Verdant Valley
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The Verdant Valley is framed by Vandell in the southwest and the Northward Spine in the east and northeast. While its southern edge is given by the coast of the Center Sea, the northwestern boundaries are less clear. In that direction, the dale widens so drastically that it no longer appears like a valley, not even from the perspective of a soaring aezkul. The Verdant Valley's northward extensions almost seamlessly merge with the Frigid Frontier, and, in the west, the valley is lost among the woods between it and the Great Wild Basin. Aezkian scholars have hence decided the northern border to lie where deciduous trees cease to grow, so roughly at the River Tana, and they define the western border based on this river as well. They do so by drawing a line straight south from where the Tana flows into the Hvur until the line reaches Vandell. Gren have no name for the valley; they have never charted it in its entirety and focus more on its individual, to-them-local areas, such as Suwehb and Jamgadir. Southwest, off the valley's only sea shore, lie the Fishers' Isles.

As its name suggests, the region consists of a valley overgrown with lush vegetation. Forests cover it from one mountain range to the next, offering notable free space only where they have been cleared for the purpose of agriculture, lumber, or construction. The valley is and has been the Four-Faced Forests' major cradle of civilization. Ruins of formerly great empires, such as the immemorial metropolis that Thirpof is built on and in, are proof of this. The region's relatively numerous, densely placed, and powerful trezizik wells make it extraordinarily fruitful, and it offers freshwater and natural resources – minerals, soils, and wood primarily – in abundance. Beasts, elementals, roving bands of wolshak raiders, and dragons may make the region dangerous enough to keep even those with walls and bronze-tipped spears on their toes, but these threats, even combined, do not outweigh the benefits of the rich dale.

Most of the Verdant Valley's inhabitants live in its southeastern third. This region is hence considered its core and the true valley. Sozlin tribes, trezlin tribes, wolshak packs, and, most importantly, the Gren realms can be found here. However, none of these peoples have been able to truly civilize the land. It is mostly unkempt, uncharted, and untamed.

Topography

A dale it be, but the Verdant Valley is far from flat. The mountain ranges that flank it – Vandell and the Northward Spine – are not even factored into this statement. Gentle hills, drumlins, terminal moraines, and ridges are readily found in the valley and offer defensible locations for settlements and encampments. The land has clearly been shaped by the glaciers of a past ice age. A few isolated mountains exist as well, but they are merely outliers of the surrounding ranges. The only heights that truly belong to the valley lie in its far west. They are low and have shallow slopes. Harsh, jagged cliffs and ravines are scarce and usually the result of hozizik. Ditches and other low points in the terrain exist predominantly in the southeastern half of the Verdant Valley, but its northwest and north even feature smaller valleys – the tunnel and river types – of their own. The valley's most notable low area, apart from the beds of its most massive rivers and their surroundings, is the shore. Almost the entire coast is shallow and flat. It begins to rise as it leaves the boundaries of the Verdant Valley, where it becomes the shore of Vandell or the Scar. The highest areas of the Verdant Valley lie in the direction of the Northward Spine.

Hydrography

Freshwater is easily acquired within the Verdant Valley. It has multiple springs of its own, but the biggest sources of life-giving liquid are the glaciers and basins of Vandell and the Northward Spine. Dozens of rivers and creeks carry crystal clear water from the mountains into the valley, feeding its numerous lakes and ponds, its swamps, and its longest and widest river – the Hvur. This colossal river begins all the way north as the biggest drain of the lake Wolruk's Trough. From there, it carries the waters of the Howling Woodlands all the way down to the Verdant Valley, swelling with each tributary along the way, before it forms a narrow river delta and empties itself into the Center Sea. Along the way, the Hvur is mostly bordered by gentle banks, on which it maintains floodplains as well as a few swamps and small marshes. Fords across the Hvur exist only on the upstream half, and they are very sparse and unreliable. They are highly seasonal, existing only in winter and earliest spring. Downstream, except at the delta, it is impossible to overcome this mighty river without a watercraft or flight, unless the winter is so bitter that its surface freezes wholly. In spite of the Hvur being a natural barrier, it is a blessing for the civilizations of the Verdant Valley. It is more than deep and wide enough to permit shipping, and its seasonal flooding make its banks and delta exceptionally fertile.

The other two major rivers of the Verdant Valley are the Tana and the Mjora. Both are tributaries of the Hvur that spring from the Northward Spine. Located at the northern edge of the Verdant Valley, the Tana is the dale's border to the Frigid Frontier. It is an important obstacle between the valley's inhabitants and the savage wolshak packs of the Howling Woodlands in the north. Fords are rare and most can only be traversed in winter, when the river is less deep or outright frozen. However, winter is a bad time to travel, even for wolshaks; thus, the northerners usually do not venture across the Tana.

The Mjora is located in the core region of the Verdant Valley. It flows from the Northward Spine's southern third, joins with other small streams, and turns into a sizable river that acts as a boundary between the regions and accordingly named kingdoms of Jamgadir, Thirpof, and Suwehb. It has a few fords, allowing these kingdoms to interact with each other. All but two are impassable during the summer, when the water level is highest. One of these (semi-)permanent fords is located between Thirpof and Jamgadir, the other is Bjorn's Final Crossing, a historically relevant ford between Suwehb and Jamgadir. Other than being a border, the Mjora also serves as a shipping route to Thirpof and the Jamgadiran Kingdom's northeastern towns.

In the south, the Verdant Valley borders a massive, saline body of water – the Center Sea. Its tide range is rather small, compared to those of the shores facing the other oceans, because the Raider Strait limits the flux of water into and out of the Center Sea. Before the high tide can make the Center Sea majorly swell, tidal conditions turn and the water begins to ebb again. A stable shoreline is the result.

Climate

Overall, the Verdant Valley is humid and temperate to cold, but its climate is not uniform. It can be broadly split into the northwestern half, whose climate is continental, and the southeastern half, which has a marine climate. Both zones are affected by the seasons, if to varying degrees, and seamlessly transition into each other.

The northwestern half is continental because of its distance to the oceans and the Center Sea, and the high amounts of landmass surrounding it in all directions. It lies in the northern convergence zone, where the westerlies and the polar easterlies meet. However, both winds are weakened and carry relatively little humidity. The westerlies coming from the Center Sea or even all the way from the Endless Waves lose most of their humidity across the stretches of land leading up to the Verdant Valley, and the polar easterlies are greatly hindered by the Northward Spine. Yet, the northwestern valley is humid because it lies in said convergence zone, meaning its own humidity rains down upon it and little of it is carried away by the winds.

Practically, the above described means that the continental valley experiences starkly contrasting seasons. Whereas the winters are particularly harsh, the summers are comparatively warm in return. Overall, it is rather cool because of its high latitude. The amount of precipitation is mediocre to high year-round. At least blizzards and lightning storms are rare, thanks to the mountain ranges acting as barriers for the worst of them. Only the rare, northwest-to-southeast winds might bring bitter cold, flash frost, or snowstorms. Winds blowing the exact opposite, which are also unusual, bring especially humid, warm air. This can lead to unusually warm, wet summers, and thus to lightning storms. Whenever both winds meet, the continental valley suffers from powerful storms. These tempests are especially strong in fall and winter, when the temperature delta between the north and south is largest.

The southeastern half is marine because of its proximity to the Center Sea and being less framed by tremendous landmasses. It is also overall warmer than the northwestern valley. This has three factors: being further south, the warm currents of the Center Sea, and the warm air brought by the westerlies. They also deliver ample humidity. While some of the cloud-carried water is lost on Vandell, especially the eastern reaches of the Verdant Valley are graced with wet winds hailing from the Center Sea. What further tames the climate and especially the winters of the marine valley is the Northward Spine blocking the polar easterlies that might otherwise reach it during winter.

In effect, these conditions lead to a balanced climate with mild summers and winters, and a lot of rain- and snowfall. The winters may be short and gentle compared to the northern ones, but their temperatures still fall below 0 °C regularly, which, paired with the high humidity, leads to lands blanketed in white. The mild springs slowly melt it, creating muddy fields and temporary wetlands.

Both halves have the greatest amount of precipitation in fall, are driest in summer, and rarely experience severe weather. The lessened frequency of rainfall in summer is easily mitigated by the swelling and flooding of the valley rivers. The volumes they carry increase as the snow begins to thaw, reaching its peak in the summer, when the snow and the glaciers on the surrounding mountain ranges (partially) melt as well. Most major rivers become impassable at this time; their fords are drowned and currents too strong. Travel is easiest in spring, when the rivers are meek or frozen and daytime temperatures not too low.

Fauna, Flora, Funga

The Verdant Valley's flora and fauna is typical for a region within the Four-Faced Forests. Most of the dale is utterly covered in trees. They grow wherever the soil allows it and the sun's light reaches them, and the places in the valley where this is not true are few and far between. Deciduous trees (e.g., birches, maples, oaks) form the grand majority. Conifers (e.g., pines, yews) are the minority in the southern half, but become more common further north, where mixed forests are prevalent. Smaller plants thrive in the valley as well. Herbaceous plants dominate the understory of the woodland, giving company to low shrubs and saplings. Fungi, lichen, and mosses thickly cover the forest floor, rivaling the canopy in its lushness. Bushes and grasses are left in charge of any clear land not utilized for agriculture.

Natural clearings are rare. They appear only where the ground is not suitable for trees or where natural fires, caused by lightning for example, or other destructive influences destroyed large swaths of woodland. Once a clearing has been created, the empire of trees begins the slow and steady process of reclaiming it. Herbivores feeding on the saplings and offshoots are not able to prevent the eventual conquest because the plentiful predators keep their numbers low. Keeping land cleared is a struggle even for the civilized people, especially near trezizik wells. Axe and fire must be regularly employed to fight back the forest, lest its roots will undermine and topple your walls.

This has not stopped the tribes and states inhabiting the Verdant Valley from practicing agriculture. Woods are slashed and burned, leaving fertile ash on open ground. Acres and meadows are created, offering an entire new type of habitat for a variety of small and large animals. The edge between farmland and wild forest is a minor ecosystem of its own. Fields, no matter if cultivated, fallow, or abandoned, offer food for herbivores, while the nearby trees offer shelter. Great habitats for herbivores like these are naturally lucrative targets for humanoid hunters and bestial predators alike.

Trezkul, the apex hunters of the Verdant Valley, are aware of what herbivores like, and therefore create attractive clearings on and of their own. They are one of the “destructive influences” mentioned before, but they are also rather constructive in what they do. With brute force alone, they knock down and break trees, only to then magically repopulate the broken woodland with shrubs and grasses. Many a clearing has been made by these bestial landscapers.

All other creatures inhabiting the Verdant Valley, save for exceptionally massive elementals, are smaller than the mighty trezkul. There are the sozkul and mazkul, for example. The former is found exclusively on the coast, while the latter inhabit the valley's rivers, swamps, and marshes. River azkul inhabit the valley's streams as well. The Hvur and Mjora are prime hunting and fishing grounds for both water-affine dragon species, and together they make entering the deeper parts of these rivers a daring undertaking.

However, most creatures are even smaller than the aforementioned kul. The dense woodlands make it problematic for large creatures to live in the Verdant Valley. Where it not for their ability to control plants or their immense strength, grown trezkul would find it impossible as well. Insects, avians, reptiles, saurians, and even mammals populate the valley. Although the majority of species belong to the first four groups, the number of mammal species and individual animals is still notable. The Four-Faced Forests in general contains a large number of them compared to the lands south of it. However, the mammals are all tiny to medium animals (e.g. rodents, bats, mustelids, hares, etc.). The largest mammals of the region are the woolly rabbit and the thorny wolverine. Both of these animals have their natural habitat in the northern Verdant Valley and beyond. The rabbit, however, has been domesticated by the locals and hence has spread throughout the entire valley. Saurians and avians primarily fill the roles of medium-sized herbivores, omnivores, and predators. Woodstriders, a saurian species brought by trezlin traders and migrants from the Whistling Lowlands thousands of years ago, graze on the few clearings alongside the native, dense-woodland-adapted dinosaurs, such as the thickettreader. Dagger-toothed leapers, called hoggsprang by the Gren, hunt them and the others. Elemental beasts inhabit the valley as well. Svikbarns are one of them, and they prey on and ambush all. Insects and other arthropods are not to be underestimated in this region either. Some of them grow the size of hares or even large dogs or greater! Whereas the smaller types fulfill the niches of scavengers and little herbivores, the large and largest species are lethal predators in their own right. The giftkriger – a venomous hunting spider with a body the size of a wheelbarrow – may primarily prey on small animals, but it is also a formidable threat to a trezlin. A group of them can even fell a warrior.

Other notable animals inhabiting the dale are fewiggs, ringtails,forest gryphons, and sparrowdragons. Notable flora includes the slumbershroom, prickle plant, Skog's gift, and Varhal's flower. All of these named entities are detailed on the global fauna or flora compendium respectively, or their own pages.

Natural Resources

Hunting and trapping are great in the Verdant Valley. Much can be gained by slaying the local fauna – pelts, furred and feathered hides, feathers, meats, fangs, sinews, and bones. The creatures can even be carved up for alchemical ingredients. Elementals and dragons are a particularly great source. Overall, it is possible for entire villages to live off of hunting alone.

There is plenty to eat in the dale's streams and lakes as well. Fishing and gathering seafood by hand can feed a family the entire year, but it does net few materials; at most sea plant fiber, fish bones and scales, and the shells of mollusks and crabs. In the southernmost parts of the valley, one might even find the occasional turtle, especially in the swamps and marshes. Off the coast, fishing and aquatic foraging is also a worthwhile activity. Rarely, large sea turtles can be spotted. They are good eating and the large shells can serve as bodies for chests or oddly-shaped barrels.

Foraging is also rewarding. Many local plants have roots, bulbs, leaves, or seeds that are are nutritious and comestible. Good examples are peas, beans, beets, parsnips, mushrooms, and cabbages. When times are dire, one might also consume the leaves of plants like the common houseleek, nettles, or common mugwort. The selection of fruits includes crabapples, pears, and various berries (e.g., rowan, rose hips, strawberries, bilberry, cloudberries, sloes, elderberries). Most limited is the variety of nuts, including only walnuts, acorns, and hazelnuts. Some of the foodstuff has to be boiled or otherwise processed to become edible. It might be toxic or not palatable otherwise.

Useful fibers, too, can be obtained from some of the native plants (e.g., flax, cottonsedge, nettles, and linden). Hemp grows here as well, primarily on the fields of the locals, but it is not a native plant. It was imported by traders. For papermaking and basket weaving, the indigenous plant scribeweed is a suitable choice and available in large amounts in the local swamps.

Alchemical, medicinal, and toxic plants grow in the valley, too. Most notable in these three categories are the slumbershroom, Varhal's flower, the prickle plant, and Skog's gift. The last on that list is a capable of storing magical energy and grows all over trezizik wells. Many of the local plants, especially flowers, also lend themselves to the production of simple dyes, primarily in the colors green, blue, white, yellow, and red.

Many of the native herbs and spices have culinary purposes as well, even if they cannot compete with the more potent and aromatic ones occurring elsewhere in Threa. Among the native selection are mint, hazelwort, wild garlic (ramsons), chives, and others. Some originally foreign plant species have managed to establish themselves in the Verdant Valley as neophytes, such as parsley, rosemary, horseradish, and thyme. Merchants brought them, and the Gren and other valley people cultivate them. Pepper will not grow in the vale, but it does have salt. The white mineral is either mined in the hills or gained by letting the Center Sea's waters evaporate in purpose-made basins or heated open pans. A notable salt mine is located within western Jamgadir.

Given its fertility and the aforementioned variety of native, useful plants, the agricultural value of the Verdant Valley is immense. Every forest slashed and burned leaves behind arable land of high quality. Floodplains and deltas are perfect to grow barley, rye, emmer, einkorn, oats, and spelt in great quantities. Other species that can easily be cultivated on the valley's acres are broad beans, peas, lentils, cabbages, parsnips and turnips, and more. Vegetable and herb gardens are fruitful endeavors. Apple, pear, walnut, and hazelnut trees are good options for local orchards. Growing crops is the best way to sustain a settlement in the valley.

Many of the Verdant Valley's animals can be domesticated. Among the smaller forms of livestock are woolly rabbits, ringtails, ducks, and geese. All of them can be eaten or skinned, but they do offer more than just meat and hides. Whereas the rabbits are also a source of wool, the ducks, ringtails, and geese provide eggs and feathers. Woodstriders – not a native species! – provide labor, transport for goods and people, meat, and scaled hide. The dagger-toothed leaper, fewigg, and sparrowdragon have been tamed as well. The first is employed as bestial guard and hunting companion, the second is great pest control, and the third is used for falconry (in place of the falcons).

Naturally, the Verdant Valley is rich in building and crafting materials. Timber is available in ample amounts. Jamgadir, a region in the core of the southeastern half of the valley, is known for its quality hardwood, namely oak, maple, and walnut. The trees there are old, tall, and thick, especially in the area known as Blackwood.

Birches grow in vast quantities across the entire dale, too, benefiting the gathering of resin and production of pitch and wood tar. This mitigates the rarity of petroleum seeps in the region. Furthermore, the valley's wetlands are a good source of peat, and there is also plenty of coal, especially lignite. It is close the surface and simple to gather.

Quality stone is more easily found in the neighboring land Vandell and in the Northward Spine, but the valley does offer plenty of suitable rock as well. One just has to dig for it or find an exposed cliff. Most common are granite, limestone, slate, and soapstone. Loam and clay, thanks to the many bodies of water, are in high supply. Gypsum quarries are very rare. More of this mineral is found in Vandell. The same is true for flint, though the region Manhomir does have profitable sources in its hillier west, among the local limestone deposits.

Metals are the weak point of the Verdant Valley. Surface ores are too scarce to sustain a large civilization, and the subterranean veins are few and far between. Few of the deposits are worthy of note; however, part of these notable ones are very bountiful. Rich, mixed deposits of native silver and copper as well as their ores exist in the coastal hills of the Suwehb region, near its borders to Vandell. Lead ores can be commonly found in the hillier parts of Thirpof. Large amounts of coppery scrap can be found in Thirpof as well. Digging through the ancient ruins of the gigantic, once surely opulent metropolis yields enough arsenic bronze and brass scrap to serve the needs of multiple budding civilizations. Tin ores are very rare across the entire valley; they are easier found in Vandell. Bog iron can be found in many of the wetlands, especially in Manhomir.

Gems are a rarity in the valley, but there is a mother lode of jade located in eastern Manhomir, and amber can be gathered on the easternmost coast of Suwehb in notable amounts. Magical crystals are scarce, too, but Skog's gift alleviates that. The zizik-storing fruits of the plant are highly sought after by spellcasters and alchemists alike.

Places of Interest

The Verdant Valley may appear quite monotone in its appearance because of the dense canopy of its seemingly infinite forests, but there are plenty of interesting locations. Each break in the leafy blanket signifies a place of civilization, a trezkul's hunting place, or a scar caused by some natural disaster. These are just the obvious places. If one pokes their head under the blanket, they find wells of power, ruins long since overgrown, and the hidden homes of wolshaks and mighty beasts.

Disclaimer: This is not a complete list. More notable locations might be added in the future as they come up in stories and roleplays. Suggestions are always welcome.

Bjorn's Final Crossing

This historically relevant ford is the primary way of crossing the River Mjora when traveling between the kingdoms of Jamgadir and Suwehb, which the river separates from one another. The former lies in the center of the Verdant Valley's southeast; the latter stretches along the dale's coast. Near where the Mjora joins the Hvur, the ford lies, right by a fortified town named Elgeffelt. No bridge currently leads across the shallow, because the realms that it would connect are not fond of each other.

King Bjorn the First of Suwehb crossed this river in alirin 495 az (618 FF) with his army to beat down the Jamgadiran rebellion led by Alfrod of Blackwood, who had been proclaimed King of Jamgadir by his fellow countrymen the same season. The bridge had been torn down by Alfrod's forces, hence the Suwehbish druids grew a new one from trees by applying their magical powers. It led Bjorn to his doom because he and his forces were soundly beaten thanks to Alfrod's wit and the assistance of his wolshak allies, who kept the nearby forests free of the Suwehbens' Vandellan mercenaries, stopping their cunning flanking maneuver. King Bjorn died during the battle, and never got the chance to retreat back to Suwehb, hence the crossing's name. It is a reminder to every Suwehb to cross the river towards Jamgadir with respect and good intentions in mind.

Gutwoods

The Gutwoods is a stretch of forest located between the town of Elgeffelt and the village of Mjorarye. Were it not for its history, this dense, mixed, primarily broad-leaved assemble of trees would likely carry no name at all, being otherwise unremarkable.

In 495 az (618 FF), alirin, Suwehbish King Bjorn fought a battle against the Jamgadirans between this forest and the town of Elgeffelt, on the acres of the latter. It was the decisive, bloody struggle of the Jamgadiran Rebellion. King Bjorn had hired Vandellan archer mercenaries to fight on his side. They attempted to flank the Jamgadiran forces through these very woods. However, King Alfrod of Jamgadir anticipated this tactic, his scouts having seen the archers cross the Mjora and enter the forest just the day prior. To prevent the flanking maneuver, the King made a pact with the wolshak pack inhabiting the forest: They were to receive the woods as their rightful territory, never to be infringed upon, if they kill any warriors that dare enter it in turn. The wolshaks agreed.

During the Battle of Elgeffelt, howls and screams were heard from the forest, if barely so on account of the combat racket. After the fight, trezlin entrails were witnessed hanging from the trees – a signal from the wolshaks, stating that they fulfilled their half of the bargain, and a warning to Alfrod to never break his own. Ever since that day, the locals call it the Gutwoods.

Lonuld's Hill

Lonuld's Hill is located in the eastern quarter of the Suwehbish Kingdom, near a town called Lonuldstead and the shore of the Center Sea. The hill is shaped like an elongated, curved tear. The curve's belly faces the west and has gentle slopes, while the back is steeper but can still be walked up without requiring the use of hands. The peak is located in the south, close to the water, and is over 130 m (> 98 ft) tall compared to the surrounding land.

The hill is named after the founder of Lonuldstead, Lonuld the Daring. It is said that he and his huscarls made their stand atop that mound when raiders came from the west more than a century ago to plunder his homestead. His side won the battle, but he died during it, so the legend goes.

In 495 az (618 FF), the inhabitants of Lonuldstead, the other people of the Kingdom of Ossuwehb, and their Thirpofan allies defended the hilltop again versus invaders from the west. The attackers were none other than the joint warriors of King Bjorn of Suwehb and High Chieftain Jorund of Jamgadir, who was Bjorn's vassal at the time. Back then, the Kingdom of Suwehb only spanned across the western half of its namesake region. The eastern reaches belonged to the Ossuwehbens. King Bjorn aimed to bring all of Suwehb under his control by subjugating them.

Despite suffering heavy causalities, the Suwehb-lead army won the Battle of Lonuld's Hill. Even the magic and warriors of the Thirpofan Kingdom could not prevent it. The Jamgadirans arrived late to the fight. Although this spared them most of the death, it cost them their leader, Jorund, because King Bjorn ordered him to lead the final charge up the height to make up for his late coming. After the battle, the fate of Ossuwehb was sealed. All male members of its royal family were put to the axe, and its chieftains swore fealty to King Bjorn and his legitimate heirs.

Lonuld's Hill remains a natural memorial to this battle. The causalities the Suwehbens suffered atop it in 495 az weakened their forces enough to allow the Jamgadiran Rebellion, which occurred later in the same year, to succeed.

Settlements

Populated settlements are easier to find the further southeast one goes. The northwest is sparsely populated, being home only to trezlin tribes, petty realms, savage wolshak packs, and the rare marsh sozlin tribe. On the opposite side, the southeast is inhabited by the Gren realms and their hillforts and villages, the settlements of trezlin and sozlin tribes, and there are even a few wolshak packs. In that part of the valley, a traveler is never further than a day from some form of civilization.

Disclaimer: This is not a complete list. More notable settlements might be added in the future as they come up in stories and roleplays. Suggestions are always welcome.

Artificial Structures

Disclaimer: This is not a complete list. More notable structures might be added in the future as they come up in stories and roleplays. Suggestions are always welcome.