The Tyranny of Dragons: Dawn of Heroes
The Sword Coast and the North
Running along the Sea of Swords from north of Amn to the Sea of Moving Ice, the Sword Coast is a narrow band of territory dominated by the city-states of the area that use the sea for trade. For most who care about such things, the area is delimited by Neverwinter in the north and Baldur’s Gate in the south, but territory farther to the north and south that isn’t under the sway of a more influential power is usually also included in maps of the Sword Coast.
More broadly, the North refers to all the territory north of Amn, split into two general regions: the Western Heartlands and the Savage Frontier. The Western Heartlands encompasses a narrow strip of civilization running from the Sunset Mountains to the Sea of Swords, and northward from the band of territory marked by the Cloud Peaks and the Troll Mountains to
the Trade Way. The Savage Frontier is the name given to the rest of the unsettled or sparsely settled territory in the North, not including the major cities and towns and any settlements in their immediate spheres of influence.
Most of the communities, nations, and governments of the North can be grouped into five categories: the cities and towns that are members of the Lords’ Alliance, the dwarfiholds that have been built throughout the area, the island kingdoms off the coast, the independent realms
scattered up and down the coast, and the subterranean environs of the Underdark.
The Lords’ Alliance is a confederation among the rulers of various northern settlements. The number of members on the Council of Lords, the group’s governing body, shifts depending on the changing status of member cities and political tensions in the region. Currently, the Lords’ Alliance counts these individuals as council members:
• Laeral Silverhand, the Open Lord of Waterdeep
• Dagult Neverember, Lord Protector of Neverwinter
• Taern Hornblade, High Mage of Silverymoon
• Ulder Ravengard, Grand Duke of Baldurs Gate and
Marshal of the Flaming Fist
• Morwen Daggerford, Duchess of Daggerford
• Selin Ramur, Marchion of Mirabar
• Dowell Harpell of Longsaddle
• Dagnabbet Waybeard, Queen of Mithral Hall
• Lord Dauner Ilzimmer of Amphail
• Nestra Ruthiol, Waterbaron of Yartar
The Lords’ Alliance includes the strongest mercantile powers of the North. In addition to providing military support and a forum for the peaceful airing of differences, the Alliance has always acted under the principle that communities with common cause that engage in
trade are less likely to go to war with one another. By maintaining strong trade ties within the alliance as well as outside it, the Lords’ Alliance helps to keep the peace.
The various dwarven communities of the North are the heirs and survivors of Delzoun, the great Northkingdom of long ago. Despite continually warring over the centuries with the ores and goblinoids of the region, and having to fight off assaults from below by duergar and drow,
the shield dwarves have stood fast, determined to hold their halls against all threats— and, when necessary, reclaim them.
Holds that survive from the days of Delzoun include Mithral Hall, Citadel Adbar, and Citadel Felbarr. The fabled city of Gauntlgrym, built by the Delzoun dwarves and recently taken back from the drow, stands as a beacon of resurgent dwarven strength in the North. Stoneshaft Hold and Ironmaster are lonely settlements continually girding themselves for threats real and imagined. Sundabar and Mirabar are also generally considered dwarfholds, despite their substantial human populations.
Until recently, many of the dwarfholds were members of the Silver Marches (also known as Luruar), an alliance of cities that provided mutual protection across the North. Disagreements and failed obligations during a war with the ore kingdom of Many-Arrows destroyed the
remaining trust between members of the Marches, and that pact is no more. The dwarfholds still ally with one another, and individually with nearby human realms,
but no longer pledge to stand unified with all their neighbors.
Off the western coast of Faerun are a number of island realms of varying size. The most distant, and yet perhaps the most symbolically important to the mainland, is Evermeet, the island paradise of the elves, reputed to be a part of the divine realm of Arvandor. Much closer to Faerun are the Whalebones and Ruathym, ancient homes of the ancestors of the Illuskan people, and the Moonshaes, where many of those same people now share the islands with the Ffolk and an elf offshoot known as the Llewyr. The free port of Mintarn lies nearby, a neutral site for meetings between enemies and a recruitment spot that offers abundant jobs for sailors. Despite its size, the tiny island of Orlumbor, with its treacherous harbor and its skilled, in-demand shipwrights, is an independent and influential nation unto itself.
In the seas to the south, pirates of many races and predilections sail from the Nelanther Isles, preying on trade running north and south along the coasts. Since the beginning of the Sundering, fabled Lantan and Nimbral have returned. Both the center of invention and the isle of Leira-worshiping illusionists are even more secretive and less welcoming of strangers than before their disappearance.
Interspersed among the fortresses of the dwarves and the settlements protected by the Lord’s Alliance are significant sites that have no collective character, except that they exist largely outside the protection or purview of the great powers of the region. Even the civilized locales among these places, such as Elturgard, exist, at best, in an uneasy tension with the denizens of the wilder lands within and just outside their borders, and survive only through constant vigilance and the steady recruitment of new defenders.
A great variety of independent nations and notable locations is encompassed within the wild lands of the North. Among them are the great library of Candlekeep, home of the greatest collection of written lore in Faerun; the imposing, giant-scale castle of Darkhold; the fortified abbey of Helms Hold; sites of great battles such as Boareskyr Bridge and the Fields of the Dead; realms of some security, such as Elturgard and Hartsvale; and the yuan-ti realm of Najara. The lands of the Uthgardt, the towns of frigid Icewind Dale, the quiet Trielta Hills, the cutthroat city of Luskan, and the legendary Warlocks Crypt, dominion of the great lich Larloch, are all independent realms, as are the High Moor, the Trollclaws, and the High Forest.
There is much danger and adventure to be had in the free places of the North, and a great deal of wealth and treasure as well. The ruins of ancient kingdoms and countless smaller settlements litter the countryside, waiting for the right explorers to happen upon them.
Extending miles downward and outward beneath the surface of Faerun, and reaching to other continents as well, the great network of subterranean caverns known as the Underdark is home to all manner of strange and deadly creatures. Duergar and drow— dark reflections of dwarves and elves— live in these sunless lands, as do the svirfneblin, or deep gnomes. Most surface-dwelling folk aren’t threatened or even disturbed by denizens of the deep places, but the creatures occasionally emerge to raid or to seek some kind of goal in the surface world.
Among the lands of the Underdark beneath the North are the svirfneblin city of Blingdenstone, the duergar city of Gracklstugh, and the infamous drow city of Menzoberranzan. Also prominent is Mantol-Derith, a trading post for Underdark merchants.