Saturday, August 12, 2006

Witch Wood - Haunted Hollows in The Valley of Baryn

The Valley of Baryn has many legends and folktales. Some are simply the stuff of storytellers and bards while others are quite real and should be headed. One of these is Witch Wood. Some say that Witch Wood is the product of fowl and dark magics performed by priestesses of some ancient diety. Other say that it is the creation of mad Widders bent on turning the wilds against men. What is known is that the Witch Wood comes as mysteriously as it guards its secrets.

Witch Wood is not a place so much as an occurance. Travellers speak of being swallowed by a strange mist that comes from nowhere and finding themselves in a gloomy hollow when it clears. Sometimes a person travelling a perfectly familiar road will find they have taken a wrong turn, never knowing that they have slipped into Witch Wood until they are hopelessly lost within its tangled thickets. No matter how it comes, Witch Wood can appear any place that is isolated and alone.

The physcial characterisitics of Witch Wood are always the same. Regardless of where it appears, Witch Wood appears as a twisting, tangled maze of trees and clawing branches illuminated by a disembodied eerie light. In the day, a mist obscures clear vision in the Witch Wood but by night, this mist thins, forming phantasmal whisps of haunting form that filters through the glowing, shadow-stricken wood. Visitors to Witch Wood find themselves disoriented, chilled and with a contant sense of dread, even when they are in good number and company as if the woods themselves radiating such sensations.

Within the Witch Wood there are living things ranging from ordinary rabbits, boars, deer - all the things that ordinary forests would find themselves denizened with. Witch Wood denizens are not ordinary creatures, however, and those who have found themselves with the Witch Wood's embrace report even the most simple creature seems to have an otherworldly characteristic to it, flickering, fleeting as if it were not wholey of this world. But there are other inhabitants which must be given greater concern withing Witch Wood for it is also a place of spirits and demons.

Those who have escaped Witch Wood say that they were witness to strange rites and gathering of dancing, leering devils. However, they also report being met with spectres of more subline nature. Figures wandering between the tangled trunks have beckoned to travellers, whispers silent words to them which could none the less be heard. The noted traveller, Angus Morwyn, claims to have been given shelter from persuing bewitched wolves by a strange woman of luminous continence and warm demeanor.

Escaping Witch Wood is more a matter of luck and endurance than it is skill. Nobody has ever been able to credibly say that they found their way out of Witch Wood, but simply that after a time, they found themselves free of its maze-like trees and haunting glow. Sometimes it is asimple as waking up after a night in Witch Wood other times it requires days of constant struggle against those things that seem to make these places their home.

One final note about Witch Wood is that it seems to be of particular interest to the Sister of Scaera, those shadowy hedge witches that seem to lurk in every corner of the valley. Any time that Witch Wood appears it is sure to draw these odd priestesses to it. For what, it cannot be said, but they have a purpose for it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tales of The Hael Lords: Part One - The Coming of the Haelic People

Long after elves had left the valley and longer after the dwarves of Har Hundir had sunk their mirky mines deep into the peaks of the western talons of the Dragon's Claw Mountains, and ancient hero of man, exiled from his people and cast under the auspices of a traitor set foot on the rocky shores to the South.

His name was Svartsok and it meant "Dark Heart" but this was not an endorsement of his brand as a villain, but more a prophecy cast upon him by a skald when just a child.

"Two shall be born of one dark one fair but judge yee not by their strands of hair," were the words of the skeld to this Haelic hero's mother as he and his twin were handed to her - Svartsok with his raven's black locks and his brother Guldi with hair like gold.

It had been his name and the heavy weight his heart had carried since his mother's death tha haunted Svartsok and led some to believe the rumors and lies about his nature. It was not until he slew the savage fire demon, Sutzarf while defending the Haelic colony of Aesligard and its queen Aeslig that his true heroic nature was revealed. Unfortunately, this deed came to late and was not enough to save Queen Aeslig, leaving Svartsok at the mercy of Aeslig's jealous and kraven brother Cormwyr. When Svartsok's fame began to eclipse the majesty of Cormwyr's rule, the treacherous king banished the hero and all who swore kinship to him.

So northward they went and found a misty, rocky shoreline rich with fish, beasts and long, straight-timbered trees. Here would be where they would build their new settlement of Betisport. Here they would build a thriving community that would go on to spawn all the settlements of Vale.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Halls and Heroes - Dwarves of The Valley of Baryn

Deep beneath the jagged peaks of the western talons of the Dragon's Claw Mountains, is the dwarven kingdom of Har Hundir. A vast and ancient warren of caves, halls, fortresses and mines, Har Hundir is home to thousands of dwarves.

The dwarves of the valley are an ancient and well-established people, having been in the valley long before men arrived and long after the elves departed. It is they who have tamed the western peaks of the Dragon's Claw Mountains and if not for their presence and the constant battling, the trolls, orcs and other unmen would surely have dominated the valley ages ago.

The dwarves of the valley are rather typical of their race and fall into two distinct types. The first if the Ulthar or Mountain Dwarves and are the sort found deep in the mountains. the other is the Undril or Hill Dwarves - the sort that live above ground in the rocker cliffs and hills.

Ulthar are a stockier more brawny lot with skin tones that range farer than their surface brothers. Their hair ranges through the full range with red and brown being most common. Males sport long, well-kept beards, often braided and decorated with charms and tokens. Hair is worn mid-length to long and tends to also be well-kept. Female Ulthar are known to wear their hair bound, often in fabric or leather, sometimes even metal bindings known and Toldi. Toldi are often passed from mother to daughter and are highly prized and treasured items. Dwarven grooming is a well-known and much celebrated trait.

Ulthar tend to have a stern demeanor, but it is not to say that they do not appreciate humor nor do they feel other emotions - they simply keep them bottled up and held in check. Ulthar are devoted and commited, raising strong families and extended kinship groups bound by both oath and deed. An Ulthar's word is often stronger than his very life and it is not unheard of for a swarn oath to be carried on for generations after the original speaker has passed on.

Ulthar clans mark themselves with clan brands known as Gulgir or "Forge Marks". these brands are infused with shavings of iron, carbon and other biproducts of the forge so that they show up dark and raised against the Ulthar's skin. The receiving of a Gulgir usually marks important events in an Ulthar dwarve's life and are usually accompanied by a serious fever that the recipient must work through and live with lest he appear weak. By the time he reaches old age, an Ulthar dwarf will usually have accumulated several dozen Gulgir.

Quite a contrast are the Undril. Undril drwarves are also known (especially by Ulthar) and Hearth Dwarves for their warm homes and much more relaxed family lives. Undril are the most commonly encountered dwarves throughout the valleys and those that are most likely to engage in open trade with humans and elves. Friendly, jovial and with a astute wit, the Undril often take strangers by surprise when they meet a dwarf who is not so "dwarfish".

Undril also have family groups byut they do not mark themselves with Gulgir. Instead they mark their family kinship through the wearing of patterned textiles, draped in a wrap around their shoulders. These wraps known, as Wilgrom, are study and utilitarian, often being used as cloaks, blankets and even sacks when no other presents itself. When an Undril dwarf dies, he is often shrouded in his Wilgrom, scraps of which are torn free and woven into his direct family and closest kin's hair and beards.

Undril dwarves tend to be darker of both skin and hair than their under-mountain kin. These warves have ruddy skin and dark hair that ranges from a burnt rusty color to a raven black. Their beards are usually worn shorts and less ornate than their stalwart cousins. Female Undril are known for wearign their hair free and loose, well-kept and decorated with mountain wild flowers and and charms. Undril couples wear matching neckbands of woven gold, silver and gems known and Althali or "Heart Bindings".

The King of Har Hundir is a grizzled old dwarf by the name of Grimbol Grongdrol and it is his lineage that has ruled the undermountain kingdom from his Iron Hearth Hall for nearly 500 years. Grimbol is a wise ruler, maintaining his rule through the fair and level rulership of his people who, given to their own devices, might succumb to their natural tendancies of greed and obsession and forsake their higher duties of stewartship of the western peaks.

Grimbol rules over botrh Undril and Ulthar alike and he keeps a council made up of both. the bond between the two dwarven kith is eternal and neither would deny their dependence on the other. Ulthar work the depths and make the rishes that keep the dwarves strong while the Undril make sure that the drwaves never slip into obscurity and maintain their connection to the world above. It is a constant fear of the dwarves of the Valley of Baryn, that they will sink into themselves and be doomed like those who their ancestors fled. All remembered the doomed halls of Har Handigar.

The dwarves of Har Hundir keep good relations with most of the folk of the valley, even trading with the Thane for pelts and meat or treasure taken from slain enemies. Har Hundir also watches the northern passes of the valley for incursion from Gallow and also from Trulsk, the powerful trollish kingdom that shares the western peaks.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Poached Lark and Mushroom Pie - Food and Drink of The Valley of Baryn

Food is an important part of the human culture of Vale. Rustic and earthy folk, the men and women of the valley have discovered a number of delicacies among the native flora and fauna. most meals include a mixture of vegetables, fruits, nuts and usually one or two meat dishes but there are several noteworthy dishes besides the common steak or mutton chop.

One of these is the poaching of birds of all sorts. The Haelic folk of the Vale seem to have an affinity for the slow-cooking of all manner of avian life from small song birds as appetizers to larger foul. Such dishes are often served with sauces mixed from cream and berries or jelly glazes.

Boar meat is one of the most common of the wild meats served. The native species of boars range in flavor from the musky, gamey flesh of the Razortusk to the spicey, almost peppery meat of the Blunt-Tusked Cliff Boar. Boar meat is often served with a minimum of seasonings, the flavor of the meat allowed to express itself. Sides are offered along with the boar and usually take the form of complimentary nuts and vegetables, often roots and tubors.

Along the rivers, many types of fish are served. Among them are several forms of dangerous, predatory gars and pike, the sort that take challenge to catch, but the rarest and most dangerous is the Bull Eel - a seven foot long eel noted for the horn-like growths above its eyes. Bull Eel is served boiled and whole, all its organs intact and a single eel can feed an entire family.

Mushroom Pie is a favorite baked good, the forest of the valley offering several varieties of hearty, meaty fungus that bake into fragrent, juicy pastries and pies. Often, the mushrooms are mixed with other vegetables and sometimes grains and carried as provisions. One variety of mushroom called the Hearthstool is as big as a serving platter and is sometimes roasted whole or breaded and fried as a food to be enjoyed at social functions.

A special kind of honey is obtained from the Reaper Wasps of the deep forests and it's red-hued sweetness is prized both for its flavor and its reputation as a love potion. Obtaining this honey is dangerous as the solitary Reaper Wasps protect their nests and clutches of eggs with suicidal zeal.

In the South, in Bethalport and the surounding villages, many kinds of seafood are to be had. From Saber Muscles and Shallow Loach Fish, the variety there is great. Cove Octopi are often cultivated in tidal pens and harvested at about a year old when their heads measure the size of a large dog. Cape Perch and Sea Harps (a golden-colored seal) are hunted through the traditional means of harpooning as the struggle these beasts go through in being netted poisons the meat.

Much prized among the Brinefolk are the sholes of Moon Tarpin that gather in the Autumn months under the harvest moon. At this time the tarpin are lulled into a sort of languid stupor as they get their bearings for their upcoming migration to the mosre southerly waters. Huge hauls of Moon Tarpin are brought in by the Portlock fishing fleets during these months, often requiring the recruiting of extra hands to take full advantage. During this time though a special hazard also visits the coastal waters off Vale - the Abyss Shark.

Abyss Sharks are so-called for the fact that their black bodies absorb light, making them nearly impossible to spot in the nighttime waters. Many fishermen have found themselve the victim of a nearby Abyss Shark simply because the predator was unseeable in the hazey night. During the gathering of the Moon Tarpin, these sharks are at their most agressive, using the abundance of easy prey to stock up on food so that they may begin their bi-annual mating duels. Finding oneself in the midst of a pair of duelling Abyss sharks is the sort of thing that rare survivors care little to speak of.

There are more delicacies in the land of Vale, but space does not allow a full disclosure, but the variety and ingenious use of the valley's abundance never ceases to amaze visitors to this rustic land.

Bethalport - The Briney South of Vale

The southern tip of Vale is populated by a gritty seafaring folk known as the Brinefolk. These salty folk have long plied the coastal waters, making their home port the town of Bethalport, named for Bethal Bay where is resides.

Though they are of the same Haelic racial stock as the other men of Vale, the Brinefolk have developed a distinct subculture all their own. Identifying strongly with the sea from which they glean their livelihood, the Brinefolk have their set of superstitions and beliefs.

Brinefolk tend to live a slightly more afluent lifestyle, gaining a tidy, more regular income from the sea. So much is the difference between the average wealth of an "Uplander" and a Brineman, that Brinefolk are often lampooned as gold-hoarding sea captains or farcical pirates. This of course is far fro mthe truth and the colelction of wealth by Brinefolk is for good reason.

The life of a Brineman is frought with even more danger than that of an Uplander. In the valley there are animals and monsters, but on the coast and at sea there are the elements. An average fishing voyage brings with it high seas, horrible conditions and frequent accidents and disaster. Sea monsters and hostile raiders can also be found off the coast and many ships have returned to port less men they left with or without all together.

It is due to this danger, more than anything else, that the Brinefolk amass their wealth in lavish homes for if anythign should happen to her husbands, brothers, and sons a Brinefolk woman may have no other source of income than that which makes up her home and the coffers of her departed.

Bethalport is one of the closest things Vale has to a true city. Still more like a large town, Bethalport is home to several large families of sailors known as "Portlocks" for the control they hold over certain landing spots and fishing grounds. Infringing on a Portlock's fishing ground or trying to land or sell fish at his dock is grounds for a skirmish and few Brinemen are loath to lavish their ire on a transgressor. In Bethalport these Portlocks have formed large unions of boatsmen and porters.

The men and women of these Portlocks keep the trade flowing through Bethalport, offering warehouse space to tradesmen moving goods up and down the River Nor and in and out of the port to the sea. Incoming goods are taxed and outgoing goods are moved by the labor of the Portlocks for a fee, all adding to the pockets of the Brinemen. This can make goods coming into and out of Vale very expensive.

Primary exports through Bethalport are furs, woods, minerals and exotic meats found upland in the valley. imports are often food goods from across the sea or around the coast, luxury goods, cloth and manufactured goods. There is a disproportionate amount of imported goodsinto the valley as the spread-out communities of the upland peoples does not foster large-scale industry. Self-sufficient communities still find themselves in need of the occasional manufactured tool which is often obtained either by a trip to Bethalport or through a roving trader.

Brinemen often run ferries full of goods up the rivers full of goods to spread from the various riverside towns into the valley. These river boats are veritable floating forts with high walls, oars and sails and defensible towers.

Though they are different fro mtheir Upland brethren, the Brinemen of Bethalport are still Haelic ans share that people's disdain for organized religion, choosing to base their beliefs on elemental forces and spirits of nature. They do differ, however, in that they have placed a disproportionate amount of trust and faith in the spirit of the seas, an entity known as Nadu, or the Father of Seas and in a ghastly sea devil named Gon who fits the nearest thing that any Brineman or Uplander will ever know to an arch-fiend. The Widders of the Brinefolk or often salty, hermit-like figures, living in coastal cave and cliff-side shanties. Often looked on with a bit more fear than those of the uplands, these Brine Widders are seldom approached unless absolutely neccesary.

As has been mentioned, coastal threats come in all forms, but most notable are the marauders from under the sea, a race of fishmen known and the Locathah. These creatures, though not evil, have a bitter emnity toward the Brinemen who often blame them for fowled nets and lost catches, whether true or not. This has lead to skirmishes in the past and built the strained relations of today. Locathah and Brinemen seldom encounter each other without a violent exchange and often Locathah will attack isolated boats while Brinemen waste no opportunity to snare and strand fishmen in the blistering sun or crush settlement in the shallows with a calously layed anchor. though Bethalport itself seldom comes under attack fro mthe Locathah, the same is not true for other smaller fishing villages and coastal settlements and the result of such a raid can mean much damage to property and the loss of lives.

I can be said the coast of Vale is not a harsh land but it is not without its dangers, making the folk that dwell there a colorful and intense people.

Hearth & Home - Dwellings in Vale

There is a saying in Vale, that sums up the view of the home. "Some walls, a roof and a door. Windows, chimney, rooms and floor. A home is all these things, but much much more."

The Haelic folk that settled the valley brought with them their love of hearth and family and this can be seen in the care that they take in their homes. Though a great variety in homes can be found, determined by resources and means, the folk of Vale always do the best they can with what they have, often incorporating natural elements into structures to greater maximize what resources are available.

Central to any Haelic home is the main room and entry way known as the the "Halla" or "Portal Room". It is here that the majority of a Haelic family's homely assets will be focused. This is not for any petty sense of ego or need to display ones wealth but more for the simple fact that key to Haelic social structure is the open hopsitality that is paid to those that visit one's home. Guests to a home in Vale are treated to the best any family has, as long as such hospitality is not abused.

The second most important room in any Haelic home is the kitchen. Here the folk of Vale gather for meals, never straying too far from the place where the food is prepaired to consume it. It is thought that the closer one comes to the act of preparing the food, the more nourishing it will be to both body and spirit. For this reason, any mother or daughter in Vale will spend an amazing amount of time making sure that even the most meager of meals is given the utmost care and attention so that her family will have the most nourishing meal possible.

Such meals are rewarded with adoration and compliments from families and to forget to do so is the utmost in rudeness. No Haelic father or son of Vale would dare forget to thank his mothers, sisters or daughters for the hard work they put into making sure his table was the most grand it could be. It is not uncommon for The men of a house to clean up following a meal while their women take advantage of a moment's restand enjoy a warm drink and pleasant conversation while the meal is cleaned up.

Sleeping arrangements are often the most spartan of accomidations in Vale. This is not to say that they are not comfortable, but as they are for sleeping they are not given as great a priority as other areas of the home. Beds are often lined with comfortable down feathers or beaten straw or bowers, changed regularly. Blankets are woven from heavy whools from local sheep and goats or stitched together from softened hides and filled with more down or straw. Husbands and wives sleep together, often in the company of small children, while oder children and unmarried relations (sisters, cousins, aunts, in-laws, etc) share rooms usually no more than three to a room or as space allows. Where rooms are shared, each occupant sleeps in a pseronal set of sleeping wear and shares their space comfortably with others.

Accomidations for the privy are usually attached to the home by an interior door and a ditch that runs to a local stream or collection point. It is too dangerous in most places to have seperate privy facilities unless absolutely required by available drainage or some such. In households that require exterior trips to the facilities, there is often and a special light called a "Drungklaf" or "Pot Dagger" which can only be described as a cunning cross between a utility knife and a candle-holder. This device can be used to cut strips of fabric or leaves for cleaning or to fend off an angry beast in the dark fo the night.

All in all, the homes of the valley are best known for their warmth and inviting use of color. Pastel pigmants taken from local plants and minerals often make the homes seem to blend into their surroundings. It can be said that even the poorest folk in Vale live in better surroundings than some of the more well-off sorts in otherl ands.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sisters of Scaera - Hedge Witches of Vale

Scaera is an ancient goddess of nature that was brought with the people of Vale when their ancestors first moved into the valley. A shadowy figure, mostly lost to the obscurity of the centuries and the move away from ancient gods, Scaera maintains an underground sisterhood of followers who use her wisdom and charms to better their people in secret.

Worshippers of Scaera tend to be fringe elements of Vale society, unable to quite fit within the rugged confines of the rustic lifestyle most adhere to out of necesity. Sisters of Scaera tend to be dreamy, often broody and emotional, finding themselve prone to flights of fancy and wistfulness. Such characteristics mark them as lay-abouts and lakc-lollies to most, but to the Sisters it is this willingness to embrace the eb and flow of life that gives them their power over others.

This is power to be wielded responsibly, however, and to fail to do so is to invite viscious retribution from the other sisters if not from Scaera herself. Sisters of Scaera are to be ever-vigilant of those things unnatural, harmful to their kin and threatenign to their communities. Central to their rites are the hearths and cooking fires of their homes and the sacred, isolated places within the forests where the veil between the world of men and spirits is at its thinnest and they can truely commune with the ancient folk that have long since quit the world.

The Sisters or Scaera'lan as they call themselves are healers, conjurors and mediums, binding ancient lore with folkish charms and even the occasional bit of well-timed advice. A Scaera'lan is as much a councelor to her community as she is a magical binder of wounds and a warder of evil and harmful spirits. Always present, but rearely in the forefront, it is said that in the Valley of Baryn a Sister has been there for every birth and ever death, presiding over every marriage and secret union.

How such a small order of outcasts and hedge witches has become so prominant is a mystery to most but it cannot be argued that the Sisters of Scaera are a true fixture of Vale's human settlements and communities.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Rhymes and Regeneration - Trolls of the Dragon's Claw Mountains

Deep in the heart of the Dragon's Claw Mountains, under the Smoke Wyrm Spire is the Hall of Hoska the Troll King. Here are gathered the majority of the region's trolls, all living in a kingdom under the mountains. It is this kingdom, known and Trulsk that has been able to withstand the scourging armies of the dwarves.

The Trolls of the Dragon's Claws are not what are commonly thought of when one thinks of trolls. Rather than the near-bestial, thuggish creatures common to other parts of the world, they are crafty, wicked and guilesome. Similar in appearance, they are obviously related, though whether they are antecedents or descendants is not clear. What is clear is that though they are hairy, muscular, and brutish looking creatures this belies an incredible knack for wickedness and deceit.

The kingdom of Trulsk is home to thousands of trolls. At any given time, should the might of this kingdom be roused, an army comprising nearly 80% of the population could be mustered. If this were to happen, trolls armed with weapons and armor of trollish crafting would sally forth accompanied by mercenaries bought with the riches of their under-mountain kingdom. Orcs, goblins, even ogres and lesser trolls are more than happy to join or given little choice when a troll army musters against a foe. The trolls of Trulsk also make use of savage creature found deep in the earth to sew confusion and suffering among their opponents. Chief among these are the Nothgir, a subterranean predator of remarkable savagery and vile demeanor. When trolls take to the surface they do so accompanied by great war boars called Droth Boars, which are ridden as men would ride horses.

The Dragon's Claw trolls are physically strong and possessed of a great amount of hair both on their bodies and faces. Their teeth are irregular, sharp and cruel usually with tusks jutting from their bottom lips. Large noses, carrying a powerful sense of smell mark their visages and give them an almost comical appearance at times. Troll build is lanky but muscular making their might instantly apparent. The average troll stands a good double the height of the common man and weighs nearly thrice his weight.

Though they are armed with their own arsenal of natural weapons, iron-hard fists, claws like daggers and goring tusks, the trolls of Trulsk are keen metal-workers and forge not only swords of great quality but many are enchanted. Despite the quality of their weapons, the trollish weapons still convey the wicked and cruel natures of their makers. Spikes, barbs, wicked curves and horrible visages are common features of such weapons.

The trolls of Trulsk are a cruel but ordered in the sense that it is understood that the strongest, craftiest, most underhanded troll will dominate his fellows. To this end, trolls in powerful positions often maintain their power by maintaining the loyalty of their subordinates through gifts and bullying. A troll that cannot wield his power and presence cannot maintain his position. Because this can be difficult, the trolls of Trulsk have created a special magical bond similar in nature to a Geas spell called a Nok.

A Nok is established when two trolls enter into an agreement under the ritual auspices of a Nok Yen, or "Riddle of Bonding". Once a Nok has been set in motion, the troll is bound to it until one of the parties either releases him or breaks the terms of the Nok. This is not so easily done as most Noks provide for protections against treachery and the breaking of a Nok carries with it the price of a curse and the mark of a Nokbadin or "Nok-breaker" on the offender. This of course is a magically enforced morality that the trolls themselves only marginally adhere to by choice. Nokbadin are shunned by most trolls, though there is a shadowy unspoken rule that Nokbadin make great agents as they have little to lose and are quite eager to improve their standing by any means.

The Nok is just one example of the trolls' potent magic. Though they do have their spell casters known as Skulds, most trolls know some form of magic. Magic is key among troll society as a tool for getting the upper hand and for undoing the machination of those against you. All but the lowliest of troll thralls has at least a modicum of magical ability and at least a few spells or magical items at his disposal. Needless to say, the Skulds use this obsessive pursuit to their advantage, marketing their services and wears to those willing to offer up the greatest prizes.

Female trolls known as Huldra are possessed of a highly developed magical ability. It is fortunate that such females are rare. It is this rarity that makes them valuable assets and commodities among the trolls. Huldra also possess and innate magical shape-changing ability which makes them masters of deception and intrigue. Powerful trolls are usually made so by their wives and sometimes daughters or other female kin. Young Huldra are known for venturing into the world of men and snaring unsuspecting males with their charms and magic, damning them to a life of servitude and ultimately a grizzly death in the halls of the Trulsk. The Huldras' gift of change is the result of an ancient Nok entered into by the trolls at the dawn of time.

According to troll legends they were tricked into the Nok by a deity who grew tired of his people falling prey to the trickery of the trolls. This deity, a God of Men named Alsfar, tricked the great Troll King, Skrufti into entering into Nok with the god that would grant his daughter and all female trolls after her the ability to change her shape. Skrufti's motives were the deception and conquest of his human enemies. Alsfar however fooled the eager Troll King and worked in a clause in the Nok that provided that, "If Huldra's nature, her beloved sees, before the eve of wedding be, her heart's name should he speak, forever his true wife shall she be." From this day forth, all Huldra were cursed to remain in their true guise as a mortal woman if their suitors discovered their true nature and spoke their true name before the completion of their wedding night. Needless to say that the Huldra are very keen on avoiding this fate.

If not for their conflict with the dwarves under the mountains and the fact that there is little of interest to them in the valley, it is certain that the trolls would dominate all who call it home. Fortunately the dwarven holds vilgilance the vilgilance of elves and men prevails and keeps these beasts at bay, but no wanderer to the mountains or denizen of the settlements there can ever fully ignore the threat the pose.