The Border Kingdoms
The Barony of Blacksaddle
Thanks to its frequent skirmishes with the nomads of the Shaar, resulting ballads and orders of new weaponry, and growing habit among would-be adventurers from the Vilhon Reach to learn the ways of battle and ambush tactics while serving the barony, Blacksaddle is one of the most widely-known of the Border Kingdoms, thought of across Faerûn as a place of endless war by distant folk who know little else about it.
Even street urchins in Waterdeep know this fragment from The Ballad of Blacksaddle, by the minstrel Laetha the Wanderer:
And now the swordsmen raise their steel
And now they bring their blades down
Brigands scream and chargers reel
As a nomad crown comes crashing down
The barony is a land of many small hill farms, with walls of heaped stones separating the fields. Small stone watchtowers stand everywhere, each with a well inside (thus, ready night-shelter for travelers, though Sadlar frown on outlanders entering them).
The towns of Syrnt, Telcharn, and recently-conquered Bloutar occupy the three corners of the barony. In the center of their triangle stands Blacksaddle Keep, home of the Swords, Blacksaddle’s standing army (375 mounted warriors in chainmail, who wield swords, horse-bows, and lances) under the command of the stern, gray-haired Lord Marshal Aldorn Raegel, a male Illuskan human, who’s assisted by a Lord Wizard (“Lord Wizard” being the title, despite the gender of the current holder of the office, the beautiful but coldly forbidding Thaerarla Summercloak, a female Tethyrian human who keeps to herself, reads voraciously, and speaks only sparingly).
The Young Baron
The Baron of Blacksaddle is Thaltor Blacksaddle, the only son of the founder of Blacksaddle. Thaltor, still called “the Young Baron” despite his forty-some winters, is a careful and calculating, rather aloof tall fair-haired male Damaran human whose five young sons—Faendar, Uorn, Asmult, Thaltren, and Pendath—are all being trained to the sword).
The Baron is served by a third Lord, equal in rank to the Lord Marshal: the Lord Watchful (Haslan Faerndar, a male Calishite human), a glib, handsome, raven-haired envoy, magister, and ombudsman who travels Blacksaddle observing problems, adjudicating disputes, and watching for perils. (It’s widely—and correctly—believed in Blacksaddle that the Lord Watchful never misses a chance to enrich himself by buying items at one price in one place, and reselling them for a higher price elsewhere; certainly Faerndar never seems to be short of coin, and seemingly always knows where something particular can be found. A few Sadlar suspect him of disloyalty to the barony, but no clear evidence of this has ever come to light.)
Sadlar are always armed, alert for trouble, and tend to be hard-working entrepreneurs. In addition to farming, Sadlar earn their coins by stonecutting. Both “blue gloss” and “red sheen” (blue and red marble) are quarried in the Shaarwall, the range of hills along the southern border of the barony that cloak the rise of land separating the Border Kingdoms from the Shaar. Stonecutting in the Shaarwall “clefts” often reveal gem-lodes, and Sadlar artisans have perfected a means of crafting goblets, small coffers, and hand-sculptures of gemstone dust and chips mixed with paste (akin to alabaster). To increase sales of these fragile items, some merchant dubbed them “Wizard Ware,” and the name has stuck, accompanied by various wild tales about magic being used in the crafting (and possibly properties that a “lucky few” gain in their Wizard Ware).
A dozen or so very skilled Sadlar (of whom the most famous are probably Raendel Darveult, a Tethyrian human, and Bellaskho Moardvyn, a male rock gnome and head of a family of skilled carvers) carve small “whitestone” cameo inlays, for adorning jewelry and coffers fashioned in Calimshan and around the Lake of Steam from rainbow glass, polished amber, and obsidian—work likely to enrich the barony for centuries.
The Old Baron
Blacksaddle was founded by Uorn Blacksaddle, “the Old Baron,” a tireless whirlwind of a warrior who defeated the warring villages of Altrumpet and Shalard (proud communities, named for the warriors who’d founded them, exhausted by two decades of battling each other). Uorn razed them, built Blacksaddle Keep on the Long Meadow between them, forcibly mixed the feuding villagers together and resettled them all over his new barony—and then (reinforced by all the warriors he could hire in the Vilhon) made war on the Shaarans so furiously that they feared he planned to conquer the Shaar itself. They gathered to obliterate Blacksaddle, but failed. Uorn rode against them in his battered black coat-of-plate armor with such frequent and deadly success that the nomads thought him an evil god, and prayed to him to spare them on the eve of every raid into the Border Kingdoms.
Uorn’s trademark black armor vanished after his death (probably stolen), but many Sadlar swear they’ve seen it on misty nights, drifting along above the ground as if some invisible wearer is silently treading the air. Soon after every sighting, a foe of Blacksaddle attacks; the Swords now regard the Baron’s armor as a sign of clear, reliable warning of impending action.
Such bladeswinging comes often. Blacksaddle’s location, prosperity, and the ease of entering it swiftly on horseback down one of many broad quarry-cart roads, makes it a popular target for Shaarans, Greenskin bands, and brigands seeking to raid the Borders. The military prowess of Sadlar (among so many lands whose armies are amusingly inept) serves only to attract the arrogant-at-arms to try their mettle against the Swords of the Barony. The constant warfare also attracts many carrion-eating monsters.
Quarrying in the barony recently broke into Underdark caverns, and creatures from below issued forth with such swift ferocity that quarrying stopped for a time, and a permanent guard was stationed to fight the monsters that now only occasionally break through the tons of rubble that the Lord Wizard regularly blasts into the delve in order to block it off.
The arms of Blacksaddle are a lone white castle turret centered on a black shield.
Settlements: Bloutar, Syrnt, Telcharn.