The North has been known as "the Savage Frontier" for many years. It is a rugged, heavily wooded wilderness only lightly ruled by humans. Such civilisation envelops the coastal regions (as far inland as the "Long Road" that runs from Mirabar to Waterdeep) securely; the vast, open rolling valley lands of the river Dessarin less securely; and the eastern region, dominated by the High Forcst and mountains, only as far as the points of their ready swords.
One thousand years ago, the North consisted of a number of civilised elven and dwarvish realms surrounded by a wilderness roamed by fearsome monsters, and such races as orcs, trolls, hobgoblins, and bugbears. Human tribes were few and primitive, dwelling along the coast. The lower birth rates of the demi-human races rendered them less able to replace casualties suffered in their almost continual fighting with the aggressive humanoids, and with the years their number dwindled. They have been steadily pushed southward by the ever-expanding, fecund orc tribes, abandoning realm after realm, or being overwhelmed by numbers and slaughtered. The many resulting, largely-empty dwarven delves and holds are what human adventurers refer to as "dungeons."
The demi-humans, although they achieved many splendid victories in battle, could not stem the humanoid tide even when they united. Today, the dwarves remain only around the richest "mithril mines" in the North, and no known elven settlements of any size exist north of Evereska. The rise of human power in the North outstripped even the growth of the orcs, and prevented the collapse of civilisation in the area.
The North remains a land of riches, mineral wealth equalled nowhere else in the known Realms, and seemingly endless strands of timber of a size not often found elsewhere. Game is plentiful, and the landscape is beautiful. But danger is always lurking; for the most part, the law of the North is the law of the sword. traveller, you have been warned.
1.2) TRADE AND TRAVEL IN THE NORTH
There are fortunes to be made in the North, for those willing to risk its dangers. Sword Coast shipping is imperilled by the often fierce weather and by piracy (sometimes covertly supported by Luskan, a city which would like to control all waterborne trade).
Overland travel is menaced by many monsters, an as a result is usually in the form of large, well-armed caravans, accompanied by clerics and magic-users if possible. The terrain and the need for constant vigilance keeps caravan travel slow. Twenty-five miles a day is a very respectable pace. Horses and draft oxen cannot be used to exhaustion when one might be attacked at any moment. Naval travel averages twice that daily rate.
The northernmost settlements of the Sword Coast exist because of rich mines, and sent their orcs south by ship. Mirabar, inland, is the richest of these, and must send its metals overland to its Southern markets via the Long Road, or by road to the port of Luskan (the river Mirar is not navigable). From Luskan, the older, "High Road" runs along the coast to Port Llast and Neverwinter. It continues through Leilon, cutting east around the Mere of Dead Men, and thence to Waterdeep.
The Long Road runs south from Mirabar through the desolate Crags, to the village of Longsaddle, past Berun's Hill, and thence to Triboar. The Dessarian grasslands open out to the east of the Road here, stretching south to the sea at Waterdeep. The Long Road continues beside the Dessarin to the City, through a series of small settlements spaced a day's travel or so apart.
To the east, in the Dessarian valley, lies Nesme, the only settlement in an area roamed by trolls. The lands to the east of the valley are largely uncivilized, although they once held great kingdoms of dwarves and men and elves. From the Ice Mountains (known to be home to remorhaz and frost giants) to the north, this region descends into lesser peaks where orcs dwell in uncounted thousands. Whenever their numbers grow intolerably great for the available territory, the orcs issue forth in great hordes and sweep south. They have taken one city, The Citadel of Many Arrows, and their numbers are more than aufficient to hold it.
The"mithril mines" (the richest delvings known to exist in all Faerun) keep the dwarves in the northeast, where their mighty fortress, Citadel Adbar, and savage courage keep the orcs at bay. A trade-road built by the ancient dwarven King Adbar brings the wealth of the dwarves south, and then the road branches east to Ascore and west to the fortified city of Sundabar.
Silverymoon is a strong, bustling city, the height of human culture in the Northern interior. To its west lies The Heralds' Holdfast, along on a crag. To its south lies Everlund, and beyond it the vast and mysterious High Forest, little visited by men. It is drained to the south by the Unicorn Run.
Far to the east of the Run, the Forest ends at the banks of Delimbiyr, the River Shining, which is navigable as far as the fortified town of Loudwater. Long ago, wagons took trade around the Shining Falls and back onto the river, which is navigable from there up to its headwaters. Here of old elves lived in numbers in the eastern High Forest. The remains of an old road and a ruined port, names forgotten with time, mark the site of their now-abandoned land.
The elves of Eaerlann (for so the abandoned elven kingdom was known) were few, and embittered by long strife with orcs. When Ascalhorn fell to evil, becoming Hellgate Keep, the elves left, travelling southwest, and vanished–over the sea to Evermeet, the first realm of elves in Faerun known to have done so.
Druids came into the deserted woodlands to preserve the old, lovingly-cared-for trees, the Tall Trees, and remain there, defying the strength of Hellgate Keep. Strong garrisons of men and dwarves from Everlund, Silverymoon, Sundabar, and Citadel Adbar gathered together to hold Turnstone Pass, barring the one Pass, barring the forces of Hellgate Keep from the lands to the west, and there was constant fighting merely to hold the Pass. Last year however, Hellgate Keep was finally destroyed.