grey-backed and ragged. The Lower Fores are a truly ancient range of peaks
situated just south of the towering and thunderous
High Fores, separated by the Valley of the Fores. Much of the land between
them is arid and parched stonefield, although some do call it home. The Lower
Fores do not boast the awesome height of their younger brethren, but they are
no less impressive. They are oft-times billed with words such as
“curmudgeonly”, “gruff” and the like; like slumped old men, one might be
inclined to think. In truth, the Lower Fores hold many mysterious secrets, some
eerie, some dark. But always old, old and long kept.
Bustling within them are the reclusive Thrumgolz dwarves, a Thergerim clan that can also be found north in the High Fores. Whilst much of the surrounding hinterland is sparse and dry, surface settlements can be found in proximity, and the banks of the Rusik River lends to the southern march a touch of verdant life. Across the crags themselves, peculiar weather patterns creep according to some old law; deep mists hang in perpetuity across the Nengvale, and humid miasmas can be found appearing in scalding storms both port and starboard. Hidden beneath the lifeless Bone Valley that stretches east of them is a vast, sprawling and truly confounding series of tunnels, caves and caverns – some natural, some born of chisel and hammer – that the Thrumgolz Thergerim have since utilised to reach the distant High Fores, migrating in large numbers sometimes during their considerable history.
Description. Buttressed up against the width of the Sostran Stonefields, at the northernmost reach of the Lower Fores, is the Arncum Massif. A wide and solid formation, when viewed from the north it dominates the flat landscape like a great dome before a backdrop of slowly rising peaks. Light scrub is scattered across the massif's base, and the freshwater spring of the Hightops River can be found within its hard earthen folds. Gaping open in its eastern face is the sacred Arncum Grotto; long since a place of religious importance for the Thrumgolz clan, who often travel far to step within its shade. The Arncum Massif eventually gives way to the weathered mass of Mount Kindrey. A grey old haggard, capped in dirty sheets of snow, like a grandpa’s greying crown. Its faces are sheer and rugged and hardy. At its southwestern base lies the Dhundrum Cave, a frontier settlement built and inhabited by the Thrumgolz dwarves but also the primary entrance to the major part of the complex system of tunnels that lie beneath, that side of the mountains. Beyond Kindrey lies the great father son peaks, the Nengula’s. As if his hand were resting upon his son's shoulder, the might of Great Nengula rises up close behind the crude Fat Nengula, their appearance filing the horizon behind Arncum and Kindrey, forming the great spectacle of the Northern Sentinels cluster; named so for the layered viewed presented to any observer oriented to the south. Hiding beneath the shadow of Great Nengula is the Nengvale, a densely wooded gully that wanders deep between the Sentinels, lost beneath their mighty shadows and shrouded in a thick cloying mist. Close to the base of Great Nengula are the Nengula Caves, the entrance of which are hidden by a dense thicket of spreading prickelspine; rumour has it that the caves play host to an ancient and lost clan of Ogres who passed through the Valley of the Fores in ages past...
The mountains dip south of the Nengvale and Great Nengula, although only briefly, and mostly not enough to enable safe passage for pack animals, although an agile traveller might be able to make the crossing alone. Nonetheless, beyond these low-liers, jutting up like a great flagstone, is the vast Megi Rotrum: the Crystal Mountain. Deep beneath it can be found the prized Thergerim gem works, from which many pygges of precious crystals have been drawn, especially quartz; indeed, the Thrumgolz have a near monopoly on the indiequartz trade north of the Mithral Mountains. Behind the rectangular body of Megi Rotrum is the crown of the Lower Fores: the imperial Maerk Moor Mountain, named so for how it persists to be seen from every angle one chooses to view the Lower Fores. Maerk Moor is a wide-set mountain, layered up to its peak in thick blankets of stone, sheathed in motley swathes of snow and shattered scree. From here is birthed the strong-hearted Rusik River; and like a great grey eagle it spreads its winged shadow across the blank plains to its east and west, glaring up at its brother, the Moor Pahton, the highest peak of the Fores. Jutting out underneath its girth is the Puvtyr Mountain, beneath which resides the ancestral home of the Thrumgolz people, Een Puvtyr, or the Cauldran City. The oldest families of the clan still reside here, having never left, where the ancient halls of the Thrumgolz still stand, stretching endlessly into the dark. SekettTyr lies just south, and to the west is the OngTyr, both ancient dwarven cities that have remained inhabited throughout the long ages.
To the west of the Lower Fores is the dusty brown Sostran stonefields; to the east, the lethal expanse of the Bone Valley, and to the southeast the Plains of Truoor. The Milaripaw Headwaters form high in mountains and merge into the Dorashi in the south. The vivacious Rusik River curls out from beneath Maerk moor, winding through a thickly wooded gully adjacent to Ong Tyr. A large town resides besides the basin of Lake Candrian, called Kyril, which has long been one of the first stops for intrepid Thrumgolz traders. East of the Lower Fores is Codomma, which lies nestled between large outcrops of prickelspine.
Location. The Lower Fores Mountain Range is part of the Xaramon Province in Southern Sarvonia. It is located south of the High Fores, east of Cratinth and west of the Plains of Truoor.
People. Beneath these
shaggy old heaps lie the scattered families of the native
Thrumgolz dwarves, who settled
here long ago, arriving somewhere from the south. These ancient mountains are
honeycombed with ancient chambers and palaces, workshops and storehouses, some
bustling with hushed activity beneath the gloom of mosslight, others cobwebbed
and desolate, empty now for many years. The northern fringe of the Lower Fores
is populated by a scattered garrison of
Thrumgolz settlements, mostly
trading stations and security outposts nestled at the mouth of the sprawling
tunnel system that connects the High Fores to the
Lower. Its sheer meandering size means no being could lay total claim to it, and
so the dwarves err on the side of caution. No
one really knows what dwells within its twisted halls.
The Arncum Grotto is home to a circle of wizened and somewhat cantankerous old monks. Notorious ascetics, they maintain the sanctum in the center of the Grotto and tend to its myriad treasures. The Grotto itself, and the Stone Monks, as they are known, is a place of immense religious importance to the local Thrumgolz. Newly anointed chieftains are known to travel from as far as Een Puvtyr or even Een Mukkot to step within its halls. The most interesting feature of the Grotto is the shimmering Augur's Well, a natural pool of vibrant waters of the same shimmering blue as the waters beneath Vontron. An old legend, heartily supported by the Monks, claims that the Augur’s Well is filled with the sorrow of TrumBaroll (although never once have the explained what had made him so sad!), and that if one were to peer into its flickering waves, one might see into the future.
The vast Dhundrum Cave, one of the oldest cities of the Thrumgolz, is a regal and esoteric settlement beneath Mount Kindrey. Once the seat of an early and astoundingly rich dynasty of Thrumgolz chieftains, the Dhundrum now serves as the gateway into the mountains for those approaching from the western face of the range. In ages long since gone this city had a strong trade and many visitors coming upstream from the Headwaters. Alas, the slowly creeping Stonefields and the growing isolationism of the Thrumgolz citizens has seen Dhundrum fall into decay. Nevertheless, many awesome monuments to dwarven craftsmanship can still be found here, and the vast Glittering Palace has been untouched by unruly plunderers, as it has been closely guarded and preserved by intense conservatory effort. Beyond, there are many old cities, towns and simple family covens simply going about their day. Between the great twin Nengula's, on the surface, is the deeply shadowed and gloomy Nengvale, a meandering gully that creeps deep between the mountains. No one is too sure how far it goes, or what lies at its end, and few dwarves in particular are keen to find out. The trees here are old and gnarled, and seem to glower and scowl at any who might think to venture in. The Thrumgolz are content with peering from their small carved windows, and crouching at the entrance to their haunts. Bolstering the unnerving nature of the shrouded vale is the Nengula Caves. Like ugly, snarling beats, their entrances are rimmed with jagged rock spires and spears, grim tatters of moss and worst of all: thick, vicious thorns... prickelspines. Whilst many turn a hasty shoulder to the mists of the Nengvale, others deliberately avoid the grimace of the Nengula Caves.
Some of the best gemsmiths may be found chipping away in smokey chambers deep beneath the MegiRotrum, central within the Lower Fores. The bold Crystal Mountain has long been the home of the Pickhand gem trade, and is arguably the most industrious center of gemworks north of the Mistral Mountains. It is here and the surrounds that life and activity pick up; dwarves can be found bustling through tunnels and congregating around trade centres and deep, deep mines beneath the Crystal Mountain, sending mine carts of indiequartz up to workbenches to be cut. Indeed, the depth of those mine shafts plunge far beneath the earth, their limits almost unknown to those still living, having been carved so many centuries ago. Likewise, many are wary of such ominous and extensive boreholes.
Finally, the last of the Thrumgolz cities still stand proud. These ones have stood the test of time, having retained a healthy and vibrant population for millennia; the mighty and regal Een Puvtyr (even if the name suggests otherwise - "Pot Town") is the ancestral capital of the Thrumgolz, housing the ancient assortment of Thrumgolz nobility and old blood. Here the records of their people, and of the turning world above, are kept. Here the mighty temples of dwarven piety still stand, and it is here that vast chambers of gold, gems and magical artefacts can be found hoarded beneath. To the south is SekketTyr, the Colourful City, a place of great revelry and hedonism. Lauded for their love of bright murals, the dwarves there are rooted deep and are closely knit; a circle of old families that have ruled its gaily decorated caverns upon the dictates of various traditions and practices involving the many dyes to be found in the stone. Many great artists have called it home. Lastly, the sombre and impenetrable OngTyr, or Heart City, huddles near the spring of the Rusik River. It is a glaring and grey place, a counterpoint to the vibrancy of SekketTyr. The Heart City lies atop the pitch black cells of an ancient prison. Whilst mostly in disrepair, the sealed tombs of many historic villains can be found beneath the chiselled stone of OngTyr's central halls. The people there are hushed and subdued, as if the ghosts of all those long dead, rotted away in their cells, haunts them even now.
Climate. The weather along the Fores changes erratically, depending on the season, and also, it seems when one is looking. Whilst much of the range itself is of modest height, cowering beneath its few peaks such as Great Nengula, the rugged and unpredictable shape give breath to a great variety of climates. A heavy mist blankets much of the central ranges', especially around the brothers Nengula, perpetual across the Nengvale. Further south, winding between the jagged corridors between Maerk Moor and its slowly descending cousins one can find hazardous wind tunnels of sharp icy wind, sheets of snow and the odd rain shower. Much of the air to the southwest gets heavier and wetter as one descends, and up to Lake Candrian one can find themselves in a heavy sweat before they even notice they're off the mountains! Erratic blizzards and gusts of angry wind threaten the Arncum Massif, especially during winter, and much of the small mouths that peek up along its foot can be blocked in by a night’s snowfall.
Flora. The Lower Fores do not play host to a great variety of vegetation. Much of it is simply bare rock face and barren scree slopes. A skirt of hardy bushes and pines copses hold tight to its foothills, and one can find the odd wolf willow and red birch tree, sometimes gathered in clumps around the gushing springs that feed into the Rusik and the Headwaters. Greenery is much sparser on the eastern side of the mountains, given the arid nature of the Bone Valley. Thus, the most prevalent flora in the Lower Fores is lichen and moss, of which many varieties can be found. The staple and very much garden variety fungus, the sulcho mushroom, can be found in great quantities both wild and cultivated in the spaces beneath the stone. Hanging from the vaunted ceilings of many of the inhabited rooms one will find lightmoss, and also in great quantities draped across vast halls, where it supplies the needed light for rockmoss to grow. Thick blossoms of sou'cald can be found growing unchecked in the danker corners of the mountains, especially as one draws deeper into the oldest and unused halls of the ancients. Unique to the Lower Fores is the terrifying blazebushel moss, which, whilst rare, tends to grow in huge creeping carpets, oft filling entire rooms. This orange-hued plant consumes old organic matter such as wooden furniture, as well as the softer rocks brought down from the closer to the surface often used for furnishing. What's especially terrifying is its tendency to simply ignite and erupt in a conflagration when disturbed, such as when it is stepped on. Thick hedges of Blazebushel might grow undisturbed for centuries before some creature unwittingly rustles it too much, igniting it in a wicked wave of fire.
Dotted around the surface, especially closer to water, one might find the miyuestiac bush, from which the medicinal miyu bean is taken. The vibrant springs that feed the Rusik tend to explode in blooming wildflowers during spring, sporting colourful hedgerows of lascivious lotann flower, peeking phoenix flowers and sprawling bushels of roses, amongst a beautiful array of smaller mixed buds. Whilst the dwarves tend to have little interest in the fragile beauty of such sights, travellers have been known to trek up the rugged slopes of the Lower Fores to reach the hidden glittering scenes that burst from between the harsh rock. Some consider it a wonder, and whilst the brilliant flowers of Rusik's upper bound aren't of such rare variety, they none the less captivate the weary minds of those who seek them, or who perhaps simply stumble upon their dappled glow.
Fauna. The Lower Fores share much of the same animate life as their brash younger brethren. The striking bold silhouette of the soaring gryphons can be spotted against the stark rocky Cliffside on a clear day; roaming capricus goats tend to scatter from the sight of such airborne royalty. At lower altitudes the spirited rusik horses can be found grazing on the sparse crop and brush, and as the foliage grows thicker, especially closer to water where the willows huddle together, wild deer and squealing pigs dart around the ferns and bushes, dodging hungry rast wargs and quick-footed pardurin wildcats that have ventured from the open steppes to the south. A curious inhabitant of the great Een Puvtyr city is the puvtar cat, a fluffy little thing that likes to swat at silverfish and doze under the feet of unsuspecting busy dwarves. In scattered rockpools above, mithanjor silverfish can be found in teeming shoals, a buffet for nesting birds and hungry lizards.
Deeper beneath the earth the sight of prowling wildcats and frolicking goats disappears. Early caves dug close to the surface often house rodents and lizards such as the scurrying cave drell. In some of the older, natural caverns one will find great quantities of morjuals, or cave bats. They sometimes roost in the closets and spare rooms of busy dwarves, and are even taken as pets by a compassionate few. As one descends, and the darkness draws in, the creatures turn darker. Affectionate lizards disappear, and the twisting caverns grow silent. A wrong turn... and one might find themselves subdued, their legs wrapped in thick glutinous webbing. A panicked glance reveals a suffocating ermine blanket draped across your vision; the snare of the giant spider, a menace of the deep. The likelihood of escaping such a monster after having tripped its web and alerted it to your presence is slim, as they have been known to chase their prey furiously and deep, skittering through the tunnels. Depending on your luck, the giant spider will slip from your mind in favour of some greater horror... if the legends are to be believed, the ghosts of the weary dead, trapped beneath the earth from cave-in’s or perhaps malicious action, haunt the long stretches of stone. Some still whisper, the oldest, sometimes the ancient carvers themselves, long since retired, of a foul creature, drawn up from the darkest holes, that leads them. A lich, some say in a hushed voice. A black wizard, a dead elf full of rage, stalking the crypts beneath OngTyr, hunting for the living. None are too sure, and no one seems to want to find out.
Myth/Lore. The story of the Lower Fores is that of the ancient Thrumgolz who first made it their home. The histories are vague and dissonant, uncertain as to when and how, or even why they chose these mountains as their own. Regardless, many ancient tomes exist locked in ornate stone libraries, their integrity kept constant via magical charms to preserve them. Some of the oldest lineages still guard the thick, smooth black stone doors that offer entry to the archives in Ong Tyr and Dhundrum. Some of the legends associated with the Lower Fores are of good nature and light heart, such as the much loved tale of the Midnight Morjual, a widely told tale of hard-work and persistence.
Not all tales are so joyful, however. The Lower Fores has long history, and hidden with the record of ages are many baleful stories of murder, disappearances and insanity; hushed reports of creatures in the dark, of malignant beings, demons and devils. Many young dwarves have been snatched by hungry spiders, it is true, but some have simply vanished, like smoke. Tales abound regarding the diabolical evil that crowds the holes beneath OngTyr. The lich, they say…a creature once dead, once a wizard of great power, perhaps an elf…now simply consumed with rage. It is true that no one has met this lich and returned to set the record straight, that’s for sure.
Long ago, a band of creatures appeared within the Valley of the Fores. They were brutish, large and ugly; they were ogres, seeking a new home and running for their lives. It had come to be that place where these ogres had once called home – Rimmerins Ring – had been overrun with humans who could barely stomach the sight of them. Many of them, Baal Ogre’s as they were known, fled from the humans; Eyelians unified under the Santharian Kingdom. Their retreat routed them through the harsh Valley of Bones. Traps had been set for the poor creatures, and alas few made it out. Eventually the ogre band escaped, finding their way into the Tandala Highlands in the north and claiming the name Ban-Yuk Ogres. However, a few of them, separated from the body of their tribe, become lost and wandered into the misty maw of the Nengvale to escape their pursuers. They forged a path through the vicious pricklespine and found the mouth of the Nengula Caves, where they decided to make their new home. They have since remained, isolated, still bearing the name Baal…and, alas, the mist has done peculiar things to them. This cadre of hidden ogres did not survive the twisting influence of the vale, and have since become vacant, primitive and near phantasmal. The dearth of food has left them haggard and skeletal, although they do not die. Their eyes are blank and rolled back, their teeth splintered and yellow. They wander, aimlessly in circles. A sad fate indeed.