The Shining South (1372)
Along the southeastern coast of Faerûn stretches a vast land of magic, mystery, rumor, and legend. To the folk of the Heartlands, thousands of miles away, the South is a place of myths and tales that seem unbelievable. A land where everyone is a wizard? A kingdom of halflings? A realm ruled by drow? All of these things and more exist in the South.
The South is normally accounted to consist of the coastal lands of Halruaa, Luiren, Dambrath, Durpar, Estagund, Var the Golden, and Veldorn. It also includes the land dividing the South from the rest of Faerûn, the great grassland known as the Shaar, and the Great Rift, a mighty dwarven kingdom in the middle of the Shaar.
The Great Rift
Population: 1,308,960 (gold dwarves 90%, shield dwarves 6%, gnomes 2%, halflings 1%)
Religions: Clangeddin Silverbeard, Dugmaren Brightmantle, Haela Brightaxe, Moradin
Imports: Fruit, grain, livestock, produce
Exports: Gems, gold, jewelry, magic items, silver
Alignment: LN, LG, N
The center of the Eastern Shaar is cut open as if by a gigantic sword in a curving, southeast-to-northwest canyon, the Great Rift. It plunges to a thousand feet below the level of the surrounding plains at its deepest point, although its floor is still well above sea level. Including the lands around it patrolled by dwarves, the Rift just outstrips the realm of Sembia in size. Quarried by dwarves for centuries, enlarged from an impressive natural canyon to its present awesome size in the process, the Rift is the most powerful kingdom held by Faerûnian dwarves today.
The Great Rift is the ancestral home of the gold dwarves. Unlike the shield dwarves of the north, the gold dwarves have flourished in one homeland for uncounted generations. The gold dwarves suffered their own ancient wars, but they turned the aftermath of the wars to their advantage. The Great Rift, a wound in the earth engineered (according to one theory) by their drow enemies thousands of years ago, is now the forbidding stronghold of the very race the drow hoped to destroy.
The gold dwarves control the Rift's floor, the tunnels and caves honeycombing its walls, the surface for a day's pony ride in all directions on the surface, and portions of the Underdark within range of dwarven patrols.
Life and Society
Compared to the patriarchal shield dwarf kingdoms of the north, the gold dwarves have a long history of favoring female rulers. Males and females are equal in gold dwarven society, but females have a reputation for wise leadership. The gold dwarves own explanation for this is that their menfolk think most of gold, power, and glory, whereas the women also remember to think of future generations. It's certain that respect for the land and for the magical ways that preserve the land are more prevalent in gold dwarven society than in the societies of the shield dwarves to the north.
Magic of all types is more common in gold dwarven society than among the dwarves of the north. Gold dwarven wizards, sorcerers, and stonesingers (their term for bards) join runecasters and clerics as valued and honored members of the Great Rift's society, working together to forge potent magic items.
Major Geographic Features
The Great Rift is a world unto itself, an ecosystem distinct from the land above it with its own weather (wetter), animals (more plentiful, and herded or controlled by the dwarves) and plants (thriving). In some places the Rift is so wide that a person can stand on the valley floor and not even see the mighty cliffs marking the edges.
The Deepwild: The dwarves use this name to refer to the Underdark areas beneath the Shaar and south of the Shaar that they do not control. The Deepwild regions include such varied terrain as the drow city of Llurth Dreier beneath the Shaar, the Wyrmcaves (a dangerous series of dragon lairs linked by tunnels beneath the Shaar), and the Deepfall (a huge underground waterfall).
The Deep Realm: Distinct from the Deepwild, the Deep Realm is the area controlled and inhabited by the gold dwarves of the Great Rift. Some of the Realm's underground cities are detailed in the Important Sites section below.
The Riftlake: The lake at the bottom of the Great Rift is clear, cold, and fresh. The floor of the rift drains to this lake, which is also fed by great, deep springs rumored to hold portals to the Elemental Plane of Water. The Riftlake is the birthplace of the mighty River Shaar, which flows a short distance across the floor of the arid canyon only to disappear underground in a spray-filled gorge at the north end of the Great Rift. The gold dwarves pride themselves on keeping the waste products of their forges from contaminating the land and water.
Sidebar: Who Made the Great Rift?.
Most of the gold dwarves' largest settlements are in Underdark caverns surrounding the Great Rift, but the Rift gives all of them a link to the outside world that many other dwarven communities lack.
Eartheart (Metropolis, 44,008): if Underhome (see below) is the political center of the Great Rift, Eartheart is the religious center. The realm's great temples lie along Eartheart's pilgrimage roads.
Unlike surface temples, which build upward, the gold dwarves' temples to Moradin and the other dwarven deities seem to be simple shrines on the surface but build downward, spiraling through levels accessible to lay worshipers toward the Mysteries visited only by the priests in the roots of the earth. Eartheart is home to a standing army of fourteen thousand dwarves, the Steel Shields, and ruled by a Lord Scepter elected annually by the Deep Lords of the Deep Realm.
Hammer and Anvil (Small City, 7,899): The gold dwarves prefer that non-dwarves come no closer to the Rift than Hammer and Anvil, a trading-moot of tents, movable huts, and watchful dwarven guards. It stands against the west wall of the soaring, spy-and-tunnel-filled dwarven fortress-city of Eartheart.
Here dwarves trade their metal goods, weaponry, and labor (especially armor-fitting and refitting, and on-the-spot gem-cutting and setting) for fruit, vegetables, cheeses, fine textiles, paper, lamp oils, livestock, and other goods the dwarves need or prize. At any given time, fully half the population of this settlement is composed of non-dwarves visiting for trade.
Riftedge Towers: The Stout Folk rule the Rift and the rolling plains all around for a day's pony-ride, enforcing this claim from sixty massive stone guard-towers along the canyon edges. These Rift-edge Towers are entered by tunnels from beneath, and house all manner of catapults and ballistae. Over sixty dwarven warriors guard each garrison.
Dwarven sentries and scouts patrolling the Rift floor or the lands nearby carry horns to swiftly summon "peacehammer" forces from the Riftedge Towers - a score of hippogriff-riding dwarven skyriders who throw axes with deadly skill and carry lances for close-in work. Some skyriders use magic lances that fire flame or magic missiles on command.
Underhome (Metropolis, 49,650): Underhome is the center of gold dwarven society. its rulers are the Deep Lords, noble dwarves who lead great clans of warriors and artisans. The Deep Lords in turn owe allegiance, to Queen Karrivva of the Simmerforge clan. More than any of the other cities, Underhome centers upon the Great Rift itself, maintaining responsibility for its defense and for the herds that graze around the Riftlake at the bottom.
The defense of Underhome, as well as its civic life, focuses on the community's central passage between the open air of the Rift and the city's main halls in the Underdark. Known as the Gates, the mighty seventy-foot-tall doors into Underhome's guard cavern were built to overawe visitors as much as for security. Magical wards and runes woven into the solid gold doors make them stronger and more functional than they appear. The Gates once withstood the unthinkable impact of a great wyrm hurling itself upon them with all its might, and proved stronger than the dragon.
Unlike the shield dwarves who spent themselves in fights against giants and orcs, the gold dwarves won their battles against Underdark foes relatively quickly. In the last dozen or so centuries, the gold dwarves have opted to remain separate from their northern cousins, who seemed to them to be laboring under a curse. The Thunder Blessing in 1306 DR and its consequences have helped to change the gold dwarves' minds.
Since the gold dwarves shared in the Thunder Blessing and were already doing well, their population has swelled to the point that some part of their people went out to settle in new lands. Some of the gold dwarves who opted against expanding the Deep Realm around the Great Rift have moved north to create colonies in the mountains of northern Faerûn. Gold dwarven outposts have been founded in the Smoking Mountains of Unther, in the Giant's Run Mountains west of Turmish, and in the North Wall of Halruaa.
Plots and Rumors
Most adventures involving the Great Rift concern it only peripherally, unless the heroes have the luck or ambition to use portals to travel into a place in which they're probably not wanted.
The Runaway Guardsman: While the heroes are embroiled in a battle, unexpected help comes from Matharm Derukhed, a gold dwarven warrior-wizard mounted on a hippogriff. Matharm is a long way from home, journeying to track down the murderers of his twin brother. Whether or not the PCs make an ally of Matharm or help him in any way, the culprits turn out to be old enemies of the PCs who killed Matharm's brother for the gold and gems he wore in his hair and beard. If the PCs ignore Matharm's quest, they may discover him dead later, apparently overcome by the murderers of his brother. Of course, the heroes are too late to retrieve any of his belongings, which are not in the hands of their enemies. To complicate matters, the dwarf is not supposed to be flying his valuable mount around northern Faerûn. He's running from his own people, intent on settling his family's vengeance before seeing to his duty.
Population: 1,676,160 (humans 90%, dwarves 5%, halflings 2%, elves 1%, half-elves 1%)
Government: Magocratic oligarchy (Council of Elders)
Religions: Azuth, Mystra, Shar (new cult)
Imports: Exotic magic items, precious metals
Exports: Electrum, Haerlu wine
Alignment: LG, LN, NG
Far to the south and ringed by mountains lies Halruaa, a nation of wizards. The Halruaans are descendants of refugees from mighty Netheril, a kingdom of human wizards who allowed their own power to grow unchecked, corrupt their souls, and blast all their works into splinters. Halruaa has maintained the Netherese fascination with magic, pursuing the Art with fanatical devotion and considering all other studies to be inferior pursuits. So far the Halruaans have avoided the soul-blindness that doomed Netheril.
Halruaan wizards are a self-satisfied lot, more interested in pursuing their research in the privacy of their home laboratories than in exploring or exploiting the rest of Toril. Those who do leave their native land are merchants or agents in search of unusual spell components. Sometimes such agents are important enough to travel in one of the fabled Halruaan skyships, but the flying craft are fragile and so valuable that they are not sent outside Halruaa on anything less than major missions.
Life and Society
Not all Halruaans are wizards, but they act as if they were. Halruaans observe exaggerated social courtesies, taking time for lengthy declarations of intent, ritual sharing of spell components, and other elaborate social niceties. These practices would be a waste of time in a society that didn't hinge on the worry that a fellow citizen who grows displeased with you could turn you into a toad. Halruaans often spend more time on their studies than on their families, seldom rearing large numbers of children - and populating their country more thinly than more vigorous human societies.
Halruaans receive public schooling until at least the age of thirteen. Screening for magical aptitude occurs at age five, and magic-capable students often master cantrips by the time they are fifteen.
Although practicing magic is not necessary to live well in Halruaa, it helps. Those who are capable of casting wizard spells "have the gift," even if they do not make use of their talents. Roughly one-third of all Halruaans have the gift. Of that number, approximately two-thirds have some arcane knowledge (as described in the Magical Training feat) and the rest have at least one level of wizard. To Halruaans, the true Art is wizardry - sorcery is viewed as a dangerously undisciplined and primitive approach to magic. The few Halruaans whose gifts force them to become sorcerers instead of wizards either downplay the extent of their powers or leave the country.
Major Geographic Features
Halruaa is a warm, humid land. The higher foothills and valleys of the Walls of Halruaa are cooler and more comfortable than the low lands.
Lake Halruaa: This central body of brackish water connects the land's river ports to the sea. Strong and unpredictable winds blowing in off the mountains make it a tricky place to sail and fish, and even trickier to fly over in a skyship.
Swamp of Akhlaur: This four-thousand-square-mile swamp is an unpleasant reminder that the disasters that destroyed Netheril could be repeated in Halruaa. Akhlaur was an ambitious conjurer who pushed his researches into interplanar connections too far, until they swallowed him whole. As Akhlaur died, the magic that he had set in motion went out of control. The Swamp of Akhlaur is fed constantly by a never-closed portal to the Elemental Plane of Water: The swamp grows by a hundred feet or so in all directions each year. Wizards and adventurers often enter the swamp in search of Akhlaur's fabled magical treasures or a means of turning the swamp "off." Those who survive were usually lucky enough not to encounter the magic-draining demons known as larakens that live only within the swamp.
The Walls of Halruaa: A ring of mighty mountains guards Halruaa to the west, north, and east. Three passes lead through the mountains to the often hostile kingdoms beyond. The Halruaans have largely tamed their side of the wall, but the far side is home to ogres, tall mouthers, giants, perytons, and stray outsiders that know better than to tempt the wrath of the Halruaan wizards.
Halruaans prefer to live in small villages. Even the largest cities have no more than seven or eight thousand inhabitants.
Halagard (Small City, 7,500): The former capital of Halruaa is only slightly smaller than Halarahh, the present capital. King Zalathorm (LN male human Div20/Lor9) moved the capital north one hundred years ago, but residents of Halagard still think of themselves as the true bearers of the Halruaan spirit. In keeping with their stand against newfangled Halarahhan fashions, wizards of Halagard generally specialize in conjuration or evocation rather than divination.
Ualarahh (Small City, 8,000): Some three thousand of the capital city's inhabitants are practicing wizards. Their towers dominate the skyline, though Zalathorm has discouraged the "tower war," a cyclic form of competition in which the wizards of Halarahh attempt to raise their towers over all rivals towers. To gain Zalathorm's favor, lesser wizards have actually reduced the size of their towers, making the air that much safer for skyships. The seventeen members of the Council of Elders make their home in the capital.
Halarahh is a difficult place to live for those who lack the gift. Favorable treatment and promotions, in all walks of life, come to those who have the gift and somehow elude those who lack magical aptitude. The saying "as useless as a sword in Halarahh" is often on the lips of frustrated former residents of Halarahh who moved else where.
Mount Talath (Small Town, 1,170): A high temple to Mystra is carved into the mountain. It consists of a grand worship space meant to inspire awe and a huge cavern complex built to store centuries of magical knowledge safely. The complex has some degree of organization - any magical fact can be located with no more than five or six years of diligent research. Halruaan wizards pride themselves on their ability to track down the information they need in Talath's caverns, devising new spells designed expressly for that purpose. Non-Halruaan wizards pay exorbitant fees just to enter the rooms reserved for Halruaan apprentices.
The first wizards of Halruaa came from Netheril in the north, fleeing the scourge of the phaerimms almost two thousand years ago. They were led by the archwizard Raumark, who foresaw the doom approaching his native land. They found a beautiful and rich country, settled sparsely by shepherds and fisherfolk.
Raumark and his retinue of loyal mages, apprentices, and their households did not set out to conquer the native Halruaans, but within a generation the two societies had grown together through intermarriage and common interest. The Netherese princes provided the simple folk of Halruaa with an organized ruling class, laws, justice, and wondrous works. Native Halruaans with a talent for magic were accepted as students with no hesitation, and the presence of so many powerful wizards in their land soon pacified the monsters and raiders who had plagued the lowlands.
The great work of Raumark and his followers in the first centuries after their flight was to prepare for the phaerimm attack that must surely follow Netheril's fall in the North. But Netheril's flying cities fell, the sands swallowed its Narrow Sea, and the fragmented realms of those who survived its fall vanished as well by the third century DR, and still the phaerimms did not attack Halruaa.
While Halruaa never fought the war that Raumark prepared for, the land was not left in peace by its neighbors. Envious of its riches and magical treasures, the barbaric Dambrathans invaded Halruaa on several instances. In 575 DR, a fleet of Dambrathan galleys attacked Halruaa's coasts and occupied all the country south of Lake Halruaa for several months, until the great wizard-king Mycontil defeated the Dambrathans and slew their leader. The last serious invasion occurred about one hundred years ago, when a charismatic satrap of Lapaliiya led a great raid through the Talath Pass. The Halruaans drove them off easily.
The present wizard-king, Zalathorm, is a diviner whose powers of foretelling have extinguished several threats before they could become serious. Zalathorm and the diviners have been so successful that the popular consensus that Halruaa should be led by divination specialists from now on, instead of trusting evokers, conjurers, and other wizards who ruled in the days when Halruaa was actively forced to defend itself.
Plots and Rumors
Thievery, brigandage, and monstrous incursions are generally rare in Halruaa. The exciting happenings in the land (to an adventurer, anyway) revolve around the land's four hundred Elders, the most powerful wizards in the land, who scheme and intrigue in a dozen different factions. If enough Elders joined forces in a single block, even Zalathorm would be hard-pressed to gainsay them.
The Rise of Shadow: A secret peril is gathering at the edges of Halruaan society, a cloister of shadow adepts allied with a hidden faith of Shar. Proud, arrogant Elders are quietly subverted by whispering emissaries of the Goddess of Secrets, who ask the Elders whether they find Mystra's Weave to be a hindrance to their power. Several of Halruaa's powerful and ambitious wizards have already become shadow adepts, and unlike the fractious factions that form the land's Council of Elders, the shadow adepts are united in the worship of Shar and the desire to advance her cause in this most magical of lands.
Population: 838,086 (halflings 92%, humans 4%, elves 2%, half-elves 1%)
Government: Benevolent theocracy
Religions: Brandobaris, Tymora, Yondalla
Imports: Metalwork items, livestock
Exports: Ale, beer, fruit, grain, produce
Alignment: LG, NG, N
Luiren is the only realm of Faerûn ruled by and inhabited nearly exclusively by halflings. It is the homeland of the strongheart halflings in much the same way that the Great Rift is the homeland of the gold dwarves. Small numbers of lightfoot and ghostwise halflings live here as well, but nine-tenths of the halfling population is made up of the stronghearts - in fact, the term "Luiren halfling" is widely taken to refer to the strongheart folk, even though it's not strictly accurate.
Luiren's folk are farmers, artisans, and merchants, as are the folk of most lands. Luiren's rich fields feed the Great Rift, and its orchards produce oranges, limes, and lemons greatly in demand in northern lands. Luiren woodcarving is superb, on par with that of Tethyr, and pieces of woodworking are traded too. While few people think of halflings as possessing any real military tradition, the Luiren folk maintain well-organized militias led by the monks and clerics of the local temples and supported with powerful divine magic. Halfling archers and clerics standing their ground with strength and skill have crushed more than one invasion of humans, orcs, or gnolls from the Shaar.
Luiren boasts no real government other than local authorities, but the temples of the halfling pantheon tie together society and collectively govern the land, generally under the guidance of the Temple of Yondalla. The Devout Voice of Yondalla Faran Ferromar (LG male strongheart halfling Clrl3 of Yondalla) is the preeminent leader of the faith and thus the effective leader of Luiren.
Luiren halflings don't see themselves as half of anything or anyone, and generally refer to themselves as hin.
Life and Society
Most of the Luiren folk live seminomadic lives, dwelling no more than six months or a year in any one city. Luiren's cities reflect this wanderlust and mobility. Clans, families, businesses, and temples maintain permanent dwellings and hillside holes - complete with jobs and duties, normally - that are open to newly arriving individuals or families. At any given time, only three-fourths of the living quarters of Luiren's cities are occupied. Before leaving a home, halflings who want to be welcomed back clean and ready the home they've been living in for its next occupants. Unless they've been extremely bad tenants, their neighbors and friends help.
Teamwork is important to the Luiren hin. Compared to the halflings native to the north, the hin emphasize group effort and communal work over individualism. Individual halflings don't often remain in the same groups for long. The groups themselves tend to endure, but the halflings filling the roles one season are not at all guaranteed to be present, or even part of the same social group in another city, two seasons later.
Humans, elves, dwarves, and even gnomes have a difficult time understanding how Luiren society can appear so orderly and lawful when its individual members change their stripes the way other people buy new clothes. Luiren hin know that outsiders think their ways are strange, but find it disturbing that outsiders maintain the same habits all their lives.
The one habit that Luiren folk enjoy too much to leave behind them is their dedication to the Games. Luiren's Games are local, regional, and kingdom-wide sporting-events followed with interest by the nation's citizens. The type of sport that's played during the Games constantly changes. At the moment, the two most popular sports are ridge running and kite fighting. Ridge running is a type of competitive obstacle course in which teams from different cities compete in races. Magic cast by the competitors during the races is allowed, but participants who use magic can also be targeted by magic cast by members of the other team. Kite fighting is "Art free," meaning it is conducted free of magic of all types.
It's rare for halflings raised in northern Faerûn to visit Luiren and have any desire to stay - most halfling immigrants find the land and its ways strange. But some northern halflings emigrate to Luiren and stay forever, and some Luiren hin can't wait to escape their home nation and live like northern folk.
Major Geographic Features
Monsters of the forests and swamps once plagued Luiren, but over many generations the hin have tamed large stretches of the land. The land is fertile, rich in game, and pleasant-looking. But it's also full of wildlands that resist all attempts to pacify them. These days, young hin warriors and mages keep an eye on the wildlands to keep monsters from troubling the roads and cities. Foreign adventurers are welcome to "try their luck" in Luiren's forests and swamps, and can even keep half the treasure they find - a bargain, given that the monsters obviously took the treasure from Luiren's folk in the first place.
Lluirwood: This dense forest defines Luiren's northern borders. Druids, rangers, and some rogues of Luiren feel most comfortable in the Lluirwood's southernmost parts. Other hin seldom venture into the forest, lacking the skills required to stay one step ahead of the monsters that come down into the forest from the Toadsquat Mountains. When the tall mouthers, trolls, and other beasts make the mistake of venturing out of the Lluirwood, they're usually quickly dealt with by Luiren militia, Yondalla's clerics, or hin hunters. But the Lluirwood remains dangerous to travelers.
Mortick Swamp: The Mortick Swamp, the only swamp in the region, is infested by a large number of merrow (aquatic ogres) and scrags (aquatic trolls). These hulking monsters often raid the lands nearby, carrying off livestock and plundering food stores. A powerful ogre shaman or chieftain known as the Bog King leads the merrow, and sometimes succeeds in binding the scrags to its will as well.
Southern Lluirwood: South of the Lluirwood and west of Luiren, the Southern Lluirwood is mostly untamed. The eastern flank of the forest is relatively tame, patrolled by militia units from Luiren and halfling druids and rangers. Beholders and yuan-ti roam the forest's deeper zones.
Luiren's cities welcome foreign travelers in peace. A small number of human merchants and craftsfolk have taken up residence in the cities.
Beluir (Metropolis, 27,210): Outsiders think of Beluir as the capital of Luiren because it's the biggest city and contains a high temple to Yondalla. None of Luiren's cities are really the center of authority, but foreign diplomats and emissaries come here first in search of the Devout Voice of Yondalla. Great Sea merchants make port in Beluir to buy Luiren's produce and handiwork.
Chethel (Large City, 14,512): This port town is one of Luiren's main trading cities. Roughly one-tenth of its inhabitants are elves and half-elves. Of all Luiren's cities, Chethel seems most like an ordinary human city. A few families who have befriended the elves choose to stay put, placing a veneer of stability over the otherwise nomadic foundation. The other long-term residents are hin who make a fine living at boat-building.
Thruldar: Lying on the easternmost verge of the Lluirwood, Thruldar is a ruined Estagundan town watched over by several nearby tribes of ghostwise halflings. About a hundred years ago, a powerful evil druid allied with dark trees and murderous plant monsters destroyed Thruldar, but the nearby ghostwise tribes slew the druid and raised magical wards to contain the druid's minions in the ruins. The druid's ghost and numerous plant monsters still lurk in ruined Thruldar, along with what is left of the town's wealth.
Thousands of years ago, Luiren was an unsettled wilderness roamed by three great halfling tribes: the lightfoots, the stronghearts, and the ghostwise. The three races fiercely defended their woodlands against all intruders for centuries, driving off Dambrathan barbarians, packs of rabid gnolls, and sharing the Lluirwood's resources. Feuds between tribes were not uncommon, but for the most part the three tribes lived in peace.
Around -100 DR, an evil spirit entered the forest. Under the leadership of a powerful cleric named Desva, the ghostwise halflings fell into darkness, worshiping Malar and glorifying in violence and bloodshed. Feral ghostwise hunters, their faces painted like skulls, prowled the forests in search of halfling prey. They grew ever stronger as Desva led them deeper into Malar's worship, teaching the greatest hunters to take shapes as werewolves and poisoning the forest's natural predators with maddening bloodlust. For a generation the Lluirwood was a place of death.
In -68 DR, a strongheart hunter named Chand became war chief of his folk and struck an alliance with the war chief of the lightfoot tribe. The two united to root out the madness of the ghostwise halflings. Over three years each ghostwise stronghold and lair was found out and destroyed, until Chand himself slew Desva of the ghostwise in -65 DR. The fighting was merciless and awful - entire ghostwise villages were burned and their folk killed. Chand held to his purpose and saw to it that no hin warrior stayed his or her hand.
In the aftermath of the Hin Ghostwars, the ghostwise halflings were reduced to a handful of their former number. Most were exiled from the Lluirwood, although a handful who had repudiated Desva and joined with Chand's warriors were allowed to stay. Those who left settled in the Chondalwood, taking an oath never to speak until they had atoned for the animal-like savagery of their past. The atonement is long past, but to this day ghostwise halflings think long and hard before they choose to speak.
Many of the lightfoots, horrified by what Chand and the stronghearts had done, chose to leave the Lluirwood. They became a nomadic people spread across all of northern Faerûn, adopting the customs and traditions of the folk they traveled among.
The stronghearts remained in the Lluirwood. Unchecked by the lightfoot or ghostwise ways, they began to clear the forest and settled in semipermanent villages that grew larger and more permanent with each passing generation. They changed from woodland nomads to settled farmers and craftsfolk, defending their lands against numerous invasions and raids over the years. In time some lightfoots returned to the new realm of Luiren, but this is now a strongheart land.
Plots and Rumors
As with other lands far from the Heartlands, Luiren's influence may be easier to portray from a distance than to experience first hand.
The Games: A Western Heartlands village with a substantial halfling community plans to hold its own version of the Games. Humans are encouraged to participate, and the prizes are rich. Humans may be cheered on lustily, but the events favor halfling competitors: rock-throwing contests, obstacle courses; chasing a greased weasel through a honeycomb of underground tunnels, and similar events.
Short and Sharp: The PCs run afoul of a gang of Luiren halflings in a busy city. These hin specialize in throwing tanglefoot bags and robbing victims who are stuck to the floor. Even arrogant adventurers may prefer handing over their valuables to being flanked and stabbed in the back.
Capital: None (Council Hills)
Population: 587,520 (humans 60%, wemics 15%, gnolls 14%, centaurs 10%)
Government: Various nomadic chieftains
Religions: Mask, Oghma, Tempus
Imports: Armor, weapons, wine
Exports: Ivory, jewelry, slaves
Alignment: CN, N, CG
The Shaar is a vast, rolling grassland running from the Shining Sea to the distant lands of the east. Civilization has almost no hold on the area. Nomadic humans (the dozen or so tribes of the Shaaryan) and non-humans such as centaurs, gnolls and wemics populate the Shaar. The wemics hunt, the Shaaryan humans herd rothé and horses, and the gnolls raid. The land supports its native grasses splendidly but is ill suited for agriculture - it's not a desert, but the land bakes by day and freezes by night.
The Shaaryan humans seldom stray in large numbers from their ancestral plains, largely because their treasured horses do not do well outside the Shaar. Shaaryan horses are stronger and faster than horses from other regions of Faerûn, as long as they roam their native grasslands. The great horses grow sick and die if they do not eat the grasses that thrive only on the wide plains of the Shaar. The Shaaryan understand this, and few of them leave their native culture behind to travel Faerûn.
Life and Society
The dozen or so nomad tribes known collectively as the Shaaryan have never been unified, though they share a common culture and way of life. Outsiders find it difficult to tell members of one tribe from the others, but the nomads can tell each apart instantly from clues of dress, accent, color of mount, and make of weapons.
Several of the tribes allow female warriors to ride as equals among the men, and a few have female chiefs. Chiefs are generally elected by secret votes among the elders, but two tribes have would-be dynasties of powerful charismatic families that attempt to keep a lock on power.
Traditionally, raiding parties of twenty or fewer warriors do not constitute an act of war against another Shaaryan tribe. Larger raiding parties amount to declarations of war, a risky proposition since tribes that declare war are generally not allowed to participate in the intertribal councils until they have made reparations or otherwise ceased their aggressions.
The wemics sometimes join in the Shaaryan councils. More often their chiefs pursue their own savage goals without caring for the human nomads' traditions and protocols.
Major Geographic Features
Other types of terrain occasionally interrupt the rolling grasslands, including small sand dunes and valleys filled with tiny lakes and wildlife. The miniature oases contain ruins of earlier civilizations. Many also contain the temporary camps of present-day nomads.
Lake Lhespen: The swamps at the eastern edge of this lake are full of mangrove trees, giant eels, and water spiders. The shores are crusted with salt drawn out from the rocks beneath the waters. The nomads gather salt for their horses here when they do not wish to trade for salt at Shaarmid.
The Landrise: The eastern Shaar is two hundred to four hundred feet higher than the western Shaar. The Landrise is the dividing zone, splitting the grasslands into two areas south of the Firesteap Mountains and north of the Forest of Amtar. Nomad tribes warring upon each other frequently try to occupy different sides of the cliffs, to give themselves a chance of spotting their enemies as they approach.
River Shaar: The Shaar originates in the deep, cold Riftlake, hundreds of feet below the high plains. It roars and thunders through measureless caverns for more than one hundred miles before emerging from a great cavern mouth at the foot of the Landrise. From there it pursues a course across the lower Shaar to Lake Lhespen.
The Shaarwood and the Sharawood: The nomads visit the forests to gather herbs, hunt, and occasionally hide from their enemies. The wooded land is poor terrain for horses, so the nomads have never tried to settle these lands.
The nomads maintain few permanent settlements. Any cities here were established by other folk in the Shaar.
Council Hills: All the nomad tribes except those engaged in war send delegates to the Council Hills in the spring and fall to hold peace talks and drink together. The Council Hills are always considered neutral ground, off limits to fighting between the nomads.
Lhesper: This ruined city is home to a powerful clan of yuan-ti sorcerers. Human travelers along the shores of Lake Lhespen often fall prey to bandits under yuan-ti domination and are carried back to a terrible fate in Lhesper - usually sacrifice to the yuan-ti's dark god, but sometimes transformation into monstrous servitors to the serpent race. The nomads give it a wide berth.
Shaarmid (Large City, 23,501): A free trading city populated by people who claim no kinship with the nomads, Shaarmid is accepted by the tribes as a long-time ally because the city's people have a history of brokering excellent deals for the nomads with the traders from the rest of Faerûn. Merchants flock to Shaarmid as a safe zone in a wasteland that otherwise threatens them with Shaaryan bandits and other raiders.
The history of the Shaar isn't recognizable as history to citizens of civilized Faerûn. Current events in the Shaar include small-scale conflicts with the gold dwarves, who have tired of having their trade caravans attacked by Shaaryan bandits, and an ongoing battle along the Landrise between tribes attempting to keep their rivals from reaching the Council Hills.
Plots and Rumors
The endlessly swirling politics of the nomad tribes mean that any group of adventurers can find allies or enemies aplenty in the Shaar.
Giant Cleansing: A clan of hill giants moves out of the Toadsquat Mountains into the eastern Shaar, fighting everyone they encounter. The giants eventually reach the Council Hills, occupying sacred caves that house the skulls of the nomad ancestors. The nomads have a problem: They need to remove the giants without shedding their own blood within their sacred land. Adventurers not of Shaaryan descent are under no such constraints.
Population: ~200,000 (humans 75%, half-drow 15%, other 10%)
Government: Matriarchal Monarchy (Hasifir Hazm'cri, Ruler)
Religions: Loviatar, Lolth, Malar, Eilistraee
Exports: Horses, silver, pearls, wood items, fruit, fish
Five hundred years ago, the barbaric human kingdom of Arkaiun became embroiled in a bitter war against a powerful drow city under the Gnollwatch Mountains. The drow proved victorious and, in alliance with a strong Loviatar cult among the enslaved the Arkaiun people, ruling as satraps and nobles among the subjugated population. The strange and perilous realm of Dambrath is the result.
The nation of Dambrath is a human nation ruled by half-elves, most of whom are descended from drow. Elves of races loyal to the Evermeet court are not welcome in Dambrath. Loviatar is the official deity of the nation.
Protected from the sandstorms of Raurin by the mighty Dustwall Mountains, Durpar is a prosperous merchant kingdom on the north-eastern shore of the inlet known as the Golden Water. A council of merchants, made up of the leaders of the eleven wealthiest chakas (merchant houses), rules the land. The Grand Nawab Kara Jeratma (LG female human Ari4/Ill10) is the council's leader, and one of the richest people in all Faerûn.
The business of Durpar is business, and the Durpari merchant houses are the foremost traders in this portion of the world. Pious devotion to a small pantheon of Faerûnian deities worshiped together unites the Durpari in a common faith. The city of Vaelen is the capital of Durpar.
Estagund shares a common cultural heritage with Durpar and Var the Golden. Its folk are Durpari who value trade and who honor the Adama, the pantheon and moral code common to all three kingdoms. Unlike the folk of Durpar, who are ruled by the wealthiest merchants, the folk of Estagund honor above all a class of noble warriors. The Rajah of Estagund, Ekripet Seltarir (LG male human Ari5), is not only the wealthiest merchant of the country but also the kingdom's war leader and high monarch.
The city of Chavyondat on the Bay of Kings is the capital of Estagund.
Rethild, the Great Swamp
The greatest swamp in Faerûn pools around the eastern end of Halruaa's Wall. It is a sweltering place of moss-choked cypress groves, sawgrass seas, and boggy bayous infested with giant leeches, giant toads, snakes, lizardfolk, shambling mounds, and worse. An ancient city steeped in evil lies in ruins near the center of the swamp, the retreat of some long-forgotten race.
Var the Golden
The third of the three Durpari kingdoms, Var the Golden lies on the south shore of the Golden Water. it is called "the Golden" not for the inlet to its north, but for the endless fields of grain that cover its countryside. The merchants (or nawabs), the landed nobles (called hajwas), and the priests of the Adama (the janas), compete for power over this rich land in a constant boiling intrigue that is perilously close to unseating the Sublime Potentate Anwir Dupretiskava (LE male ancient blue dragon).
Only his closest advisors known the true nature of the Sublime Potentate, although all know that he has ruled for almost two hundred years and is prone to long absences from the throne. In recent years, some of the potentate's most dangerous enemies have fallen prey to fanatical assassins, a repressive ploy that may push the nawabs or hajwas into open revolt against the potentate.
Known as the Land of Monsters, Veldorn is bound together by the loose promise of all its monstrous inhabitants to defend one another if any of them are attacked. In times past, Durpari armies marching on one of the so called beast-chieftains have provoked a response by a dozen more, leading to bloody, pitched battles. The beast-chieftains prey on the caravans of the Trade Way and generally leave each other to their own devices, intervening only if some power threatens them all.