There is no shortage of theories as to the origin of the vallorn. Some are more grounded in actual research than others, but a combination of the vallorn's changeable nature, the length of time since it began, and the purges of Emperor Nicovar, make it very hard to say with any certainty where it came from. The most recent historical research, commissioned by the Advisor on the Vallorn in 379YE brought together as much as is generally known in the Empire about where the infestation came from, and forms the basis for the information presented here.

The vallorn covers large areas of Hercynia, Liathaven, Therunin, and Brocéliande. At one time, it completely covered these territories, and the territory of Miaren. The Stridings and Steadings of the Navarr have, over time, allowed portions of those territories to be reclaimed – and in the case of Miaren, entirely freed from vallorn infestation.

The vallorn itself is innately connected to the magic of the Spring realm. Speculation exists as to whether this means it is an intrusion into the mortal realm from the realm of Spring itself, or merely the result of an extremely powerful expression of mortal magic.

The vallorn spreads to fill all available territory, but like a ritual enchantment or curse tends not to extend beyond the borders of those territories without the assistance of outside forces. Specifically, attempts to spread the vallorn or utilise it as a doomsday weapon, have been reported occasionally in history but in all cases the nascent vallorn has been rooted out before it could gain purchase. As an example, a recent attempt to establish a vallorn in the forests of western Casinea by an apocalyptic cult were brought to an abrupt end by the Seventh Wave before the infestation could gain any purchase.


Before the vallorn existed there was a human civilisation in the area now occupied by the Empire which is called “Terunael”. Scholars generally believe that Terunael was a contemporary of a number of other human cultures; the Suaq and Kallavesi on the cold plains of the north-west; the Ushka in the forests and hills of the north-east; the fore-runners of the Urizen (and perhaps the Axou) in the south-east; and the fore-runners of the Feni (and perhaps the Suranni, and the Faraden) in the south-west. There is also some evidence that the vanished Gwerin Morfa civilisation had some dealing with the people of Terunael.

There may have been other peoples in the fertile plains, but no evidence of their existence has been found – although some scholars speculate that the structures credited to the paragon know as the Sentinel, the dolmens of Bregasland, or the Sign of Tamar, may have been built by such a vanished nation.

The Terunael were clearly distributed over a wide area, as the locations of the modern forest territories indicate. It is believed that at the time the Terunael were active, much of this area would have been fertile plains scattered with normal woodlands - no reference to the cities as being built in “forests” has come to light during the exploration of the limited Terunael ruins.

While there are ruins that date to Terunael times in many places, there are no signs of large settlements outside of the five vallorn forests. This leads some researchers to speculate that the Terunael had more in common with the modern League than with the contemporary Navarr. There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest Terunael, like the League, may have grown out of a confederation of tiny kingdoms rather than beginning as a single nation. At the time of the disaster that ended it, however, there seems to be evidence it was culturally, legally, and possibly politically, unified.

The cities themselves were certainly large settlements, but not on the scale of the League cities of today. Exploration in Miaren has shown that the central “cities” were more likely closer to large towns, surrounded by a network of farms and villages. The largest of these towns is believed to have been Terunael itself, and its ruins are said to stand at the heart of Brocéliande.

Further Cities

There are persistent rumours of additional cities beyond the ones that are part of the Empire today, some of which have been confirmed in recent years. The stories of a city north of Varushka, built in lands now dominated by the Thule, have proved to be true. The city of Emrys stood in what is now south-western Sküld, and the claim that the cold tundra around it was warmed and lit by an artificial sun appears to have been based partially on fact. Previously, the only evidence were claims from vales in Varushka about Ushkan records that speak of people coming from the north fleeing a disaster led by a “brave woman marked by horror and pain, and her son.” Some of these refugees settled in Varushka with the woman, others followed her son and joined with “their cousins to the south”- the people who would become the Navarr. As the peace with the northern orcs continues, more facts begin to come to life that seem to confirm these ancient accounts.

For centuries there were unconfirmed reports that there is a vallorn in modern-day Axos. A recent expedition, funded by the Advisor on the Vallorn, and arranged with the aid of the Ambassador to Axos and their counterparts in the eastern nation, confirmed the existence of an immense vallorn in the centre of Axos. According to the first-hand account of Eilian Sweetwater, the civil servant who led the expedition, the vallorn at Visokuma is the largest known to exist and surrounds the ruins of the city of Cavan.

Another rumour talks of a city east of Therunin, somewhere in the Mallum, built on the edge of a great marsh and referred to as Béantal Dol. Again, there is a body of evidence that supports the existence of this city, including accounts of first-hand reports from a Druj Ghulai named Greenmask. Located as it is in the Druj homelands, however, the truth of any such claims are treated cautiously by Imperial scholars.

Finally, there are stories of a city south of Sarvos, drowned beneath the Bay of Catazar, which is called “Feion Essa” and appears in fanciful stories. A common thread in the tale is the idea that the drowned city is inhabited by a race of intelligent fish-people who consort with dolphins and live a life of idyllic splendour. Most of these stories can be traced to a book written in the League sometime in the early days of the Empire and are widely discounted by serious scholars although it is not uncommon for an optimistic treasure hunter to launch an expedition into the Bay to find this lost city.

War with the Orcs

This is a common, recurring element in stories of the fall of Terunael and the birth of the vallorn. One or more orc nations were making war against them. The forerunners of the Druj and the Thule in particular are believed to have been invading the territories claimed by the Terunael in the east and north.

There is little evidence of unified attacks – as today, the orc nations were separate and fractious. Colwyn of Boarsdell has presented the theory that a third major factor lies in orc nations who are no longer in existence today. These additional nations occupied the lands now dominated by what is now Dawn and the Marches. One nation would have been the ancestors of the orcs finally exterminated by the Dawnish in Semmerholm during their first wave of expansion. The other nation most likely were the ancestors of the orcs driven out of the Marches, who later joined with the Jotun in the west. He further suggests that the bandit orcs of the Lasambrian hills are likely to be the descendants of the same orcs who attacked Liathaven during the fall of Terunael, before being driven west by the Freeborn diaspora.

Either way, the true victors of the fall of Terunael were certainly the orcs. There are plenty of references that the human settlers who would later help form the Empire (Highguard, Dawn, the Steinr and the Vard) encountered a land populated by prosperous, healthy orc nations who had spread across the lands between the vallorn forests.

Noble Magicians

Navarr stories record that the cultured cities of Terunael were run by its magicians, but there is actually little concrete evidence to support this - or any claim about the politics of these ancient people. One theory is that the early Navarr described the cities as having been run by magicians because they were keen to find someone to blame someone for allowing the disaster to take place. They are generally characterised as having become wealthy, decadent, authoritarian, irresponsible - and desperate. The contrast with the modern Navarr tradition of the vates is obvious; vates are seen as servants of the people, and expected to commit themselves to helping others rather than seeking positions of leadership.

There is also little evidence for how these magicians ruled, and many more questions than answers. Were the magicians in charge from the beginning or was it a later development? Were they organised into noble houses? Was there a council like our modern Conclave? Was there a single ruling magician in each city, similar to the Jarmish Magician-Prince? What was the status of people who were not magicians? None of these questions have been conclusively addressed by Imperial scholars.

Ham Whitelock of the Crimson Banner (a Highborn scholar of the vallorn writing in the reign of Emperor James) theorised that even if Terunael were not ruled by magicians before the orcs began to invade, they could easily have seized power during the resulting turmoil.

Ritual Gone Awry

Magic is one of the most powerful tools mortals can wield to effect large-scale change; it can also mean the difference between life and death on a battlefield. The common belief is that the vallorn came into being as the result of a powerful ritual that somehow "went wrong." Yet this belief is not universally supported.

Callus Strategos, Dean of the Lyceum in the time of Empress Brannan, wrote in his Meditations that "Rituals don't go wrong. They only do what they do - but they might do it in an unexpected way. Especially if you are overly impressed with your own cleverness.” He expounded the theory that the vallorn was not the result of a magical accident, but a calculated attempt to achieve something very similar to the horror that eventually resulted.

It is not, however, inconceivable that the Terunael attempted to combine powerful enchantments, and in their desperation combined effects that were in some way incompatible with each other prompting a disastrous, unexpected reaction. After all, magicians know it is possible to enchant a region within a territory, a territory itself, and a group of unified territories with an effect such as Hallow of the Green World. The larger and more powerful an enchantment becomes, it has been argued, the more likely that some unexpected side-effect may result. Recent experiences with the use of Hallow of the Green world and Wondrous Forests of the Night cast upon the Empire seem to support this in theory at least.

This still does not suggest an “accident”, however. Not least because it is hard to imagine circumstances that would cause the same accident to overtake anywhere between five and nine well-established settlements simultaneously or near-simultaneously. The mere fact that the vallorn is roughly the same in each of the territories it infests tends to be seen as casting doubt on the "magical accident" theory.

Again, it is possible the early Navarr characterised the creation of the vallorn as an accident to distance their ancestors from criticism. An accident is the fault of fate, or chance, and cannot be easily avoided. Carelessness, desperation, a lack of wisdom – these are the failings of humans.

Disastrous Consequences

Some scholars speculate that the fall of Terunael was not actually caused by the vallorn itself but by some other mysterious force. The fact remains, however, that the vallorn acted on Terunael society in a similar way to which a full-stop acts on a sentence. Regardless of other factors, the vallorn destroyed Terunael.

All the stories, all the anecdotal evidence, and indeed all the physical evidence, agree that the disaster happened roughly simultaneously in each Terunael city. At the very least, if the disaster had happened in one or some of the cities and not all, it is likely that the unaffected cities would have offered aid to their allies, or at the very least taken some precautions – and there is little sign that this happened.

There are some surviving descriptions of the actual fall of Terunael. The modern perception of this event is often of a wave of unstoppable magic exploding from the hearts of the city and washing over the land like a glowing green tidal wave. Fractured accounts suggest that the reality was somewhat different. The vallorn began in the a sick, infectious wave of life that cracked and crumbled stone, shot great trees up through streets and buildings, and warped, twisted and destroyed most of the inhabitants of those cities, scattering the others to the wind.

While the hearts of the cities were consumed very quickly, the rate of growth appears to have slowed as it expanded rather than accelerated. The reports talk of “refugees attempting to claim back their lands” and of “warriors (who) fought the spread of the green hell” and perhaps most tellingly “their people attacked by monstrous insects and deadly plants, and though they tried everything to fight it, in the end they had no choice but to abandon their homes.“

Without doubt the vallorn directly was the cause of massive loss-of-life, but its initial spread was slow enough that the fore-runners of the Navarr (and perhaps other people now lost to antiquity) were able to flee to the “safety' of the plains.

These initial resistance groups were the first to discover the practical problem of fighting the vallorn. The vallorn is an aura that promotes life. Cut back a briar bush in a vallorn-infested area and it will regrow even as you are trying to cut down its neighbour. Even fire is ineffective – it seems to find little purchase on living vegetation within the vallorn.

A remedy was discovered however in the Dance of Navarr and Thorn – a ritual that siphons off the magical power that sustains the vallorn. Once weakened, the vegetation and creatures that thrive within it can be defeated. Unfortunately, it is a slow process. Any hope that the proto-Navarr might have had that they could quickly reclaim their homelands were swiftly dashed.

Fight and Flight

There is no doubt that the Navarr fought the vallorn, before they were even called the Navarr. Not everyone fought however – the story of the “woman from the north” who fled south with her people has already been mentioned. There is some evidence that some of the Terunael survivors sought refuge with the Ushka, or among the Feni, and some very scattered mentions that some of those from Therunin might have ended up in the mountains with the Urizen (already in their high refuge by the time of the fall of the cities). Eilian Sweetwater's expedition, for example, brought numerous stories from Axos of Terunael refugees seeking sanctuary among the people of the citadels - albeit in most cases with tragic consequence.

It must also be remembered that the vallorn disaster occurred in the middle of an invasion. It is likely that an unknown number of refugees were killed by the orc armies as they fled their now-inhospitable lands. Others no doubt were taken as slaves or thralls, or died due to the many other dangers that lie in wait in the wilderness. It is likely for example that the scarcity of records about Beantal Dol may mean that those people who survived the fall of the city ended up as slaves of the orcs, with no chance to reach their fellow survivors to the west.

Those who did survive, and did try to fight were unified by “Navarr" and "Thorn” - legendary figures who may or may not have existed. It is unclear how much time passes between the fall of the cities and the sacrifice of these potentially-mythical figures, but the ritual that creates the trods is clearly performed for the first time within at most two or three decades of the disaster.

Contemporary scholars disagree, but there is written evidence from the earliest days of Highborn expansion that the first Dance of Navarr and Thorn was performed in Brocéliande, in the ruins of Terunael itself (assuming that city exists, or was called Terunael by its inhabitants). The rest of the trod network may have extended from Brocéliande, or it may have been expanded from each of the other cities in turn until the five were connected by trods.

There is no evidence that a trod network surrounds any of the other cities – if they are real and not fictional. There is one line in a dusty scroll recounting the earliest contacts between the Navarr and the Highborn settlers that talks about a “brave band of brands, who went up the river, and never returned” which may be a reference to an attempt to extend the trods to include “Béantal Dol” in the Mallum. Given that area is part of the Druj heartlands, it is perhaps unsurprising that these Navarr did not return.

Nature of the Vallorn

There is no clear guiding intelligence behind the vallorn. It does not plan, and it does not appear to be aware of itself or the world. It is not a creature, and the stories that it is some horrible pseudo-eternal from the Spring realm appear to be without any real foundation. Indeed, even the idea of “the vallorn” may itself be misleading. It is possible that the vallorn is no more a contiguous entity than any forest, marsh, town, or farmland. Creatures live in it; plants live in it; there is obviously a supernatural force at work. Yet it is not clear if that force operates with a purpose or not. It does not seem to actively expand itself, for example. The majority of cases where vallorn creatures or plants have been encountered outside of an actual area of vallorn power are almost always the result of tampering by humans or orcs.

Creatures within the vallorn enjoy unnatural vitality, while the air itself appears inimical to humans, but the so-called vallorn miasma might just as easily be a product of some creature or vegetable that lives in the vallorn rather than a product of the same magic that provides supernatural health – and creates ettercaps and other vallornspawn.

The miasma itself underlines how much is still unknown by Imperial scholars about the vallorn. For example, the earliest stories that speak of the Terunael fleeing their cities, and the Navarr fighting the vallorn, do not speak of the miasma at all. It seems peculiar that such an abominable phenomenon would be considered inconsequential, even taking into account the apocalyptic nature of the collapse they were experiencing. Yet by the time the Empire is founded, the miasma is ubiquitous. Yet the creatures that live symbiotically within the vallorn's compass seem unaffected by it.

The nature of the vallorn appears to be to transform creatures and plants within it, yet there are no records of Navarr steadings producing abominable beasts, or even having a higher-than-natural incidence of briar births as might be expected in an area steeped in invasive Spring magic.

There is still a great deal more to learn about the vallorn, it is clear – but such research must be undertaken by modern scholars, rather than sought in the writings of historians and past scholars who have taken too much for granted, and not thoroughly questioned their assumptions.


Numerous scholars in Imperial History have believed they possessed particular insight into the vallorn. The archmage Rhonwen in whose honour Sanctuary Falls in Miaren was renamed is one well-known example. Perhaps less well known, despite being significantly more contentious, are the stories of Drustan (or Durstan) of the Briar whose (allegedly extensive) body of his work is largely unknown to modern scholars.

Born in Holtford in Miaren in 243YE, he studied magic from a young age and was regarded as one of the foremost vates of his time. He was allegedly a driven man, so obsessed with the vallorn that it occupied his every waking moment - to the extent that people admired him more than liked him, and even his close friends were concerned that his obsession might consume him.

Drustan was instrumental in several major battles against the Vallorn, and was noted especially for his skills in turning Spring magic back on the creatures of the Vallorn to destroy them. There are tales that credit him with identifying the vallorn susceptibility to venom, but historians take them with a pinch of salt it is unlikely that any one person achieved this feat alone, and it seems somewhat far-fetched that it was not already widely known by Drustan's time. What cannot be denied is that as a youth Drustan was regarded as the most brilliant warrior-magician of his age - possessed of an unerring instinct for picking the time to fight the vallorn he won battle after battle until his fall from grace.

After the great defeat in Brocéliande in 268YE, when over 6,000 Navarr lost their lives, Drustan swore off war against the vallorn claiming that the Navarr were pursuing the wrong approach. Thereafter his work became increasingly experimental - perhaps even eccentric. He made public speeches criticizing the Navarr leaders accusing them of trying to play the Vallorn at its own game. Not surprisingly such views were not well received and Drustan was soon increasingly isolated. While his genius with magic could not be denied, his political views were simply unacceptable.

An excellent example of this lack of political acumen is taken from the speech given by Drustan at a standing in Liathaven in 272YE. The meeting had been called to discuss the possible risks of the Vallorn in Liathaven spreading, a fear which apparently occupied the Navarr minds as much then as it does today. Drustan became increasingly agitated and when finally allowed he berated everyone present. There is a transcript, and the incredulity of the scribe is clear as Drustan makes the outlandish and unsupported claim that the Dance of Navarr and Thorn is designed to spread the vallorn. Needless to say, he faced extreme censure from his peers and there are no further records of Drustan speaking publicly after this occasion.

If this were all there was to tell of Drustan, that would probably be the end of the matter: a brilliant, but misguided briar who descended into inevitable madness from the hours spent studying Spring magic. But his lifelong friend - Arrayne, a Dawnish troubadour - claimed that Drustan made some kind of break-through toward the end of his life. He met with Arrayne a final time, in Summer 278YE and told her that he had solved the Vallorn problem. Arrayne claims that Drustan explained everything to him, but unfortunately Arrayne lacked any real understanding of magic and all he could recall later was that Drustan was convinced he had worked out how to "fix" the vallorn and that it all sounded very convincing.

Few people take this very seriously as Drustan immediately set off - alone - into the vallorn heart of Liathaven - apparently to prove his theory. Given that he was never seen again, it seems likely that it was his mind that had broken new ground and not his theories. Of course it is also technically possible he had solved the problem and he was simply eaten by an ettercap before he could prove it. Likely we will never know. His name briefly became a byword for brilliant minds with no friends and then eventually it was just forgotten altogether. Arguably, given how long the Navarr have dedicated themselves to the work of fighting the vallorn, it is actually rather strange that there aren't more figures like Drustan in their history.

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.