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Skull Gorge was a long gorge that ran along the northernmost stretch of the River Reaching in the Western Heartlands.[5]

GeographyEdit

The gorge was situated along the River Reaching, just downstream of the Misty Stair waterfalls.[6] The Sunset Mountains lay to the southeast, with the Battle of Bones situated to the north, the Hill of Lost Souls to the northwest, and Darkhold due south. The Well of Dragons lay just east of Skull Gorge.[5] It was sometimes said to be part of the southwestern tip of the Anauroch desert.[7]

Geographical FeaturesEdit

Skull Gorge was very steep and narrow, appearing almost like a cut in the surrounding terrain, with its walls running almost to the edge of the River Reaching. The gorge's pale whitestone walls were pockmarked with caverns.[2][3]

HistoryEdit

Back during the Dawn Age,[8] the Skull Gorge made up part of the giant kingdom of Grunfesting.[9]

In -1145 DR, a group of Netherese established a town called Holloway in one of the gorge's caverns to act as a base of operations for their explorations of the giant kingdom's ruins. Its founders hoped to discover some ancient form of magic comparable to the Nether Scrolls, but ultimately they found nothing. Becoming isolated from the rest of Netheril, the town was gradually taken over by the church of Jergal.[9]

Following the fall of Netheril in -339 DR, Holloway's population started to dwindle until becoming fully abandoned by -270 DR.[9]

In the Year of Slaughter, 1090 DR, a massive orcish and goblinoid horde threatened to overrun the North, but was stopped by the combined forces of the goodly races at the site of the Battle of Bones.[10] The diminished goblinoid survivors of the battle sought refuge at Skull Gorge—known as River Reaching Gorge at the time—hoping to use the area's many caves to hide out and tend to their wounds.[1] However, they were pursued by an army comprising mainly humans who were intent on wiping out the horde entirely.[4]

A desperate last stand ensued, with the goblinoid forces summoning fiends to help them, including tanar'ri,[1][3] bone devils, spined devils, and horned devils.[2][note 1] A large disembodied and fire-wreathed skull was observed floating mid-air during the battle, scorching the attackers with its fiery breath.[1] Although the orcs and goblinoids were utterly destroyed, many demons and devils outlived their summoners, forcing the victorious human army to swiftly abandon the gorge without looting the area.[4]

The sage Elminster Aumar later questioned the reports of extraplanar assistance, ascribing it rather to inspired illusion work, especially since the goblinoids were so decisively crushed.[1] Whatever the case, the scale of the slaughter was immense, with only an estimated tenth of the original goblinoid army escaping back to the Goblin Marches.[11] So many hobgoblins died at Skull Gorge that even 300 years later, their population across Faerûn remained at a historic low.[12]

In the 14th century DR, Skull Gorge was inhabited by several tribes of orcs and goblinoids, most of which were controlled by the Zhentarim.[7] The Black Network sought to control the gorge since it was a key location along their "Long Road to Riches"—a lucrative, controlled caravan route connecting Zhentil Keep with the Sword Coast.[13] The goblinoids received supplies and reinforcements from the nearby bastion of Darkhold, and in return they left Zhentarim caravans in peace, and aided the Zhents in fighting off Cormyrian incursions into Yellow Snake Pass.[7]

Rumors & LegendsEdit

[…] to risk life or limb pursuing the rumor is a fool's quest.
— Elminster, referring to the hidden treasure of Skull Gorge.

Rumors told of hidden treasure in the caverns of Skull Gorge,[14][4] hastily concealed by the orcish and goblinoid forces as they prepared to defend themselves. Although some few caches of treasure were found,[1] most adventurers who sought these hidden riches never returned, falling prey to the dangerous creatures who made the gorge their home.[2][3]

Among the tribes of the Goblin Marches, the warlord Izac Uthor was rumored to have escaped the battle at Skull Gorge alive. Some goblin elders believed he would one day return to lead his people, but few others took this seriously.[1]

InhabitantsEdit

When it was part of the giant kingdom of Grunfesting, the caverns that lined the walls of the gorge were largely inhabited by tribes of stone giants. As the power of the kingdom waned over time, they allowed small tribes of primitive humans to settle alongside them.[9]

In the 1350s[2] and 1360s DR, the gorge was largely thought to be deserted,[3] but was in fact inhabited by Zhentarim-controlled tribes of goblinoids and orcs.[7]

The Melial tribe of hobgoblins and orcs lived near Skull Gorge. Direct descendants of the survivors of the Battle of Bones, this tribe was noted for their unusual affinity for magic,[15] and a high occurrence of lycanthropy.[16]

AppendixEdit

NotesEdit

  1. The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1e) refers to these creatures as "malebranche", but this article uses the term "horned devil" to avoid confusion with another type of devil named malebranche, introduced in later editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

AppearancesEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Donald J. Bingle (April 1995). “The Battle of Bones”. In Elizabeth T. Danforth ed. Elminster's Ecologies Appendix I (TSR, Inc), p. 14. ISBN 0-7869-0115-2.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 80. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), A Grand Tour of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 98. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 225. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Map included in Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  6. Ed Greenwood, The Hooded One (2007-04-15). Questions for Ed Greenwood (2007). Candlekeep Forum. Retrieved on 2018-02-26.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 46. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  8. Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Dungeon #133 Map & Handout Supplement (PDF). Paizo Publishing. p. 26. (2006-04-14). Archived from the original on 2007-08-13. Retrieved on 2020-07-01.
  10. Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), A Grand Tour of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 87. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
  11. James Butler, Elizabeth T. Danforth, Jean Rabe (September 1994). “The Stonelands and the Goblin Marches”. In Karen S. Boomgarden ed. Elminster's Ecologies (TSR, Inc), p. 8. ISBN 1-5607-6917-3.
  12. James Butler, Elizabeth T. Danforth, Jean Rabe (September 1994). “The Stonelands and the Goblin Marches”. In Karen S. Boomgarden ed. Elminster's Ecologies (TSR, Inc), p. 15. ISBN 1-5607-6917-3.
  13. Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 121. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.
  14. Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), p. 123. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
  15. James Butler, Elizabeth T. Danforth, Jean Rabe (September 1994). “The Stonelands and the Goblin Marches”. In Karen S. Boomgarden ed. Elminster's Ecologies (TSR, Inc), p. 19. ISBN 1-5607-6917-3.
  16. James Butler, Elizabeth T. Danforth, Jean Rabe (September 1994). “The Stonelands and the Goblin Marches”. In Karen S. Boomgarden ed. Elminster's Ecologies (TSR, Inc), p. 20. ISBN 1-5607-6917-3.
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