The Border Kingdoms06/28/2006



This independent, large town stands on the northern border of Bedorn, and it is slowly falling under the influence of that peace-loving realm. Borderers know Dapplegate as a pleasant place of cobbled streets and solid, three-story stone buildings where merchants rule (in a council of forty that can never agree on much of anything) and fill the town with cheerful bustle at all hours.

Native Dapplans can sleep through anything thanks to crafters hammering through the night and the din of wagons and pull-carts groaning and rumbling endlessly through the streets -- this town never sleeps. Dapplegate's resident craftfolk make superb stormlanterns (of wrought iron or brass with glass panes and hanging chains), adequate chain, and rough but sturdy crates and chests for the transport of bulk goods. Most businesses are open night and day, staffed in three shifts, busily selling Borderers all that Calimshan and more distant lands have to offer and buying Border goods for export. Goods are hauled north to wharves along the left bank of the River Scelptar for shipment via barges. The riverbanks in that area are so marshy and insect-infested that there are no other Borderer settlements there. Lizard folk and mudmaws battle for supremacy, and no less than six mercenary companies based in Dapplegate are kept busy providing protective escort duty for bargebound shipments.

All of this makes Dapplegate a worthwhile stop for shoppers seeking variety of wares (often an elusive quality in the Border Kingdoms), but hardly an exciting place for the romantic or adventurous.

That need is fulfilled by Danchilaer the Mad Mage, a reclusive sorcerer from afar who came to dwell in Dapplegate four centuries ago (some sages say the town grew up around his tower, after folk staying at the nearby Dapplegate Inn struck bargains with the sorcerer to protect them with spells in return for payments of money, cooked food, and lifting-and-carrying service around the tower).

Visitors to Dapplegate are directed to the Place of Arrows (the central marketplace and the site of a long-ago battle between rival companies of archers). There, stalls of traveling merchants crowd together inside a ring of eight circular, waist-high, walled ponds (for watering draft animals).

The Mad Mage

Danchilaer the Mad Mage (LN male Halruaan human Wiz21/Sor6/Arch5) is a reclusive renegade from Halruaa who dwelt in Dapplegate four hundred years ago and is now either undead or long-lived indeed. His simple, slender tower stands dark and empty (except for occasional roaming bands of adventurers seeking treasure in its trapped, labyrinthine chambers and cellars), but Danchilaer remains an unseen, watchful presence in town. Once a year or so, he magically abducts a lone human resident or visitor and sets them a task somewhere in the Border Kingdoms.

If the chosen person succeeds, Danchilaer somehow magically augments their personal abilities permanently and returns them from whence they came, charging them with a long-term goal or mission. Whether they follow his guidance or not, the Mad Mage haunts their lives, appearing in dreams to give cryptic advice or answering when they call on him in great need with a spell, spoken message, or helpful advice whispered in their minds.

Danchilaer appears as a tall, deep-voiced man in plain robes, whose face is always hidden by his pulled-down cowl. He's amoral, but neither insane nor malicious. His true aims are unknown, but the tasks and goals he sets seem dedicated to the survival of Dapplegate, the Border Kingdoms (as a region of free, everchanging realms, subject to no outside rule), and self-sufficient farming folk everywhere. He works against large armies, proud kings, and vast empires. Those who serve him are free to pursue their own lives and don't necessarily know of others the Mad Mage has "augmented." (Danchilaer is not building an organized group of agents.)

Yet several successful adventurers and mages now contemplating retirement to the Border Kingdoms have begun to meet for drinks and converse at various taverns about the Border lands in a sort of unnamed, unofficial social club -- and more than once, certain members of this group have acted together to foil petty rulers or stop unscrupulous mercenaries or merchants. Only the years ahead will tell if the Mad Mage has some larger plan or intends to forge those he has aided into some sort of cohesive force. If he does, the Border Kingdoms could well be changed forever.

Overlooking the Place of Arrows is Danchilaer's Tower, standing immediately northwest of the market in its own walled garden (which it shares with ancient, massive, stunted oaks, a cairn commemorating the Valiant Fallen of Dapplegate in the many wars that have raged across the region, and -- at most times -- many children of the town at play).

Beside the Tower is the round, turreted Council Hall, an ungainly pile of a building that has flung out wings in all directions over the years as kitchens, meeting-rooms, and rental storage lockchambers for visitors have been added haphazardly.

Facing the Hall across Lockwyvern Street is The Chased Unicorn (not, as some travelers think, The Chaste Unicorn), an inn (Excellent/Expensive) offering superior dining and fairly luxurious appointments, including gaming rooms, private baths, and chamber service. Such accommodations are rare in the Border Kingdoms -- and priced accordingly.

Most visitors stay at one of the three less expensive (and more spartan) inns just inside the town gates. Hard by Bedorn Gate is The Old Tin Tankard (not, despite its name, a tavern; Good/Moderate). Just inside Easting Gate is The Watchful Warrior (large, new, noisy, and bright; Fair/Moderate), and beside the River Gate is Mistfall House (which many folk in town suspect has something to do with the Harpers; known Harpers stay there when in town; Excellent/Moderate). The best tavern in town is Black Blasko's on Sharaghil Street (Good/Moderate). The most raucous and shady is Tarnalar's Tipple on Bloodserpent Lane (Poor/Moderate).

A disturbing rumor has recently spread across the Border Kingdoms -- somewhere in Dapplegate is the hidden tomb of Quarlin, a Halruaan wizard who specialized in making magical staves -- lots of staves, all of which unleashed battle magic. Five hundred years after his death (in other words, right about now), Qualrin's tomb and bones will collapse into dust as a long-slumbering spell activates, but the staves buried with him (twenty or more, the tales insist) will survive, free for the taking by whoever finds them.

Just where this rumor came from, and how much truth is behind it, remain mysteries, but adventurers are converging on Dapplegate from all over the Border Kingdoms (finding accomodations in Dapplegate is likely to be difficult for some time). There have already been several violent confrontations between persistent stave-searchers and suspicious merchants trying to protect their goods and property. Merchants' bodyguards and warehouse guards take a very dim view of adventurers digging (or breaking and entering) anywhere in town.

The increasing tension and violence between prying adventurers and newly-hired bodyguards and warehouse security forces has moved Master Merchant Nurath Cheldin of the Council (CE male Calishite human Rog2/Exp6; darkly handsome with sharp features and oiled black hair and beard; active in goods shipping, moneylending, barter, and the sale of fine locks and chains) to publicly decree that there is not now, nor has there ever been, a Halruaan wizard's tomb in Dapplegate, and that adventurers would do well to hunt known monsters and treasures rather than chasing after every wild tavern-tale that passes through their ears.

Prominent tavern-owner and fellow Council member Tilbar Tarnalar (NE male Illuskan human Exp4; blond, moon-faced, innocent-looking; owner of Tarnalar's Tipple and several more warehouses that most Dapplans don't know he owns) responded by issuing a statement that he knows of no less than seven hidden Halruaan tombs in town and suspects that Dapplegate's cellars hold several -- perhaps many -- more. He advised that citizens should not hesitate to call on the Council for help if they encounter strange magic or witness the use of any magical staff.

About the Author

Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .

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