Rhonwen's Fall.jpg
The beauty of Rhonwen's Fall, captured by the Navarr artist Angela Ravens Oak.


This report is predominantly based on historical research that was commissioned by the Advisor on the Vallorn during the Spring Equinox 381YE Rhonwen's Fall is a settlement in Miaren, a steading that attracts scholars from across the Empire who wish to study the swirling intricate designs that the first Navarr carved into the rocks here, designs that contain information about trods and old ritual dances. The Advisor was specifically interested in "the other times Rhonwen’s Fall has bled and the associations around it".

The original findings have been edited, refined, and in some cases expanded by the Navarr scholar Brianna Redwind, following her Autumn 381YE return from an extended sabbatical in Axos alongside Eilian Sweetwater. It forms part of an ongoing effort initiated by the Department of Historical Research to review a number of recent documents they have presented.

Rhonwen and Her Fall

In the early years of the Empire, with the assistance of their new allies, the Navarr launched a major offensive into the territory surrounding the Terunael city known as Seren. A combination of the (relative) peace wrought by the nations that would become the Empire, followed by their unification, had allowed the trods to expand more than at any time since their initial creation. Increased security and the protection of Imperial law allowed the Navarr stridings to travel the trods in greater numbers than ever before in their history.

The time being right, the Navarr engaged in one of their most ambitious projects to date. Specifically, the attempt to reclaim an entire territory from the vallorn. The central city of Seren was chosen because of its central location; since the trod network was completed, Seren had benefited the most from the slow leeching of the vallorn's power and was judged to be most susceptible to liberation.

The groundwork for this ambitious undertaking was laid fifteen years before the first major offensive by Rhonwen, the vate after whom the settlement is now named. A quiet, introspective woman afflicted with profound deafness from birth, she became an adept wielder of ritual magic serving as archmage of Winter on three separate occasions during her life.

She proposed the radical theory that vallorn energies were nothing more than the manifestation of a massive, hitherto unknown, regio aligned to the Spring realm. She theorized further that the problem was the relationship between this magical energy – this "super-regio" – and the plants and animals that lived inside it. She pointed to the way that Winter regio were known to spontaneously coalesce around battlefields and burial grounds: while not all Winter regio occupied such locations there was almost always a connection between the area where the regio occurred and the resonances of the realm it was connected to. Indeed, eternals had been known to actively exploit these connections for centuries, and several were known to offer boons relating to the creation of regio (most especially Prospero, Sadogua, Sorin, and Yaw'nagrah).

Rhonwen believed that the anchoring effect of the vallorn was tied to the fertility and vitality of the creatures in the area, just as it reinforced and heightened those qualities. Her plan was relatively simple – she and her coven would invoke the ritual known as Wither the Seed in Seren, provided an appropriate regio could be located. In the end, Rhonwen prevailed upon one of the eternals of Winter – believed to be either Sorin or possibly Kaela – for a boon relating to the location, or possibly the temporary creation, of a strong Winter regio in the heart of the area now known as Rhonwen's Fall. Her coven – the Silent Word – and a cadre of thorns managed to secure the area and evoke the regio. They performed the ritual, but were overwhelmed by ettercaps and a veritable army of vallornspawn husks – many of which proved to be extremely potent and may have dated back to the fall of Seren itself.

The ritual had the usual effect, but it is not clear how much benefit this was to the eventual campaign to reclaim Seren. Indeed, some historians point out that the ritual effects lasted for more than a decade after the territory was reclaimed, and may have been responsible for the slow speed of the Navarr rebuilding there. Worse, the tragic end of the ritual robbed the Navarr of a powerful and influential figure who might have helped them arrange the campaign against Seren earlier had she been around. Historians do agree that her ritual had an effect – the ettercaps were sluggish and slow to respond to the initial Imperial invasion of the territory, allowing the human armies to liberate an additional region before they (and the other vallorn beasts) were fully roused to murderous fury.

Sanctuary Falls

The steading of Rhonwen’s Fall was originally known as Sanctuary Falls. When Seren was overwhelmed, many of the refugees regrouped at Sanctuary Falls ahead of the vallorns initial expansion, and managed to prevent the location being overwhelmed. There is some evidence that many of the intricate designs located there predate the casting of the great ritual; some are believed to have been carved by a powerful magician (perhaps a proto-vate) by the name of Star who is anecdotally believed to have been a covenmate of Navarr herself. Indeed, one of the few stories that mention Star directly speak of her being one of those who led many of the refugees out of Seren to the comparative safety of Sanctuary. There are records that Star returned to Sanctuary Falls several times and it is even thought that she died there. No physical remains have ever been found, but it is unlikely that they would have been - even in the first years following the vallorn disaster the ability of the miasma to animate the recently dead must have been well known.

Sanctuary Falls itself was built into cliffs behind the waterfalls of the Gancio. It was in here that the Seren refugees hid for a time from the orcs who were still invading the territory. There is archaeological evidence that points to orcs bearing symbols associated with both the Jotun and the Thule being present in the land around this time, despite the relative distance from their respective nations. What ultimately happened to the refugees here is not clear; some argue that they were the ancestors of the Navarr who used the Falls as a steading while others say that as the vallorn became stronger they were forced to retreat eastward into Astolat.

Today Rhonwen's Fall is home to several well-known groups. Fallshome is the major steading here, known for their skilled brokers and artisans. They trade the rich orichalcum from the mines that surround the lower falls. The Silent-Word are a small striding associated with the Falls that return here most Winters to rest; they claim to be the literal descendants of Rhonwen herself. Every time the Falls have run red they have offered hospitality to any who would come and witness. The small steading of Long-shadow still exists at the bottom of the fall providing orichalcum for the artisans in Fallshome. Finally, the striding of Ivymoon walked the trods from Rhonwen's Fall to Trej in Hercynia, although they are believed to have fallen alongside Adain Ivymoon, former Cardinal of Loyalty, who was slain by the hands of the Thule during the fall of Treji.

The Designs

Looking at the carvings on Sanctuary Falls there appear to be twelve key points that are marked upon the cliffs, joined by a complex pattern of spiral carvings. Of these twelve points there are eight that are marked more deeply, with more complicated carvings between them. Several theories suggest that these points relate to the Vallorn hearts, but these theories are widely disputed. The exact number of Vallorn has been a matter of debate for centuries, but it is considered unlikely that there are as many as a dozen. Until very recently, modern Imperial scholarship cautiously accepted that there are only seven hearts - five in the Empire (in Miaren, Therunin, Hercynia, Liathaven, and Brocéliande), one in Thule lands to the north (now confirmed as being in southern Sküld), and one in the Mallum, believed to be named Beantal Dól. Speculation places an eighth heart in a rumoured "sunken city" at the heart of the Bay of Catazar - Feion Essa - but there is actually little solid evidence to support this claim. Most of the stories of Feion Essa can be traced to a book written in the League sometime in the early days of the Empire. Recent information from Axos confirms the presence of an actual eighth vallorn in that eastern nation. Indeed a recent expedition by members of the Department of Historical Research has confirmed the existence of a massive vallorn surrounding the city of Cavan at the heart of Axos.

Scholars have tried to map the carvings onto a map of the Empire but they do not seem to map in anyway with the Trod network. In 176 YE the historian Siriol Leafstalker claimed to be able to map the markings on Rhonwen’s Fall to a map of the Empire. Working with a group of Urizen stargazers to predict changes in the influence of the Spring realm over time. Apparently they discovered that taking this slow shift over time into account , the designs mapped to the current positions of the trods to within a reasonable margin of error - although modern scholars are unable to replicate their research. Details on her theories were lost in the reign of Emperor Nicovar, she successfully predicted that other vallorn would be found in Otkodov, the Mallum and Axos, but also suggested four other markings relevant to the vallorn were located in Narkyst, the Lasambrian Hills, the Broken Shore, and the Vore.

No modern scholars have ever been able to reproduce these predictions and it is widely believed that the predictions must have been flawed. There is not the slightest sign of any vallorn in the Lasambrian Hills and a recently discovered letter from Emperor Guntherm to Reaghan Leafstalker, the historian's granddaughter, included a note that the King of Narkyst claimed that there was no trace of anything like the vallorn in their lands. As a result modern scholars cannot say with any confidence whether Siriol Leafstalker's correct predictions of the vallorn in the Otkodov and the Mallum were brilliant, or simply fortuitous.

Interestingly, there are no reliable accounts of Navarr herself visiting Sanctuary Falls. Those scholars who believe the designs there pre-date the great disaster find this unusual as some of them appear to match up to the trods that originate in Miaren and pass through the adjacent territories. Did these carvings have some connection to the original Dance of Navarr and Thorn? Or were the Terunael familiar in some way with the concept of trods? There are no obvious answers to these questions - only rampant speculation.

The Bleeding Falls

Records from the time when the Silent Word performed their ritual at Rhonwen’s Fall say that during the working, the waterfall ran with blood. Cynics suggest that this perceived change in colour was another coincidence - impurities from the orichalcum mines upstream could easily have been responsible for giving the water a reddish taint. There are reports of this orichalcum staining effecting being severe enough to cause concern three times during the history of the Empire.

The first occurrence was during the reign of Empress Aenea. A group of skilled mages sent by the Imperial Conclave including the Spring Archmage, Badden Eternal, and the Winter Archmage, Enchanter Blaihot of House Bascombe. The two were close friends, and spent some time investigating the fall; yet when summoned by the Conclave to give their report, they refused to speak of what had happened there. Declarations of Sorcery were brought against them (although both failed to be upheld by the Conclave), and both resigned their positions shortly after. Badden went on to raise a wayhouse in Miaren where he settled down and tended to the needs of any who were passing. Enchanter Biaihot returned to Dawn and removed himself from public life. His daughter Ofelia became the highly successful general of the Eastern Sky; it is widely believed that talk of "a host of undying spirits" that fought alongside the Dawnish soldiers was reference to a ritual enchantment provided by her father's coven.

The second time that there were reports of the bleeding falls was in the period between the reigns of Emperor Nicovar and Empress Mariika. The senator for Miaren at this time was a merrow by the name of Leri Ravenswing, who ordered a full investigation into the previous bleeding incident. The mines at the top of the Fall were temporarily closed, and the small steading of Long-Shadow was created this day as the mine workings were relocated to the bottom of the Fall inside the long shadow of the cliffs. Since there were still deposits of orichalcum in the water, Leri visited Rhonwen's Fall personally. It was after this visit that she started her campaign for Empress. Some historians argue that it was Leri's nomination and the subsequent political manoeuvring that lead ultimately to the election of Empress Mariika. Stories suggest that Leri laid some sort of curse on Mariika - or threatened to do so - in an attempt to scare her out of standing for Empress, but that she miscalculated and backlash against her unsubtle behaviour cost her any chance of gaining the Throne.

The last time the Fall bled before the death of Empress Britta was during the reign of Empress Deanne. As a native of Miaren, Deanne responded to the reports with a personal visit to Rhonwen's Fall, where she met with members of the Silent-Word coven and a young guide by the name of Dewi Shadowbirch. There are once again no records of what was discussed during the meeting and when asked Deanne commented only on the hospitality of her hosts, laughing off the matter of the red waters with an off-hand comment that sometimes things are mysteries for a reason. Dewi went on to become the host of the Navarr egregore spirit, best known for his enthusiasm for walking the trods guiding as many Navarr as he could.

The Kaela Connection

As part of her work collecting and reviewing the recent Brianna Redwind spent some time visiting Rhonwen's Fall and the regio there. She returned with an interesting theory partially supported by eyewitness reports relating to the most recent "red falls" incident in 381YE. Comparing her observations with some documents related to the previous three major incidents, she suggests that the Winter regio at Rhonwen's Fall is aligned to, or associated with, the eternal Kaela, the Lady of the Grim Host. The red waters coincided with periods during which the power of the regio was waxing. At their height. Brianna theorises, the chamber associated with the regio "opens" in some fashion allowing easy contact between inhabitants of the mortal world and the Sorrowful One. Similar regio exist elsewhere - the Navarr scholar referenced the relatively recent incident during which the eternal Janon "opened" a regio in Dawn allowing large numbers of mortals to visit its court, or when Barien met with the host of Dawn at the Semmerstones. In both cases, even individuals without the ability to perform magic were able to enter the chamber and meet the denizens within.

In a chicken-and-egg scenario that will be familiar to those who study the magic of the realms, it is not clear whether the waters of the falls become red to announce that the chamber is "open", or whether as the chamber approaches the "open" state, the waters turn red. Cause and effect are difficult to pin down when dealing with eternals and regio, after all.

Brianna would like the opportunity to confirm her theory, but given the long periods between the incidents of red water it seems unlikely she will get the chance. Perhaps future scholars may be able to puzzle out the mystery, however, and determine the truth of her supposition one way or another.