How, you ask? Why?

I had a reviewer declaim the fact that a band of trees is able to separate a people. Surely folk will have hiked through from north to south, and south to north? Someone will have been adventurous enough to do so. No forest, impenetrable or otherwise, will keep the spirit of facing the odds at bay.

He or she is correct. Humankind will go where it is dangerous and forbidden. This mind-set is about challenge, and it is also pure rebelliousness.

BUT.

Know this world Valaris from the inside out and you will understand why a band of trees separates them for three thousand years.

Firstly, we are talking a truly massive forest; not only does it stretch from the eastern seaboard all the way to the western, but it is wide and requires some serious fortitude to traverse.

Secondly, Valarians have been manipulated into fearing even their own shadows at times. The magic of a sunset is magic, and therefore forbidden.  Imagine, then, a forest of magical trees. This was forced upon them, and therefore, when faced with a mighty band of trees that serves to keep them safe from the poisons beyond, the spirit of adventure is unfortunately snuffed.

Thirdly, the time factor becomes a barrier all its own. Truth has become legend, and conversely legend has become truth twisted out of proportion. Fact is, the clans in the north believe the land they inhabit is all there is to Valaris, while the south regards the northern peninsulas as destroyed. Add to that complacency, and the Great Forest is ever given a wide berth.

Let it be said, however, that a few have crossed, never to return to spread the word of continuing deception. Speaking up and denying accepted beliefs is considered sedition, and, much as it is with magic in whatever form it is perceived, leads to the hangman’s noose. Also, fear creates monsters; a fair few of the intrepid convinced themselves ghosts and ghouls tracked them and succumbed to fear itself.

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So, yeah, it does seem a bit far-fetched that trees divide north and south, but this is Valaris and nothing is quite as black and white as that … or grey and every shade of green and blue in this case.

When even trees deceive

Terrible wastelands result after the battles between the Guardians and Infinity/Drasso, which serves to separate Valarians. Three thousand years later (the present) that mind-set is in place despite the recovery of the land. North of the Great Forest folk adhere to an ancient clan system and believe the south annihilated and poisoned. They call the Forest the Barrier. Southerners, having abandoned the clan system, believe the same of the north. They know the Forest as the Great Dividing Forest. Infinity’s ‘game’ summons individuals from north and south.

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From the north comes MORDAN of the Kinna clan, an old man who has memorised the entire Ancient Oracles – 10 hefty volumes containing much lore and magic, and which becomes pertinent to the story as it unfolds – and SAMSON of the Mye, a young man proficient with a sling, and CRISTI of the San, the shyest young girl you ever will meet. Kisha of the Tan (the largest clan) is already in the Great Forest, seeking distraction from grief after her father dies unexpectedly, when she feels summoned to a gathering within the forest she hikes as the tale opens; the four great northern clans are represented in these four.

Kylan, a southerner and the Herbmaster of Farinwood, camps in the Great Forest. He is assailed by Infinity, and Kisha, hearing his desperation in the night-time Forest, goes to his aid, and this is how the separation of north and south is bridged, via two young people prepared to talk and listen and hear.

It becomes clear to all players (northern, southern and Guardians) that there is much hidden under the surface of Valaris’ recorded history.

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Inheritance Ignored

Of mighty books and a golden medal

Let’s talk about magical devices.

There are a few that populate the LORE books, these two being the most important. The Ancient Oracles and the Maghdim Medaillon:

Three thousand years before the present time the human population of Valaris was essentially decimated.

First there was Drasso’s extermination, which was wholesale slaughter, and their numbers were further depleted when the Guardians descended to do battle. Using human tactics to fight a war required men, many men. That part of the war lasted three years, and at the end of it, large tracts of land were wasteland … and thus more succumbed, for the aftermath was as hard as the wars fought.

Only the Great Forest remained unscathed, but it became a physical and emotional divide between north and south.

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The Guardians saw this, but were powerless to change it. Not only could neither side see beyond the wastelands in the aftermath, but also they no longer trusted their saviours. Deified they were, but the terrible power of the Guardians left the humans as fearful of them as they were of Drasso, Infinity and their kind. The Guardians chose to leave the humans to rebuild alone.

They left an inheritance for each region divided by trees and superstitions.

To the north went ten volumes, containing within the pages of antiquity universal truths. Warded within those pages were sufficient charms to promote the spirit of adventure, the need to restore the past, and a wish to cross the wastelands in search of other survivors.

The charms needed to be read aloud, which they never were, for the dead language was also an unpronounceable one. Fear of magic had stilled most tongues.

The ten volumes were and are collectively known as the Ancient Oracles.

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To the south went the Maghdim Medaillon. In the Ancient Tongue it translated as ‘Supreme Wisdom’. It had the power to summon the clans of old, particularly those of the north with numbers to call to, but like to the Oracles, it was not used. Fear of magic stilled it also.

The remaining sorcerers in the south guarded the Maghdim Medaillon. Their numbers were small, fifteen having survived Drasso. From them, the continuance to the present-day Society of Sorcerers.

The golden medal lay in its velvet casket for two centuries, the sorcerers too afraid to discover what it could do. Sorcery was outlawed before Drasso; after him, it was worse.

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