t is told that a long, long time
ago before the Council Tree was created, even before we first came here
there lived a sorceress in the Vale. She was a creature of wondrous beauty and
power, or so the Big folk say. She dwelt here in solitude, practicing her art,
and making friends with the Llaioo and the grinning Hrrcat, for her favourite
place in all the Vale was the Forgetting Swamps and the Darkwoods. Perhaps these
places even became as strange as they are due to her presence, but that is a
different story altogether and I will say no more of it.
Now, in those days the Vale was not as inaccessible to outsiders as it is now.
In particular, the Darkwoods were more open than they are now, so this was a
second way into the valley, apart from the Gorge. As it happened, one human
Chieftain found his way through the woods, although he got separated from his
men. He happened upon the sorceress, who was meditating in a glade. She was the
most beautiful creature he had ever seen, clad all in blue and with her
norsidian hair falling down her back. On seeing her beauty he fell immediately
in love with her.
Picture description. The sorceress vanishes into
thin air... Image by
However, when he approached her with the intention of making her his wife, she
vanished into thin air, leaving him perplexed and lost. He was determined to
find her again, so he set off deeper into the Vale, in search of the woman who
had captured his heart. For days he wandered, living off what the forest
yielded. He suffered many misfortunes - one night he would lay down to sleep,
only to wake the next day with all his stuff stolen by Llaioo. He stumbled over
roots much more often than he used to, one time so badly that he sprained his
ankle. As he knelt down one time to drink from a pond, a dizziness came over him
and he fell in. Despite all these things, he never gave up, and one morning, he
found her again.
As he went on, she was waiting for him, her arms crossed and her face cold.
Why do you not give up? I have sent you misfortune after misfortune, and still
you are here. Leave now, before I do worse to you than dropping a branch on your
head or making a root trip you up.
Wait! Please listen to me first! the Chieftain cried out. I love you! Won't
you marry me?
For a moment the sorceress was quiet. Then she burst out laughing.
Why would I marry you, you silly man? Not if you were the most powerful man on
Caelereth would you be able to give me the kind of power that I already possess.
I do not need you, little man. I am perfectly content to spend the rest of my
Angered by her words, the Chieftain charged at her, his sprained ankle quite
forgotten. He wanted to hurt her as she had wounded his pride. Just before he
reached her, she flicked her arm, and suddenly he found himself strals away,
outside of the Vale where he had started all those days ago. He bellowed out a
curse already his love had turned to hatred and made ready to head back into
Before he went a stral, however, something curious happened. The underbrush in
the Darkwoods started growing, at such a speed that his human eyes could
actually see it. Branches and twigs clung to and wove into each other, until
there was no passing that way any longer. There was only one way, and that was
out of the forest again. With every step that he took, more underbrush shot up
where he had been, until he was standing outside the forest without a way to get
He went back to his men then, but his hatred consumed him. When he could not get
the woman and her sorcerous ways out of his mind, he decided to go after her
once more. The forest was now closed to him, but he might gain entrance some
other way. With some of his most trusted men, he made his way around the Vale.
The first mountain that they passed was obviously impassable, but as they went
on they saw a second mountain, which they thought they might conquer, and thus
go down the other side. Had the Chieftain but known it, he passed not ten strals
from the Gorge though if he had taken that, perhaps we would never have come
to the Vale at all!
As the party walked up the mountainside, more misfortunes befell them, worse
than the ones in the forest. Cracks opened up suddenly, catching men at
unawares. Higher up, dizziness caught men that moments before had been nimble as
leaf ferrets, just as they passed a sheer drop. The Chieftain went stubbornly
on, until he reached the top and he noticed that he was alone. Along the way,
all his men had perished.
On the opposite mountain, he could see a tiny figure clad in blue, and he knew
that the sorceress was standing there. A voice reached him, as clear as if she
was standing next to him.
You should have stayed away, little man. You could even have given up long
before this point, and saved the lives of your men. Now you will never go down
to your people again, but neither will you descend into my Vale.
Following her words, the mountain under the Chieftain's feet shook and rumbled,
throwing him to the ground. When it stopped moving and he climbed to his feet,
he found that there was no more way down from where he was, and indeed that the
whole mountain had become impassable for any creature, with pitfalls waiting
around every corner. There was no more sign of the sorceress.
For a long time he paced up and down, but on all sides of the little patch where
he was standing, there was a sheer drop. When the hunger became unbearable, he
decided to end his own life, rather than die of starvation. It is said that if
one were to go up there if it was at all possible they could still hear the
curses he uttered as he plummeted to his death.
The sorceress, on the other hand, had used up much of her power, both for
growing the Darkwood underbrush and especially for rearranging a whole
mountainside. She was much weakened in body and mind, so with a last effort of
will she sunk herself into the mountain where she had fallen, to rest in a
chamber under its roof.
There she lies, recovering her strength in a slumber so profound that it has not
been disturbed for countless years not when we came to the Vale, not even when
we created our Council Tree. If she ever wakes, it will be not because something
happened in the Vale, but because the world itself shook.
As she slumbered, on top of her resting place started growing a tree, which did
not need soil to grow, but instead used her power to feed itself. The
descendants from this tree, the Oha-ooy, later caught the life force of beings
that died, but this is another story, and will be told at another time.