The Lake of Steam

Despite its name, the Lake of Steam (also called Arnaden) is a saltwater bay of the Shining Sea. Its stinking yellow waters give off clouds of steam due to volcanic activity beneath the waves, so its waters are always warm and cloaked with impenetrable mists on cold nights. Shallow as a pan, the lake is less than two hundred feet deep at its deepest, and only a few dozen feet in depth for most of its eastern arm.

The warm, iron-strong, undrinkable waters are rich in minerals that spur weeds, shellfish, and fish to grow to great size; the lake has been called “the Breadbasket of the Seas.” Predators here grow very large, too, from birds and otters to dragon turtles. Dolphins are common, and sharks and leeches (some as large as rowboats, and given to hunting ashore during wet nights) are frequent, outnumbering more fearsome aquatic monsters. The lake is also known for the greenish pearls of its oysters.

The islands in the Lake of Steam change as volcanic stacks collapse and rise, but tend to be concentrated at Arnaden’s western end. The Arnrock is an active volcano that exploded about a thousand years back leaving it a low, wide, open-topped dome with a cauldron filled with woods and active hot springs and fumaroles, until the Spellplague. The volcano violently erupted, destroying a small settlement of halflings that lived at its base. The volcano is still active.

Great numbers of wild beasts roam the island of Olodel. The place was once the private hunting preserve of the Lords of Olodel, eccentric Calishite merchants who brought a number of deepspawn hence and fed them deadly monsters. Several beholders slew the Lords and now rule Olodel. The island of Felmer’s Keep looks like a castle but is actually a steep-sided extinct volcano, its outer flanks rocky ramparts, and its heart a verdant meadow.

The Strait of Storms (also known as the Suldolphos Strait or the Wide Water) links Arnaden with the Shining Sea, and waters flow through it dangerously fast. To voyage north into the lake, ships wait – sometimes for days – on strong winds, and favorable tides.

The northern shore of the Lake of Steam, with its historic ties to Calimshan, reflects the materialistic attitude of that nation. However, the people of the lake have a fierce independent streak and rarely tolerate slavery. In the Border Kingdoms on the chaotic southern shore of the lake, the people have had little opportunity to develop any sort of national identity. What they do have in common is a stoic determination to get on with their lives regardless of who claims to be their king, overlord, theocrat, high wizard, grand guild master, or supreme musician that year.

The lake itself and the Shining Sea to the south are the primary features of the area, along with the forests that surround the lake.

Alamir Mountains: a small clan of Shield Dwarves has settled in the mountains. They are somewhat secretive and untrusting of outsiders, but they do trade with peaceable races in the region. There are rumors that the dwarves are an outpost for the Urdunnir of Oldonnar. Despite the presence of the dwarves, the mountains are not safe as many monstrous creatures inhabit them.

The Anhkwood: Once part of the Winterwood, this forest suffers from a strange magical effect. For many years a wild magic zone and a dead magic zone orbited each other within the wood, but this effect has faded. Unfortunately, this only increased the other odd effect of the area that mutates animals, insects, and plants. The resident elves are trying to discover the cause. Outsiders speculate about a failed mythal.

Jundarwood: Spiders of all kinds inhabit this tall forest, both normal and giant-size. Rumors abound that intelligent spiderlike beings, either ettercaps or araneas, also lair here. Evidence is scarce, so if they do exist, they have been living in tunnels underground or high in the forest canopy. The eastern end of the Jundarwood sports a volcanic hill known as the Jundarmount, which releases small amounts of lava and a great mass of cinders at least once a month, often setting portions of the wood on fire if the wind is right.

The Neth Stand: People from nearby towns dislike this light forest both for the sulfurous mists that arise from underground volcanic vents and for the dangerous creatures, primarily a tribe of semiaquatic trolls and a rival group of canny and aggressive weresharks. Its high-quality wood (valuable even though it requires treatment to get rid of the smell) draws local loggers who arm themselves or hire guards to ward off monster attacks.

Qurth Forest: This forest is thick almost to the point of being impassable. Long ago a Calishite sorcerer cursed one of the local rulers that monsters would overrun his realm, and while the curse died with the offending ruler, the offspring of those monsters still thrive here. Owlbears, intelligent fungi, and giant spiders are common, and an occasional naga can be found. Ruined, overgrown cities still exist in the interior of the forest, long abandoned when monsters drove out the inhabitants.

Thornwood: This forest is one of the most dangerous in south western Faerûn. It is inhabited by evil humanoids, dangerous plants, and at least one beholder. Wood elves, druids, and treants struggle to hold back the tide of evil. Legends tell of the Green’s Sword, a green blade that sprouts from a particular grove every ten years; the sword can be claimed to fight evil by one who is worthy. The grove is encircled by brambles and is otherwise only remarkable for the sword-shaped leaves of the plants where the sword appears.

Winterwood: This lush forest’s canopy allows little direct sunlight to penetrate. The ground is often shrouded in white mist that resembles snow. Green elves, orcs, and intelligent mold-based creatures fight for territory. The forest is also home to Foilsunder, an old male green dragon with druid powers.

City States of the Lake of Steam

Ankhapur’s ambitions for uniting the Lake of Steam are currently held in check by Mintar and Tulmon. Mintar is ruled by the Church of Bane and has had many conflicts with Ankhapur over the last few decades. This city, powerful for its size, and Ankhapur always seem to be on the verge of war.

Tulmon, while always having a cool but peaceful relationship with Ankhapur, still checks Ankhapurian ambition due to its ruler. This city is currently ruled by the somewhat reclusive sorcerer Arkanuirr Tchallem, who has ruled for the city since 1072 DR.

Unmentioned above but worthy of mention is Yeshpek, the last major city on the shores of the Lake of Steam. This mining and industrious port city at the base of the Alamir Mountains sits between Tulmon and Mintar. Its fortifications and proximity to Tulmon has kept it free of Mintaran rule (but Mintaran influence grows there). Ankhapur has a diplomatic presence in the city, and the relationship between Ankhapur and Yeshpek is friendly. The city is ruled by the Council of Captains. The Council is comprised of wealthy merchanter captains, powerful mercenary company captains, and the Commodore who runs the city’s small navy.

Theymarsh is not technically on the Lake of Steam, but its location is important since it sits just inside the Suldolphos Strait and serves as the entrance to both the Lake and the Border Kingdoms. Because of the latter, it has never been able to build a strong navy. As a consequence, it lacks the strategic power it could have.

Prior to the Spellplague, Suldolphur was a large metropolis. No one is certain how the city was destroyed, but no one is trying to rebuild it as it seems to be a warzone for djinni and efreeti.

The Lake of Steam

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