branches of the Sunset Mountains, the Far Hills might be considered mountains themselves. It's not the region's rocky ridges, hidden valleys, and thick stands of twisted trees that keep travelers away - it's the forbidding spires of Zhentil Keep's western fortress, Darkhold. Until recently, Darkhold's control on the region was absolute, but the mage Sememmon's departure has led to confusion, conflict, and laxness among Darkhold's defenders.
Fields of the Dead: Like the Battle of Bones, the Fields of the Dead is the site of an ancient battle. Unlike the orc remains that litter the Battle of Bones, the deaths on the Fields of the Dead resulted from fights between human empires, kingdoms of the Sword Coast, and Amn, who all sparred for control of the area's rich farmland. The rolling farms of the area have had five centuries to recover from the last major war, but old armor, skeletons, unused scrolls, weapons, and magical bric-a-brac resulting from the intersection of bizarre spells still turn up under the plow.
Forest of Wyrms: The great redwoods and thick pines of this wood shelter a multitude of green dragons, who think of themselves as masters of the forest. The wyrms correctly estimate their control of their territory. Dragon slayers come here to hunt, becoming heroes or dying in the attempt.
Harpers and other heroes used to journey to the forest to battle a lich who lived in a castle named Lyran's Hold, but two adventurers finally killed the lich and occupied the hold in its place. New reports indicate that the adventurers who displaced the lich have inherited its evil ways. Lyran's Hold has returned to the list of potential adventuring sites shared over firelight or mugs of ale by seasoned heroes. If new adventurers manage to kill the hold's present occupants, the newcomers would be well advised to keep moving - there's no need to stay for over a tenday in the hold, unless they wish to risk suffering the same fate as the previous occupants.
Forgotten Forest: A single mighty forest once covered the center of Faerûn. The Forgotten Forest is a fragment of that ancient wood, a living cathedral of oak, walnut, and shadowtop populated by a large treant community. The treants mourn each mile that the forest has lost to the spread of the Great Desert, Anauroch. Another magical disaster to the south, the Marsh of Chelimber, has encroached upon the forest from that direction.
Druids and rangers are among the few who pass safely through the groves of treants. One of the great druids of Faerûn, Pheszeltan (N male human Drdl7/Dis4 of Silvanus), lives in the thickest part of the forest. He speaks to those who have the skill to reach him, but his home is less accessible than the highest. mountaintop of the Graypeaks west of the forest.
Green Fields: Over the centuries, innumerable petty warlords and ambitious merchants have established fiefdoms on the northern fringes of the grasslands north of the Snakewood and southeast of the Wood of Sharp Teeth. The current halfling-who-would-be-queen is Dharva Scatterheart (N female lightfoot halfling Exp1/Rog2/Sor6). Dharva likes the space, the running water, the lack of taxation (from anyone other than her), and the constant stream of caravans attempting the shortcut from the route through the Cloud Peaks over to Berdusk.
With the aid of a silent partner who has turned out to be a Shadow Thief of Amn, Dharva has erected a palisade town named Greenest along the trail to Berdusk. She's not entirely happy that the Shadow Thieves are her partners, but so far they've behaved themselves and confined themselves to business. That could change, of course. It wouldn't be the first time that a Green Fields enterprise failed because of incompatible partners.
Graycloak Hills: In 1335 DR, moon elves from neighboring Evereska moved into this range of high hills and small mountains. At the time, the range was known as the Tomb Hills for the elven burial sites dotting the slopes and valleys. The graves are still there, but the elven undead that formerly plagued the region were put to rest by determined moon elven clerics.
This does not mean that the hills are now open to adventurers and other travelers. On the contrary, the slopes are perpetually shrouded in gray mist. The elves move silently through the mist wearing gray cloaks of elvenkind on missions that outsider's do not fully understand. Some whisper that the elves have discovered a cache of Netherese magic that they wish to keep out of the hands of outsiders. There may be Netherese magic left in the hills, but that's not what has brought the elves here. The moon elven settlements in the Graycloak Hills are forts and spy posts for watching over Anauroch and the Graypeak Mountain.
The vigilance of the moon elves has been justified, if not exactly rewarded, by the recent arrival of the Netherese city of Shade in Anauroch and the escape of the phaerimms through the shattered Sharn Wall. Evereska and its outposts in these hills face a high and dire peril far more dangerous than the occasional orc horde or flight of dragons.
The elves' focus on stealth and caution means that their control of the entire Graypeak Hills range is not absolute. Ambitious human adventurers have entered the Graycloaks without notice, quickly delving into an old tomb and escaping before the moon elves retaliate.
High Moor: Largest of the open moorlands in western Faerûn, the High Moor is infamous as the haunt of monsters who loom out of the cold mists to consume wayfarers. The High Moor is a rocky wilderness, vast and uninhabited aside from its fearsome monsters - notably trolls, though travelers who've actually crossed the moor talk more of orcs and hobgoblins.
The High Moor is bounded on the west by the Misty Forest, whose dim blue glades and deep groves have always carried a fey and deadly reputation, and on the east by the Serpent Hills, where snakes and yuan ti lurk. These crag-studded, rolling lands are said to hide the ruins of long-fallen kingdoms - but just which kingdoms is a topic over which sages argue furiously. Minstrels sing colorful but contradictory ballads of these lost realms ("The bones and thrones of lost lands" is a favorite phrase, all that's left of a long-forgotten song.) What is certain is that the moor holds its share of ruined castles, stone tombs, and caverns, almost all of which have yielded treasure to the bold and fortunate.
Wolves and leucrottas are scarce on the moor, since trolls, bugbears, and hobgoblins have slain the other large beasts of prey. The relative scarcity of natural predators allows hoofed grazing animals of all sorts to flourish, from small rock ponies to shaggy sheep. Large, well- armed bands of coastal farmers and down on-their-luck merchants venture onto the moor in warm months, seeking horses to round up for training and sale elsewhere, or livestock that can be taken away. The greedy are warned that hobgoblins and worse always find and ambush large-scale intrusions, and small human bands pay for these raids with their lives.
Like the Evermoors north of the Dessarin, the High Moor is studded with moss- and lichen-festooned rocky outcrops, breakneck gullies, and rivulets of clear water that spring from rocks, wind across the moor for a time, then sink into the soil. The moor is also shrouded by frequent mists, since the prevailing winds are gentler than the chill, mist-clearing winds of the North.
Highstar Lake: High in the broken land of the northern High Moors, this eerily beautiful lake attracts human, dwarven, and elven pilgrims who come just to stare at the lake's legendary crystalline perfection. Adventurers can't believe that something so beautiful isn't loaded with strange magical powers, so they tell stories about drowned temples, sunken Netherese airships, and lost civilizations beneath the lake's waters.
Lizard Marsh: Instead of flowing freely into the Sea of Swords, the River Delimbiyr dissolves into a morass of waterways threading beneath cold-weather cypress trees festooned with hanging moss. Humans avoid the five hundred-plus square miles of the marsh, unless they intend to tangle with the lizardfolk, dinosaurs, and black dragons that lurk in its shallow waters. Few of the dinosaurs grow to great size since they are fiercely hunted by the lizardfolk who give the marsh its name.
Under their current chief, a warrior named Redeye (CE male lizardfolk Bbn11/Chm5 of Talos), the lizardfolk have succeeded in driving all other intelligent denizens out of the marsh. They view the river waters south of Daggerford as their own hunting grounds. Skirmishes with caravans and patrols from Daggerford usually go against the lizardfolk, but not so often that they avoid such fights.
Thanks in part to the proximity of the sea, the Lizard Marsh never fully freezes over, though its waters grow slushy in the deep winter. The lizardfolk hate the slush and "go to ground" during the cold spells, building lairs in the giant cypresses until the water returns to normal.
Lonely Moor: Leucrottas, perytons, and bulettes infest this high waste of dust, rock, and stunted trees. Gnolls and orcs hunt the monsters when they are not being hunted themselves. Life for the orcs is still pretty miserable, but the gnolls have recently found other employment thanks to the Zhents, who pay them to attack everyone else's caravans but leave Zhent travelers alone. The safety of the route between the Lonely Moor and the Forgotten Forest is particularly important to the Zhents now that the arrival of the city of Shade has disrupted their Anauroch routes.
Marsh of Chelimber: Some of the ruins dotting this misty low land swamp belonged to the land's original ruler, Prince Chelimber. Chelimber feuded with a mighty wizard known as the Wizard of the Crag back in the early days of Waterdeep. The prince hired magical assassins to kill the wizard, who fought back with awful magic. The battle spiraled out of control, killing the prince and destroying his lands. A few of the old ruins are too magical or intimidating for the marsh inhabitants to tamper with, such as Dunkappk Castle.
Lizardfolk and bullywugs skulk through the thousands of square miles of the swamp that still bear Chelimber's name, occasionally striking against the Zhent caravans that pass nearby. The interior of the swamp and the oldest ruins are dominated by sivs. The sivs prefer to practice their enigmatic monastic disciplines in privacy, but adventurers are sometimes welcome as a change in diet from marsh bird and bullywug.
Misty Forest: Wood elves, hybsils, druids, and rangers move comfortably through the fogs of this evergreen forest. Others have the uncomfortable sense that they don't truly belong on its wooded slopes, particularly not the savage orcs and other barbarians that occasionally sneak through the forest from the High Moor to strike at the neighboring Trade Way. Though the Misty Forest's wood elves are loath to admit it, they perform a valuable service for caravans and other travelers headed to Daggerford, Secomber, Boareskyr Bridge providing temporary respite from the constant vigilance required to survive the attention of the creatures that infest the High Moor.
River Chionthar: The River Chionthar links Baldur's Gate and Sword Coast with the inland cities of Elturel, Seornubel, Berdu and Inaebor. Barges can travel as far inland as Inaebor, at which point they must unload and take their goods overland.
Serpent Hills: The Serpent Hills are a great expanse of rocky hills rolling and broadening to the west until they become the High Moor. The Serpent Hills see more rainfall than the moor, providing scrub cover for the region's innumerable snakes and groves of hardy trees to provide ambush shelter for the land's roving yuan-ti. Copper and red dragons fight for possession of the choicest ridgelines not already occupied by ancient silver dragons.
Skull Gorge: The orc and hobgoblin shamans who survived six-day Battle of the Bones fled south into this narrow cut along the upper course of the River Reaching, daring their mainly human pursuers to come in and take them. The human warriors obliged the slaying the demons and devils the orcs summoned to defend th position along with the goblinoids. Usually victors have the luxury of looting the bodies of the fallen, but the battlefield of Skull Gorge was quickly abandoned to powerful demons that outlived their summoners. Supposedly, much treasure is hidden in the river, in the white stone caverns along the gorge's walls or in the lairs of being it would be wise not to encounter.
Sword Coast: The lands along the Sea of Swords south of Waterdeep and north of the mouth of the River Chionthar at Baldurs Gate are known as the Sword Coast. The name comes from the white cliffs that rise like a flashing blade from the shore to heights of up to half a mile, cutting off the sea and the land along hundreds miles of coastline from Baldur's Gate in the south to the River Dessarin just below Waterdeep. It is no accident that the two greatest cities of the Sword Coast bracket either side of the great cliff, because these are the only sites for hundreds of miles in which ships can safely moor.
Trollbark Forest: There's scarcely a corner of Faerûn that does not have a forest, mountain range, or moor named for the troll. Like the rest, the Trollbark Forest is thick with these monsters. The forest's dense underbrush, thick twisted stands of ash, and many bogs make it a perfect hunting ground for monsters that can crash through thorny barriers and nests of poisonous snakes without taking permanent damage.
Trollclaw Ford: The trade route known as the Coast Way does not actually run along the Sword Coast. It turns inland at Baldur's Gate to stay away from the Troll Hills and to cross the Winding Water at Trollclaw Ford at the edge of the Trollclaws. The ford is shallow and functional, but the water is black and foul, still poisoned by the death of the deity Bhaal to the north at Boareskyr Bridge. The crossing is fraught with danger, since trolls haunt the region, especially in hours of darkness.
Trollclaws: Caravans from the Coast Way that miscalculate the water rations send expeditions into the broken hills and boulder fields of the Trollclaws to find the natural springs above the tainted Winding Water. More often than not, the springs serve as watering holes and ambush spots for trolls, tall mouthers, and other murderous monsters.
Troll Hills: The Troll Hills are over run by the same screaming, festering horde of trolls that lurks in the Trollbark Forest to the north. Some say that the trolls that live in the caverns beneath the hills have a kingdom of their own. The truth is that these trolls belong to multiple competing realms that would be happy to eradicate each other, if not for the miracle of troll regeneration that let them survive damage they do to each other with teeth and claws.
Winding Water: The Winding Water dips and hums across the center of the Western Heartlands, growing Trom a small stream flowing south out of the Marsh of Chelimber into a mid-sized river where it joins with the Serpent's Tail Stream beside the Forest of Wyrms. The Winding Water descends to the sea in a series of cataracts that can be heard from the base of the Troll Hills.
Below Boareskyr Bridge, the site of the death of Bhaal, a dark god of murder, the river's waters are foul and loathsome, flowing black until many miles west of Trollclaw Ford, when they clear slightly and turn muddy brown but are otherwise normal. The inhabitants of the Western Heartlands speak of the black water as "Bhaal water" and refuse to drink it, saying that it brings bad luck. While Bhaal water is not poisonous and can support life, intelligent beings who drink the stuff suffer unpleasant magical side effects, equivalent to enduring a curse spell for a day.
Wood of Sharp Teeth: This wood's reputation as a hunting ground for dire beasts, hydras, and dragons has preserved it from woodcutters and settlers from Baldur's Gate - or anywhere else, for that matter.
Yellow Snake Pass: This area was named for a winged serpent that several hundred years ago plagued this gap in the Sunset Mountains, located at the headwaters of the River Reaching. Yellow Snake Pass has lately been pressed by snakes of a different sort - the Zhents. Zhentarim patrols controlled this trade route through the pass until early in 1372 DR, when Thayan wizards and mercenaries from Hills Edge drove the patrols into cavern shelters in the Underdark. For the moment, Yellow Snake Pass is free.
Trading cities scattered along the land's great rivers and the over land routes of the Coastal Way and the Trade Way dominate the human landscape of the Western Heartlands. Centuries of conquest and scattered settlements have done nothing to tame the land - if anything, it has grown more wild.
Asbravn (Small City, 5,668): Asbravn is the central marketplace for the farmers of Sunset Vale, the rich farmlands between the Reaching Wood and the Sunset Mountains. The town resists Zhent raids from Darkhold and more subtle pressures, thanks to the services of a volunteer militia known as the Riders in Red Cloaks, whose numbers are often supplemented by friendly or retired adventurers. The town is a popular caravan stop for all but Zhent merchants, who can buy provisions but may nor spend the night.
Beneath the town's well-kept farms and orderly market, catacombs left by a previous civilization of semi-nomadic horse riders sometimes turn up odd treasures: For a town erected upon the remnants of old tombs, Ashravn is sunny and relatively untroubled by undead.
Baldur's' Gate (Metropolis, 42,103): One of the two great cities of the Sword Coast, Baldur's Gate sits on the north bank of the River Chionthar, twenty miles from where the river flows into the Track less Sea. Situated halfway between Amn and Waterdeep, the city thrives on trade.
Trade knows no alignment, so tolerance is a virtue in Baldur's Gate, but not to the extent that visitors are allowed to conduct themselves in ways injurious to other persons or property. Guards in distinctive black helms with red stripes on either side police the city. They pay more attention to the upper half of the city, the part within the original walls, than to the newer, lower half by the river, enclosed by lower walls.
As is often the way in Faerûn, the great number of guards in Baldur's Gate is a clue to the presence of a well-run thieves guild. Guildmaster. Ravenscar (NE male human Rog10/Skr4 of Mask) maintains amiable though distant relations with Baldur's Gate's four grand dukes, including Eltan (LN male human Ftr20), the commander of the Flaming Fist mercenary company. The Flaming Fist serves as Baldur's Gate's unofficial army, providing cheap rates in return for a subsidized base of operations.
Most major cities have a few major temples, but Baldur's Gate's three major halls of worship are noteworthy. Gond's High House of Wonders houses an astonishing collection of one-of-a-kind inventions. Gnomes, inventors, and craftsfolk make the pilgrimage to Baldur's Gate for both inspiration and devotion. Tymora's temple the Lady's Hall, is remarkable for its size and wealth. The temple to Umberlee, euphemistically known as the "Water Queen's House", is one of the few actual temples to this deity in all of Faerûn.
Berdusk (Large City, 20,242): The Jewel of the Vale occupies a fortuitous position astride both the Uldoon Trail from Amn and the River Chionthar. The city has an age-old reputation as a place for trade and for peace parleys, a status encouraged by its current administrator, the High Lady Cylyria Dragonbreast (NG female human Brd1O/Ftr3/Hrp4). Cylyria is one of the leaders of the Harpers, whose most powerful base, Twilight Hall, stands beside the town's temple to Deneir. The Harpers use Berdusk as their base of operations in the West and the North.
Lady Cylyria keeps the city firmly in the Lords' Alliance and uses her influence to temper the strictly profit-minded policies of the city's rivals in Iriaebor and Seornubel. The Harpers were quick to take advantage of Darkhold's weakened grip on its territory in the Far Hills, but they are simultaneously concerned about the subtle rise in the Red Wizards' influence upon the affairs of the west.
Beregost (Large Town, 2,915). Beregost's forty or so stone and wood buildings cater to the trade between Amn and Baldur's Gate. The town has no official government, instead being run by the high priest of its major temple to Lathander. Yellow-garbed acolytes of the temple bear arms and keep the peace. Curiously, the town's founder was also a spellcaster rather than a politician - a wizard named Ulcaster established a magic school here that attracted a farming village to support it. Jealous Calishite wizards burned down Ulcaster's school three hundred years ago. The ruins still dominate the eastern side of the road, where the Morninglord's clerics graze their sheep to keep an eye on the ruins and prevent unsavory characters from going in (or coming out.)
Boareskyr Bridge: This massive stone structure spans the Winding Water along the Trade Way from Seornubel to Waterdeep. The current bridge is the most recent in a long series of bridges at the site. The bridge is in fairly good shape, though the two statues of dark gods that originally guarded its ends were shattered by spells cast by worshipers of Mystra and Kelemvor.
No permanent settlement lies at Boareskyr Bridge, but the collection of merchant tents and caravan shelters that accumulate at both ends of the bridge never entirely disappears. At any given time, the tents are home to forty to nearly three hundred merchants, travelers, and hangers-on. At one time two adventurers took the tent city under their protection and enforced a rough sort of law and order but they moved on to retire in Waterdeep, and the estates to the north were occupied by a series of chieftains and rich merchants' entourages.
Thanks to the battle between Cyric and Bhaal that ended in Bhaal's death, the water downstream of the bridge is black, foul-smelling, and unlucky to drink. "Go drink from the west side of the bridge!" is a common curse in these parts.
Candlekeep: This citadel of learning stands on a volcanic crag overlooking the sea at the end of the Way of the Lion, a road joining it to the Coast Way trade road. Candlekeep is a many-towered fortress, once the home of the famous seer Alaundo, and it preserves the seer's predictions among its huge library of the writings of Faerûn.
The price for any traveler to enter the keep is merely a book. Those wishing to examine a work in the keep's library must gift Candlekeep with a new tome, valued by the shrewd gatekeepers Candlekeep at no less than 1,000 gp. The monks of Candlekeep, who call themselves the Avowed, also purchase certain books brought to them and secretly commission agents to procure writings they desire.
The keep is ruled by the Keeper of the Tomes, who is assisted by the First Reader - second in authority and traditionally the most learned sage of the monastery: Up to eight Great Readers are governed by these two offices. These in turn are assisted by the Chanter, who leads the endless chant of Alaundo's prophecies, the Guide (in charge of teaching acolytes), and the Gatewarden, who deals with visitors, security, and supplies for the community. Clergy are regarded as honored guests - but are not part of the monastery's hierarchy.
The citadel bears mighty, many-layered wards that prevent any thing from burning except wicks and wax. No paper can ignite any where in the keep. These wards also block teleportation magic and destructive spells, kill all molds and insects, and have other secret properties. An additional ward prohibits entry into the Inner Rooms to all who do not bear a special token, only a handful of which exist. In the Inner Rooms are kept the most powerful magical tomes. Normally, only the Great Readers may enter, but others are admitted in the company of the Keeper or the First Reader.
The central tower of the keep is surrounded by beautiful grounds that descend to a ring of buildings along the inside of the massive outer walls: guest houses, stables, granaries, a warehouse, an infirmary, a temple to Oghma, and shrines to Deneir, Gond, and Milil. Order is kept by the Gatewarden's five underofficers: four Watchers, who take turns patrolling the monastery and watching land and sea from its tallest towers, and the Keeper of the Portal, each of whom has twelve monks (all experienced warriors) as assistants. These underofficers wield magic rods and rings to enforce their will.
No visitor can remain in Candlekeep for more than a tenday at a time, or reenter the monastery less than a month after leaving it. Visitors are forbidden to write in the library, but the monks scribe copies for visitors in good standing. Copying costs 100 gp per text, or 10,000 gp for spellbooks or any texts containing spells, magical formulae, or details of rituals, wards, command words, and the like.
The current Keeper of the Tomes is Ulraunt (LG human male Div1/Lor3), a proud and haughty wizard. It is well not to cross him. All petitioners who enter the central keep must sit at Ulraunt's left shoulder for at least one evening meal and endure his searching questions. Candlekeep has but one absolute rule: "He who destroys knowledge with ink, fire or sword, is himself destroyed. Here, books are more valuable than lives."
Something guards the catacombs and storage caverns beneath Candlekeep so well that few successful intrusions from below have ever reached Candlekeep proper. Few know that this sentinel wyrm was once the silver dragon Mhrym. She was bound to defend Candlekeep's monks, buildings, and books by the archsorcerer Torth. Miirym is now an ancient silver dragon ghost who, if destroyed, rejuvenates in only 2d8+8 hours. Mikym defends Candlekeep diligently, but her spirit is very lonely and would rather talk than fight. She trades tales for information about current events.
Anyone who tries to trick her or launch a sneak attack can expect to have her come howling after him, hurling every spell she can in a savage, furious attack. If she meets intruders openly carrying books of any kind, the sentinel wyrm insists that they be surrendered to her for "rightful return" to Candlekeep. (As far as she's concerned, writings of any sort belong to Candlekeep.)
The scribes of Candlekeep have made at least one copy of every tome there, and an entire "mirror library" is rumored to be hidden somewhere else in Faerûn. Candlekeep-made books always bear the keep's symbol: a castle with candle flames burning atop its towers.
Corm Orp (Village, 810): The town of Corm Orp is a flea speck, slightly over a dozen permanent buildings on the Dusk Road between Hluthvar and Hill's Edge. Most of the area's inhabitants are halflings and gnomes, with a few humans who live in small homes in the hills behind the town. Corm Orp's lord, Dundast Hulteal, is a Harper sympathizer who frequently calls upon the Harpers of Berdusk for aid. Many halflings passing through the hills above Corm Orp are skilled adventurers themselves, and some of them are Harpers.
Daggerford (Village, 891): Four hundred years ago, a merchant's son armed only with a dagger stood in a shallow spot in the Delimbiyr River and fought off a lizardfolk raiding party, slaying six before his family and the rest of the caravan arrived to drive the lizardfolk off and retake the ford. Now the proud community of Daggerford, a walled settlement of nearly forty small stone buildings and a small castle, sits on the south shore of the ford, keeping it clear for caravans and travelers moving along the Trade Way or headed east to Secomber and Loudwater.
Pwyll Greatshout (LG male human Ftr5) presently styles himself as the duke of Daggerford. He is served by a small militia, supplemented by hired adventurers who patrol the local farms and hamlets. Thanks to the constant traffic along the Trade Way, Daggerford has more than its normal share of shrines, temples, and powerful priests, including full temples to Chauntea, Lathander, Shaundakul, Tempus, and Tymora.
Daggerford operates in Waterdeep's long shadow. In Waterdeep, the expression "gone to Daggerford" is taken to mean "lying low outside the city." Daggerford occasionally flirts with plans to expand its harbor and secure a portion of Waterdeep's trade for itself. This plan is popular with the town's Council of Guilds, an organization whose members go masked like the Lords of Waterdeep but lack the magical protections that keep their identities secret from determined magicians). Privately, Pwyll Greatshout believes that the council overestimates his town's capabilities.
Darkhold: Since 1312 DR, Darkhold's black walls and towering spires have been the Zhents' western base of operations. The in-fighting caused by Bane's death and subsequent resurrection has weakened Darkhold's influence on the surrounding area. but hasn't loosened Zhent control of Darkhold itself.
The fort itself is a high-spired keep rising from a bare rocky spur on the side of the mountain named the Gray Watcher. The black stone used to build Darkhold came from a place far from the Western Heartlands. Darkhold's massive doorways, corridors, and ceilings were constructed for giants. Legends variously ascribe the keep's construction to the days when giants ruled all of Faerûn or to elder elementals serving as slaves for the kingdom of Netheril. Until Bane's resurrection, the wizard Sememmon was Darkhold's undisputed master. For an evil genius, Sememmon is a patient, observant, and wise man. He came into conflict with Fzoul Chembryl early in both their careers and has never sought or wished to fully repair the rift. When Bane died in 1358 DR, Sememmon held his own against Fzoul's Xvim sponsored machinations by managing his underlings wisely, consolidating his power in Darkhold, and avoiding conflict with Fzoul. When Bane returned and Fzoul established sole control of the eastern Zhents, Sememmon assessed his situation, chose the wisest course of action, and disappeared.
Some of Fzoul's supporters have quietly claimed that Fzoul eliminated Sememmon himself, but high-ranking Zhents are not sure. Ashemmi (LE female moon elf Wiz11), Sememmon's long-time consort and lover, disappeared at the same time as Sememmon. They withdrew to fight battles they could win, rather than keep a stronghold unlikely to survive against its original headquarters to the east.
At present, the citadel houses a permanent Zhent fighting force of eight hundred warriors, slightly reduced from the days when Sememmon held the Far Hills in perfect servitude. Fzoul seems content to let the various Zhent commanders in Darkhold spar for position, including the Pereghost (CE male human Ftr7/Chm5 of Cyric). All have sworn personal oaths of loyalty to the Zhentarim cause, although the strong Cyricist influence here galls Fzoul, who wants to see all of the Zhentarim under Bane's dominion.
The intrigues and assassination attempts presently dominating Darkhold's internal politics are not openly tolerated in the eastern Zhent holdings, but for the moment Darkhold's feuds are being used to cull the weak. If a strong leader does not emerge soon, Fzoul will appoint his own commander, someone strong enough to deal with intrigues decisively.
Durlag's Tower: Durlag's Tower stands like a single massive fang atop a wall of volcanic rock that rises out of the otherwise smooth plains rolling south of the Wood of Sharp Teeth. During's Tower was built by the dwarven hero Durlag Trollkillor. Durlag had an extreme case of what the dwarves call "goldeneye," an overwhelming lust for treasure.
During his adventuring career he behaved honorably, but in the last years of his life Durlag retired to his lair and devoted himself to creating a "gift" to future generations of adventurers. His tower is so full of magical treasures that it makes casters of detect magic spells dizzy. Magic wards, mechanical traps, and malevolent automatons ensure that adventurers who wish to depart with their lives, much less any part of Durlag's treasure, need to fight as hard as Durlag did to amass his hoard.
New rumors always surface that some new fiend has defeated the wards and taken residence in the tower. The truth is not so simple. At various times, a dragon, a squadron of will-o'-wisps, and an illithid have taken "command" of the tower, but in all cases the occupants eventually discovered that the tower had outsmarted them, turning them into a temporary part of its own defenses rather than actually yielding its secrets. At any time, multiple parties or monsters might be within the tower, fighting for a chance to take control, plunder, or escape.
Information on the current denizens of the tower is available for a small price in the tiny human and gnome settlement named Gullykin, a couple of miles from Durlag's Tower.
Elturel (Large City, 22,671): If Elturel's ruler, High Rider Lord Dhelt (LG male human Pal17 of Helm), were an evil man, his city's position atop a cliff that dominates the River Chionthar would cause no end of trouble for the other trading cities of the region. Fortunately for the peace and prosperity of the Chionthar valley, Dhelt confines his competitive instincts to running the safest, best policed, and most efficient trading and farming community in the Western Heartlands. In these harsh lands, civilization depends on military power, and Elturel proves the rule with a crack army of two hundred mounted warriors known as the Hellriders. Caravans and riverboat convoys take routes into Elturel's zone of control just so that they can relax and leave a day or two of vigilance to Lord Dhelt's soldiers.
Evereska (Large City, 21,051): In the elven tongue, Evereska means "fortress home." This great valley and the city within it, the only major settlement of moon and sun elves left on Faerûn following the Retreat, is nestled between twelve high hills that function as natural walls. Access to this refuge exists only by air or through high passes guarded by elite elven sentinels. The approach to the city leads through a crescent-shaped valley of terraced vineyards and fruit gardens. The city of Evereska itself is a masterpiece of shaped stone and crafted trees, built for architectural impact and powerful defense.
Evereska's rulers are the Hill Elders, elves of immense age, learning, and power. Thanks to the Hill Elders' care and foresight, Evereska's inhabitants are free to live deep within the elven mysteries. Some elves never leave Evereska for the outside world. Others guard the city with unceasing vigilance.
Most humans know of Evereska only through rumors or from seeing paintings or tiny sculptures given as presents to the elves' most faithful friends. Stories tell of the strength of elven magic within the city, such as its inhabitants' ability to walk straight up vertical surfaces as if they always benefited from spider climb spells. These effects (and more) come from a powerful mythal. The mythal's greater powers, defensive abilities of elven high magic at the peak of its power, are seldom called upon.
Hill's Edge (Small City, 9,716): Hill's Edge caters to both Zhent caravans and honest travelers. Small but prosperous, the town has a well-deserved reputation for dirty deals and odd bedfellows. Bandits, brigands, murderers, and cutthroats get to know each other in Hill's Edge's taverns, and it's hard to kill a person who bought you drinks the night before.
Officially, Hill's Edge elects a mayor every year, but suitable candidates are difficult to find. In 1371 DR, the Red Wizards brought a small enclave to Hill's Edge. It's thriving, and so is Hill's Edge, thanks to the increased spending of those who stop to purchase the Thayans' wares.
Zhent caravans still pass through Hill's Edge happily enough, but alert adventurers might play on tensions between the Thayans and Zhents. The Zhents don't appreciate the Thayans' role in the recent liberation of Yellow Snake Pass. For their part, the Harpers of Berdusk are even less happy with the Thayans, an enemy with a smiling face, than with the notoriously heavy-handed Zhents.
Hluthvar (Small City, 6,669): From the highest lookout of the fortress-like temple of Helm at the center of Hluthvar, a keen-eyed watcher can spy the black towers of Darkhold on a clear day, over sixty miles to the east. Firm vigilance, a strong ten-foot wall, and devoted worship of Helm are all that prevents Hluthvar from falling to the Zhents. Helm's high priest, Maurandyr (LN male human Clr14/Dis4 of Helm), who fights with a magical dancing sword, reinforces the town's resolve to stand strong against the Zhents.
Iriaebor (Large City, 16,193): The City of a Thousand Spires occupies a sprawling ridge above the north fork of the River Chionthar. Space to build on is at a premium atop the ridge, so Iriaebor's traders and other citizens have adjusted by building up instead of out - many-storied towers rise from all quarters of the city. Iriaebor's great merchant houses compete to build the highest, richest, and most fantastically bizarre towers, thinking to attract business the way peacocks attract their mates. Like peacocks, who fight when looks alone cannot decide engagements, the great houses of Iriaebor sometimes conspire to topple each other's towers, using magic or hired adventurers to confuse the trail.
One of those hired adventurers came to prominence in the middle of a merchants' war and took it upon himself to rule the city. Bron (LG male human Ftr5/Pal4 of Eldath) believes that his city could become a major force in the Western Heartlands if it could stop squandering its energy on internal feuds.
Laughing Hollow: A few miles north of Daggerford, a choke point in the River Delimbiyr runs through an old dwarven quarry where the dwarves used the river to flush away their mine's wastes. The miners have been gone for centuries, and the mine lies undiscovered beneath thick vegetation that covers the walls of the cliffs on either side of the river. Pixies, hybsils, and wild elves shelter in the thick brush, driving off the adventurers who come here searching for the mine and its supposed treasures.
Scornubel (Large City, 14,574): Scornubel, the Caravan City, is a sprawling buzz of mercantile activity along the north shore where the River Chionthar meets the River Reaching. It is ruled by a group of elderly or middle-aged adventurers and caravan masters, some of whom favor hiring adventurers to solve the city's problems and others who prefer that adventurers move along promptly. In all things, the ruling council chooses efficiency and profit over ideals.
Caravans of all nations, organizations, and trading costers are welcome in Scornubel. Similarly, shrines to nearly all Faerûnian deities can be found somewhere in the town's low buildings. The Red Shield merchant company runs both its military and trading caravan operations out of Scornubel. The Red Shields also serve as Scornubel's official army and police force. As an army, they're efficient. As a police force, they concentrate on relaxing, enjoying themselves, and looking after the Red Shield company's interests.
Secomber (Small Town, 1,417): Sitting along the Unicorn Run just north of the High Moor, Secomber is either the northernmost settlement of the Western Heartlands or the first village of the North, depending on who draws the map. Those who vote for the Western Heartlands point to the town's peacefulness, its thriving families of fisherfolk and farmers, its colorful gardens, and its hospitality to passing caravans. Those who think of it as part of the North point to the town's sizable community of adventurers and guides who have at least passing familiarity with the High Forest to the north.
The city welcomes travelers, particularly adventurers who use the city as a base for forays into the High Moor or the High Forest. Not coincidentally, such adventurers are called on to help out when gargoyles and worse creatures are unearthed from the area's long-dead kingdom of Athlantar, the Kingdom of the Stag.
Well of Dragons: Throughout Faerûn, there's a legend that the great dragons have a graveyard, a place they go to die. The Well of Dragons, the hollow interior of an old volcano north of the Sunset Mountains and south of the Battle of Bones, is that grave yard. Until recently, its thousands of dragon skeletons were hidden from view by powerful spells and guarded by an undead shadow dragon called the Dire Dragon. The Cult of the Dragon learned of the Well of Dragons, made a pact of sorts with the Dire Dragon, then succeeded in unbinding the magic that kept the guardian attached to Faerûn.
Instead of enjoying easy access to the treasure trove, the Cult of the Dragon has encountered serious resistance from members of several different factions. Interested parties include dragonkin who refuse to plunder the resting place of the great dragons, yuan-ti, newly arriving lesser dragons, and various parties of adventurers and sages who are intent on looting the remains. Despite the difficulties, the Cult is secretly raising a dark and powerful fortress to watch over this place, and planning great sorceries and rites here.
The ancient history of the Western Heartlands reveals itself in the scattered tombs, broken statues, and shattered ruins of dozens of mighty kingdoms. As testified to by sites such as the Fields of the Dead and the Battle of Bones, few of those kingdoms dissolved peacefully.
Major wars in the region were rare in recent centuries, unless one counts the battle fought between the deities Bhaal and Cyric at Boareskyr Bridge during the Time of Troubles. Cyric slew Bhaal and stole his powers, the portfolio of murder.
In the centuries before the rise of Waterdeep, the greatest kingdom in the Western Heartlands was Illefarn, a kingdom of elves that rivaled Myth Drannor. Phalorm (the Realm of Three Crowns, or the Fallen Kingdom) and the Kingdom of Man ruled for a time in Illefarn's wake, but since then no single power has controlled the entire area. The trading culture of Waterdeep, Amn, and the scattered members of the Lords' Alliance compose the longest-lived civilization to rise in the Western Heartlands since Illefarn's fall.
The mercantile cities 'interests are sometimes aided and some times opposed by the Zhent forces operating out of the fortress of Darkhold in the Far Hills. Aside from the weather, Darkhold's changing fortunes are probably the single largest variable in the lives of inhabitants of the Western Heartlands.
Plots and Rumors
The Western Heartlands are friendly to adventurers of good heart. Uncharted mountains, wild forests, and haunted forests threaten the small villages and settlements of the area, and adventurers have always been the first line of defense against the power groups - the Cult of the Dragon, the Shadow Thieves, and the Zhentarim - who seek to extend their influence into the area.
"I'd Like to Get My Things Back": The heroes might be surprised to be approached in a forthright manner by Ashemmi, the lover of Sememmon, the former ruler of Darkhold. Sememmon left some possessions behind in Darkhold when he fled, and he would like them back. These items are well hidden, but there is always the chance of accidental discovery while the keep is controlled by other commanders. Sememmon does not want to return to Darkhold himself. Instead, he would like the heroes to break into Darkhold and retrieve his things. He even gives the PCs information to reduce their risk of being apprehended. He means to pay the PCs enormously for their services, half in advance, and informs them that the items they are gathering for him shouldn't fall into the hands of Fzoul's Zhents. If the PCs want to meet Sememmon himself instead of dealing with his lover, this can be arranged.
Sememmon is not concerned if the PCs do not accept his commission. In fact, he leaves behind a quarter of the huge fee, as many gold pieces as it takes to make the PCs gasp) as a gift, just to say that he would be willing to work with the PCs in the future. Sememmon's new plan, in the long run, is to make himself indispensable to the forces of good that he formerly opposed. The objects Sememmon wants back could be documentation of Zhentarim spies in the region, spellbooks with unique spells, or potent magic items.
Realms Personality: Sememmon