Damoren Nearwander sipped gingerly at their drink. The room was abuzz with anticipation, electric with excitement. Even the Otkodov contingent - four severe older orcs in midnight blue robes engaged in a deep conversation with a pair of magisters - seemed to have caught it. The other Navarr were everywhere, smiling, chatting, laughing. For the last half hour Damoren had been watching with detached interest as an affable naga cleverly steered visitors around the room, introducing them to strangers and then slipping away to do it all over again with another guest and another academic. It was heartening to see the Great Dance being practiced so beautifully.

For their part, Damoren was finding it tricky to achieve the level of enthusiasm shared by their colleagues and couldn't work out why. They felt outside it all, as if they were watching a terrible disaster unfold. Putting their empty mug down, they drifted across to Ibenus and Hounacier. They were stood in a little zone of stillness, examining what everyone had started - jokingly at first - calling the "war table". A map of the Empire, the Mallum, and Axos, scrawled across a dozen sheets of parchment, with strands of coloured thread marking the health of the trods - green for healthy, red for severed, blue for future-theoretical. They shifted slightly to let Damoren slip between them and the three stood shoulder-to shoulder looking down at the table.

"It's pretty inevitable I think," said Ibenus quietly, his voice barely audible over the excited buzz of conversation. He was continuing a thought from earlier, as was his wont, assuming everyone else would remember and join the two sentences together.

"The trods you mean?" Hounacier Riverstep seemed sceptical. "I suppose so, but we won't live to see it."

"Our great-grandchildren won't live to see it." said Damoren sadly. "And I don't think it's anywhere near as inevitable as you seem to believe. The trods are powerful but they're fragile."

"Like empires!" Ibenus meant as a joke but fell flat between the three Navarr scholars.

They continued to stare at the map as the celebration ebbed and flowed around them. The naga woman from earlier was introducing one of the heralds of Phaleron to a League librarian and a severe looking vate who was in the middle of a long but apparently funny story about someone who ordered their books by the colour of the spine.

"Can you imagine," said Hounacier with a grim chuckle, "What the Senate is going to say? Never mind that the military council is going to say?"

As usual Ibenus treated the rhetorical question as if it was seriously meant, and considered it thoughtfully for several moments.

"They will almost certainly say that the time is not right; maybe later once we have dealt with the Druj and the Grendel. I think. Based on previous events."

Damoren was only half listening; their attention had been caught by the Bowl of Phaleron across the great map from their little trio. The cauldron was older than the Empire. The ancient table had been used by generations of scholars and magicians when Terunael still ruled these lands. They gently traced one of the curling designs along the edge of the carefully varnished weirwood. For a moment he fancied he could feel every second of the years that had passed since the table was built.

"It could end within our lifetimes." Damoren spoke quietly, haltingly. "Our great-grandchildren would know it only as a story. One day an end? What if that day was this day? Against that... who could stand against the promise of that?"

They could finally feel it, the frisson in the room. That powerful energy begin to well up in them, that electricity that had been so lacking, that excitement for the road ahead.

"After a thousand years of walking, after so many generations of death and pain and shame, after everything that has been sacrificed, we could be the people who finally destroy the vallorn..."
On the Vallorn.jpg
The Great Library at Hacynian has collected together documents from all over the Empire and beyond, all to bring a resolution to the thousand-year-oaths of the Navarr.


A year ago, the Navarr took the fateful decision to expand the Great Library of Hacynian, so that it would be vast enough to hold the treasure trove of documents and records about the vallorn scattered through every striding and steading in the Empire, as well as contributions from allies familiar and unexpected. The hope was that if the Empire compiled everything they knew on the subject, bringing it all together at last, then perhaps the answer to the vallorn might emerge. A way, at least to destroy the ancient evil and end a thousand years of longing.

In the end, many of the scholars are surprised how little genuinely new information is revealed by this great process. The seminal text, "On the Nature of the Vallorn" by Siân Eternal has already accomplished the bulk of this work, compiling almost everything that was known about the history of Terunael and the Vallorn into one authoritative text. A lot of time was spent validating and confirming everything that was published, and adding what new information that was found into that picture. What the research has achieved is to clearly highlight the answers that existed in the Siân's text and to show that the Navarr possess everything there is to know on this subject.

Of course there will always be the temptation to seek further information, but the scholars who have spent a year studying this for the Navarr are certain that this report represents everything of substance that there is to know about what happened and what can be done about it. Wisdom knows all knowledge is incomplete but the Virtuous apply what they have learned.

Nathair Autumngale
Terunael Lorekeeper.jpg
Siân Eternal
Merel Pathfinder (centre)

A Gathering of Scholars

  • Thanks to a lot of hard work from various quarters, the research at the Great Library of Hacynian has been completed years ahead of schedule

The collection at the Great Library of Hacynian is as close to complete as it can be. More lore will be added in years to come, certainly, but right now it seems that a copy of everything ever written about the vallorn, a record of every story and song, is gathered together under its roof. Scholars from the League and Highguard. Even the threat of Cold Sun in Hercynia did nothing to slow their work.

Particular note is made of the four Advisors on the Vallorn who helped build towards this monumental stage. Merel Pathfinder who laid the foundations; Neb who built on them and helped establish the tradition of sharing what was learned with others; Siân Eternal who recovered the Library at Hacynian, and whose book arguably began the task of gathering knowledge in one place that culminated in this grand project; and Nathair Autumngale who helped bring matters to their current state with the expansion of the library and the unprecedented push into Brocéliande.

None of that praise is intended to diminish the role played by generations of Navarri and other Imperial citizens in gathering this information, protecting it, preserving it, adding to it over the centuries with their own encounters with the vallorn and its spawn. If the researchers gathered at the Great Library of Hacynian have seen further, it is because they have climbed the trees watered by so much blood, sweat, and sacrifice.

Of particular aid are the scholars of the League who contributed stores of documents gathered from the universities of four cities, along with their own keen minds, and their understanding of organising and operating a large centre of learning. The pilgrims of Highguard brought books and scrolls from repositories of learning across their nation, including priceless first-person accounts of the vallorn recorded in journals stretching back to the years following landfall, and helped scour the Empire for more sources of knowledge. The Department of Historical Research - overstretched as usual - offered as much aid as it could afford, delivering centuries of collected documents to the library.

In addition to the books gathered from mundane sources, the eternal Phaleron - who serves as a patron of the Great Library - offered access to copies of every book in its collection relating to the vallorn. The price was steep, but gladly paid. The day after the Autumn Equinox, an entire wing's worth of books were added to the library. Many were copies of texts already in place, but there were also a few priceless, unique tomes that could be found nowhere else in the Empire. Heralds of the Celestial Library remained behind to ensure the books were properly shelved, and their aid in reorganising parts of the archive for optimal use was a marvel of library science.

To all this was added papers seized from the Heirs of Terunael stronghold deep in Brocéliande. These give a very different view of the vallorn to that traditionally taken by scholars who have not cracked their minds by seeking communion with the vallorn. For all their blatant madness, the Heirs of Terunael have been closer to the vallornhearts than any civilised Navarr have manged in centuries and their insight provides a fascinating alternative understanding unencumbered by centuries of precedence and preconception.

Then, following the Autumn equinox, a contingent of orc warlocks from Otkodov joined the faculty at the Great Library as guests of the Advisor on the Vallorn, bringing with them scrolls containing information never before seen by human eyes winnowed from the archives of the Thule, supported by the peculiar insight of the Dragons and their rarefied understanding of arcane arts.

It's been a massive undertaking, and now it's complete. A way to destroy the vallorn has been found.

What Was

The oldest records stored at the Great Library describe Terunael before the coming of the vallorn, helping to explain why they did what they did and what went wrong.

Creation and Destruction

The original vallorn ritual performed by the Terunael was designed to create a great reservoir of Spring magic, a deep well that would hold power from the Spring realm and be constantly refilled from it. The Terunael had experience with such magics, having used them successfully to warm the city of Emrys in present-day Sküld. Their cities were facing attacks on all fronts from hostile powers, for the most part orcs. They believed they were steadily losing the war against their enemies and the ritual was their only chance to turn the tide and ensure their survival. They planned to channel Spring magic from the wells into their armies, providing a near limitless source of strength and healing. Those who have fought the vallornspawn can testify to the supernatural vitality of its creation. It is fascinating to imagine what an Imperial army might achieve if granted that kind of power.

The Terunael magicians had poor relations with the eternals of the Spring realm, so rather than bargain with them, they sought to fill their reservoirs with power drawn directly from the Primal Forest itself, rather than any intermediary. Although the Terunael possessed a lot of mana crystals, they had nothing like the sophistication and complexity of Imperial lore. They appear to have had few or no effective ways for magicians from different cities to cooperate, nor anything like the Imperial regio. That limited the remit of their magic: the Law of Dominion enabled each city to perform magic on the city and the lands around it, but not across their empire as a whole. Thus each city performed their own version of the ritual.

To make the ritual possible they made extensive use of Talonvine Infusion to boost their ritual abilities, using ilium taken from the Urizen. There have been several suggestions over the years that the rituals were made permanent with ilium, as an explanation for why the vallorn has persisted for a millennium, but that can't be true, because of the unfeasible amounts of ilium involved. It is more likely that this longevity of the magic is caused by the presence of the plants and animals in the area - in effect the vallorn's presence in an area is powerful enough that it alters the landscape in such a way that it anchors the magic in place. This would explain why it is possible to remove the vallorn energies from an area by destroying the infested creatures. In effect, the vallorn is like some great Spring regio, spreading over the forests of the Empire.

Even that was not sufficient for them to cast such high magnitude rituals. To attain the power they needed required powerful coven stones that would boost the Spring magic of everyone linked to them. They obtained these stones, these "fulcrums of power" from Feni living in what is today the Marches - or more precisely from a "god" of the Feni, whom the Terunael had captured and enslaved. They refer to this creature as "a silent sound of fearful melancholia", which could be an exotic Feni name for an eternal or herald of some kind. There were arguments over whether to use the ritual stones it created or not; there was some suggestion that the "god" may have deliberately corrupted the stones in some way as an act of revenge.

Spring magic is inherently difficult to control, but the rituals themselves were successful. The disaster appears to have begun when they attempted to use a subsequent ritual, possibly the Dance of Navarr and Thorn or a ritual very like it, to connect the wells together. Their aim was to channel the magical Spring energies into their armies, giving them enormous vitality and energy wherever they fought. At the point where the hearts were linked and the Terunael armies began to draw on their power, the vallorn awoke. The Spring realm violently breached the walls of the wells they had created, spilling out to invest living things in the area. When they realised what had gone wrong, the magicians destroyed the links joining the hearts together, but by then it was too late. The cities did not fall immediately; they tried to fight off the encroaching plants, monstrous insects, and savage beasts, but all efforts to defend them were hopeless and they were systematically overwhelmed. The Terunael were forced to abandon their cities; only those who fled survived, the rest were consumed by the madness and horror that became the vallorn.

It is likely that the hubris of the Terunael played a major part in their fall. Their magicians appear to have ignored the crucial resonances of Spring magic that can be overwhelming with very powerful magic. They assumed they could overcome the tendency of Spring magic to change and evolve, to destroy, to run riot. The great rituals that they cast did only what the Terunael had foreseen, but they assumed they could then link up the hearts without amplifying the resonances of Spring magic. That was the crucial failure that caused the Spring magic ran amok,

After The Fall

The Terunael armies made several forlorn attempts to reclaim their cities from the vallorn, which only reinforced the hopelessness of their position. Caught between the destruction of their cities, the explosion of hostile life that spilled out of the wells of Spring magic, and the attacking orcs, their forces collapsed as quickly as their civilisation.

Navarr and Thorn rose to prominence among those who endured the aftermath of the fall. They led some of the larger attacks on the vallorn hearts in Brocéliande and Béantol Dol, which were thrown back at great cost. After several heroic failures, the remaining Terunael were forced to accept that they would never defeat the forces of the vallorn while they could draw on the revitalising power of the Spring realm that suffused the areas the vallorn dominated.

Thus, they turned to a magical solution, inventing the ritual known today as the Dance of Navarr and Thorn. The ritual taps into the wells of power, drawing some of that energy away and weakening the vallorn in the process - an essential precursor to any attempt to retake an area by force. Whether this ritual was the same ritual the Terunael originally used to link the vallorn, or just similar, is now impossible to tell; clearly the name of the ritual was changed if it was the same or similar.

For the best part of two decades or more, Navarr and Thorn led efforts to defeat the vallorn by building up their forces to the point where they could create and sustain substantial trod networks. However they eventually realised that the approach had an essential flaw. The nature of the vallorn is such that it heals any harm it experiences impossibly quickly. The ritual that had been created was a way to wound the vallorn, to make it bleed. It would work, but once the wound became deep enough to become significant, then the Spring magic that sustains the vallorn would cause the wound to scab over and heal, stemming the flow of magic.

To overcome this flaw, Navarr, Thorn, and their allies led a desperate expedition right into the heart of the vallorn. They planned to create a weakness in the vallorn, in the heart of the first and most potent vallorn, the vallorn of Terunael itself. They, and those who went with them never returned from this expedition, but the stories of those who made it through to the heart of the vallorn during the adventure in Brocéliande last year have been carefully analysed and assessed. It seems that in some fashion Navarr and Thorn may still be "alive" in the heart of the vallorn there. Like a spigot rammed into a Hercynian maple tree to allow syrup to flow, their sacrifice prevents the vallorn from healing, allowing the trods to continuously bleed its power.

One thing is certain: they can only still be alive due to the power of the vallorn that is flowing through them. When the vallorn is destroyed, they will die. After so long, there is no way they will be able to survive without it. There is some awed speculation about what it must be like for them, alive for a thousand years at the heart of horror. There is a great deal of discussion about whether there might be any way to save them - but it seems absolutely clear that the act of saving them will kill them. Navarr and Thorn made their choice centuries ago; all that can be done to honour that sacrifice now is to find a way to give them their final rest by defeating the vallorn.

Their sacrifice created a way for the descendants of the Terunael to weaken the vallorn. By employing the Dance of Navarr and Thorn they could create the trods, the network of paths that spiral away from the ruined cities. By walking the trods they reinforced them and in drawing on the Spring energy to speed their travel, they slowly but surely sapped the life of the vallorn. Simply creating trods is not sufficient; they must be constantly powered and strengthened by the peregrinations of Navarr stridings.

What Is

As well as the ancient history of the creation of the vallorn, the Great Library at Hacynian has compiled everything that has been discovered since the fall of Terunael and everything that is known now about the vallorn.

The Longest Trod

It has been a thousand years or so since the vallorn was created and the first trods walked. In that time the vallorn has been beaten back, slowly but surely. Every step has been painful, but the Dance of Navarr and Thorn and the dedication of the Navarri has slowly achieved the impossible. Drawing off the Spring energy stored in the ruined cities steadily weakens the vallorn until eventually it becomes possible to reclaim an area from the enemy.

However, a monstrous enemy like the vallorn does not simply go quietly into the night. While there is no evidence that it is sapient, there is no doubt at all that it is sensate. Somehow it can perceive what is happening around it - when it is attacked it draws spawn to defend itself like bees round a hive. It senses when it is becoming weak enough to be vulnerable. When that happens, the vallorn changes: it becomes animated, lashing out violently, spasmodically, swarms of spawn emerging from the deep woods to attack the land about. It also becomes more intelligent, or at the least it seems like the spawn it creates possess more cunning and wits the more threatened the vallorn feels.

When roused in this way the vallorn fights against destruction with the frenzy of a trapped beast. The Empire saw something of this during the fight to clear the vallorn from West Ranging. They also saw the potential benefit of doing so, in the way the attempt by the Heirs of Terunael to rouse the vallorn of Brocéliande also left part of it vulnerable. Records of the cleansing of Miaren support this; when the heart was exposed the vallorn struck outwards. It flailed and fought, and it took a great many Imperial soldiers to hold it back, to absorb its fury and cut the heart out of the territory. Once it was gone, there were still decades of work tearing up the last vestiges of the transformed and Spring-infused plants and animals left before the territory was anything like it is today. It's no coincidence that Miaren is so lightly forested - or that regions where the vallorn have been removed have significantly fewer trees in them than might be expected.

This is both a blessing and a curse. As the vallorn strikes out blindly trying to cut the tethers that weaken it, it becomes much more vulnerable. It is dangerous to attack the vallorn at any time, but it is certain death to do so in its stronghold where it can draw on the healing power of the Spring realm directly. But once it emerges from that cocoon, it becomes a terrible but fundamentally mortal threat. If it can be overcome on the field of battle, then it can be defeated, as any normal enemy might be. If that happens then the Vallorn pulls back, contracting in on itself, retreating to a smaller area to conserve its remaining energies. However if the Vallorn wins, then it will try to spread its pernicious influence over the land, breaking the trods as it does so.

Dying back in this way makes the vallorn harder to defeat in future. As long as the original rituals endure, the heart of each Vallorn is continuously refreshed with revitalising energy drawn from the Primal Forest. The magic is concentrated into an ever smaller area, as are the spawn it creates and sustains. Each time the vallorn gives ground it becomes harder to bleed it further. The only way to counter this effect is for more people to walk the trods and for the Navarr to spread them further and further. The longer the journeys the stridings undertake before they return to the heart, the greater the effect they have.

All That Remains

A thousand years of toil have brought the Navarr to where they stand now. There is only one vallorn region left in Liathaven; one in Hercynia; and two in Therunin. Brocéliande is the real threat with five vallorn regions. Skuld is constrained and weakened; Sarangrave is contained, but there is no real glimpse of how powerful it might be. Visokuma is an immense, ancient vallorn that has never been weakened and today is even larger than Brocéliande... but as one Highborn academic calmly points out, it is a very long way away in Axos.

The trods are doing their work, but the process is getting slower as the vallorn get smaller, not faster. The heart of each vallorn is like an open wound in Creation, allowing immeasurable amounts of Spring magic to pour into the world. Outside of Miaren those conduits have never closed, not in a thousand years. The magic sustains the vallorn hearts in a state of practical immortality. It can be slowly drawn away by the trods, and when enough of it is spread out and dissipated, the vallorn rouses itself and strikes back, making it possible root it out of a region. But as previously mentioned, as the vallorn gets smaller, it gets more dangerous. The same amount of Spring magic is focused in a smaller area, making it that much harder to destroy. In a thousand years the Navarr have defeated only one vallorn heart, and seven more remain.

It has seemed in recent times as if the process is speeding up - with both West Ranging and Dark Ranging becoming vulnerable in the same decade - but this is a result of the increased reach of the trods and the dramatic increase in the number of people travelling them. Before that, it had been decades since any part of the vallorn became vulnerable. The Highborn paid a dramatic price to encourage their grey pilgrims to follow the Navarr onto the trods, but there doesn't seem to be the will in other nations for such a sacrifice. There is also a limit to how effective the trods can be - it would help if they were extended to new territories - but even that can only achieve so much.

Disruptions to the trod network make the problem worse. Whenever a vallorn is cut off from the trods, it rapidly recovers its depleted strength. The invigoration of the Spring magic that constantly flows into it undoes in each season the work of years of trod walking. This has significant implications for Liathaven and Hercynia in particular, whose trods have been recently disrupted.

It's hard to apply any mathematics to the vallorn - it is a thing of chaos after all - but the magicians who have studied the problem estimate that at the current rate it will take at least fifty years before another vallorn heart - likely Hercynia - becomes vulnerable. There would likely be opportunities to reclaim a region or two from the vallorn before then, but even that won't happen for a decade now. A further century or so beyond Hercynia, Liathaven might be reclaimed. Beyond that the projections become pure speculation, but the gloomiest predictions suggest that the vallorn might outlast the Empire.

The overwhelming evidence is that the vallorn can only be torn out by the roots. It can be weakened and contained, made quiescent, but paradoxically that could actually make the situation worse in the long term because it allows he vallorn to "bank" more of its energy. The Wither the Seed ritual is doing its job, but once it runs its course, Liathaven, Brocéliande, and Skuld will return to full force almost immediately.

What Could Be

The results of the work by the Hacynian scholars have identified three possible ways this might end, all unpalatable in one way or another. One requires extraordinary patience, one requires extraordinary sacrifice, and the last requires extraordinary Courage.

The Endless Trod

  • Continuing the current approach will defeat the vallorn, but it will take centuries

In the end... assuming nothing went wrong, that the Navarr and their grey pilgrim allies continued to walk the trods, and that groups like the Heirs of Terunael were prevented from doing anything precipitous... then the Navarr will eventually win. Eventually, just walking the trods, expanding their reach, and encouraging people to join them will weaken the vallorn enough they can be destroyed. All the projections, all the calculations, show that this will take a very long time indeed. It's a matter of centuries, not years or decades. As one scholar notes, on those scales, the biggest problem would be to ensure the survival of the Empire long enough to finish the job.

There is nothing new here - this is the approach that the Navarr have pursued for a millennium. It has worked, and it will continue to work, but the timescales involved are intimidating. Navarr and Thorn sacrificed themselves, their souls have been trapped in the heart of the vallorn for a thousand years. Must they now suffer for a thousand more?

The Trod Less Travelled

  • The Heirs of Terunael might be trying to deliberately expand the vallorn to make it more inhabitable

There is a brief theoretical discussion of another way this could end. The more the vallorn is cut back, the denser and more potent it becomes. Logically, therefore, if the vallorn were to spread, then its power would extend over a greater area, but it would be diminished in impact. It theory, if that happened, then it might be possible for people to forge a life within the vallorn. There would have to be certain sacrifices made of course - there is no chance of the cities of the League surviving, or indeed any other Imperial architecture. The carefully tended fields of the Marches would likewise be swallowed up and consigned to history. But in theory people could potentially survive. This is the future described in glowing terms in the documents recovered from the Heirs of Terunael stronghold in Brocéliande.

Nobody thinks is a good idea; quite apart from the fact that the Empire in its current form could not survive the vallorn, it would mean abandoning everything the Navarr have worked to achieve for a thousand years, betraying the sacred trust handed down to them by Navarr and Thorn. But at least it gives some insight into the true goals of individuals like Drustan and the other Heirs of Terunael. It's even possible that something like this is what the magicians who performed the original rituals to create the Vallorn envisaged. If either of those is true, then knowing that such a thing is possible may help the Empire understand the enemy better, the easier to defeat them.

The Final Trod

  • Uniting all the remaining vallorn hearts with trods would make all them vulnerable simultaneously
  • The vallorn will strike out in every direction but if was defeated the threat could be ended once and for all

When the vallorn is roused it becomes more dangerous, but more vulnerable. It can be roused to life with Spring magic, but that is very dangerous. The vallorn is invigorated by the magic used to rouse it to life, and that causes it to expand from a position of strength, not weakness. The Heirs of Terunael have deliberately roused the vallorn on occasion in recent years, and there is fragmentary evidence that the Druj are researching magic that might do likewise. In neither case does anyone imagine that it is done for the Empire's benefit.

However, the Dance of Navarr and Thorn presents a way the vallorn might be defeated in our lifetimes, if the Empire has the stomach for the battle. As each vallorn heart is connected to the network of trods, the strain on the Primal Forest grows. If every vallorn heart were connected to the network simultaneously, the vallorn would respond as it does whenever it is threatened; becoming animated and lashing out. It would become vulnerable, but instead of one region, one small part of the vallorn responding, every region of the vallorn would feel the threat - every region would become vulnerable - every region would lash out. There is clear evidence that this was Navarr's plan from the beginning.

Despite this, connecting all the vallorn with trods has never been done before, at least not since the fall itself. Arguably, what is ambitious now would have been entirely impossible even fifty years ago. Currently only two vallorn cannot be connected to the trod network - Sarangrave, and Visokuma in Axos. If they are connected together, the final "stage" of the vallorn will begin. It will wake - wake properly, wake fully. It will become a single immense organism - similar in some ways to the Great Forest Orcs' conception of the Great Forest. The researchers believe it will become conscious, and its spawn will become significantly more dangerous. There are already some signs of this: for example, there are signs that the ettercaps have become much more cunning, adopting tool use and showing signs of being able to plan and prepare that go beyond anything an animal can achieve.

Once awake it will lash out. It will seek to join itself together in space rather than just by magic. Vallornspawn will push outwards from the vallorn hearts to try and re-infest their territories, and then expand outwards along the trods seeking to create a single immense vallorn covering all of what is now the Empire, the Mallum, and Axos. Such an outcome might suit the Heirs of Terunael, but if it were successful it would be an apocalyptic event for the Empire.

But... as soon as the trod network is complete... the vallorn will become vulnerable. The endless flow of Spring magic will be pulled out and spread across an immense area. While it is quiescent, the magic pools. The more active the vallorn becomes the more it draws on the energy that infuses it for purposes other than healing and preserving itself. The vallorn would, to paraphrase an excited Navarr scholar, finally be a fight we could win. A League academician uses the analogy of a force in an impenetrable fortress; while they remain behind their walls they cannot be fought. Once they emerge, they become vulnerable - but they are also able to stab you in the face.

Defeating the Vallorn

  • Defeating the vallorn would be possible, but would be dangerous and require great focus

It's proving impossible to predict exactly how powerful the vallorn would be if it was roused, but the general excited consensus is that the slow work of draining its power over the last ten centuries would mean that the Empire would have a hard fight... but could ultimately win if they were able to fully commit to that fight. Of course none of these people are generals; the only information they have available to them is the size of the Empire's armies and the strength of the vallorn.

A large, ancient vallorn like that in Visokuma or Brocéliande is the most dangerous. A small vallorn such as remains in Liathaven, Hercynia, Therunin, Skuld, and presumably Sarangrave should not be underestimated however; they will all do their best to slaughter everyone nearby and reclaim their territory once they are roused.

Actually doing it

  • Béantal Dol in Sarangrave, and Cavan in Visokuma are the only Vallorn hearts that remain unconnected

There are only two vallorn hearts not currently linked to the weave of trods. Béantal Dol in Sarangrave, and Cavan in Visokuma. To connect Béantal Dol, The Dance of Navarr and Thorn would need to be performed in Bendol to create trods in Sarangrave. It would need to be cast twice in Axos; once in a Spring regio in the territory of Kabanja, and then from a regio in the ancient vallorn forest of Visokuma. Three rituals, and all the vallorn hearts would be connected for the first time ever.

The Druj are masters of Spring magic, and they are no slouches when it comes to the magic of Winter. It's not clear what they know about the vallorn, but there's plenty of evidence that over the years their ghulai have made their own study of the vallorn of Béantal Dol. They have been able to contain it in some way, after all, without the extreme step of cursing the whole of Sarangrave the way the Thule did. Several scholars point out that it is surely no coincidence that the Palace of the Sleepers - believed to be a Druj college of magic - is found in Sarangrave not that far from Béantal Dol. It's very unlikely that they would be blind to the creation of trods in Sarangrave: they would certainly know what they meant, and they are quite capable of destroying them with their own magic. There's also the challenge of actually getting to Bendol, and doing so would likely be fruitless if the Druj were still in the territory and capable of tearing the trods down again. So the first step is likely to be the liberation of Sarangrave.

The Axou mostly ignore the vallorn in Visokuma, but when Eilian Sweetwater visited, it was clear that they were not interested in anything that might rouse it. They're unlikely to cooperate with the Empire in this regard, once it becomes clear to them what linking the vallorn might mean. There is however an opportunity here. Very recently, the Navarr became aware of a group of "Heirs to Cavan" who considered themselves descendants of Terunael ancestors the same as the Navarr. They apparently survived in the fall of the city in Kabanja, as slaves of the citadel known as the Tunnels of Kaban. By all accounts they were received warmly, and returned to Kabanja as friends and allies of the Navarr. If they were equipped with suitable amounts of mana and other support they could be persuaded to perform the Dance of Navarr and Thorn, or even provide opportunities for their Navarr cousins to do it themselves without the permission of the Grand Ilarchs. Obviously, this would be a politically complex move.

Our Friends in the North

  • The Thule overwhelmingly support completing the trod network

The Thule have shared a lot of information about their own understanding of the vallorn. In one way, it's somewhat limited because from their perspective the only vallorn that counts is the one in Sküld. On the other hand, even if you question whether the Dragons are as old as they claim to be, the orcs of Otkodov have records that reach back at least as far as the height of Terunael. In return for sharing their information, and speeding the process of the investigation, all they asked was to be privy to the findings of the Great Library.

There was some trepidation that the orcs of Otkodov might be reticent about the steps needed to destroy the vallorn, but the opposite is true. The Dragons make it clear that if the Empire wishes to go ahead with the ascension of the vallorn, they will deal with Sküld themselves. They are confident their armies would be a match for it, especially given its relative weakness. They've sacrificed a thousand years of prosperity in Sküld to keep it weak, after all.

Speculation suggests that what the Thule are really excited about is twofold. With the vallorn gone they would no longer need to keep Sküld under a shroud of Winter magic and could restore it to full fertility. With the vallorn heart exposed and weakened, they could finally get at the treasures of Emrys, arguably the most magically advanced city of the Terunael Empire. The Thule scholars confirm the first, and refuse to be drawn on the second.

Regardless, rather than oppose the unification of the vallorn, the Thule are enthusiastically in favour of it.

Wither the Seed
The powerful Winter magic curse Wither the Seed is currently being used to keep three of the vallorn somewhat quiescent. That ritual, and similar curses, would have little power over a fully roused vallorn. It's been predicted that the burst of Spring magic unleashed when the vallorn "ascends" would tear the magic apart. Even if reinstated, the curse or similar magic (such as that used in Otkodov) would no longer be sufficient to keep the vallorn or its spawn quiescent.

The Last Battle

  • There will be no easy way back: once the vallorn is roused it must be defeated

One other matter concerns some of the scholars. It arises from study of some of the documents provided by Otkodov, and from some chilly observations by the visiting Thule scholars. Once the process begins, it will prove extremely difficult to stop. Once all the vallorn hearts are joined and the entire vallorn is roused to life, it's not clear how quickly severing the trods might reverse the situation. It would stop at some point, certainly, but the gathered vates, the scattering of Urizen arcane scholars, and the emissaries of Otkodov all agree that it would take some years to become quiescent again - nobody should expect the process to halt immediately. As one magician explained it "The vallorn will be roused to full life because it is threatened, thus it will know that either we or it must triumph. We must assume it will fight until it is defeated - and it will be on us to make sure that defeat is final."

It's never been understood before, but it's clear from scrolls and a skein of years that this climatic final battle with the vallorn is exactly what Navarr and Thorn originally envisaged. Of course they had no possible way of resisting such an attack at the time, with the armies of the Terunael all but destroyed. However, they were certain that their descendants would only be in a position to connect all the hearts with trods at the point where they had built a civilisation strong enough to deal with the vallorn once and for all. Before they sacrificed themselves they made it clear to those who remained behind that there were two sacred duties - the first was to walk the trods to weaken the vallorn. But the second was to rebuild civilisation so that when the time came for the ultimate battle with the vallorn they would be ready to defeat it.

Where do we go from here?

The Empire now possesses every scrap of knowledge that it is possible to have about the vallorn. There are no more ancient records, no more lost repositories of secret information. There is nothing more than can be learned about the vallorn now, not until the final battle begins. The only thing that remains now is to decide what to do about it.

The Mystery of Béantal Dol

  • If the Imperial Spymaster provides 6 wains of weirwood then it will create an option for military units to spy on the vallorn in Sarangrave for one season

The Sarangrave is crucial to any attempt to rouse the enemy, but relatively little is known about the state of the vallorn here. The territory has never been Imperial - it may be that the Druj claimed the lands here when Terunael fell. What has happened to the vallorn in the thousand years since then?

There is a spy network in Sarangrave. It is primarily focused around keeping tabs on the Druj, and the subject septs in the territories. It might provide an avenue through which to undertake a deeper exploration of Bendol, and perhaps even an infiltration of Béantal Dol. Such an incursion would not reap the kinds of dividends seen in the Brocéliande adventure: that required the aid of Rhianos, Regent of the Eternal Sea. However it would give more insight into how the orcs of the Mallum have contained the vallorn there, and if there are any additional risks in tying it into the network.

It's a matter of focus. At present the network is set up to report on the Druj forces in the territory; it would need some investment to support an expedition into Béantal Dol, but the Imperial Spymaster could arrange that. If they secured 6 wains of weirwood, that would be enough to provision an outpost on the eaves of the vallorn heart for a season.

If the Spymaster hands 6 wains of weirwood in at the end of the event, then we will assume they have made the relevant arrangements unless they email us otherwise. In that case, a new scouting opportunity will become available for one season, allowing military units to scout the vallorn heart in Sarangrave. It won't last more than a season; the vallorn will quickly consume it. The Spymaster will need to make sure they move quickly to secure any information it can provide. It will need the full 1,500 strength to learn anything useful about the vallorn, and military units assigned to explore Bendol won't contribute to the main Sarangrave spy network.

Allies of Convenience

  • Are there any eternals that might assist the Empire in this endeavour?

There are several eternals who have in the past expressed an interest in ending the vallorn. Their aid has been limited however by the lack of a clear plan beyond "walk and expand the trods". With the findings of the Great Library at Hacynian the potential for something more concrete now exists. The Imperial Conclave could lead the way in speaking with these eternals on the matter of the Hacynian plan.

Obvious examples include Ossegrahn, who has recently spoken of the need to end the vallorn and has been given amity by the Conclave; Sadogua who is currently in a massive strop but has promised in the past to offer aid to the Navarr to work any magic aimed at destroying the vallorn; Kaela who has an avowed interest in ending things that have run their course; Surut who has offered several boons related to destroying both vallorn and forests and seems to personally dislike trees; and Llofir, although the latter eternal is under enmity, and its recent comments suggest it will not offer any assistance to Imperial magicians without a terrible price being paid.

It is early days yet, but securing at least interest from these eternals might contribute to a discussion of the Hacynian Gambit.

A Guide to Show the Way

  • Any statement of principle on the vallorn in the Navarr or Highborn Assembly that results in a mandate can be responded to by priests of any nation for the next year

Knowing what can be done is very different to actually doing it. Knowing it could be done is not the same as saying it should be done. All eyes turn to the Navarr Assembly for guidance, and to the Highborn Assembly also. The Navarr have born the burden of fighting the vallorn for a millennium, and now they are accompanied on their great march by the grey pilgrims. The Synod has avowed that the vallorn is the greatest threat to Imperial souls, even greater than the Druj. But did it mean it?

The General Assembly has discussed this matter ad nauseum - will they now urge action? Will the Synod follow through and urge the Empire to finally destroy the vallorn? Or will it judge the risk too great and hesitate? Slow and steady climbs the hill... but when has climbing a hill been an Ambitious undertaking?

In the wake of the Great Library of Hacynian publishing its findings, any statement of principle in the Navarr or Highborn Assembly that concerns the results of the library's research that receives a greater majority will be examined carefully by priests and lay pilgrims all over the Empire. If the statement results in a mandate in either Assembly, then any priest will be able to present an alternative mandate addressed to their own people, for their own assembly to consider.

The End of the World of the End

There is one other consideration, one that concerns the scholars gathered at Hacynian less than it concerns the philosophers. What happens to the Navarr once the vallorn is gone? For a thousand years the descendants of the Terunael have been fighting the vallorn. What does the nation do when it is gone? What are they for without the vallorn to fight?

For that matter, what do they do once the trods are gone? What do the stridings do when there is no longer an imperative for them to walk the trods? What about the steadings when there is no vallorn threat to hold back?

The questions are no easier if the Empire demurs. Defeating the vallorn has been the guiding purpose of the Navarr since the nation was born, hundreds of years before there even was an Empire. What does it mean for people who are oath-sworn to defeat this enemy if, at the last, they turn their face away? What does the nation do if they balk at this challenge?

Knowing that you can do something is not the same as knowing whether you should do something, after all. Now the Navarr know how to destroy the vallorn once they cannot unknow it. It is a choice either way, to complete the trod network, or to leave it undone for future generations. The two choices are not equally momentous but they are perhaps both equally existential.

Further Reading

Related Topics


Winds of War and Fortune

  • A thousand years of longing - Winter 385YE wind of fortune about the findings of the Great Library of Hacynian
  • Rain king - 385YE Spring Wind of Fortune detailing aid offered against the vallorn by the eternal Ossegrahn
  • The bones of what you believe - 384YE Autumn Wind of Fortune detailing the opportunity to expand the Great Library at Hacynian
  • One last song - 385YE Winter Wind of Fortune detailing the adventure into Brocéliande
  • The city asleep - 384YE Autumn Wind of Fortune introducing the adventure into Brocélieande
  • Whither the seed - 383YE Winter Wind of Fortune about the use of Wither the Seed on Brocéliande and Liathaven
  • Rise of Terunael - 383YE Autumn Wind of Fortune regarding the plans of the Heirs of Terunael
  • Comes a time - 383YE Summer Solstice wind of fortune relating to the future of Seren
  • Blood for poppies - 382YE Summer Wind of War detailing the victory over the Liathaven vallorn
  • Immolation - 382YE Spring Wind of War detailing the fight against the Liathaven vallorn

Click Expand to see a summary of the important pages related to the vallorn.