Darkwalker on Moonshae, by Douglas Niles, is the first book in the Moonshae trilogy. It was the first novel set in the Forgotten Realms, followed in published order by The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore.

A cursed denizen of an ancient era again walks the islands of the Moonshaes, and the sacred realm of the Goddess Earthmother shudders under its vile onslaught.

A bold but reckless prince, a beautiful young druidess, and their companions both magical and mortal do their best to protect their cherished homeland.

If only their best was good enough.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Darkwalker on Moonshae tells the story of the Darkwalker War. It takes place entirely in the Moonshae Isles, in particular the kingdom of Corwell on the island of Gwynneth. Caer Corwell is the main castle and capital. The Ffolk of the Moonshaes mostly worship a local nature deity known as the Earthmother, whose power is manifested through her druids, the magical Moonwells, and the goddess's three children: Kamerynn the unicorn, a massive wolf-pack known as The Pack, and the Leviathan, an enormous whale. The center of the Earthmother's power is Myrloch Vale, the area surrounding the lake Myrloch. Elves and dwarves also live in the magical vale, in seclusion from each other and from the Ffolk.

Tristan Kendrick, the heir to the throne of Corwell, is portrayed as rash, irresponsible ,and hedonistic. He indulges in drinking, hunting, and casual sex, and it is implied that he makes poor decisions. He is in love with his adopted sister Robyn, who later turns out to be a powerful druid, and he has a difficult relationship with his father, King Byron of Corwell, who harshly criticizes Tristan for failing to fulfill the duties befitting a prince. Over the course of the novel, Tristan comes to assume the mantle of leadership ,as he becomes more diligent, partly through Robyn's encouragement, and partly because his impulsiveness brings harm to those he protects. The book begins with Tristan obtaining a powerful new Moorhound, Canthus, from his halfling friend, Pawldo. The pair catch a Calishite rogue, Daryth, who tries to rob Tristan. So as to impress Robyn and save Daryth from execution, Tristan introduces Daryth to his father as the new royal houndmaster. Tristan's guard Erian, who helped the prince catch the thief, is unhappy about this. Tristan, Robyn, Daryth, Canthus, and the great bard of the Ffolk Keren Donnell form the core adventuring party for most of the novel.

After arguing with his father, Tristan goes hunting in Llyrath Forest with Robyn, Daryth, Pawldo, Tristan's teacher (and royal guard captain) Arlen, and the hounds, including Canthus and the old top dog, Angus. The party fights a wild boar, and Angus is killed protecting Robyn. They find footprints belonging to firbolgs, which Pawldo interprets as a sign of the Earthmother's waning power, as her magic is supposed to keep the giants contained within Myrloch Vale. Rashly, and against Arlen's advice, Tristan decides to pursue the giants and discern what they are doing outside of the vale. The party is trapped between two groups of firbolgs; they narrowly escape. During the skirmish, Arlen is killed, Daryth knocked unconscious, and Robyn spontaneously discovers her druidic powers when she accidentally casts an entangle spell, saving Tristan from certain death. The party is saved by the timely intervention of Keren. After the party returns to Caer Corwell and holds a funeral for Arlen, Keren leaves for Caer Calidyrr, to inform the High King of the firbolgs' presence outside of Myrloch Vale. 

Sometime later, Keren's falcon Sable arrives to warn Robyn and Tristan that the bard is in danger. They set out in pursuit, following the falcon to Myrloch Vale. High up in the mountains, Tristan causes an avalanche but everyone survives. Down in the vale, the party meets the mischievous faerie dragon, Newt, from whom they learn that firbolgs have captured Keren and taken him to their underground lair. The party sneaks into the lair through an underground drainage pipe and defeats a scaly monster living there. Once inside the lair, they stumble upon the firbolgs' treasure hoard, from which Tristan retrieves the Sword of Cymrych Hugh, an extremely powerful magical artifact wielded by the historic hero of the Ffolk. The sword may be the only weapon able to kill Kazgoroth. Unbeknownst to the adventurers, the firbolgs have also captured the goddess' child Kamerynn, but the unicorn has escaped and is loose inside the lair. They encounter Kamerynn, who directs the companions to Keren's cell. There they release both Keren and a dwarven woman named Finellen. They then set fire to a massive pile of coal within the firbolg lair and fight a large group of the giants, including their leader, Groth, overcoming them with the help of Newt's illusion magic. On the way out of the vale, Newt disappears, and Finellen leaves, frustrated at Tristan's attempts to recruit her for the fight against the Beast's forces. 

Kazgoroth, the Beast, has come into the world to destroy the power of the Earthmother by upsetting the balance of natural forces on the Moonshae Isles. When the Beast first awoke, it recruited Groth and his firbolgs to pollute one of the goddess' Moonwells with coal, corrupting it into a Darkwell, a source of power for Kazgoroth. Shapeshifting as needed, the Beast travels across the island of Gwynneth, corrupting everything in its way. Its destination is a large gathering of Northmen raiders at Oman's Isle, in the middle of the Moonshaes, where the barbarians are preparing an assault on the kingdom of Corwell. The Northmen don't realize yet that this is going to be more than just a seasonal plundering raid. Meanwhile, the Earthmother, aware of the danger and hurting from the corruption brought to the land, her body, by the vile presence of the Beast and pollution of the Moonwell, awakens her children - the Leviathan, the Pack, and Kamerynn, the unicorn. Their mission is to stop Kazgoroth in different ways, but that won't be enough.

The Beast takes the form of a woman, seduces the Corwellian guard Erian, and turns him into a werewolf. It then uses the form of a dryad to corrupt the druid of Oakvale, Trahern. Erian the werewolf attacks the halfling town of Lowhill and then usurps leadership of the Pack by killing its most powerful wolf. Although the Northmen of Norland habitually raid Corwell in the spring, King Thelgaar Ironhand had considered establishing peace with the Ffolk. However, when the king announces his plan to the men gathered at his keep, the other barbarian lords, including Grunnarch the Red, oppose him. That night, unbeknownst to the Northmen, the Beast kills King Thelgaar and assumes his form. The next morning, Kazgoroth, disguised as Thelgaar, announces that it is time for war, and sends Grunnarch with a vanguard fleet to attack Corwell. Grunnarch's ships raid and devastate coastal villages, while the mounted Bloodriders disembark to attack other villages inland. The plan is for the two groups of Northmen and the firbolgs to pincer and massacre the fleeing Ffolk refugees. Corrupted by the Beast's evil magic, the Bloodriders become undead and addicted to blood, taking sustenance from mutilating their victims. They follow a secret trail left by Trahern through Dynloch Pass to Myrloch Vale, and join with the firbolgs. Thelgaar/Kazgoroth takes a second fleet equipped with enchanted rams to fight the Leviathan. In an epic battle, the Northmen lose many ships but slay the Leviathan. After escaping from the firbolgs, Kamerynn damages the Darkwell by unblocking the stream that supplies it, but is blinded and almost killed by the polluted water when he falls into it after the dam breaks. 

Tristan's party meets the heavily-built smith Gavin, who greets them as friends and generously shares his provisions with the famished adventurers. Gavin tells Tristan that in the past, he fought for the prince's father against the Northmen. After finding Gavin's village destroyed and his family murdered, Gavin recovers his war hammer, and the party ambushes a small troop of barbarians, then sets off to pursue the Bloodriders. While taking watch that night, Tristan encounters a magnificent white steed, who allows him to mount and then takes him to a moonlit clearing where he meets a group of Llewyrr elves, the Sisters of Synnoria, led by the knights Brigit, Carina and Maura. The Sisters pledge their service to Tristan, as they must to anyone whom the white steed, named Avalon, allows ridership. Now banded together, Tristan's party and the Sisters realize the invaders' plan to trap and slaughter the fleeing refugees. The elves reluctantly lead the group through a shortcut in their hidden realm of Synnoria, where the bard Keren's musical power proves crucial in preventing the humans from becoming hopelessly enchanted by the maddening beauty of the elven realm.  

Trekking through Myrloch Vale, the force of Northmen, firbolgs, and Bloodriders is slowed, picked off, and demoralized by the druid leader Genna Moonsinger's powerful nature magic and the Sisters of Synnoria's scouts. The Bloodrider leader Laric, desperately in need of bloodshed to regain his strength, wounds the elvish rider Aileen and becomes fixated on killing her. Having arrived at Corwell Road ahead of the raiders, Tristan's group and the Sisters of Synnoria make a stand at the pass into Corwell, Freeman's Down. Finellen's dwarves, angered by the invasion of Myrloch Vale, arrive and bolster Tristan's forces. Tristan also recruits the more capable refugees, including Gavin. The Ffolk hold a line against the Northmen, aided by Keren's music, Tristan's tactical ability, and Gavin's courage, while the Sisters engage the Bloodriders. Fortunately for the defenders, the ranks of undisciplined firbolgs break apart when they spontaneously charge right into a surprise attack coordinated by Tristan's archers and Finellan's dwarves. Tristan rides over to call off the Sisters, but Laric captures Aileen before he can intervene. Tristan rescues Aileen but a bloodrider unhorses him. Carina then saves Tristan but dies in the process. 

Canthus, who accompanied Tristan to assist the Sisters, is missing after the battle. He was kicked in the head by a Bloodrider's stallion and lies close to death. Genna finds Canthus, revives him, nurses him back to health, and sends him to fight Erian wearing a magical silver collar for protection against the werewolf. After a long journey, he duels and kills Erian, gaining control of the Pack.  

The refugees and Freeman's Down veterans find safety in Caer Corwell, but find that the raiders have already arrived. The heroes learn of Robyn's heritage from King Byron, who was gravely injured in an explosion caused by Thelgaar/Kazgoroth's magic. The druid Quinn Moonwane was killed by similar magic. The king reveals that Robyn is the daughter of the Great Druid Brianna Moonsinger and has the potential to become an enormously powerful druid in her own right. From the king, she obtains the Staff of the White Well and a book of druidic magic written especially for her by her mother. 

When Thelgaar's fleet attacks Caer Corwell, it is hampered by druidic magic, so most of the fleet must land further down the shore and march on the town of Corwell. Tristan argues with his father and struggles to marshal a defense, but eventually manages to coordinate the troops in town. The Northmen strike the town from two directions, forcing civilians and soldiers alike to flee to the castle. The Bloodriders, attempting to intercept the fleeing people, enter into another melee with the Sisters of Synnoria. Tristan makes a simple mistake in combat, and as a result, Laric kills Aileen. Robyn uses lightning magic to blast away the Northmen and clear a path to the castle. Laric then identifies Robyn as his next target. Kazgoroth also targets Robyn. That night, the Beast takes the form of a flying monster and attacks her in her bedroom, but Nolan, Robyn, and Tristan drive it off. Kazgoroth's forces spend about a tenday making siege engines and then launch their attack on the castle. The firbolgs use a battering ram to enter the castle gatehouse. Most of the firbolgs are slain while making the breach, routed by Tristan, Daryth, Pawldo, Keren, a few men-at-arms, and Finellen's dwarves. The setbacks cause Kazgoroth to start losing control of his shapeshifting ability, and in his anger, he destroys the fleeing firbolgs with a terrifying burst of magic. 

The Bloodriders ritualistically slaughter captives from Corwell town. With their strength restored by fresh blood, the riders gain haste, emitting trails of fire as they ride. They charge the breach made by the siege engines earlier, and Gavin dies protecting Robyn from the Bloodriders. Robyn sends the Sisters of Synnoria to lure the Bloodriders toward her and then kills them all except Laric with a magical wall of fire. Canthus and the Pack arrive and fall upon the Northmen, finally routing them, causing them to flee to their longboats on the shore. Tristan engages Thelgaar/Kazgoroth in single combat, forcing Kazgoroth to reveal his true form. With everyone distracted in horror and amazement, Laric abducts Robyn and flees. Kazgoroth furiously pursues Laric, but runs out of energy and must return to the Darkwell. Tristan and his companions pursue Laric and Robyn, but Genna suddenly appears and persuades Tristan to fulfill his destiny by finishing off the Beast, promising that she will do her best to rescue Robyn in his stead. 

Newt stumbles upon Kamerynn's trail and finds the blind unicorn recently revived by a fresh rain that cleansed the wounds he sustained in the Darkwell. He discovers that though Kamerynn's sight is permanently damaged, the unicorn can still "see" illusions, so Newt uses his illusion magic to guide Kamerynn to Robyn. Genna, Kamerynn, and Newt fight Laric. Newt is injured but manages to free Robyn. With their help, Kamerynn impales Laric and kills his evil stallion. Canthus tracks Kazgoroth to the Darkwell. Robyn arrives, and the party approaches the sleeping Beast. Keren destroys one of Kazgoroth's eyes with an arrow, but Kazgoroth retaliates with a beam of magic, instantly vaporizing Keren. Pawldo gouges the Beast's other eye with an arrow of his own, and the creature drags him into the Darkwell. Kazgoroth counters Robyn's magic and knocks out Daryth and Canthus. Tristan stabs the blinded creature in the belly with the Sword of Cymrych Hugh, completely disemboweling it. In a brilliant burst of white flame, the Darkwell converts back into a Moonwell, and all of the companions, except for Keren, are healed. The goddess rewards Keren by spreading the song he was writing about the group's adventures throughout the land. By the end, Robyn has come to reciprocate Tristan's love but is committed to becoming a druid. Trahern survives and retrieves the Heart of Kazgoroth from the bottom of the newly restored Moonwell, setting up the events of the sequel, Black Wizards.

Index[edit | edit source]

AileenAllianAngusArlenAvalonBrigitCanthusCarinaCorwyssCymrych HughDarythDierdreDinsmoreKeren DonnellEarthmotherEdricEnidErianErianna MoonsingerEvanFinellenGavinGeoffreyGrettaGrothGrunnarch the RedGwendolynnRaag HammerstaadThelgaar IronhandIsoldeKamerynnKazgorothKeeganBryon KendrickTristan KendrickKoartLaricLeviathanMauraMeridithGenna MoonsingerRobyn MoonsingerQuinn MoonwaneNewtNolanNowllOspreyOwenPawldoRandolphSableSharreenTrahernWarren
bird (falconhawkowlpheasantquail) • boardeerdonkeydryaddwarfcamelcowdog (desert racermoorhound) • elf (Llewyrr) • faeriefaerie dragonfirbolggargoylehalflinghorsehuman (CalishiteFfolkNorthmen) • rabbitsheepsharksquirrelunicornwerewolfwolf
Referenced only
AlaronCorwell RoadDarkwellNorlandNorheimSnowdownStockwellSynnoriaWinterglen
Buildings & Sites: Academy of StealthBig CaveCaer CallidyrrCaer CorwellDruid's GroveIron Keep
Settlements: CallidyrrCantrev DynnattCantrev MacsheehanCantrev MyrrdaleCantrev ThorndykeDynnwallLowhill
Geography: Corlyth CreekCorwell FirthDynloch PassFens of the FallonFreeman's DownGwynnethHighlandsIron BayLlyrath ForestLlyrath HighlandsMorayMyrlochMyrloch ValeOakvaleOmanSea of MoonshaeStrait of the LeviathanSynnorian MountainsWestshae
Realms: CalimshanCorwellMoonshae Isles
Referenced only
Sword Coast
BloodridersKendrickthe PackSisters of Synnoria
aleaspenBalanceBallad of Cymrych HughbardcoalCommonspeechcoracleCouncil of KingsdruidFestival of the Spring Equinoxgalleonginyak weedGreat DruidhickoryHigh DruidHigh KingironIron KinglongshipMidsummerMidsummer's EvemistletoeMoonwelloakOld ScriptPashapineRed KingSilver CrescentSong of ArlenSong of the EarthmotherSong of the LlewyrrSong of the North WindStaff of the White WellSword of Cymrych HughTears of the Moonwineyew
Referenced only
copper piece
Start: Ches 19, 1345 DR, spring (vernal) equinox

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • This was the first official Forgotten Realms product ever published.
  • When R.A. Salvatore wrote the sample chapter to his novel, The Crystal Shard, he used the characters Daryth and Canthus from Darkwalker on Moonshae to introduce his expected hero, Wulfgar. However when he learned of the scope of the realms he replaced the characters with Drizzt Do'Urden and Guenhwyvar.

References[edit | edit source]

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