Excerpts 10/01/2004


Shining South
By Thomas M. Reid



In other parts of Faerûn, travelers speak of the wonders they have seen in the Shining South, a wondrous land of ancient cultures and fallen empires. Tales and songs tell of lands scorched by heat, people ruled by drow, traders who could negotiate the name away from an Amnian, and wizards who use magic for tasks mundane to miraculous.

This book gives you everything that you need to explore the Shining South in your own Forgotten Realms campaign. The region makes a great destination for adventure, or a place for your heroes to hail from. Its 14 detailed chapters cover Races of the South, Skills and Feats, Prestige Classes, Magic and Spells, Magic Items, Monsters of the South, Adventuring in the South, Dambrath, Estagund and the Shining Lands, Halruaa, Luiren, The Shaar and the Great Rift, Border Areas, and Adventures. Our sneak peek offers a look at new regional feats, new spells, new monsters, and part of the chapter describing the realm of Halruaa.

Shining South: Halruaa

Halruaa

In a region ringed by mountains lies Halruaa, a nation of reclusive wizards. This rich realm is famous for its gold mines, its fiery Haerlu wine, and most of all, its magic.

Geographic Overview

Halruaa is almost completely encircled by the Walls of Halruaa, a series of mountain ranges that form the eastern, northern, and western borders of the country. The coastline of the Great Sea forms its southern boundary. Halruaa stretches approximately 500 miles from east to west, and more than 350 miles from the coast to the northern foothills. The vast majority of the country consists of flat, windswept plains, broken only by broad, sluggish rivers and the occasional unusual feature.

For the most part, Halruaa is a warm, humid land, with temperatures ranging from more than 100 degrees in the summer to between 80 and 90 degrees in the winter. The mountains trap the moisture that rolls in off the sea, producing sudden and frequent thunderstorms when the moist air roils over itself. The higher foothills and valleys of the Walls of Halruaa are cooler and more comfortable than the lowlands in the middle, and the mountains are even colder, with permanent snowcaps on the highest peaks. Winter often brings snow to the temples on the mountain slopes as well, though never to the inland plains. The winds blowing off the mountains make life inland more bearable, though the weather patterns produced when they meet over Lake Halruaa make the lake a tricky place to sail.

Sample Geographic Feature: The Nath

The Nath, an upland basin of gentle hills in the northeast corner of Halruaa, is known for its herds of wild rothé and auroch, both of which are raised for food. Considerably higher in altitude than most of the rest of the country, this area boasts a slightly more temperate climate. Temperatures in the Nath rarely reach 100 degrees, and the rains, though more frequent, are much gentler, nurturing the meadow grasses upon which the herds graze.

Perhaps the most significant features of the Nath Valley are the temples situated on the lower slopes of the mountains that surround the valley. Each of these temples focuses on one school of arcane wizardry above the others. The sects are small because while most in Halruaa profess at least a passing devotion to Mystra or Azuth, few feel the need to cement their connections to the divine through ceremony. The clerics and wizards who tend the temples are the few who have been called to serve the deities of magic in a more formal way.

Other than the temples, the valley holds little of significance. The Nath is a rugged, wild country compared to the rest of Halruaa, and those who live here must be prepared for threats from many directions, though by far the greatest threat comes from the east. Crinti riders occasionally sneak through the Nath Pass to harass the herders or raid the temples in the hills. Sizeable Crinti forces have invaded this area on more than one occasion, but the powerful magic of the Halruaan aristocracy has always forced them back before they could get much beyond the mouth of the valley. Even so, the folk who by proximity serve as a first line of defense remain ever-watchful for the gray-skinned riders.

Cities and Sites

The population of Halruaa congregates in numerous villages and cities scattered throughout the country's interior. Most of these communities are small, cozy settlements with no more than a few hundred inhabitants each. The folk in such a village can usually rely on a wizard of at least 11th level to provide both protection and leadership. Such an individual serves as the mayor and probably also as a member of the Council of Elders.

Even the largest of Halruaa's urban centers is small in comparison to the great cities of most other nations, and Halruaa's cities are far less densely packed than the urban sprawls common elsewhere. The capital city of Halarahh is the largest community in Halruaa, but it boasts only about 8,000 citizens, though it easily covers enough acreage for a city twice as large. Most of the other major cities huddle along the shores of the sea, the lakes, and the rivers, though a few have grown up around the resources used in the country's leading industries -- namely mining and winemaking.

Life in the cities of Halruaa is touched by magic in many ways. Quiet streets are lined with a variety of houses -- some large and ostentatious, others small and modest -- each of which has a few built-in magical enhancements. A favorite practice in cities along the coast is to magically coax coral to grow into "walls" to enclose homes and gardens, and streets in all parts of the country are well lit at night with light-producing spells that adjust their brightness in relation to the time of day. Even a common laborer may have a minor magic item or two at his disposal to make some part of his life or work a bit easier. Spells of cooling, cooking, and food preservation are available to everyone.

For those who can afford it, exotic magic is as much a means of decoration as a tool. Spells that produce sparkling light and pleasing sounds are often woven into fine fabrics to enhance their beauty. Strange and highly magical creatures, such as behirs, are favored as pets. Travel by means of floating carriages, carpets of flying, or skyships is common. Everywhere in Halruaa, the people take great pains to show off their abilities as well as their wealth.

Sample Site: The Ruins of Chasolné

A bizarre remnant of a civilization that predates the arrival of the Netherese, Chasolné lies on the coast of the Great Sea at the southern tip of the East Wall, close to the Bay of Pirates and Yaulazna. Two stone heads with exaggerated features have been carved out of the cliffs that border the ocean here, rising more than 500 feet above the water. Almost caricatures of human heads, these images stare out toward the ocean, flanking an open space in which a winding, narrow staircase leads up the side of the cliff from a narrow strip of sandy beach. Cut directly into the rock, the stairs ascend for more than a quarter-mile above sea level to a well-hidden outcropping that also faces the sea.

Atop this rocky ledge are some crumbled and tumbling ruins, plus a large stone table -- possibly an altar -- carved with bizarre sea life and odd-looking ocean vessels. Flanking this table are two wide, shallow, stone bowls, their interiors blackened from oil fires. Set back into the cliff face to the rear of the outcropping are two sets of columns that flank the mouth of a tunnel, which opens into a large, high-domed chamber with no other apparent exits. More than a few adventurers have visited this site in hopes of discovering more about the area and finding any hidden treasures that might lie inside.

Sample City: Halarahh (Small City)

The seat of Zalathorm's power, Halarahh has a population just slightly above 8,000, making it the largest city in Halruaa. This wide, sprawling town is situated on the northern banks of Lake Halruaa, at the mouth of the river Halar. The city boasts lots of expansive public places for strolling, oratory, and celebrations -- in fact, the city takes up twice the acreage one would expect from the size of the population.

Fully three thousand of the capital city's inhabitants, including seventeen members of the Council of Elders, are practicing wizards, giving Halarahh the largest concentration of magical prowess anywhere outside Thay. Hundreds of wizard's towers -- lofty edifices built of colorful coral, stone, crystal, and magical force -- dominate the skyline, jutting upward from an otherwise low-slung city profile. In past decades, each wizard tried to outdo his rivals by building the highest tower with the grandest and most breathtaking view of the countryside around the city. Eventually, however, the risks to both towers and skyships forced Zalathorm to actively discourage this "tower war," and the mad building spree has halted. In hopes of currying Zalathorm's favor, some wizards have actually reduced the height of their towers, making the skies that much safer for skyships.

Because of its high concentration of wizards and the fact that the wizard-king and his council conduct business here, Halarahh is a difficult place for those not gifted in the Art to live. In all walks of life, favorable treatment and promotions come to those who have the spark but somehow elude those who lack magical aptitude. The obvious exceptions to this rule are the jordaini. These magically immune counselors vie for positions and prestige alongside their wizardly patrons in the never-ending game of politics that is Zalathorm's court. Though they cannot partake of the vast wealth -- both fiscal and magical -- that is available to so many others in the city, their stature in the eyes of everyone from the wizard-king down to the lowliest street urchin is affluence enough for them.

Arbor Square

Near the Netyarch's Palace in the heart of the city lies Arbor Square, an expanse of parks, rivers, pavilions, and gazebos designed for strolling, chatting, or orating. A wide variety of temperate to tropical trees, many of which are flowering or fruit-bearing, fills the square. Vine-covered trellises create spaces for private conversations, and bridges span manmade canal-rivers, giving Arbor Square the feel of a vast, perfectly manicured garden. Along the periphery, vendors sell wares ranging from edible treats and beverages to magic trinkets such as cooling caps (hats with minor chilling spells cast upon them) and dazzle stones (pretty colored rocks enspelled with cantrips to make them blink or spark.)

The citizens of Halarahh come to Arbor Square regularly to converse, debate, or listen to passionate orations. Anyone is free to step onto a platform and begin pontificating on whatever subject most concerns him, but a few well-known speakers always draw the largest crowds. Some of the liveliest debates that have led to policy changes for the nation began as passionate speeches in Arbor Square.

Dockside Square

As with other Halruaan cities, much of Halarahh has grown up along the shoreline. Its docks, however, are not the tight, noisy causeways abutted by closely packed warehouses that are standard for Faerûn's port cities. Instead, its broad docks quickly give way to an open park known as Dockside Square. This open plaza is paved in colored stone, and large trees provide good quantities of shade for strolling and chatting. Interspersed among the trees are numerous pavilions with brightly colored awnings.

Dockside Square is the customary site for just about every festival and fair that takes place in the city. In the spring, when the Queen's Regatta is held over Lake Halruaa, crowds gather in Dockside Square to witness the spectacle and hopefully gain a bit of the scatted fortune dust that floats down during the traditional light shows. In the summer, the square hosts numerous monster fairs in which exhibitors offer their latest catches from all over Faerûn. Wizards who are interested in procuring fashionable pets, preparing new culinary delights, or simply restocking consumed spell components flock to these events to examine the wares. As one Durpari merchant said upon visiting Halarahh during a monster fair, "If you can eat it, cage it, put it on a leash, or chop it up for parts, like as not it'll be there."

The Ice House

In a low-slung building near the docks, numerous journeymen wizards are hard at work each day, using their magic to generate huge quantities of ice. Once created, the ice is promptly segmented into blocks, wrapped in insulating cloth, and delivered all over the city to those who can afford the luxury and to those who can't operate their businesses without it.

Because the manpower needed to create so much frozen water is extraordinary, even by wizard standards, the possibility of securing a steady source of ice by creating a portal to the Ice Wastes in the Abyss has recently been under discussion. The cost savings in magic would be immense and immediately felt, but the potential dangers of such an option have thus far kept the proposal bottled up in committee among the elders of the council.

The Netyarch's Palace

Even in Halarahh, where wizards who mix magic with architecture vie with one another to create the grandest homes, the Netyarch's Palace is more dazzling than any other edifice. The sprawling structure is a masterpiece of architecture that features soaring spires connected by causeways seemingly suspended in thin air. Large facings and supports made of transparent material -- or sometimes magical force -- give the whole building an open, airy feel.

Inside, the heavy-handed use of magic borders on the frivolous. Every room is decorated with a liberal sprinkling of magical enhancements. A night sky, an ocean-caressed beach at dusk, and an otherworldly scene of glowing flora from the distant Underdark are among the many lighted displays designed to resemble majestic outdoor scenes. Various chambers have been built to showcase the more interesting properties of sound, and the hallways are filled with magic constructs designed to frighten, delight, and awe the viewer. Life-sized mechanical dragons, complete with misty vapors issuing from their mouths, crouch in niches along the wide corridors, and specially created display cases filled with living, breathing, miniaturized versions of real creatures form dividing walls between rooms. Deep within the heart of the palace, a few special rooms illuminated with artificial sunlight sport thick rain forests populated by colored birds, snakes, and tree frogs.

But not all the magic in the wizard-king's grand home is for show. The entire place is warded with untold varieties of protective magic designed to prevent entry by thieves and assassins and keep treasures safe. Several wings of the palace are strictly forbidden to visitors because they are replete with deadly symbols, animated guardians, and binding magic intended to destroy trespassers rather than just thwarting them.

The Promenade

One of the most fashionable and enjoyable pastimes for the citizens of Halarahh is to see and be seen strolling the Promenade, especially at dusk. The Promenade is a wide walkway that runs along the tops of the city walls, which for the most part are ceremonial rather than functional, anyway. The path can be reached via several sets of wide marble stairs, making it readily accessible to almost all the citizens. Every evening, hundreds of the city's well-to-do venture forth dressed in their best finery (which often bears magical enhancements) and perhaps walking their favorite Halruaan behir or other pet. These folk have made a game of seeing who can outdo everyone else, but simply being part of the crowd is the most important consideration.

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