Chondathans are generally slender, tawny-skinned folk with brown hair ranging from almost blond to almost black; most Chondathans have green or brown eyes, but all builds and hair and eye hues may be seen. Elves and half-elves are tolerated but not loved, and demihumans in general are a quiet minority in Chondath. Intrigue, covert manipulation, and trade (or at least investments in trade conducted by others) with distant lands are activities that most Chondathans spend their lives engaged in. Chondathans strive to perfectly control their voices, faces, and mannerisms to betray only the emotions (or feigned emotions) they desire to display. Trade keeps a constant flow of folk leaving and arriving in Chondath from afar, and leads to more tolerance of varying ways and outlanders than many a visitor expects-but Chondath is a land darkened by its fall from glory, the grasping ambitions of its rulers, and the foes all around it (most of the other cities in the Reach) that were once part of its empire, or suffered under its cruel armies (such as the elves of what is now the Chondalwood).
Abroad, Chondathans can be found everywhere among merchants, though they seldom boast of their roots. Every Chondathan is an agent or casual spy for someone else back home who's paying them to watch out for this or that (and occasionally, swiftly hide or shelter this person or thing for a time), but Chondathans encountered outside the Vilhon are seldom spies or official envoys for Arrabar.
Chondathans mistrust wizards and the bold use of magic enough to hang wizards from time to time. Most folk in Chondath assume that Arrabar still holds deadly plague-hurling magics for some future madman to unleash. Chondathans are warlike, indulging in hunting games and knife-work from an early age. They dress in a wide variety of fashions drawn from all over Faeržn, though leather armor and headcoverings of some sort are common thanks to the generally warm, damp climate.
Chondath still holds a lot of wealth, and trade and foreign investments increase rather than diminish it, despite the ruin of the local logging trade and the dwindling numbers of the once-proud Chondathan farmers, carpenters, perfumers, and woodcarvers.
Chondathans love to dance, and most delight in seeing plays and hearing music 'from the exotic afar' (usually traveling minstrels). Many Chondathans collect wines, clothing, and weapons from distant countries, and increasing numbers are returning to breeding, racing, and betting on fine horses (pursuits prevalent in the Chondath of long ago).
Boots, cloaks or open overvests, gold-plated bracers for adornment, and breeches are commonly worn by both Chondathans of both genders; many Chondathan women wear silken gowns and go barefoot indoors, wearing jeweled ankle-boots to feasts-and whereas a Chondathan man's torso under his clothing is often criss-crossed by coin-belts, a Chondathan woman usually wears (under her clothing) an elaborate breast-harness of fine chains adorned by small pendant gems. Only the haughtiest Chondathans wear outer chain-and-gem girdles as well; those who do often bedeck them with thumb-sized gems for show, and metal chimes to make their every movement a tinkling show (Elminster once referred to a group of Chondathan women visiting a feast in Cormyr as "the Tinkers' Parade" because of the sound they made). Chondathans paint dots on their foreheads to signify how learned they are (a practise begun in 300 DR in the Academia Vilhonus in Arrabar): one dot means the wearer can read, two that he or she can read and write, and three that the wearer can read, write, and use magic (those desiring to gain instant status by painting three dots on their forehead are warned that Arrabaran guards and troops, and the bodyguards of nobles, have the right-and enjoy exercising it-to stop a person on sight and demand proof of ability to back up one's markings; those who fail are slain on the spot.
Five hundred years ago, Chondath was one of the mightiest trading empires in all Faerun, expanding to found new territories (in what is now Sembia, and other, smaller, now-vanished ventures). Arrabar was referred to as 'the Golden' for its wealth and luxuries; its greatest ruler was the wise warrior Lord Emperor Narneth (an astute trader and politician who reigned from 839-877 DR, and was known as the 'Great Dragon' because he either was a weredragon, or had such a being among his 'Kyrkrathen' or triad of three crowned wives, the Three Smiling Queens: Asharratha, Nimrue, and Tirythtrene; at least two assassination attempts ended bloodily in the jaws of a huge gold dragon that pounced 'from nowhere,' and although the passing of Narneth Elor is well-recorded, his three Queens vanished a few days later, and Chondathan legend whispers that one or more of them still survive, hidden and kept alive by great magics, guarding the fabulous-and long-missing-riches of Narneth's court).
Chondath's greatness was shattered by the Elfblade Stand, a short war with the elves of Cormanthor, wherein Chondathans were defeated with contemptuous ease caused Chondath to abandon its northern holdings (and the rich lumber trade that they supported), and, hard on the heels of this strife, the Rotting War.
The infamous Rotting War was a five-summer-long civil war between the rich coastal cities of Arrabar, Hlath, and Reth, and subservient cities inland rising in power and unwilling to be 'backcountry servants' any longer. It ended in the Battle of the Fields of Nun (in 902), with the slaughter of the best Chondathan troops and leaders, and the release of a magically-caused plague that reduced the country to independent cities wary of the plague-bearing folk and goods from outside their walls, and also wary of strong magics of all sorts.
Chondath today is a coastal verge of city-states turning their backs on the 'wild upcountry' near ever-expanding Chondalwood, which is usually called 'the Savage Wood' by Chondathans. Everyone knows that the Savage Wood is monster-haunted and-now that the woodcutters of Chondath are few-expanding swiftly to swallow ruined and abandoned hamlets and holds such as Sarketh and Minkhalar's Boot (to name just the two nearest to Arrabar).
Chondath now consists of the southern coast of the Vilhon Reach from Arrabar east to Nun, encompassing (as one travels east along the Emerald Corridor and the Searuns that link it to the triangle of cities at the northern end of the 'haunted' Old Road) the road-hamlets of Thelgauble, Arkhelar, and Mlietar, the deserted, plague-infested ruin of Mussum (once a grand city, now roamed by monsters who seem immune to the plague, but sometimes carry it forth when they roam out into the neighboring downlands, to hunt), the cities of Iljak, Samra, and Shamph, the road-hamlets of Taranth, Horlord, Ulpreth, and Rahrabban, and the village of Nun.
The cities of Hlath and Reth, once part of Chondath, are now independent, and the coast from the River Nun to the 'Sleeping Dragons' (the local name for the cape where the Akanapeaks march north into the Sea of Fallen Stars, nigh the Strait of Silvanus) is a lawless land wherein mercenaries hired by Condath, Hlath, Reth, and the few hapless villages on the coast north of the Nunwoods (Hartharken, Noeblor, and Yharthram) skirmish almost constantly, and wolves and leucrotta roam untended farms devouring the unburied dead. The Lord of Arrabar nominally rules all the land between the rivers Arran and Nun, but the cities of Orbrech and Timindar and some forty smaller settlements lie in overgrown ruins or in the hands of independent adventurer-lordlings who eke out a hard living hunting, raiding, and trading, and spit on decrees sent out from 'Shining Arrabar.'
Notable among these self-styled lordlings for their military and financial successes are 'High Battle Baron' Murtrim Tarphin of the hold of Curtym (a ridgetop castle in the hilly woods east of Timindar), and Faelae Windthrarn, who calls himself 'Crowned Lord' of the Malander (a verdant farming valley south of the Fields of Nun). Both Tarphin and Windthrarn are veteran adventurers who led their bands to take and fortify abandoned castles in the Chondathan uplands, and both ignore each other, reserving their crossbow bolts and traps for adventurers hired by Arrabar to scour them out. Both can also call on magic enough to turn back the mages sent forth against them by the Lord of Arrabar; 'robber lords' who lack magic seldom defy Arrabar's rule for long.
Tarphin seems to trade with creatures of the Savage Wood, and Windthrarn seems to have a constant supply of sheep, so plentiful-despite meagre grazing lands, much of the Malander being given over to the growing of barley and root-crops-that he can trade them, and Elminster believes that the Crowned Lord has a deepspawn captive in a cavern somewhere that disgorges a constant stream of sheep.
The Sweep of Current Chondathan Politics
Chondath is ruled by the mage Lord Eles Wianar (a NE hm W22), a cold and calculating man who has his own personal network of spies all over the Vilhon Reach, and devotes his time to 'reading' and influencing the deeds of others inside Chondath and around it by the spreading of rumors and by means of deft little deeds performed by his agents (usually skilled merchant-spies, but sometimes unwitting short-hire adventurers or innocents manipulated into doing something Wianar wants them to). Wianar has multiple spies (none of whom know of each other) in the households of all of the self-styled nobles of Arrabar. He openly confronts and slays those who try to assassinate him or launch serious attempts to wrest his throne from him, or funds from his treasury-but otherwise lets them intrigue and even wage war (outside Arrabar) as they please (or rather, as far as their purses stretch), knowing such pursuits keep them busy fighting each other and cloaking Wianar's own acts against the lands and independent cities around Chondath.
The noble families of Arrabar-that is, old and wealthy merchant families who long ago gained the right to keep small private armies, and to decree what is law and what is justice within the walls of their large, grand, and labyrinthine houses-include:
o the Beltyne: Oldest and proudest of the surviving Arrabaran noble families, the Beltyne were once so numerous and successful that their farms stretched from the walls of Arrabar southeast to Castle Beltyne, now a undead-haunted ruin deep in the Chondalwood. Darkly handsome and always finely-dressed and keen of wits (simpletons and the physically frail among the blood always perished in convenient 'accidents'), the Beltyne are now but a shadow of their former selves, with the bastard offspring of the wild-living 'Roaringbeard' Tarwry Beltyne, who bestowed his favors on half the female population of western Chondath, it seems, far outnumbering Beltynes of the true blood. As the mightiest of the families, the Beltynes were always under covert attack by the other noble families (aided and abetted in recent decades by the upstart non-noble Wianar), but their especial foes have always been the Cauldyl; it's not unknown for retainers of the two families to attack each other on sight.
Currently led by the vigorous, cultured Marandor Beltyne (NE hm F17), the family still has riches beyond counting-only most of them are now in Sembia or the Cormyrean port of Marsember, where their investments in artisans and in moneylending ventures flourish. They have taken to covertly hiring mages and taking magical training themselves, to protect themselves against the Shining Lord, and Marandor's fourth wife Tarathtra (a young and beautiful Tethyrian known for her deft tongue and silken skill at negotiations, who is a CE hf W13) has sent both of her sons, Amaulath and Trentor, off to Tethyr for tutelage that's not under the eye of "quite so many of Lord Wianar's spies."
The Beltynes see a bright future for Chondath if the scheming Wianar can be gotten rid of (and the Cauldyl and others ruthlessly exterminated). If Chondathan trade alliances and diplomacy can slowly and surely bring Chondathan cities together again to stand as one, the empire can begin anew by inducing-with the coin, not with the sword-city after city to rejoin the 'growing golden splendor.' In the meantime, all of this grubbing in the wilderness and slaughtering each other in the streets is so uncivilized. The Beltynes love to entertain traveling bards, minstrels, and even theatrical troupes (some of whom, it's whispered, stage performances that are almost orgies with their noble patrons).
The Beltyne arms is a black falcon's head, facing to the sinister, on a field of dark green. The falcon's eye is a red pupil in a gold eyeball. o the Cauldyl: one of the oldest Arrabaran noble clans, the 'Cold Tongues' are among the most sneering and ridiculously haughty folk one may meet with anywhere in Faeržn. They tend to be ugly (blessed with family traits of tiny eyes and overlarge noses) but also to be fiercely determined not to interbreed with 'lesser sorts,' buying their brides only from old-bloodline Tethyrian, Sembian, or exiled Cormyrean noble families (young Cauldyl men often consort with beautiful females of all backgrounds, but are encouraged to slay those who become pregnant; if they fail to do so, uncles stealthily do the killings for them-not hesitating to butcher the young Cauldyl males, too, if they try to defend their mistresses) . As a result, the House of Cauldyl has always been few in numbers, and their ranks have always held a large share of frail, malformed, idiot or 'strange' (psionic wild talent) individuals.
This has never stopped Cauldyls from looking down their noses at everyone else in Chondath, especially the other nobles of Arrabar, whom they term 'jumped-up commoners in costume' regardless of how old or accomplished those clans are. The Cauldyl also see nothing wrong with investing in shady businesses and such 'low' pursuits as dungsweeping and body burials, so long as they do none of the actual work themselves, and the coins keep rolling in. Currently led by the handsome but grossly fat Arluth 'the Old Toad' Cauldyl (even his sons avoid using this nickname whenever anyone could overhear them; Arluth, a NE hm F7, likes to bring painful death to all who employ it), the Cauldyl are few in numbers and increasingly impoverished (their investments have not been wise), but enjoying a recent rise in influence due to shrewd alliances with wealthy trading families and costers in neighboring lands, and through their business with the shipping fleet of Maerchias 'Lucky' Pennyfeather of Yhaunn (wherein the Cauldyls undertake to hide 'hot' cargo items and even vessels for a time, and keep their mouths firmly shut about it). Although the Beltynes are their oldest foes, the Cauldyls are loved by no one in Chondath, because they're always alert for weaknesses in everyone around them, and exploit such things for fun. The Cauldyl are toying with alliances with certain individuals in both Nimpeth and Reth that have the eventual aim of sweeping Lord Wianar from his throne, but are too cowardly to commit to such things when the Shining Lord's magic ferrets out treacheries so ably, and the man himself is so cold, ruthless, watchful-and nearby.
However, there are some reckless rakes among the younger Cauldyls who are growing very impatient with subtle schemings, and want to see heads rolling in the streets and Arrabar ruled by Cauldyls within a few winters. They include Jeritas Cauldyl, a possible heir (and a long and curly-haired, handsome scourge of the ladies and of full tankards everywhere, who is a CE hm F4) and his smooth-tongued cousin, Shelreea 'Talons' Cauldyl (a CE hf W5 who is stunningly beautiful, and widely-and probably correctly-believed to regularly enjoy incestuous liaisons with her older relatives in return for magical tutelage from the minor magelings among them. Jeritas, Talons, and some others (such as Krakelar and Irgrieth Cauldyl, two ne'er-do-wells and CE hm F2s known as 'the Brawling Brothers') are quite eager to hire mercenaries or dupe adventurers into raising devilments in Arrabar as serious as arson and 'accidental' deaths-so long as neither the Shining Lord nor his palace are touched.
The Cauldyl arms is a white falcon's head, facing to the dexter, on a field of gold. The falcon's eye is a facet-cut sapphire, always shown with a white star of reflection atop its sky blue.
o the Darowdryn are an elder Chondathan clan whose hair is so fair as to be almost white, whose manner is both polite and private (many Arrabarans have never laid eyes on the current elders of the house), and who have made it their business to cautiously and carefully advance their family fortunes by investments (often abroad) informed by the best information they can buy.
They have more and more widely-placed spies and contacts than any two other Arrabaran noble families combined, and these watchers busy themselves with far broader a range of information than most spies hunt. Darowdryns use their spies not so much to keep themselves in the thick of every last unfolding local intrigue, but rather to learn all they can of events and trends all around the Sea of Fallen Stars, the Sword Coast, and the Heartlands between. This is not lore they sell or share; indeed, persons desiring to meet with any Darowdryn will find the undertaking difficult. Persistent inquiries of the family retainers and agents (who wear dark blue surcoats bearing cloth-of-gold griffons, holding the family badge in their claws) will lead as high as Trusted Factor Treth Mereldeglas (LG hm F6), a glib-tongued and implacable family mercantile agent whom the Darowdryn employ as their wall against the world-a task he performs to perfection. It's a rare supplicant (even one who comes cloaked in the authority of the Shining Lord) who gets past Mereldeglas to see a blood member of the house.
The learning of the Darowdryn, coupled with some shrewd business acumen down the years, has made the 'Silent Clan' fabulously wealthy, with much of their coin invested or hidden in Sembia and elsewhere outside Chondath. Alone among the Arrabaran nobles, they reward their servants generously, and so can call on a deep and diligent loyalty from those who wear their livery.
The Darowdryn have always encouraged their young sons and daughters to fare forth in the world far from Chondath, see as much as they can, and bring back a mate from among the common-born of far lands (as far north and as rural as possible). Thus they've avoided both the hollow hauteur of the Cauldyl and the inbreeding that afflicts most of their rival nobles. Currently the most famous of these 'farfaring' Darowdryns is the male heir of the family, the tall and handsome swordsman Velavaer 'Flamecloak' Darowdryn (a CG hm F4). His sleek and quiet sister Abralastra (NG hf W2) will probably be the next to venture forth into Faerun.
The Silent Clan is currently led by the matriarch Ariskrit Darowdryn (a LN hf W3), assisted by the grand old warrior 'uncle' (to most of the family; to Ariskrit, he's her youngest but only surviving nephew) Tharlgarl 'Steelfists' Darowdryn (a huge, impressive, and elderly LN hm F18 given to wearing grand suits of armor and defending himself with enchanted flying daggers). Ariskrit and Tharlgarl seem content to keep the Darowdryn as aloof as possible from the present strife of the realm, though they are known to have made arrangements with Sembian interests (and, it's whispered, with certain prominent pirates of the Fallen Stars) to have the ability to rush large numbers of well-trained and equipped warriors to Chondath in a tenday or so. Lord Wianar has done nothing against this, because he judges (correctly) that the Darowdryn won't call on these forces except to defend a riven and crumbling realm-not to seize power while his writ retains its force over all the Shining Land.
There are two disquieting (and true) tales connected with the Darowdryn: that there have always been family members with a natural (or god-given, if one prefers) gift for monster summoning (through force of will, not spellcasting), and that there are several mad and dangerously reckless Darowdryns (both male and female, afflicted by 'brain-touches' of unknown origin) now wandering the fringes of the Savage Wood, living wild by the sword. The names Anaether and Belarge have been connected to the first claim, and those of Chaldaras, Fenover, Haeragatha, and Pevyn to the latter-but Elminster stresses that this information is unreliable.
The Darowdryn arms are three red crescents in a row, their horns facing to the dexter, on a blue-black field of gold. This is worn inside a gold diamond, long points horizontal, as a badge.
o the Elphaendim name is as old as that of Darowdryn, but has always been tainted with the 'weakness' of an avid interest in book learning, music, acting, and dancing. Elphaendims have spent vast sums bringing various theatrical spectacles to life-to the fascination of Chondathans, who fall over each other in the rush to attend the performances and then fall all over each other being scornful of the 'scandalous foolishness' they've witnessed, only to rush just as avidly to see the next 'Elph folly.' Bards dream of being discovered by one of the reclusive, given-to-traveling-in-disguise Elphaendim, because if an Elph falls in love with something, they do so wholeheartedly, and the favored bard will see his or her tunes presented grandly in printed form and before good audiences in splendid venues, with no expense spared for musicians, costume, and refreshments. Most of the Elph don't care if they drain every last copper from the family vaults, so long as they give the Realms something artistic that folk will remember fondly for years to come. Thankfully for the state of those vaults, there have always been some Elph, of every generation, capable of deft and even ruthless business dealings-which have netted them ownership of many buildings in Waterdeep, Suzail, Ordulin, and Telflamm, whose rents pour into Elphaendim hands in a neverending stream.
The Elph have often taken mates from among the talented artists they cultivate, which has given rise to a fine-boned, handsome family who vary widely in looks and coloration, but always surround themselves with things of beauty, from ornaments in their dwellings to the clothes on their bodies.
There is elven blood in the family, but all of its present-day members are fully human-albeit with the delicate features and graceful movements that many associate with half-elven or elves.
Among the most famous Elphaendim is Daurvara 'Flamehair,' a dancer and singer whose performances, more than a century ago, aroused many a man to either tears or to lust, depending on her intent. Her beauty and character were such that many men could not forget her, and there are still hundreds of spell-crafted (to be perfect likenesses) palm-sized pictures of her scattered across the Realms, crafted by an Elph mage for sale to smitten fans. Some fans believe Daurvara's spirit persists beyond death, and can see and speak out of her pictures.
There are currently sixty or seventy Elph (perhaps half of whom dwell in Arrabar, though they often ride south into the woods in several-day-long hunts-one of the few noble families to still cling to this increasingly dangerous pastime), of whom the most famous is probably Brastynbold 'Oldhelm ' Elphaendim (a burly, brawling CG hm F15 whose adventuring exploits are matched only by his prowess-at-arms; he recently-despite having downed flagons of fiery wine all night-hurled a broadsword the length of a courtyard to strike down a thief fleeing over the top of a castle wall). He' s very fond of his niece, Cauvra, the bold young heiress of the family (and a CG hf W6 who's hungry to get out and about in Faerzn and taste adventures of her own, but who's being kept at home now in her fourteenth year because her parents want her to learn more of "what's what" in Chondath first, and because she's such a magical prodigy that they're afraid she'll get herself swiftly slain on her travels, or enslaved by an older mage who wants to chain and use her powers).
The Elph are nominally led by the wise scholar Thalammose Elphaendim (a quiet, rather timid LG hm W9, insultingly called 'the Old Elf' by rival Arrabaran nobles), but in truth family strategies are governed by the far more worldly Brastynbold and by his older brother, the bent, aging accountant and veteran intriguer Sarvon (LN hm T4), whose eyes, it's said, miss not the smallest occurrence in Arrabar.
The Elph seem to be most active in recent years in property investments all around the shores of the Vilhon, as if anticipating real trouble in Chondath, and in dealing art objects (primarily paintings, some of them enchanted so as to emit tunes at a touch) all around the Sea of Fallen Stars. In this, they've reached a quiet agreement with certain pirates, to insure that their ships are never sunk, seized, or delayed.
The Elphaendim arms are a blue scimitar, diagonal with hilt at lower sinister and point at upper dexter, and a red-pupiled, white eyeball, falling (and trailing a 'tail' of red blood in doing so, to the lower dexter of the scimitar), on a field of silver. The eyeball commemorates a famous, long-ago Elphaendim defeat of a beholder when young adventuring family members escaped almost certain death by their valor-and good luck. . the Halort have clung to nobility through years of impoverishment and ridicule (anything worn-out, broken, or clumsily built or repaired is referred to as "true Halort" by many in Arrabar) to rise in fortunes and status recently as investments in other cities around the Sea of Fallen Stars have borne fruit. The Halort are a brawling, roitering clan of burly, shouting, hard-drinking and wild-moustached men who love to hunt. They still ride the Chondathan countryside, hollering and thrusting their lances at all game they see-and if challenged by anyone, through that someone with the same gusto. Would-be Halort-slayers are warned that more than a few of the family wear rings of magic missiles when they go riding, and at least one has a wearable magic item (form unknown) that can cast multiple chain lightning spells.
The Halort are the sneering, wine-swilling embodiment of decadent nobility, as caricatured by actors and minstrels everywhere, and really have very few secrets to hide or any skill at intrigue. Thanks to their conquests, their numbers are flourishing, and all too many of them seem to be burly adult males who wear the same sneering, shouting, lusty faces as each other (all of them CN hm F7-9 with names like Anaster, Darlo, Gulkor, Horvil, Jarragar, Lorlo, Marngeth, and Oravus).
This family of brawlers is kept from sodden self-destruction by a prevalence of firm, wise, and very patient wives-who work together in guiding their "wild boars" of husbands. In this, they follow the suggestions of the leader of the Halort (who's also respected by the men when they're not overly drunk or lost in rage), Sarlphan Halort (a silkily sophisticated, cold-hearted NE hm W10, who keeps his magical prowess as secret as possible, and has more than once deliberately miscast a spell when he knew or suspected the Shining Lord was watching). Sarlphan is suspected by some of the elder Halort of actually arranging the deaths of his most rebellious and wildly evil kin (such as Galarth Halort, who liked to go riding at night and torch random houses, and Paresmer, who saw it as his personal duty to bed every young and unwilling noble lass in the Vilhon), and he's clearly been recently engaged in harshly schooling three of the younger Halort wives, outlander beauties who showed signs of being as unruly and reckless as their husbands. Sarlphan despairs of the 'ruin' of the Halort, and is determined to make some of the next generation (currently children or babes in arms) something he can be proud of. He'll go to any lengths to manage this, from apprenticing them to commoners far from Chondath to laying waste to the Shining Realm to put them on the thrones of a wasted kingdom and force them to build it back into greatness. In the meantime, being as the Halort are such wastrels, no one else should have much more success or high regard in Chondath than they do-and, if at all subtly possible, he'll see to that. The Halort arms is a leaping green fish on a field of white, transfixed by a pionard (dagger), with the appearance and orientation of both fish and dagger changing constantly as a new depiction catches the fancy of a senior Halort (often there are several variants in use at the same time). This device recalls the deftness of a Halort ancestor, who, marooned on an island and unable to swim, is said to have caught fish with hurled daggers.
The Mestel are the most oily (some prefer the term 'smooth'), subtle, and successful traders and merchant shippers in all Chondath, commanding a fleet of seemingly countless ships that ply the Inner Sea heavily-laden. Their battles against pirates are legendary-and may conceal more cozy recent relations with the freebooters-and their vaults have to be enlarged constantly, by diggings farther and deeper under Arrabar...diggings that some rumors insist have broken through to monster-haunted delvings. The cold-hearted Aulaumaer 'Manycoins' Mestel (an aging, silver-haired and beak-nosed 'well-dressed vulture of a man'-as one business rival described him-who is a NE hm T8 of over eighty winters of age, but remains sharp of tongue and wit) rules the family with an iron hand, doling out funds only as he sees fit to further family wealth and influence by the making of prudent business deals. This has led to a slow but steady rise in Mestel wealth down the decades, with few windfalls but also few disasters, and has also shaped the family into pleasant but cautious-of-speech, hesitant deal-makers. Arrabarans in the know privately wonder what the Mestel will do when Aulaumaer dies, and there's no one left to give them directions-but within the walls of the many Mestel manors, no such doubt exists: the Old Vulture's clear successor is the young heiress he dotes on, the fat and forceful Lady Thlaera Mestel-who has sultry beauty, magnificent blue-black hair, and a build more brawny than many of her (huge armored male) bodyguards. She's also more fearless than most warriors, and is famous in the family for striding unarmed to meet a would-be assassin who was racing across a room to stab Aulaumaer, and snatching his swords from his hands, heedless of the wounds he dealt her, to strike him down. Thlaera (a NE hf F3) has grown a trifle more prudent in the days since then, but it's said among the Mestel that she knows as much about investments and favors now as her tutor Aulaumaer-and also has 'bold plans' for the future, that she's not yet willing to share with anyone. The suspicion in the family is that she's waiting for Aulaumaer's death-not eagerly, but patiently, because she plans something so bold and different that it's sure to upset him (something she wouldn't do for all the coins in the world).
The Mestel are currently investing in the Border Kingdoms and easternmost Calimshan (in addition to their existing concerns in Sembia, Cormyr, Aglarond, and elsewhere), and are whispered to be massing trained mercenary warriors in far places, for some "unspecified future use."
The Mestel seen most often in public are the many urbane, middle-aged brothers and cousins who handle the family trade dealings. They are all warriors of middling skill and superb diplomats and negotiators, and have names like Alkin, Bethemor, Darathos, Falagh, Hilbert, Lhandron, Marvar, and Toabur.
The Mestel arms are a blue hippocampus, upright and facing the dexter on a field of sea-green, with a red fourpointed star in the upper dexter. . the Pelgorn are a family of proud warriors, whose relatively short history of nobility has been built on battlefields, in duels, and in the founding and sponsorship of weapon-smithies and mercenary bands. Most Arrabarans think of them as a seemingly endless succession of tall, faceless-behind-their-silvered-visors knights in full plate armor, who stride or gallop grandly about 'seeing to things.'
The Pelgorn rarely appear in public out of their armor (or even with their visors raised), deliberately cultivating their warrior image to make rival nobles think twice about crossing them. The Shining Lord and his troops may be their chief military eivals, but the Pelgorn are especially wary of the Cauldyl, who've reacted maliciously in the past to Pelgornese trade initiatives, and of the Mestel, whom they see as extremely efficient and formidable.
A bare majority of the mercenaries active in Chondath today are controlled or wholly owned by the Pelgorn, but they're careful never to direct these forces in concerted efforts or whelm them into large armies, for fear of giving Lord Wianar a pretext for whelming some of the other noble families against ' the Sons of Pelgorn.'
The Pelgorn proudly trace their bloodlines back to 'The' Pelgorn, a famous adventurer-warrior by the name of Imryn Pelgorn, who long ago became a legend among Chondathan mercenaries, and several times decided who would rule-and at least one case, told the anointed one just how to rule. The present head of the family, the feeble patriarch Anskaszer Pelgorn, is (in his litter or trembling around with the aid of two canes) a far cry indeed from the battle-bold Imryn, but he's old closely watched by the Shining Lord because of his control over mercenaries and his resulting influence over most of the small settlements in Chondath. Luckily for most Chondathans, Anskaszer seems uninterested in starting a realm-wide war or challenging Lord Wianar, taking instead a longer view of Chondath's best road to the future.
Some of the younger Pelgorn are less patient-but they are too wise to show it, working off their frustrations in battle and heeding "the Old Gauntlet' s" orders. Behind their visors, two dozen strapping Pelgorn warriors stride toward the future. Nineteen are LN hm F10s to F14s; the other five are females of like alignment, skills, and physical stature. Among the males are Tresker (a giant of a warrior who is coldly calm even in the worst crises, and is the closest to being Anskaszer's anointed heir), Belvorn, Darrevin, Klaeve, Lorgel, Narath, Primyndar, and Rulusk. Among the females are Chancelra, Dustrae, and Mizszryl.
The Pelgorn arms is a slender silver war-gauntlet, laid diagonally, fingers to the upper sinister and cuff-piece to the lower dexter, on a field of crimson (this represents the legendary Pelgorn battle-prowess). . the Withrim are the youngest and brashest of the Arrabaran noble families.
They tend to be delicate-featured and fair-haired, and have deep connections with both eastern Tethyr and Amn, where they own vineyards and make wine; in two generations they've come from nowhere to dominate wine-trade in Chondath, and are using their wealth to trade in textiles from Thay, becoming part of an increasingly-strong back-and-forth flow of fine goods between that realm and Calimshan.
The Withrim have been scorned by all of the other noble families of Arrabar at one time or another, and find it necessary to boldly claim their 'rightful' status at every opportunity; it's no secret that the Shining Lord, who could have crushed their ambitions, instead encouraged them to unsettle and diminish the traditional powers of the older noble families.
Vigorous and tactless to a fault, the Withrim have taken to hiring mages to protect themselves against assassinations and harassments by other nobles, never using magic too openly or employing anyone so powerful as to give the Shining Lord cause for unease. The Withrim have also found it prudent to court and marry some of these sorceresses and magelings, risking losing control of their own family councils in the process. Thus far, the gamble has paid off, keeping restive young Withrim happy to allowing them to choose mates freely (often abroad), and in turn causing them to birth many young Withrim to swell the family ranks.
The matriarch of the family, the wrinkled and increasingly forgetful old widow Issaereea 'Goldsleeves' Withrim, is content with her growing family, though her sons are still so 'pushy' at times that they make her wince. She has six sons, the heirs to the family fortunes, who in descending order of age are Garlaskin (a commanding and tirelessly-scheming NE hm F5); Bracegil (a soft-spoken but vigilant CE hm F7); Thaumasro (a growling giant of a man whom no one suspects of being a NE hm T9); Cordarvin (a handsome, grandsire-many-times-over NE hm F6); Delfor (a taller, quieter version of Cordarvin, also a NE hm F6); and Uldro (a paunchy man who looks just like what he is: an oily, untrustworthy weasel-but is also a shrewd investor and a CE hm T5).
The Withrim arms are a large white four-pointed star, around which is laced a golden chain with anchors on both ends, on a field of light blue. The configuration of the chain and locations of the anchors vary widely from depiction to depiction of the arms, and the Withrim don't seem to care. The arms represent the seafaring prowess of the Withrim (which could more honestly be stated as 'success in slaving, piracy, and ship-owning').
The Shining Lord maintains Chamberlains (local government agents who act as 'eyes for Arrabar,' enforce decrees and dispense justice, and collect concerns for Wianar's mounted messengers to take back to him in Arrabar) in all inhabited Chondathan settlements along the coast (that is, those named above), and also stations garrisons in all towns and cities: chainmail-armored or better troops trained in the use of broadsword, dagger, spear, lance, and crossbow (the latter two both afoot and from horseback), who have horses, fortified barracks, and a chain of command that rises from 'blade' (common soldier) through 'arkon' (sergeant), 'malath' (major), 'kelvaer' (colonel) and 'salvar' (force commander) to 'krontor' (garrison commander; the equivalent of a general). Wianar also has two 'landlords' (field marshals) who go forth from Arrabar only to put down revolts or defeat major whelmings of mercenaries or disputes between Chondathan cities.
They always travel with thieves and mages who act as his watchers on their doings, and are the burly, spade-bearded giant of a man Imdus Bracemalar (LE hm F12) and the cold, suspicious 'She-Witch' Sharravanyl Amdraeth (CE hf F10). The garrisons obey Wianar's orders rather than those of the Chamberlains-and both garrisons and Chamberlains hold themselves independent of (and above the justice of) local rulers.
As for those local rulers, the strife between Hlath and Iljack continues, with Lord Darvis Shennelm (CN hm F12) of Hlath now openly declaring Hlath's independence (a claim the Shining Lord simply ignores), bolstered by new trade ties with various seafaring merchants (who represent too wide a variety of ruthless and magic-strong interests, from the Sembian noble family of Creftweather to the Aeramkorn mage-cabal of Lasdur, for Lord Wianar to openly attack). Lord High Governor Anton Yinoran (NE hm F11) of Iljak still enjoys both the greatest trade success and best-laden table in all Chondath, thanks to continually good grain harvests, and the ragtag mercenary forces hired by Iljak have recently dealt the Silver Hawk Banner mercenaries (hired from Sembia by Hlath) several severe defeats.
In Samra, Lord Mayor Malil Entwine now worries that the sudden influx of merchants 'out of nowhere' bringing ships from all over the Sea of Fallen Stars to his docks, tripling Samra's population and bringing it real prosperity for the first time, is going to bring down the wrath of the Shining Lord on his head-or at least determined attacks from mercenaries hired by Samra's neighboring cities. So far this hasn't happened, but Entwine is only just becoming aware of what Lord Wianar's spies have been telling their master for a season now: that Samra is hosting ambitious 'seomday conquerors of Chondath' from all over the Sea of Fallen Stars, notably from interests in the Old Empires to the east, and Thay not all that far across the waves.
In Shamph, Lord High Mayor Tian Redwon (LN hm T11) continues to carefully guard the role of the Crossroads City as the best trade-moot in Chondath, law-abiding and safe for all. He does this with iron-handed enforcement of his laws, and by hiring adventurers and mercenaries to tirelessly scour the wild countryside for monsters, and the warehouses and taverns of Shamph for thieves, arsonists (warehouse-burning was briefly a popular Shamphian pastime), and troublemakers. The diligent 'Lawguards' never fail to find handfuls of these blackguards, in every tavern, every night, and the battles are often fierce.
In Nun, Mayor Orm Lastalan (LN hm F5), a fat and aging retired mercenary warrior, has just discovered that his town's new citizens, whom he thought were refugees from Hlath not wanting to leave Chondath when their city proclaimed its independence, are in reality a stew of Dragon Cultists, Thayan agents, and spies and underhanded traders for shady Sembians and interests in Westgate, Nimpeth, Reth, and Ormpetarr...as well as half a dozen other conspiracies and cabals that he hasn't uncovered yet. Many folk in surrounding realms and city-states would like to rule Chondath, but most would just like it to go away-tomorrow, if possible. They pay spies to watch over events (Lord Wianar's plots in particular), and occasionally hire mages to do monster summonings or adventuring bands to raise a little sword-hell whenever Wianar seems about to succeed in something major, or the internal struggles that's bleeding Chondath seems to settle down (or even be on the verge of peace treaties and pacts).
Though even Wianar's spies haven't scented its true nature and extent yet, agents of Manshoon and other Zhentarim have begun operating in Arrabar, quietly increasing their influence among dock-laborers, servants, and small shopkeepers by gifts of money needed to pay debts, 'removals' of difficult rivals, and the like. The eyes of distant countries where Chondathans trade are beginning to turn back to 'the Sleeping Snake' (as old Sembian songs dubbed Chondath).
Although more than one nearby realm and city-state is looking at Chondath's timber resources and verdant farmland with increasing hunger, all of Chondath's neighbors know that other neighbors are interested in the realm, and that the Shining Lord is a dangerous master of diplomacy-so none of them (aside from Hlath and Reth) want to be so bold as to be the first to openly raid or invade Chondath. They see nothing wrong, however, with sponsoring mercenary bands already in Chondath, and disaffected Chondathans, too-usually in return for a guarantee of exclusive access for a decade or a 'twelveyear' to Chondath's wood. Anyone in Chondath who wants to indulge in either rebellion or just a little local lawlessness can easily find sly sponsors at many local inns and taverns who can provide a little food and coin, and a lot of armor and weaponry (plus chances to buy a few spell scrolls, too). Adventurers who act overboldly are warned that they face not only the Shining Lord, but the agents of other sponsors who can bury knives in their backs no matter where in Chondath they might be.
The hired mercenaries in the Shining Realm have quickly grown tired of being pawns in the endless, overlapping Chondathan intrigues, and are beginning to play the game themselves, playing one customer off against another (sometimes so adroitly that one Chondathan merchant is paying a mercenary band to attack a rival that the same mercenaries are being well paid to defend). The hiresword companies know that they can seize real power and territory, though most of them realize that the chaos of Chondath will make it very hard to keep gained lands. Yet that same strife makes the Shining Realm a steady-work paradise for mercenaries.
Among the most successful of the mercenaries currently working in Chondath are the Silverhorn Swords (splendidly-armored, mounted lancers from Turmish who are led by Melvert Starphel, a dashingly handsome LN hm F16) and the Stormfire Brood (a motley crew of ruthless ex-pirates, dopplegangers, and escaped Thayan slaves assembled by the adventurer Ildyn Corthrake of Telflamm, a clever but aging CN hm F14).
Lore and Legends of Chondath
The Shining Realm has a long and rich history of hauntings, strange beasts crawling out of the Savage Wood (and even a full-fledged satyr invasion of the valley of the Nun), and these continue to flourish.
Every tavern has its garrulous old men who delight in telling travelers ghost stories, treasure tales, reports of satyr stirrings, monster infestations, and the like. The "dark and waiting wood," they report (with more truth than they realize) is bulging with giants, satyrs, elves-even drow, some insist!-and evil, farm-smashing and wall-felling druids, who attack from the Chondalwood whenever foul weather or ongoing battles weaken the men of Chondath.
Of especial recent note is the tale of 'the Hauntinghelm,' a strange force or creature that skulks and slays, beheading its victims-always warriors-and somehoe animating their severed, war-helmed heads to fly about the countryside spying for it. The Hauntinghelm, it's said, can see, speak, and even spit spells out of these far-flung, rotting heads...and is energetically raiding isolated steads, the hunting lodges of the nobility, and those crumbling upcountry keeps that have been claimed by various mercenary companies as their own.
There's also a persistent belief that elves are lurking in disguise or just underground in Chondath, planning a bloody return to found the fantastically rich, shining-spired cities they once possessed in the Shining Realm-cities whose spell-hidden riches still lie everywhere for the taking, if the secrets of unlocking their concealing magics can just be found...
The Church of Helm in Chondath
Under the wise and firm guidance of Revered Watcher Tonorak Winthrax (LG hm P13) of Iljak, the House of the Guardian continues to grow in its reach and in the respect Chondathans have for it, particularly in the farm country around the northern end of the Old Road. It's fair to say that most Chondathans, anywhere in the Shining Realm, regard the strengthening Helmite faith as a source of hope. Even the 'undermerchants' of Arrabar (that is, those vendors not fabulously wealthy or influential, and very far from being noble) respect the priests of Helm, who train the best warehouse- and wagon-guards (and who, for suitable donations, will 'test' for a patron the thoughts and diligence of persons the patron has hired as guardians).
That's not to say the church of Helm doesn't have its foes in Chondath. Both the Shining Lord and all of the nobles of Arrabar regard the rise of the Helmites as a threat to their authority and privileges, and seek to slay Helmite priests by means of hired mercenaries who in turn hire other mercenaries to do the bloodwork, so as little suspicion as possible (in ever-suspicious Chondath) will fall on the real cause of the troubles. Even the outside influences seeking to plunder or conquer Chondath don't want the Helmites to grow strong enough to rule or properly guard the Shining Realm, and instruct their hireswords to covertly harass Helmites wherever possible ('mistaken' night attacks and church raids are becoming common).
These outrages are in addition to the usual religious rivalries faced by Helmites. In brief, the followers of Silvanus work uneasily with those of Helm, the followers of Malar and of Talos openly seek to destroy the church and works of Helm, faithful of Tempus are covert foes of Helm rather than openly opposing Helmites-and, though noticed yet by very few Chondathans outside Arrabar, the followers of Xvim are covertly trying to get their tentacles into the rising, successful merchants who find themselves blocked from joining the nobility, and endangered by Wianar's greed.
There are persistent rumors among the faithful of Helm that a dark traitor lurks among the clergy of the Guardian, subverting good works, passing word to foes of the faith of the whereabouts, doings, and strengths of Helmites engaged in holy work...but if such a Dark Watcher exists, he or she has thus far been able to remain hidden from the most energetic probings of senior clergy-and from Holy Helm himself (unless, of course, the Dark Watcher is a testing of his mortal followers sent or condoned by the Great Guardian himself).
By Ed Greenwood
(Copyright: Ed Greenwood\Wizards of the Coast ©2000)
Return to Realms Lore