Scales of War
The Vale is a thinly populated frontier that 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 lies in the subtropical latitudes. Summers are hot and dry (although punctuated by the occasional intense thunderstorm), and winters are warm and rainy. Large stretches of the area are quite arid, and the vale is flanked by vast savannahs stretching for mile after dusty mile. The forests that stretch across most of the vale’s northern reaches are stifling and sweltering hot in the summertime, with not a breath of wind to relieve the oppressive heat. The largest town in the Vale is Brindol, located roughly at its center. It has seen its share of excitement over the years, most recently twenty-three years ago when it was the center point of a horrible war.
At the western edge of the Vale, a week’s journey from Brindol, the city of Overlook and its fortress of [[Bordrin’s Watch]] command the only pass across the Stonehome Mountains and keep the Vale safe from the occasional Orc incursion from the wild, lawless lands to the west. To the North, outside the borders of the Vales lies the wicked Blackfens, a sprawling marshland once home to the great city of Rhest, but now a deserted boarder between Elsir and the Nentir Vale. The town of Dennovar lies to the east of Brindol, and represents the last sizable population center as the Vale spreads outwards into the Golden Plains.
The scattered human towns and villages of the land now known as the Elsir Vale grew up along the Dawn Way, an important east-west trade road linking the heavily settled lands that lie West across the Wyrmsmoke Mountains 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 their 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 tapped into the rich planar magic of the Vale. In the end, however, they left behind little more than grassy barrows and stone circles on the hilltops.
About seven hundred years ago, the nearby city of Rhest came to control Elsir 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 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, Dennovar, Talar, Terrelton, and the rest – grew up from tiny hamlets or lonely soldiers’ posts to flourishing human settlements.
For more than five hundred years, from the establishment of Rhest to the rise of the despotic Magroth to the long period of peace and prosperity, Rhestilor unified the land. About a two and a half ago, all that changed. The full story of how the empire fell remains a secret to this day, but some combination of civil strife, magical blights and monsterous incursions left the royal family unaccounted for and the Rhestilian armies leaderless and without direction. The city of Rhest was burned by a savage horde that descended swiftly from out of the North. Although the warriors of Rhestilor killed much of the horde, the city was abandoned and the already weakened kingdom broken. The locks and canals surrounding Rhest fell into disrepair, and the Blackfens Swamp swallowed the ruined city.
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.