The world has never been a safe place. Bastions of civilization populate a dark, menacing world—islands of order and reason exist in a land otherwise overrun by dark cults, vile monsters, creatures from the dark edges of the imagination, and worse. As deadly as the world is on a normal day, something has begun to stir on the fringes of the civilized Gray Vale. Formerly the site of an attack by an army known as the Red Hand, the Vale has known sixty years of peace since brave adventurers stormed into the teeth of the approaching Hand and sent them scurrying back into the darkness.
The Gray Vale
Beneath the mysterious Star Mounts, at the southern edge of the ancient High Forest, the Gray Vale straddles the river Delimbiyr in the North. A prosperous region thanks to river traffic, merchant caravans from distant lands, and other travelers looking for treasure amid the wreckage of lost kingdoms, Gray Vale is a land ripe for adventure.
Loudwater is a small town in the heart of Gray Vale. One of the largest settlements in the Vale, Loudwater is a prosperous farming community and caravan stopover located along the Delimbiyr Route on the south bank of the Delimbiyr River. Orchards of apple and pear trees follow the river’s winding shores, while broad grain fields and farmlands surround the town for miles in all directions. Loudwater is the home of Lord Aaron Jarmaath. His small keep and the city walls are the only fortifications of note this side of Dennovar (city 100 miles to east).
Population: 2,000; another 1,000 live within a five-mile radius of the town itself. The people of Loudwater are mostly humans (69% Human, 10% Half-Elf, 6% Dwarf, 5% Halfling, 5% Tiefling, 4% Elf, 1% Dragonborn). The town’s population swells by several hundred whenever some connected halfling clans known as “the river people” are in town. With the refounding of Llorkh and the hundreds wiped out in the Red Hand attack the population hasn’t fully recovered to its previous numbers.
Government: The town has a council of 13, two-thirds of whom are hereditary lords from the town’s noble families and the remainder of whom are guild masters from the town’s important guilds. Lord Jarmaath is the public face of the council.
Defense: Lord Warden Harrik Orenna is the political head of the Greysword Guard, though many view Captain Kerden Paln as the actual leader. The Greysword Guards have about 40 soldiers under arms at all times, with about one-quarter on duty at any given time. In times of crisis, the Lord Warden has access to another 200 well-equipped but poorly trained soldiers by calling up the militia. Additionally, many of the local lords and merchant houses have their own security guards.
The city is surrounded on three sides by a stone wall 20 feet tall & 10 feet thick, and the river guards the north side. There’s one gate each in the east, west and south walls, and gates at each of the twin bridges in the north.
Inns: Chatrenn and Sons; The Red Door; Avandrian Hostel; The Silk and Spoon; Pantashi Inn.
Taverns: Ilya’s Cardhouse; The Marooned Schooner; Cleftie’s; Loudwater Gentleman’s Club; the Blue Parrot; the Antler and Thistle; the Green Tankard.
Major Guilds: Prospectors; Blacksmiths and Smelters; Teamsters and Farriers; Weavers; River Bargemen (halfling controlled).
Supplies: Alchemy by Adronsius; Gavriel Arms and Smithy; Staghunter Outfitters; Alpenglow Trading House.
Temples: Temple of Torm; College of Oghma; Shrine of the Sun (Amaunator); Moondust Temple (Selune); Shrine of Bahamut (no permanent clergy); Shrine of the Open Door (Chauntea).
The Red Hand of Doom
In 1419 DR a rampaging horde of hobgoblins and their allies threatened to destroy the Vale and all who stood before them. Those who dared confront the horde soon discovered that these goblinoids worshiped Tiamat, the evil queen of dragons, and eventually came face-to-face with her draconic minions.
Battles raged from river to valley. Farmers learned to war. Woodsmen turned their axes to bloody service. Boys grew into men and men into heroes. In 1420 the Red Hand was routed at the very gates of Loudwater itself, its siege undone by the assassination of Azzar Kul. Without its charismatic leader, the Red Hand turned upon itself. The surviving hobgoblins fled into the Graypeak Mountains, pursued by armies of men.
Beyond the eastern mountains, an ancient evil grows. The Netheril empire, once thought to be centuries dead, now stretches from the edge of the High Ice south to the Farsea Swamp, occupying the former desert land of Anauroch. Rivers now flow from the melting glaciers, rain falls, temperatures are moderate, and in some places vegetation is particularly lush. Netheril is a land reborn, despite its cruel overlords.
The Twelve Princes rule Netheril from their capital city of Shade Enclave (known also as Shade and, formerly, Thultanthar), the lone city of old that escaped ancient Netheril’s collapse. These incalculably powerful mages threaten all of Faerûn’s nations. Their Shadovar agents spread like blight, subverting both coin and crown with their machinations. A floating enclave, tentatively identified as the resurrected city Sakkors, is sometimes sighted hanging over Sembia in the dead of night. Stories of bloodshed and heartache follow in Sakkors’ wake.
If Netheril cities fly, what protection can mountains afford?
For several thousand years, the eastern High Forest was the sole domain of Eaerlann, a powerful Eladrin kingdom. This changed with the fall of Netheril. To accommodate refuges from the east, Eaerlann gave them the city of Ascalhorn. In 820 DR a Netherese wizard named Wulgreth summoned demons to the Ascalhorn. This prompted other wizards, in 880 DR, to counteract the resident demons by summoning devils. The demons soon overcame the devils, conquered Ascalhorn, and eventually destroyed Eaerlann. Ascalhorn was ever after known by the dark moniker “Hellgate Keep.” Five centuries later, the keep was destroyed by the Harpers. The treant Turlang now watches over the ruins, patiently alert for signs of demonic influence.
A Word From Volo|
Circa 1368 DR
Often forgotten by many are the easternmost lands of the North. Overland travelers are the exception.
These folk often stagger into Llorkh or Loudwater more dead than alive, heartily glad that people dwell in Delimbiyr Vale!
The term Delimbiyr Vale is always used to refer to the upper reaches of the River Delimbiyr (also known as the River Shining) and its tributaries. The Vale reaches from the westernmost fringes of South Wood up the river valley to its headwaters in the Nether Mountains. The High Forest is not considered part of the Vale.
The traveler may sometimes hear about the Upvale and the Greyvale. The first term refers to the open grasslands between Tall Trees and the Far Forests, now controlled by Hellgate Keep. The Upvale used to be a series of pastures and tilled farms held by humans, despite almost annual orc raids.
The Greyvale consists of the grasslands drained by the Greyflow and the Loagrann, the three-branched river that joins the Greyflow at Orlbar, northwest of Llorkh.
Old maps also name the three headwater streams of the Delimbiyr, from west to east, as the River Aulantrar (or Deepingstream), the River Starsilver (or Starsilver Stream), and the Norlnryn.
Travel in the Vale is dangerous. One must beware of bugbear raids, increasing forays from Hellgate Keep, and the tightening grip of the Zhentarim. Because of this situation, my visits to this area were brief. Hence, Loudwater gets a rather hasty treatment here, and Hellgate Keep, Llorkh, Orlbar, and Zelbross are relegated to the section of this book entitled .Other Places of Note in the North..
Even before the shadow of evil fell across Hellgate Keep, these lands were perilous. Bordered on one side by wild mountains and on the other by a vast wild wood.perhaps the largest in all Faerûn.this is a territory roamed by monsters and rapacious humanoids.
The Dale also holds the ruins of Netheril, notably the Fallen Lands, across the mountains to the east of the Vale. The ruins are haunted by fearsome creatures warped by the fell magics of decadent human sorcerers.