The High Forest has more than its normal share of lost cities, fabled sites, and rumored locations, because the land has remained relatively unspoiled over the centuries. The forest’s apparent invulnerability to woodcutters’ blades has kept many places secret long after other contemporary ruins about the Savage Frontier have since been plundered. Over the years, sections of the High Forest have gained alternative names, either for long-lost nations beneath the shade and the undergrowth or for the creatures and peoples that dwell therein. The noted section below mentions both current geographic locations and well-known sites within the High Forest, including lost ruins and ancient strongholds fallen into non use (or not!). With the exception of the Old Road and some small footpaths along the Unicorn Run, there are no paths through the forest obvious to even the most skilled of human adventurers or trackers. Elves can barely spot the ancient traces of elven paths or monster tracks, but it should simply be noted that no location away from the mentioned trails is easy to reach even for the most tried of rangers and woodsmen.
Citadel of the Mists
Focal point of myriad magic and intrigues alike, the Citadel of the Mists is one of the most well known human dwellings within the woods.
This strange, hilly land within the eastern High Forest is named the Dire Woods because of a legendary massacre of humans that caused the soil to redden. This epic predates even the hoary tales of Netheril, though folk today have other reasons to label this place as dire. Once a frenzied and ever-expanding area of unexplained magic, the chaos has stabilized and remained stable since the Time of Troubles. During its expansions, the Dire Wood’s boundaries were marked by black, petrified trees; now, its outer boundaries are delineated by the same black trees surrounded by an outer ring of albino oaks – ancient oak trees bleached white in bark, wood, and leaves by some bizarre magic. While its outer ring can be paced out to measure a four-mile circumference of ivory trees, its interior dimensions are far more expansive and appear to measure 100-150 miles within the perimeter. Whether inside or out, the terrain of the Dire Wood consists of uneven hills and undergrowth. The terrain changes only once, with a single, towering red stone butte jutting out from the forest floor; this simply marks the location of the now-abandoned ruins of Karse, a former outpost dating from the latter days of ancient Netheril. Weather here bears no resemblance to the outer world and is highly magical. Creatures long extinct elsewhere are found here in abundance, though they die if forced out beyond the Dire Woods’ boundaries. Wild magic sites are almost commonplace herein, appearing at random then disappearing without a trace. A few druids report the natural existence of deepspawn within one part of the Dire Wood, and rangers have documented proof of giant forest animals emerging from the wood and remaining altered. One particular displacer beast was doubled in size and its tentacles were felling small trees before the creature was brought low.
Yet one more of the lost civilizations of the North that fell before time and the blades of orcs and tanar’ri alike. Situated along the western banks of the upper Delimbiyr, elves of old built a realm comparable to Myth Drannor in the eastern High Forest called Eaerlann.
At the edge of the Sisters, the broken lands south of the Star Mounts, numerous caverns dot the cliffs, and most are unremarkable. However, a northern fork of the Unicorn Run flows from a huge opening in the cliff face, and the cave it creates is the entrance to what Harper rangers and druids know as the Endless Caverns.
A ranger, Skimmerhorn of Daggerford, reported evidence of illithid activity here on his investigation there in 1356. Returning within a year’s time with a band of adventurers and fellow rangers, they ventured into the Endless Caverns, flushed out an encampment of illithids and drow slavers, and went deeper to collapse the tunnels used to reach the surface. No word of their success – or survival – has ever reached Secomber in the interim decade or more.
Within the heart of the High Forest, a gnarled oak tree of monstrous proportions towers above the surrounding trees. This is the much-fabled ancestor mound called Grandfather Tree, and it is considered holy ground to a number of northern barbarian tribes as well as most of the natives of the forest. Four lessor oak trees, dwarfed by the spread of Grandfather Tree’s branches, mark the quarters around its base and act as monolithic boundary marks for the inner cairn and ancestor mound. Only a few rotted stumps and fallen logs remain of the Blue Bear Tribe totems. The colossal oak tree and its guardian spirits project what is akin to a natural ward. It negates any detection or location magics trained on anyone within 100 yards of its branches, just as the tree itself is immune to location magics and scrying. It also prevents anyone from teleporting or gating within a mile of its central trunk; said magics can be used to move away from Grandfather Tree, but any attempts to teleport or magically move closer to the tree are negated. Allies of the Blue Bear Tribe, and especially worshipers of Mielikki, Silvanus, or Chuntea, heal at twice the normal amount (via spells or natural healing) when under the spread of Grandfather Tree’s branches. Under Grandfather Tree are the Halls of Mist an ancient shrine and the giant ant tunnels that wind around the roots of Grandfather Tree.
Hall of Four Ghosts
Its name long lost to all but the most learned of historians, this ruined dwarfhold was once a logging town, where dwarves harvested mighty trees from the High Forest for the clans throughout the North. It now draws its title and reputation from its last remaining building, the decrepit great hall of the city’s former lord.
The former site of Hellgate Keep and lost Ascalhorn is unrecognizable today. The pile of rubble where the main citadel once stood is now an uneven, craggy hill overgrown with moss and small bushes.
The Dell is actually located two miles south east of the Keep’s former location near the start of the slope leading to the Keep’s high promontory. The Dell is a small uneven crag about 70 feet in height and 200 feet in diameter that is actually a loose collection of debris flung from the Keep. Hellgate Dell is fully covered with mosses and small shrubs.
In the center of the Dire Woods are the ancient ruins of Karse.
These two small mountains in the northwestern wood are the source of the River Dessarin.
The most complete reminder of Eaerlann’s civilization outside of Tall Trees. Less than two days’ travel from the end of the Old Road (or three days’ travel east from the Lost Peaks) puts travelers among the overgrown ruins of the lost temple city of Eaerlann.
A small tree-city reminiscent of Tall Trees between the Sisters and the Stronghold of the Nine.
The Old Road
This is a 35-foot-wide cobblestone road built by the elves of Eaerlann long centuries before Waterdeep was even a trading post.
A new settlement east of Karse along the Heartblood River and just beyond the boundaries of the Dire Wood. Some 30 years ago Kaebel, a Dwarven Artificer, persuaded the village elders of Faefehel to allow him to build a water-powered wool-processing mill, an innovation of his devising. Working on the project, he became friendly with Agath a Sage from the village of Tiselles. Agath brought Kaebel’s attention to the “Window of Peace” A curious artifact in the Hahfor Forest, which defended the forest from harm. Agreeing that the device hindered progress in the valley, the pair resolved to do something about it. With Kaebel’s skills and Agath’s occult knowledge they were able to devise a plan to co-opt the Window power. Kaebel sought an artifact to power the work, some 21 years ago. Many of Tiselle’s inhabitants are nomads within the forest, coming to this site only during the winter. While the sylvan elves of the High Forest are all hunters and gatherers, the settlers of Tiselles are accomplished fishermen and craftsmen. In fact, the graceful yet sturdy pottery they create from the clay along the banks of the Heartblood River is a valuable trade commodity both within and outside of the High Forest. While the native elves were initially worried about the increased activity to the east at the Delimbiyr, it does not interfere with their lives. In fact, Tiselles is planning on expanding as opportunity permits.
The Shining Falls
What was once an outpost and portage road for eastern Eaerlann is now simply a light deer path at the top of a high, spectacular horseshoe falls. Legends tell of a hidden entrance to the tomb of the dwarven royalty of Ammarindar (a dwarven contemporary of Netheril) beneath the torrential waters of the Shining Falls.
South of the Star Mounts lie a series of escarpments and gorges created by the flow of the Unicorn Run called the Sisters. Considered the most beautiful and idyllic of locations by all who ever gaze upon them, the many multi-leveled waterfalls of the Sisters show the beauty that results from unspoiled nature. The mists and waters of the falls provide the moisture that allows scrub grass and vegetation to grow on the high plateaus and cliffs around them.
Near the center of the High Forest, the majestic Star Mounts rise far above the forest canopy, usually shrouded in clouds or mist, making the view of the peaks impossible but for a few days out of the year. Two rivers, the Unicorn Run and Heartblood River, claim headwaters from these mountains. The elves of Eaerlann first named the mountains, giving them the same names as stars in the northern heavens. Most of the original names are forgotten, only their rough translations survive: Bard’s Hill, Mount Vision, and Hunterhorn. Yet, a few are remembered: Y’tellarien (the Far Star), called Far Peak; Y’landrothiel (Traveler’s Star), called Mount Journey; and N’landroshien (Darkness in Light), called Shadowpeak. The forest south of the mountains hides a gnarled surface that might be called a badland were it not so densely thicketed. To the north, the land is unusually smooth, as if leveled with a woodworker’s plane. The mountains are also known to be rich in metals, including remarkably pure iron and nickel. But since the end of Eaerlann, no one mines there. The Star Mounts are an unapproachable curiosity. The ancient elven names hint at some unfathomable mystery, though most suspect the elves know the truth of it. As far as anyone knows, no flying creature less powerful than a dragon can land there due to constant and usually fierce winds.
A tall oak tree surmounts the altar mound here. The oak is a cutting taken long ago from the legendary Grandfather Tree. Both cairn rings here are surmounted by menhirs, spaced roughly 10 feet apart and capped by lintel pieces that link the stones together into two unbroken rings of capped columns.
Stronghold of the Nine
This cavern complex is a former dwarfhold rebuilt by the Nine, a famous adventuring band led by the female archmage Laeral. Long-since abandoned by that group of heroes, it has recently been taken over by a group of sylvan elves who have claimed the title of ‘The Nine’ as their own – apparently with the blessing of Laeral.
While it was unoccupied, the Stronghold still had strange and powerful magical guardians that included nagas and golems. If any are foolhardy enough to enter now that it’s occupied expect the strongest magical barriers and not a few gates leading to various points, including Blackstaff Tower.
The Tall Trees, a small northeastern section of the forest, is thus called because it probably has the oldest trees in the forest. They tower over the rest of the forest like hill giants to human youth, and their trunks are the width of most northern villages.
Formerly the quickest way to reach Hellgate Keep and the Upvale from Sundabar, this pass is now totally blocked by a massive avalanche.
Unicorn Run, The
This clear, pristine river begins at the very heart of the High Forest, right at the base of the Star Mounts. It’s known for its purity, excellent fishing, and slow-moving current. The stronghold of the Nine lies partway up the Run, and unicorns inhabit the woods near its banks in the vicinity, and are known to travel up and down the river’s length (hence its name). There is a legend that an elven king buried the treasure of all his court somewhere along the Unicorn Run, when fleeing from orcs and hobgoblins who had pursued his people from the far North, and never returned, having been slain by his orc pursuers. Another legend holds that the goddess Mielikki inhabits the Forest near the Run and is often seen wandering in the woods near it. Harpers say that this “legend” is the plain truth, and make occasional pilgrimages to certain groves there. Certainly the Run’s vale within the High Forest is one of the most beautiful regions of all Faerûn. Bards who come here tend to sing of it for the rest of their lives. Halflings from Secomber regularly travel upriver to just within the Forest’s edge to bury their dead; one famous halfling adventurer visited the Run over two decades ago and, on his deathbed, said “I have seen the unicorns, and can die content.”
This is the area between the Tall Trees and the Far Forests.
This dark, brooding mountain range once marked the northern boundary of ancient Netheril and the southern boundary of Delzoun.
Morueme is the clan name for a family of blue dragons who have had a lair in this cavern complex for over a thousand years.