In the northern Sobral Grasses lie an enigmatic sequence of complex interlocking trenches a little under a foot deep called Ghita's Veils. They sweep across a rough circle of grassland four miles in diameter. Granite basins of water are placed at several locations. While some are fed by freshwater streams, others must be filled manually, and many have been inlaid with mithril, weltsilver and orichalcum. These basins collect crystal mana, and are carefully tended by a small group of hermits who find the isolation and silence of Ghita's Veils particularly appealing.
The veils are exceedingly old and some historians believe they are of Terunael origin. According to scholars who have made a study of the area, there are some similarities between their design and the patterns favoured by the Navarr. The hermits mostly shrug, and say that they are what they are. Whoever Ghita was, and why this place is named for her veils, is not certain.
Prior to the Spring Equinox 382YE, there were a number of six-foot pillars of basalt, smoothed and shaped by the elements, scattered seemingly at random across the design. This changed when an earthquake shook the entire Sobral Grasses, centred on Ghita's Veils. Each of the basalt pillars cracked and broke. Some still stand, but most fell into rubble. At the same time, many of the ditches collapsed, while others filled with water from some heretofore unknown aquifer. The design, whatever its purpose, was fundamentally disrupted.
At the Spring Equinox 383YE, the proxy for Siân Eternal, Advisor on the Vallorn, instructed the historical research department to look into the matter of the Veils. Ellian Sweetwater was assigned to carry out the research.
The Quiet Order
The Veils are mentioned a few times in historical records as an important site in the production of mana crystals but nothing more. The only note of interest uncovered by the researchers studying the location was the establishment of the Quiet Order - the order of sombre hermits that began to service the site sometime around 300YE.
When the order was established, the site had apparently been experiencing difficulties finding Freeborn magicians prepared to work the Veils for some time. People complained that the work left them feeling drained and weary, and were loathe to spend more than a few weeks at a time gathering the mana. The issue was resolved when a young Marcher called Jill of Shep's Hill settled in the area. The woman had been a soldier fighting with the Bounders near Holberg when she had was captured by the Druj. By the time the Empire were able to rescue her and her fellow soldiers, she was no longer able to fight. She was apparently troubled by night terrors, a lingering curse from the Druj that could not be broken. She was discharged from the army and eventually settled in the Sobral Grasses following the advice of a Navarr guide to "find somewhere that her spirit could rest easy."
Eventually she ended up working at the Veils, which she claimed helped to settle her mind. Over a period of five years, she established the Quiet Order, as a retreat for those who had suffered in the war against the Druj and struggled to find peace. It appears that some element of the magic that surrounded the Veils served to suppress their nightmares and allowed these people a form of respite. Over time people simply accepted the Order as part of the strangeness of the Veils and thought no more of it.
Having spoken with the members of the Quiet Order who still work the site it appears that whatever beneficial calm it once provided has now gone. It seems that if there was ever something more to this location than a simple mana site, it is now gone.
The Sobral Tremor
Civil service records show that the the mana site was recovered from the Lasambrians following the liberation of Segura by Imperial troops in Spring 378YE. At the time, the site was considered to be a well established mana site and nothing more. The architecture was notable for the curious design and for its antiquity but other than that there was no reason to assume it was anything more. The site clearly predates any Freeborn construction and is widely believed to be Terunael in origin, although it bears pointing out that Imperial historians have a bad habit of simply assuming that everything that was built before the Empire was Ternuael in origin. In this case however, there seems to be no reason to think otherwise and the similarities of the designs with Navarr designs lend some credence to the theory.
Unfortunately there are no records of the Military Council's decision regarding the disposition of the site, but it eventually came into the possession of Carlos i Shattered Tower i Guerra, who was at that time a citizen of the Brass Coast, and has since joined the Highborn nation. The site went unnoted during this time, until it suffer a dramatic collapse during the Spring Equinox. On the last day of the summit, a violent tremor hit the region causing the ground to shake violently. The quake was short-lived, but strong enough to knock people off their feet, and cause minor property damage in most places. It appeared to be centred on Ghita's Veils; many of the ditches collapsed while others flooded. It was clear that the design of the mana site was fundamentally destroyed. In particular, each of the basalt pillars suffered catastrophic damage, leaving them cracked and broken. Most still stand, but several fell into rubble. Fortunately nobody was killed by the quake.
Ellian points out that the date is notable. While it is theoretically possible that the tremor was entirely spontaneous, the timing strongly suggests it was triggered by a ritual performed at Anvil on that day.
The general assumption was that the mana site would be destroyed by the tremor. Instead, after the quake had run its course, the mana site appeared to be much more powerful than before. The flows of mana in the area were strengthened, not weakened; the site produced more mana not less. Local magicians conducted a careful analysis of the Veils and their conclusion was that the arrangement of ditches and stones was actually serving to contain the flows of mana - not enhance them. They could provide no explanation for why someone would do that but they were as certain as they could be that the whole thing had been built to keep everything "bottled up". With the wards gone, the steady stream of mana became a torrent and though it needed work to reposition the granite basins, the crystals formed quickly and in greater numbers than before.
At the same time, however, magicians across the Sobral Grasses experienced peculiar nightmares. The dreams were all remarkably similar, with only minor difference. The report at the time said that each began "...with the earth breaking open, and water rising. Then a great wind begins to blow - a typhoon or hurricane that flattens the grass and rips the clouds asunder. A terrible moaning is heard, along with the sound of fighting and shouting, and flickering shapes. Then silence... broken a moment later by a soft, absolutely bone chilling sigh from someone just behind the dreamer. Each nightmare ends with the dreamer starting awake filled with a profound terror that quickly fades."
These disturbing dreams were not repeated on later nights, and most magicians dismissed them as a consequence. Ominous, but ultimately without significance. Indeed, they may not have been connected to the tremors at all - they could easily have been caused by the actions of an eternal making a nuisance of itself in the region, or a conjunction of the stars, or something of that nature. The magical flows quickly returned to normal and by the Summer Solstice that same year the were no apparent lingering effects of the disruption to the Veils.
Ellian Sweetwater and her fellow scholars were able to uncover one other potential lead regarding the history of the site. Civil service records show registration of one "Bargita's Vale" recorded to Gaius of the Frozen Oak, a Highborn chapter with a grim reputation. According to the records, Gaius of the Frozen Oak, "acquired" "Bargita's Vale" after winning a game of cards at Anvil. Although the names are not a precise match, Ellian was fairly confident that this is simply an older name for the same site. Sadly there are no accompanying notes; the chapter of the Frozen Oak is believed to no longer exist having been consumed by the Winter realm in some poorly understood fashion.
Following up on the lead, Ellian uncovered a single document that might be of interest to those concerned with Ghita's Veils - a letter from a Highborn scholar to their cousin relating to investigations performed at the site by Highborn magisters. If it is to be believed, the purpose of Ghita's Veils is significantly more sinister than anyone previously suspected.
I write to confirm your suspicions are correct and this site which you have won is much more than it first appears. We have completed a full study of the site and the results are somewhat alarming. I urge you to take great caution with the site and with how you dispose of it. The site is dangerous, that much we can say with certainty, and it is typical of the frivolity and weakness of the Freeborn mind that they fell to playing cards over who should curate it. I trust you will not make the same mistake.
Firstly the basins are nothing of concern; their purpose is to collect the mana that is escaping the central area and nothing more. The key element of the Vale is the standing stones - that is what is focusing the winter magic. Initially we assumed that the stones were serving to amplify the flows of mana in some way, looking for ways to amplify that as you had asked. The stones are curious, they appear to be Terunael in origin, and we know from the finds at Caska's Grove that those people were much given to magical stones. These designs are very different in layout and purpose, but they appear to match the style used in other finds, so I satisfied of their provenance.
But the stones do not serve to amplify the magic here - quite the contrary - they do the opposite. If you will permit me the analogy, it is like someone has built a dam across a river. The intention is not to enhance the flow but rather to hold it back. We spent time checked the rituals on two different stones to see if there was any discrepancy or error but the results were identical each time. The stones formed part of a powerful magic barrier, built to contain the magic of the Vale. On the face of it, it appears the Terunael identified this site as being particularly rich in the flow of mana and on discovering that they invested considerable effort to ensure that it would produce as little mana crystals as possible.
That is madness of course, nobody would do that, and so we dug a little deeper. We found nothing for a week, but eventually young Mikhael hit upon the idea that we should excavate the area to see if anything was under the ground. It was a wise and auspicious choice and I intend to recommend him to the exarch upon my return. The boy shows great talent and insight.
We had to dig down deep to find it, almost eight down in total, but we knew we were on to something as soon as we began work. Mixed in with the hard packed earth were chunks of white granite, carved into warding stones and engraved with markings clearly meant to resemble the Constellation of the Chain. Beneath those we discovered a stone sarcophagus similarly carved and warded, and inside were the decayed remains of an inhuman body, wrapped in mithril chains and secured to the base of the casket.
The body was quite dead of course, but there was no doubt of any kind that the creature's soul was still present. As soon as we removed the lid of the casket it writhed and screamed in fury, assaulting us with vile epithets and curses. Several of our group collapsed under the burden of the assault, only the most heroic of us were able to withstand the burden. Only when we were able to push the casket closed did the wailing end.
Working as quickly as possible we restored the earth, putting the warding stones back where we found them. Having reviewed the situation and discussed the matter with the team, I am as certain as I can be that the function of the standing stones, and indeed every other part of the Vale that is human in design, is to contain the restless spirit trapped within the sarcophagus. I suspect that the occupant was buried alive, and the warding stones erected to ensure that their spirit could not escape the pit no matter what.
If the site is Terunael in nature, then the spirit has clearly been trapped for a very long time. According to Gannicus' Libram of Dark Spirits, such things grow more powerful over time. I regard that as distinctly unproven personally, Gannicus is much given to rhetorical flourishes and an obsession with old things that clouds his virtue. But if it is true, then it is a particularly powerful and malignant spirit that we are dealing with. It is clearly exactly where it should be and I can see no good reason whatsoever that it should not stay there til the creator unmakes the Labyrinthe.
Of course there is always the possibility that some torch bearing idiot comes out here, determined to dig this up and "find the truth of it". That would be nothing short of a disaster and must be prevented at all costs. The best Imperial outcome would be for whatever is bound in Bargita's Vale to remain burned and forgotten, that way no harm can come of it.EhudLetter recovered by Ellian Sweetwater
More Questions than Answers
Needless to say, Elian Sweetwater's investigation of the site drew more questions than answers. If the tremors were caused by a ritual, what was the nature and purpose of that ritual? If Bargita's Vale is an earlier name for the location, who was Bargita? is it the creature the Highborn magisters described? The name does not look particularly Imperial, nor reminiscent of known Terunael names. Why were the Veils subduing the flows of magic for all these centuries? Why go to such efforts to bind a restless spirit - assuming the Highborn letter is to be believed? Why did all of the basalt pillars collapse at the same time? Basalt is hardly a fragile material and yet every single one of the pillars spread across the Veils was broken in a single night. For that matter, where did the basalt pillars originate? The nearest quarry it could have come from is likely in far away Kahraman. Why carry the volcanic stone into the middle of the sweeping Sobral Grasses? Did the location really help to subdue bad dreams, and if so what property of the Veils provided that subtle enchantment?
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Historical research is going to uncover the answers to these, or any similar questions. The scholars of the department have scoured existing records, and spoken with members of the Quiet Order. If there is further information to be found it will need to come from somewhere else. The chapter of the Frozen Oak is, by all accounts, unreachable. The hermits of the Quiet Order seem to know little of the actual history of the place - indeed it is questionable whether the Order will continue to exist now that the former therapeutic properties of the Veils appear to have been compromised. There is almost nothing of interest regarding the Veils in the records of the civil service, or the libraries of the Freeborn citizens of Segura.
For now, it seems, the trail appears to have gone cold.
Ghita's Veils is an upgraded mana site that produces thirteen crystal mana each season. It is overseen by the Quiet Order, who provide the bounty of mana to the owner of the site. It is not an Imperial title. While the first owner was assigned by the Military Council it would now follow the rules for a personal resource.
Prior to the earth tremor of Spring 382YE, Ghita's Veils provided only 10 crystal mana each season. The damage to the site significantly increased the amount of mana produced.