The Tyranny of Dragons: Dawn of Heroes
A Brief History
The known history of the Sword Coast region spans thousands of years, extending back into the misty epochs of the creator races and the ages of the first nations of the elves and dwarves. Comparatively recent history is the story of the rise and deeds of humans and other younger races.
Much of what follows in this section is known mainly by sages, some of whom have been alive for the last few centuries of Faerun’s history. The common folk across the continent have little knowledge of, and little use for, events that have transpired far away in time and space. News does travel, of course, so even people who live in a village along the Sword Coast might get wind of happenings in distant lands.
Tens of thousands of years ago, empires of reptilian, amphibian, and avian peoples— known in Elvish as Iqua'Tel'Quessir, the creator races— dominated the world. They built great cities of stone and glass, carved paths through the wilderness, tamed the great lizards, worked mighty magics, shaped the world around them, and warred upon each other. Those were the Days
The age of the creator races came to a sudden end some thirty thousand years ago. Perhaps their wars reached a terrible and inevitable crescendo, or they tampered with forbidden forces. For whatever reason, the world changed, and their vast empires vanished. All that remains of them are ruins and the scattered lizardfolk, bullywug, and aarakocra tribes, barbaric descendants of those who once ruled the world.
From the ruins of the Days of Thunder arose the first nations of the Proud People— the elves and dwarves— in the region.
The elves raised up the nations of Aryvandaar, Ardeep, and Ilythiir. They settled Illefarn along the Sword Coast, from the Spine of the World to the River Delimbiyr— its capitol Aelinthaldaar in the shadow of what is now Mount Waterdeep. Wood elves and moon elves founded the kingdom of Eaerlann in the Delimbiyr Valley and the High Forest, and separatists from Aryvandaar settled Miyeritar in the lands of the present-day High Moor and Misty Forest.
The dwarf clans united as the nation of Delzoun, named for its forge-founder, with dwarfholds built on sites ranging from the Ice Mountains to the Nether Mountains and the Narrow Sea, and settlements and halls westward to the Crags and the Sword Mountains.
The Proud People regularly defended their homelands against ore hordes that arose from the mountains of the Spine of the World and surged southward to attack and pillage.
The First Sundering
Thousands of years after the rise of the great elven nations, hundreds of elf high mages united to cast a spell intended to create a glorious homeland for their race. The spell succeeded, but it rippled backward and forward in time, and the land was sundered, changing the face of the world. The largest continent of this new world is now called Faerun. Far from its western shores rose the isle of Evermeet, considered a part of Arvandor, the home of the elven gods on the plane of Arborea, and a bridge between worlds.
The Crown Wars
Some thirteen thousand years ago, war broke out between the elven nations of Aryvandaar and Miyeritar, beginning a series of conflicts known as the Crown Wars. Lasting some three thousand years, these conflicts culminated in the Dark Disaster, in which terrible storms engulfed Miyeritar, turning it into a wasteland within a single season, leaving behind the area now known as the High Moor. The high mages of Aryvandaar are blamed for the destruction, although no proof was ever produced.
The vengeful dark elves of Ilythiir turned to corrupt and demonic powers, unleashing them against Aryvandaar. In the centuries of destruction that followed, elf priests and high mages fervently prayed to Corellon Larethian and the gods of the elven pantheon for salvation.
The Descent of the Drow
Corellon interceded in the Crown Wars and cursed the dark elves so that they might never dwell comfortably under the sun. Now finding themselves pained by exposure to daylight, the drow— in a mere two months’ time— retreated from the sunlit lands of the World Above into the Underdark. They abandoned all loyalty to the elven gods who betrayed and banished them, turning instead to Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders, as their patron. Wars soon began between the drow and the underground cities of the dwarves.
For millennia following the end of the Crown Wars, humans spread and settled throughout Faerun as the elven and dwarven nations stagnated and then began a long, slow decline. Deep in the Underdark, the drow fought wars of survival and conquest in their new domain.
The Rise and Fall of Netheril
More than five thousand years ago, a group of human fishing villages on the shores of the Narrow Sea joined under the rule of the shaman-king Nether, becoming known as the empire of Netheril. The Netherese learned the use of magic from the Eaerlanni elves and became renowned wizards. Centuries later, they discovered the arcane texts known as the Nether Scrolls in the ruins of Aryvandaar and subsequently abandoned the practices of the Eaerlanni in order to procure even greater magical power.
Netheril grew to become an invincible nation of magic and wonders, dominating much of the North for three thousand years. Then the power-mad Netherese arcanist Karsus attempted to usurp the role of the goddess of magic. The resulting disruption in the fabric of magic sent Netheril’s floating cities crashing to the ground, destroyed a host of other wards and enchantments, and brought about the end of the great empire.
The Great Cities
In the decades and centuries following the collapse of Netheril, many cities of the Sword Coast and the North, such as Illusk and Citadel Sundbarr, took in refugees from the fallen empire, and new settlements made up entirely or primarily of human survivors from Netheril and their descendants were established throughout the North and in the Western Heartlands.
Nearly fifteen hundred years ago, the human settlers of the Dalelands and the elves of Cormanthor pledged their alliance in an agreement known as the Dales Compact. A monument called the Standing Stone was erected to mark the occasion, and the advent of Dalereckoning was decreed, beginning with the year 1 DR. This method of numbering the years in Toril’s history has spread across Faerun and is commonly understood (if not universally accepted).
The city of Neverwinter— called Eigersstor when it was a mere settlement— was founded in 87 DR. On the banks of the River Raurin, the humble community of Silverymoon Ford came into being in 384 DR, and less than two centuries later it had grown to become the city of Silverymoon.
In 882 DR, a village and trading post on the shore of a deep bay in the shadow of a great mountain was named Nimoar’s Hold, after the Uthgardt chieftain who claimed the area and fortified it. The place became known to sea captains as “Waterdeep," a name that displaced the original within a few generations. In 1032 DR, Ahghairon, heir to the arts of Netheril, saved the city from itself by unseating Waterdeep’s warlord and would-be emperor, Raurlor. Ahghairon declared that wisdom, not strength of arms, would rule in the city from now on, and created the Lords of Waterdeep.
These and other nations and great city-states rose to prominence along the Sword Coast, forming a chain along the Trade Way from Illusk in the far north to Baldur’s Gate in the south, near the borders of Amn.
Like their elven and dwarven predecessors, they fought off attacks by savage humanoids, including ore hordes from the Spine of the World. Waterdeep, guided by its mysterious Lords, became a rising power, while old Illusk fell to the ores for decades, until it was eventually reclaimed and the city of Luskan built upon its ruins.
The four and a half centuries since the establishment of the Lords of Waterdeep have been tumultuous times for the Sword Coast and the world. Throughout this period, civilization struggles against the savage forces of chaos, and life attempts to persevere against the agents of death and strife, sometimes in places where even the gods themselves have not been exempt from destruction.
The last one hundred fifty years have comprised one of the most cataclysmic periods in Faerun’s history. On no fewer than three occasions, Toril has been shaken to its core by forces that have repeatedly rewritten the laws of reality.
The Time of Troubles
In 1358 DR, the gods were cast out of their otherworldly domain and made to wander the land incarnated as mortals. In seeking to recover their divinity, they warred among themselves. Magic became unpredictable, and the prayers of the faithful went unanswered. Some of the gods-turned-mortal were slain, while a handful of mortals ascended to godhood, assuming the responsibilities of the dead deities.
The Return of Netheril
In 1374 DR, the Empire of Netheril rose again when the floating city of Thultanthar, commonly known as Shade, returned from a nearly two-thousand-year-long excursion in the Shadowfell, to hover above the Anauroch desert. The shadow-touched nobles of the city almost immediately began hunting for ancient Netherese ruins and artifacts and preparing for a restoration of their once-great empire.
In 1385 DR, the ascended deity Cyric, aided by Shar, murdered Mystra, the goddess of magic, in her domain of Dweomerheart. This act ripped asunder the fabric of magic in the world, unleashing its raw power in a catastrophe called the Spellplague. Thousands of practitioners of the Art were driven mad or killed, while the face of Faerun was reshaped by waves and veils of mystic blue fire. Entire nations were displaced or exchanged with realms from other worlds, and parts of the earth were torn free to float in the air.
The Second Sundering
A century after the Spellplague, the lands and peoples of Faerun had become accustomed to the state of things— just in time for everything to change again.
The first indication of new turmoil came in 1482 DR, when Bhaal, the long-dead god of murder, was reborn in Baldur’s Gate amid chaos and bloodshed, leaving two of the city’s dukes and many of its citizens dead. The return of Bhaal and his apparent reclamation of the domain of murder from Cyric led some scholars and sages to believe that the rules by which all deities must abide were in flux.
In 1484, strange calamities began to occur throughout Faerun. An earthquake struck Iriaebor. A plague of locusts afflicted Amn. Droughts gripped the southern lands as the sea steadily receded in places. Amid this tumult, conflict broke out in many regions of the continent. The ores of Many-Arrows warred against the dwarfholds of the North and their allies. Sembia invaded the Dalelands, and Cormyr raised an army to come to the aid of the Dalesfolk. Netheril brought forces to Cormyr’s border, and Cormyr was drawn into a war on both fronts.
Throughout this period, tales began to spread of individuals who had been touched by the gods and granted strange powers. Some of these so-called Chosen were at the root of the conflicts that grip the land. Some seemed driven by divine purpose, while others claimed to be mystified as to why they would be singled out.
In 1485, in Icewind Dale, the Chosen of Auril foments war with Ten-Towns and was defeated. In Anauroch, seeing that Netherese forces were spread thin, the long-subjugated Bedine people rebelled. Having defeated or besieged the dwarfholds of the North, orcs march on Silverymoon. In Cormyr and Sembia, the Netherese and the Cormyreans traded ground, while the Dalelands became a war zone. As if to offset the drought in the south, in the autumn of 1485 the Great Rain began to fall around the Sea of Fallen Stars and continued unceasingly.
While the waters rose to the east in early 1486, the tide turned against the ores in the North, and by the end of the year their armies were broken and scattered. Also during that year, the elves of Myth Drannor came to the aid of the Dalelands and helped push back Sembian forces. On the Sword Coast, the Hosttower of the Arcane rose again in Luskan, along with the Arcane Brotherhood. In Waterdeep and Neverwinter, efforts were made to clear those cities of century-old rubble and neglect. Cormyr repulsed the last of the Sembian and Netherese forces from the nation, reclaiming its territory, and recalled its forces, turning inward to address issues of rebuilding.
Late in 1486, the Great Rain finally abated, but this event didn't signify an end to the chaos. The Sea of Fallen Stars had grown, submerging great swaths of land beneath its waves.
Early in 1487, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions abounded for months, as if the whole world was convulsing. Rumors spread of chasms caused by the Spellplague suddenly vanishing, and stories circulated of known destinations being farther away from one another, as if the world had quietly added miles of wilderness to the distance between them. Word began to spread of places and peoples not heard from since the Spellplague. It became apparent that some of the effects of that terrible time had been reversed. During the year, ships claiming to be from Evermeet, Lantan, and Nimbral— nations thought vanished or destroyed— sailed into ports on the Sword Coast and in the Shining South. Tales spread of the legendary skyships of Halruaa being spotted in southern skies. No longer engaged in Cormyr, Netheril attacked Myth Drannor by floating the City of Shade over it. In a struggle for control of Myth Drannor’s mythal and the Weave itself, the flying capital of Netheril was brought crashing down on Myth Drannor, resulting in the cataclysmic destruction of both.
As the year drew to a close, there were nights when the heavens seemed to hang motionless. Throughout much of Faerun, the winter of 1487 and 1488 lasted longer than any on record. The solstices and equinoxes had somehow drifted. Later seasons followed suit, with each starting and ending later than expected. Prayers to the gods for knowledge and mercy seemed to go unacknowledged, apart from the presence of their Chosen.
Although the orcs were defeated in the North, the League of Silver Marches was disbanded in 1488, as former allies blamed one another for failures in the war. Sembia divided into separate city-states only nominally allied with one another. While a handful of settlements survived, the Netherese Empire was no more. The remainder of the Netherese forces battle with the Bedine over control of the Memory Spire, thought to be a tomb of the phaerimm, Netheril’s ancient enemies. The battle awakens what turns out to be a hive of the creatures, and they use the life and magic-draining power of the spire against the lands below.
By 1489, many of the wars that began during the Sundering had ground to a close. Other conflicts arose, and mighty threats still imperiled the world, but the deities ceased interfering with the world through their Chosen. The gods were no longer silent but quiet, and in many places new priesthoods arose to interpret the gods’ now subtle signs.
The world today seems a place filled with new lands and opportunities, where those who dare can leave their mark. Students of history and those elves and dwarves who recall the past that short-lived humans see as distant perceive a world much like it was over a century ago. For most folk, wild tales of people empowered by the gods, and of far-off lands returned to the world, are the subjects of fireside chatter. Daily concerns and the dangers and opportunities just beyond their doors take precedence, and plenty of both remain on the Sword Coast and in the North.