The Sresar Vale is a region in Arangoth. It comprises the area northwest of Drache and Castle Black. It consists of rolling hills, the occasional deciduous or pine forest, and includes some small streams. The soil is not as fertile as in some places; however, the best vineyards and wineries in all of Arangoth make their homes here.
The people who live there are farmers and shepherders who pay their taxes directly to the crown, as no nobility lays a claim to such a rustic and unprofitable place. The area is peaceful and its main products are wool, lamb, various grains, grapes, olives, wine, and some sculpture.
Before the advent of irrigation and the increase in settling, monsters abounded the area, as did light blue lines of raw energy. This factor contributed to the low population, as marauding monsters poured out from the Vale, seemingly spawned, into other areas. This reason was why nobles didn't lay claim to the Vale; to be blamed for such calamities was to be avoided at all costs. Rather than solve the problem, they let the place lie as it was. The Vale suffered, and the population constantly feared marauding beasts. The Vale was famous for the ferocity of these bizarre and sometimes hideous monsters, many of which were completely different from other monsters in Arangoth. However, in the last few years, such attacks have stopped, and the Vale has become more peaceful and safe to live in. The nobles, for a time, were happy with this, as expenditures for keeping the monsters out of their territories became a burden left to memory.
Now the nobles see the Vale as a threat and as a thing to acquire at the same time. Merchants see the Vale as a place to buy up and exploit. Others see it as the way to a better life. Rumors of blood sacrifices at the harvest time have traveled far and wide, as have similar rumors of temples where black magic is practiced, which seeks to stem off the flow of settlers moving to the Vale in search of a new and better life. There are rumors of bandits--some even say nobility-funded mercenaries--pillaging villages, and magical attacks on these same bandits/mercenaries abound. Already, the nobility are offering to move occupying forces in for the "safety" of the people. The people are resisting this, but it seems inevitable that the Vale will fall to one side or the other.
The Vale itself consists of three distinct areas: the Settled Lands, the forests, and the foothills of the Grey Fang Mountains. Within each of these three distinct areas is a variation of the local ecology, but the one constant in all these areas is the weather. Summers are cooler than they should be, and winters are warmer. The area tends to keep a constant temperature, with some temperature variation, but only of about ten degrees at the most. There is no explanation for this recent occurrence, despite the efforts of sages.
The Settled Lands
These lands, mostly located along a source of water whose name has been disputed for years, consist of farms and grazing lands. Until recently, these were the only lands able to support fertile soil, but with the innovation of irrigation and terrace farming, this area has been supplemented with other parcels of land which are just as fertile. These areas are characterized by orchards of olive trees and grape vines, with the occasional field lying unused as the soil is rotated and the cattle are allowed graze on it. This provides an important basis for the Sresar Vale's most prominent export: their wine. The Parmilod winery in particular is one of the most well-known and prosperous.
The trees most commonly encountered in these areas include various fruit bearing trees, some pines, oaks, and even the occasional maple. More common are the fields of wildflowers, which range from poppies to blue bonnets and anything in between. Besides the orchards and the vineyards, the most commonly grown crops include wheat, onions, turnips, garlic, tomatoes, and watermelons. The topsoil in most of the vale is at least three feet deep, and often more. Of late, the soil has been so fertile that one can almost certainly associate a heady aroma in the air with the Vale. As one can guess, this is the haven of farmers.
The most commonly encountered animals are rodents. Rabbits, moles, chipmunks, and squirrels manage to make their homes here and are a nuisance to the farmers. However, the occasional deer and larger game can be found. Because the land is so fertile, it is the striking point for most of the bandits that have come within the reach of the Vale recently.
The virgin forests of the Vale are by far some of the most breathtaking in the area. Thousands of years of unimpeded growth and harmony with its inhabitants have allowed the forest to grow to where it is of a rather imposing size. The trees themselves stand 40' and beyond. The soil is rich, mostly because of the leaves that fall and decompose on the ground. Plant life on the ground level consists of various small trees, bushes, and the occasional large leafed plant. Mosses and fungi thrive in this environment.
The types of trees in the forests are diverse, but mostly consist of oaks, birches, and maples. The animal life is a complex hierarchy of various rodents, small carnivores like foxes, large deer, wolves, eagles, vultures, and even some monsters. The biodiversity of the forests in the Vale is large, to say the least.
Those humans that do make a living in the forests are hunters, trappers, and other woodsmen. A few are also loggers, but edicts of various village councils have limited this practice. Among other inhabitants are various rangers, druids and some sects of wilderness priests, which make their home in the lush forests of the Sresar Vale.
The foothills of the Grey Fang Mountains were home to the first settlers in the vale: the shepherds. It is here that the sudden vitality of the soil has affected the most. The rugged hills are populated by shepherds, olive and grape farmers, and the occasional hermit. They are grass covered, or more recently terraced and overflowing with orchards. The stones of the mountains nearby are quarried for use in sculpture, building material, or merely to tunnel into the mountains for meager metal and gem deposits.
The most common animals in this area are goats, sheep, and predatory birds. However, rabbits and other hardy rodents also make their homes in the hills, as do mountain lions and other hunting cats. Mules, donkeys, and ponies have been the most used beasts of burden by the farmers, ore hunters, and most other travelers.
Also found upon these hills are altars--usually small, ancient moss covered affairs. It is at these places that the Vales people hold their most potent religious ceremonies at harvest time, ceremonies which tend to involve a lot of consumed wines and often end up in frenzied orgies.
Government and Politics
The Vale is ruled by a council of elders and elected officials, but still obeys the word of the crown and its agents, including the Royal Guard.
People of The Vale follow a nature religion that is somewhat agnostic; all druids and nature priests are accorded respect. They have no real use for organized religion, but they have a high respect for nature, and do their best to work with it, never destroying a place completely, but rather taking what they need, and using everything they kill. At the end of harvest season every year, there is a celebration of the bounty they received, marked with large amounts of home brewed wine and beer. These parties sometimes become so rambunctious as to become drunken orgies!
Society and Peoples
The people have traditionally been poor and somewhat backwards by urban standards; however, much of their society is changing. Because of technological innovations, irrigation and terraced farming have become techniques used by these rustic people to improve their lot, producing more harvest, and allowing more goods to be traded. Because of this, the Vale is becoming prosperous.
Because the land was unclaimed, the ever increasing taxes to the crown have become larger and larger, to the point where they rival that of other areas, and they are unique because no noble takes his part from them. The taxes are paid directly to the crown, with no one in between. Because of this, the land is more prosperous in terms of money, and more and more settlers are coming to the Vale, where they feel that they can build a better life for themselves and their children. The Vales-people welcome these newcomers with open arms as brothers and sisters, showing uncommon charity for a rustic area populated by farmers. This has meant that the nobility have taken some cuts in their income as the fields they tended, or their mines, become less and less productive from a lack of manpower. They look to the vale with its expanding populations and feel envy, seeing a kingdom where they are obsolete and useless.
Other Items of Note
It seems an oddity, but the Vale is peaceful and largely untouched by monsters, as opposed to its violent past filled with freakish beings of varying degrees of power. The most common monsters, if any do come to the Vale anymore, have been minor sorts with no real threat posed to human settlements.