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).

A map of the kingdom of Hartsvale. Please click for a larger version.
  • Ruler: Queen Brianna Burdun
  • Capital: Hartwick
  • Settlements: Cuthbert Castle, Stagwick, Wendel Manor, Windward Town, Wynn Castle,
  • Population: Unknown but estimated at 96% human, 2% firbolg, 1% giant (more in the surrounding mountains), 1% misc.
  • Area: 57,696 miles² (149,431.95 km²)
  • Military:
  • Languages: Common, Bothii (Illuskan dialect)
  • Religion: Iallanis,
  • Sources: The Twilight Giants trilogy (Troy Denning, 1994-95), Giantcraft (Ray Winninger, 1995), Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (Steven Kenson et al, 2015)


Hartsvale is the one of the most remote and little-known nations in Faerûn. The kingdom is located north and east of the Ice Mountains, also known as the Ice Spires, and is squeezed hard between the mountains on two sides, the Endless Ice Sea to the north, and the northernmost reaches of the Great Desert of Anauroch to the east (and the towering mass of the High Ice beyond).

The kingdom is primarily based around the valley of the Clearwhirl River, which flows out the mountains and Lake Woe and winds its way north and west, passing through the Storming Gorge before disappearing into the frozen wastes of the uttermost north. The lower reaches of the river freeze over in the winter – which in this part of the world lasts at least a third of the year and sometimes closer to half – but the upper reaches are warmed by the volcanic Firecap Mountains.

The kingdom itself is ruled from Castle Hartwick, which sits on a large island in the midst of the Clearwhirl River. The town of Hartwick lies just to the east and the small village of Stagwick just to its east. The road known as Coggin’s Rise then winds its way up into the mountains.

Hartsvale is divided between several administrative regions. The High Duchies lie to the west of Hartwick and consist of the foothills of the Ice Spires West. The Cold Marches lie to the north of Hartwick and lie in the shadow of the Ice Spires North. Cuthbert Fief controls the Ice Spires North, where the peaks are broken up by a series of valleys, icefields, rivers and lakes. The Baronies of Wind control the relatively open fields east of Hartwick, where the bulk of the nation’s farming is done. The Lake Fiefs control the lands to the south, in the northern foothills of the Ice Spires South and Firecap Mountains, and along the Clearwhirl’s lake tributaries.

These names are perhaps over-grand: many of the nobles of Hartsvale are freeholders, successful farmers and warriors who perhaps command a small tower and a few servants. Hartwick, the largest settlement, is a small town or large village by the standards of most in Faerûn, and most other settlements rarely rise the size of a hamlet.

Hartsvale is also notable for the giant tribes that inhabit the immediately surrounding areas: frost giants dwell on the Bleak Plain to the north; stone giants on the Frozen Moors and the northern parts of the Great Desert to the east; fire giants in the Firecap Mountains to the south; and hill giants hold the Ice Spires to the west. The giants and humans have an uneasy relationship at the best of times. Firbolgs move between the various communities, sometimes engaging in trade and maintaining an uneasy peace. Menhirs delineate the boundaries of the human and giant lands.


For such a small and remote kingdom, Hartsvale’s history is surprisingly ancient. It harks back to the great giant kingdom of Ostoria, founded in tradition by Annam All-Father between 30,000 and 31,000 BDR (Before Dalereckoning), long before even the first elven empires arose. Ostoria rose to greatness in the aftermath of the Tearfall, the calamity which saw falling stars strike the world and shatter much of it, forming the Sea of Fallen Stars and ending batrachi civilisation, although also marking the rise to greatness of the dragons.

Ostoria originally dominated much of the north of Merrouroboros, the great supercontinent of which Faerûn was once just a single part. It stretched from the far west coast to the Great Ice Sea and as far south as the newly-formed Inner Sea. Its capital was Voninheim, located on what is now called the Bleak Plain of northern Hartsvale, on the edge of the Endless Ice Sea. Lanaxis, the eldest son of Annam All-Father, inherited control of the empire

Ostoria’s prosperity lasted for almost four thousand years. The civilisation peaked around 28,000 BDR, by which time great cities and works of art had been created, such as the legendary cloud cities of the giants. In 26,000 BDR the draconic god Garyx inspired his worshippers to attack a cloud giant city, in search of great treasures. Furious, Ostoria responded by going to war.

This proved to be a mistake, and by 25,000 BDR Ostoria had been much-reduced in size, losing all its lands around the Inner Sea and falling back into the far north. However, the war had been calamitous for dragonkind as well, whose numbers had been devastated. Exactly how the war ended is disputed. One myth suggests that Annam and Garyx played a game of wah-ree to determine which species would prevail, but the game ended in a draw, resulting in peace. Some suggest that the dragons had been consumed by their own civil war (which would lead to the splintering of the chromatic and metallic kindreds), and others that the war just petered out as both species found themselves competing with the newly-arrived elves and dwarves.

 After the end of the war, the giantkin gradually dwindled and Ostoria fell back. It lost territory in the First Sundering of 17,600 BDR, when the modern continents formed, eventually becoming a series of semi-isolated kingdoms and statelets stretching across the north of Faerûn.

Particularly notable during this period was the ill-advised affair between the demigod Ulutiu and Othea, wife of Annam All-Father. The affair was discovered around 2550 BDR and Ulutiu was either killed or agreed to voluntarily depart Toril. His body was placed on a barge that was sailed into the midst of the Cold Ocean (an inland sea in north-eastern Faerûn) and sank. Ulutiu’s body and his magical amulet together froze the ocean, creating the Great Glacier of Pelvuria and, according to some, also the Endless Ice Sea, resulting in Toril’s abnormally huge northern polar ice cap. Much of Ostoria was swallowed up by the ice and destroyed. The surviving giants fell into a state of primitivism. Ostoria’s final fall is traced to the abandonment of Voninheim in 2475 BDR. Lanaxis disappeared around this time.

According to local myth, only a few weeks after the destruction of Voninheim, the Hartkiller was born, the youngest and last child of Annam and Othea. Hartkiller strove to unite the giants under his rule but he was rejected, due to his small size (he was only twelve feet tall). Annoyed, he instead strove to bring leadership to the scattered tribes of primitive humans living in the mountains and the nearby areas (although not in the huge and powerful empire of Netheril, located not far to the south-east). Having united them, he led them in battle against the giants. Hartkiller and the Lord Paramount of the storm giants were both killed in an epic duel to the death, leading to the proclamation of a peace between both sides, with carefully delineated borders. Hartkiller’s son, Brun, was proclaimed the first King of Hartsvale.

The giants were visited by a vision telling them that in rejecting Hartkiller, they had also rejected the will of Annam. Annam All-Father would abandon them and not return until they had made up for their hubris.

How much of this is myth and how much is history is unclear; a literal reading of the story would suggest the destruction of Ostoria in 2475 BDR and the founding of Hartsvale was only decades apart at best, but other, more reliable histories and traditions place the founding of Hartsvale at no more than a thousand years in the past (c. 370 DR). Some have suggested that the valley of Hartsvale, warmed by the presence of the volcanoes known as the Three Sisters, has made the area a natural site for settlement and perhaps several predecessor kingdoms existed in the same area for thousands of years earlier, to which Hartsvale is but a modern successor. The truth is unclear.

Much more recently, Hartsvale was thrown into disorder c. 1346 DR when King Blod died. His twin sons, Camden and Dunstan, disputed the throne and began a bloody civil war. In the third year of the war, Camden made an alliance with an Ice Spire ogre tribe led by the shaman Goboka. Camden pledged to give his firstborn daughter to the ogres in return for their alliance. Camden was childless and girls were rare in his family, making him think the deal would be moot. With Goboka’s help, Camden took the throne.

However, Camden and his wife soon produced a daughter, Brianna, born c. 1350 DR. Despite their best efforts, no further children and no son followed. Camden, infuriated, divorced his wife and took other wives, but no sons followed. Camden’s actions alienated much of his support, leading to a rebellious kingdom.

In 1366 DR, Brianna came of age and Goboka came to collect on his deal. Camden reluctantly complied and Brianna was sent to the ogres. The “gift” was disguised as a kidnapping to spare what was left of Camden’s honour. However, a local warrior, Tavis Burden, and his companions interrupted the kidnapping and freed Brianna. Learning of her father’s actions, Brianna deposed her father and took the throne, leaving Camden as a penniless exile. This breaking of the pact resulted in a series of assaults on Hartsvale by the giants and a bitter war lasting three years. By the end of the conflict, in 1369, Brianna had wed Tavis Burden, given birth to a son and heir, Kaedlaw, and defeated the Twilight Spirit of the vale, the spiritual form of Lanaxis who planned to re-forge the empire of Ostoria through blood and violence. re-secured peace with the giant tribes.


Hartsvale is a hereditary monarchy, currently ruled by Queen Brianna Burdun and her husband, the Prince-Consort Tavis Burdun. All of the rulers of Hartsvale have descended from House Hartwick, which (according to tradition) was founded by the Hartkiller himself, and rule from the Alabaster Throne in Castle Hartwick. Brianna and Tavis have a son, Kaedlaw, who is now the heir.

Brianna is human and her husband is firbolg, whilst her son has human, firbolg and ettin blood. This symbolises the complex interrelationships between humans and giantkin in Hartsvale, although it is also the source of some discontent.

As Queen of Hartsvale, Brianna commands the loyalty of the High Dukes, the Wind Barons and the lords of the Cold Marches, Lake Fiefs and Ice Spires, and listens to their counsel and advice, although there is no formal body for running the kingdom. Bad weather and harsh winters often cut parts of the kingdom off from one another for weeks or even months at a time, resulting in a kingdom which is halfway between a loose confederation and a more tight-knit nation. As a result, each of the regions has a degree of autonomy under its ruling earl.

Hartsvale has no standing army as such, but in times of war it can muster a reasonable force.

In terms of its economy, there is limited trade and contact between the people of Hartsvale and the giants. Trade routes across the Ice Spires and Ice Mountains are also rough and sometimes impassable, but in recent years there have been some attempts to forge closer relations with the lands to the south, particularly the recently-founded nation of Luruar.  The Hartsvalers are wary of outsiders but also open to the idea of enriching themselves through greater trade. Hartsvale’s internal economy is based around hunting, trapping, herding and mining. The largest mine is the in the Gorge of the Silver Wyrm, located under the Ice Spires South and the source of House Wynn’s wealth.


The traditional pantheon of Faerûn is only sporadically worshipped in Hartsvale. Instead, most of the giants and giantkin instead revere the giant pantheon. Annam All-Father is respected but his forsaking of the giants is well-known, so instead Iallanis, the giant goddess of peace and mercy, is probably the most respected god amongst all the giants, as well as the firbolgs and even some of the humans of the vale. Baphomet, an evil tanar’ri pit lord, has made some inroads amongst the ogres in trying to increase his own powers to that of a god.

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