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Voonlar was a small farming town located between the Dalelands and the Moonsea.[2][7] It was more urbanized than most farming communities because it was located at an intersection of trade routes.[3] The town was Shadowdale's main rival in many ways.[1][3][8]

GeographyEdit

Voonlar was a crossroads town located on the North Ride between Shadowdale and Teshwave where the Shind Road split off toward Yûlash.[2][7][8] Most of the town's important buildings were found at the "Y" created where the two trails met,[9] known as "the Throat." The town was on the edge of the northwestern arm of the Cormanthor forest, known locally as "Greentree."[2][7] The surrounding non-wooded area was dotted with farms, some quite large and prosperous.[3]

Government & PoliticsEdit

Ostensibly, Voonlar was an independent town with a democratically elected sheriff called the Bron (possibly a corruption of "baron"[3]) who performed the duties of judge and enforcer. The Bron had six full-time deputies who kept the peace.[5][9] They wore the symbol of Voonlar, five white coins in a circle, emblazoned on the back and over the breast of dark green jerkins.[10][11]

From about 1355 DR[12] until at least 1372 DR,[6] the office of the Bron was held by Buorstag Hlammythyl, who was widely known to be an agent of Zhentil Keep[9] or subservient to them and thus the city was tacitly controlled by the Zhentarim.[2][5][7][13] All six of the deputies were hand-picked and trained by the Zhentarim, who chose warriors with much more strength than ambition.[11][14]

Elections were held annually, but ever since Buorstag was first elected, the voting was secretly rigged by the Zhentarim to keep him in office.[3][5][13] This went on for so many years that it became a farce and few citizens bothered to run against the incumbent or dare to challenge the counting. Eventually, the people became grudgingly resigned to being ruled by puppets of the Zhentarim.[2][7]

As the years passed, and with the return of the Netherese to Anauroch, the Zhentarim were eventually forced out of the Moonsea area and Voonlar became a bone of contention between the growing Netherese empire and the renewed influence of a revitalized Myth Drannor as both factions tried to win the loyalty of the people.[15]

Law & JusticeEdit

In the early years of the Buorstag administration, lightly guarded caravans were subject to seizure of goods and demands for coin to pay for protection from the various threats surrounding Voonlar[16][17] (mainly orcs and bugbears,[2][7] but also poachers and raiders from Shadowdale and Hillsfar,[18][19] and the dreaded Harpers). These same threats were used against the local population to extort goods and tax money.[16][17]

The Zhents eventually reined in Buorstag and his petty dictatorship, perhaps fearing that Maalthiir of Hillsfar would use the Bron's excesses as an excuse to annex Voonlar without raising the ire of Sembia, and since half of Zhentil Keep had recently been destroyed (at the end of the Year of the Banner, 1368 DR[20]) they did not have the resources to fend off any challengers for Voonlar. The result was that Buorstag and his deputies created an atmosphere more favorable to business by being more even-handed when meting out justice and ending the policy of extortion. Then he raised taxes[note 1] to compensate for the loss of revenue, and it worked. His tough-but-fair enforcement of taxation and the law kept Voonlar safe, business kept coming, and revenues were greater than he ever got through coercion.[16][17]

Despite the "gentle gauntlet" approach to law enforcement, the Bron and his deputies, the Zhentarim, and the clergy from the church of Cyric could act with impunity in and around Voonlar. Visitors and citizens were relatively safe as long as they did not act suspiciously, belong to a group of public enemies, or disturb the peace. Public enemies were the Harpers and the Red Plumes of Hillsfar or their agents. Anyone even suspected of belonging to one of these groups was usually attacked on sight and taken into custody for questioning (under torture) and often publicly executed at the Throat after an official-sounding list of false charges was read out loud.[21] Wizards were beheaded quickly for public safety while most others were given death by slow dismemberment—they were tied to an X-shaped frame of logs and one limb was cut off each hour while the victim bled to death. This grisly apparatus was set facing Shadowdale where travelers could see it from the road.[16][17]

The Bron always erred on the side of caution. If it became apparent through the "attentive questioning" that they were mistaken about the identity of the suspect, he or she was quickly put to death and the body was disposed of in secret to avoid repercussions, unless the suspect could immediately prove (usually by magical means) they were a member of the Zhentarim.[16][17]

All money and property of executed criminals was confiscated by the Bron, who claimed to use it for public services like paying for patrols, road repair, and cleaning of public wells. Judging by the state of the roads and wells, most of the city's revenue went to hiring mercenaries instead.[17][22]

Prisoners were kept in the Locktower, the town armory, barracks, and jail. Despite its name, the Locktower was a squat keep made of stone which had six cells that could hold three people each. These cells were underground, located directly below the floor drain of the stables. Inmates that were not suspected of being public enemies were typically stripped and fed only stale bread and water until such time as they paid for their release or someone else volunteered payment.[10][11]

DefensesEdit

By a decree referred to as the Whelming, the Bron could raise a militia in times of crisis. The Locktower contained fifty pikes and twenty crossbows for issue to the seventy-odd townsfolk that made up the militia.[5][21] All members trained to use both weapons and most were at least competent, although it was hard to find good archers. No Voonlarran was allowed to possess a bow of any kind except those farmers and ranchers that lived on the outskirts of the patrolled area; they received special permission to keep a crossbow for vermin and bandit control. Men and women of the militia were also issued helmets that were colored orange for easy recognition. All weapons and helmets were returned to the Locktower after training or a muster. Buorstag was also happy to sell padded jerkins to any that felt the need for a little body armor.[11][23]

The Bron's deputies were equipped with chainmail, helmets, gauntlets, and usually carried clubs, short swords, and daggers.[21] Suits of plate mail and other weapons were available to them at the Locktower, the Throat, and near the White Stag, stored in tiny stone gatehouses.[10][11]

TradeEdit

Voonlar was both a way station and terminus for many caravans plying the Moonsea and Dalelands regions. The lion's share of these did business with or were owned by the Shield Trading Company headquartered in Voonlar.[9][24] The Shield Trading Company was operated by an elderly Voonlarren cloth trader named Zaravron Rarthree and, despite the suspicions of many, maintained a reputation for fair dealing[5] without the taint of Zhentish investors or influence from the Bron.[25][26]

Culture & SocietyEdit

The resident population of Voonlar was almost entirely human, at least up to and including the reign of Buorstag Hlammythyl, and they were aggressively xenophobic.[24] Non-humans, collectively called "dogheads", were looked upon with fear and hatred and subjected to intense stares, angry shouts, jeers, mean-spirited pranks, racial slurs, and rock throwing. Elves, half-elves, halflings, dwarves, and gnomes were indignantly tolerated as long as they kept to the main roads, inns, taverns, holy sites, and the major shops that would do business with them. Half-orcs needed to be obviously armed or with a group to avoid special attention. Before the Zhentarim-induced policy shift to encourage trade, any non-humans that strayed from the more public locations risked being beaten and robbed. Under the new regime, the deputies would break up fights and return stolen items but not provide any other assistance unless offered payment.[19][22]

As for human outsiders, the Zhents were respected out of fear. Voonlarrans considered people from the Dalelands to be poachers, thieves, and generally untrustworthy, blaming them for highway robbery and nighttime raids.[8][9] Gormstadd, high priest of the Cyric temple, even offered a 10,000 gp reward for bringing in Mourngrym Amcathra, the Lord of Shadowdale, dead or alive. People from Hillsfar were looked upon as potential spies, although their caravans were welcome to stop, do business, and move on. People from Cormyr were usually stereotyped as simpletons in shiny armor and worthy of the same hatred as Hillsfar. Sembians were all assumed to be wealthy and were envied, if not respected.[18][19]

ReligionEdit

Of the two temples in Voonlar, the largest was the Bounty of the Goddess devoted to Chauntea.[5][9][13] Its walled gardens took up almost a third of the town proper[27][28] and undoubtedly contributed greatly to the ample harvests of the surrounding farms.[21] The other was a Banite temple that was rededicated to Cyric called the Dark God Reformed.[5][9][13][19][28] These two edifices faced each other at the crossroads and represented the conflicting forces that quietly warred in this town beneath a civil facade.[21]

Two shrines, one to Lathander and one to Tempus, were also located in town.[9][21] The House of Holy Light was an open pavilion just south of the Three Elves inn. It had a small herb garden that anyone could sample and sold holy water and healing potions to the constant stream of travelers that stopped by in all seasons except winter.[29][30] The House of the Helm was also an open pavilion, located on the North Ride on the way out of town, made of stone slabs and tilted pillars. This shrine was only tended by traveling priests and paladins, but they visited often to prevent any desecration by the followers of Cyric.[31][32]

In the northwest portion of the Common Gardens was an all-faiths pavilion known as the Holy House with a bare stone alter, braziers, a small privy, and a well that provided cool drinking water. The shrine could be used by anyone but camping was forbidden.[29][30]

Religious politicsEdit

The leader of the Cyric temple, Gormstadd the Rerisen, was a close friend and ally of Bron Buorstag and they both detested the leader of the Chauntea temple, Lady Immithra Shrae. On several occasions the Bron and Gormstadd tried to move against the Bounty of the Goddess or Lady Shrae herself, but such blatant attacks were rebuffed by the wrath of Chauntea, opening up fissures in the earth or pelting those who would harm the temple or its matriarch with fruit and tree boughs. The two men were forced to acknowledge that Lady Shrae was under the goddess's protection and turned their schemes elsewhere, waiting for the day she would lose favor with Chauntea.[18][19][21]

The Bron was originally adamantly opposed to the building of walls around the grounds of the Bounty of the Goddess temple and gardens until his Zhentarim handlers suggested that containment of the meddlesome clergy made it easier to spy on their comings and goings. The people of Voonlar held little animosity toward the Chaunteans because the temple had donated the portion of their gardens north of Daerndrean Street to the city, tripling the area of the Common Gardens,[27][28] and because Lady Shrae tended the sick for free.[18][19]

Buorstag was actually pleased when the Chaunteans sold one if its guesthouses on the North Ride near the edge of town to a wealthy Sembian merchant who converted it into a hunting lodge. The Bron hoped that hunting parties would increase the chances of killing, capturing, or driving away raiders from Shadowdale and sneaky Harper spies.[28][33]

Lady Shrae had a friend and ally in her counterpart at the House of Plenty in Shadowdale, High Harvestmistress Glamerie Windbough. They communicated through trusted couriers that traveled with armed and mounted temple guards as escort. The envoys always sought the permission of the Bron before entering or leaving Voonlarran territory and he grudgingly gave it to them. Glamerie used these messengers to send warnings of impending raids from the Dalelands to Lady Shrae who stood ready to shelter good adventurers who were fleeing the Cyricists, the mercenaries, or the Bron and his deputies.[8][33][34]

The keepers of the House of Holy Light were Gentle Father Erngar Narrowlea and several lay persons. Father Narrowlea was known to loan small stakes from the proceeds of potion sales to fellow Lathanderites for commercial ventures. He also surreptitiously operated against any schemes or plans that he discovered in which the Bron or the Cyricists were engaged.[29][30]

The House of the Helm was frequently visited by itinerant priests, the most outspoken of whom was Beldryn Klynrin. He and his retinue of veteran warriors and an underpriest or two had no qualms about standing up to the Bron and giving him, his deputies, the Cyricists, and the Zhents dire warnings about incurring the wrath of Tempus over stolen offerings at the shrine. What really raised the Buorstag's hackles was that a significant number of the offerings were battle trophies left by retreating raiding parties as they melted into the forest, and he could do nothing about it for fear of angering the Lord of Battles.[32][35] Some of these raids were actually warrior priests of Tempus chastising the hired mercenaries for overstepping their bounds toward Yûlash, Shadowdale, or people of faiths other than those of Bane or Cyric. Beldryn the Bold could send for one or more of these bands anytime he felt the brutality got out of hand in Voonlar. Whether Buorstag knew the followers of Tempus were involved or not, he blamed the raids on Shadowdale.[34][36]

Somewhere in the woods near Voonlar, a small beholder missing some of its eyestalks, named Xathcrism, started a cult of personality, called itself "Bane's Eyes", and recruited bands of brigands with promises of wealth and power. They raided various travelers and forest adventurers but never attacked members of the church of Cyric. Xathcrism claimed to be the manifestation of Bane, but no one could really fathom its objective.[34][36]

HistoryEdit

Rumors and legendsEdit

  • The townsfolk had a general belief that the main altar within the Dark God Reformed covered a treasure pit and mausoleum of the bones of fallen priests. It was said the remains could provide undead guardians if needed.[50][51]
  • Despite the lack of evidence, persistent rumors circulated about the Shield Trading Company being under Zhentarim influence.[25][26]
  • Local scuttlebutt circulated about Harper agents leaving secret messages or caches of treasure under the floorboards and in the walls of certain rooms at the Whistling Wizard. It was said that the Bron's deputies and/or staff from the Cyricist temple would attempt to confiscate these, and the fact that a guest occasionally awoke to an intruder in their room kept this rumor alive.[52][53]

Notable locationsEdit

Inns and tavernsEdit

The Sign of the Shield
Lush and luxurious with many attendants.[26][54]
The Swords Meet
Zhent-friendly. Meat and potatoes with all the trimmings in a hunting lodge atmosphere.[55][56]
The Flying Stag
Private suites for conducting quiet business or romantic getaways.[57][58]
The Three Elves
Down home, never leave hungry, unpretentious family atmosphere in a rundown building with cats to keep the vermin in check.[59][60]
The Whistling Wizard
Shabby comfort and decent food in a dimly lit, dusty place with a storied past.[61][62]

Temples and shrinesEdit

The Dark God Reformed
A temple to Cyric.[5][9][13][19][28]
The Bounty of the Goddess
A temple to Chauntea.[5][9][13][29][30]
The House of Holy Light
A shrine to Lathander.[29][30]
The House of the Helm
A shrine to Tempus.[31][32]
The Holy House
An all-faiths shrine.[29][30]

MiscellaneousEdit

  • Common Gardens: A large park north of Daerndrean Street.[33][28]
  • Greentree: The local name for the nearby forest which was part of the greater Cormanthor forest.[2][7]
  • The Locktower: The Bron's headquarters, armory, jail, and barracks, located where Runstal's Ride met the North Ride.[10][11]
  • The Stagfoot: The median strip between two roads, across the street from the White Stag.[55][56]
  • The Throat: The area in the center of town where the North Ride met the Shind Road. Named after the Dusty Throat, a rowdy tavern at the crossroads that burned down at some point in Voonlar's past.[2][7]

OrganizationsEdit

The Shield Trading Company
A merchant trading house that operated in the Moonsea and Dalelands regions.[5][6][9][24]
The Hand
A group of evil adventurers who followed Bane in the early 1350's DR.[63]

InhabitantsEdit

Here are a few of the interesting characters that called Voonlar home at some point in its history:

AppendixEdit

NotesEdit

  1. Visitors to the town should expect to pay 30% more for all goods and services compared to the prices found in Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue or the Player's Handbook.
  2. The timeline for the Knights of Myth Drannor described in Hall of Heroes is very confusing, presenting events out of order but implying they are chronological.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 161. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Ed Greenwood (April 2001—May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (PDF). Elminster Speaks p. 1. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 John Terra (February 1995). The Moonsea (Reference Guide). (TSR, Inc), p. 21. ISBN 978-0786900923.
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  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #1: Voonlar. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
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