Description

The Dessarin Valley, also known as the Gateway to the North by its residents, was a valley region situated between the Sword Mountains and the High Forest. It was home to a diverse range of folk, although most inhabitants were either humans or halflings. The main industry of the Dessarin Valley was agriculture, and Goldenfields played a large part in the agricultural economy of the North.

The Dessarin was unlike the rest of the Savage Frontier. While it was largely unsettled, comprising many scattered, remote villages and farmsteads, the valley was much safer than the surrounding area had been in years past.

Geography

The region of the Dessarin Valley was bordered on the east by the High Forest and the Forlorn Hills, and on the west by the Long Road.

Geographical Features

Mountains and hills

  • Dessarin Hills: These rugged hills held several ancient dwarven ruins and were home to orcs, ogres, and other fearsome beasts.
  • Sumber Hills: The badlands located on either side of the river Dessarin held several notable locations, such as the Halls of the Hunting Axe ruins and the Feathergale Spire in the Sighing Valley.

Rivers and streams

  • The valley was named for the great River Dessarin, that flowed from the Evermoors in the Savage Frontier to the Sea of Swords just south of Waterdeep. It was fed by several tributaries, including the River Surbrin, Horn Stream, and Gaustar’s Creek.

Wetlands

  • Black Maw Bog: These wetlands surrounded the area around and underneath the massive Ilikur’s Bridge.

History

In −4420 DR, the shield dwarf kingdom of Besilmer was founded. Besilmer was a very atypical dwarf kingdom, built above ground with fields and pastures to support it. For years, Besilmer flourished but then fell under attack by giants and trolls. This led to the construction of Tyar-Besil, an underground city. Besilmer fell a century after its construction. Ruins from the kingdom still stood as late as the 15th century DR, most notably the Stone Bridge that spanned the Dessarin River; and, although in poor condition, the ruins known as the Halls of the Hunting Axe.

In the Year of the Raised Sword, 893 DR, the Knights of the Silver Horn discovered the ruins of Tyar-Besil. The knights set up strongholds in the ruins but came under attack by Uruth Ukrypt. This led to Dessarin Valley being dragged into the Orcfastings War, and the First and Second Trollwars. By the Year of the Circling Vulture, 942 DR, all signs of human civilization had been wiped out.

Around the Year of the Wailing Winds, 1000 DR, following the expansion of Waterdeep, a few small villages started to develop. This led to the founding of Red Larch, Yartar, and Triboar.

Dwarven Kingdom of Besilmer

This dwarven realm’s name and history is forgotten even by most dwarves, al- though two of its proudest works remain as landmarks known throughout the Sword Coast North today: the Stone Bridge and the Halls of the Hunting Axe.

Besilmer was founded almost as long ago as Gharraghaur, by dwarves under Torhild Flametongue. Torhild and his followers believed that the dwarves would always be a beleaguered race, so long as they mined in the mountains and fought the other creatures who dwelt there, most notably giants and orcs.

The future of the dwarves, Torhild believed, lay in learning to farm, reshaping the downlands, not the mountains, to form beautiful, pastoral, stable communities, living at peace with neighboring men and elves. In his vision, they would use the native innovations and craft-of-hands of dwarves to prosper as inventors, builders, and repairers.

Accordingly, Torhild founded his realm in the troll-infested hills of the fertile Dessarin valley, where no elf or other civilized folk laid claim, and set to work. The trolls were eradicated, though they continued to raid, each year, from the Ever- moors to the north. Irrigation was begun, and livestock herds accumulated and bred.

Fallen Kingdom. Dwarves fleeing from Delzoun (see below) occupied the Halls for 40 winters more, but succumbed to harsh winters, wolves, and orcs in the end.

Persistent rumors tell of great riches buried hastily by the fleeing dwarves, and of magical treasures hidden somewhere beneath the earth near or under the Halls, but no such treasure has yet been found. Besilmer is today forgotten, al- though its sign, a wheel over a plow, can be found on rocks at Ironford and on the pylons of the Stone Bridge, as well as here and there around the Sumber Hills (the modern name for the hills bisected by the Dessarin, which lie just south of the Stone Bridge).

Its borders extended from tree’s edge of the Westwood, east to Ironford, and from there due east to the edge of the High For- est. At that time, the High Forest extended further westwards than it does today. From there its borders went north along that tree’s edge to the short-lived lumbering town of Caddarak, now marked only by the stone hall of its lord, Darthurn, called by humans the Hall of Four Ghosts.

From there, the realm’s borders ran due west, skirting the hills that lie south of present-day Yartar, to Tsordvudd (known today as Kryptgarden Forest).

Notable Locations

Settlements

Thorps
  • Bargewright Inn: Though it began as a single boarding house, this settlement grew large enough to be targeted by the Zhentarim and fall under their sway.
Villages
  • Amphail: The village of Amphail was well known for the quality horses that were bred within.
  • Beliard: This delightful little village served as a marketplace for cattle ranchers from the surrounding areas.
  • Calling Horns: Like several settlements found throughout the North, Calling Horns grew from a single building to a thriving community.
  • Longsaddle: Home to the famed Harpell family, this small village fell under the protection of the Lords’ Alliance.
  • Noanar’s Hold: The isolated village on the edge of the High Forest was located within the region patrolled by the undead Hunt Lords.
  • Red Larch: This way-stop settlement was located on the Long Road, a way north of Waterdeep.
  • Westbridge: The town that housed the charming Harvest Inn, was so named for its location to the west of Stone Bridge.
Towns
  • Goldenfields: Also known as the “Granary of the North”, this massive temple-farm provided food for many settlements in the North.
  • Mornbryn’s Shield: Located on the western edge of the Evermoors, this town was forced to regularly defend itself from the creatures of the swamp.
  • Triboar: This bustling crossroads town was the meeting place for many merchants that traveled along the Long Road or the Evermoor Way.
  • Womford: This small village featured a mill, a marketplace, and riverside docks.
  • Xantharl’s Keep: Named after a famous ranger of the North, this fortified village fell under the authority of the northern city of Mirabar.
Cities
  • Yartar: The member-city of the Lords’ Alliance, was the commercial center of the region.
Other
  • Griffon’s Nest: The ancestral mound of the Griffon tribe of Uthgardt barbarians was nestled within the northern Surbrin Hills.

Landmarks

Abbeys, Monasteries and Temples
  • Scarlet Moon Hall: This refuge was home to the Scarlet Moon druidic circle.
  • Summit Hall: Originally founded by Samular Caradoon, this monastery served as the headquarters of the Knights of Samular.
  • Vale of Dancing Waters: Considered sacred to the dwarves of the North, this hidden valley housed the Shrine of the Tender Oath, which was dedicated to the goddess Sharindlar. The vale was located on the west side of the river Dessarin, at the end of a hidden trail leading south from the Stone Bridge. Called “Tyn’rrin Wurlur” in Dwarvish, it was once the site of the summer palace of King Torhild Flametongue of Besilmer.
Keeps and Towers
  • Feathergale Spire: Home to the dashing, aerial mounted Feathergale Knights, this tower offered a commanding view of the entire valley.
  • Rivergard Keep: Locates on the banks of the river Dessarin, this stronghold house bandits that operated under the guise of well-meaning mercenaries.
Ruins
  • Ruined Moathouse: An old set of ruins of a small fort which has been occupied by a group of bandits and in the areas below the fort are representatives of the Elemental Temples.
Bridges
  • Ilikur’s Bridge: This grand bridge spanned a stretch of wetlands along the Long Roach, between the Sword Mountains and Dessarin Hills.
  • Ironford: The surrounding village of Womford grew around this bridge, which crossed the Dessarin River at the Iron Road.
  • Stone Bridge: The great stone archway that crossed the Dessarin once connected two regions of the dwarven realm of Besilmer.
  • Zundbridge: While not as remarkable as the valley’s other bridges, Zundbridge allowed for crossing of the Dessarin just south of Waterdeep.
Roads
  • Cairn Road
  • Dessarin Road
  • Evermoor Way
  • Jundar’s Pass
  • Iron Road
  • Kheldell Path
  • Larch Path
  • Long Road
  • Stone Trail

Campaign Details

Dessarin Valley, a lightly settled region of caravan towns, isolated homesteads, and uninhabited wilderness just a week’s journey from Waterdeep. Nothing of note to the wider world has happened here for hundreds of years.

The frontier long ago receded farther northward, leaving behind a quiet backwater littered with ruins. These days, the Dessarin Valley has little in common with the popular conception of the Savage Frontier. Winters are hard here, but the hordes of ores and other hungry monsters are a long way off from these parts.

 If the Dessarin Valley isn’t quite as wild and lawless as it once was, it’s still lightly settled territory that serves as a route to distant lands. Residents in places such as Red Larch or Triboar boast that their humble settlements are “the Gateway to the North.” Through these lands pass hundreds of caravans and keelboats each year, linking the great ports of Waterdeep and Neverwinter with places such as Everlund, Mirabar, or Silverymoon. The steady caravan traffic breathes life into the towns of this area, supporting businesses in the settlements along the Long Road. Inns cater to travelers anxious to sleep safely within sturdy walls and enjoy good food by a warm fire instead of camping by the side of the road.

In addition to catering to caravans and travelers heading to or from the far North, the Dessarin Valley is a breadbasket for the hungry populations of Waterdeep and Neverwinter. The farms and pastures of the area produce grain, livestock, poultry, apples, and hops, then ship them downriver (or drive them down the Long Road) to the coast. Few people become rich from farming, but farmers in the region do well for themselves provided the weather cooperates. (That’s one reason why the unusual weather lately has been a concern.)

History

Most people who live in the Dessarin Valley have no idea of its long history. Old-timers nodding sagely by the hearths of the local taprooms sometimes observe,

“These lands, they have old bones.” Most locals have no idea of how right they are.

While some truly ancient ruins in this area go back to the days of the first great elf kingdoms, none of these figures into the story of this adventure. The earliest realm that does is the shield dwarf kingdom of Besilmer, which was founded nearly six thousand years ago in -4420 DR. Its existence is so far back in the mists of history that only a handful of non-dwarf sages have even heard of it. Most people of the Dessarin Valley don’t know Besilmer at all, but they are familiar with two of its works: the engineering marvel known as the Stone Bridge and the crumbling ruins known as the Halls of the Hunting Axe.

The realm of Besilmer was something rare: a dwarven kingdom built on the surface, with its strength measured in fields and pastures. It prospered for a time but was plagued by trolls and giants. The dwarves were obliged to build a stronghold underground, carving out the fortress-city of Tyar-Besil a century after Besilmer’s founding. Unfortunately for the dwarves, the realm collapsed after its king and founder died in battle.

Most of the surviving dwarves sought safer lands. The dwarven city beneath the Sumber Hills was abandoned by -4160 DR and then forgotten.

Tyar-Besil slumbered in darkness for many long centuries, occasionally discovered and occupied by monsters or ambitious miners, only to be abandoned again. It came to light again in 893 DR, when a group of adventurers who called themselves the Knights of the Silver Horn discovered the ruins. Over the next six years they returned again and again, eventually founding strongholds of their own to safeguard the hidden entrances to the sprawling dungeon.

The knights had some success in clearing small domains in the wild Sumber Hills, but only a few years later the powerful ore realm of Uruth Ukrypt arose nearby, and the Dessarin Valley became a battlefield. Trouble followed on trouble: the Orcfastings War, the First and Second Trollwars, and finally a series of vicious drow raids. By the year 942 DR, human settlements in the Dessarin Valley had been all but wiped out, and the Knights of the Silver Horn were no more. Their strongholds crumbled into ruin and became known in later years as the Haunted Keeps. Eventually, no one remembered who built them or why.

The current wave of settlement in and around the Dessarin Valley began after 1000 DR, coinciding with Waterdeep’s growth from a warlord’s stronghold into a major city. The first small outposts that would grow into places such as Red Larch and Triboar were carved out of a wild and untamed land. People resettling the Dessarin Valley found the remains of “kingdoms of old” scattered here and there throughout the area.

Current Events

Minor issues are nothing unusual in the Dessarin Valley. Bands of savage humanoids from the Sword Mountains or the Evermoors occasionally raid here. Human barbarians known as the Uthgardt roam these lands, and the more aggressive tribes can be very dangerous. Bandits sometimes gather in the lonelier parts of the vale to waylay caravans traveling the Long Road or the Kheldell Path. Every now and then reckless or unlucky adventurers manage to stir up some ancient curse in the ruins scattered around the area. Constables of valley settlements are usually up to the task of restoring the peace.