Jutting skyward in the heart
of southern Sarvonia, the Fores are a formidable
mountain range. Divided between the skyscraping peaks of the High Fores and the
stolid upthrusts of the Lower Fores, they host some of the southern regions
hardier peoples, who carve a living from its rocky edifices and harsh
foothills. Stretching from the great Hèckra volcano at its northern march, then
down to a stubble of staccato hills across the Plains of Truoor, the range
skirts the western edge of the Ancythrian Sea
and cradles the Goltherlon Forest against
its shores. The peaks of the High Fores stretch tall, much more so than their
Description. Make no mistake: the High Fores are a formidable range of jagged peaks and rolling hillscape. Far to the north one will find the diminutive arm of the Upper Fores, a region of low-lying peaks and surging hills, perched above the Helcrah Highlands, a name derived from their ancient inhabitants the Helcrani. Here one will find the twin peaks of Minhos and Maehros, both names associated with the Helcrani heritage. Beneath the shadow of Mount Maehros is the tenebrous stone corridor known as the Ashen Passage, which cuts deep into the High Fores through to its eastern side, opening onto the southern Ashfields of Heckra. Built up upon the foothills of the Upper Fores are the Helcrani estates of Ahaiwana and ancient Altheim.
Continuing down through the spine of the mountain, beyond the pass, is the monolithic spearhead of ThrumRotrum. This mighty peak serves as the prime seat of the Thrumgolz dwarves; beneath its heavy stone walls dwells their chieftain and the dwarven clan's leading families. At the foot of the mountain is Thrumtyp, or Pick Cavern, a makeshift bazaar of trade and commerce. From here pours the crafted wares and mined goods of the High Fore Thrumgolz, where it is traded with intrepid Helcrani people from Marnheim and Ahaiwana, eventually flowing down the Pickhands River to Tamanath and Arlemorath. Next comes Mount KarizRotrum, another holdfast of the Thrumgolz. Deep within its shaft they mine for silver and copper, digging up many pygges of ore that are then floated down the many creeks and rivers into Tamanath. The deep-set Hel Pass cuts beneath KarizRotum, breaking open at the gates of Heleroth, another of the old Helcrani legacy homes on the eastern side.
There are many legends around the towering twins of Doriath and Menerum: the former for its dark legends of being the home to a blackheart brood of sephet demons, consuming the docile dwarves that had once carved beneath its weight; the second, the Menerum, for the ill tale of Menerum Bloodcurdler, a dwarf patriarch and murderer gone insane. Both tales are considered poor fare for most dwarves and are deliberately kept under closed tongues. The cobwebbed entrance to the twisting nest of tunnels beneath them is called Gol Hun, the Hand Mine, a damned and haunted place by all accounts. Further south the mountains part considerably, making way for the wide-set and well-travelled Kaveron Pass, which opens onto the Helcrani home-city of Menegula and the Kara'kash River which flows through the southern quarters of the Goltherlon.
Sitting high up on an unnamed peak, beyond the Kaveron Pass is the Een Mukkot, a cave that looks out upon the Goltherlon. There are no tunnels that reach up to its lofty perch, but legend tells of a wizened dwarf, many centuries old (much longer than any dwarf has any business to be, that is), who dispenses wisdom freely into the clouds, for none but the most stalwart and worthy to hear. Needless to say, it has long been a tradition of young Thrumgolz men of the High Fores to attempt to locate the Een Mukkot and its sagacious inhabitant, typically to no avail.
Towering above all, the southern peaks of the High Fores are tallest in Vardınn. They soar into the sky, and are visible from far across the great stonefields and plains to the south and west, and as a bleak shadow over the dark Goltherlon. We must start with Mount Barbarol; the Grandfather, in the Theregrim tongue. The oldest of the High Fores, it crowds, like a stooped old man, beneath Moor Pahton. But the Grandfather is not an elder such as the timeworn Nengula's in the Lower Fores. Barbarol has always been gibbous and grey. The Thrumgolz people have made it one of their homes; most notably, a sect of Thrumgolz known as the NedzMar, or Bitterbloods, a group of dwarves who protested the acceptance of the Helcrani people under the mountain. Whilst the events of the Helcrah happened many years ago, the NedzMar, true to name, have remained isolated from the clan proper, considering the Helcrani presence to be a grave insult to their kind. And so upon the Grandfather they sit and grumble under their breath about simpler times.
Next comes the peculiar silhouette of the Moor Pahton peak. Named the Striking Eagle Peak, its tip is curved and fractured into a number of sharp points like that of a splayed eagle's claw, open and ready to tear open its prey. Below Pahton are the uninhabited peaks of Mount Froten and Rofan's Peak; the first bears a name given to it by the ancient Goltherrhim elves, the second by Rofan, a Helcrani madman who claimed the peak to be his own and who, upon reaching its apex, died of exhaustion and cold, his hand clasped around its final rocky upthrust. Finally, set within the southern facade of Rofan's Peak, itself a mighty structure, is the Kor Mukkot. A peculiar thing, it is unclaimed by any Thrumgolz craftsmen; indeed it seemed to exist long before any current inhabitants of Caelereth settled around it in Vesolda and elsewhere. Within the cave itself, it is smooth and obviously artificial. A mystery to many.
The southern foothills of the High Fores consists of the Stone Fields of Kolchmach and the fearfully named Bone Valley, under which lies the labyrinth of caverns that connect the Higher and Lower Fores, as well as the great monolith of KorThuenn, a monstrous copperhill jutting up from the Stone Fields of Kolchmach. Just west of the KorThuenn is the Helcrani settlement of Codomma.
Beneath the rock-strewn fields and rolling highlands that stretch between the mountains to the south and their younger cousins in the north, the vast system known as the TolSprukthu can be found. The TolSprukthu joins the two mountain ranges via a series of meandering tunnels, corridors, hidden chambers and black caverns, some purposefully hewn from the stone by the Thrumgolz who found them, many more naturally occurring. This complex maze of underground highway serves, primarily, to link the Thrumgolz living in the Lower Fores with the rest of the clan. Entryways into the cave system can be found scattered beneath the Arncum Massif in the Lower Fores; straight tunnels, seemingly carved to reduce the travel distance between the the locations, lead directly from Arncum to the base of Kariz Rotrum, tunneling deep beneath Sostra Town. In the south the caves are much more raw and untouched by pick and chisel. There they run deep, far below the Bone Valley and the Stonefields of Kolchmach, before reemerging close to the wide opening of Kor Mukkot, that strange cave. It has occurred to some, over the years, that a conspicuously vast system of caves, the size of which seems to defy a natural cause, would be so connected with the equally mysterious occurrence of Kor Mukkot as itself more than coincidence.
Location. The High Fores Mountain Range is part of the Vardınn Province in Southern Sarvonia. It is located southwest of the Goltherlon Forest and north of the Plains of Truoor and the Lower Fores.
People. The High Fores
and its surrounding locale is home to a surprising variety of independent,
co-existing humanoid inhabitants. Primarily
the mountains themselves are settled by the hardy
Thrumgolz dwarves, who also reside
extensively in the southwestern Lower Fores, and beneath the Kolchmach
Stonefields and Bone Valley. They are concentrated most heavily deep in the
mountains of ThrumRotrum and KarizRotrum, both bearing names of
Theregrim origin. The further downhill that
one travels, the fewer Pickhands they'll find, in exchange for more and more of
the Helcrani. The
Helcrani people of Southern
Sarvonia have a patchwork history with the ancient
mountain range. As evident by the name "Helcrah", the lowlands between the two
mountain ranges up to Arlemaroth is home to a distinct community of
dwarves. However in 730 b.S. the greater portion of
Helcrani men emigrated to Efirhal
Island, to the north, building the city of Milkengrad
and leaving their old settlements mostly hollow; whilst their numbers have
recovered since then, much of the ancient
Helcrani lands from Codomma to
Ahaiwana are noticeably unsettled and sparse.
East of the Fores exists a number of stronghold colonies of the Helcrani in the settlements of Heleroth and Menegula. Demographically, these towns are primarily of the Helcrani clans of Nerters and Styrani, or dwarven and elven naturalised Helcrani. Tensions run high, as a rule, in the narrow roads of Menegula; in Heleroth there is greater ease as the great Forest reins itself in before the perimeter of the town proper. Both towns have a healthy fear of the Goltherlon, and in turn the Goltherrhim elves. When treating with the forest elves town elders always choose a diplomatic Styrani, themselves of Goltherrhim descent, to placate dealings.
Climate. The western foothills of the High Fores are unfortunately cursed with coarse, shallow soil and a thick blanket of shattered rocks; the aptly named Sostran and Kolchmach Stone Fields occupy much of this western property. The rivers sourced from the narrow valleys of the mountain ranges are unsuitable for supporting extensive farmland, despite their quantity, because of the despoiling touch of large-scale mining. The land grows more and more arid across the ominous Bone Valley before widening into the cracked earth of the Plain of Truuor.
East-side of the mountains is the darkening Goltherlon. Here rivers spiderweb across the hinterland below of the Hèckra Ashfields, where the temperature ranges from mild to almost tropical as one travels south to Shadoyan. The tall mountains also serve to protect the Goltherlon from much of the harshness of storms coming in from the west. Closer to the volcano the sun begins to darken and the air becomes more chilled.
Atop the mountains the snows are heavy, and every peak across the Fores is snowcapped. During the winter months the entrances to Hel Pass, hidden as they are, closes up beneath the snow, although the Kaveron remains open, albeit with difficulty. The storms are not so strong closer to Ahaiwana and the Ashen Passage remains open yearly, although the ashen runoff from the Ashfields can slow progress.
Flora. As the High Fores are located in Southern Sarvonia, much of it's vegetation is typical to the area. The east-side foothills are covered in a scattering of brush, with clumps of stalwart oaks and willows huddling around the wider rivers and small quantities of red birch. On the other side of the Fores, however, the flora grows thick and green, joining eventually with the mythical Goltherlon. Here one can find a large quantity of riverside red birch which the Thrumgolz prize highly for their woodsmithing. Fragrans and maple also grow abundantly across the hinterland, especially on the outskirts of the Ashfields. On the southern fringes of the range one can find vast, wild orchards of Bittersweets, with many foragers hunting for their sweet fruit.
Within the mountains themselves, however, one will find a variety of cavedwelling mosses and fungi. The dwarves cultivate the hardy rockmoss in great caverns beneath the earth in tandem with lightmoss, providing a successfully symbiotic industry; alas, few outside the Theregrim enclaves actually have a use for either mosses. Weavewender's provide a supply of sturdy clothing for the communal dwarves across the Fores using rockmoss. In a somewhat more industrial fashion, they also grow Tol Kurr moss, from which the Thrumgolz produce their notorious "underground bread" called "Borwul". Grown in smaller quantities in the darkest caverns are Nightgrape fields, from which various culinary uses are derived. Traveling outwards, deeper into the mountains, through the more ancient tunnels, one might also come across the dark and unseemly sou'cald moss and abandoned farm fields that have been overgrown with their former crop.
Along the fringes of the Goltherlon one will find a variety of forest-born mosses and lichen such as Grothar's Beard (as the dwarves call it), more commonly known as syrrus moss by the elves, who put it to their own use.
Fauna. The High Fores are not of a particularly exotic character. The peaks are tall, but sparsely settled, and the fragments of life that call them home are faint and few between. Gliding effortlessly between the sharp features of Moor Pahton and greying Mount Barbarol, throwing their fluttering black shadows across the horizon, are a single family of gryphons. Ancient, majestic creatues, the location of their roost is unknown, although it is likely hidden within the clutch of Moor Pahton. These gryphons have been an enduring sight upon the High Fores for centuries. In greater numbers, the smaller, although no less fearsome, and similarly named, gryph bird can be found. The grpyh is of more commonplace stock and origin than the near mythical gryphons. These wild grpyhs are not as easily tamed as their Eyelian counterparts, either. Both birds' favourite meal can be found rock-hopping across the rugged terrain and hidden mountain valleys of the High Fores: the capricus goat. These wily creatures are the most numerous denizen of the high mountains, and spend much of their life clashing horns and watching out for airborne predators. Set within the steep slopes one might find vivacious pools of water, brimming with little mithanjor fish, another favourite meal of any hungry avian.
On the ground, diversity multiplies. Common herds of horses range across the Helcrah Highlands and the fringes of the stonefields. Wherever possible, gryphons will take the opportunity to hunt wild horses and fly them back to their perch. Wild pigs and deer populate the scattered forest alongside the western foothills, and the small, inconspicuous Skyter's dart in and out amongst the trees. Ranging up from the south, one might catch sight of rast wargs. These beasts have long since been hunted, and it is no longer rare to see them expanding their territory into more the more exotic realms, although they have yet to migrate wholesale beyond the Lower Fores.
The Goltherlon is home to many peculiar critters, some of which have since made their home on the slopes of the mountains. The mischievous skyter is more numerous this sound of the Fores, and wild cats frequently hunt for ground-dwelling mogliar's and the odd surica rodent that might pop its head out.
However, as one enters the mountains they might find a few surprises deep under the dwarven halls. The gloomy and now abandoned Mount Doriath, within the central Fores, is home to a large brood of malignant sephet demons. Their infestation of Mount Doriath has long been a tale of horror to the Thrumgolz and they are sometimes used as a way of getting unruly children to go to bed. Their presence is not taken for granted, however, and the Thrumgolz have long since kept an eye on the many entrances to the Doriath cave system. In truth, the demons of Doriath seem almost a myth to many, long has it been since they were last seen crawling through the blackness of those tunnels. Nevertheless, myth they might remain, for it seems unlikely for any sane dwarf to willingly step foot under Doriath, knowing what might be beneath. Beyond the horrors of the dark, one will find the agreeably mundane and typical cast of cave-dwelling critters such as the welcome cave drells and the surica rodents.
Myth/Lore. The Thrumgolz dwarves that dwell beneath the peaks all have their own stories and tales about the Fores, as do the Helcrani denizens below and the haunting elves beyond the woods. Many tales are told by the campfire up and down the range. One of the most popular stories is that of Rofan Angrothrum, a Helcrani man for whom Rofan's Peak is named. The story begins with a proverb, typically, disparaging the dangers of pride and stubbornness. Thus enters Rofan, a man of towering size and strength. Rofan bellows to the skies, that every peak beneath the sun from here to Mount Minhos had been reduced to a notch upon his belt, and he didn't intend on slowing down now. And so, upon his arrival at the foot of the mountain, baggage train in tow, he boasted that he would have it under his belt by the new moon. A sagacious old Helcrani Nerter heard Rofan's boast, and proclaimed that unless he first falls to his knees and humbles himself before the Gods, he would never reach the distant peak. Scoffing, Rofan turned towards his foe; a squat mountain, snowy at its apex yet lightly wooded for much of its girth. He could spot a gentle slop leading up to its cap. An easy challenge! he thought, what foolishness has befallen this old dwarf? No prayer would be needed for him to surmount such a diminutive beast. And so Rofan, baggage train laden with goods, began his ascent, auspice far behind him.
The sky turned black before the first dawn. Thunder rolled across the hills, and soon rain, and shortly after the rivers overran. Rofan and his team struggled on against the torrents; a pack ox was lost to the current, then a teamster was swept away by an unruly log. The rain stopped the following day, and they continued their journey. As the slope grew steeper and the days colder, disaster began to creep up to them. A second teamster developed the Heaves and had to be buried, another slipped on some scree and fell to his death. Soon only Rofan, an ox and two men were left. His face was like carved granite, as cold and blank as the mountain. His men were terrified, too. But they were making progress, and soon they reached the first snows. He knew they were close. However, this respite was not to last. One of his men awoke in his sleep to find the other gored and left for dead, his body spread across their camp. Some beast had savaged him whilst they slept; with a chill they broke camp and headed onward in the night, the final teamster shivering in fear, his eyes darting left and right as they plodded on. Rofan kept a merciless pace. Nothing would hold him from his goal.
His ox fell to its death as the ledge beneath it gave way, along with their supplies. Shortly after the last teamster tripped upon a stone hidden by the snow, sent tumbling down below. Only Rofan remained. Glaring up to the sun, alone before the peak, its icy tip in sight, he cursed himself and the gods. Eventually he made it to the top of the mountain, as the storms were closing in, snow a flurry across the sky. With a madman's determination Rofan place one boot upon his final frozen peak. And there he remained, and remains, frozen in triumph upon Rofan's Peak, a hero and cautionary tale to all aspiring mountaineers across the Fores.