Across the Sword Sea, some 120 leagues from the western coast of Faerûn, can be found a cluster of islands which have come to be known as the Moonshaes. Cloaked in mists and deep woods and marked by numerous moors, lakes, and soaring mountains, these isles are a world apart from the rest of the realms. In the Moonshaes, nature and magic are practically synonymous, and the line between myth and reality can be as thin as a whisper.
The Moonshae Isles are spread over an area of the Sword Sea that is about 600 miles long and 500 miles wide.
|ISLANDS OF THE MOONSHAES|
Alaron is the most traveled island of the Moonshaes, and the most influenced by the world beyond the isles. When foreigners think of the Moonshaes, it is generally Alaron that comes to mind. The island is home to Calidyrr, the largest city in the kingdom and the High Queen’s seat of power. It would be fair to call Alaron the heart of the Moonshavian domain.
|SEASONS AND CLIMATE|
|The climate of the Moonshaes ranges between sub-arctic and temperate. However, within that range, it can be quite unpredictable. It is rarely possible to go to bed at night with any sort of certainty of what the weather will be like in the morning.
There is a good deal of precipitation in the Moonshaes. Annual rainfall on the southern islands varies between 60 and 100 inches, while the northern isles average 50-70 inches. Spring and summer are particularly soggy, while winter consistently remains the driest of the seasons. There are always exceptions to the rules, though. Wet winters and summer dry spells are not unheard of.
Winds are also a constant factor for all the islands, especially around the coasts where gales are frequent in spring and autumn. Thunderstorms come in the summer, and are particularly prevalent in the south. The winter months bring their own squalls and storms, but snowfall is usually sporadic, wet and short-lived (except in the inner highlands where it sometimes won’t melt off until spring).
Temperatures in the Moonshaes range between 75° in summer and 15° in winter, but cold snaps and heat waves do happen, and winds can impact these temperatures as well. Inland it tends to be a little colder in the winter and a little warmer in the summer. The inner coastlines that face the Sea of Moonshae experience the least amount of fluctuation in temperature, gradually lifting and falling between 20° and 70° throughout the course of a year.
|THE PASSAGE OF TIME|
|The Moonshaes employ the standard
Faerûnian calendar, known as the Calendar of Harptos. Each year of 365 days is divided into 12 months of 30 days, and each month is split into 3 tendays (or rides). Five special days fall between the months, which serve as holidays to mark the passing of the seasons.
Dates that are also of importance, particularly in the southern Moonshaes, are the Spring Equinox (the 19th of Ches), the Summer Solstice (the 20th of Kythorn), the Autumn Equinox (the 21st of Eleint) and the Winter Solstice (the 20th of Nightal).
A Moonshavian day is generally split up into 8 segments of time: first sun (dawn), morning, high sun (noon), afternoon, sun’s end, evening, midnight, and night’s end. Each of these segments is roughly 3 hours in length.
|DENIZENS OF THE ISLANDS|
|Of the peoples and creatures that call the Moonshaes their home, it is the two races of human folk
-- The Rauthymar and the Telfyr -- that are easily the most dominant. Although these two peoples have existed side by side for centuries, they haven’t traditionally been the best of neighbors. As a result, they’ve managed to remain
culturally distinct from one another, to the point where even outsiders can quickly tell them apart. Perhaps someday these Moonshavians will be a single, unified people
-- certainly efforts are being made to make that vision a reality -- but for now they must be regarded and described separately.
The Rauthymar are tall, with large, muscular builds being common amongst both men and women. They are fair-skinned and fair-haired, and their eyes are shades of blue, green and gray. Redheads are rare and are considered to be spirit-touched.
Valor and honor are extremely important concepts to the Northlanders. They also admire strength, self sufficiency and martial prowess, and though they can appreciate a clever and wily mind, they don’t much care for outright trickery and deception. It’s always wise to speak plainly to a Northlander if you want to earn his trust and respect.
The Northlanders have a pronounced love for the sea. Even though, as a people, they have a degree of agricultural proficiency (primarily learned from the Telfyr), most of the islands they inhabit remain wild and untouched. This is because a Northlander would much rather sail the waves than explore the wilderness.
Generally of darker skin and hair than their seafaring neighbors, the Ffolk also average out as being shorter. They’re often of a wide-framed build, though. All eye colors are known, but dark-brown occurs the most frequently. Hair colour comes in all shades, from light blonde to black, but red is rare. Coincidentally, like the Northlanders, the Telfyr consider redheads to be spirit-touched.
The Telfyr respect the land like the Northlanders respect the sea. They are a hardworking agricultural people known for their deep reverence of nature and their unwavering resolve (which some call plain old stubbornness). Though they are not as aggressive as their northern neighbors, they can be quite fierce when provoked, and they do maintain many warrior traditions. Over the centuries, these qualities have earned them the respect of the Rauthymar... which has frequently proven to be a mixed blessing, as it has made the Ffolk a favored adversary of the Northlanders.
In years past, the Rauthymar and the Telfyr have spent much of their time at each other’s throats, particularly due to the Northlander’s penchant for bloody raiding. Over the last few decades, however, that relationship has started to improve. While there are still problems, the two peoples currently live together in relative peace, loosely united under the High Queen’s banner.
There are, however, the Llewyrr, the Renshi, and the Firbolg. These three races are reclusive and their populations are comparatively small, but they do call the Moonshaes home, and they each impact life in the island domain in their own way.
Although the Llewyrr allegedly inhabit almost all of the islands, they are rarely seen by human eyes. For this reason, most foreigners believe them to be nothing more than a myth. Only the druids of the Ffolk can claim to interact with them with any real frequency, but even that interaction is kept limited, and it takes place only in the Myrloch Vale, on the island of Gwynneth. According to stories, the sacred valley is very close to Synnoria, the place these fey folk call home.
The Llewyrr are smaller than other elves, reaching heights no taller than 5 feet. They have skin ranging from bronze to dark brown in colour. Their hair can be blonde, coppery-red, or a deep chestnut hue. Eyes can be green, topaz, gold, or hazel. They enjoy wearing jewelry and other adornments, and also frequently sport elaborate tattoos.
The largest Firbolg population is established on the island of Norland, but they can also be found on the other major isles in isolated, usually mountainous, locations. For example, there are long-standing Firbolg settlements in the mountains of Alaron, Gwynneth and Moray. The giants are known to be very skilled in the working of wood, and often mark the borders of their territories with elaborate tree carvings.
One last thing to remember about the Firbolg is that they should not be confused with giants elsewhere in the realms that happen to be known by the same name. The Moonshavian Firbolg is a distinct species unto itself.
The biggest Renshi communities are on Gwynneth and Alaron, and a trade relationship has long been established with the human denizens of those islands. Renshi wares that have found their way to coastal markets have given the Moonshaes a reputation as a source for exceedingly fine weapons. Foreigners who learn of the small folk, and try to cut out the local middlemen by trading with the Renshi directly are firmly, and sometimes violently, rebuked.
There also exists several gnoll settlements, especially along the western coast of Moray Island (which the Northlanders have taken to raiding). It’s not known how the gnolls came to be on the islands, but they have certainly made themselves at home since their arrival. Although their population explosion was curbed by the Ffolk some decades ago, they have since been making a comeback.
Draka, diminutive creatures related to Kobolds, are also apparently unique to the Moonshaes. They hide in moors and underneath broken lands, collecting into sizeable tribes. Centuries ago, they raided human settlements regularly. They don’t seem to do that anymore, and everyone’s perfectly fine with that. However, they will still ambush travelers that venture too close to their territories.
And that’s not all that can be encountered. True giants roam the high places throughout all of the isles, and, of course, there are the creatures of the sea, like the
Sahuagin, that have been known to attack coastal villages from time to time. There is many a tale of the Restless Dead as well.
|A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MOONSHAES|
history, while close, is not completely in line with the actual
Forgotten Realms canon. Please refer to the Storyteller's
Library for a listing of canon source material)
Legends say that the first Telfyr immigrants who came to the Moonshaes were called to the islands by the Earthmother herself. It is further said that she spoke to them in dreams and sent her children to guide them through the journey.
The more fanciful tales declare that the Telfyr were spirited across the Sword Sea by the Leviathan -- an enormous whale -- that carried the people in its mouth. Other stories claim that they merely sailed across the ocean in boats. Although, in a way, the latter scenario is even more unbelievable than the former, as the Telfyr don’t make the most sea-worthy of vessels.
However, regardless of the differing descriptions of the journey, all agree that when the Telfyr first set foot on the southern shores of Gwynneth, they were met by the Llewyrr. The fey folk, who apparently knew the Telfyr were coming, welcomed the new arrivals with open arms and bade them to settle in the blessed lands of the Goddess. They did so. This was well over a millennia ago.
Time passed and the Telfyr spread across the islands. They settled Gwynneth first, then Alaron, then Moray, and then the other isles. Though they were bound together by their faith, the people, scattered as they were, gradually lost the sense of being one tribe. A person’s immediate community and clan became the primary source of identity. Differences between communities developed. Neighboring clans became rivals... then enemies. The Jannathi druids did what they could to keep the peace, and they often succeeded... but not always, and with each clan war that erupted, the Telfyr fractured further. However, the clans would soon be given ample reason to unite.
Kazgaroth Awakens and a High King
From the kingdom of Calidyrr, on the isle of Alaron, the Laird Cymrych Hugh rode forth to hunt the Beast and confront the darkness. With the blessings of the Earthmother and carrying the finest sword ever forged by the Renshi, the King of Calidyrr united the island clans and made war against Kazgaroth and his minions. In time Cymrych faced the Beast himself, and drove it back from the world. Thus, the Moonshaes were saved, and the Telfyr subsequently embraced their first High King.
To commemorate the event, the Llewyrr fashioned for Cymrych a splendid crown and enchanted it with fey magics. The High King called it the Crown of the Ffolk, and thus were the Telfyr clans united under a new name.
In order to symbolize his united realm, Cymrych Hugh saw to the construction of the spectacular Caer Calidyyr, and declared that it would henceforth and forever be the seat of the High Kings of the Moonshaes. Then, to secure his own line, he married Princess Lycia, the daughter of a major chieftain of Gwynneth. Sadly, she died while giving birth to their third son, but Cymrych remarried and sired two more children before he himself at last succumbed to the old wounds the Beast had inflicted upon him years before. Cymrych’s eldest son, Tryel, inherited his father’s crown at the age of 13, and his other children eventually married into the more prominent noble families of the Isles, thereby becoming the progenitors of all the future kings of the Moonshaes. The destiny of the kingdom seemed insured… but all things erode over time.
When the Rauthymar arrived on the scene some 400 years ago, they found a collection of squabbling kingdoms, ready-made for conquest. The reigning High King, Dolan Cymrych, attempted to meet the Northlanders at the northern tip of Alaron, but he made the mistake of trying to cross Whitefish Bay in a coracle flotilla. The King’s forces were confronted by the fast-sailing long ships of the Northlanders, and the flotilla was quickly annihilated. Dolan died trying to cover his followers’ retreat, and the Crown of the Ffolk was lost to the briny depths of the sea.
The loss of king and crown was a devastating blow to an already tenuous alliance of clans. Dolan’s son, Conn, was the undisputed High King, but his authority had been undermined by his father’s losses. The lairds of the Ffolk paid their respects to their new liege but gave him no further attention beyond that. Instead, each island king and cantrev chieftain attempted to fight the Northlanders in his own way… and usually lost. Fierce as the Ffolk were, they were no match for the Tempurian Rauthymar, especially in light of their lack of cooperation. Within a century, the Northlanders had claimed Norland, Norheim and Oman’s Isle, as well as the northern regions of Alaron and Gwynneth.
Over the course of another century, the warring between the Ffolk and the Northlanders settled down to a dull roar. The Ffolk were unable to reclaim their lost lands, but the Northlanders were equally unable to make any further advancements into Ffolk territory. Minor border skirmishes, raiding and counter-raiding became the norm, and so it went for many decades after that. It appeared that the Moonshaes would never again be a united realm, but history would soon repeat itself.
Yet, just as before, another hero emerged to stave off the Beast. Prince Tristan Kendrik, first son of the High King, appeared on the scene, and when it was heard that he wielded the Sword of Cymrych Hugh, many clans were quick to rally around him. Tristan exposed the Cult of the Beast, as well as the duplicity it had employed to secure the cooperation of the Northlanders and the Firbolg. By doing so, he gained the Rauthymar and the giant-kin as allies, which proved to be the beginning of the end for Kazgaroth and the Bhaalite minions.
The Return of the King
Without the Beast to empower them, the cultists were dispatched soon after. The war had been won. When the victorious prince returned to Caer Calidyrr, he found the Crown of the Ffolk waiting for him, still wet with the sea’s kiss.
The appearance of the long lost crown was taken as an undeniable sign. Tristan was declared and universally recognized as the new High King of the Moonshaes. Though he found the responsibility ill-fitting at first, he quickly grew into it, and he became determined to see that the peoples of the Isles would never again grow so far apart as they had before. He strengthened the bond that had been forged in war between the Ffolk and the Northlanders, and eventually even coaxed the Rauthymar Warlords to come at least partially under the Kendrik banner. He also brought the Moonshaes economically and culturally closer to the Sword Coast, under the belief that, if faced with outsiders, Moonshavians would be more inclined to stick together (so far, his theory has proven true). Tristan governed over a peaceful realm for a quarter of a century, but unbeknownst to anyone, his reign was to come to a premature and abrupt end.
And a Queen Shall Lead Them
The High King’s decision sent the island kingdom into a brief period of turmoil. Some feared that war would once again break out between the Northlanders and the Ffolk. However, shortly after her ascendancy, Alicia — along with a Northlander prince and a handful of other compatriots — did battle with a dark, draconic creature in the highlands of Alaron. Vested with the Earthmother’s blessing, the young queen defeated the beast single-handedly, thereby breaking the back of a new cult that was rising in the realm.
Thus, Alicia’s timely rise to power came to be viewed as something more than mere coincidence. Like her father before her, Alicia’s role as queen seemed preordained. This satisfied most of those who were initially reluctant to follow her, and her reign, while not without its difficulties, has since been quite stable. For the past 5 years, the Moonshaes have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity.
|GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS|
|The Moonshaes are, in theory, a monarchy, currently ruled by High Queen Alicia Kendrik and her consort High King Keane. In reality, they are a collection of minor kingdoms held together by the most influential and powerful of their number.
Swearing fealty to the High Throne in Alaron are the Telfyr lairds and Northlander warlords of the isle clans. There are twelve prominent clans and a handful of lesser ones spread throughout the islands. The clan leaders oversee and protect the kingdom in the name of the High Queen, who assumed the throne in 1365. The degree to which they devote themselves to this task varies from leader to leader.
On Oman’s Isle, in the Iron Keep, sits the Lord of the Rauthymar, the Red King Havelock. He’s called the Red King, because it’s said that he has been touched by Tempus’ own hand (as evidenced by his flaming red hair). It’s no secret that Havelock doesn’t get along with Alicia, and if it weren’t for the other enemies that he’s had to worry about, he likely would’ve broken away from the High Throne long ago.
It should come as no surprise then that the Queen has encouraged inter-marriage between noble Rauthymar and Telfyr families, so that, should such a break ever come, the Northlanders’ loyalties would be divided. She has also promoted the old tradition of fosterage between the two peoples for the same reason.
Then there are the clans of the Ffolk. Though it’s doubtful that they’d openly admit to it, not all of the clan leaders fully approve of the Moonshavian matriarch. Further, many of them are ambitious, perhaps even to the point of having their own designs on the High Throne. All they would need is the opportunity to act, and so Alicia must be forever vigilant, making sure to never provide them with an opportunity to fracture the realm.
|THE RULING HOUSES|
Location: Korinn Archipelago
Warlord: Bionbyr, Lord of the Korrins
Seat of Power: Caftenor Isle
That there is a King of the Korinns suggests a degree of unity in the archipelago that, in reality, doesn't actually exist. Bionbyr Ansgar, though easily the most powerful of the Korinn warlords, holds very little practical control over his peers, who perpetually feud with one another.
Location: Southern Gwynneth
Laird: Sorscha, Lady of Corwell, Queen of Gwynneth
Seat of Power: Caer Corwell
In the the Lady Sorscha Cymric, High Queen Kendrik has a staunch ally. The extremely devout Sorscha sees Alicia's reign as being the will of the Goddess. However, she is also opposed to the introduction of foreign ideals and culture to the island realm.
|LIFE AND SOCIETY|
|There are two distinct ways of life on the Moonshaes: the way of the land and the way of the sea. The vast majority of Moonshavians follow one or the other exclusively, and often because of family tradition. Obviously, the Ffolk are associated more strongly with the former, and the Northlanders the latter, but there are many exceptions to these general rules. The primary cause for these exceptions is commerce.
Distant as they are from the mainland, the Moonshaes still see quite a lot of foreign trade from the Sword Coast. Due to this, merchants amongst the Ffolk invariably have to turn their attention to matters nautical. They may never set foot on a ship, but if they’re smart, they’ll make a point of learning about them and the waves they ply. After all, a Moonshavian merchant’s livelihood often depends on the whims and conditions of the ocean, the quality of the vessels that carry the wares, and the competency of the sailors that man those vessels.
On the other end of the spectrum, as relations between the northern and southern islands have improved, the Northlanders have become less focused on raiding and more focused on trading. In order to trade, you have to have goods. In order to have goods, you have to produce them. Thus has agriculture crept into the way of Northlander life… peripherally, but still there nonetheless.
Luckily for both these peoples, the strengths of the one have compensated for the weaknesses of the other. Both have learned from the other, and this exchange has brought greater wealth and commercial prominence to their collective domain. This, in turn, has impacted the general lifestyle on many of the islands, most notably Alaron and Mintarn, and to a lesser extent, Gwynneth and Oman’s Isle. However, there is now a growing cultural gap between the relatively cosmopolitan trade centers facing the Sword Sea, and the more isolated islands farther out. Where there was once a cultural division between north and south, a division of a different sort is now forming between east and west. What effect this will ultimately have on the islands, only time will tell, but the disparity is becoming noticeable.
While each Moonshae realm is fairly self-sufficient, a certain amount of trading still takes place between them. This exchange occurs via overland transport when its between realms on the same island, and overseas along well established routes when its between the islands themselves. It most often takes the form of barter, albeit on a very large scale.
Many of the trade agreements between the various Moonshavian realms have remained unchanged for generations. For example, one settlement on Moray has tendered a certain number of moorhounds in exchange for ale from a settlement on Gwynneth every year, without fail, for as long as anyone can remember. This annual exchange has become so routine and so ingrained, that it would probably continue even if the two settlements were to suddenly take up arms against one another. In fact, that sort of thing has happened before.
As for outer trade, it takes the more common form one would expect. In other words, it generally involves coin, contracts, and all the other trappings one tends to associate with more sophisticated commerical endeavors.
Trading partners of the Moonshaes include Calimshan, Amn, Tethyr, and Waterdeep. Imported goods include silks, parchment, spices, and horses from Calimshan, woven fabrics, coal, and exotic liquors from Waterdeep, rugs and fine furniture from Amn, and pipeweed and tea from Tethyr. Exported goods include armor, weapons, exotic items, almond brandy, timber, and other raw materials.
However, mostly due to animosities between clans and cantrevs and a dwindling unity of the realm in general, fosterage, over time, fell out of favor and became less expected. Today, it's a practice that more closely resembles apprenticeship rather than actual child-rearing. Fostered children rarely leave the community in which they were born, and they often spend as much time with their real parents as they do with their foster-parents (who are usually blood relatives). Put simply, fosterage is generally a means for a child to learn a particular craft or trade, and those who aren’t raised this way are no longer viewed as being a peculiarity.
In recent decades, though, the old version of the custom has experienced a limited resurgence. Back in the old days, fostering had always been considered an acceptable way to strengthen ties between competing clans. Rival lairds would exchange their children as insurance against open conflict, which effectively made those children one step away from being hostages. This practice waned along with the overall diminishment of the custom, but ever since the Ffolk and the Northlanders were brought under one banner, it’s been taken up again by the nobility of both peoples. Northlander children of high standing get sent to Ffolk families of similar stature, and vise-versa. At first, this only happened at the insistence of the High Throne, but the advantages of it have since been realized, and now there is much competition to get a noble son or daughter placed in a particularly prominent home.
The rules of hospitality are mostly a matter of common sense. Share what you can, do not take more than you need, and don’t wear out your welcome. If you are given something, try to offer something in return. The reciprocation is not expected, but a decent and honorable guest will offer a gift of thanks if it’s within their ability to do so. This gift can, and often does, take the form of entertainment, such as the telling of stories. If this offer is not made, the guest can expect to enjoy less generosity in the future.
In offering hospitality, hosts can withhold their best stores, but they should never eat or drink better than their guests (unless those guests have behaved inappropriately in the past). Further, a guest can reasonably expect lodging for as many as three days. Anything beyond that is considered to be an undue imposition, unless there are special circumstances (the guest is wounded, for example). This three day limit is a condition believed to be adopted from Tethyrian custom.
No one is expected to invite danger into their homes. Individuals who have a shady or dangerous reputation can be safely rebuked without their prospective host losing face over it (hence one of the reasons why reputation is so important). Even so, only the most nefarious person would be denied a simple crust of bread and a drink of water. Anyone who would fail to warrant that much is probably a hunted criminal.
Once exposed to the ethics and ideals of chivalry, the Ffolk found the code to be much to their liking. It quickly spread and became widely adopted. There are knights in almost every high laird’s realm now, and more than a few children dream of becoming knights themselves. A handful of chivalric orders have been established, the foremost of which being the Knights of the Alabaster Throne, founded by High King Tristan himself.
Bringing chivalry to the islands was an important step in uniting the Ffolk clans politically, and though the Northlanders have not fully embraced the concept, there’s much about it that they approve of... such as the ideas of valor, honor, and courage. It has therefore served to highlight what the two peoples have in common, which has been a good thing for continued positive relations.
However, as with everything, there has been a downside. Many among the Ffolk fear that the chivalric code threatens to overshadow the Old Ways and invites foreign belief systems to establish a foothold on the islands. At least one High Laird, Dagdar Carach of Moray, rejects the concept of chivalry outright. Some of the finer points of the code contradict traditional Jannathi thinking, but the problem most commonly cited by its critics is its failure to recognize and acknowledge the importance of the land.
Leisure and Entertainment
With song being another means to deliver a story, music is also greatly appreciated by Moonshavians. Among the Ffolk, accomplished minstrels have a similar social status to bards, and musical competitions are common. The Northlanders also place a high value on musical ability. A Rauthymar king without a musician in his court is viewed as a poor king indeed.
Moonshavians also enjoy sports. Hurley, a team field sport, has been a Ffolk tradition for as long as anyone can remember. It’s a rough game that can sometimes result in serious injury, but it has a practical application in that it trains youths for battle. Compared to an actual sword fight, hurley is fairly safe, so boys are encouraged to play it, despite the risk. Also, with the onset of chivalric practices in the Moonshaes, tournaments involving jousting, melee, and archery competitions are becoming popular on several of the islands, and are being combined with the old contests of rock tossing and arm wrestling (a Northlander favorite). Northlanders prefer contests that involve swimming, sailing, and drinking. There is no other culture in all of Faerûn that boasts more drinking games than that of the Rauthymar, save perhaps that of the dwarves.
Fidchell is a board game played by both the Northlanders and the Ffolk. Northlanders also play chess and consider it to be more than just a game. A warrior’s ability to play chess can make or break his reputation amongst his peers.
|MAGIC AND THE SPIRIT WORLD|
|The Moonshae Isles are a place of
primeval and eldritch wonder, where the distinction between the physical
and the spiritual can sometimes become quite blurred. In the Moonshaes, nature exists on a mythic
scale. Mystical power -- the energy of creation itself -- emanates from
the wild places, and creatures of legend roam freely throughout the
Thus, no Moonshavian is truly a stranger to the supernatural. To most denizens of the islands, magic is widely understood to be an intrinsic part of the world. Strange things happen and spirits are everywhere. That’s just the way it is.
However, this preternatural quality that permeates the islands has a distinct character. It isn’t so much unnatural as it is nature amplified. It is composed of the primordial power of the earth and the sea, the essence of spirits, and the life force of the Mother herself. This is an important distinction, because any form of magic or manifestation of the supernatural that doesn’t fit into this classification is usually met with distrust at best, and contempt and outright hatred at worst.
Arcane magic, for example, is widely considered to be dangerous and questionable by Moonshavians, because there is little about it that could be called "natural". By the standards of most Ffolk, it is quite simply not of the Mother, while Northlanders view it as being as alien as, say, a devil. Therefore, those who employ it are usually regarded with suspicion, and sometimes even open hostility. It should come as no surprise then that wizards have a difficult time of it on the islands. There are a few who are accepted -- the High Queen’s consort, for example -- but they are a rarity and the acceptance is always tenuous.
Sorcerers also have difficulties, though their troubles are usually not as severe as those experienced by wizards. A sorcerer’s innate connection to the arcane is generally seen as a spiritual thing -- a part of their very essence -- and is therefore easier for most Moonshavians to accept. After all, unlike a mage, a sorcerer didn’t choose to be entwined with magic. Caution is still the rule of thumb, though. For example, no one would lose face by not extending full hospitality to a known sorcerer. Inviting the arcane into your house is just asking for trouble.
However, despite the overall animosity harbored for the arcane, there are certain varieties of practitioners who do enjoy general acceptance in the island cultures. Witches, for example have long been present on the Moonshaes. Their magic is of nature, the elements, and the spirits of both, and is designed to work in accord with those powers rather than forcing them to comply to unnatural demands.
This approach, combined with the fact that witches often work in cooperation with druids, has gained them a certain measure of respect amongst the Ffolk. Northlanders, on the other hand, are a little less tolerant of them, but even they have been known to call on the Old Seers from time to time. There is many a skald’s tale in which a hero would not have been able to achieve glory, were it not for the insight and wisdom provided by a witch.
Northlanders also have their runethanes, who work the arcane through ancient symbols of power. This magic is greatly respected by the Rauthymar, for it’s said that it’s granted by the spirits of their warrior ancestors. In essence, although the magic itself is arcane, the tools being used to wield it are seen as gifts from the divine, and are therefore sacred. To be entrusted with these gifts makes a runethane highly regarded amongst his people.
Finally, there are the spell-singing bards of the Ffolk, who have been taught an ancient arcane tradition by the Llewyrr. This is a magic of song and spirit, and the bards entrusted with its knowledge are as respected amongst the Ffolk as runethanes are amongst the Northlanders.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are practitioners who would never be tolerated on the islands under any circumstances. A necromancer, for example, would be hunted down and killed, as would those who bind and enslave spirits with their magic. Curiously, elementalists might also be negatively received, depending on their attitudes regarding their craft.
Denizens of the Spirit World
There are 3 basic classifications for these otherworldly entities. The first and most well known type is the Fae. The Fae are "in-betweeners", creatures that exist (in varying degrees) in a middle realm between the spirit and the material. The Llewyrr are a good example of Fae creatures. Other examples from Ffolk tales would be dryads, nymphs, and pixies.
The second type of entity is the Anym. The Anym is a true spirit, the actual spiritual essence of a place or thing. Jannath herself could be accurately called an Anym... just a very powerful one. According to the Jannathi, all things in the natural world have an Anym: every tree, every stone, every animal.
However, sometimes an Anym evolves, develops an identity, takes on a corporeal form, and comes to exist independently of the place, thing, or creature it was associated with. Such beings fall under the third classification: the Anymshee. Anymshee generally rise from the spiritual essence of animals, plants, places, or even people, that have either been blessed by the Earthmother or touched by Kazgoroth. Needless to say, the latter are not friendly, but the former frequently are.
The Anymshee that are mostly benevolent are called the Sheeaghan. The unfriendly kind are the Niurinagh. Sheeaghan can spring from a beloved pet, a lovingly tended garden, or from a wild animal once treated well. Niurrinagh, on the other hand, are the spiritual result of creatures that were mistreated, abused, made crazed by sickness, or simply neglected in life. There is also a wide variety of Anymshee that are neither particularly malicious or helpful, but these types are wild and don't cross paths with humans as often.
There are distinct varieties of Anymshee, such as the House Thing and the Yard Thing, Some examples of these types can be found here. The best examples of wholly unique Anymshee would be the First Children of the Mother.
As a whole, the Good Folk populate stories as well as the wilderness. According to these tales, they are often governed by a capricious nature, regardless of whether they are well-intentioned or not. People are advised to always treat the Good Folk with a healthy level of respect.
|RELIGION AND BELIEF|
|If there is one thing that all the peoples of the Moonshaes have in common, it’s religious devotion. Whether it’s the Telfyr, the Rauthymar, or any of the other races found on the islands, religious belief plays a central role in their lives and is reflected in almost everything that they do.
That said, the devotion of the Moonshavians is reserved for only a small number of gods. Most faerûnian deities aren’t even known about on the islands, much less worshipped. Naturally, attempts have been made to introduce other faiths to the islands — especially after Tristan Kendrik’s ascendancy to the High Throne — but so far, none of the efforts have met with much success. The existing faiths are just too deeply entrenched and ingrained into the island cultures for any other persuasion to find spiritual purchase.
The Moonshae religions are also very different in complexion from those found elsewhere in the realms. The druidical faith of the Ffolk, for example, is ancient (it’s usually referred to simply as the Old Faith) and, unlike most denominations on the mainland, which have evolved with the times, very little about this religion has changed. It offers few accommodations for other religions, because it’s never had to really coexist with them before. This makes the introduction of new belief systems even more difficult for foreigners.
Then there are the Northlanders. Although they worship Tempus, a god known throughout the whole of Faerûn, their interpretations of his doctrine, as well as the ritual trappings they observe, are uniquely their own. They also incorporate ancestor worship into their brand of Tempurianism, which, while certainly compatible with the doctrine, is not explicitly advocated in it. To other Tempurians, it’s a strange addition to the faith.
In spite of all this adversity, a few cults have still managed to take shape over the past few decades, and most Moonshavians are now more aware of the other faerûnian gods. However, on the whole, the Moonshaes, in the context of religion, still remain largely closed off from the rest of the world.
What follows are descriptions of the most prominent gods of the islands, and the religions that have formed around them...
Water Lord, God-King of the Waves
Symbol: A cresting wave
Istishia is one of the four elemental lords worshipped across
Faerûn. He is the embodiment of water, representing it as a base element of creation. His appearance is said to be most often that of a gigantic water elemental.
Like his peers of earth, air, and fire, Istishia is an ancient and distant god who rarely gets involved with the affairs of his worshippers. In fact, most mortals would find his actions, driven by an alien unpredictability, incomprehensible. However, to understand the Water Lord even a little is to catch a hint of the fundamental truths and secrets of life. Thus, Istishia offers enlightenment to those patient and diligent enough to seek it.
History: Tethyrian immigrants brought the worship of Istishia to the Moonshaes centuries ago. The faith has endured on the islands largely due to the fact that it has a certain level of compatibility with the Jannathi religion. However, though it has stood the test of time, it hasn’t expanded to any significant degree. Most Moonshavians who worship Istishia do so only because of family tradition. The only place on the islands where the Istishian faith enjoys any degree of prominence is in Calidyrr, which boasts one of the largest temples to the Water Lord in the world. Yet even there the Istishians are a distinct minority, as most who visit the temple are transient foreigners.
Dogma: Everything is interconnected and cyclical. Realize this, and realize also that the cycles of life are mirrored in the cycles of fate. The mysteries of both are to be enjoyed and puzzled over, but know that some answers do not come in this world; rather, they come in the next. Greater understanding is only reached through change, but that change must be a natural step in a gradual process. It cannot be forced anymore than water can be forced, and it must not conflict with your essential being. There is great strength in flexibility, but do not try to be what you are not. Water will conform to its environment, but it never becomes something other than what it is. See the lesson in that.
Earthmother, the Goddess, the Greatmother
Symbol: The Tree of Life
Jannath, more commonly referred to as the Earthmother, is a goddess of nature, wild places, and the natural order of things. She advocates a simple life, conducted in harmony with one’s environs and the beasts that live within it. The Moonshaes are her specific charge, because she and the islands are one and the same, and all who dwell upon them are her children. When the Moonshaes suffer, Jannath’s power wanes. When they prosper, she grows in strength.
The druids of Jannath associate no images with her, as she is all around them, all the time. Although her symbol is often shown as the Tree of Life (said to be within Myrloch Vale), in truth any aspect of the natural world can serve as her symbol, whether it be a songbird, or a towering oak. The air is her breath, the earth her body; her essence is in everything that lives on the Moonshaes.
It is commonly believed by foreigners that Jannath is an aspect of Chauntea, the faerûnian goddess of agriculture. Some theologians harbor doubts about that assertion, however, as Jannath is a much more primal power. In actuality, she has more in common with Silvanus than with Chauntea. Jannath regards agriculture kindly enough, but not when it begins to dominate the land. According to the Earthmother, wild places are sacred and must be preserved.
History: By all accounts, Jannath has always been worshipped on the Moonshaes. According to the Ffolk, their ancestors were mainland followers of Jannath, who she called to the islands by speaking to them in their dreams.
Dogma: There is balance in all things, and all is a cycle. Find your place in this dance and be content with it. Wild places must be preserved, for they are the cradle of life, and all life must be respected. Particularly your own. Do not complicate your existence by making things more difficult for yourself than they have to be. Live a life that is simple and pure. Do not covet more than you need. Nature provides all that you need, and to claim more than that is to invite misfortune.
Warfather, Foehammer, the Lord of Battles, Woundgriever
Symbol: A sword encircled by the
Fire of Man on a blood-red shield
Tempus is recognized as the god of war throughout most of
Faerûn. As a patron of all warriors, his worship is widespread. In the Moonshaes, however, only the Northlanders venerate him, and their views on his doctrine are somewhat tailored to their own circumstances.
For example, the Rauthymar believe that the sea is the Great Challenge that all warriors must face to become a true Tempurian. Tempus declares that the natural state of existence is the unpredictable ebb and flow of chaos. To the Northlanders this truism is demonstrated and embodied by the ocean. Thus, when Tempus decrees that you must temper yourself in the chaos of existence, the Northlanders do what logically follows, and test themselves against the sea.
The Northlanders also consider a ship to be as spiritually important to a warrior as his weapons are (this accounts for the often fierce appearance of their vessels). To the Rauthymar, a ship is a “sword that cuts the waves.”
On the northern isles, Tempus is described as a giant, fire-haired barbarian warrior who navigates the waves on a massive longship. The ship can appear white as bone or black as night, depending on who’s looking at it. If a warrior sees it as the former, it’s taken as a good omen for battle. If its seen as the latter, it’s regarded as a warning of impending defeat.
History: Tempus was brought to the islands by the Northlanders, who can trace their worship of him all the way back to their Savage North ancestors. Perhaps ironically, Tempus (as Tempos) and Jannath originate from the same ancient pantheon. However, The Lord of Battles has changed with the times while Jannath
-- who may or may not be an aspect of Chauntea -- has not. In this age, there are no ties between them. Even so, depending on how one interprets the creation myths of
Faerûn, Tempus and Jannath can be viewed as brother and sister.
Dogma: Existence is chaos and life is conflict. Through conflict comes change and evolution. By challenging oneself against chaos, personal betterment is achieved. In no other circumstance are these truths made more apparent than in battle. War is a natural force, a human force, the storm that civilization brings by its very existence. It should not be feared; rather, it should be prepared for, just as any coming trial is prepared for. War is fair in that it oppresses all sides equally. War is pure as it demonstrates that a single warrior’s skill and courage are the only things that ultimately matter. War is merely life carried out at an accelerated pace. It is a force of change. The challenge then is not to prevent it -- change is inevitable -- but to harness it and be made stronger by it.
|There are a few other gods whose names are heard on the Moonshaes, but they have no noteworthy followings, and so have no discernable impact on the religious landscape. Umberlee the Bitch Queen of the Sea, Auril the Frostmaiden, and Talos the Lord of Storms are known well enough by the Northlanders, and are sometimes even placated by them. It’s conceivable these gods have cult followings somewhere on the islands, but if they do, their worshippers wisely keep a low profile. The Northlanders also venerate the sea god, Valkur, but only as a heroic Tempurian ideal. In addition, the existence of the elemental gods Kossuth, Akadi, and Grumbar is fairly common knowledge due to their connection to the Water Lord, Istishia. Finally, there is Bhaal, a dark god who is infamous in the Moonshaes due to his involvement in the most recent manifestation of the Great Beast, Kazgaroth, and Malar, who is often associated with the same.|
|OTHER POWERS ON THE MOONSHAES|
|Kazgaroth the Darkwalker
When speaking of religion and belief on the Moonshaes, a special mention must be made of Kazgoroth, otherwise known as the Great Beast or the Darkwalker.
There’s quite a lot of disagreement as to what Kazgoroth is, exactly. Some insist that he’s an aspect of Bhaal or Malar. Others claim he is a manifestation of Jannath’s darker side (the Firbolg recognize him as such). Still others claim that he is a primal spirit who existed before creation, and was trapped within the Moonsheas when the world was formed. Whatever the case may be, Kazgoroth embodies primordial chaos and nature’s self-destructive tendencies. For example, when a predator goes mad with bloodlust, it’s considered to be due to Kazgoroth’s touch. Anytime the natural order breaks down or is thrown off kilter in any way, it’s attributed to the Great Beast’s influence.
Cults dedicated to Kazgoroth have emerged from time to time over the years, and have impacted the course of the Moonshaes’ history. Twice have such cults successfully summoned a manifestation of the Great Beast to walk the realm of the Earthmother. Ironically, both of these appearances ultimately led to a greater unity and prosperity in the island kingdom, after the Darkwalker was driven away (he cannot be killed). For this reason, the Jannathi aren’t so quick to dismiss the idea that Kazgaroth is actually part of the Eathmother’s design… a risky part, to be sure, but deliberate.
The First Children of the Mother
|The Leviathan, Old One of the Deep Places
The Leviathan is an enormous whale, perhaps the largest in all the world. A peaceful creature, the druids say that it spends long years in hibernation at the bottom of the sea, achieving such stillness that its aging virtually stops. Then, after many years of sleep, it will gradually stir, surfacing for air and then swimming about the isles as it gratifies its tremendous appetite with plankton, kelp, and small fish. Unless it is called upon by the Mother to fulfill a purpose, the Leviathan returns once again to its blissful and nearly eternal slumber.
To the Jannathi, the Old One of the Deep Places represents perseverance, patience, and living a simple life. Ffolk who fish for a living often take the gentle behemoth as their patron.
Kamerynn symbolizes courage, loyalty, and honor, but also represents the proper freedom of wild places. He is the patron of kings, and his image is incorporated into many a noble crest. It’s said that Kamerynn was the one that led Tristan Kendrik to the Sword of Cymrych Hugh.
The Hunter Under the Moon represents prowess, vigilance, and protection. Not surprisingly, many hunters take her as a patron, but so too do guardsmen and mothers.
Turi represents wisdom, unity, and spirituality. He is frequently the patron of druids, and he is featured on the crest of the Kendrik family as a symbol of the united Moonshaes.
|ENEMIES AND NEIGHBORS|
|Despite their predominantly insular nature, the peoples of the Moonshaes do have enemies. Chief among them are the pirates of Nelanther, who plunder trade ships and raid coastal communities, just as the Rauthymar once did. The pirates, however, are much more brutal and merciless in the way they go about their business. When the Northlanders raided, if you behaved bravely and with honor,
you could be certain your family would be safe and left with enough stores to survive. The pirates, on the other hand, demonstrate no such graciousness.
Fortunately, this behavior has earned the animosity of the Northlanders. They attack the pirates on sight because of it, and offer no quarter to them. This common enemy has also strengthened the bonds between the Rauthymar and the Telfyr, which is good. All things considered, though, most would probably rather not have the pirates to worry about.
Ironically, the Northlanders are also at odds with their distant kin from the isle of Rauthym. The Northlanders view the people of their ancestral homeland as backwards, while those same people claim the Northlanders have gone soft. Both peoples raid each other fairly frequently.
Also a recurring concern are the monstrous denizens of the isles. The gnolls of Moray, tribes of draka, and broods of trolls all cause their share of problems. Every now and then these creatures will be stirred up by a new cult of the Great Beast, and widespread havoc will ensue. Luckily, the Jannathi druids are pretty quick about putting an end to these outbreaks, but they cause a fair degree of trouble nonetheless.
Last, but certainly not least, are the more subtle enemies introduced through commerce with other lands. Various nefarious elements from the Sword Coast have, at one time or another, tried to use trade as a means to hook their claws into the islands’ affairs. So far, they haven’t been very successful, but as the Moonshaes rise in commercial prominence, the likelihood of these parties suffering continued failure dwindles drastically.
The Moonshaes maintain neutral to good relations with many Sword Coast powers, as well as with the island nation of Lantan. The Kendrik family has built particularly strong ties with noble families of Waterdeep.
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