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Locations in Shandril's Saga
By Sean K Reynolds
In the novels Spellfire and Crown of Fire by Ed Greenwood, the main characters Shandril and Narm are on the run through much of the Dalelands and surrounding areas, and they even spend some time (courtesy of teleportation) in some particularly dangerous and exotic locations. As the release date of Hand of Fire, the long-awaited third novel in Shandril's Saga, appears on the horizon, now is the time to review where our heroes have been and take a look at where they are likely to go in the near future. This list is in roughly chronological order, though it omits secret meeting-places that are not clearly identified by their evil inhabitants.
Locations in Spellfire
Deepingdale: Situated between Cormyr and Sembia, two nations that have long been unfriendly if not outright hostile, Deepingdale and its people are battle-ready and its rulers are no strangers to combat. However, rather than focusing on military might, these Dalesfolk remember the vision of its founders, in which Dalesfolk were guests of the elves and joint custodians of the mighty trees of the forest. Deepingdale is often referred to as the Dale of the Trees. Avoiding significant logging, these folk practice careful forest husbandry to maintain the land's original thick green blanket of vegetation. Most common folk have some skill at woodland lore and stealth. Of all Dalesfolk, the inhabitants of Deepingdale are probably the most tolerant and quietly welcoming. They tend to judge people by their actions, rather than their words or looks.
Highmoon: The small settlement of Highmoon is home to nearly 400 people and is growing fast. Second only to Silverymoon in the far north, Highmoon is the most integrated human, elven, and half-elven town in Faerûn. At the time of Shandril's Saga, the town is still planning to build a city wall, but those plans have bogged down because of a lack of support for military preparedness against hypothetical enemies. Currently, the wilderness around them is free of significant threats other than a few hungry monsters from season to season.
Lake Sember: The beautiful Lake Sember in south Cormanthor is the heart of the elven community of Semberholme. Full humans are seldom welcome near the lake's waters, which are regarded as the heart of elven life here. The lake is very deep and is home to a small colony of aquatic elves adapted to fresh water. Many treants live in the forest around the lake, and they are allied with the elves, although the two do not mix much.
Thunder Peaks: A wild and unsettled land, the Thunder Peaks mountains are home to tribes of orcs and goblins that bear no love for more civilized folk. The humanoids raid settlements constantly, and travelers are advised to go armed and wary. Named for the sudden and devastating storms that batter them all year, Thunder Peaks possesses several mountain passes, and most of them are blocked in the winter by snow. Although large-scale mining is difficult because of the weather, sometimes individual miners return from excursions with large nuggets. The mountains claim the lives of many, for in addition to the orcs and goblins there is a dracolich called Aurgloroasa the Sibilant Shade who lairs in the abandoned dwarven city of Thunderholme.
Myth Drannor: Myth Drannor is arguably the richest and most dangerous adventuring site in all of Faerûn. It's actually dozens of sites in roughly the same location. Explorers can find the ruined remains of the great elven and human city that was once the most magical place in the world in Myth Drannor. It served as the seat of an incredibly powerful civilization, and gold, magic items, and other worthwhile debris still rest everywhere here. Hundreds of human, nonhuman, and monstrous adventurers who enter the ruins frequently leave their possessions, their corpses, and even their souls behind, and these things become new pickings for the next vile cult, ambitious magician, or adventuring party that comes by. An ancient and powerful elven magic ward called a mythal once protected Myth Drannor, but the mythal has decayed and now its powers exist mainly to cause wild surges of magic. Evil groups such as the Cult of the Dragon scour the ruined city for treasure, lore, and potential slaves.
Shadowdale: Shadowdale is the best known of all the Dales for two reasons. First of it, it is known for its many successful battles against the Zhentarim and other would-be conquerors. Second, it is home to Elminster, who is possibly Faerûn's most famous mage. Although small, Shadowdale makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity of citizens. The Dale is a haven for retired adventurers and can easily defend itself despite its small numbers. Most of Shadowdale's population lives beyond town walls or village fences, in small farms and cottages that may be within eyesight of a neighbor's chimney, but not within earshot of that neighbor's disputes -- the people of Shadowdale value their privacy. They have a tradition of choosing their lord based on great deeds, making their Dale a place normally led by true heroes.
Mistledale: Carved by the path of a falling star, the cleared land of Mistledale is amazingly fertile and its people are particularly lucky. It occupies good trade routes between larger countries, and it is protected from direct attack by being surrounded by other Dales. A council of six elected officials leads the government of Mistledale, and they choose a seventh to serve as the head of the council. Mistledale is a widely spread Dale. Most of its small settlements can see each other across the gently rolling hills, except during the mornings and evenings when mist from the river rises to fill the valley. Each hamlet possesses special bells designed to penetrate the fog so that the people can communicate with each other, usually in a code known to all people of Mistledale but confusing to others.
Locations in Crown of Fire
Cormyr: Founded over a thousand years ago, the kingdom of Cormyr benefits from an enlightened monarchy, hard-working citizens, and an advantageous location. Cormyr is a civilized land surrounded by wildlands and settlements of evil humanoids. Known for its well-trained military (the Purple Dragons) and its active group of government-sanctioned spellcasters (the War Wizards of Cormyr), Cormyr boasts fine food, honest people, strange mysteries, and abundant contacts with other parts of the world. At the time of Shandril's Saga, Cormyr is still led by King Azoun Obarskyr IV (a good man and valiant warrior) and has not suffered the troubles described in Beyond the High Road and Death of the Dragon.
Hullack Forest: Once a part of the forest of Cormanthor (the ancient elven homeland, of which Myth Drannor was the capitol), the Hullack Forest used to define the eastern border of Cormyr. Over the prosperous reign of Azoun IV, people heavily settled the forest verge and cut it back substantially. The Hullack is almost a primeval forest, with dark valleys and hidden vales that have gone unseen for decades. Ghostly creatures and odd monsters pepper the local folklore, and orcs and goblins are frequent visitors from the Thunder Peaks.
Eveningstar: The village of Eveningstar possesses over 500 people and is a crossroads settlement. It serves the many nearby farms, a small number of craftsfolk who rely on the farmers' goods, and the many adventurers who travel this way. The place is best known for its proximity to many ruins, such as the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar and the tressym (winged cats) that live within it and nearby.
Stonelands: The Stonelands is a desolate place of dirt, stones, and boulders that is inhabited by small groups of military-minded goblins, gnolls, orcs, and evil humans. Adjacent to Cormyr, the royal family has offered many land grants to anyone who tames part of the Stoneland and keeps it safe for human travelers. On the other end of the spectrum are the Zhentarim, who bribe and coerce the evil bands to be raiders.
Zhentil Keep: Rich from mining traffic, Zhentil Keep is the first human city built on the north coast of the Moonsea. Inhabited by over 10,000 people, Zhentil Keep is the home of the Zhentarim and reflects the evil nature of its leaders. Press gangs roam the nights looking for civilians to force into the Zhent military or just to sell as slaves. The common folk are oppressed and miserable. Evil deities are worshiped openly here, and those obviously associated with good deities are imprisoned, tortured, and executed.
Citadel of the Raven: The Citadel of the Raven is a large, well-protected chain of interconnected fortresses in the Dragonspine Mountains. Taken over in recent history by the Zhentarim, it now holds over 4,000 Zhent troops. The place is commanded by Fzoul Chembryl, and the Zhentarim are encouraging craftworkers and other skilled workers to settle near the citadel and form a town. The archmage Manshoon maintains a fortified keep nearby.
Locations in Hand of Fire
Scornubel: The small town of Scornubel in the Western Heartlands (the free lands to the west, between Cormyr and the Sword Coast) is also called the Caravan City. It is ruled by a group of middle-aged and elderly adventurers and caravan masters, some of whom prefer to hire adventurers to solve the city's problems and others who do not. Caravans of all nations, organizations, and trading costers are welcome here, and shrines to nearly all Faerûnian deities are somewhere in the town's low buildings. (Even evil ones exist, although these are usually concealed or in out of the way places.)
Elturel: The large town of Elturel overlooks a well-traveled river and is ruled by Lord Dhelt, a paladin of Helm (god of guardians). Dhelt's influence makes Elturel a strong force for civilization in the wilder parts of the Western Heartlands since he focuses on keeping his farming and trading community safe and prosperous. He does this with the aid of the Hellriders, which is a crack military force of 200 mounted warriors. Caravaneers enjoy a restful stop under their protection.
Waterdeep: The grand city of Waterdeep is the major cosmopolitan power of Faerûn. It benefits from an excellent harbor, wise rule, a tolerant spirit, and a powerful magical tradition that generally produces stronger good wizards than evil wizards. People from all over Faerûn come here to train, trade, and study. Called the City of Splendors, Waterdeep is the place where you can see almost anything from anywhere, as long as it's not outright evil. For those interested in the evil side of things, there is a secret, subterranean city under Waterdeep called Skullport, inhabited by slavers, thieves, and monsters. Also under Waterdeep is the huge magical dungeon/labyrinth/deathtrap of Undermountain, created and controlled by the mad mage Halaster, sometime foe of Elminster and the Seven Sisters.
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