Alaundo's Library

Noteshdr.gif (2577 bytes)

The work contained on the following pages is the property and copyright of Wizards of the Coast and is quotted directly from their site.  It has been formatted for viewing on the web by the Scribes of Candlekeep for archive purposes only and no contest is made for ownership of the content presented below.  The article is available for viewing in its original state from the Forgotten Realms area on the WotC site:,2&b=forgottenrealms.

History of the Crinti

By Elaine Cunningham

Halruaa's history is one of frequent conflict between the insular kingdom and her covetous, hostile neighbors. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the complex relationship between Halruaa and Dambrath, the land directly to Halruaa's east.

Dambrath is ruled by its half-elven minority. This elite class -- less than 30% of the population -- is further divided into two groups. About 15% derive their elven blood solely from the drow elves of T'lindhet, a city hidden deep beneath the Gnollwatch Mountains. The remaining 10% are the "nobility," who are descended from the half-elven Cathyr, a high cleric of Loviatar, and her 112 followers. These two peoples of elven descent have interbred over the years, with each other and with human barbarians, creating a vigorous, dark-skinned race known as the Crinti.

The human population of Dambrath traces its history back to DR 211. Four barbarian tribes fled to Dambrath, displaced by the then-powerful kingdoms of Unther and Mulhorand. Lacking magical might, they turned to training the wild horses that ran the vast interior plains. These horses [1] are unusually strong and swift thanks to the magical properties of the arkas grass that is unique to Dambrath. Over time, the barbarians became known as the Arkaiun -- "people of the wind."

Thanks to the Dambrath horses, the Arkaiun barbarians prospered in their new land. Fierce bands of mounted Arkaiun warriors conquered the coastal cities and enslaved the halflings of neighboring Luiren. Their militaristic ways led to disaster, however, when in DR 545 the war chieftain Reinhard rose to power and led an attack on Halruaa. The outcome was devastating to the Arkaiun, and Reinhard was slain, his body abandoned in Halruaa.

His son Reinhard II was declared king -- Dambrath's first -- largely because few warlords survived to contest his claim. The new king turned his attention to building wealth and establishing trade. An unusually stable period followed, with an unbroken succession of nearly three centuries. In DR 802, this era abruptly ended shortly after the coronation of Reinhard IX. This king was impatient with the "decadent" ways of his subjects, and he became obsessed with surpassing the military exploits of his dynasty's founder. He soon learned that wars are expensive. When the powerful merchant class protested his taxes, Reinhard IX attempted to gain power and revenue by expanding his kingdom. Greedy for silver and electrum, he insisted upon pushing mining efforts deep into the Gnollwatch Mountains. There he encountered the drow of T'lindhet.

Reinhard IX's dreams of military glory proved stronger than the urgent advice of his counselors or the lessons of history. His military was the strongest Dambrath had known for generations. Confident of success, he attacked the drow and drove them into the hills. He failed, however, to take into account one important fact: His swift cavalry would be of little use in an underground battlefield. Even so, fortune -- not to mention the chaotic nature of the drow -- favors the bold. A small band of Reinhard's Arkaiun fought their way into T'lindhet. This outraged the drow, who united in a vicious counter-offensive. The raiding party was swiftly pushed back to the surface, and the drow pursued. In the battle that followed, the drow decimated Reinhard's military. Not content with a simple victory, the drow pressed on in a war of vengeance and annihilation that lasted for almost three decades. Finally they cornered the last of the human resistance in the walled city of Malduir.

The beleaguered humans were delighted by the arrival of a band of pilgrims. Cathyr, a half-elven high cleric of Loviatar, led this group. Cathyr and her 112 clerics possessed an impressive store of divine magic, something that was in scant supply in current Dambrath society. Reinhard and Cathyr formed an alliance, and clerics armed with powerful offensive spells found themselves placed with every remaining military unit.

When the drow attacked, the clerics of Pain turned on the Arkaiun. Cathyr herself killed Reinhard, and then offered the drow a deal: The half-elven clerics would rule the land, but they would supply the drow with access to the surface and a trade that would include weapons and slaves. The drow, their vengeance completed, happily agreed. An amicable relationship between drow and half-elves was established, and, astonishingly, continues to this day.

Intermarriage between Cathyr's followers and drow was common, and today almost all of Dambrath's Crinti (a drow word meaning "noble ones") share a distinctive set of characteristics that blend the drow, half-elf (mostly of moon elf stock), and human barbarian. The Crinti tend to be tall and strong, with dark gray skin, hair of light gray or silver, and blue eyes. No full-blooded elves live in Dambrath, but the degree of elf blood is a major determinant of social class. Physical appearance is also important: pointed ears and dark skin are accepted signs of nobility, and half-elves who are human in appearance are afforded a lesser status. There are a few fair-skinned half-elves, and the females usually attempt to pass as descendents of Cathyr, whatever their actual lineage might be.

Today Dambrath is ruled by a Crinti queen, Hasifir, who, in defiance of custom is not a high cleric of Loviatar but a powerful wizard. This came as a surprise to her subjects, for they expected her mother Venandra, the "Pirate Queen," to name either Luatharyn or Meltruil as successor, since both these daughters are clerics who share their mother's taste for sailing and pillage. But after a reign of nearly eighty years, Venandra was visibly failing -- not just from the natural ravages of age, but with a wasting disease that baffled Dambrath's clerics. Hasifir purchased the throne with a spell that would allow the proud Crinti queen to choose the manner and time of her own death, bind her to the land she had ruled for nearly a century, and weave her name into undying legend.

With the help of a circle of drow sorcerers -- and the blessing of Loviatar -- Venandra and her favorite horse were transformed respectively into a spectral guardian and a nightmare. During the dark of the moon, the people of Dambrath often believe that they glimpse the shadowy form of a beautiful Crinti rider and her horse, almost invisible but for the faint red glow of their eyes. Rumors state that the ghostly Venandra can claim powers belonging to both lich and banshee, as well as the divine magic she had during life. Some even say that the sound of her voice on the wind can either strengthen those who hear or cause excruciating pain. The Nightmare Queen depicted as current tales describe her is both loved and feared, as she was during life, and recently softly glowing, magical red lights have become a common sight in Dambrath, serving as tribute or warding -- or both.

Life under Crinti rule holds certain similarities to drow society. Females rule, yet males are considered near equals. Males and females work and fight side by side, though females are promoted faster and can rise higher. Only the very highest positions are restricted to Crinti females, a fact that makes Dambrath society attractive to many drow males.

Queen Hasifir's rule is enforced by the Honglath, local judges who are invariably Crinti females. Crimes punishable by death include the murder of a noble female by a person of lesser rank, teaching magic to a male, and horse theft. Punishments for lesser crimes are weighted according to social rank, yet anyone can appeal to the higher court, which is presided over by high ranking elves (of at least Clr12/Wiz6 in level) There are twelve of these courts, known as "Greater Pains," scattered over Dambrath. Overseeing this collective judicial body are four duchesses, which is a hereditary title going back to the time of Cathyr.

The interaction between judges and nobles is important, for matters of succession are often decided by the Honglath. Succession passes through the female line, but a noble title does not necessarily go to the eldest. Usually the highest ranking cleric/mage will inherit. If there are no female heirs, the son is expected to marry well -- to a drow, if at all possible, to strengthen the blood line. Since the lady is absolute ruler over her estates, this can be an attractive prospect for a drow female who might otherwise lack options for advancement.

Dambrath merchants are notoriously greedy and cunning. Here is one profession in which the lower classes can gain wealth and power. Trade with outsiders is usually left to humans and to those half-elves who are human in appearance. Some Crinti of obvious half-drow descent have made their fortunes as merchants, but they usually operate from the shadows, having learned that people in neighboring countries are (justifiably) uneasy about dealing with Crinti. This suits the Crinti just fine, for they prize and cultivate their fierce reputation.

All Crinti are trained to ride well beginning in early childhood. It's considered honorable to serve in the military or the fleet, and Crinti who have little aptitude for divine or arcane magic can still gain prestige and rank in this manner. Theft is also considered a worthy pursuit, and even high-born, wealthy Crinti often spend a few years riding with bandits or sailing on a pirate ship.

Most people of Dambrath speak Dambrathan, Common, and Akalan, the original language of the barbarian Arkaiun. The court language is Undercommon. The faith of Loviatar, Maiden of Pain, is the official state religion, and this colors everyday life in Dambrath. Punishments are harsh, sports and amusements tend to be rough and dangerous, and humor has a cruel edge. Every city has a temple. Loviatar's Crinti followers do not fanatically pursue pain for its own sake. They tend to be stoic, enduring pain as it occurs in the natural course of life. They pursue adventure and take great pride and pleasure in daring acts.

Lolth is also worshipped by those of drow descent, and here again, the cultures of the half-elven descendents of Cathyr and the drow of T'lindhet coexist in remarkable amity. There are also several small, secretive groups of drow who worship Eilistraee, the goddess of good drow. Their numbers are not known; the level of secrecy needed for survival is such that many of these groups are not even aware of each other.

It seems likely that the worship of Shaar will become an important force in Dambrath society. The recent discovery of the Shadow Weave is a subject of great interest to the Crinti, who are well suited by temperament and tradition to this new form of sorcery.

What can Halruaa expect from the Crinti? In the current year, DR 1372, bandits still haunt the border lands and pirates prey upon Halruaan ships. Queen Hasifir's intense interest in magic also bodes ill, for Halruaan magic has long been a coveted prize. Rumors suggest that the queen is planning to unleash new spells upon her western neighbor, including some born of alliances with the drow sorcerers. It's also possible that some of the more ambitious and unscrupulous members of the growing cult of Shar in Halruaa might look to Crinti magic to speed their own paths to power. Halruaan wizards have always been insular, even xenophobic, but the corrupting influence of the Shadow Weave might sway the emerging sorcerers to seek dangerous new alliances.


[1]Dambrath horses are highly prized and jealously hoarded. Only the poorest horses are traded outside of the kingdom, and even these are the equal of the finest steeds of Amn. Dambrath horses are somewhat smaller than northern warhorses -- an adaptation to the intense heat of the Dambrath plains -- but exceedingly fast and tough. They possess exceptional intelligence for horses, often bonding to their riders strongly, and consequently they are easy to train. These traits are dependant upon the arkas grass, and they fade if a horse is removed from Dambrath. This fact is a closely guarded secret. Even without the superior skills granted by this magic fodder, Dambrath steeds are fine riding horses and unusually beautiful animals. They are invariably spotted, either white on black or the reverse.

Arkas Grass: Arkas grass is a hardy grass that stands, at its highest, 2 feet tall. Horses that graze upon the fresh mature grass for one tenday gain the following benefits for one tenday: a +10 foot enhancement bonus to speed, a +2 Constitution score adjustment, and a +1 Intelligence score adjustment. The effect can continue for as long as the horse continues to eat the fresh grass. If the grass is harvested in any way, the effect it provides fades from the grass within one hour of being harvested. Horses can also graze or eat other food, but they should have at least five mouthfuls of grass each day for the effect to work.

For more information on the Crinti and the lands of the Shining South, see the following:

Return to Traveler's Notebooks

Return to Alaundo's Library