The Sage of Shadowdale has something to say about pretty much everything. Despite having pages in Dragon Magazine, Dungeon Adventures, and Polyhedron Newszine, the Old Mage still has more to speak of the Realms. Not wanting to anger an archmage, we decided it would be best to give him a weekly column from which to discuss the finer points.
Listen well, young one...
The Moods of Voonlar
Zhentarim desire to encourage trade--rather than losing caravans to Hillsfar, Sembia, and more southerly Dale routes--has led them to pressure Buorstag to curb traditional open local hostility to nonhumans. Simply put, Voonlarrans hate and fear anyone who doesnt look human.
Elves, half-elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, and even half-orcs (if openly armed) can expect to be tolerated, so long as they keep to inns, taverns, holy areas, and major shops. Hard stares, shouted jests and slurs, and thrown stones will constantly remind them of the underlying local hatred of anyone not outwardly human, however. The Brons silent, impassive deputies stop public beatings of, and thefts from, such dogheads, but do little more unless offered ready coin.
Voonlarrans tolerate Buorstags brutal rule because the Bron keeps the peace, encourages trade, taxes equally, and hires mercenaries to diligently patrol the streets and outlying farms. The Bron is respected for scouring the land for thieves, outlaws, and troublemakers, like Harpers and poachers from the Dales. Most Voonlarrans regard Dalesmen as sly, thieving rogues--dishonest by nature-- given to night raids and highway robbery unless firmly curbed by strong and ready blades. Voonlarran mercenaries often skirmish with Shadowdale patrols, and Voonlarrans remember well the "burning and butchery" done by the Knights of Myth Drannor to Banite clergy and temple guards.
Gormstadd, head of the local temple of Cyric, offers a standing reward of 10,000 gp for the capture of Mourngrym Amcathra, dead or alive. Considered the leading terrorist and thug of the lawless Dales, the elf-lover and self-styled Lord of Shadowdale, Gormstadd lets everyone know that Mourngrym is a fugitive from justice in distant Waterdeep.
Voonlarrans fear and respect Zhents, despise Dalesfolk, hate people from Hillsfar and Cormyr (regarded as a kingdom of shining-armored idiots), and envy the rich folk of Sembia. To a Voonlarran, theres no such thing as a poor Sembian.
Dark Schemes In A Dark Tower
After the Bron, Dark Patriarch Gormstadd is the most influential man dwelling in Voonlar. He and Buorstag are firm friends, and they dine together at least two evenings a week, playing chess and scheming to enrich themselves and govern Voonlar the best way they see fit.
They both hate Lady Shrae, matriarch of the local temple of Chauntea, and constantly try to find some pretext to attack her or her temple without arousing the ire of the locals, who see Shrae as a friend who eagerly tends them without asking for payment when theyre sick.
Several past attempts to openly strike at the temple were disrupted by rifts opening in the earth, blinding spontaneous showers of fruit and tree boughs, and other manifestations of Chaunteas wrath. Its now clear to both men that the Great Mother watches over Lady Shrae. Theyve reluctantly concluded that they must wait for Shrae to stray from her calling and lose Chaunteas favor, or that of the townsfolk. Thus far, shes shown no sign of doing either.
So the two men growl darkly in her direction, and occupy themselves in the meantime with plots against the spies, poachers, and raiders who skulk from Hillsfar and Shadowdale to assail fair Voonlar.
Gormstadd, Strifeleader of Voonlar; 10th-level human male specialty priest of Cyric: AC 2 (plate mail of blending, +3, shield +2); hp 64; THAC0 12 (magical weapon); #AT 1; Dmg 1d8+2 (long sword +2, nine lives stealer ); S 14; D 11; C 15; I 14; W 18; Ch 13. SA: +1 on saves vs. illusion or phantasm, can cast black talon once/day, can summon an aerial servant that will fight for him, can create a dark aura or skull of secrets once/day, can cast phantasmal killer once/tenday. Spells: 6/6/4/4/2: 1st-curse, command, cure light wounds, darkness, detect good, faerie fire; 2nd-aid, chant, hold person (x2), flame blade, spiritual hammer; 3rd-dispel magic, prayer, pyrotechnics, speak with dead; 4th-abjure, cure serious wounds, dark aura, free action; 5th-flame strike, insect plague.