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Part 10 - More of the Underdark and The Vast!
By Rand Sharpsword
Zanhoriloch (Small City, 6,000): This strange dwarven city rests on an island in the Underdark's Lake Thoroot. Zanhoriloch was originally built by drow, who in the Year of the Last Hunt (722 DR) launched an attack on the western dwarven city of Kanaglym through a portal. The dwarves surprised the drow with the strength of their resistance and forced the dark elves to retreat, following them back through the portal, where the dwarves sacked the unprepared city and turned the lake red with drow blood.
Stranded in an unknown location by the closing portal, the dwarves settled in the city, reworking its architecture to suit them and their faith. Though they were slow to learn boating, the dwarves of Zanhoriloch (usually called Mhorilot, meaning "dark surface," by its inhabitants) are comfortable on the water and keep their city self-sufficient by fishing and kelp farming. They have small mining expeditions on the near shore and possess wealth of silver, gold, and iron. Having spent several centuries avoiding the elves of Cormanthor, the dwarves recently emerged from a small tunnel leading to Battledale, with whom they now trade weapons and precious metals for grain, beef, and wood.
Underdark Travels: Much of the Underdark radiates a type of magical energy called faerzress by the drow. This energy is often responsible for glowing rock formations and is harnessed by the more astute inhabitants to enhance the magic items they create, often supplanting conventional enchantment methods in favor of the easier but more fragile creations possible with faerzress. Faerzress also causes many creatures to mutate within a few generations, explaining how land predators such as panthers, wolves, and lizards can gain darkvision in such a short time, or how the short subterranean cattle called rothé could adapt so quickly to the strange fungi and often brackish water of their new habitat.
Sounds travel far in the Underdark, as "echoes in the rock." Known trade routes, the passages most likely to be mapped, are closely watched by predatory creatures attuned to any sonic changes.
The Vast Locations
Procampur: Easily the oldest city in the Vast, Procampur has stood unconquered since it was founded in 523 DR as a human city, built over an older dwarven delving. It maintains a powerful army and navy, and it also a useful alliance with the city of Tsurlagol. Unlike other cities of the Vast, Procampur's citizens live under the rule of a hereditary overlord called the Thultyrl. Life in Procampur is strictly regulated by a system of firm but not terribly onerous laws. The city itself is divided into eight districts, each walled off from the others and serving a different purpose. By royal decree, each district sports a distinct color for all its roofs.
Adjoining the Castle District on the north is the silver-roofed, luxurious Nobles District, followed (as one goes west back to the harbor) by the yellow-roofed Services District, home to all Procampan servants, handypeople, restaurants, and taverns. West of that is the blue-roofed Sea District, home to sailors, outfitters, and cargo-storage and shipping businesses. West of Sea District is the harbor.
Moving inland along the south side of the Great Way, one finds the gray-roofed District of the Poor, where the Thultyrl owns all buildings. Most buildings here are rooming houses. Long-term visitors may dwell here alongside beggars, the unemployed, and the poorest city laborers. There's no stigma to dwelling in "Graystreets." Next is the narrow, red-roofed Adventurers' District, home to all who make their living by exploration or other dangerous pursuits, and to businesses having to do with weapons and their use. This gives way to the sea-green roofs of the Merchant District, containing the homes and shops of all Procampan merchants whose businesses aren't directly concerned with the sea or adventuring. This, in turn, adjoins the Temple District, where all buildings have shining black roofs.
River Vesper: A wide and slow river that flows from the Earthspur Mountains at Calaunt, the Vesper has long been a major route for goods flowing out of the Vast and for raiders sailing inland.
Torm's Fall: This devastated area outside the walls of Tantras was the sight of the epic battle between the avatars of Torm and Bane. For years, the whole area was a vast dead magic zone where no spell or item would function. The "Zone," as it came to be called, became a haven for anyone fearing attack or persecution at the hands of wizards or clerics. The dead magic area began markedly shrinking around 1370 DR, probably due to the efforts of the Tormites to repair the damage. Today, magic works throughout the area (though rumors of small pockets of dead magic persist). The area remains a wasteland of furrowed and blasted rock, with hints of greenery here and there as nature heals the scars.
Troll Mountains: An arm of Earthspur Mountains named for the trolls who once stalked their slopes and valleys, the Troll Mountains extend west along the north bank of the River Vesper to the Sea of Fallen Stars along the north bank of the River Vesper. The major passes here are Three Trees Pass in the east and Viperstongue in the west.
Tsurlagol: After being sacked, the indomitable citizens simply salvaged what they could after each disaster and rebuilt, counting on the strength of their trade to set them back on their feet. Today, the denizens Tsurlagol have a reputation for patience and the ability to take the long view. Tsurlagol and Procampur have a long-standing mutual defense agreement beneficial to both cities.
Plots and Rumors
Cairnheim's Giants: Other Underdark communities fear that Cairnheim is preparing to expand its already large domain beyond its current borders, at the subterranean roots of the Giant's Run Mountains. With the size and speed of stone giants, an expansion to the surface would mean the giants could easily threaten Cormyr, the Dragon Coast, and parts of the Vilhon Reach.
Master of Dragons: From time to time, as certain monks seek to be named Master of Dragons, they engage in a deadly initiation: riding a remorhaz. Lone monks using spurs and lassoes leap down onto the backs of passing worms and ride them -- standing upright -- for at least a hundred yards. Other monks may aid each rider in escaping a remorhaz after a riding attempt, but no one helps in the initial pounce and ride itself. Many monks have perished attempting this holy sport.
Read the other articles of Rand's Travelogue:
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