Of Shades and Shadows
The kingdom of Cormyr is old, yet strong and vigorous. This civilized land carved itself out of a wilder territory through grit, bravery, and determination. Though the land has a reputation of goodly rule, sometimes Cormyr has had to make difficult choices to ensure its security. Its most contested border is along shadowy Netheril and gluttonous Sembia, though Cormyr also borders the hazardous Stonelands, the Tunlands, and the Stormhorns and Thunderpeaks.
Dominated by humankind, the Land of the Purple Dragon has been ruled by House Obarskyr for over fourteen centuries, with the strong backing of an army of heavily armored knights on Cormyrian destriers and magically potent warmages. A mystical connection exists between the land and the people and creatures that inhabit it, which is little understood but demonstrably real and powerful.
The Forest Country, as Cormyr is sometimes called, lies cradled between the nations of Netheril on the north and Sembia to the east. To the west, beyond the Sunset Mountains, Cormyr is bordered by Elturgard. The southern border now stretches beyond the Dragonmere to the Giant’s Run Mountains. The largest city and royal capital of the kingdom is Suzail, named after Suzara Obarskyr, mother of the first king of Cormyr.
Agriculture is the underlying strength of the kingdom. Cormyr was once heavily forested, but generations of clearing and farming has reduced the woodlands to the King’s Forest, Hermit’s Wood, and Hullack Forest. A small community in the King’s Forest called Dhedluk (population 1,000) is home to farmers and woodcarvers. The wet, temperate climate creates rich green forests and healthy fields of grain.
Cormyr has several rivers, both large and small. The most significant waterway is the Starwater, which runs from the Stormhorn Mountains through the King’s Forest and into the Dragonmere at Marsember (population 38,000).
The Dragonmere (also called the Lake of Dragons) offers Cormyr’s coastal cities access to the Sea of Fallen Stars. Fog is common along the seacoast and in major ports including Suzail, Marsember, and Teziir (population 23,000).
The Wyvernwater is an inland lake shaped something like a malformed starfish. Four major rivers—two of which are the Immerflow and the Wyvernflow—empty into this lake. Small communities are found on the lake’s shores, including Immersea (population 1,200), Yeoman Bridge (population 400), and Sunset Hill (population 900).
The central mountain range of the region is the Stormhorns. These stormswept peaks cut off the main population centers of Cormyr from the wilderness lands beyond.
Cormyr frontier includes the wetlands of the Farsea Swamp and High Moors, and the desolate Goblin Marches and Stonelands. Though Cormyr claims these territories, travel to and from the back country is difficult and perilous, which results in few Cormyrians living there.
The Ruling Class
Cormyr has a reputation among other nations of Faerûn as being rather snobbish. This perception is derived from the noble class, who feel they are better than those “below” them. However, the origin of this feeling has less to do with birth and divine right than with the responsibility of the station and its importance in Cormyrian society.
The Royal Family
Cormyr is a hereditary monarchy; the reigning monarch is King Foril Obarskyr. Son of Azoun V and Nalara Marliir, the future king was born in the Year of True Omens (1409 DR). He was named in honor of his great-grandfather’s only son, who was assassinated by Fire Knives at the age of 2.
In his late adolescence Foril trained with the Purple Dragons, but later chose more academic pursuits under the tutelage of the War Wizards. Free from the heavy responsibilities placed on his older brother Emvar, Foril’s passionate study of warfare and diplomacy eventually led the prince to Tethyr, where he apprenticed under the Red Fellowship.
During this period, Foril fell deeply in love with Jemra Rhindaun, niece to Queen Sybille of Tethyr. After a whirlwind engagement, they wed in the Year of the Stalking Horrors (1430 DR)—but this didn’t sit well with the Cormyrian nobility at all. Jemra birthed a healthy baby boy, Irvel Obarskyr, a year later.
In the Year of the Silent Flute (1437 DR), Crown Prince Emvar died in an ambush by Sembian forces south of the Vast Swamp. In the same month, Queen Jemra was killed in a failed assassination attempt on the king. Waves of mourning and calls for decisive action against Netheril and Sembia swept Cormyr. It was soon discovered that before his death, Emvar fathered a son, Erzoured, with a merchant’s daughter named Solatha. Solatha was named Countess of Dhedluk, after her birthplace, to ensure that Erzoured would have a title to inherit despite his illegitimate birth. With his mother, Erzoured moved to the Palace where he was raised beside Irvel as a brother.
Today Crown Prince Irvel Obarskyr is well respected among both commoners and the nobility. He shows a lot of the old Azoun IV boldness that could portend interesting times for the country. With his wife Ospra Goldfeather he has two children: son Baerovus born in 1454 DR and daughter Raedra born in 1460 DR.
Irvel’s cousin Erzoured Obarskyr, however, is secretly a black-hearted schemer who wants the throne so bad he can taste it. He harbors plans of doing away with Irvel so he can be named crown prince.
At seventy years of age, King Foril rules from the Palace of the Purple Dragon in Suzail, taking counsel from the Royal Wizard. Foril is a respected strategist, statesman, and administrator. Today he leaves the fighting to others, because he is smart enough to understand that he’s too important to his country to act recklessly. The king has ruled for 30 years and there is a sense among the nobility that Foril might be reaching the end of his reign.
About two dozen major noble families of note exist along with a fluctuating number of minor, dwindling, and less-known houses. Many houses lost a great portion of their numbers—and some were wiped out entirely—during the Spellplague and the chaos and conflicts with Netheril that followed. A few of the prominent noble families include Houses Alsevir, Cormaeril, Crownsilver, Dauntinghorn, Emmarask, Goldfeather, and Hawklin.
All the Mages Royal have taken great pains to structure the laws of Cormyr, with full support from the heralds, to make it bluntly and explicitly clear that all nobles hold their lands and titles “at the favor of” the Crown. House Bleth was forever banished from Cormyr following the Abraxus Affair in 1369 DR. The Cormaeril family, also implicated in that incident, similarly lost lands and titles but was permitted to remain in-country. Those Cormaerils who remained loyal were restored their nobility late in Azoun V’s reign.
Lords and Heralds
Nobles are born, not made. The exceptions to this are local lords and heralds, who are individuals appointed by the king to govern a town or group of towns in the king’s name. Upon selecting a local lord, the king grants that person a noble title (if she or he does not already hold one).
Each lord defends the local farms, dispenses the King’s justice, keeps the peace, serves as “the King’s eyes and ears,” and collects tithes for the king and for him or herself. Each lord or lady must have someone who serves as a clerk/record-keeper and is a trained herald.
The relationship between the landed nobility and the appointed local lords is good, though many established families treat local servants of the crown as no more than royal lackeys to be bossed about or flattered as need be.
Foril’s personal standard is a purple dragon on a black field. The king recently carried the ensign of the Purple Dragon, which can be borne only by a blood Obarskyr, into battle in the Year of Darkenbeasts Risen (1442 DR). Today, Foril’s son Irvel commands the nation’s armed forces. The crown prince doesn’t have the title of Lord High Marshal of the Realm, but does have all the responsibilities of the post.
To enforce the royal word, Cormyr maintains a large standing army called the Purple Dragons. The force is named in memory of the adventuring band of the same name formed by Crown Prince Duar Obarskyr (thanks to legends of the dragon Thauglor) centuries past.
Rank in the Purple Dragons from junior to most senior is as follows: Blade, Telsword, First Sword, Swordcaptain, Lionar, Ornrion, Constal, Oversword, Battlemaster, and Lord High Marshal. The Highknights are a handful of loyal, dedicated, dangerous Purple Dragons who serve the royal family as personal enforcers, spies, and envoys.
The Purple Dragons possess no official uniform, though all soldiers are expected to meet certain expectations.
- Each company has its own badge, representing the name or purpose of the company. In the rare event that a company has no official name or stated purpose (due to its direct service to a noble, in times of crisis or war, or when the company is garrisoned locally), the badge takes the form of a silver, shieldshaped brooch etched with the Purple Dragon.
- Tabards can be worn over armor (or “warcoats”), but only in white, and then only with the Purple Dragon properly emblazoned on its front. Other colors are used by the personal bodyguards of the various nobles. Black tabards are never worn, even by Knights Royal.
The two score ships of the navy of Cormyr—known colloquially as the Blue Dragons—sails often out of Suzail, Teziir, and Palagarr (on the isle of Prespur) to patrol the Lake of Dragons, the Neck, and the waterways that lead into Cormyr’s domain. The Warden of the Port in Teziir, Duke Penfold Dauntinghorn, is considered the high commander of these forces, though he officially commands only the fifteen ships that dock in his home port.
All Cormyr’s warships are named after one of Cormyr’s past monarchs, such as Queen Gantharla. The sole exception is the Steel Princess, an ironclad named for Alusair Nacacia, who ruled Cormyr as regent during Azoun V’s youth.
The Blue Dragons have only three true ranks. The captain of a ship is its absolute lord and master, operating with impunity in any fashion except that which violates the ship’s standing orders. His lieutenant sees to the day-to-day operations on board the ship, including supply, rationing, and other sundry details. Every other Blue Dragon is a sailor with a specific role to perform (purser, yeoman, sailing master, boatswain, master-at-arms, and so on).
When the Alliance of Freesailors was formally disbanded in the Year of Lost Ships (1400 DR), ranks in the Imperial Navy swelled.
From the founding of the kingdom, mages have been important to Cormyr in warfare as well as other matters. Mages loyal to the crown sign an agreement with the king and make a secret oath, thus becoming War Wizards. These wizards are an integral component of Cormyr’s military, and they are respected and feared across the land.
As their leader, Ganrahast is both Royal Magician and Chairman of the College of War Wizards. The War Wizards have no internal rank or structure of note. There is only Ganrahast, his second, Vainrence, and everyone else. Vainrence is more war-minded than the Mage Royal, and he is pushing for the militarization of the College of War Wizards and the pressing of the Brotherhood into a more cohesive unit rather than an ever-shifting alliance of mages. Today the old guard of War Wizards now includes powerful swordmages, warlocks, and other spellcasters even the Netherese respect. Only Ganrahast knows the true numbers of the organization.
The Spellplague, royal sentiment, and intricately worded portions of the Suzail Writ have conspired to greatly limit the ability of War Wizards to magically monitor the thoughts and intentions of Cormyr’s citizenry. After a number of attempts resulted in the messy deaths of nobles and drooling feeblemindedness of the wizards involved, the Crown has banned the mind-reaming of any citizen of Cormyr, with the act punishable by death. The War Wizards still try to spy on everyone (even themselves, by mean of the alarphons, War Wizards who act as an internal police force), but today their methods are less invasive, and in truth, less effective.
Near the end of his reign, Azoun V signed the Suzail Writ, in which the King agreed to be bound by law, and which gave “free citizens” inviolable rights; notably trial by jury of peers. The Writ restricted the nobility and elevated the common folk. Most nobles have accepted the new status quo, but a few still scheme to gain enough influence over the throne (or gain the throne itself) so that they could then return the noble houses to their “rightful prominence.” King Foril remains a staunch defender of the Writ.
Farming is the largest occupation in Cormyr and the foundation of the Forest Country’s conservative and civilized society. A typical farmer lives a simple life, farming the land quite a distance from any town of size. Farmers are extremely loyal to King Foril and readily volunteer to join the Purple Dragons in times of emergency, as was the case in recent conflicts against Netheril and Sembia.
Cormyr’s monarchy has never permitted serfdom. No farmer is anything but a free citizen or hired “crofter” working and living on lands owned by another and paying rent to the owner in the form of either coin or a portion of the crop yields. Landless farmers are in no way bound to the fields they work and are free to move on after a term or harvest season is complete.
In upland Cormyr, crofters are the norm. Except in strips of land fronting along all major roads and in the most remote locales, almost all the tilled land is owned by one wealthy family or another. In “download” Cormyr (roughly: south of Immersea and Waymoot), wealthy families might own large numbers of farms, but their properties are among the smallholds of independent Cormyrian citizens (“free citizens”).
Farmland is by no means monopolized by nobles or rich folk, however. If lands are fallow, anyone can walk up, till the land, and, if they are there for a sufficient number of seasons, gain clear title. Local lords do however have the power to commandeer portions of local crop yields from the farms under the local lord’s protection (and in some cases “yeomen warriors” from among the farmhands) when the rare need arises.
Cormyr has a long reputation of crafters, who are respected for being gifted by the gods with talents to transform worldly materials into products that are useful or decorative (or both, in the finest cases).
Several towns in Cormyr are centers for particular types of crafts. Surprisingly for such a damp place, the Wyrund family out of Mouth o’ Gargoyles (population 800) is famed for its exquisite cabinetry and woodcarving. The community of Gladehap (population 1,100) is a refuge for silversmiths. Minroe (population 500) is the absolutely best place in the kingdom to find affordable, high-quality jewelers and gemsmiths.
Each town usually has at least one crafters guild, which looks after the interests of their members by combating taxes and trying to improve working conditions, supplies, and sales opportunities. Unlike in some countries, these guilds are not particularly powerful; they more closely resemble benevolent fraternal organizations and not political entities. The concept of a “labor union” is unknown in Cormyr.
The most powerful class outside the nobility, merchants exert considerable influence, which grows steadily.
Cormyr’s contact with other nations of Faerûn is primarily due to the activity and influence of wealthy merchant houses. The most powerful of these organizations include the Seven Suns Trading Coster, the Trueshield Trading Priakos, the trading families of Skatterhawk, and Glanend.
King Foril vigorously eradicates all attempts to form thieves’ guilds and smuggling cabals in the nation’s largest cities. The presence of Cormyte merchant ships on the Dragonmere once escalated the amount of pirate activity there, but this has largely ended since the expansion of the Imperial Navy. Blue Dragon flotillas commonly escort merchant ships back and forth to the Neck.
Major imports to the Forest Kingdom include glass, ivory, perfume, and spices. Cormyr exports armor, ivory sculptures, cloth, coal, food, swords, and timber.
By definition, adventurers are well armed and magically capable beings who are incredibly dangerous to their enemies . . . and not always healthy to be around, even for their friends.
Despite the possibilities for peril inherent in having adventurers around, most residents of Cormyr are well disposed toward adventurers of good heart. They know that adventurers live daily with risks they would never be willing to face themselves.
In Cormyr it’s not just advisable to obtain a charter, it’s the law. Cormyr has a keen interest in keeping close tabs on those who walk the countryside bearing arms and who seemingly have no higher purpose than to merely “seek adventure.” The military history of Cormyr is one of guerilla ambushes and running skirmishes, rather than “setpiece” battles, and the Court is thus sensitive to the presence of armed folk within the kingdom. Adventurers or mercenaries cannot operate within Cormyr without permission of the King in the form of a royal charter. Without a charter, “Lawless freeswords” can be apprehended by any force representing the king, including the Purple Dragons and local militia. A charter can be obtained through the Lord Commander at High Horn, Rauolas Cormaeril; the Warden of the Eastern Marches in Castle Crag, Warvred Emmarask; or Crown Prince Irvel Obarskyr at the Royal Court in Suzail. Basic charters can be had for the annual cost of 25 gold pieces. Hand-lettered, gold-leaf foil charters personally signed by Cormyr’s ruler cost 1,000 golden lions, with an annual tax of 300 golden lions.
Charters are customarily given to a “company of adventurers.” Such a company cannot number more than thirty persons at any one time. All members of the chartered company must wear the arms or badge of their company at all times when armed in Cormyr. Any changes in roster must be reported immediately to the offices of the aforementioned officers.
Persons legally bearing weapons must wear peacestrings about their sword hilts (to prevent quick unsheathing). These strings are colored and tasseled cords, and it is an art to tie them in ornate knots. The best of such knots appear complicated, but can be undone with a single tug to free the weapon. If the Purple Dragons spot anyone bearing weapons that aren’t peace-bonded, they stop such individuals and inform them of Cormyr’s “custom.” Persistent violators are imprisoned and their goods seized.
Society of Stalwart Adventurers
This elite club of explorers and adventurers is a members-only society based out of a luxurious manor house in Suzail. The mansion boasts many fireplaces and stuffed monsters’ heads. Members have access to an extensive library of old adventurers’ journals—both members’ writings and other tomes aggressively purchased from all over Faerûn or copied from originals at Candlekeep. The last century has weeded out most of the pompous and arrogant members of the society, replacing them with those of true courage. Arguably, the society’s most famous alumnus is Artus Cimber, discoverer of the Ring of Winter, a powerful relic from an earlier age.
To blend in and gain acceptance among the citizenry of Cormyr, one must learn and follow common local customs:
- Commoners of both sexes bow their heads to royalty. Citizens enforce this law with visitors. Cormyrians greatly respect their leaders, and they want to impress this respect upon everyone who visits their kingdom.
- Burials are followed by wakes. Cormyrians view life and death as a pleasant journey from one wonderful kingdom to another. Various faiths have different burial practices, but most hold the belief that the deceased should be mourned by the living in festivities that remind everyone how fortunate they are to be a part of Cormyr.
- Young females interested in finding a mate wear purple scarves at the hip or around the throat (or both). Lovers also frequently give purple scarves as gifts.
- Guests always adhere to the rules of the household. Cormyrians believe the home is one of the most important places, and its maintenance is paramount to a family’s continued happiness. Guests should not, therefore, do things that interfere with the host family’s way of living.
- Hunting on another’s land is forbidden. The population of game animals is sometimes scarce, and the crown closely regulates hunting, especially in the King’s Forest.
- Husbands and wives sometimes publicly refer to each other as “My Lord” and “My Lady” (regardless of what real-world rank or title they have or lack) as a sign of reverence and love. It is also used as a sign of respect by servants, sworn bondsfolk, and other social inferiors when speaking to their lords and ladies.
Cormyr dates its years from the founding of House Obarskyr in the Year of Opening Doors (26 DR). For much of its existence, Cormyr was little more than the city-state of Suzail and a few fortified outposts. Today the kingdom stretches more than 400 miles across and is a major political and military power in the Heartlands.
The current king is 73rd in a long line of rulers.
Timeline of Recent Events
- 1371 (Year of the Unstrung Harp) – Birth of Azoun V of Cormyr. Death of Azoun IV and Crown Princess Tanalasta Obarskyr. Beginning of the Steel Regency of Princess Alusair Nacacia.
- 1384 (Year of Three Streams) – Bloodied At the insistence of several members of Court and the young king, Azoun V is crowned King of Cormyr.
- 1385 (Year of Blue Fire) – The Spellplague begins with the murder of Mystra. Cormyr is struck hard, but not so violently as many other nations. Roughly one third of all Wizards of War are slain, driven mad, or go missing in the year following Mystra’s death.
- 1390 (Year of the Walking Man) – Death of the Dowager Dragon Queen, Filfaeril Selazair Obarskyr.
- 1409 (Year of True Omens) – Birth of Foril Obarskyr, second son of Azoun V and Queen Nalara.
- 1439 (Year of the Silent Tear) – Cormyr and Sembia wage a series of increasingly hot battles, which escalates into full-scale war.
- 1441 (Year of Resurrections Rampant) – Treaty of Griffonfang Bridge: Pressured on all sides, Sembia (with approval from its Netherese governors) agree to a cessation of hostilities with Cormyr, the Dalelands, and Cormanthor. The uneasy ceasefire endures to this day. Daerlun and Urmlaspyr gain their independence from both nations.
- 1449 (Year of the Godly Invitation) – Death of King Azoun V. Coronation of King Foril.
- 1479 (Year of the Ageless One) – Present Day