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), as borders have changed and some towns and cities have fallen, whilst newer ones have risen.

A map of Narfell. Please click for a larger version.
  • Ruler: Thalaman Harthgroth, ruler of the Harthgroth tribe and head of the Nar Tribal Council
  • Capital: Bildoobaris (pop. 30,000+ during the summer trading season)
  • Settlements: Antlerbones, Hoarbridge, Jiyyd, Nar-Sek Qu’encesta, Nar-Sek Qu’istrade, Nar-Sek Qu’tel, N’Jast, Peltarch, Selmast, Snowcap
  • Population: very low estimate of 36,720 (99% human, 1% misc.)
  • Population Density: 0.16 people per mile², 0.06 people per km² (figures highly doubtful)
  • Area: 223,903 miles² (579,906.108 km²)
  • Military: Individual tribal warriors
  • Languages: Common, Damaran, Rashemi
  • Religion: Lathander, Tempus, Waukeen
  • Exports: Horses
  • Imports: Clothing, jewellery
  • Sources: The Bloodstone Lands (Bob Salvatore, 1989), The Horde (David Cook, 1990), Unapproachable East (Richard Baker, Matt Forbeck, Sean K. Reynolds, 2003), Lost Empires of Faerûn (Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout, 2005)

Overview

Narfell is not a nation-state as such, but a vast stretch of wilderness divided between the tribes of the Nars, a nomadic people who once, two thousand years ago, controlled one of the largest and most powerful empires in Faerûn. Their nation fought the neighbouring empire of Raumathar to their mutual destruction, but whilst Raumathar to the east collapsed completely, the Nar people survived, although they have since fallen back into a nomadic style of existence.

Modern Narfell stretches from the Giantspire Mountains to the River Erech, which forms the border with the eastern kingdom of Rashemen. To the north, Narfell’s borders are usually set by the Icelace Lake, but the Far Quey tribe controls a stretch of territory north of Icelace Lake where the Great Glacier has recently retreated, leaving new lands to be claimed. In the north-east, the realm is bordered by the Icerim Mountains. Southwards, the realm is bordered by the Rawlinswood, Firward Mountains and Ashane, the Lake of Tears. The lands to the south, beyond Helena Gap on the northern plains of Ashanath, are not part of Narfell proper, but are unclaimed and sometimes Nar tribes wander into this region, and sometimes as far south as the Great Dale.

Narfell can be divided into several distinct regions. The most heavily-populated area is the open plains between Icelace Lake and the Rawlinswood, with the Gianspire Mountains to the west. This area is controlled by the Aingst, Abordade, Var, Qu’ima, Qu’encesta and Dag Nost tribes. To the north lie the lakelands, where the River Erech flows through the several lakes known as the Teardrops: Lake Mereth, Huta Lake, Lake Muirenon and Lake Musker (with the Luirbrech sometimes counted as one of these lakes). The Creel and Ragnor tribes control lands around the lakes. The far east of the nation, ranging from the Falls of Erech to the Firward Mountains, is relatively lightly populated in comparison.

Narfell is noted for its horses, which are reared in great stockades on the plains. Narfell’s horses are among the finest in Faerûn, and fetch a superb price at markets.

Narfell is unusual amongst almost all nations of Faerûn in lacking a capital city. Every summer, the Great Trade Fair assembles and all of the tribes of the Nar attend, forming a temporary city known as Bildoobaris. Bildoobaris is assembled in a slightly different spot each year, but is generally located north-west of Mount Nar in the Firward Mountains. The Nar Tribal Council meets during the Fair to discuss matters of import for all the tribes.

Mount Nar is the tallest mountain in Narfell and one of the tallest individual peaks in Faerûn, if not west of the Yehimal. The towering peak can be seen from far past N’Jast, and is noted for the ruined Jastaath Castle located on its summit. The lair of the much-feared dracolich Kryonar can also be found on the northern slope. Less impressive, but still formidable, is Mount Jikisdur, known as Hark’s Finger. During a time of good relations between ancient Narfell and Netheril, a Netherese arcanist used magic to slice off the top of Mount Jikisdur to create a Netherese flying enclave of the same name. Jikisdur was float back and forth to Netheril and back to Narfell, helping conduct trade and good relations until it was destroyed in the Fall of Netheril.

Narfell does not really have any permanent cities or fortified towns at all. The only exceptions are the trading villages along the Long Road and Cold Road, most notably N’Jast where the roads intersect, and the great fishing village of Peltarch on Icelace Lake. There’s also the small port of Hoarbridge in the far north, which keeps open communications with the Far Quey tribe who dwell north of Icelace Lake on the very fringes of the Great Glacier.

History

Narfell’s history is deeply entwined with that of its eastern neighbour, Raumathar. Both nations were born out of the collapse of the First Mulhorandi Empire in the Orcgate Wars (1081-69 Before Dalereckoning). The collapse of the empire and the defeat of the orcs left many fighting men with nothing to do and no means of employment, so they migrated northwards to the lands near the feet of the Great Glacier.

One such group of mercenaries and their families founded the kingdom of Ashanath in 1064 BDR, constructing the great city of Shandaular on the western shores of Ashane, the Lake of Tears. Other groups preferred a tribal existence, wandering the frozen lands to the north near the glacier or the valleys between the Rawlinswood and Forest of Lethyr to the south-west. These tribes became collectively known as the “Nars.” In 987 BDR, the Nentyarch Thargaun Crell arose to power amongst the Rawlinswood tribes and founded the city of Dun-Tharos in 970 BDR. By 946 BDR, Crell had formed all the Nar tribes (including the enigmatic Jastaath, who had been the first Nars to summon and bind demons) into a confederation under his leadership, but Ashanath refused to comply. In 946 BDR, Crell led his army against Ashanath and destroyed Shandaular. The ruler of Ashanath, Arkaius, gave his life to ensure his people would escape through a local magical gateway leading to the south coast of the continent, where they became the ancestors of the Dambrathans. Thargaun Crell declared himself the first ruler of Narfell, an empire at that time stretching from the Easting Reach to the Lake of Tears and from the Forest of Lethyr northwards to the Great Glacier, which at this time covered all of Vaasa, most of Damara and a large proportion of modern Narfell.

By 900 BDR, Narfell was firmly established as one of the great empires of Faerûn, trading with Raumathar to the east (which stretched from the Lake of Tears to the Great Ice Sea) and Mulhorand to the south. Peace endured for several centuries, until Narfell embarked on an ambitious plan to invade Mulhorand via the Inner Sea in 623 BDR. The exercise soon proved a costly fiasco and collapsed without getting very far.

Narfell and Raumathar’s cordial relations began deteriorating around 626 BDR. Raumathar was larger, but its lands were mostly desolate, difficult to keep fed during winter and vast stretches were effectively uninhabited. Control of trade and communication across the empire was proving increasingly expensive. Narfell was more temperate, had trade access to the Inner Sea of Faerûn, and distant but productive relations with distant powers like Netheril and Calimshan. However, Narfell’s strength was also prohibitively based around the power of its demonbinders, mages who sought to control and enslave demons to augment Narfell’s traditional forces in battle. These practices came at a heavy cost, with Narfell essentially becoming indebted to entities it really could not afford to.

In 339 BDR, during the Fall of Netheril, the Netherese flying city Jikisdur was visiting Narfell when magic failed across the entire planet. Jikisdur plummeted out of the sky and exploded on the plains of Narfell.

In 160 BDR, Narfell and Raumathar once again went to war for control of the Lake of Tears and this time the war spiralled out of control. The Nars beseeched the demon lord Kostchtchie for aid and he sent an army of frost giants to attack Raumathar from the north-west whilst the Nars invaded the Raumathar province of Shemen directly. The Raumathari delayed the invasion with the use of elemental magic but the Nars soon gained the upper hand and destroyed the Raumathari capital of Winterkeep on the Great Ice Sea. However, the Raumathari employed forbidden Imaskari magic to seize control of a flight of white dragons and use them to destroy the Nar army.

The Raumathari warlord Thulkarr then invaded Narfell with an army of stone giants. The Raumathari defeated the Nars at the Battle of Narjast, sacking the city, before advancing south-west to Dun-Tharos. The Nentyarch opened portals to the Abyss which created a planar rift to destroy the Raumathari army.

In 150 BDR, tiring of the conflict, Nentyarch Rheligaun Darakh decided to decide the matter once and for all. He summoned and bound Eltab, one of the greatest of all demon lords, and had him lead the final Nar assault on Raumathar. However, whilst crossing Shemen, Eltab turned from his purpose and abandoned the Nar cause, distracted by the native spirits of the land. The confused Nars debated strategy, but learned that the Raumathari had used portal to move their army south and west to the vicinity of Delhumide and were now advancing on Narfell from the south. The Nars swiftly marched to intercept them, resulting a huge battle. The Raumathari expected to be unopposed, so were taken by surprise when the Nars attacked in force. The Raumathari faced defeat, and in desperation their high priests summoned an avatar of Kossuth to fight for them. The Lord of Flames was unimpressed by this impudence and obliterated both armies in a firestorm that later history would recall as the Great Conflagration. During the Conflagration all of the priests and demonbinders in both armies were killed, and their summoned minions turned on and destroyed the two empire homelands in vengeance for their imprisonment.

Raumathar was completely destroyed in the war and Narfell almost so, with all of its holdings in what are now Thesk, Ashanath and the Great Dale lost. However, the lands north of the Rawlinswood and west of Najast remained intact. The Nars in this area gradually faded back into a nomadic existence, their few remaining cities abandoned.

By 1038 DR, the Great Glacier had retreated from the northern lands of Narfell and all of Damara and Vaasa. The great lakes known as the Teardrops and the vast Icelace Lake were left behind by the retreating ice, and the Nar tribes expanded to fill these new lands. Immigrants to the lands to the west led to the founding of the kingdom of Damara. Relations between the Damarans and Nars would prove variable, but the strength of Nar resistance encouraged Damara to halt its eastwards expansion at the Icelace and the Giantspire Mountains.

The Nars remain as they have been for centuries, a nomadic people living in the shadow of a more glorious, but also more terrible, past. They mostly keep to themselves, aside from a few brave youngsters who strike out into Faerûn as adventurers and the small amount of trade they conduct with Damara to the west and Rashemen to the east.

Government

Narfell has a government only in the loosest sense of the word. The Nar tribes each have tremendous autonomy and self-governance, but vary significantly in terms of their friendliness to outsiders, openness to trade and general hostility. The Creel, Far Quey, Qu’encesta and Ragnor tribes have the greatest hostility towards non-Nars. For the outsider, it’s not even clear how many Nar tribes there are, especially as very large tribes with significant land may be divided into sub-tribes, extended families and individual clans in a manner that is not always easy to follow.

The known Nar tribes are the Abordade, Aingst, Creel, Dag Nost, Far Quey, Harthgroth, Qu’encesta, Qu’ima, Ragnor, Ulyoon and Var. Based on naming conventions, another tribe called the Qu’istrade are believed to exist as well, or at least have existed in the past. The Abordade are the largest tribe but the Harthgroth have recently had great success in mediating tribal disputes and now act as the effective power-brokers in Narfell. Thalaman Harthgroth currently serves as the head of the Nar Tribal Council, but his role is more like that of a chairman or speaker rather than a king or emperor.

The Tark, Chif and Dagranost tribes of the eastern Icerim Mountains have Nar blood but are not considered part of the heartlands of Narfell, and in recent decades have fallen instead under the influence of the tribes of Taan, most recently the Tuigan. The former Myir tribes who live east of the Falls of Erech are also of Nar descent, but are now politically aligned with Rashemen and have mostly abandoned a nomadic existence of in favour of permanent settlements.

Narfell has limited trade with Damara to the west and Rashemen to the east, with most of its trade revolving around its superb horses (some Nars consider it an insult to sell their horses to outlanders, but the immense prices they fetch enriches the country’s economy to a significant degree). Its foreign relations are limited and its people appear insular, although the Nars are neither ignorant nor stupid, and they have more eyes and ears wandering Faerûn than many realise. During the Bloodstone Wars to the west, they kept an eye on events from afar, in case the Witch-King Zhengyi should prevail and threaten Narfell. They also monitored the Tuigan invasion of late 1359 DR, when Yamun Khahan’s army wintered on the plains of Ashanath just to the south of Nar territory. In the event the Tuigan moved south and west against Thesk before being defeated by an alliance of western nations at the Battles of the Golden Way.

Religion

Narfell’s people overwhelmingly worship Tempus, Lord of Battle, as their chief deity. Settled Nar farmers also pay tributed to the Morninglord, Lathander, whilst the small but growing number of Nar merchants have found favour in worshiping Waukeen. Although it is now forbidden, some individual Nar wizards continue to practice the rites of demonbinding, even worshipping some of the demonic powers, to the anger of their fellows.

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