Location - Chondath
The People (Chondathans).
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.*%
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.
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).
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 Faerun, 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).
The Peak of Chondath.
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).
The decline of Chondath
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, Location – 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.