Heroes of Hillsfar
Although Cormanthor can be seen as one forest, it is actually made up of four forests: the Elven Court, Semberholme, the Tangled Trees and the Vale of Lost Voices. The first three of these four roughly correspond to the old elven communities of the same names. The forest is also divided roughly according to tree types, with the following divisions:
Rimwood – a border of pines between 10 and 20 miles thick that separates the interior forest from the rest of the world.
Midwood – The midwood consists chiefly of white ash and beech. The trees here are packed densely enough to provide a mostly unbroken canopy. It separates the rimwood from the starwood and accounts for roughly half of the total area of the forest.
Starwood – The starwood is made up mostly of giant oaks and maple and is the most dense part of the forest. The maples average a height of 200’ (61m) and some of the oaks can reach 400’ (122m). The soil here is rich enough to be almost black and is almost constantly moist. This produces a wide variety of undergrowth, and travelling through this can be difficult because of its density. Because of the high humidity, a variety of lichens and mosses grow here.
Edgelands – The edgelands are patches between the areas of forest where magic can go haywire and small animals’ diets will alter greatly. They are roughly circular areas no more than 60 miles (97km) in diameter and there are usually only two or three in the forest at any one time. They are caused by energy drifts from Myth Drannor and only occur between spring and autumn. They faintly radiate magic, cause spells to fail or go wrong, interfere with the powers of magic items, and cause unusual weather effects such as snow during summer.
Cormanthor was once called Arcorar (the Great King Forest), and was an immense woodland realm stretching to the Dragon Coast to the west and south, and over the Dragon Reach to the east. Many old elven kingdoms were found there, including Jhyrennstar, Rystall Wood, and Uvaeren, along with some of the existing settlements of Elven Court and Semberholme. Arcorar was colonized after the Crown Wars, during what was called the Founding Time, when elves sought new domains to start their lives fresh after the bloody time in their past. After the unification of Cormanthyr and other events which sundered the woods into pieces (not to mention the growth of various kingdoms such as Cormyr and Sembia grew), the realm eventually became known as Cormanthor.
Cormanthor was home to the elven empire of Cormanthyr for nearly five thousand years, until the death of Coronal Eltargrim Irithyl in 661 DR initiated the Dusk, which led the decline of the realm until its collapse at the hands of the Trio Nefarious and the Army of Darkness in 714 DR. Since that time, Cormanthor has been a dangerous place to visit. For centuries to follow, the elves tried to contain the fiendish evil in Myth Drannor, where the fiends left over took hold of their power. The realm became scattered and divided, and ultimately in 1344 DR the elves began the Retreat, when more than 90% of their population abandoned Cormanthor’s woods for other settlements in the west.
The woods of Cormanthor became infested with drow after the retreat, who moved into the abandoned habitats of their kin. These drow attempted to seize the mythals and use the power for their own purposes. However, their plans never came to fruition as Myth Drannor was invaded by Sarya Dlardrageth and her Daemonfey and Fey’ri, who attempted to take control of the region in 1374 DR. In a complicated conflict involving the Zhentarim, Sembia and Hillsfar, as well as an Elven Crusade from Evereska, the Cormanthor War was fought in the woods and surrounding Dales. Eventually, House Dlardrageth fell to the Crusade, which became the Army of Myth Drannor led by Ilsevele Miritar. The Army of Myth Drannor eventually defeated the Zhentarim and seized control of Cormanthyr for the first time in seven centuries. In 1377 DR, the Srinshee returned and granted the Rulers’ Blade to Ilsevele, who drew it successfully and became the first Coronal of the Present Age. This elvish rule of Cormanthor Forest lasted for the next century (although was rarely peaceful).
In 1487 DR (Year of the Rune Lords Triumphant) the flying city of Shade moved directly against Myth Drannor. Telamont Tanthul, ruler of Shade, drained the energies of Myth Drannor’s mythal in order to turn the new Weave into a Shadow Weave for his mistress, Shar. After the direct involvement of many near legendary figures, including Elminster, Shade eventually crashes into Myth Drannor destroying both cities. The few refugees (both elf and Shadovar alike) who survived the disaster have spread across the southern Moonsea area, with some of the elves joining the now fractured and scattered elven communities in the forest, and the Shadovar usually joining human or mixed race settlements.