To learn the state of Phlan is to understand her many trials and tragedies.”
– Lord Sage of Phlan, 1489 DR
Founded in 367 DR, ten years after Northkeep, the town of Phlan has been leveled or razed repeatedly; new buildings are constantly sprouting from the ruins of previous incarnations. This has led to extensive tunnels, vaults, sewers, and other hidden places under and throughout the city as the sounds of construction echo throughout. Though still the lawless, brutal town of the northern Moonsea, the town expands, trade continues slowly, and Phlan is more populated than it has been in many years; though stability is far from certain.
The Recent Past
In 1306 DR, a dragon invasion known as the Dragon Run swept out of the North and fell upon Phlan. Due in part to the Moonsea War with Mulmaster, none of the other cities in the Moonsea region came to Phlan’s aid and so Phlan was once again laid to waste. As Phlan was rebuilt, the entity known as Tyranthraxus corrupted and possessed a bronze dragon named Srossar in 1340 DR, after convincing the dragon to bathe in a Pool of Radiance that was buried beneath the ruins of Castle Valjevo. Tyranthraxus would later be discovered and subsequently defeated by a group of adventurers, but in his flight, he would turned the Pool of Radiance into a pool of non-magical water and would later be sealed off during the rebuilding of the castle and its location lost.
Phlan would know over ten years of peace before the Flight of Dragons in 1356 DR when it was again decimated and its ruins occupied by a great wyrm which itself was later slain and the city reclaimed by Zhentil Keep in 1375 DR. Within half a decade, the city’s previous Council of Ten system of rule was replaced by the tyranny of Zhentarim Hatemaster Cvaal Daoran. Daoran’s ascension as the Lord Protector of Phlan saved the city during the Shadowbane War of 1383 DR. Forging an alliance with the fey of the nearby Quivering Forest, Phlan was spared from the destruction that came to Zhentil Keep and the Citadel of the Raven at the hands of the Netherese. After Cvaal slays one of the shade princes, he declares the position of Lord Protector as hereditary. This marked the beginning of the eventual separation of Phlan from direct control by the Zhentarim.
Almost a century later, in 1480 DR, barbarian attacks in the north led to an influx of refugees into Phlan, drastically swelling its population. By then, Lord Protector Daoran’s grandson, Anivar Daoran, had inherited the Cinnabar Throne. Lord Protector Anivar Daoran was a cowardly and pampered noble, and a paranoid and ineffective ruler; his concern for the responsibilities of his rule was only slightly less than that for his subjects.
In 1488 DR, Lord Protector Anivar Daoran died unexpectedly in what, for all intents and purposes, seemed nothing more than a construction accident during renovations on Castle Valjevo. The Lord Protector left no heir, so the Knight Commander of the Black Fist, Ector Brahms, was declared the Lord Regent of the Cinnabar Throne. The Lord Regent’s grasp on the throne is tenuous. To maintain order, the Lord Regent has used his control of the Black Fist and the Cinnabar Throne to declared martial law; keeping the populace in line by fear. To run the city, the Lord Regent requires the aid of the noble families and the four trade guilds, both of which are hesitant to lend their full support until they know how it will benefit them
The chaos has not been contained by martial law. Shortly after Daoran’s death, the Lyceum of the Black Lord was looted and burned. A blackened husk remains where once stood the great temple to Bane, and the ruins have since been repurposed by followers of the returned god of the dawn, Lathander. The Morninglord’s followers attempt to provide a place of solace and refuge from the tumultuous town and their small shrine joins active shrines to Umberlee and Auril. Despite the lack of a temple, the faith of Bane remains strong among the Black Fist.
One small point of light in Phlan is the Order of the Silent Shroud. In 1380 DR, as a display of his new power, Hatemaster Cvaal Daoran bequeathed the overgrown and undead infested Vilhingen Graveyard to a small contingent of Kelemvor’s faithful. The Kelemvorites worked steadily and dutifully to end the undead threat and meticulously groom the wild graveyard with aid from druids of the Emerald Enclave until it is now a beautiful, somber resting place free of danger around the temple erected at its center. The Order, under Doomguide Yovir Glandon, struggles to remain independent of the Cinnabar Throne and aloof from city politics
Following the declaration of martial law, trade barely trickles through Phlan. The Lord Regent has canceled many of the city construction projects as he tries to cope with a depleted treasury. The guilds vie with the noble families for control over the city’s remaining wealth and business; hoping to compensate for their lost incomes. Wages have plummeted and prices have skyrocketed. Work is scarce as building projects in the ruined parts of the city stand incomplete.
The Welcomers have shifted their goals from thieves’ guild to vigilante heroes of the people and now lash out at the guilds who the Welcomers claim, in their greed, have abandoned the citizenry. In turn, they are hunted by the Black Fist, and any person with a missing ear, a symbol of guild membership, is imprisoned, tried and hung. Each day, more bodies swing from the Stojanow Gate.
The Black Fist mains order to a point, though that point is at the end of sword. Justice is selectively meted out based on one’s ability to pay bribes to corrupt watchmen or navigate the massive bureaucracy of the few true-believers who strain to hold the government together. Given that members of the Black Fist have the ability to judge those they deem criminals and dispense harsh justice on the spot, the citizenry gives them fearful, wide berth.
Phlan is a lawless, shabby remnant of what it once was and what it was struggling to become again. For over a millennia, it has endured decimation at the hands of its enemies and it is decidedly ironic that it now stands on the brink of ruin by its own hand. If Phlan is to be saved, heroes must rise.