In this series I will be looking at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series is based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR).
- Ruler: King Korox Morkann
- Capital: Llorbauth (pop. 28,000)
- Settlements: Carradoon, Duhlnarim, Five Spears Hold, Fort Blood, Furrowsrich, Golconda, Praskallest, Rivenshield, Shalane, Tibold
- Population: Unknown, but more dwarves than in Tethyr and almost as many elves, plus a population of allied ogres, numbering at least 320
- Area: 109,198 miles² (282,821.52 kilometres²)
- Military: Small militias, mercenary companies including Elestam’s Crusaders (currently retired) and ogres of the Shieldbreaker company
- Languages: Chondathan, Common, Dwarven
- Religion: Azuth, Deneir, Malar, Mystra,
- Sources: Lands of Intrigue (Steven Schend, 1997)
Erlkazar is a mountainous country located immediately to the east of Tethyr and south-east of Amn. It spans part of the so-called Iltkazar Range, of old an immense mountain chain of Faerûn which has now eroded into the separated-but-related ranges of the Alimir Mountains, Omlarandin Mountains, Kuldin Peaks, Snowflake Mountains and Giant’s Run Mountains (though some hold the range continues even further north via the Storm Horns, Thunder Peaks and Desertsmouth Mountains)
Erlkazar stretches along the western shores of Impresk Lake, Shalane Lake and the Deepwash, which form its eastern borders, and encloses most of the Snowflake Mountains, Kuldin Peaks and the western two ranges of the Cloven Mountains, extending across the northern Plains of Pehrrifaal to the eastern faces of the Omlarandin Mountains. The Shining Stream forms the western boundary with Tethyr.
Erlkazar is one of the few nations in Faerûn to have well-defined borders, a result from its former status as the Duchy Elestam of the Kingdom of Tethyr, which such borders were marked out. When Elestam seceded from Tethyr during its civil war, it maintained its former borders in the west and secured new territory in the south and east. Now that Tethyr’s civil war is concluded, the border between the two nations has been formalised by treaty, although Tethyr seems to harbour some hopes of a future reproachment of the two nations.
Erlkazar is divided into five baronies. These are Ahlarkhem Barony in the south-east, consisting of the Cloven Mountains with its capital at Duhlnarim on the Deepwash; Tanistan Barony in the south, on the northern Plains of Pehrrifaal, ruled from Five Spears Hold; Carrelath Barony in the west, consisting of the Kuldin Peaks and foothills, ruled from Tibold; Shalanar Barony in the east, ruled from the capital city at Llorbauth; and Impresk Barony in the north, ruled from the baron’s lodge in the Snowflake Mountains, near Kholmeth.
Founded only in 1348 Dalereckoning, just twenty-three years ago (to the point where it doesn’t appear on many maps of Faerûn), Erlkazar is still a new, young nation trying to establish itself in the world.
Of old, the lands of Erlkazar were divided between the ancient elven empires of Keltormir and Thearnytaar (on the surface) and the dwarven realm of Shanatar (below the ground). Over the millennia, the land became divided between these major powers and smaller tribes of humans, gnolls and the wermics of the Shining Plains. As the major powers fell and receded, the area became untamed wilderness, although the Shoon Imperium made some claims on its territory. During the rule of Amahl Shoon V (142-204 DR), the Artist Qysar, the great Edificant Library was built in the Snowflake Mountains, the greatest seat of learning south of Candlekeep. The remote location of the library made it a place of pilgrimage for the learned, but also vulnerable. The library was attacked or besieged by various monstrous forces over the centuries, culminating in a near-total rebuild in the 7th Century of Dalereckoning.
In 227 DR the realm of Tathtar was founded in the east of the region, expanding through the Deepwing Mountains, Spines of Surkh and the eastern ranges of the Cloven Mountains. Attempts to expand west resulted in border clashes with the Shoon Imperium, and Tathtar was severely weakened when all its territories north of the Deepwash were lost to an orc horde under Chieftain Thaurgarl “Greatmaw.”
In 309 DR, Karazir Tiiraklar of Tethyr, the consort of Queen Vajra Korrunhel, and his brother Ellessor mustered an army and marched to the headwaters of the River Wurlur (as the Ith was then called). This was the height of the Shoon Imperium, to which Tethyr was an appendaged vassal, and Tethyr was keen to expand its own power and might. The Tethyrian army seized all the lands east to the Deepwash, naming them the Duchy of Elestam. When Shoon collapsed, Tethyr entered a period of consolidation and this lightly-settled, far-flung region was again abandoned.
In 731 Tathtar sent its forces west to seize the rest of the old Duchy of Elestam. King Strohm II of Tethyr rejected this gamble, sending his own armies to repulse those of Tathtar. Tathtar, inferior in numbers and resources, fell back. Skirmishing between the two realms continued until 796, when the vampire Shyressa destroyed Tathtar with a plague.
After 796, Elestam became an integral part of Tethyr, with its ducal capital at Llorbauth on Shalane Lake. Mines were opened in the surrounding mountains, and trade across the Shining Plains towards the Dragon Coast and the Vilhon Reach regions was prioritised. Elestam became something of a backwater compared to the more bustling, populous part of the realm west of the mountains.
In 1347, the Ten Black Days of Eleint took place and Tethyr was torn apart in civil war. Duke Valon Morkann took no part in the conflict, but moved quickly to mobilise his armies and secure the duchy’s borders against invading armies. Morkann found the other dukes trying to win his loyalty (and his strength at arms) but he prioritised defending his people. Their love for the duke was such that they begged him to declare himself king of his own realm. Morkann eventually agreed, seceding Elestam from Tethyr in 1348. He renamed the realm Erlkazar, a play on the name of the ancient dwarf-realm of Iltkazar (part of Shanatar) that lay under much of its territory.
Erlkazar faced early challenges, including in 1358 a large-scale invasion of the realm by King Ertyk Uhl’s Starrock goblin tribes own from the High and Kuldin Peaks. A three-month siege of the realm’s second city, Duhlnarim, was broken when King Morkann made an alliance with the Shieldbreaker ogres. The combined armies smashed the goblin hordes and drove them back to the mountains. In gratitude, the ogres were welcomed in trade and friendship, an alliance that has proven surprisingly durable.
In 1362, a conflict erupted between the Edificant Library of the Snowflake Mountains and the Talona-worshippers of Castle Trinity, a fell fortress in the northern Snowflakes. In the resulting conflict both strongholds were destroyed, but Cadderly Bonaduce was able to reconstitute the Edificant Library as the Spirit Soaring, a mighty cathedral to Deneir.
King Valon died in 1366 and was succeeded by his son, Korox, the leader of Elestam’s Crusaders, a noted mercenary company. Korox has expanded Erlkazar’s military and economic power. After the conclusion of the twenty-two-year Tethyrian Civil War in 1369, King Korox negotiated an alliance with Queen Zaranda and recognition of Erlkazar’s sovereignty and borders, although Queen Zaranda is believed to harbour hopes of a reunification with Erlkazar through peaceful means at a future time.
The end of the civil war and the reopening of trade with Tethyr has greatly enriched Erlkazar in a short period of time, but ongoing military clashes continue to cause problems. The defection of the city of Riatavin from Amn to Tethyr has created a military stand-off uncomfortably close to Erlkazar’s north-western border, and the armies of Tethyr and Mintar are facing off near Ithal Pass on Erlkazar’s south-western border. Erlkazar has so far declined to take a stand in either conflict.
Erlkazar is a hereditary monarchy descending from the last Duke of Elestam, who was also the first King of Erlkazar. King Korox is only the second of his line and is keen to ensure the royal succession and that Erlkazar will consolidate its independence rather than being re-absorbed by Tethyr.
Erlkazar does possess a second line of authority in the ruling barons of the realm: Jivam Tammsel of Impresk, Purdun “Firefist” of Ahlarkhem, Laxaella Bronshield of Tanistan, and a rotating rule in Carrelath, where rule is shared between an appointed baron and a shield dwarven priest, in respect of the barony’s mixed human and dwarven populace (Tibold, the baronial seat, has been continuously occupied since 2600 BDR, almost 4,000 years ago, when it was founded as an outpost of Shanatar).
Below the barons are a small class of noble landowners and influential merchants.
Erlkazar possesses a small standing militia, usually concentrated in the southern border, especially since Mintar launched its invasion of Tethyr, and has a long-term contract in place with the ogres of the Shieldbreaker mercenary company. The ogres have a stronghold in southern Erlkazar but also a outpost in the village of Rivenshield, from where they can muster quickly to relieve any part of the country. The rulers of Erlkazar are also former members of Elestam’s Crusaders, a formidable (if small) military order and, although officially retired, could reconstitute the group at great need.
As a small nation, Erlkazar relies on sorcery to augment its lack of manpower. The Mystics’ Academy, overlooking where the waters of Shalane Lake meet the Deepwash, is one of the premier magical academies in southern Faerûn and is patronised by the faithful of Azuth and Mystra, as well as non-denominational mages. As such, Azuth and Mystra are the two most-venerated gods of the nation.
As a former Tethyrian duchy, the gods popular in Tethyr are also venerated in Erlkazar, though with less enthusiasm: Helm, Ilmater, Siamorphe, Torm and Tyr enjoy small amounts of support. Erlkazar is enviably placed athwart the main trade routes from Amn and Tethyr east to the Vilhon Reach, and trade is a booming part of the economy, leading to increased interest in Waukeen.
The Edificant Library of the Snowflake Mountains was dedicated to all gods with a love of knowledge, but Deneir and Oghma were extremely popular there. After the Library’s destruction in 1362, it was replaced by the Spirit Soaring, a cathedral to Deneir.
Although not a state-approved religion, followers of Malar frequently gather in the area known as the Vale of the Reaver, along the southern peaks and foothills of the Cloven Mountains near the headwaters of the Thornwash, to conduct great hunts and rituals.
Behind the Scenes
Erlkazar is the site of the home campaign of highly-regarded Forgotten Realms writer Steven E. Schend, who adopted it as the home of his adventuring group in 1988. The realm was added to canon via the Lands of Intrigue boxed set in 1997, but promptly vanished again after the conclusion of D&D 2nd Edition in 2000 and went almost unmentioned during 3rd Edition, leading to speculation that it had been retconned out of existence (not to mention that the changing of the maps of Faerûn between 2nd and 3rd Edition particularly badly affected this area, resulting in entire mountain ranges vanishing and the Amn-Tethyr-Calimshan border area changing significantly). However, the realm returned in 4th Edition as a vampire-ruled nightmare fief in the post-Spellplague Era and was even the setting for a novel (Jess Lebow’s Obsidian Ridge). It’s status in 5th Edition is unknown.
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