Excerpts 01/17/2001


Sneak Peek: The Silver Marches
By Rob Heinsoo



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Capital: Silverymoon
Population: 1,090,800(humans 40%, dwarves 20%, elves 20%, half-elves 10%, halflings 5%, gnomes 2%, half-orcs 2%)
Government: Confederation of lords headed by Alustriel of Silverymoon
Religions: Corellon Larethian, Helm, Lathander, Mielikki, Moradin, Mystra, Oghma, Selûne, Sune, Tymora
Imports: Armor, books, manufactured goods, pottery, spices, wine
Exports: Dwarven and elven craftwork, furs, heroes, precious metals
Alignment: LG, NG, CG

Silverymoon is the Gem of the North, a city built as a center of learning and a symbol of the greatness that once shone out of the elven capital of Myth Drannor. Three years ago, the ruler of Silverymoon, High Lady Alustriel, reached out to the rulers of other human, elven, and dwarven strongholds north of the High Forest, west of the Evermoors, and south of the great mountains. After much debate, the diverse dwarven holds, human and half-elven settlements, and human cities decided to ally in a mutual defense pact headed by Alustriel herself, who stepped down as ruler of Silverymoon in order to oversee the new confederacy of the Silver Marches.

The present member settlements of the Silver Marches include Citadel Adbar, Citadel Felbarr, Deadsnows, Everlund, Jalanthar, Mithral Hall, Quaervarr, Silverymoon, and Sundabar.

Life and Society

The folk of the Silver Marches are confident, hopeful, and content. All around them stands a wide and beautiful land, a promise of growth and prosperity for generations to come. With care and respect, the humans hope to reap the riches of the forests and mountains without destroying what they touch, learning from elves and dwarves how to live with the land instead of bending the land to human whim. All people of the Silver Marches are free, all people may own land, and no one is guaranteed rights and privileges that are denied to others under the law. The Silver Marches represent the unfolding of a dream, a chance to forge a better Faerûn, and everyone from the poorest woodcutter to the richest city merchant senses the beginning of something extraordinary.

That said, the new confederation is not perfect. Just because humans, elves, and dwarves have set aside their differences in a few small cities in the North doesn't mean that the barbarians, orcs, gnolls, giants, and dragons of this forbidding landscape feel constrained to join them. Deadly enemies surround Alustriel's league and plot its downfall. The orc hordes of the high mountains grow strong again and arm for war. The drow of Menzoberranzan threaten the fledgling realm from the depths of the earth. And, like most other places of Faerûn, the wreckage of ancient realms and the remnants of magical disasters wait under the forests and snows of the realm. Plagues and evils untold await those foolish enough to disturb them.

The New Settlers

In the long history of the settled lands of the North, few civilized humans have dared establish permanent dwellings outside walled cities and towns such as Silverymoon and Everlund. That has begun to change in the first few years of peace brought by the creation of the Silver Marches. Immigrants from all over Faerûn have moved into the north lands, drawn by the new alliance that promises to stand strong against the orcs.

To the surprise of the citizens of the Silver Marches, the new immigrants include retired Zhent soldiers and their families. They've been cashed out of active service with the Zhent forces, provided with enough gold to buy seed, a plow, and possibly even some land, and asked to move somewhere far away from the Moonsea. Most of the Zhent retirees can't wait to move as far away from Zhentil Keep as possible, since few of them wish to risk being called back to active service. Or at least that's the story they tell the citizens of the Silver Marches.

The Zhent retirees group together inside newly established stockade communities of between one and three hundred souls. They know that the cities in the Silver Marches alliance view them with suspicion. Even so, they have brought their families and their dreams of a better life and ask only to be allowed to contribute to the area's growth and peace. The new communities have chosen simple names like "Newfort," "Hilltop," and "Winter Edge," names calculated to sound friendly instead of threatening. As a group, they refer to themselves as "The Free Towns." As of 1372 DR, the Free Towns' total population numbers around four thousand.

Roughly 33% of the newcomers are evil in alignment. The rest are mostly neutral, though some 10% are good. The degree of Zhentarim involvement in the newcomers' lives remains to be seen. Few of the retirees care passionately for the Zhent cause, but covert agents, religious obligations, old feuds, and untrustworthy leaders embroil them in conflicts with the other inhabitants of the Silver Marches and with each other.

Major Geographical Features

The Silver Marches generally includes the lands west of Anauroch, east of the River Surbrin, and north of the River Rauvin, although vast stretches of the forests and mountains within these borders are unsettled wilds.

The Cold Wood: A pine, birch, and spruce forest unmarked by civilized settlers or foresters, the Cold Wood is home to some Uthgardt tribes whose members never cut down living trees. Snow cats, orcs, and ettins roam the wood.

The Moonwood: The large forest north of Silverymoon is blessedly free of orcs and other goblinoids. Unfortunately, this has little to do with the efforts of Silverymoon's rangers and much to do with the fearsome reputation of the lycanthropes who inhabit the forest's northern quarter. Many of these evil lycanthropes are members of the People of the Black Blood, a sect of Malar-worshiping werebeasts who resent the civilizing influence of Silverymoon.

Nether Mountains: Silverymoon may be civilized, but its people will never grow soft as long as they have to contend with the yearly tides of monsters that tire of the hard life in the mountain snows and look to the lowlands for plunder. The pass between Silverymoon and Sundabar is closed about six months of the year by heavy snows.

Rauvin Mountains: Goblin kingdoms and orc warrens infest these mountains. The River Rauvin passes through the peaks in a steep-sided, mist-filled gorge of roaring white water. A perilous trail climbs along the shoulder of the gorge through Dead Orc Pass to the north side of the Rauvin, but most travelers choose to pass around the mountains to the east, since the pass is the home of a particularly strong and aggressive orc tribe.

Important Sites

The heart of the Silver Marches is the upper and lower valley of the River Rauvin. Winding for hundreds of miles in the shadow of the Nether Mountains and the Evermoors, the Rauvin marks a narrow ribbon of civilization and security in an otherwise inhospitable land. Along the Rauvin lie the farmsteads and settlements that feed Silverymoon and Everlund, and its swift, cold waters carry trade from Sundabar all the way to Waterdeep itself.

Beorunna's Well (Large Town, 2,139): The ancestral home of the Uthgardt Black Lion tribe, the well itself is a huge pit containing the Black Lion ancestor mound. The rough village of the Black Lions lies nearby. The Black Lions have abandoned their traditional ways and settled to farm, herd, and hunt the nearby forests.

Citadel Adbar (Large City, 19,962): The dwarves who populate this militarily powerful fortress live underground in miles of twisting dwarf-sized corridors. Adbar's aboveground citadel may be the mightiest fortress north of Amn, having withstood nearly a hundred major orc attacks over the centuries. Reaching Adbar is difficult: Merchant caravans generally travel through the Underdark from Mithral Hall or Mirabar. And caravans do come -- supplying the dwarves with fruits and surface-grown vegetables and returning with metals or fine dwarven craftwork.

Humans and elves find Citadel Adbar a difficult place to relax: It's too cramped, too cold, and the stench of the metalworks (placed aboveground instead of below, where the dwarves live) remind the elves, at least, of nothing less than an orc siegeworks.

Citadel Felbarr (Small City, 6,987): A former dwarven citadel given over to humans when the dwarves retreated into deeper holds, Felbarr fell to orcs three hundred years ago. Renamed the Citadel of Many Arrows by its new masters, it stood as an example of how orcs could conquer the weaker folk of the south.

Centuries later, in 1367 DR, a huge orc horde moving south against the settled cities paused in front of the orc citadel, held by a chief calling himself King Obould. Instead of pressing on to the human lands, the horde besieged their fellows inside. After a four-month siege, the invaders broke down the gates and entered the main keep, but a strong dwarven force fell on both tribes and seized the citadel out from under the orcs' tusks.

King Emerus Warcrown (LG male shield dwarf Ftr16) took control of the citadel, hanging on through the first bitter winter until six hundred shield dwarf reinforcements could march up from the south to join his forces. Warcrown's people are now well established and determined not to lose their citadel again.

Meanwhile, north in the Spine of the World, Obould, who escaped the fall of his citadel, is gathering forces for another assault upon the lands he once mastered. He is aware of the Silver Marches' defense pact and is attempting to determine how best to strike through the alliance's weak spots.

Everlund (Large City, 21,388): A walled city of humans, elves, half-elves and halflings, Everlund is a caravan trading city and a solid ally of Silverymoon. Its Council of Six Elders is part of the Lord's Alliance.

Everlund faces threats from all sides. The trolls who used to occupy the Evermoors could be counted on to be stupid and predictable. Not so the giants who have replaced them. To the city's south, the huge trees of the High Forest are growing closer and closer to Everlund's walls. The great treant Turlang is expanding the High Forest to the north, ostensibly in order to bury the remains of Hellgate Keep off to the east. No one thinks that taking an axe to the trees is a good idea, but urban human pursuits are substantially less relaxed in the shadow of the great trees.

Jalanthar (Hamlet, 314): Jalanthar is a collection of two hundred or so human trappers, hunters, and rangers who inhabit both the ruins of their former village and a network of caves in the hills. At first glance, visitors assume that Jalanthar is a dying community, crushed by its wars with the orcs. Nothing could be further from the truth. By both necessity and aptitude, the locals have become expert orc fighters, trackers, and guides. Instead of sticking to their original clan ties, all the humans of the region cooperate for defense, hunting, and magic. Jalanthar rangers are proud to be in demand throughout the rest of the Silver Marches.

Mithral Hall (Large Town, 4,991): Mithral Hall was once the greatest of the northern shield dwarf holds. Around 180 years ago, it fell to a shadow dragon named Shimmergloom, let loose from the Shadow Plane into Faerûn when members of Clan Battlehammer dug too deeply in search of mithral. Shimmergloom slew most of the dwarves and took possession of the hall along with his entourage of shadow monsters and duergar. Things were not set right until DR 1356, when Bruenor Battlehammer (NG male shield dwarf Ftr13) returned from Icewind Dale to slay Shimmergloom.

Bruenor drove out the duergar and retook the Hall, proclaiming himself the Eighth King of Mithral Hall. Shield dwarves from all over the north, particularly children of the Thunder Blessing generation, have marched to Bruenor's side to mine mithral and finish cleaning out the Underdark beneath the hold. Mithral Hall's resurgence has strengthened the Silver Marches by providing Silverymoon with an energetic sister city and a staunch ally in war.

Quaervarr (Small Town, 1,212): A junior partner in the Silver Marches, Quaervarr is a woodland town of humans and half-elves. Wits in Silverymoon joke that Quaervarr is worth having in the alliance simply to preserve its fine inn, the Whistling Stag.

Silverymoon (Metropolis, 37,073): The city of Silverymoon is a beautiful place of ancient trees and soaring towers, with curving lines in its stonework and garden plantings adorning every nook and balcony. Aerial steeds carry riders on high, magic and learning is revered, music and laughter are heard often in the streets, and the city contains fascinating shops brimming full of maps, books, minor magic items, and beautiful things.

Even moreso than Waterdeep, Silverymoon is built on the spirit of cooperation between the races. Humans, elves, and dwarves all maintain dwellings in the same areas of the city instead of dividing into separate wards. A human home might be built around the base of a tree, with elves using the tree above as part of the walkway to their central tree home, and dwarven caverns beneath the surface.

Silverymoon is considered the foremost center of learning and culture in the North. It is noted for its musicians, its cobblers, its sculptors, and its stonemasons -- as well as its mages, who are gathered here in greater numbers than in any other city of the Sword Coast lands except Waterdeep. Their might alone keeps the Arcane Brotherhood of Luskan and other evils of the North at bay -- were they to vanish tomorrow, the civilized North might well be swept away in blood and ruin.

Silverymoon boasts a conservatory of music, a great library, parks, castlelike residences of many noble folk, and temples and shrines to such deities as Helm, Lathander, Mielikki, Milil, Mystra, Oghma, Selûne, Silvanus, Sune, Tymora, and the dwarven and elven deities. Perhaps the most famous structure is the University of Silverymoon, a school of magic comprised of several formerly separate colleges. Member schools include the Lady's College (serving both sorcerers and bards), Miresk's School of Thaumaturgy, and Foclucan, a legendary bard's college that has reopened from taking a century off after being overrun by orcs.

The city's army, the Knights in Silver, numbers over five hundred and patrols the city constantly. Harper scouts and mages assist the army, and when it must turn back orc hordes, awesome mage-might gathers to fight with it. Silverymoon is also protected by a number of wards that detect the presence of evil beings and the use of magic in certain areas. Even long-time Silveraen know little about the properties of the permanent magical field that augments some magic, turns other spells wild, and negates still others, protecting the city east of its great open market. Certain areas in the palace (a place heavily guarded at all times by mages of the elite Spellguard) have an inner ward that requires possession of a token to allow entry at all.

The city's peace and goodwill is due to the influence of powerful local mages and the Harpers. Silverymoon's folk feel safe -- and that's due to the vigilance of the mages and agents trained and established by Alustriel.

In 1369 DR, the Lady Alustriel stepped down as High Mage, yielding up the Silver Throne to Taern "Thunderspell" Hornblade (LG male human Wiz18). Alustriel is the high lady, or speaker, of the Silver Marches and leads the league councils.

Sundabar (Large City, 14,259): The area around Sundabar is occupied only by obsessed miners, howling orcs, and citizens of Sundabar who should know better. The double-walled city was built for war. Sundabar's ruler, Helm Dwarf-friend (NG male human Ftr10/Rgr5 of Mielikki) started his career as a member of the Bloodaxe Mercenary Company, rising to command both the mercenaries and his chosen city. He has turned out to be a wise ruler, taxing his people fairly and using the proceeds to ensure his city's defense against orc invasions, which flood in every two or three years and break on Sundabar's sturdy walls. The Everfire, a zealously guarded volcanic rift beneath Sundabar, is the source of some of the finest magic weapons of Faerûn.

Regional History

Like the rest of Faerûn, the Silver Marches is built over the ruins of lands that existed long before. In this instance, the old kingdoms are the elven realm of Eaerlann formerly based in the High Forest, the dwarf realm of Delzoun underneath Ascore, and the human empire of Netheril. None of these three occupied all of the land now accounted part of the Silver Marches, but their settlements and borders overlapped in this region in various eras.

The city of Silverymoon is the heart of the Silver Marches and the bright hope of the North. Founded on a place sacred to the nature deities Mielikki and Lurue the Unicorn, Silverymoon developed around the Moonsilver Inn. The holy groves at Silverymoon Ford lie near where the River Rauvin is shallow and so could be forded in high summer and easily bridged to allow crossings year-round.

Silver Village grew very slowly into Silverymoon town. Silverymoon became a city in 637 DR when its first set of walls was completed and the first of twelve high mages to rule the city thus far was elected. Ecamane Truesilver and his nine apprentices established a school and a library and set about educating the local warriors, trappers, loggers, and fisherfolk. From that day forth, successive high mages have pursued the goal of making Silverymoon the Myth Drannor of the North -- a beacon of culture, learning, sophistication, and racial harmony.

Alustriel became the first high mage of Silverymoon unanimously chosen by the people, and she ruled long and well until 1369 DR. She stepped down, appointed Taern Hornblade as High Mage, and set about creating a new realm in the Sword Coast North with Silverymoon at its heart. Today, Silverymoon is a rich, sophisticated, and exciting place to live, truly the Gem of the North.

Plots and Rumors

Generations of adventurers come to the Silver Marches to advance the cause of civilization by scouring the land for monster lairs, cleansing dangerous ruins, and driving orc raiders back to their mountain lairs. Silverymoon's growth and prosperity have brought new enemies, though -- the merchants and proud lords of cities like Luskan or Yartar who grow jealous of the riches that flow through the Silver Marches.

Missing Emissary: Two tendays ago, a wizard escorted by four Everlund rangers went into the High Forest to speak with Turlang about the trees' advance upon Everlund's walls. All contact with the wizard has been lost, though divination spells indicate that the wizard, at least, is still alive. Did the wizard pay the price for delivering bad news to Turlang, or did she fall prey to one of the forest's other perils?

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