The Dalelands: A Brief Introduction

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fractal

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The Dalelands: A Brief Introduction
« on: September 12, 2010, 11:18:28 PM »
The Dales are broad forest vales with rolling farmlands, linked by narrow trade roads running through the beautiful woods of the Cormanthor forest. Blessed with fertile soil and a temperate climate, the Dales are the breadbasket of the Heartlands to the west. The Dales' independent spirit and age-old alliance with the elves of Cormanthor have made them the historic birthplace or favored home of many of Faerun's greatest heroes.

Eleven separate dales exist today, each with its own territory, government (or lack thereof), militia, trading pacts, ambitions, and character. Archendale and Harrowdale value trade of all else. Tasseldale values industry and craftsmanship. Daggerdale stands alone against a powerful enemy, while Scardale struggles to recover its independence after years of occupation. Meanwhile, the other dales respect the old Dales Compact and prefer to be left alone.

Although they share common traditions, cultural practices, and religious allegiances, the Dalelands are not a unified kingdom like Cormyr or Sembia. Instead, they are an enigma to the rest of Faerun. How can small and disorganized groups of stubborn, back-woods farmers and craftsfolk maintain control of the coveted lands surrounding the great elven forest?

In the past, the forest itself was a major reason for the Dales' continued existence, as the presence of the Elven Court deterred most foes. Now that the elves have left Faerun, Dalesfolk rely upon the gifts they've always had: heroism, self-reliance, and a strong, almost clannish sense of community.

To outsiders, Dalesfolk seem close-mouthed, suspicious, and reserved. Until newcomers are identified as friends or foes, or vouched for by a trusted friend, Dalesfolk prefer civil silence to empty pleasantries. Once a person is accepted, Dalesfolk are generally open and giving, especially in the common defense. Once accepted by Dalesfolk as a friend, a stranger is expected to contribute to the defense of the community.

The Dales Compact

In ages past, as the great wyrms declined and elven might grew, the elven realm of Cormanthyr flourished. It was during those times that human tribes, hailing from lands known today as Chondath, Impiltur, and the Vilhon Reach settled the edges of the great forest. Foreseeing the eventual doom of his people if they continued to treat the increasingly numerous human settlers as invaders, the elven coronal (elven for king) Eltagrim arranged the Dales Compact between the elves of the forest empire of Cormanthyr, and the humans who would become known as the Dalesfolk. Human and elven wizards together raised the Standing Stone in the center of Cormanthor as a symbol of unity between the two races. In return for promising not to cut deeper into the Cormanthor forest, the ancestors of the modern Dalesfolk were allowed to settle around the forest's edges or in places where the great trees did not grow.

For centuries until Myth Drannor's fall (and with it the destruction of Cormanthyr), the Dales were able to survive their troubled infancy - troubled by marauding goblinoid tribes, the great elven empire offered the protection that the Dalesfolk at the time could not afford for themselves.

Ages have passed, and elven kind has retreated from Faerun. Although the Compact stands no more, the great majority of the Dalesfolk still abide by its terms. Tradition has replaced elven might as the principal motivation for adhering to the Compact - and for now it is sufficient to preserve Cormanthor's borders as they stand.

Today

In 1373 DR, the Dales face threats anew. The rebirth of the clergy of Bane has empowered the dark society known as the Zhentarim, and these sworn enemies of the Dalesfolk brood just to the north in Zhentil Keep. In the wake of the elven Retreat, the elves left the great forest of Cormanthor open to exploitation by another great foe -- the drow.

The Dales Compact is fraying. For over thirteen centuries, this treaty has survived treachery (usually human), magical disasters (usually elven), and pressure from would-be colonizers (Sembians) and conquerors (Moonsea folk). With the elves of Cormanthor now in Evermeet, what remains of the Dalelands' agreement to preserve the forest by cultivating only land that was already cleared by natural forces? Countless eyes, from Sembia to Zhentil Keep, now covet the unclaimed territories and riches hidden amidst the ruins of a fallen empire.



For a full history of the Dalelands and each individual dale, you are advised to refer to the documents linked in the Setting Overview thread.



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fractal

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Re: The Dalelands: A Brief Introduction
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2010, 11:18:49 PM »
Scardale

Shattered by wars it started, occupation by its enemies, and a horrible plague, Scardale might have gone the way of now-extinct Teshendale.

Most Dalesmen still think of Lashan the warlord when Scardale is mentioned. To this day, it is a land under occupation, and the people are only now beginning to recover from the disastrous wars their lord led them into. Scardale is among the largest and most powerful of the Dalelands, and as the war fades into history the people of the Dale begin to hunger for self-rule and an end to martial law.

In 1356 DR, Lashan Aumersair, after having inherited lordship over Scardale, sought to forge an empire from his small holdings. He rallied troops, wealth, and artisans to build Scardale into a great power and eventually take over all of the southern Dales by force of arms. Under Lashan's ruthless rule, the initial campaigns against his neighbors resulted in the occupation of Harrowdale, Featherdale, and Battledale. His very success proved to be his downfall, however, in that he believed that Cormyr and Sembia would welcome a unified power to contend with against the Moonsea cities, and that the Moonsea cities could not stop their squabbling long enough to mount a plausible attack.

Yet Lashan's stunning campaign was so swift and successful that Cormyr, Sembia, Zhentil Keep, and Hillsfar all rose in arms against him in a rare alliance with the other Dales. After overwhelming the central Dales, Lashan was turned back from Mistledale and Deepingdale by the combined might of all the enemies he had made. His empire collapsed overnight. Lashan vanished in the chaos, and his mercenary troops were cut down by the advancing armies. Sembia briefly occupied Scardale itself, with the intention of adding the Dale to itself, but it was threatened and forced into withdrawal by the other kingdoms. All of the Dales Lashan conquered during his tenure have become independent once again.

Ever since, Scardale's capital - Scardale Town - has yet to recover, and remains in virtual anarchy. Forces from Hillsfar, Zhentil Keep, Cormyr, Sembia, and each of the Dales - all claim their share of the city in order to "keep the peace" and serve in the advisory council of the city (whose edicts they often ignore), all he while actively seeking to exert its influence over the once-formidable city and eventually to the rest of the dale.

At one time the largest and most important town of the Dalelands, Scardale today has less than one-half its pre-war population. Hundreds of natives were slain in the battles that ended Lashan's rule, and hundreds more have fled into the countryside to avoid the occupation.

Scardale takes its name from a steep-sided gorge known locally as the Scar that runs from Feather Falls and to the Dragon Reach. The legends tell that in the battle between the orcish god, Gruumsh, and the elven deity Corellon Larethian, one of the elven god's many blows went astray and carved this wide gouge in the earth. The town of Scardale lies at the mouth of the River Ashaba, which most sages believe carved the gorge.

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fractal

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Re: The Dalelands: A Brief Introduction
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2010, 11:10:53 PM »
Battledale

Despite its grim name, Battledale is often called the breadbasket of the Dalelands. A sprawling dale of farmers, hunters, herdsmen, and crafters, it is named more for its history than the temperament or habits of its people.

Battledale's forgiving terrain and dispersed population make it very hard to defend. Its central location has brought a number of invasions over the years. Sembian settlers clashed with the elves on these plains hundreds of years ago, and, more recently, Lashan of Scardale's invasion force overtook most of the dale. Scardale's invasion resulted in a deadly occupation of its main township - Essembra - until an allied force drove the army out completely.

Essembra itself still bears scars from that war, but Battledarrans are a hardy folk and the dale has, generally, recovered. While not as impressive as other dales towns, Essembra sits fairly centrally within the Dales, a crossroads of sorts where cheerful festhalls and taverns stand between charming cottages along tree-lined streets. Only the stone walls of the Old Town and the modest keep where War-Chancellor Ilmeth resides give any hint that Essembra is not simply just another unimportant village.

The rest of Battledale is sparsely populated. Between small villages and hamlets one may find hunting lodges and waystops, just as easily as one may find the remains of an old lord's keep or the ruins of a Sembian noble family's rural estate.

Battledarrans have much to be proud of - one of their own was, for a short time, the only successful king of all the Dales. Aencar, the Mantled King, ruled Battledale for 8 years and the united dales for over 6 more. His rule is remembered as just and prosperous, and Battledarrans mourned his murder for generations. During the Time of Troubles, Tempus' first appearance on Faerun was traced by his faithful to a ruined castle in Battledale proper. Claimed by the Tempurran clergy, that place became what is now known widely as the Abbey of the Sword.

While Battledale is generally peaceful, recent upsurges in banditry in the forest are always a cause for concern. Drow attacks have become more frequent since 1371 DR, when the population of the Abbey of the Sword was almost wiped out by a sudden drow attack from below. Those drow now lurk in the woods, troubling travelers and Battledarrans alike.

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fractal

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Re: The Dalelands: A Brief Introduction
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2010, 08:55:05 PM »
Mistledale

A land of dense forest and golden fields alike, Mistledale is a bountiful and peaceful land often called the luckiest dale. It is lucky in many respects, indeed, being well-placed so that other dales buffer it against the advances of hostile powers, and is bisected by a major trade route - the Moonsea Ride. The great swathes of agricultural land in Mistledale were created not by logging, but by, as local legend tells, a falling star that scoured and scorched a great deal of forest away. By the time humanity made its way to Cormanthor forest, this broken landscape had recovered into rich and fertile farmland that is much envied by other dales and nations alike. No other dale has so many herd animals nor grows so much produce as Mistledale, though Battledale would claim to rival this.

Mistledale's good fortune is not simply happenstance, however. It remains safe and secured not least by the efforts of its legendary black-armoured Riders of Mistledale. A formidable force of scouts and soldiers, the Riders are an elite military force tasked with defending Mistran folk and their lands from any foe. During Lashan of Scardale's attempted conquest of the Dales, the Riders of Mistledale provided a bulk of the force in the Dales alliance that liberated the town of Essembra and drove Scardale's army out of Battledale completely. In recent years, however, the Riders have spent much of their efforts seeing off drow raids and bandit incursions across farmsteads and the Moonsea Ride alike.

Though Mistledale is littered with villages, hamlets, and farmsteads, the primary township is Ashabenford, where the dale's Council of Six and the Riders make their base. Several small trading costers base themselves out of Ashabenford, though most trade in the dale is in exports of food and drink, and imports of more luxury items. Chauntea's faith is highly popular in this dale, with a large abbey dedicated to her worship - the Abbey of the Golden Sheaf - within Mistledale's borders. Mistledale also boasts a dwarven settlement called Glen, among other non-human Dalesfolk.

Mistledale's people - Mistrans as they like to be called - are good and honest people who tend to be friendly with strangers, though they can be guarded in their manner due to the prevalence of foreign banditry on the Moonsea Ride. In general, Mistrans respect good order, honesty, and integrity, and they do not tolerate the bending or breaking of their laws.

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fractal

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Re: The Dalelands: A Brief Introduction
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2010, 09:00:12 PM »
Deepingdale

The Dale of the Trees is the last true bastion of Myth Drannor's open spirit in the Dalelands, even tracing its founding to the love between an elven maiden - the so-called Deeping Princess - and a human man. It is said that half the dale's population have some measure of elven blood in their veins, and there are few other places in the Realms where human and elf have ever enjoyed more trust and friendship. For all of its diversity, Deepingdale is a friendly land where few folk would truly feel unwelcome.

The largest settlement in Deepingdale is Highmoon, a prosperous and exciting caravan town straddling the East Way (from Arabel to Ordulin) in the woods on the southern bank of the river Glaemril. A cosmopolitan Dalestown, it is a highly-favored stop for merchants traveling westwards and the ideal place to trade their wares for Dales-made goods. Deepingdale's furs and game are highly regarded, while its timber exports - made so possible and plentiful by the cooperation of the elves - prove invaluable to other dales and nations alike.

Deepingdale's woods are still a part of the Cormanthor forest, though, and the remnants of a once golden age of elvendom litter the deeper reaches of the woods. Two remaining elven settlements - Moonrise Hill and Bristar - count themselves amongst Deepingdale's villages, providing goods and manpower to Highmoon and the rest of Deepingdale, and welcoming their fellow Deepingfolk - though not strangers - openly.

Legends tell of a cursed valley somewhere north of the Glaemril, a secret prison wrought by elves for some unknown evil, though few souls save the odd adventurer dare try to verify such claims. Deepingdale proper is, however, more concerned about practical matters. The machinations of her neighbors - Cormyr, Sembia, and Archendale especially - have given Highmoon a nervous edge. The township has recently constructed defensive walls, and the current Lord of the Dale seems to be concerned with the training and equipping of militiamen for some as-yet-to-come conflict.

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fractal

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Re: The Dalelands: A Brief Introduction
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2010, 09:03:06 PM »
Featherdale

Often derided by Sembians and forgotten by many, Featherdale doesn't have the same grand landscapes as other dales, nor the valuable trade or central leadership that others boast. It is a simple land of herders and pastures, with villages and farmsteads dotting the landscape, though it has survived the predations of Scardale and Sembia alike thus far. Featherdale is usually regarded as a sleepy backwater that offers little to adventurers except a pleasant retirement on a small farmstead.

Seasonal markets are the only real action the dale sees in terms of trade and society, as much of the dale's small communities remain mostly self-sufficient. Only the riverfolk are contrary to this, and farmers consider them scoundrels for the most part. However, while the riverfolk enjoy gambling and rowdy songs, they are much more accommodating to travelers in terms of practical needs.

The Featherdarrans are generally an easy-going lot who are renowned for their common sense and "live and let live" attitudes. They respect each other and tend to their own troubles within their own small communities - of which they are fiercely protective. They do, however, care for their lands above all else. Indeed, many of the dale's residents are, or are the descendants of, retired adventurers who look to the dale for a quiet life, though they are quite prepared to pick up weapons and muster a band of hardy laborers to chase down any immediate threat.

The dale has suffered both drow raids and banditry just as any other dale, but more pressing as of 1372 DR is the rising frequency in which bands of Sembian or Scardarran adventurers (or worse - soldiers), aiming to carve a piece of the dale out for themselves or their employers, appear. That the dale remains independent is a testament to the strength of character of its folk, just as much as it is a testament to its luck.