Sessrendale was a land in the Dalelands of north Faerûn. Established in 880 DR, it was a flourishing realm of miners and traders before it was conquered in 1232 DR by an army from Archendale in the Sessrendale War. The conquerors drove out the surviving Sessrenfolk, destroyed the buildings, and then salted the earth to prevent resettlement, leading it to be known as the Dead Dale.
Sessrendale was a quiet valley located between the eastern flank of the Thunder Peaks and the western edge of Semberholme, a wooded hill country inhabited by elves and part of the great forest of Cormanthor. It stretched from Tilver's Gap in the north, where it bordered Tilverton and Mistledale, to Thunder Gap in the south, where it bordered Archendale. The dale formed quite a narrow plain, with fields and gentle glens leading to steep foothills. It was overlooked by the great reddish mountain crag called the Bloodhorn.
In the 14th century DR, the land was mostly easily accessed by the East Way from Ordulin to Arabel. Old trails linked to Archendale, Deepingdale, Mistledale, and Lake Sember, but these were overgrown and hazardous. Travelers hastened through Thunder Gap for fear of ghosts and the restless dead.
For the whole of its history, Sessrendale and Archendale had been rivals. Part of this may have been due to their competing claims on Thunder Gap, but more likely stemmed from the Sessrenfolk and Arkhenfolk's original kinship and the bitter enmity of their division.
Sessrendale was founded in the Year of Unfettered Secrets, 880 DR, colonized by people from Archendale who didn't like the rule of the Swords. They did rather well without them, and would thrive for three centuries.
However, both Sessrendale and its neighbor Archendale laid claim to Thunder Gap, and this led to conflict between them and ultimately Sessendale's downfall. The two sides gave different accounts of the matter. Arkhenfolk accused the Dusk Lord of practicing foul necromancy or other dark sorcery, of polluting the realm with such magic, of harboring evil raiders, and of causing undead and magical constructs to stalk the land, raid caravans, and murder innocents. Such claims might have been without merit, but weren't aided by the Dusk Lord's sinister title. Meanwhile, the Sessrenfolk (at least the surviving refugees) accused the Arkhenfolk merchants of wicked avarice, that they saw Sessrendale as a rival in trade and so spread rumors and laid trumped-up charges over minor incidents as justification for their attack. Elminster suspected their patrols met, argued, and skirmished in the usual way.
Things came to a head in the Year of the Weeping Wives, 1232 DR, when an Arkhen caravan journeying to Cormyr was attacked, with several families brutally slain. The culprits were never identified, but Archendale was enraged and mobilized its mercenary companies (including the Pegasus Archery Company from the High Dale and Sembian wizards) to attack Sessrendale. The mercenaries had already been hired, conveniently.
What ensued was a three-week-long bloodbath called the Sessrendale War, the first significant conflict between the Dales. Arkhen forces invaded Sessrendale and Sessrenfolk launched widespread retaliations both at home and in Archendale, engulfing both lands. The Dusk Lord and other mighty mages used potent magic in their defense, but Archendale had superior forces. Archendale's first target was Sessrenglade, the primary settlement, with the aim of immediately breaking Sessren resistance. However, the five great mages living there held up its defense for two weeks before the Sembian wizards overcame them. The losses were heavy on both sides, but ultimately the Arkhenfolk broke the Sessrenfolk's defenses, the Dusk Lord was reportedly killed, and Sessrendale was conquered. Elminster lamented it was a war that should never have happened, that claimed some of the finest people of the Dalelands, including three archmages.
After the conquest, the Arkhenfolk killed and drove out the Sessrenfolk, forcing them to go west. There were hundreds of Sessren refugees, many just widows and children. Some of the families fled to Battledale, Mistledale, and Deepingdale, and others into Cormyr.
Still unsatisfied, the Swords of Archendale, its hidden rulers, demanded reparations. They ordered that everything of any value be stripped from Sessrendale and transported to Archendale, which was thoroughly done. Everything that remained was destroyed: all the buildings, homes, farms, and mines were razed and torn down. They even went so far as to sow the lands with salt to ensure that the Sessrenfolk could never return and resettle, let alone refound Sessrendale. With this act of utter annihilation, it ceased to exist in any form.
The other Dales had done nothing to prevent the invasion or the erasure of Sessrendale, though Archendale never again found an ally among them. A century on, Lashan Aumersair of Scardale took this inaction as inspiration for his own war of conquest. King Azoun IV of Cormyr, having learned of Sessrendale as a lad from Vangerdahast, was persuaded that this side of his kingdom needed his strong hand, leading to Cormyr's annexation of Tilverton. Even later generations of Arkhenfolk felt guilty and ashamed of their ancestors' crimes, though not enough to try to identify the culprits among their leaders.
By the mid–14th century DR, Sessrendale was no longer drawn on any maps of the Dalelands and though completely gone was not yet forgotten. The descendants of Sessren refugees were raised as folk of other lands, and established some influential families. Some remembered the fates of their foremothers and those who'd been responsible.
Curiously, in the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR, a number of prominent Arkhenfolk were apparently slain by a formidable ghost. Rumors swirled that this was the vengeful spirit of the Dusk Lord of Sessrendale, on a mission to kill one descendant of each and every soldier who'd marched into Sessrendale, a number that would be in the hundreds. (However, both the ancestries and the killer were unconfirmed.)
After its fall, Sessrendale was visited only by trappers and woodcutters from other dales. In the 1360s DR, Kessia of Andelmaus Logging in Highmoon, Deepingdale, sent well-defended woodcutting wagon trains into Sessrendale to take lumber from the Elven Court woods.
Sessrendale's mines had still been rather profitable at the time of the conquest, so many miners dreamed of reopening them. In the 1360s DR, Jarvik Thorsson of Thorik Rivenrock's Ores of Tasselheart, Tasseldale, was one of those who desired to reopen Sessren mines. He hired adventurers to probe the mines, but feared Arkhen spies or plans to retake the dale simply to prevent others claiming it.
After the devastation of Sessrendale, no one dared lived there. Only a scant few trappers and woodsmen even lived near it. Sometimes, bands of goblins or human brigands crossed the area, but found no reason to stay, nor anything to prey on.
Sessrenglade, a small but successful village on the Thunder Gap road, was the chief settlement of Sessrendale. The war left it a blasted meadow pocked with char-filled pits and with patches of both wild magic and dead magic, making the area hazardous and unstable. It was proposed that the ruined mage towers might yet hold long-lost magical treasures not used or broken in the war.
In the mid–14th century DR, travelers along the East Way could observe the fallen towers and shells of burned buildings that were all that remained of Sessrendale. The steep foothills were strewn with wrecked mines, smelters, and smithies. Underground, in the mines, the Arkhenfolk had burned the supports to collapse the shafts and tunnels. Above, the fields and glens were barren with salinity and dark forests—which had gone without hunting or logging for well over a century—crept over them as the Dead Dale fell back into wilderness.
The 1st-edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Set: Cyclopaedia of the Realms page 26 says "Archendale is home to aggressive traders (see SESSRENDALE)" but a Sessrendale entry does not appear. This might be in error, but is appropriate for a realm erased from the land.
- Richard Baker (1993). The Dalelands. (TSR, Inc), p. 47. ISBN 978-1560766674.
- Ed Greenwood (January 1996). Volo's Guide to the Dalelands. (TSR, Inc), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-0406-2.
- Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 116, 270. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- Richard Baker (1993). The Dalelands. (TSR, Inc), p. 51. ISBN 978-1560766674.
- Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 120. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- Richard Baker (1993). The Dalelands. (TSR, Inc), p. 4. ISBN 978-1560766674.
- Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), A Grand Tour of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), pp. 36–37. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
- Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (March 2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 51, 56, 76, 153. ISBN 978-0-7869-4119-3.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 125. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Dale Donovan (January 1998). Cult of the Dragon. (TSR, Inc), p. 39. ISBN 0-7869-0709-6.
- Richard Baker (1993). The Dalelands. (TSR, Inc), p. 12. ISBN 978-1560766674.
- Ed Greenwood (January 1996). Volo's Guide to the Dalelands. (TSR, Inc), p. 106. ISBN 0-7869-0406-2.
- Ed Greenwood (January 1996). Volo's Guide to the Dalelands. (TSR, Inc), p. 214. ISBN 0-7869-0406-2.
Daggerdale • Featherdale • High Dale • Mistledale • Shadowdale
Moondale • Sessrendale • Tarkhaldale • Teshendale
Arch Wood • Cormanthor • Darkwatch • Spiderhaunt Wood • Velarswood • Yevenwood
Bodies of Water
River Arkhen • River Ashaba • Feather Falls • Dragon Reach • Lake Eredruie • Glaemril
Dun Hills • Thunder Peaks • Wyvernfang
Barrowfields • Cold Field • Druid's Grove • Glaun Bog • Hidden Vale • The Scar