Scales of War
The world has never been a safe place. Bastions of civilization populate a dark, menacing world—islands of order and reason exist in a land otherwise overrun by dark cults, vile monsters, creatures from the dark edges of the imagination, and worse.
One such point of light is the Elsir Vale, a quiet frontier land bordered by mountains. It is inhabited by farming communities and various small cities and towns. No monarch or ruler holds sway over the Vale; each city is run by a council and manages its affairs in a state of relative peace with its neighbors.
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. 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 dwarf-kingdom that spanned the Wyrmsmoke and Giant’s Shield Mountains more than a thousand years ago. While the dwarves are long gone, their roads, bridges, and cisterns remain in use to this day. After the dwarf-realm 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.
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.
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 the 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. Brindol is a thriving trade community and the starting point of your adventures. It has seen its share of excitement over the years, most recently forty years ago when it was the center point of a 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.
In between, along the Dawn Road, lie a number of smaller towns that serve as market centers for outlying farming communities and host various trade fairs.
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.
To the east, across the Golden Plains (at least some of the time) lies the Eladrin city of Astrazalian, known to residents of the Vale as the City of Starlight. This magnificent city strides the border between the mortal realm and the Feywild, and exists in each for fully half of every year. During the spring and summer, it resides a few hundred miles to the east of the Vale and is the source (or destination) of a significant amount of the trade that flows through the Vale.
To the north, outside the borders of the Vale lie the ruins of the city of Rhest, once the center of a kingdom that spanned the entirety of the vale, but now a long crumbled remnant inhabited mostly by Lizard folk and other creatures best left unmentioned.
About five hundred years ago, the nearby city of Rhest came to control the vale and a large swath of land north of the Giant’s Shield Mountains 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, 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 a savage horde of goblinoids. Although the warriors of Rhestilor killed many of the goblins and their kind, the city was abandoned and the already weakened kingdom broken. The locks and canals surrounding Rhest fell into disrepair, and the Blackfens swallowed the ruined city.
In the years since the kingdom’s fall, the towns of Elsir Vale have come to look after themselves. Most of the local lords still hold titles derived from the old kingdom of Rhestilor. While everybody knows that the kings of Rhestilor are long dead, no new realm has arisen in the Vale. Formerly the site of an attack by an army known as the Red Hand, the Vale has known several years of peace since brave adventurers stormed into the teeth of the approaching Hand and sent them scurrying back into the darkness.