The Savage North
The Savage North
Even in safer times, the North’s reputation as the Savage North was well earned. Now, times are worse and the land more savage by far. Its great cities, once bastions of light and civilization, lie crippled. The small towns that served to shelter travelers stand empty – or have been claimed by murderous tribes and hungry monsters. Roads etched into the earth with thousands of years of use are increasingly obscured by forest, bramble, and marsh. Communities now struggle alone amid the wilderness, fortunate if they see an outsider once in a generation.
Neverwinter labors to breathe in the suffocating harshness of this new North, the sea its only lifeline. With few traders braving the increasingly long treks between settlements, the city’s docks now provide the area’s main means of import and precious little export. Gone are the days of plenty, beauty, and luxury. Today, Neverwinter struggles to break free of the forces that brought it low, still weak and surrounded by danger.
Locations of Interest:
City of Neverwinter: The City of Skilled Hands, the Jewel of the North – many were the accolades once heaped upon this city. Then, almost thirty years ago, the city died. Minor earth tremors that had plagued the region for months were the precursors of the eruption of Mount Hotenow. A portion of that volcano’s peak exploded with such force that lava and superheated ash poured across the city in an avalanche. Half of Neverwinter’s population died in a heartbeat, the city’s buildings razed. A great rift now known as the Chasm rent the surface where the shifting earth had pulled apart. Strange zombies roamed the land in the aftermath, their dead flash turned to ash by the fires that consumed the city.
Yet the people of the North have always been resilient. After the destruction, many who had fled at the first tremors returned. Opportunists and looters arrived. People began to rebuild. Lord Dagult Neverember, the Open Lord of Waterdeep, eventually arrived as well, along with an army of mercenaries. Today, the city struggles back to life under the watchful rule of the self-styled Lord Protector.
Neverwinter River: The bright water of the Neverwinter River runs warm throughout the year, a feature that helps to keep the city from being frozen in the winter months. When the cataclysm struck, dark ash choked the river for months before it began to flow from Neverwinter Wood through the city once more. Three bridges once spanned the river in Neverwinter – the Sleeping Dragon, the Winged Wyvern, and the Dolphin, each sculpted in the form of its name. Of the three, only the Winged Wyvern remains largely intact. Mercenaries in the hire of Lord Neverember patrol it day and night, watching traffic to and from the northern portion of the city and guarding against threats from Castle Never.
Helm’s Hold: Once a small monastery and adjacent village dedicated to the deity Helm, the cathedral of Helm’s Hold now towers above the town and surrounding lands that bear its name. The death of Helm saw the monastery fall into disuse, but the fortified town became a refuge when the Spellplague hit during the year following Helm’s demise. Lord Neverember now exiles victims of the Spellplague to Helm’s Hold for treatment, and his mercenaries guard the town.
Port Llast: This town was a great city in ancient times – the most northerly safe harbor on the eastern coast of Lendaria whenever Luskan would fall to orcs or other evil forces. However, the rise of a relatively stable Luskan and ports farther north began to diminish its prominence. Then came the Spellplague, and with it the return of Abeir. The melding of some areas of this world with its otherworldly counterpart caused many changes including affecting the tides around Port Llast, filling the harbor with silt and making Neverwinter an easier port to reach. With the docks of Port Llast failing and trade dying off, most of its citizens have long since abandoned their homes or died at the hands of marauders. Now a ghost town, Port Llast is known as the realm of the evil sea goddess Umberlee and as a home to sea monsters. However, some say that this reputation is simply rumor spread by those who want to keep the secrets of the town to themselves.
Neverwinter Wood: For generations, this dark forest has been shunned by most people of the North. That magic exists in Neverwinter Wood cannot be doubted, but its nature – and whether it exists as a force for good or ill – remains unknown. The forest holds many secrets, and even on its fringes, one feels a sense of unease. Humans have never logged in this area, and the orcs of the North have traditionally avoided it during their rampages. Only druids and Uthgardt barbarians dare to pass into the deep forest.
The scars left by Mount Hotenow’s eruption have healed with startling speed, and many new forces move within Neverwinter Wood today. There is talk of Eladrin returned to the world after more than a millennium, dark figures, and undead stalking the trees.
Thundertree: This small town once stood at the edge of the wood. Its inhabitants made a living by harvesting windfall timber to ship downriver to Neverwinter and beyond. Now the forest has overgrown Thundertree’s abandoned and decaying buildings. Although the town survived the Spellplague largely intact, the ash zombies that arose after the destruction of Neverwinter overran it. As the dangers of Neverwinter Wood increase, the abandoned town and its unknown horrors are shunned.
Mount Hotenow: For untold generations, this volcanic peak quietly fumed in the depths of Neverwinter Wood. Rumored to be the source of the warmth of the Neverwinter River, Mount Hotenow once featured in the bedtime stories of Neverwinter’s citizens as the home of fire giants, red dragons, and other blazing beasts. People looked upon the fantastic peak as a thing of beauty – until its wrath was unleashed against Neverwinter in the cataclysm. Now jutting like a broken tooth from the forest, Mount Hotenow still fumes, the land occasionally quaking with the echoes of its fury.
The Crags: This long wrinkle of hills and ridges runs northwest from Neverwinter Wood. Goblins, gnolls, ogres, hill giants, and other creatures have dwelled within this rocky landscape for centuries. So too has the Sky Pony tribe of the Uthgardt barbarians. Rumors have long persisted that an entrance to Gauntlgrym lies somewhere in the Crags. However, the hundreds of ancient and now-dead mines that long ago brought humans to the area make for numerous false leads.
Sharandar: Long ago, the Elven Empire of Illefarn fractured into three kingdoms, one of which was Iliyanbruen. Sharandar was the capital of this kingdom, and when Iliyanbruen eventually met its end, many of Sharandar’s elves traveled to Evermeet. However, a number of others managed to slip between worlds, passing instead into the Feywild where a new Sharandar has thrived for centuries. Now that Faerie once again touches the world, the Eladrin of New Sharandar venture forth to see what time has wrought upon the lands of their ancestors.
Tower of Twilight: This enchanted tower long stood on an island in a small lake west of Neverwinter Wood. Home to a student of the great wizard Khelben Blackstaff, the tower stood invisible by day but would appear as the light faded. During the Spellplague, the tower vanished without a trace, though it now reappears infrequently and unpredictably at twilight. Who lives there now, where the tower disappears to, and why it returns remains a mystery.
Conyberry: Once a pastoral village on Neverwinter Wood’s western edge, Conyberry was devastated when the Spellplague thrust small portions of Abeir into it, radically altering its nature. Always something of a sleepy settlement off the beaten path, Conyberry has simply slipped off the map for most people of the North. With no one hearing word of it for years, and with no one needing to brave the dangers to go there, most who know that Conyberry existed assume it has been destroyed.
Old Owl Well: Known in ancient texts as Old Owlbear Well and in even older histories as Quesseer, this site marks the location of a Netherese outpost established millennia ago. The Netherese built a means of drawing water from the earth, using the site as a place of trade. For centuries, this water supply on a key trade route served as a source of conflict. Until the chaos of the Spellplague, orcs and humans from Neverwinter and Waterdeep still struggled to control the outpost. Now, it lies forgotten and abandoned. Until trade returns to these lands, the fate of the well and whatever ruins lie hidden in the surrounding hills remain unknown.
Morgur’s Mound: Atop this foothill of the Crags, Uthgar – deity and founder of the Uthgardt barbarians – died after saving the North from Gurt, Lord of the Pale Giants. The mount is named for Uthgar’s brother Morgur (called Morgred by some), who is said to be buried there. Once, the bones of a great thunderbeast were spread atop the hill, marking it as the holy shrine of the Uthgardt. Now, the bones are gone and whatever treasures lay buried there have been stolen. Outsiders who are discovered by Uthgardt barbarians near the mound are typically slain on sight.
Luskan: An urban cesspool, the once-great City of Sails squats on the coastline like an open sore on the face of the continent of Lendaria. It lies about four day’s hard travel north of Neverwinter (about three days by sea, due to prevailing currents). Until some hundred years ago, Luskan choked in the grasp of the Arcane Brotherhood and its leader, Arklem Greeth. When a force of pirate-killers from Waterdeep along with other allies precipitated the destruction of the Hosttower of the Arcane, the city was destabilized and never fully recovered. Street gangs and pirates rule Luskan now, making the city a stomping ground for criminals, exiles from other lands, and hideous beasts.
Gauntlgrym: This famous subterranean dwarven city has been the stuff of legend for centuries. Aside from the dwarves, most people of the North doubted Gauntlygrym’s existence – until the Summons, as it has come to be known. At that time, ghostly dwarves in ancient dress appeared before certain dwarves throughout the North and beyond, silently pleading for heroes to seek out Gauntlgrym. Some did set out in search of the lost city, though most counted themselves lucky when the ghosts troubled them no more.
Many of those who sought Gauntlgrym did so in the Crags, for ancient legends mentioned an entrance there. Others plunged into Neverwinter Wood or scaled the Sword Mountains. Few returned from their quests, and those who survived almost never found any trace of their goal. Some dwarves seek the city still, but for the rest, Gauntlgrym remains a tantalizing legend.
The Sword Mountains: The sharp peaks and hilly terrain of the Sword Mountains extend down the coast of Lendaria for nearly two hundred miles. Long home to belligerent dwarf clans, orc tribes, trolls, dragons, and other fearsome creatures, this range is rarely traveled in these dangerous times. Those foolish enough to brave the mountains often do so in search of old mines and the ruins of civilizations past. However, most find only death in the end.
Leilon: This sleepy mining town once served as a convenient resting place for travelers on the High Road. Now, the few travelers who still take this route shun Leilon, going miles out of their way to avoid even laying eyes on the town.
The High Tower of Thalivar long stood as a landmark here, abandoned by a forgotten mage. For generations, the tower proved a tempting target for plunderers – and, too often, a grave for them as well. The people of Leilon knew that the tower held guardian monsters, and they were content to leave it alone. However, the Spellplague’s twisted magic unleashed the creatures trapped in the tower, which quickly ravaged the helpless village. Now, the tower is a place of terror, its magic freezing in place all creatures whose eyes rest upon it, even for a moment.
Mere of Dead Men: This vast salt marsh contains the ruins of the numerous castles, manors, and farms it swallowed as it expanded. It takes its name from the great armies that were drowned here when a powerful lich flooded their battlefield. Whereas once the High Road skirted the swamp, what now remains of that highway plunges through its expanded borders. Those seeking to go south to Waterdeep from points north must often contend with the lizardfolk that claim the territory around the road. Alternative routes wind deeper into the mere or off into the Sword Mountains at the cost of extra days of travel and peril.
Waterdeep: Once the greatest and grandest city in the North, Waterdeep’s star has dimmed slightly in the last century as the world has progressively darkened. The great port – about a week south of Neverwinter, or three days by sea – no longer sustains its own navy, relying instead on mercenaries from other nations. The city has long existed as a relatively fair and just center of civilization.
Waterdeep is ruled by a council of twenty Masked Lords (nobles hidden behind powerful illusions to obscure their identities) and one Open Lord. The current Open Lord is the boisterous and dangerous Dagult Neverember, the so-called Lord Protector of Neverwinter. Unlike most of the other Open Lords in Waterdeep’s history, Lord Neverember has demonstrated an expansionist and imperialistic bent. In recent years, he has set his sights on Neverwinter as the next territory in his growing empire.
If there is a place marked on the map, but there is no additional information listed here – you are to assume you don’t know that place exists. I really didn’t feel like trying to paint over parts of the map since I’m sure none of you will metagame.
Map coming soon