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The Moonshae Isles were a group of islands that formed a roughly circular archipelago with the Sea of Moonshae in the center. They lay roughly 400 miles (640 kilometers) west of the region of Amn and to the southwest of the Sword Coast.
Along the coasts, long flat beaches were found. Most lacked sand, and instead comprised pebbles and rocks. Tides were significant among the islands. At low tide, the beaches could be exposed as much as a quarter mile (400 meters) from the waterline. At high tide, the water line could rise up to 10 feet (3 meters). During storms, the beaches were battered by waves. The coastlines of the islands were dotted with bays and coves, where ships could find a safe harbor from the harsh northern seas.
The remaining coastlines were jagged rocks. Tall cliffs of granite towered over the water, some up to 500 feet (150 meters) in height. These cliffs were worn smooth from exposure to the wind, and in the winter were covered with sheer ice.
Further inland, stagnant saltwater marshes were usually found. These gray and desolate marches lacked trees and an odor of sulfur hung constantly in the air. Traveling in these marshes was hazardous, with about 10% of the terrain being quicksand. Some of the fens and swamps in the Moonshaes rivaled those found in the jungles of Chult. These putrid and decaying swamps were filled with stagnant water. The Fens of the Fallon, on the island of Gwynneth, was likely the most dangerous area in all the Moonshaes.
Freshwater streams were common on the islands. Most were shallow, reaching a maximum depth of 3 feet (91 centimeters). Most streams were not safe for boats because of rapids. The islands were home to a handful of rivers, which were deeper and calmer, and safe for boats. Ferries and bridges allowed for safe crossing.
Much of the Moonshaes terrain was moorland. This rolling grassland was dotted with lakes, ponds, and swamps, but most of it was well-drained and dry. The terrain was safe and pleasant and was used as pasture for cattle and sheep.
Mountains and highlands made up another sizable portion of the Moonshaes terrain. These rugged and twisted mountains were jagged and cracked from centuries of erosion. The steep mountains reached 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) in height. From autumn to early spring, heavy snow covered the highlands, only melting away completely by summer.
The climate of the Moonshaes was considered subarctic. The weather was severe, with long winters. During the winter, biting freezing wind roared across the moorlands, as the lack of cover caused the wind to sweep uninterrupted across the exposed terrain. The winter also brought storms to the islands. These storms originated in the Trackless Sea, usually striking the islands from the northwest. Storm season began in late Eleint and ended in Ches. Huge swells reaching 40 feet (12 meters) in height made the sea unnavigable during storm season.
- Annual rainfall: 87.4 in/2220 mm
Flora & Fauna
The islands were covered with thick deciduous forests of aspen, birch, hickory, maple, oak, and yew. The thick undergrowth made travel difficult unless a game trail or path was found. The plant growth was thick enough at the height of summer to block the wind, holding in the hot and humid air. During the winter, the trees dropped their leaves and the undergrowth died, making travel much easier.
The islands were also home to forests of coniferous trees. Forests of pine, cedar, and spruce had little undergrowth and the forest ground was covered in a thick layer of needles. These forests were usually located in the higher parts of the Moonshaes. During the summer, cool wind swept through the trees, and in the winter the trees acted as a wind block.
The forests of the Moonshaes were home to many animals. In the deciduous forests, smaller animals such as hares and foxes made their homes. During the summer the forests were filled with insects. The coniferous forests on the other hand were home to large animals such as bears, deer, and wolves with little to no insects.
The saltwater marshes, fens, and swamps were home to swarms of insects. They spawned in the stagnant pools and were generally unpleasant, biting and stinging anyone who traveled the marshes. Dangerous creatures were known to inhabit the dark waters. The freshwater lakes, rivers and streams were home to healthy populations of perch, salmon, and trout.
In the highlands, marmots, mice, and foxes lived in the barren terrain. Eagles, falcons, and hawks made nests in the cliffs. Some copses of coniferous trees were found here, but usually the only plant life was hardy lichen and mosses. In some areas, vibrant wildflowers appeared for a brief period during the summer.
Each kingdom of the Moonshaes, while somewhat self-sufficient, had some amount of trade with one another. Most goods traveled on ships from port to port. Nearly all trade occurred during the spring and summer; it was brought to halt by the fierce winters. The major external trading partners of the Moonshaes were Amn, Calimshan, Tethyr, and Waterdeep.
Caer Callidyrr, with its sprawling and accessible port, was the main commerce and trading hub of the Moonshaes. Merchants from all over Toril could be encountered here. Exported goods bound for Waterdeep or Calimshan were shipped from the city, and imports from outside were brought in.
Waterdhavian merchants sought to trade cloth, oil, or spice for high-quality steel crafted by the Ffolk. Calishite merchants brought horses, parchment, silks, and spices in their galleons. The southern merchants sought fur, metals and weapons. Timber from the islands was in high demand, as it was the only easily accessible location for the large trees required to build galleons. Some Calishite merchants sailed the extra week to trade in the ports on Corwell or Moray.
Tarnian shipbuilders from Mintarn, an island that had exhausted its supply of timber, were a frequent sight in Caer Callidyrr. They arrived in the city, purchased enough raw materials to build another ship, then sailed back to Mintarn in both vessels.
After the Spellplague, House Kendrick lost much of their control over the isles. In 1479 DR, much of the isle of Alaron was ruled by House Kendrick, although the King's forces did not control the entire island. The Isle of Snowdown was controlled by the vampire Lady Erliza Daressin, who was loyal to Amn. The Isle of Gwynneth was controlled by the Kingdom of Sarifal, which was ruled by High Lady Ordalf. A tribe of fomorians crossed from the Feywild into Faerûn after the Spellplague and took control of the island of Oman. The isle of Moray was under the control of Malarite lycanthropes.
The Moonshae Isles were populated mainly by the Ffolk and the Northlanders, two human societies. Over the one hundred years since Queen Alicia consolidated her rule, the two groups intermarried and became more culturally unified.
The Ffolk were skilled at farming, fishing, and hunting. They were also adept traders. While they were more peaceful than the Northlanders, they were still a strong and hardy folk capable of defending themselves.
The Northlanders were a warrior society ruled by warlords. Adventure and combat were an essential part of life for them. Pillaging each other and Ffolk settlements was a a regular occurrence. Both the Ffolk and Northlanders were skilled mariners.
There were a small number of Llewyrr elves living in isolation on the islands of Alaron and Gwynneth. Dwarves and halflings also populated the Moonshaes, although their numbers were far smaller than the human occupants.
As of 1479 DR, the Black Blood Tribe of lycanthropes controlled the island of Moray. The tribe worshiped the Beastlord Malar and consisted of native Faerûnian were-creatures as well as some that crossed over from Brokenstone Vale in the Feywild.
A group of fomorians loyal to Queen Connomae entered Faerûn after the Spellplague and conquered the island of Oman. The formorians were loosely allied with the Black Blood Tribe. Firbolg and frost giant tribes inhabited the mountains on Norland.
In the 14th century DR, Northlanders primarily worshiped the deities Auril, Tempus, and Umberlee. A few were also known to worship the god Valkur. The worship of these gods was often little more than cursory for the Northlanders and dependent upon whether or not they were residing in the god's sphere of influence. The Northlander faith expanded in the 15th century, introducing the deity Talos to their pantheon and giving Valkur much more prominence. The latter became viewed as the most important among the gods, embodying the qualities the Northlanders valued most in life.
Starting around 1256 DR, clerics from various faiths began visiting the Isles, with the goal of converting the islanders to their faith and establishing churches. The reactions of the islanders were mixed, with the Northlanders killing the clerics while the Ffolk generally considered the clerics harmless and a source of entertainment. The foreign clerics successfully converted a handful of Ffolk, but the vast majority of the Ffolk remained faithful to their traditional religion.
In 1359 DR, priests of the Risen Cult of Bane led by the cleric Gauntather began establishing themselves on the Moonshae Isles. Their goal was to transform the islands into kingdom led by the Cult.
The firbolgs of the Moonshaes worshiped the demigod Grond Peaksmasher, thought by religious scholars to be the son of Hiatea. While in truth the firbolgs were descendants of Othea and Ulutiu, the firbolgs of the Moonshaes believed that Grond carved them from stone and that the dwarves were the result of the "leftovers" of this process. Before Grond was reawakened, many of the firbolgs of the Isles were ruled by Kazgaroth, an aspect of Malar.
Circa −17600 DR, the supercontinent Merrouroboros was fractured by the First Sundering. The Moonshaes were formed after a continental plate shifted to the west. During this time, the Moonshaes were little more than a collection of hundreds of islands formed by volcanic peaks.
Circa −10500 DR, the Moonshaes began forming into their modern shape and the Korinn Archipelago was formed. The LeShay founded the kingdom of Sarifal, constructing the city of Karador on an island in the center of the lake within Myrloch Vale.
Circa −5000 DR, conflict erupted between the dwarves and firbolgs of the Isles. Underneath Ice Peak on Orman's Isle, Grond Peaksmasher was imprisoned. Without his guidance, the firbolgs of the Moonshaes become uncivilized.
Circa −2000 DR, Malar unleashed Kazgaroth to wreak havoc on the Moonshaes. The children of the Earthmother united with the Llewyrr and dwarves to battle the Beast, while it brought fomorians from the Feywild to be its allies. The conflict dragged on for decades until the minions of Kazgaroth were driven to isolated corners of the Moonshaes. The fomorians conquered the firbolgs, forcing them into slavery.
Circa −500 DR, most of the fey, including the fomorians, abandoned their domains in the Moonshaes and retreated back into the Feywild. The kingdom of Sarifal was abandoned and the city of Karador sank into the Myrloch.
In the Year of the Executioner, 140 DR, refugees fleeing from the persecution of the Shadowking crossed the Sea of Swords and settled in the Moonshaes on the island of Gwynneth, beginning the race of the Ffolk.
In the Year of the Student, 201 DR, Bhaal took control of Kazgaroth, sending it to destroy the Ffolk. Chieftain Cymrych Hugh defeated Kazgaroth and was crowned High King. Moonshae Reckoning (MR) marks this year as year one on the Moonshavian calendar.
In the Year of the Storm Crown, 250 DR, High King Cymrych Hugh died and was entombed within a barrow mound near Blackstone. He left no heir with a strong claim to the throne, and as a result the kingdoms of the Moonshaes splintered.
In the Year of the Thousand Snows, 256 DR, Illuskan sailors from Tuern and Gundarlun arrived in the Moonshaes, finding the kingdoms at each other's throats. This began centuries of raids against the Ffolk by the Northmen.
In the Year of the Waking Dreams, 289 DR, High King Gwylloch constructed the Castle of Skulls from the skulls of his enemies. The High Kings moved the court to a mighty palace hidden within Llyrath Forest. He also began a series of raids against the Northlanders. Northmen captured in these raids were brought to the Circus Bizarre, a gladiatorial arena, where they were killed.
In the Year of Four Winds, 467 DR, a large group of immigrants from Tethyr arrived on the islands and settled among the Ffolk. The newly arrived Tethyrians brought their religious beliefs with them, but most Ffolk maintained their faith in the Earthmother. Architects and engineers among the immigrants shared their knowledge with the Ffolk, allowing the Ffolk to construct improved defensive fortifications. As a result, raids from Northlanders dropped over the next few centuries.
In the Year of the False Smile, 852 DR, an Illuskan fleet of longships invaded the Moonshaes. High King Dolan Cymrych was killed when his small fleet of coracles was destroyed in Whitefish Bay. By 944 DR, the Ffolk had surrendered the northern islands to the Illuskan invaders.
- Darkwalker War
The Northmen were a violent, war-like society with little interest in or tolerance of the Ffolk's monarchical ways. Historically, this created a continuous tension between the two human peoples, with Northmen raids on Ffolk farmsteads a common occurrence.
The conflict escalated into what was termed the Darkwalker Wars, which lasted a number of years. In the Year of the Saddle, 1345 DR,, Grunnarch the Red brought his host of longships to Thelgaar Ironhand's Iron Keep on Oman's Isle to prepare an attack on the southern Moonshaes. In the first council of northern Kings and Captains, Thelgaar announced his intention of making long-lasting peace with the Ffolk and starting a prosperous trading relationship. But most of the warriors present disagreed and decided to go along with the plan to raid and pillage the cities of Caer Corwell and Caer Callidyrr and the rest of the Ffolk lands. That same night, Thelgar was slain by Kazgoroth, who took the identity of the king and supported the attack on Caer Corwell.
En route to Caer Corwell, Kazgaroth, in Thelgar's shape, challenged and killed the Leviathan, one of the children of the goddess Earthmother. Around the town and fortress of Caer Corwell, the Northmen were halted by the combined forces of Prince Tristan Kendrick and his companions.
In the Year of the Sword, 1365 DR, Robyn Kendrick sensed the imminent return of the Earthmother to the Moonshaes. Angered by her return, the god Talos attempted to throw the islands into chaos by turning the Ffolk and Northlanders against each other again. To achieve this goal, Talos recruited an army of pirates, sahuagin from Kressilacc ,and even a dracolich named Gotha. Princess Deirdre Kendrick aided in the release of the avatar of Grond Peaksmasher. She was corrupted by Talos and was later killed by her sister Alicia Kendrick.
Alicia Kendrick was crowned High Queen after High King Tristan Kendrick abdicated his claim to the throne to be with his wife, Queen Robyn. She had left the capital to live in Myrloch Vale in order to commune with the Earthmother.
- United Moonshae Isles
The conflict between the Northlanders and the Ffolk waned with the hard work of High King Tristan Kendrick and later through his daughter, High Queen Alicia Kendrick. In the Year of the Unstrung Harp, 1371 DR, Northlander kings swore fealty to Alicia, creating the United Moonshae Isles. This marked the first time that Ffolk and Northlanders were truly united. The Northlander kings adopted the title of Jarl and continued to rule their kingdoms.
By 1479 DR, relations between Northmen and Ffolk had transformed from direct confrontation into an awkward form of tolerance, as the two learned to share the islands. This was, in part, due to the problems both cultures had on their respective home islands.
- Eladrin domination of Gwynneth
Beginning in the Year of the Banner, 1368 DR, the wardens of the druid groves in Myrloch Vale had started to vanish after receiving summons to enter the moonwells. In the Year of the Gauntlet, 1369 DR, Robyn and Tristan Kendrick entered the Great Moonwell in Myrloch Vale to investigate the vanishing druids. They ended up in the Feywild. By 1370 DR, fey had begun to arrive in the Moonshaes, traveling through the moonwells. They settled primarily in Myrloch Vale and Winterglen Forests. In the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR, with violent encounters increasing between the Ffolk and fey, human settlements around Myrloch Vale were abandoned.
In the Year of Risen Elfkin, 1375 DR, the fey city of Karador rose again from the waters of the Myrloch on the island of Gwynneth. The leShay High Lady Ordalf proclaimed herself queen of the island, giving it the name of Sarifal. The human kingdom of Corwell and its capital Caer Corwell fell into ruins.
By 1479 DR, the isle of Gwynneth had become deeply connected to the Feywild. In the northern forests of the island, Prince Araithe, son of Ordalf, fought against dark fey who sought to take the land for themselves. Meanwhile, High King Derid Kendrick sought to establish an embassy, but couldn't find a way to secure Lady Ordalf's permission.
- One of the largest of the Moonshaes, much of the island was under the control of King Derid in 1479 DR. Dernall Forest was under the control of dark fey who'd entered from a portal to the Feywild.
- By 1367 DR, Flamsterd was desolate and largely destroyed. Monsters occasionally attacked the few settlers that remained.
- By 1479 DR, most of the isle was controlled by fey loyal to High Lady Ordalf and was known as Sarifal.
- Korinn Archipelago
- Hundreds of small islands stretched northward from the main archipelago into the Trackless Sea. The isles were favored by pirate bands who preyed on shipping.
- This medium-sized island was ruled by the tyrant Tarnheel Embuirhan in the mid–1300s DR. This island was known as a haven for pirates, fugitives, mercenaries, and other unsavory types who were looking to get away from the watchful eyes of the authorities. The wine halls and festhalls of this island were renowned for how dangerous they were and how amazing their services were.
- In 1479 DR, this island was the most war-torn of the Moonshaes. The interior was controlled by the Black Blood Tribe of lycanthropes while the Orc Skull Mountains were controlled by humanoid tribes. Only a few humans lived in villages on the coast.
- Inhabited mostly by humans who earned their livings through fishing.
- Once a center of Northlander culture, the island was overrun by fomorian giants after the Spellplague.
- This small isle in the southeastern Moonshaes was annexed by Amn and was ruled by Erliza Daressin, a vampire.
- This small island was covered in green hills and rocky coasts, as well as a small village of thatched huts along a river. Moira, the wife of Captain Hrolf of the Elfmaid lived here. The village and their druid worshiped local spirits in the river and elsewhere with offerings of gold, which the pirates of the Elfmaid once snatched after drugging the villagers.
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