A Popular History of Shadow Valley
Title: A Popular History of Shadow Valley
When I was a small child, my family once took my brothers and I to see the famed wild horses of Silver valley. The equine species were known throughout the Northern Jaiman for their beautiful manes and silver-tipped hooves; never knowing the touch of man or elf, they roamed the valley freely, only occasionally to be observed by the curious from the cliffs high above.
Upon our visit, I had the pleasure of meeting a young common man named Jaron Galarn. It seems the lad had become the self-proclaimed tour guide and caretaker of the herd and their valley. He lived on a farm with his family just over the ridge from the valley, placing it right along the main path to the best view spots. Jaron was quick to greet travelers, his easy smile softening even the most wary sightseers.
Accompanying us to the valley, he spoke at length about the horses. He knew everything, from simple details such as head count, color variations, daily activities, feeding places, to elaborate stories of their origins and more humorous stories of men who tried to tame them. "No one has ever ridden one of the Silver Valley horses," he said in an ominous tone.
There were rumors and legends about them, scary tales of a great evil entity from another plane who once tried to gain entrance to our world by opening a great portal deep underground. The skies grew dark and the ground shook, the entity came through the portal and tore its way up through the ground, breaking the surface just inside the Silver Valley. It is said the equines met this invader with such ferocity that it was driven back into the crevice that it had opened and fell into a deep chasm never to be heard from again. Some say the horses still remain in the valley to protect us should the entity in the pit ever return.
His stories were many and I never forgot the awe-inspiring feeling I had when I first set eyes upon the herd as they ran through the valley.
It was not until I had completed my studies in Emer that I had a chance to return to Silver Valley, and this time the journey was much less pleasant. I had been instructed by my masters to survey the remains of Silver valley. I was shocked to learn of its destruction and even more so by the details of what had come to pass.
With the courtesy of the guides guild, I arrived in the village of Valaskar with little delay. Tearhaut, my guide for this trip, informed me of strange patterns in the elemental energy of this area and warned me that such unforeseen dangers might make the return trip more expensive. I shrugged off his allusions to price negotiations and set to my task. The Village had been deserted, not so much as a stray animal remained. With no guides apparent, I set out towards the cliffs of Silver Valley.
As I reached the top of the hill, remembering this as the place of the young Jaron had led me to as a child. I looked down into the valley and found desolation. The trees were dead, the flowing grass along the hillsides gone, replaced by a strange dark mist. And the equines...I turned away from the sight. The valley had the unmistakable signs of the undead. The thought of those beautiful equines turned to such a fate tore at my soul.
I returned to the city, found Tearhaut, and said it was time to go. "So soon?" he replied with a raised eyebrow. "Yes, there is nothing left in the valley except shadows. Shadows of once was..."
Here is the legend as I have heard it told in various Inns along the northern coast of Jaiman. Considering it's detail, I can only speculate that the original teller of this tale was a participant of the event...
A group of men had arrived at the settlement of Velaskar claiming to be sightseers. As most travelers in the village were in fact sightseers there was little to be suspicious of but this was a large group of men, seven and twenty and more seemed to join them each day. It soon became apparent that they were more than watchers of horses and it was Jaron Galarn who discovered their true purpose. Taking them on a tour of the valley, as he was known to do, he observed them paying little attention to the equines and more attention to the grounds of the valley. That night, he snuck into their supply tent at the end of town and discovered it was full of mining equipment. The men intended to mine the cliffs of Silver Valley, no doubt expecting to find silver.
Jaron went to the town council of elders in anger. "These men want to destroy our valley!" he proclaimed. The reaction from the elders was surprising to say the least. "What valley do you speak of Jaron?" they asked. Jaron looked aghast. "Silver Valley of course!" The elders stared at him blankly. "There is no such valley. Why do you waste our time with such nonsense?" Jaron was removed from the council chambers and told not to return till he was sober.
Jaron was not a stupid man. No one simply forgets a major landmark and source of so many legends overnight, there was sorcery at work here. Determined to do something, he set out towards the miners tent but before he got ten feet someone stepped out of the shadows muttering something and threw a handful of dust in his face.
He woke up in his bed at the farm and proceeded with his daily chores, without a single thought about the previous night's events. In fact, he found himself so busy with his farm work that it was weeks before he even had a passing wistful thought about his horses. Then while working in the barn he stumbled over something and fell to the ground. Searching the ground for the stray obstacle he found a silver-tipped horseshoe...and it all came back to him in a rush.
A season passed, and he had done nothing to prevent the miners from tearing up the valley. He went into town but found that no one remembered him. Everyone, even his best friends met his gaze with odd looks and confusion. Not wanting to fall victim to the strange spell again, he set out for the valley, hoping to find something he could use against this treachery. It was what he did not find that disturbed him.
The valley was empty, the comforting sounds of thundering hooves were gone and the air was heavy with silence. Where were the horses? Jaron spotted the entrance to the mine. As quietly as possible, he snuck down into the valley and headed towards the mine entrance. It was late and no workers were about. He grabbed a stray lantern and entered the mine. It was there he found the horses, though he wished he had not.
The horses of the silver valley were all alive but not well at all. They were bridled and chained, wearing large saddle bags full of earth and rock. His beautiful horses had been reduced to beasts of burden, their spirits broken. The sight of them caused him to cry out in dismay. He ran to one of the horses and began attempting to remove the heavy chains which restricted their once graceful movements. This was futile as he was distraught, and his previous cry had alerted a guard nearby. One moment he ws looking in the sad eyes of the chained equine and the next he was seeing stars as he slumped to the ground.
He woke in darkness at the sound of harsh voices. "What should we do with him? The forget spells didn't work! If we spell him again he may come back with help next time!" one voice said. Another voice, this one calmer, darker, "Dig a grave outside the mine and bury him." The other protested, "But he's not dead!" "If you bury him he'll be dead soon enough. Do it!"
Jaron was dumped roughly in a long wooden box and the lid was immediately nailed shut. He searched frantically for anything to aid him in an escape, but the strangers had stripped him of everything useful. Desperate, he began screaming at the top of his lungs, "Release me! Let me out of here or you'll regret it!"
A sad voice replied, "Quiet in there. No one remembers you. In time we will not remember you. Accept your fate lad. Try to die with some dignity."
"Dignity! What dignity is there to die in a box?! You must let me out! I can hear it in your voice that you do not wish this upon me! Release me and help me free the horses!"
Again a sad voice replied, "My fate is set friend, as is yours. I must serve the master with my talents, you must die in this box. Do not bother in your attempts to turn my loyalty. That possibility has long passed."
Then suddenly and excited voice exclaimed, "Muylari, there's a crack opening in the grave! I don't think we can dig any deeper."
"Shut up fool! I told you never to use my name." A short silence then... "It's deep enough. Toss the box in and fill up the hole."
The darkness once again lurched around Jaron as someone hefted the box and began carrying it away. Before he could begin screaming the sad voice spoke on last time, "Goodbye Jaron Galarn. Accept your fate."
"No!" Jaron screamed, "I do not accept this fate, damn you! You cannot leave me here to die and simply forget me! Do you hear me Muylari?! I will return to free my horses if I have to return from the grave I swear! Do you understand Muylari?! I curse this land and all who would do harm here! I WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN!!!"
A roll of thunder broke the silence and then Jaron was suddenly falling as his box was dropped into the grave. The hard impact knocked him out, leaving his last words echoing in his mind as the sounds of earth raining upon the top of his coffin filled his ears. The last thing he felt was a sudden shift and a sinking feeling as if falling a great distance into some subterranean chasm, then everything, even his thoughts, stopped in blackness.
Taken from the House Chesylcha library, c.1999.