Ghastlee Valley Geographic Location in The Sundered Worlds | World Anvil
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Ghastlee Valley

A place the light only dreams of

A shadowed vale isolated from the surrounding region, a single community of curious folk, ominous whispers that go silent just as you stop to listen. The Ghastlee Valley is more foreboding than even Varazslem and dark as the caverns of the Deep Beneath. Umbral magic permeates the entire valley, but curiously no Shadowfell portals have been mapped in living memory. Despite its ghastly reputation, those travelling through the domain generally pass mostly unharmed. The Valley doesn't demand death, only fear.

Within the Mountains' Embrace

Like most of the wooded areas in the Mythic Hinterlands, Ghastlee Valley is full of ancient pines and few cold-adapted broadleaf species. A handful of foragables thrive in the forest shadows and along the banks of Lake Umbree, and enough game wanders the woods for the small town of Illshard. While the mountain's arms protect the valley floor from the worst of the snow and rain, the Hinterlands' signature mist settles over the vale like a haunting, and the air always carries a chill. Shadows seem to be the only trusted constant in the Valley. As a result, folks practice no large-scale farming, instead keeping family gardens and small livestock to support themselves and their neighbors.
Both imports and exports are low, with the people of Illshard being largely self-sufficient. Merchants travelling across the Hinterlands pass through often enough to keep them supplied with what they cannot make or grow.

Field Guide to Ghastlee Valley

Ghastlee wildlife is available, if not abundant. Hunters and trappers might find a use for black wolves, grizzly bears, red and grey foxes, valley hares, raccoons, black squirrels, and smokey shrews. Birders are spoiled for corvid variety, including the rare bone-beaked squalljay. A few species of sparrow and swallow flit between the dark trees, and the midnight hawk preys on the tiny rodents that scurry beneath the pine needles. The blackbacked woodpecker and a dozen types of owl create a signature symphony.
Diversity is low among the narrow streams ribboning through the shadows, comprising mostly grey minnows, wood frogs, and tundra graylings. Lake Umbree carries a little more variety with some species of walleye and the stoney whitefish. More commonly, bodies of water in the Valley are home to shadow skippers. These small, eel-like dragonkin have eyes larger than their heads that glow, ever so faintly. To date, they have not spoken to any person that was not born and raised in Illshard, and those have kept the dragons' secrets.
Hinterland bats, onyx moths, death's head moths, tiger moths, and spicebush swallowtails are common nighttime companions in the Valley. More chillingly, giant wolf spiders prowl the domain alongside certain oozes. Reports of lycans and undead are common and partially substantiated, but ultimately have little effect on the ecosystem.
Between the firs, white and black spruces, and crystal birches are a nearly infinite variety of shade-loving creepers and fungi. Intriguingly, winterblack saddles and ghoulskin caps are frequently found growing in rings in the spaces between larger trees. Attempts to study the phenomenon have been unsuccessful.
Ghost pipes are more common than expected in the Valley, but otherwise the variety of herbaceous plants is as expected. Local magic users and apothecaries import only the most exotic of natural components.

The Shadows Between the Trees

Ghastlee Valley was not always gloom and murk, but history disagrees on when that changed, and is entirely ignorant of what caused the shift. Vague reports from early Mythalenairra explorers describe a low-light valley with a large lake, several rivers, and scattered patches of forest. By the time they expanded their trade network to the surface, however, the Valley had become the shadowy lowland it is today, and the people of Illshard the only community.
Rigorous study has revealed obvious Shadowfell energy pervading the entire region, but not a single naturally-occurring portal has been discovered, nor have any beings of significantly fell power made themselves known. In fact, the Valley holds the record for fewest recorded paths to other planes on the entire continent. The people who live there have repeatedly explained that's just the way the Valley is, and the disagreeing academics have conceded to that explanation for the time being.
The Hinterlands as a whole were less affected by the {ABYSSAL RIFT} than other regions, having the expertise and force of the Mythalenairra right beneath them. The Valley shows no lasting signs of Abyssal corruption or evidence of any horrors visited on them. Scholars have drawn a connection between this and lack of other portals, and the commonly-held belief is that either some power is reinforcing the boundaries between worlds within the Valley, or that the Shadowfell presence is so permeating there is no room for other energies.
Location under
Associated Cultures
The people of {CITY} use the {CULTURE} statistics. There are no other known cultures in the valley.

The Valley Traveller

Because the widest part of the Tels separates Lyra Basin from the Hinterland Swamp and the Deep entrances are all on the outside edges of the Swamp, the numerous Valley passes are often the more expedient option. However, there is exactly one known point of civilization in the entire vale. This path is faster only for the practiced overland traveller.

Fresh water is common enough, though rumors of what stares back at the thirsty adventurer from blackglass pools might reduce viability. The woods are not thick but the canopy is dense. Even for those who have no problem with darkness, a supply of light sources is recommended. Magic is preferred, but if fire is the only option, reduce smoke as much as possible. It doesn't seem to do much against the native insects anyway. Whatever weather the Valley experiences, the canopy blocks most of it, except the expected Hinterlands mist and chill.

While game and foragables are available, the darkness between the trees makes hunting and gathering more difficult than it ought to be. Rations are recommended, as the only point of civilization in the entire Valley is Illshard. The locals are accomodating enough, and one small inn on the banks of Lake Umbree will provide a dryish bed and a meal for 8 copper pieces (at the time of this writing). A handful of crafters and artisans can trade for most of the necessities of life on the road, and several speciality shops catering to more exotic tastes might surprise even the most discerning visitor. The traveller will note that within the bounds of Illshard, it is extremely rude to enter a building uninvited and the locals will refuse to do business with repeat offenders.

Surprisingly, the Valley traveller is less likely to be killed or disappeared than most. Charms and protections against spooks, hauntings, and terrors of all types are prudent when visiting Ghastlee Valley, as is any magic that protects the mind from the effects of fear. Unlike most of the Hinterlands, Ghastlee Valley doesn't rely on the Mythalenairra for peacekeeping, law enforcement, and justice, but instead its own militia and mayoral cabinet.

Cover image: by BeaTzJooDy via Pixabay
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