The Vale is a vast wilderness of stark and savage beauty, confined within a ring of impassable mountains and magically severed from the rest of the world by the powers of a mysterious sorceress. It is a place where peril and wonder abide in equal measure—the landscape is dotted with the ancient ruins of a lost civilization filled with both strange relics and lurking dangers. Its present day inhabitants call themselves the Valefolk, who are a diverse melting pot of cultures and races living in hunted exile from Corvindus, homeland of their ancestors, ravaged by war and conquered centuries ago by the  Runelords.

Two thousand years ago, the elves of Cormesta and the dwarves of Ngindorath were locked in a vicious struggle for territorial dominion. Neither side could prevail over the other, and so both realms languished for centuries in a state of constant war. Their impasse came to an end with the arrival of a  race of men called the Helvig, led by a proud and noble warrior king named Navarian. These tall and hardy people had crossed the great sea called Belerin, in search of a new home, after fleeing the fiery cataclysm that had devastated their country.

The Helvig began to build settlements and fortifications upon their arrival, hewing timber from the nearby forests for their construction. This act incensed the elves who considered their trees sacrosanct, and they assailed Navarian's people, trying to drive them back into the sea. The Helvig were skilled in the ways of war, however, and defended themselves with unexpected ferocity, forcing the elves into retreat. But their victory came at a great cost, the battle claiming the lives of Navarian's wife and son.

Durogan, king of the Iron Mountain, was impressed by the martial prowess of the Helvig and sent envoys to their camp bearing gifts of gold, precious gems, and finely wrought implements of steel along with an offer of alliance. Desiring vengeance, Navarian accepted the dwarven king's offer and mustered his people for war. But on the eve of battle, Ceridwen, the elf queen, came before Navarian and offered to become his wife if he would stay his wrath against her people. Beguiled by her fey unearthly beauty, Navarian's will faltered and he became so overcome by desire that his vengeance faded and he consented to the marriage.

At the sounding of the war horns at dawn, Durogan led his people onto the field, confident of victory, his army swollen by the Helvig host. But, as the dwarves closed with the elven vanguard, the Helvig turned on the dwarves, causing great slaughter and confusion within their ranks. When Durogan himself was slain, the dwarves broke and fell into retreat. In the aftermath the battle, the people of Ngindorath sued for peace, becoming vassals to their allied conquerors.

The kingdom of Corvindus was forged in the years that followed, the three peoples united under the reign of its first sovereign monarch, Corantin son and heir of Navarian and Ceridwen. Corvindus grew in wealth and prosperity, and as migration and conquest slowly brought other nations under its influence, the kingdom transformed into a multi-cultural empire. Throughout this period of expansion the dwarves evolved from a subjugated people to honored citizens, integral to the day-to-day functioning of the realm and occupying key positions in its military and bureaucracy. Unbeknownst to the Throne, however, there existed a growing faction of dissident dwarves called the Runelords who longed for the glory of their people's past and plotted against the empire, engineering its downfall in secret and awaiting the day when their plans could be realized.

The call to rise and seize power came at a time of festival when vigilance across the empire was at its lowest. Known in the annals of history as the Year of Fire and Steel, though more commonly the Great War, the tumultuous period saw the dwarves unleash horrific new weapons and siege engines on an unsuspecting populace, crafted in forges hidden in the bowels of the Iron Mountain. The most destructive of these creations were the war-golems—giant automatons of steel and stone animated by elemental magic and demonic pact. The rebel onslaught came swiftly and so unexpectedly that a third of the empire fell in the first weeks of fighting. Though the empire's legions rallied for a time, the momentum shifted out of their favor with the conquest of Casta Valorum. As word spread of the fall of the capital and the rumored death of the emperor, the Runelords began to gain allies among other factions disaffected by imperial rule.

While cities were falling across the empire, a seer named Taminoel in a far-flung province received a prophetic dream of ongoing events and believed he saw a way through the coming storm. Claiming his visions to be a warning from the gods, Taminoel convinced the local nobility that fighting was a lost cause and that flight into the wilderness was their only hope of salvation. Taking as many mounts with as much provisions as they could carry, Taminoel led 50,000 citizens—many of them women and children—out of the empire and across the harsh lands of the Weeping Waste, guiding them down uncertain paths he had seen only in his mind's eye.

The Runelords were wroth upon learning of the mass exodus and sent a legion after the fugitives. After weeks of pursuit, the dwarves and their battle thralls cornered Taminoel's flock at the base of a mountain range, cut off from escape, his people diminished by the harrowing journey through the wastes. As battle lines were drawn, a fey woman suddenly appeared and demanded that both parties depart, declaring herself as Ursinoen, queen of the lands on which they trespassed. Heedless, the dwarves attacked, and in response Ursinoen displayed her power, causing the earth to open up and swallow their forces entirely.

With his people on the brink of starvation and collapse, Taminoel parleyed with the sorceress in desperation and explained the reason for their presence. Seemingly moved by their plight, Ursinoen granted the exiles sanctuary in her domain secreted beyond the mountains, permitting them access through its only entrance—a labyrinthine gorge called the Endless Pass made manifest by her will. Within the sheltered confines of her realm called the Vale, these last free survivors of a once-great empire would eventually found a new kingdom and become known as the Valefolk.

The Vale

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