Vale of Stolen Time

Our arrival at the Vale was marked by involuntary gasps of wonder as we finally laid eyes on the treasures within. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought our surrounds to be a painting, or perhaps an illusion - surely reality couldn't be this vibrant.
— an awed explorer
  Many fledgling adventurers and explorers believe Iskaldhal to largely be an icy wasteland. They barely acknowledge the thick taiga forests clustering to the continent's south, determined to believe that the presence of snow marks those areas as pointless. Attempting to show them the beauty lurking within the permafrost of Kylmävikk Desert is a futile endeavour. Usually hailing from the warmer reaches of Valathe, this type of explorer is considered the worst of explorers by Iskaldhan natives.   This does not deter said natives from proving their continent's worth. The most stubborn of explorers will find themselves directed far north, well past the towering spire of Kyöpelinvuori, to a small cluster of mountains known locally as the Myrskyseinä (roughly translating to 'storm wall' in a local tongue). Named for the shelter they provide from strong winter storms, the Myrskyseinä also serve as a protective shell for one of Iskaldhal's more intriguing hidden gems: the Vale of Stolen Time.

Geography

  The Vale comes as a welcome break from the monotonous greys and whites of its containing mountain range. A small waterfall thunders into the winding river that stretches from the vale's northern end to its wider southern crevasse before tumbling downwards to the southwest. This river is the only external sign that something special lies beyond the peaks, occasionally carrying the vale's debris down to confused wanderers by the 'nameless' lake.   Unsurprisingly, given its reputation as a stunningly verdant area, the entire valley floor is blanketed in soft green grasses but for one small area at the very centre of the Vale. Small ridges in the terrain allow for a difference in verticality as one proceeds through the valley, making it all too easy to become lost in the natural maze.   At the Vale's centre is the source of its name. Soft grasses and mournful white flowers give way to pale stone, upon which stands a large crystalline monument. A small stone plaque engraved with druidic runes and sylvan letters proclaims it to be the Stopped Hourglass. The Hourglass is impressive for its size alone, even in this grove of beauty and rarity, but it is what lies within the glimmering crystal that sets the teeth of most visitors ajar.   For the Stopped Hourglass contains the eternally-still form of a man. A Champion in his prime, the unmistakable swirls of Gozreh's leaflike symbols dancing across his exposed arms. Buds of never-blooming flowers cluster around his bark-coloured hair in a wreathlike formation, each still glistening with fresh water. The fallen Champion hangs in the air, his arms clasped in imitation of a prayer, eyes shut and head tilted upwards. Were it not for the hilt clutched between his still hands and the metal blade protruding from his back, he might have been mistaken for one only paused in worship.  

Whispers of History

Gozreh must view the Vale with quiet contemplation of its existence. It functions in perfect contrast to His commandments of ever-changing nature, but what other memorial would be as fitting for His true Champion?
Esteri Sillanpääm, druidic scholar
  Little is known about what lead to Gozreh's former Champion being forever entombed in crystal. Even his name is lost to the rivers of time - perhaps stolen away by the Worldrend's calamity. What can be inferred, however, is that he made the ultimate sacrifice to protect one small pocket of the land from time's ravages. He is the Hourglass now eternally stopped, and with his lost soul, the entire Vale remains paused in a fragment of eternity.   Visitors scoff at this claim, pointing out the changing flowers and thunderous waterfall. Few remain long enough to note its repetition. Each year, the same flowers bloom and die. Fruits taken regrow the same way. Flowers planted integrate with the existing, oftentimes merging into said moment as if they had forever been there. Fallen humans - for some tragic souls view the Vale as the perfect ending to their flawed existence - remain no longer than a year, their bones becoming one with the soil, their flesh giving birth to new life. Whilst the Hourglass remains stopped, the Vale shall remain stolen from time.

Flora & Fauna

You may look, but leave only footprints and take nothing but the memory.
— a watching Greenwarden
 


An enormous variety of trees, bushes, and other miscellaneous flora blanket the Vale - so much so that it seems to glow emerald under the light of the sun. Many of the plants predate society in age, and druidic visitors have confirmed that the Vale is of such an age that it possesses species of plant that have since gone extinct elsewhere.   Were it not for the area's magical anomaly, it would be an incredibly scholarly resource - however, the latent magic prevents would-be scholars from removing samples for study. Attempts usually result in the samples wilting as soon as they leave the Vale's boundaries. More malicious attempts are met with harsher punishment.

Fruits of the Vale

Fruit-bearing plants can be harvested from when ripe, but their fruits cannot be taken from the Vale. Local myth warns against eating anything from the Vale, however, suggesting that those who do might be cursed to forever remain in the Vale as its newest of plants.   Whilst the validity of this claim is uncertain, there are many who have perished inside the Vale as a result of its temptations - and though the number is small, there are also some few people who claim that the Vale's fruits restored them to full health from a tragic state.

  Despite its variety of fruit and flower, the only creatures inhabiting the Vale on a permanent basis are insects created by the Vale's magic for the purpose of maintaining the iridescent garden. These cannot be captured, but a cursory examination suggests that they are simple clones of the insects that might have actually once pollinated the Vale's assortment of trees. Other creatures avoid the Vale. Animals forced into the Vale by way of teleportation, summoning, bribery, or other forms of coercion will attempt to leave if possible, and will otherwise go to sleep.  
Sometimes, they do not wake up.
Alternative Name(s)
Vale of the Stolen Moment, Gozreh's Whisper
Type
Vale
Location under
Iskaldhal
Header image produced by Hanhula in Flowscape.

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