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In walking about Baldur's Gate almost two years after the siege of the undead Blight and its army, one would see truly massive signs of recovery, relief, and rebuilding, though varied obstacles ahead. A visual and social tour of the city and speaking to folk in the various city districts about the state of the realm and recent events would reveal the following specific observations and rumors as well as clear continuing themes for the city and the region beyond as the year of 1353 DR concludes.
Baldur's Gate - State of Affairs
The economy of Baldur's Gate has regained a good portion of its vitality in both a supply and demand sense for the upper classes and merchant classes of the city. For the non-poor of the city, urban or rural, prosperity for such station is now a normal occurrence. The poverty-stricken of the poorer classes are now smaller in number than in past years before and after the undead siege of DR 1351, but many of the city's poor continue to lack stable work and basic goods a significant amount of time. Still, major improvement for the poor has been made from the times of the siege and the months after due to the efforts of many factions and organizations, many of a goodly moral theme, including in major part The Order of the Radiant Heart Auxiliary, The Elder Circle, The Order of the Silver Rose, The Church of Ilmater, the Harpers, Darius Holding Company, The Phoenix Company, EDE, Kraak Helzak, and The Halls of Inner Light as well as other groups unmentioned in a more minor capacity.
Ending climatic years of diplomatic effort, the divided Grand Dukes of the Council of Four of Baldur’s Gate signed a controversial treaty (viewtopic.php?f=17&t=56356) opening diplomatic and trade relations with the Zhentarim based upon certain conditions. In response, and with the encouragement of the goodly powers of the Lords’ Alliance and goodly supporting factions of the Western Heartlands including The Order of the Radiant Heart Auxiliary, The Elder Circle, EDE, The Order of the Silver Rose, The Church of Ilmater, the Harpers, Darius Holding Company, The Phoenix Company, Kraak Helzak, The Halls of Inner Light, and the Everwatch, High Rider Lord Dhelt of Elturel ordered the Highriders of Elturel to stand vigilant in watch upon newly opened Zhentarim trade routes from Darkhold as well as any further Zhentarim martial meddling against Lords’ Alliance interests, establishing a permanent forward Hellrider operating patrol base at Triel to do so.
It is rumored that some shadowy alliances against the Zhentarim in Baldur’s Gate by groups choosing to remain anonymous may have been discussed throughout the year, but it remains to be seen if any pact of the back alley so to speak was brokered. It is also not clear if this was just a rumor made up to discredit the opposition to the Zhentarim in the city.
The City Watch of Baldur's Gate and the Grand Dukes of Baldur's Gate are said to now take an even more severe stance on tolerance for Drow in Baldur's Gate with the City Watch and Flaming Fist even offering a bounty for Drow killed after a Drow threatened one of the Grand Dukes in an incident earlier in the year.
The Baldurian commoner known as Brilla is rumored to have quietly wed Grand Duke Entar in a small private ceremony in recent days, after being in a secretive relationship with him for months, and is now officially known as Lady Brilla, despite her commoner heritage. It is said that Brilla is a captivating songstress and a devout of Lathander, her beautiful songs about the glory of The Morning Lord even being heard about outside of Duchal Court.
Those opposed to the Zhentarim in Baldur’s Gate, some rumored to be Harpers and other goodly factions or individuals, initiated a campaign of passionate regular songs, sermons, speeches, and flyers attempting to expose pre-treaty Zhentarim amorality in the region of the Western Heartlands as well as alleged violations of the Baldur’s Gate-Zhentarim treaty after its signing. The lower urban and rural classes of Baldur’s Gate in kind have begun to mostly view the Zhentarim much more suspiciously and negatively, and perhaps worse if the Zhentarim had not made a significant contribution to the city’s poor during the year related to their signing of the treaty. The Zhentarim are now seen as a moral burden upon the city that only benefits the upper classes of the city through greater trade in spices and silks by most of the lower classes, though classes above a lower station do not seem to have opinion moved much if they were not already predisposed to such views, with the nobility even ambivalent on the Zhentarim opening of trade. It is said that the more popularly focused Grand Duke Belt has grown concerned about this shift in the lower classes on the Zhentarim and perhaps now regrets his original decision to support the city's treaty with the Zhentarim earlier in the year.
A public campaign in the city was also waged against the reputation of the Red Wizards of Thay in Baldur’s Gate during the year, including a book, extrajudicial trial battle, and sermons against the presence and reputation of the Thayans and their Thayan Enclave in Baldur's Gate. The effect on the reputation of Thayans in the city was to cause most of the lower classes of the city, both rural and urban, to view the Thayan foreigners with more moral disgust and distrust, though those of higher station seemed more unmoved unless not predisposed to more moral views. It is said that the more popularly focused Grand Duke Belt has grown concerned about this shift in the lower classes on the Thayans and perhaps now regrets his original decision to support the city's treaty with the Thayans years earlier.
The Darius Holding Company has become a notable new entry into the business climate of Baldur’s Gate in aspects of business unrelated to adventurer and mercenary services, instead concentrating more upon pure regional and intra-city trading. If this newer company will have the staying power to become a permanent major business institution in the city, such as the Sword Coast Commercial Exchange or Merchant League in years prior, remains to be seen.
The Sword Coast and Western Heartlands Region - State of Affairs
The Hellriders of Elturel camped in the ruins of Triel on watch over the Zhentarim trading with Baldur’s Gate from Darkhold were well-supplied throughout the year by the efforts of the Darius Holding Company and The Halls of Inner Light above and beyond their regular already robust supply chain with Elturel. As a result, the Hellriders have an adequate supply reserve for even the most catastrophic martial scenarios as well as extremely high operational morale as regular order. It is said that no military or trade route move of the Zhentarim in the region of the Western Heartlands has gone unnoticed by the High Rider of Elturel and the Lords’ Alliance.
Soubar is said to continue to be a home for outcasts of various monstrous and non-monstrous races, with the Ebon Blades Company maintaining a complicated relationship with the settlement and its de facto and mysterious leader, Mag. During the year, the leader of the Ebon Blades declared a barony in the area of Soubar, but it is said that no significant polity in the region has yet to recognize such a title or the authority that might come with it, except with mocking, yet annoyed, suspicion.
The Black Orcs of Uruk Lurra and their Chief Grimnail remain in power in the so-named orc settlement near Triel and Soubar and the respite of the civilized adventurers bothering them has seemed to have an effect of Uruk Lurra's orc raids on their periphery decreasing and the Hellriders not even bothering to patrol their settlement’s outskirts anymore.
Amn -- and especially its capitol, Athkatla -- has in the past year entered an economic boom and a state of unequaled prosperity in its history, pre or post the Amn-Gate War, due to relative stability on Amn's home front, peace with Amn's neighbors outside of Tethyr, unimpaired Amnian trade with many of the trading powers of Faerun, and Amnian civil war profiteering in Tethyr. There are rumors, however, that Amnians at all levels, from some members of the Council of Six, to some of the major merchant houses, to some of the lowliest and "copper" (poor) dressed of Amnians, grow wary and suspicious of Zhentarim designs on Amn and the region in general for perhaps a combination of reasons that are as a whole unclear to outsiders. There is talk of a political or social reaction to the Zhentarim as such, but how severe or mild it may prove to be is uncertain. What is certain, is that given Amn's voracious appetite for silk and spices and other luxury goods, of which the Zhentarim are a major regional supplier, some supply source of such luxury goods may be needed to fill the gap if the Zhentarim fall out of Amnian favor.
Throughout the year, a few exceptional adventurer magic users in the region created new magical spells with great effort, some of which are now seeing wider use throughout Faerun and may one day gain such magic users great renown.
In the Cloud Peaks of Amn, it is said that a new group of Auril worshipers grew in influence and infamy with the Ice Maiden and her domain in the snowed-in peaks, but whether their time has faded into the cold winds of the mountains remains to be seen. It is also rumored that the Aurilites even convened a council of evil beings from throughout the region for some nefarious ends, but the council was allegedly short lived, only meeting a few times at most.
Northern Amn, including both Beregost and Nashkel, has seen its prosperity grow with that of Amn as a whole since removal of the corrupt and sinister Governess Benino from power in Beregost in an rebellion lead by the Church of Lathander in DR 1351. Governor Sheriff de Oca, the Amnian appointed governor of Beregost since DR 1351, and Mayor Ghastkill, the local and Amnian leader of Nashkel, are both popular with their respective local Northern Amn communities. However, in Beregost, the local non-Amnian majority population is still unhappy with Amnian rule. Indeed, it is rumored that while non-Amnians of Beregost favor the honorable Governor de Oca for his moderate rulership of Beregost and his role in removing Governess Benino, they still regularly curse at the mention of the Council of Six that appointed him to replace Benino.
The coalition of non-governmental goodly factions known as the The Council of Light conducted regular patrols throughout the Western Heartlands and the Greenfields, allowing the Hellriders of Elturel to be less preoccupied with patrols of vigilance against raiders and potential Amnian security concerns to their south and to focus instead intensely upon watch of the Zhentarim to the north. The organizations in such patrols included The Order of the Radiant Heart Auxiliary, The Elder Circle, The Order of the Silver Rose, The Church of Ilmater, the Harpers, Darius Holding Company, The Phoenix Company, The Halls of Inner Light, The Bladestone Foundation, and the Everwatch. The Council of Light in the process already rid the Greenfields of numerous orc, undead, and other monstrous and humanoid raiders, making the Greenfields settlement of Greenest a slightly less dangerous frontier settlement. The usefulness of such regular patrols to better focus the Hellriders north showed the Lords’ Alliance of their need. Responding to the Zhentarim threat and a proven method of concentrating opposition by the Council of Light, two members of the Lords’ Alliance have reacted. Berdusk has called to arms an additional mounted Gauntlet and joined it with a formation of riders of the Shield of Iriaebor to patrol south of Elturel so that the Hellriders can focus north on the Zhentarim without distraction and utterly vigilant focus.
The scholars of Candlekeep continue their diligent recording and archiving of many regional events of the Sword Coast, Northern Amn, and the Western Heartlands. The library fortress' ship The Sea Seeker also recently returned from a two year knowledge expedition at sea. The library itself during the year changed some policies to grant greater reasonable access to its famed archives. Candlekeep has also implemented martial policies that have seen greater patrols in the area of The Lion's Way and around and throughout the book containing citadel itself.
Many wondrous islands were discovered and explored in the Sea of Swords to the west during the year by adventurers and termed Selune's Bracelet. What the fate of the islands and their resources are remains to be determined.
Capable adventurers banded together to defeat the Cult of Tiamat in the west, after some earlier support provided by the Council of Light, the adventurers traveling in expeditions to the western islands of Selune's Bracelet to annihilate the presence of the church in western Faerun. The church is still rumored to survive in the east and could return to western Faerun in future years without vigilance.
During the year, numerous adventurers foiled the plans of Polvich the Lich and ended the perpetual war between the two powerful beings Pietr the White and Pol.
The population of Doron Amar increased significantly during the year as new elves on the way to The Retreat took up residence there. Skilled artisans and craftsfolk elves of The Retreat from Evereska and elsewhere in particular drove increased demand for goods trade in the settlement.
Adventurers freed slaves after a campaign to thwart the scourge of the the Black Dragon Samara, the liberated gnome slaves thereafter immigrating to Kraak Helzak, the liberated halflings to Gullykin, and the liberated humans and other races to Baldur's Gate.
It is rumored that the Zhentarim of Darkhold and the Concalve of Sshamath have opened up a linking tunnel system between Darkhold and Sshamath used only with the approval of both the Zhentarim and the Conclave.
The Bureaucracy of Sshamath carried out numerous missions for the Conclave, including dispatching the threat of a cult of slimes and a dragon known as The Creeping Doom to the city. It is also said that after a series of conflicts that the House Dev'lin was absorbed into House Sshamath, with possible future repercussions for the politics of the Underdark city. During the conflict, a few members of the Conclave made it known that they oppose Lolthite Houses, in particular, House Sshamath, holding a seat upon the Conclave and in a public display burned spiders. The faith of Lolth's future in Sshamath is on shaky ground.
Recent Developments on Trade and Economy in Baldur's Gate
A land-river east to west trade route for silk is about to be established by Sembian merchants to Baldur’s Gate via Westgate to the River Chiontar and then by barge after Berdusk to Baldur’s Gate. The first shipment as such is scheduled to arrive early in the next year. The route’s creation was brought about by the Baldur’s Gate based Darius Holding Company initiative to bring a significant silk shipment the opposite west to east direction to Sembia from Selune's Bracelet via the Baldur’s Gate-Berdusk-to Westgate sea-Chiontar river barge-land route. When silk was in warehouse in Baldur’s Gate on the way to Sembia on the aforementioned route, it was seen how eager wealthy Baldurians were for the silk’s consumption that Sembians involved decided to initiate a trade of their own the opposite direction beginning next year that will likely far exceed the initial sale to Sembian merchants organized by Darius Holding Company the other way.
It is rumored that other Faerunian trade powers may take notice and respond accordingly as well. How other major western Faerunian exotic goods merchant powers such as Amn and Calimshan respond and how this may effect the Zhentarim share of the silk trade in Baldur’s Gate remains to be seen. While Amn is currently a significant merchant source of net-exported silk to Baldur’s Gate even absent a formal favorable trade status treaty, as is Calimshan, and were as much in every year since the Amn-Gate War, and even more so before the Zhentarim market entry into Baldur’s Gate, Amn’s voracious appetite for consumption of silk may see its net-export of it to Baldur’s Gate over the next few years wane, likely replaced perhaps by Calimshan and Sembia given the Zhentarim’s profitable offer is already at a likely limit of flow in the long term and the entry of Sembia into the market will not make this easier for the Zhentarim to overcome as a limited supplier of silk to Baldur's Gate. It is said this may result from Amn’s relatively peaceful state the past few years and its boon for demand for luxury goods as well as Amn’s apparently growing aversion to Zhentarim sources of luxury – and perhaps other – goods for unknown reasons. This could prove a struggle or perhaps an opportunity for Baldurian silk merchants in the future as well as for the Zhentarim, Calimshan, and Sembian silk merchants.
It seems doubtful though that the Zhentarim can maintain a great permanent share of the silk trade in Baldur’s Gate – of which they maintained a near first-year-of-trade monopoly in the city, with Amn and Calimshan significant second and third places, given the short term favorable pricing the Zhentarim offered for their first year of access to Baldurian markets – though likely once the dust of competition settles the Zhentarim will remain a significant net-exporter of silk to Baldur’s Gate in the long term assuming the treaty between the Zhentarim and Baldur’s Gate remains, but with a capped sustainable profitable silk offer of the Zhentarim leaving room for other merchants to meet demand for Baldurian consumption or re-export of silk to other major regional markets.
Whether all of the above going forward extends to the spice trade in Baldur’s Gate as well remains to be seen, as the spice trade similarly had a near first-year-of-trade monopoly in the city in favor of the Zhentarim as a net-exporter to Baldur’s Gate, with Amn and Calimshan significant second and third places, given the short term favorable pricing the Zhentarim offered for their first year of access to Baldurian markets. With spices as such, the Zhentarim are likely to see a similar negative change in share of net-export of spices to Baldur’s Gate for similar reasons, though with more upside for the Zhentarim than with silk, without major merchant initiatives of Zhentarim commercial rivals. Historically, before the Zhentarim market entry, it is generally known that silk and spices sold to Baldur’s Gate consumers were dominated by Amn and Calimshan merchants net-exporting to Baldur’s Gate, with Amn disappearing for a time as a trader as such during the Amn-Gate war and re-emerging after the peace of that war at lower levels than historically and with Calimshan taking a permanent larger share than before.
Recent Developments on Zhentarim-Baldur's Gate Treaty Compliance
While it did not receive major recognition or notice, and so has only just been noted to have occurred in rumor mills of the city, Lord Harkonis of Darkhold is said to have publicly apologized earlier in the year to the City of Baldur's Gate and the Temple of Ilmater for the murder and violence he committed in Baldur's Gate in the past, including specifically an incident in the Temple of Ilmater in 1351 DR, in compliance with ARTICLE 7 of the Zhentarim-Baldur's Gate Treaty. It is also said that a significant sum is rumored to have circulated from the treasury of the Zhentarim to the poor of the city, distributed by Zhentarim merchants, over the six months or so, also in compliance with ARTICLE 7 of the treaty.