History always notes the actions of great men and women. For good or ill, their deeds will be remembered in centuries to come. But never has there been a historical figure who stood on his or her own. Everyone our mind’s eyes still recall through the veil of time stands tall on the shoulders of commoners long since forgotten (if indeed they were ever noticed to begin with). For several years now, Bertrem of Palanthas, head of the Order of Aesthetics, has been sending representatives out into the four corners of Ansalon to chronicle the lives and habits of common folk. Below are quick summaries of some of the places the Aesthetics have visited recently.
The Kharolis Mountains run north/south through the heart of the forest of Qualinesti. The mountains begin just to the south of the capital, Qualinost, then split into two ranges. The western range runs along the edge of Wayreth Forest and is the source for both the Ahlanlas and Windsrun rivers. The eastern range passes just south of Pax Tharkas then runs its lonely path down to the city of Bonfaire. Although very few settlements exist on the eastern Kharolis side, a community thrives below the mountains. The community below the mountain’s mantle is Thorbardin, one of the greatest dwarven cities ever carved from the living rock. All of this territory fell squarely under the control of the Green Dragon Overlord, Beryllinthranox.
Beryl, for the most part, wanted nothing to do with the mountains. The dragon spent her time harrying the Qualinesti elves and magically shaping the forest itself. Whenever anything of importance happened in the mountains, Beryl sent troops of Dark Knights to deal with the problem. This happened more and more frequently in recent years because Qualinesti rebels led by the warrior woman known only as the Lioness made the mountains their homes.
Often called the Jewel of Solamnia, the modern city of Palanthas was built by Vinas Solamnus during the latter days of the Age of Dreams. Palanthas is arguably the greatest city on the continent, and it is inarguably the single best place to shop in the known world. Merchants from everywhere bring wares and goods to sell and trade. The docks are busier than any two other ports in Ansalon. Some of the well-known landmarks of Palanthas include a Tower of High Sorcery, one of the finest universities in the world, and the Great Library and its attendants, the Order of Aesthetics. The Tower of the High Clerist stands near Palanthas, also, and most folk know that both Sturm Brightblade and Tanis Half-Elven met their final fates at this site.
Although the leader of the Solamnic Knights founded the city and named it after Paladine, the great God of Good, since the dawn of the Age of Mortals, Palanthas has been under the control of the Dark Knights. Until recently, their claim was backed up by the Blue Overlord, Khellendros (who laired in the desert to the city’s east). However, things have been a bit more contentious since reports of the Blue’s demise reached the citizenry.
Plains of Dust:
Between the eastern edge of the Qualinesti Forest and the western frontier of the Silvanesti Forest lies a great stretch of desolate waste called the Plains of Dust. This desert is bordered on the north by the swampy domain of Onysablet, the Black Overlord, and on the south by the Icewall Glacier. It is as remote and inhospitable a place as one will find on the continent of Ansalon. Daytime temperatures are sweltering, the nights are bone-chillingly frigid, and, at any time of day, the winds swirl sand around that stings the eyes and bites exposed skin. Even so, a few enclaves of civilization are scattered here and there. The cities of Duntol, Willik, and Stone Rose are all part of an age-old trade route, and the Missing City is literally a ghost town sitting on the desert’s western shore.
The desert is home to several barbarian tribes, most notably the Qué-Shu. Goldmoon, one of the Heroes of the Lance who took on the position of First Master of the Citadel of Light early on in the Age of Mortals, comes from this tribe. Clans of centaurs also live in the Plains of Dust, although they have great disregard for two-legged beings and avoid them if at all possible. Both of these groups, however, share a reverence for a tremendous vallenwood tree that springs miraculously from the desert’s arid soil. Called the Grandfather Tree by some, and the World Tree by others, nobody denies that this is a god-touched spot. Those who sleep under the tree receive prophetic dreams that help them prepare for whatever life holds in store.
The capital of the Qualinesti nation, Qualinost has historically been the major cultural center of Abanasinia. The elves used their woodshaping powers to create a living city, and their gardens supposedly manifested the owners’ personalities. Sadly, though, many of the wonders of Qualinost were stolen when Beryllinthranox the Green took control of the Qualinesti Forest. She sent Dark Knights to occupy the city and ordered them to confiscate all items containing even the smallest spark of magic. For over thirty years Qualinost remained the capital of a captive nation. None of the elves would leave their ancestral home, and very few even bothered to put up resistance. They seemed content to spend their incredibly long lives waiting for something to happen. Eventually, something did.
When Beryl ordered Laurana, the Qualinesti’s Queen Mother (and the Hero of the Lance known as the Golden General), put to death, even the Dark Knights rebelled. The elves and humans stood together to oppose the dragon and, in the end, all three were decimated. Beryl was killed, the Dark Knight troops were shattered, and the force of the battle was so great that the city itself crumbled — leaving the Qualiensti elves homeless.
Thankfully, the elves had struck a bargain with the dwarves of Thorbardin. The dwarves dug tunnels beneath Qualinost through which the elves escaped. Now, on the spot where once one of the greatest cities ever raised stood, there is a Lake of Death and land riddled with half-collapsed tunnels.
Cradled in the valley of the Lords of Doom, which are three constantly active volcanoes, the city of Sanction is perhaps the most unlikely settlement ever built. Lava canals flow through Sanction’s heart, and when they overflow, whole quarters of the city are laid waste. During the War of the Lance, Sanction served as the base of operations for Lord Ariakas. It was also the site where the Dark Queen Takhisis hid her stolen metallic dragon eggs and perverted them to create the race of draconians. After the Chaos War, a sorcerer named Hogan Bight took over the city. Under his auspices, the city quelled the lawlessness for which it was famous and became a bastion of hope for the free people of Ansalon, while it staved off attacks from the Knights of Takhisis as well as from several of the Dragon Overlords.
Many find it odd that a city built on such an inhospitable spit of land should be so sought after by powers that can conquer practically any land they choose. Perhaps it is Sanction’s historic significance as a place favored by Takhisis that drives this urge for the forces darkness to desire it so.
An interesting legend has grown about the catacombs beneath Sanction. The legend states that these lava-blasted tunnels are home to a mysterious race of humanoids known only as “shadowpeople.”
The only island of any significance in the New Sea, Schallsea is a fairly idyllic place. The coastlines are covered in rolling, grassy plains while the island’s center rises into a range of low, lush mountains incongruously named the Barren Hills. Only one city of any significance is on the island — the port of Schallsea — where the Knights of Solamnia keep a garrison and maintain the peace in the busy shipping lanes of the New Sea. Schallsea Isle has long been home to two barbarian tribes — the pacifistic Wemitowuk and the aggressive Qué-Nal — but it has become most famous in recent years for housing the Citadel of Light.
Goldmoon, former Hero of the Lance, founded the Citadel of Light in the days following the death of her husband Riverwind. She was seeking peace of heart and mind, but she found infinitely more here. Built at the foot of the Silver Stairs (a crystal staircase that ascends into the heavens), the Citadel of Light is the birthplace of the magic discipline known as mysticism or the “magic of the heart.” The enclave’s silver domes served as a symbol of peace and enduring belief in the vanished gods throughout the early years of the Fifth Age. However, the Green Overlord and her minions tore the Citadel apart early in the War of Souls.
The capital of the Silvanesti nation of elves, Silvanost has been the single most important city in elf culture for as long as memory serves. Build on an island in the Thon-Thalas river deep within the Slivanesti Forest, this city has unfortunately been the location of many of the elves’ most infamous blunders. From here, King Lorac was seduced by the power of a Dragon Orb and turned the entire nation into a living nightmare. Silvanost is also the place from which Governor Konnal and others raised a magic shield that surrounded the forest for over thirty years. The purpose of this shield was to protect the Silvanesti elves from outside attack, but in truth it was slowly sapping the forest and the people of their life force.
The Silvanesti Shield came down during the early days of the War of Souls, but the elves have not faired much better in the intervening months. They were almost immediately overtaken by Dark Knight forces loyal to the young commander Mina. And although they won their freedom shortly after their Qualinesti cousins arrived from across the Plains of Dust, the city recently fell to attacks from the ogres of Blöde.
The rocky, untillable heart of the Astivar Mountains is an area where no human, elf, or even dwarf would ever choose to live. This made it the perfect place for a band of renegade draconians settle. These draconians, led by the Aurak Kang, were tired of being slaves of the Dark Knights and sent off on missions too dangerous, too difficult, or just too unsavory for the humans’ delicate tastes. They had served loyally through three wars, and now wanted their just rewards — if the knights wouldn’t give it to them, then they’d by Takhisis take it for themselves. And so it was that the nation of Teyr was formed. Before long, draconians from all across the continent flocked to the desolate mountain range they thought was the closest worldly thing to paradise.
All too soon that dream was dashed as the Dark Knights “enlisted” the aid of Teyr for their campaign to conquer Nordmaar. The draconians have bided their time ever since, waiting for the right opportunity to turn on the Dark Knights and, hopefully, gain the trust and friendship of their former enemies, the Knights of Solamnia.