Nestled among the foothills of the Red Stone Mountains is the city of Duskvale. Appropriately named due to the fact that the town proper as well as its surrounding countryside seems to be locked in a perpetual state of twilight. As mysterious as this condition may seem there are two very logical explanations for this anomaly. The first has to do with the geographic location of Duskvale. The city itself was constructed in the valley between three of the highest peaks of the Red Stone Mountain range. Thus the sunlight rarely ever breaks over the mountains for more than a few minutes each day before it begins to set behind the shadow of yet another peak. The second reason for Duskvale’s dreary condition is due in large part to the soot and smoke created by the great dwarf forges in the hidden dwarf city of Forgeholm which is located in the Red Stone Mountains.
Because of the location and the dense cloud of soot from the dwarf forges the climate in Duskvale is always colder than any of the neighboring regions. Even in the warmest of summers the temperature of Duskvale rarely reaches 60 degrees. In addition to this the town itself is covered in a layer of grey ash that gives it an even more drab appearance. In the winter months the snow mixes with the ash to cover everything in the valley with a wet grey slush.
Those who visit Duskvale often ask themselves why anyone would choose to live in such a dreary place. Aside from the perpetual darkness the air itself is thick with the smoke of coal fires and generally has an acidic quality to it. Very little vegetation will grow in the valley and most of the water found there is fouled by sulfur. Food and supplies must all be brought into Duskvale by traders and only water drawn from deep wells is considered safe to drink. Even what little livestock is kept in the valley appears sickly. Yet many people call Duskvale home due to the fact that it is the only place where the Dwarven smiths of Forgeholm will teach and do business with the outside world.
Perhaps more important than the trade that happens between the dwarves and the rest of the outside world is the fact that Duskvale is home to the Academy of Master Smiths. Apprentice weapon and armor smiths from all over Faerûn make the pilgrimage to learn from the dwarves in the city of Duskvale. Every year hundreds of would-be apprentice smiths the world over travel to Duskvale with the hopes of being admitted to the Academy. Of those hundreds of hopefuls only one will be selected to begin the ten year apprenticeship.
Every spring when the ice clears from the Arymm Bay the docks of Duskvale will be filled with trade ships. They bring food and provisions from the outside world and trade them for the weapons, armor, jewelry and other wonders crafted by the smiths of Duskvale. Along with the trading ships will be hundreds of hopeful apprentice smiths who have come to prove their skills at the Academy. For most of the summer months the city is a bustling place filled with thousands of merchants, tradesmen, ship crews and all the scoundrels that come with them. Taverns along the waterfront and around the academy charge inflated prices for drinks and lodging. Shop owners grow fat and wealthy selling trinkets to foolish tourists. Even the cold weather and bleak skies seem bearable for a few short months each year.
When autumn returns the trade slows to a grinding halt. Storehouses are filled for the long winter months and many of the hopeful apprentices have already departed, heads hung low in disappointment. The few who remain will be stuck in Duskvale until the following spring. Once the first snow of winter begins to fall the city will be completely isolated from the rest of the world until spring.
During the winter months most of the residents of Duskvale wait out the long dark days in somber toil. Shop owners replenish their stock and craftsmen work long hours to complete their orders before next spring. The streets of Duskvale are quite. Very few have many reasons to venture outdoors unless it is absolutely necessary. Only the coal supply caravans from the nearby mines continue to brave the elements as the long dark of winter falls on Duskvale.
It is during the winter that the last of the hopeful apprentices will be giving their final test. By now only a handful of smiths will remain and of those only one lucky student will be chosen to undertake the long process of becoming a student of the dwarves. During the winter the remaining students will be tasked to craft their greatest work. They will spend the majority of the winter working on whatever this might be. A sword or shield, perhaps a beautiful suit of armor or a delicately crafted piece of fine jewelry.