Marsember (pronounced: /mɑːrˈsɛmbʌrmar-SEM-burr[10]), also known as the City of Spices[3], was a metropolis and the busiest port[1] in the entire kingdom of Cormyr.[11]

Geography[edit | edit source]

The city lay on sandy islands in the swampy west bank of the mouth of the Starwater River.[11]

Geographical Features[edit | edit source]

As it was a city of trade, its design made use of canals that doubled as open sewers. While this often caused a stench problem in warm periods, it prevented the water from freezing during the cold periods. Open areas of solid ground were a rarity here.[3][7]

Description[edit | edit source]

Marsember was often shrouded in mist.[6] The individual islands making up much of Marsember had many local names. Amongst them were Sharmran Isle, also known as Fishgut Rock, and Antanmaran's Isle, whose shape led to the name the Prow.[12]

As of the Year of the Banner, 1368 DR, the population was as high as 46,000, but was reduced to around 36,000 a more four years later. The population swelled by up to twenty percent each year during the fishing season.[3][7]

Government[edit | edit source]

Bledryn Scoril was the crown's representative as of 1370 DR, and the War Wizard Kyler Blackbone also had a hand in running the city. Ildool was formerly in charge, but he was not widely trusted, despite being kept in check by local Harpers.[1]

Over a century later the city was ruled by a Grand Duke, namely Lord Farnig, a member of the noble Seasilver family.[9]

Local laws[edit | edit source]

All mages entering the city had to register with Ildool or Bledrin Scoril before sundown.[13] Buildings had to be constructed from stone and covered with stucco that had to be replaced whenever deemed necessary by a local inspector. Cedar or slate had to be used for roofing.[14]

Trade[edit | edit source]

A map of Marsember circa the late 14th century

The main trade in Marsember was spices (giving it the alternate name "City of Spices") and the local merchant companies traveled great distances to acquire these substances. The trade fell off in the years up to 1370 DR.[11] The fish trade was large, with fish being caught in the Lake of Dragons. The port was a builder of ships and Maerun Stoutbold had a large shipbuilding facility here. The Six Coffers Market Priakos was based here.[1] Mustard produced in the uplands of Cormyr was exported in Marsember. Furniture with curved edges and coiled legs, the Marsembian style, and perfumes, were produced here.[11]

Beginning during the reign of King Palaghard II, Marsember has paid for quarry rubble from mines near Tyrluk to be dumped on the seaward side of the sandy islands of which much of the city is comprised, to prevent them being swept into the sea.[15]

Defense[edit | edit source]

Military[edit | edit source]

Ayesunder Truesilver was the Warden of the Port and was responsible for the twelve ships (with around 2,200 crew) from the Imperial Navy that were stationed in Marsember. These ships regularly patrolled the Neck, the area of the Dragonmere known for piracy. About 250 new naval crew were recruited each year, using old galleons, including Ansiber's Wrath.[16]

There were 3000 Purple Dragons garrisoned here, who were required to learn how to swim, and wear only leather armor with metal helmets to prevent accidental drownings. They patrolled the city on skiffs and also acted as customs agents.[1][3] Every few years the soldiers in Marsember were rotated to cut down on corruption.[6]

That corruption began to run rampant around the early 15th century DR, with the formation of the Marsember Watch. This force of unscrupulous guardsmen was originally formed to protect the city's merchants and economic interests,[17] but quickly earned a reputation for their propensity to accept bribes and evade their duty as the city's defenders. The Watch served in stark contrast to the stalwart Purple Dragons.[18]

Culture[edit | edit source]

Lifestyle[edit | edit source]

The sandy islands on which Marsember was built were all connected with bridges, but transport via skiff was common, and they served as status symbols.[1] The Sea Snake and Thomdor's Fist, two war caravels, were based in Marsember.[16]

It was common to wear boots covering the entire leg as well as cloaks and gloves. Dancing was a popular leisure activity.[19]

The Thundersword and Illance noble families both had houses in Marsember.[20]

Folklore[edit | edit source]

There are many local stories of monsters that lived in the marshes surrounding Marsember. Will-o'-wisps were reported to extinguish, then pose as lamps in order to lead people astray into the bogs. Legends also surrounded those who drowned in the mouth of the Starwater River, allegedly rising as undead. One of Gondegal's boats sank in the mouth of the river, full of gold, and the corpse of Sissra was floated with much treasure on a blazing riverboat before it sank.[12]

Festivals[edit | edit source]

The Breaking was festival to celebrate the breaking of the ice after the cold season. The first ship into the port does not have to pay docking fees for the rest of the year, so this was a hotly contested prize. The celebration lasted a full day and the following night.[15]

Dragonturtle Day was an annual celebration of the slaying of a huge dragon turtle that lived in the mouth of the Starwater River and posed a great threat. The creature's shell covered a ceiling in the King's Tower.[15]

Burials[edit | edit source]

Crypts and cellars in Marsember were damp at all times and flooded regularly. For this reason, burials were conducted upland, where the ground was both elevated and dry. However, this form of burial was limited to those who possessed the funds necessary to pay for the construction of crypts and mausoleums resistant to desecration, robbery and those wishing to bury their own dead inside without permission.

Those who could not afford inland burials had the option of utilizing dead barge cremations. A service provided by Marsemban city officials, dead barge cremations involved amassing corpses on a flat-bottomed boat that was set on fire after first being towed out onto the Dragonmere.[21]

History[edit | edit source]

Marsember was originally founded on the Marsember Marsh by smugglers and pirates.[22][15] Its expansion was attributable to the ease with which goods could be transported north up the Starwater River, which made it an excellent site for a port.[14] As of the Year of the Firestars, 6 DR, it was little more than a marshy port settlement.[23] Around the Year of Opening Doors, 26 DR, rumors circulated that Marsember was hit by a plague or a sea monster, causing more trade to head to nearby Suzail.[24]

By the Year of the Leaping Hare, 376 DR, Marsember had been abandoned twice.[25] It lay in ruins at that time and was used regularly by pirates. On occasion, groups of adventurers were hired to clear out the local rif-raf.[26] Some time between then and the Year of the Sea Princes, 432 DR, merchants from Marsember spread a plague to the rest of Cormyr, infecting many in Suzail.[27]

As of the Year of the Soft Fogs, 1188 DR, Marsember was a nominally independent city-state and was sought by Sembia. A Sembian acquisition was favored by Marsemban merchants but not by the nobility in the city; its independence made it a good place to conduct affairs away from the scrutiny of the Cormyrean population.[28] The Sembians withdrew their attempt to seize Marsember after an assassination attempt on King Pryntaler Obarskyr failed.[29]

The city faced many problems throughout its centuries-long existence. It had come under under threat from a variety of dangers, both human and inhuman alike. Marsember was plagued by doppelgangers, illithids, Sembians, Cult of the Dragon members, agents of the Zhentarim,[6] and even the Shadovar.[30]

When Cormyr was invaded by the returned empire of Netheril, in the Year of the Nether Mountain Scrolls, 1486 DR, Marsember faced peril once again. The city had to be abandoned for a third time, as its citizens evacuated its walls from the invasion of the Shadovar.[31] Grand Duke Farnig Seasilver was slain by a shade while attempting to flee the city aboard his ship.[32]

Notable locations[edit | edit source]

Official
Clubs
Inns and taverns
Military
Residences
Restaurants
Shops
Temples

The main temple in the city, Morningmist Hall[35], was to Lathander, but there were also shrines to Tymora, Umberlee and Waukeen.[3] The shrine to Waukeen was abandoned but was used for profit by the government.[13]

Districts

Inhabitants[edit | edit source]

Inhabitants of Marsember were known as Marsembians, or rarely Marsembans.[38]

Notable inhabitants[edit | edit source]

14th Century
15th Century

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Novels
Cormyr: A NovelThe Sentinel
Referenced only
The Ring of Winter

Gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Eric Haddock (1994). Cormyr. (TSR, Inc), p. 13. ISBN 1-56076-818-5.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 92. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 113. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 105. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  5. Ed Greenwood (August 1992). “The Everwinking Eye: Words To The Wise”. In Jean Rabe ed. Polyhedron #74 (TSR, Inc.), p. 14–15.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 34. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Eric Haddock (1994). Cormyr. (TSR, Inc), p. 12. ISBN 1-56076-818-5.
  8. Steven E. Schend (1999). Sea of Fallen Stars. (TSR, Inc), p. 5. ISBN 0-7869-1393-2.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Troy Denning (April 2014). The Sentinel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24. ISBN 0786964596.
  10. Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 58. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 37. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 41. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 36. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 40. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 39. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 35. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  17. Troy Denning (April 2014). The Sentinel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 7. ISBN 0786964596.
  18. Troy Denning (April 2014). The Sentinel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 0786964596.
  19. Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 38–39. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  20. Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 38. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  21. Ed Greenwood (June 2012). “Eye on the Realms: The Thing in the Crypt”. In Steve Winter ed. Dragon #412 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 31–35.
  22. Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb (April 1998). Cormyr: A Novel (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), p. 302. ISBN ISBN 0-7869-0710-X.
  23. Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb (April 1998). Cormyr: A Novel (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), p. 91. ISBN ISBN 0-7869-0710-X.
  24. Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb (April 1998). Cormyr: A Novel (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 148–149. ISBN ISBN 0-7869-0710-X.
  25. Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb (April 1998). Cormyr: A Novel (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), p. 202. ISBN ISBN 0-7869-0710-X.
  26. Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb (April 1998). Cormyr: A Novel (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 208–209. ISBN ISBN 0-7869-0710-X.
  27. Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb (April 1998). Cormyr: A Novel (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), p. 240. ISBN ISBN 0-7869-0710-X.
  28. Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb (April 1998). Cormyr: A Novel (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), p. 357. ISBN ISBN 0-7869-0710-X.
  29. Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb (April 1998). Cormyr: A Novel (Paperback). (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 362–367. ISBN ISBN 0-7869-0710-X.
  30. Troy Denning (April 2014). The Sentinel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 21. ISBN 0786964596.
  31. Troy Denning (April 2014). The Sentinel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 8. ISBN 0786964596.
  32. Troy Denning (April 2014). The Sentinel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 59. ISBN 0786964596.
  33. Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 44. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  34. Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 219. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  35. Eric Haddock (1994). Cormyr. (TSR, Inc), p. 14. ISBN 1-56076-818-5.
  36. Troy Denning (April 2014). The Sentinel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 21. ISBN 0786964596.
  37. Dan Anderson (October 2011). “Backdrop: Xiousing”. In Steve Winter ed. Dungeon #195 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 58–66.
  38. Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 73. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.
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