Heroes of the Vale
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 to the northwest across the Endless Plains with the exotic kingdoms of the 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 Giantshield Mountains more than a thousand years ago. While the dwarves are long gone, their roads, bridges, and cisterns remain in use today. 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 grassey barrows and stone circles on the hilltops.
The Dwarven Kingdoms
More than a millennium ago, a vast dwarven kingdom sprawled across the Elsir Vale and pervaded deep into the stubbon rock below. Their civilization was unrivaled at the time, but as most grand kingdoms do, the dwarves conquered themselves from within. As their glories became innumerable, the dwarves’ decadence knew no bounds and their society began to collapse. Rampant indulgence fueled corruption, and soon the honor, discipline, and benevolence upon which the kingdom was built gave way to petty infighting over status, wealth, and power. The tattered kingdom sputtered and wheezed, but its death was delayed by the rise of a new cult devoted to Erathis, the goddess of civilization. Erathis’ followers reacted against the bon vivant trends that staggered the kingdom, twisting Erathis’ teachings and instating a dreadful dogma of salvation through endless toil and brutal subservience. The dwarves became slaves to their own greed-fueled industry, producing heaps of weapons, armor, and gear to appease their god. The wilderness around them was fed to Erathis’ fires of industry until the dwarves choked on their own black fumes and starved in the dust. It took centuries for the land to recover and become the beautiful countryside that the Elsir Vale is today.
Few dwarves held steadfast to their devout worship of Moradin, the patron deity of dwarves. Those remnants fled, and the their ancestors now populate the sparse Hammerfist Holds to the south.
About five hundred years ago, the nearby city of Rhest came to control the vale 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 Dawns 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 out of the Wyrmsmoke Mountains. 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, such as Jamaath of Brindol, still hold titles derived from the old kingdom of Rhestilor. While everyone knows that the kings of Rhestilor are long dead, no new realm has arisen in the vale.