The Red Hand of Doom
A thinly populated human dominated region, once part of the northern Prefecture of the Korian Empire. The vale stretches almost 250 miles east to west and averages about 70 miles north to south. Several small mountain ranges and dense forests form the vale’s borders. Elsir Vale is a colder temperate region. Summers are hot and dry (punctuated by the occasional intense thunderstorm), and winters are cold, rainy, and occasionally punctuated by worrisome snowstorms. Some stretches of the area are quite arid, and the vale is flanked by the vast grasslands stretching for mile after grassy mile. The forests that stretch across most of the vale’s northern reaches are stifling, muggy, and hot in the summertime, with a many insects seeking their next meal. Days tend to be hot (85 to 110 F) and nights cool (50 to 65 F). This is the height of summer and this the dry season. Rainfall is infrequent – but when it comes down, it really comes down, and thunderstorms as well as tornadoes are common. Though the borders of the vale are mostly hills, mountains and forests, the heart of the vale is grassy plains for the most part. Every town in the vale is surrounded by numerous farms. Beyond the civilized areas are vast rolling plains with infrequent hillocks and copses of trees.
Civilizations in the Vale
Several civilizations have come and gone over the last 1500 years in the vale. The dwarves built most of the roadways, Overlook, and The Fortress in the pass. Although the dwarves for unknown reasons abandoned the region 1000 years ago, and the study structures left are a testament to Dwarves engineering. The Korian Empire re-established trade and safe travel with neighboring regions about 800 years ago. The empire built itself to a peak; making advances in metalwork, stonework, agriculture and magic; and collapsed due to infighting among the various Imperial lords, giving rise to the contested domains to the south, where the fighting continues to this day. Despite the virtual absence of the empire, some of the Korian gods remain important within the vale, such as Erathis (god of civilization).
The vale, being on the fringes never had the same central leadership as many other parts of the empire. Today it is ruled by numerous city/states, with no common leadership. Nobles, merchants, and the Oathsworn keep things like security, trade and farming at acceptable levels, for their own benefit. No doubt some of the advances the empire made have been lost. There is an organization known as the Vanguard (of Erathis) spread throughout the vale. This group operates independently of the church, though often with common goals, and many members are members of both. They are not very large or influential as a whole. They exist much like the Masons; visible to all, but subtle in their actions. Most people consider them benevolent and harmless. The organization is composed of numerous independent cells throughout the region.
The scattered human towns and villages of the area grew up along the Dawn Way, an important east-west trade road linking the heavily settled lands that lie northwest across the Endless Plains with the exotic kingdoms and goods of the coastal lands lying to the southeast. Much of the Dawn Way was built by an ancient dwarven kingdom that spanned the Wyrmsmoke and Giantshield Mountains more than a thousand years ago. While the dwarven kingdom is long gone, their roads, bridges, and cisterns remain in use to this day. After the kingdom passed, the presence of various monsters and raiders kept traffic along the Dawn Way light for many years; few caravans dared the long and dangerous trek. Few humans lived in Elsir Vale during those years – only scattered settlements of druidic folk who left behind little more than grassy barrows and stone circles on the hilltops.
About five hundred years ago, just as the Korian Empire began to collapse, the nearby city of Rhest came to control the vale and a large swath of land north of the Giantshields as well. Soldiers from Rhest secured the roads all the way to Dennovar and beyond, creating a safe passage for trade. More and more traders traveled the Dawn Way, and the newly christened kingdom of Rhestilor grew wealthy on the tariffs exacted from the passing merchants. Under the kingdom’s shield, the towns along the Dawn Way – Brindol, Talar, Terrelton, and the rest – grew up from tiny hamlets or lonely soldiers’ posts to flourishing human settlements. The kingdom of Rhestilor eventually collapsed under civil strife, monstrous incursions, and magical blights. Almost two hundred years ago, the city of Rhest was burned by savage horde out of the Wyrmsmoke Mountains. Although the warriors of Rhestilor killed many of the goblins and their kind, the city was abandoned and the already weakened kingdom collapsed. The locks and canals surrounding Rhest fell into disrepair, and the Blackfens (swamp) swallowed the ruined city. Today Rhest and the Blackfens lie in the hands of King Rissed of the Lizardfolk.
In the years after the kingdom’s fall, the towns of Elsir Vale came to look after themselves. Most of the local lords still held titles derived from the old kingdom of Rhestilor. While everyone knew that the kings of Rhestilor were long dead, no new realm arose in the vale. Hence the loose collection of Cities, Merchants, and various remain minor lords such as the Oathsworn.