Lake of Steam and the Border Kingdoms (1372)
Capital: None, (largely independent city-states)
Population: 1,74,280 (humans 90%, halflings 9%; higher proportions of nonhumans in the Border Kingdoms)
Imports: Grain, horses, livestock, small ships, soldiers, stone, wood (varies by region)
Exports: Cast brass and bronze,, chains, dyed wool, dyes, fruit, gems, ink, magic items, mercenaries, mirrors, pearls, seafood, sheep-skins, spellbooks, sturdy books, vegetables, wagons, weapons, wine (varies by region)
With independent city-states on the north shore and a succession of small countries founded or conquered by people of many races, faiths, and agendas to the south, the Lake of Steam is a hodgepodge of varying interests, bustling trade, and frequently changing boundaries. Most of the cities on the north shore were part of Calimshan in the past and retain their parent's desire for wealth, comfort, and influence, as well as a strong desire to remain independent. The intrigues brewing around these cities led observers to dub the northern shore the Moonsea of the South.
The Border Kingdoms on the southern shore are the homes of powerful adventurers of many types, each seeking to carve out a piece of land and rule it in the manner he or she feels is best . . . at least until the next would-be ruler decides to take over. Wizard towers, monasteries, fortresses, and temples dot the Border Kingdoms, only to have their owners replaced time and again.
South of the Lake of Steam on the eastern shores of the Shining Sea lies, the fractious kingdom of Lapaliiya, a crossroads land between the Shaar plains, the Chultan jungles, and the verdant Lake of Steam.
Life and Society
The northern shore of the Lake of Steam, with its strong historic ties to Calimshan, reflects the materialistic attitude of that nation. However, the people of the lake have a fierce independent streak and rarely tolerate slavery. In the Border Kingdoms on the chaotic southern shore of the lake, the people have had little opportunity to develop any sort of national identity. What they do have in common is a stoic determination to get on with their lives regardless of who claims to be their king, overlord, theocrat, high wizard, grand guild master, or supreme musician that year.
Major Geographic Features
The lake itself and the Shining Sea to the south are the primary features of the area, along with the forests that surround the lake.
Duskwood: This tangled haunt of stirges, predatory trees, giant spiders, and enormous snakes is still widely visited for many kinds of rare plants prized by herbalist's, spellcasters, and alchemists. The wood is also known for several pools said to be capable of repairing magic items: The Vauntagar, a magical binding-ward, keeps a cycle of monsters alive to guard the pools. When the active monster is severely injured, it shifts to an extra-dimensional space where the others live, and a fresh creature is sent to take its place in the wood. Aside from the Vauntagar creatures, at least one beholder haunts the forest
Jundarwood: Spiders of all kinds inhabit this tall forest, both normal and giant-size. Rumors abound that intelligent spiderlike beings, either ettercaps or araneas, also lair here. Evidence is scarce, so if they do exist, they have been living in tunnels underground or high in the forest canopy. The eastern end of the Jundarwood sports a volcanic hill known as the Jundarmount, which releases small amounts of lava and a great mass of cinders at least once a month, often setting portions of the wood on fire if the wind is right.
Lake of Steam: Despite its name, the Lake of Steam (also called Arnaden) is a saltwater bay of the Shining Sea. Its stinking yellow waters give off clouds of steam due to volcanic activity beneath the waves, so its waters are always warm and cloaked with impenetrable mists on cold nights. Shallow as a pan, the lake is less than two hundred feet deep at its deepest, and only a few dozen feet in depth for most of its eastern arm.
The warm, iron-strong, undrinkable waters are rich in minerals that spur weeds, shellfish, and fish to grow to great size; the lake has been called "the Breadbasket of the Seas." Predators here grow very large, too, from birds and otters to dragon turtles. Dolphins are common, and sharks and leeches (some as large as rowboats, and given to hunting ashore during wet nights) are frequent, outnumbering more fearsome aquatic monsters. The lake is also known for the greenish pearls of its oysters.
The islands in the Lake of Steam change as volcanic stacks collapse and rise, but tend to be concentrated at Arnaden's western end. The Arnrock is an active volcano that exploded about a thousand years back, and is now a low, wide, open-topped dome with a cauldron filled with woods and always active hot springs and FUMAROLES. It's the abode of a small settlement of halflings who call themselves the Am. They fish, farm, and do a little copper-casting using volcanic rifts at the cauldron's heart.
Great numbers of wild beasts roam the island of Olodel. The place was once the private hunting preserve of the Lords of Olodet eccentric Calishite merchants who brought a number of deepspawn hence and fed them deadly monsters, from tigers to manticores and chimeras. Several beholders slew the Lords and now rule Olodel. The island of Felmer's Keep looks like a castle but is actually a steep-sided extinct volcano, its outer flanks rocky ramparts, and its heart a verdant meadow.
The Strait of Storms (also known as the Suldolphos Strait or the Wide Water) links Arnaden with the Shining Sea, and waters flow through it dangerously fast. To voyage north into the lake, ships wait on strong winds, and favorable tides, sometimes for days.
Qurth Foren: This forest is thick almost to the point of being impassable. Long ago a Calishite sorcerer cursed one of the local rulers that monsters would overrun his realm, and while the curse died with the offending ruler, the offspring of those monsters still thrive here. Owlbears, intelligent fungi, and giant spiders are common, and an occasional naga can be found. Ruined, overgrown cities still exist in the interior of the forest, long abandoned when monsters drove out the inhabitants.
Thornwood: This forest is one of the most dangerous in south western Faerûn. It is inhabited by evil humanoids, dangerous plants, and at least one beholder. Wood elves, druids, and treants struggle to hold back the tide of evil. Legends tell of the Green's Sword, a green blade that sprouts from a particular grove every ten years; the sword can be claimed to fight evil by one who is worthy. The grove is encircled by brambles and is otherwise only remarkable for the sword-shaped leaves of the plants where the sword appears.
Winterwood: This lush forest's canopy allows little direct sunlight to penetrate. The ground is often shrouded in white mist that resembles snow. Green elves, orcs, and intelligent mold-based creatures fight for territory. The forest is also home to Foilsunder, an old male green dragon with druid powers.
The volcanism of the lake has discouraged dwarves and other delving races from settling in the area, and human realms have been shattered by Calimshan's armies and by successive waves of beholder rule. Eye tyrants lurking in the mountains west and north of the lake still occasionally burst forth with charmed servitor creatures from cavern strongholds to descend on caravans and encampments. Brigands fleeing Calishite justice also infest the shores.
Anthapur (Metropolis, 33,Y54): This city was ruled for many years by an undead king. The current King Janol Famisso (N male human Rog1O) destroyed the old ruler and set about opening up the city for trade. He has decreased merchant taxes and compensated for the loss by increasing the taxes on nobles, which has made him popular with the former and less so with the latter. For unknown reasons, all the tressym within the city disappear on the day before Highsummer and return three days later.
The Border Kingdoms (9,485 inhabitants): This stretch of coast is dotted with villages and towns like any other part of Faerûn. The main difference in the Border kingdoms is that the people here are used to frequent changes in leadership, precipitated by powerful adventurers who decide to carve out a small kingdom and rule for a while. With a limited number of prime locations for bases, battles between would-be rulers are frequent. These changes make it difficult to record accurately anything about the current state of this region, although the commoners have an enduring and pragmatic attitude. Local towns such as Beldargan, Derlusk, Themasulter, Theymarsh and Yallash have populations of between one thousand and two thousand and survive by logging, mining, and fishing.
Dalelost: These ruins once contended with Yhep for the largest share of the pearl trade, but a series of unremembered calamities left the place ruined and abandoned over a period of a decade. It is now home to a cabal of clerics of Bane who are being controlled by the Twisted Rune. The Banites have a small temple and command some lesser undead, although more powerful undead are believed to lair beneath the city.
Innarlith (Metropolis, 48,691) Anything can be bought in this fortified city for the right price, including illegal goods such as poison and narcotics. The city's leader, the Ransar Pristoleph (CE male fire genasi Sor8/Dev5 of Cyric) discourages clerics of benevolent faiths and ruthlessly persecutes thieves, but welcomes an enclave of Red Wizards with open arms. The genasi unseated the previous ransar and his Black Firedrakes in a bold coup last year, at the same time driving his rival Mandalax out of the city.
Pristoleph is a secret devotee of Cyric, and with his tacit assistance the priests of the Black Sun are infiltrating the city's merchant houses and subverting key civic leaders to their sinister cause. The Cyricists dream of transforming Innarlith into the Zhentil Keep of the south, a stronghold in which the followers of the Prince of Lies wield supreme power.
Mintar (Large City, 21,500): This city, along with the former Teyhyrian town of Kzelter, were conquered by an army of the church of Xvim (now Bane) led by Teldorn Darkhope (LE male human Clr9 of Bane). Now everything in the city serves the army and the church, which is also backed by Fzoul Chembryl of the Zhentarim. Remnants of the Academy of the Drawn Sword school have allied with others in Saelmur and are preparing raids against outlying camps of the Banite army. Here Darkhope and Chembryl forged the Scepter of the Tyrant's Eye, the first relic of Xvim and now rededicated to the church of Bane.
Because Mintar lies nearly six hundred miles from Innarlith, the unpleasant developments in these two cities are unlikely to affect each other.
Saelmur (Metropolis, 25,294): Once called the cleanest city on the lake, Saelmur is now overcrowded with refugees from Mintar. The city is the home of many arcane spellcasters and the Master of the Blade school. Magic items and spell components are easily found here. The churches of Helm, Torm, and Tyr are locked in constant debate over how to deal with the Banite threat in Mintar.
Thep (Small City, 5,691): Thep is famous for the vivid red pearls found in its oyster beds. Part of the town rests on stilts, underneath which are oyster farms. The Thepan shipwrights build wondrous ships with levitation magic and ski-like runners that skim across water, mud, and sandy flats like darting birds. The minions of Vaxall, a beholder of Thornwood and ally of the Banites in Mintar, are influencing certain nobles in town.
The city-states on the Lake of Steam have all been part of Calimshan's empire or were founded by people working for or fleeing it, including rival nobles and empowered generals. Calimshan lost pieces of its eastern holdings on several occasions due to wars with elves, beholders, and drow (including an extended period when beholder cults were prevalent), and the city-states have remained independent for several hundred years.
The cities of the Lake of Steam have access to their trading partners through the area and overland to the Vilhon Reach. These city-states are prosperous and rich but lack strong leadership. Gold rules these lands, and powerful merchant princes have toppled more than one city lord for interfering with the pursuit of private wealth.
Plots and Rumors
The Border Kingdoms are always bubbling with wars, feuds, and power-hungry adventurers seeking thrones. On the northern shore, fierce competition for trade and the military forces of Bane's church in Mintar now pose a threat to the tenuous stability of the other city-states.
A Rare Find: Ilmur Baraskro, a merchant of Ankhapur, claims to have found a mysterious magic item that enables its possessor to create multiple bodies and move his intellect from one to another freely. He is offering it for sale to any interested person for two million gold coins, and has survived three assassination attempts to date, each of which slew one of his spare bodies.
Some sages say his item may be the fabled Thringal's Gorget - of which it is said that creating too many bodies with it can drive the possessor insane, one of the bodies must wear the Gorget at all times, and damage done to one body weakens all the others. Interested parties are hunting for Baraskro, most posing as potential buyers.
Demon Hunt: A demon summoned just before the conquest of Mintar broke free of its confining magic circle, causing much havoc among the Banite troops before flying southward. The Banites want the demon captured or destroyed, while others want to bribe the demon to continue attacking the minions of the Black Hand. The demon itself plans to claim a land among the Border Kingdoms.
The city-states along the southeast shore of the Shining Sea together form a league or confederation known as Lapaliiya. The folk of this land are zealous warriors and industrious merchants who place a tremendous value on personal honor and propriety. Duels and feuds over slights that folk of other lands might hardly notice are common.
Each city in the Lapal league takes one deity as its patron, glorifying that faith above all others. Ilmater, Kelemvor, Seline, Talos, and Waukeen are the civic deities of the five largest Lapal cities. Other faiths are actively discouraged in a particular city, and relations between cities tend to mirror the alliances and enmities of the gods themselves.
The Lapal people were formerly a widespread tribal folk who settled a broad swath of territory from the southern coasts of Chult where the Lapal Sea still bears their name, to the borders of the Shaar. Barbaric and warlike, they harried the frontiers of Calimshan's great empires until the mage-kings of the Shoon Dynasi conquered and civilized them. The cities are still ruled by satraps claiming descent from the Shoon rulers of old.
Realms Personality: Arrk
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