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Chondathans are hardy folk, not afraid to take risks, travel, or settle new lands, and are always looking to better themselves and their families monetarily. As Chondathan culture has taken root in so many distant lands, Chondathans are comfortable in most human societies. Many Chondathans are merchants of one sort or another, selling their skills and the fruits of their labors for coin. Although Chondathans make skilled mercenaries and cunning rogues, Chondathan culture has not encouraged study of the art or great religious fervor. Notable exceptions exist, particularly in the study of the Art among the Netherese-influenced Chondathan cultures that lie north and west of the Inner Sea.
From the cradle of the Vilhon Reach, Chondathan emigrants have settled most of the western and central Inner Sea region as well as much of the Western Heartlands. Outside their homeland, Chondathans form the primary racial stock of Altumbel, Cormyr, the southern Dalelands, the Dragon Coast, the Great Dale, Hlondeth, and the north shore of the Vilhon Reach, the Pirate Isles of the Inner Sea, Sembia, and Sespech. Thanks to far-wandering Chondathan traders, the Chondathan tongue is spoken even in regions where the number of pureblooded Chondathans is small or nearly nonexistent. Chondathan ancestry, language, and culture form a significant portion of Damaran, Vaasan, and Tethyrian heritage.
Chondathans are slender, tawny-skinned folk with brown hair ranging from almost blond to almost black. Most Chondathans are tall and have green or brown eyes, but all builds and hair and eye hues may be seen. Those Chondathans who dwell north and west of the Sea of Fallen Stars (except in Sembia) are more likely to have blue eyes and have fairer complexions and darker hair than those born in the South, evidence of a significant Netherese heritage. In Chondath itself, particularly in the lands bordering Sespech, a significant Shaaran influx in recent centuries has given many natives of Chondath more of an olive-skinned hue.
Chondathans regard themselves as having come to dominate central Faerun almost by accident; they have “conquered” more land through trade and settlement than with armies. They show little arrogance and only a small amount of pride regarding the predominance of their language and culture. Likewise, Chondathans are more apt to identify themselves by their national origins (such as Cormyrean, Dalesfolk, or Sembian) than by their ethnic group. If Chondathans do have a common vice, it is perhaps their cultural focus on wealth and its acquisition. Among Chondathans, prestige and influence are often directly tied to wealth, and it is no accident that the merchant nobility plays a strong role in most societies influence by Chondathan culture.
Chondathan culture varies widely across Faerun. Compared to other cultures, particularly Calishite and Mulan, Chondathan societies have relatively weak class divisions. Hard work and good fortune have been enough to catapult more than one member of the lower classes into the merchant nobility. Commerce plays an important role in all Chondathan-dominated cultures, giving rise to the maxim that everything is for sale at some price. Chondathans honor their word, although not for moral reasons. One’s reputation is like a purse fixed number of coins that, once squandered, is costly to repurchase.
As Chondathans place a high value on book learning, many receive some amount of schooling while growing up. Chondathan youths are apprenticed to a master by the age of 12 and are expected to learn a trade during their apprenticeship. Chondathans have little patience for able-bodied indigents, and all adults are expected to earn their own keep in whatever field they were trained. Wealthy persons are afforded great respect in Chondathan societies, and those who squander money foolishly are looked down upon. Chondathans are expected to work until no longer physically capable or until death. Even those too infirm to earn a living often pass their days at their former place of works, offering advice to those who have replaced them.
Outside Chondathan-dominated lands, Chondathans strive to integrate into the local culture, even if that means learning a new tongue or converting to the worship of the local gods. Of course, such integration strategies do not interfere with sharing Chondathan necessities and customs with the local populace, a practice that over time slowly subsumes the local culture. Chondathan minorities usually organize themselves into merchant houses or trading costers for protection and to maximize their opportunities for profit.
Chondathans speak Common and Chondathan, two closely related tongues. Chondathan, one of the root tongues of Common, is the modern form of Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”), which was one of two root tongues of Thorass (“Old Common”). Chondathan employs the Thorass alphabet, a set of characters used to represent the trade tongue that came into use thousands of years ago along the shores of the Lake of Steam.
As many Chondathans dwell amid other human cultures (or at least have extensive trade contacts with such societies), many individuals learn the local tongue or the language of their nearest neighbor. Commonly learned second languages include Illuskan if the individual in question lives in the Western Heartlands or the North, Damaran if she lives in northcentral Faerun, Shaaran if she lives south of the Vilhon Reach, Turami if she lives on the northern shore of the Vilhon Reach, or Alzhedo if she lives along the shores of the Lake of Steam. Spellcasters, particularly those who dwell in Cormyr or the Dalelands, usually learn Netherese and Elven in order to acquire magic from old sources. Few Chondathans outside those areas learn Elven, a legacy of generations of conflict and a likely contributor to future conflicts. All Chondathan characters are literate except for barbarians.
Magic and loreEdit
Chondathans do not have a strong arcane spellcasting tradition, nor do Chondathan bloodlines include the ancestry that gives rise to a great number of sorcerers. However, many Chondathans are drawn to the divine and become clerics or druids. In their great diaspora of a thousand years past, the Chondathans carried the worship of many of their gods to all corners of Faerun; it’s sometimes said that Chondathans conquered a continent with their gold and their gods.
Chondathans honor the deities of the Faerunian pantheon. Such is the magnitude of the Chondathan diaspora that no deity is particularly favored by the majority of Chondathans across Faerun. In fact, Chondathans have traditionally adopted the deities of other cultures, incorporating them into their sprawling pantheon. Gods and goddesses venerated in regions inhabited primarily by Chondathans include Azuth, Chauntea, Deneir, Eldath, Helm, Kelemvor, Lathander, Lliira, Loviatar, Malar, Mask, Mielikki, Milil, Mystra, Nobanion, Oghma, Selune, Silvanus, Sune, Talos, Tempus, Torm, Tymora, Tyr, Umberlee, and Waukeen.
Ancient Jhaamdath was one of the first human cultures to develop the written word, and, as such, literate. Chondathans have long honored Deneir, the Lord of all Glyphs and Images. The church of Deneir has spread to other cultures as Chondathan traders spread the trade tongues of Common or its antecedent, Thorass, bringing with them the Thorass alphabet. At present, the church of Deneir has its greatest influence among those literate Chondathans who dwell in Cormyr and Sembia.
Similarly, ancient Jhaamdath’s wars were fought with horrible magical plagues, so Talona has been a part of Chondathan culture since the rise of that culture. The church of Talona is widely feared and reviled among modern-day Chondathans, despite the activities of other faiths that have wreaked far greater devastation across Faerun in recent years. Nevertheless, a small number of Chondathans turn to the Mother of All Plagues precisely because of the fear and misery she has engendered and in hopes of acquiring the ancient plague-spawning magic her cult is said to control.
Chondathan history is replete with clashes with various elven realms, and, as a result, few Chondathans (with the exception of some Cormyreans and most Dalesmen) had good relations with the Fair Folk or their half-elven brethren. Likewise, Chondathans have traditionally regarded the planetouched with a great deal of suspicion, as Chondathan culture has never had a great deal of interaction with outsiders and most planetouched they have encountered were representatives of rival cultures (such as the air and fire genasi of Calimshan, or the aasimar and tieflings of Mulhorand and Unther). Half-orcs are considered little better than their full-blooded brethren by most Chondathans. They are seen as little more than raiding scum intent only on disrupting the flow of trade and pillaging the farms of hardworking settlers.
Chondathans have good relations with dwarves, gnomes, and halflings, for all have proven to be good trading partners and have traditionally dwelled in small enclaves within Chondathan societies. Among human cultures, Chondathans get along best with Calishites, Damarans, Shaarans, Tethyrians, and Turami. Relations with the Mulan have never been warm, Illuskans are regarded as little better than orcs, and other cultures are largely unknown.
Chondathans trace their ancestry back to the Twelve Cities of Swords in ancient Jhaamdath, founded around -5800 DR by the great warrior-king Jhaam. Jhaamdath lay north of the Chondalwood along the south shore of the Vilhon Reach, with outposts stretching from the Dragon Coast to the Akanal. Only the great Chondalwood defied Jhaamdath’s dominion, the human armies and axes held at bay for many years by the wood elves of Nikerymath.
In -5032 DR, Jhaamdath clashed with the Kingdoms of Mir and Coramshan over control of the Lake of Steam, precipitating the unification of Calimshan. After several decades of fighting, Calimshan and Jhaamdath agreed to a truce in -5005 DR. In the millennia that followed, Jhaamdath sank into stagnation, its inhabitants becoming increasingly xenophobic and withdrawn. Jhaamdath even fell under the sway of Unther from roughly -1500 DR to -1069 DR. Not until -276 DR did Jhaamdath’s inhabitants turn outward once again, after Jhaamdath’s last warlord seized power and called for a building of a strong navy to sail out upon the Inner Sea and conquer new lands. Such ship-building required the felling of many trees, a move that reignited war between Jhaamdath and elven-ruled Nikerymath and led to the elven realm’s destruction.
Seeking vengeance, four High Mages of Nikerymath unleashed a gargantuan tidal wave that roared up Jhaamdath’s bay, smashing the Twelve Cities of Swords and reshaping the topography into what is known today as the Vilhon Reach. The actions of the High Mages were not without consequence, however, for their Art precipitated the fall of the sea elven empire of Aryselmalyr and unleashed an inexorable tide of humanity that eventually displaced most of the elven realms of northcentral Faerun.
Many of those who survived the Year of the Furious Waves (-255 DR) set out to colonize lands that would later become known as Impiltur, Thesk, and the Vast, in a vast tide of pragmatic prospectors, elf-hating soldiers, merchants, and a sprinkling of peaceful scholars and farmers. After occupying much of the northcentral Inner Sea region, the descendants of Jhaamdath began migrating westward from Impiltur in the year 1 DR, settling the Dalelands and the northern shore of the Dragonmere. The latter group founded the Forest Kingdom of Cormyr in 26 DR under the rule of House Obarskyr.
Back in the Vilhon Reach, those who remained established new cities around the year 50 DR, including Iljak, Mussam, Samra, and Arrabar. After suffering yet another plague and again incurring the wrath of the elves of Chondalwood, the cities united to form Chondath in 139 DR. Chondath has existed ever since, although it was reduced to little more than a collection of city-states during the Elfblade Stand of 877 DR and the Rotting War of 900-902 DR.
A third wave of Chondathan migration occurred in the 380s DR, when settlers from Chondath established the colonies of Chancelgaunt (later Selgaunt) and Chondathan (later Saerloon) along the coast of what would later become the Merchant Kingdom of Sembia. Hostilities with the elves of Cormanthyr led to defeat at the Battle of Singing Arrows (884 DR) and led Chondath to renounce the governance of its far-flung colonies in the aftermath of the Rotting War. This in turn led to the founding of Sembia, the Land of the Silver Raven, in 913 DR.
Traders from Sembia and, to a lesser extent, Cormyr and the Dalelands continued west and northwest in smaller numbers in the centuries that followed, spreading Chondathan culture and language from Tethyr to the Savage Frontier. The rise of Silverymoon as a center of magical study in 659 DR precipitated the migration of a small, but influential, number of Chondathans to Silverymoon and established Chondathan culture and language in a land that had only been reached by a handful of Chondathan merchants until that time.
Today, Chondathan culture and language dominates much of central and western Faerun. Thorass, the alphabet that arose from interactions between Jhaamdath and the Old Kingdoms of Calimshan, is commonly employed as the alphabet of most human tongues. Moreover, Common, the trade language of Faerun, is simply a modern version of Thorass (“Old Common”), which in turn was largely based on Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”) and Alzhedo, the language of Calimshan. While the Calishites, and the Imaskari, the Mulan, and the Netherese may have each forged the greatest human empires of Faerun in their day, it is the Chondathans whose culture now predominates, an empire spread by commerce and coin, not by sword or staff.
Chondathans hail from a variety of different lands and typically choose the region matching their homelands. The Chondathan region described here reflects the mobile population of merchants, mercenaries, and sailors from the lands around the Inner Sea.