The Vale is a vast wilderness ringed by impassable mountains, severed from the rest of the world through the sorcery of Ursinoen, a mysterious figure who calls this ancient land her domain. The inhabitants of the Vale call themselves the Valefolk—a diverse collection of races and cultures who have lived here in exile for generations following their exodus from their war-torn homeland centuries ago.
Two thousand years ago, the Aelfyr of the forest realm of Cormesta and the Druune of the mountain kingdom of Ngindorath were locked in a vicious struggle for territorial dominion. For centuries neither side could prevail, so both realms languished in a state of constant war. The impasse was broken by the fateful arrival of the Helvig, a proud warrior race led by a noble king named Navarian. These tall and hardy people had crossed the wide waters of the Belerin in search of a new home following the devastation of their homeland by a fiery cataclysm.
Upon making landfall, the Helvig began making settlements and fortifications, taking timber from the sacred groves of the Aelfyr. This enraged the Aelfyr who assailed Navarian's people without warning, seeking to drive the strangers back into the sea. The Aelfyr wielded great magics, but the Helvig employed a strange metal called sky-iron which confounded their powers. Moreover, the Helvig were possessed of great skill in battle, and they routed the Aelfyr. The victory came at great cost, however, for Navarian's wife and son were slain during the conflict.
News of the Aelfyr defeat reached Asmundar, High King of Ngindorath, who sent envoys to the Helvig camp bearing gifts of gold, precious gems, and finely wrought jewels together with an offer of alliance. Desiring vengeance for his losses, Navarian accepted the offer readily and mustered his people for war. But on the eve of battle, Ceridwen, High Queen of the Aelfyr, came forth unexpectedly and stood before Navarian, offering herself in wedlock if he would stay his wrath against her people. Beguiled by Ceridwen's unearthly beauty, Navarian's revenge melted away, and he consented to the union in spite of his honor.
When the war horns sounded at dawn, the Druune and Helvig armies marched on Cormesta. Yet, in the moments before battle was joined, the Helvig turned on the Druune, causing great slaughter and confusion among their ranks. Navarian himself sealed his treachery by fighting past the bodyguard of Asmundar and plunging his sword through the High King's heart. With the death of their liege and their forces outflanked, the Druune lost their will to fight and routed or surrendered. Ngindorath sued for peace not long after, and the Druune became vassals to their conquerors.
The kingdom of Corvindus was forged in the years that followed, its citizens united under the reign of its first sovereign, Corantin, the half-blooded son of Navarian and Ceridwen. As Corvindus grew in wealth and prosperity, migration and conquest brought other nations under its influence, slowly transforming the kingdom into a multi-cultural empire. Throughout this period of expansion the Druune moved past their vassal status and established themselves in society, occupying key positions in the empire's military and bureaucracy, and becoming integral to the day-to-day functioning of the realm. Unknown at this time, however, was the existence of a faction of Druune dissidents called the Runelords who longed for the glory days of their people's past. With a vast network in place, these conspirators plotted against the empire and awaited the day when their plans could be brought to fruition.
The call to rise up and reclaim power came on the last day of the Feast of Renewal, a celebration of the new year and a time when vigilance and sobriety across the empire was at its lowest. The Great War, recorded in the annals of history as the Year of Fire and Steel, saw the Druune unleash horrific weapons and siege engines upon an unsuspecting imperial populace, crafted in secret forges hidden within the bowels of the Iron Mountain. The most ruinous of these inventions were the war-golems—giant automatons of stone and steel animated by a combination of elemental magic and demonic pact. The rebellious onslaught was so swift and unexpected that nearly a third of the empire fell in the first week of fighting. The empire's legions rallied briefly but lost momentum with the Druune conquest of Casta Valorum and the capture of the imperial family. As word spread of the fall of the capital and rumors circulated of the death of the emperor, the Runelords gained further allies from among those factions disaffected by imperial rule.
While the empire was falling into chaos, a renowned seer and magician named Taminoel, residing in the westernmost province of Ardanost, received a prophetic dream. Claiming his vision to be divinely inspired, Taminoel convinced the region's nobles that fighting was a doomed cause and that the only hope of preserving the empire was to bring the last of its free people beyond its borders. Many believed his words, and by the time of their departure their gathering was 50,000 strong, including many women and children, all of whom would follow him across the unforgiving lands of the Weeping Waste, down an uncertain road seen only through his mind's eye.
Upon learning of the mass exodus of citizens from Ardanost, the Runelords dispatched a legion to recover the fugitives. After many weeks of pursuit, the Druune caught up with their quarry encamped at the edge of a vast mountain range, seemingly cut off from escape. As the two forces were about to engage in battle, a strange woman appeared before them. Declaring herself as Ursinoen, sorceress and queen of the lands on which they trespassed, she demanded the immediate and bloodless departure of both sides or face her wrath. Heedless of the warning, the Druune attacked and were summarily executed by Ursinoen who caused the earth to open up and swallow them like an ocean tide.
Despite his fear of her terrible power, Taminoel parleyed with the sorceress, pleading for her forbearance and sanctuary for his followers. Moved by their plight, Ursinoen granted them sanctuary in her secret domain beyond the mountains, unveiling its hidden entrance—a labyrinthine gorge made manifest by her will. Taminoel's followers established themselves within this new land where, in due time, they founded a new kingdom, calling it the Vale and themselves the Valefolk.