In the heavily wooded highlands of the northern Free Kingdoms, there is a region of forest referred to by the locals as the Valley of the Cat. Hunters do not hunt there, trappers give it a wide berth, and the few roads and trails that pass through it are long abandoned and overgrown.
In the heavily wooded highlands of the northern Free Kingdoms, there is a region of forest referred to by the locals as the Valley of the Cat. Hunters do not hunt there, trappers give it a wide berth, and the few roads and trails that pass through it are long abandoned and overgrown. The only souls that dare to travel within the valley's borders are adventurers seeking the hidden Deepland entrances said to lie there.
Legends and Lore
The valley earned its name for the mysterious creature that lurks in the shadows beneath the thick forest canopy. Witnesses claim it is half-man and half-beast. They describe it as humanoid but with a body covered by short fur the color of midnight. Its face looks like that of a large cat, not unlike that of the cougars that prowl the highland forests, and it has a long cougar-like tail. Its hands and feet are clawed, and it climbs trees as easily as we walk on the land.
It is said the cat creature can command the animals of the forest. They serve as his spies, servants, and soldiers, and include not just mundane creatures, but magical beasts as well. The cat creature protects these animals in return, and any harm to these animals is said to bring down the cat creature's wrath.
The people of the surrounding villages claim the cat creature is either Vale in disguise, an Avatar of Vale, or some kind of forest spirit. The villages closest to the valley even leave offerings at the edge of the wood, hoping to curry the creature's favor—or at least avoid its anger.
Setting aside the unfounded fears of the locals, those who know the wilds and study such things have come up with a number of more reasonable explanations. The first is that the creature is one of the beastfolk, a descendant of the unfortunate half-breed monsters the Cataclysm created when the World Gates exploded. Another possibility is that it is a type of were-creature, magically transforming from human to beast based on some astronomical rhythm. The last is that it is an endrori or one of Endroren's dark creations, come up from the old Deepland entrances scattered across the valley.
Lay of the Land
The valley is long and steep-sloped, running down out of the Donarzheis highlands. The entire area is heavily wooded, and the undergrowth is thick and difficult to traverse. A small river runs down the center of the valley, and the hillsides are dotted with caves.
Many decades ago, the valley was home to a small, thriving dwarven kingdom. The king built a keep near the northern border and constructed the roads that pass through the region. Sadly, plague took the king, his family, and most of his people, and for years the kingdom lay abandoned. The overgrown ruins of the keep and its few small villages remain to this day.
The first sightings of the cat creature occurred around five years ago in the year 418 AR.
Unique and Interesting Features
The mundane animals of the valley behave in odd ways that suggest they have greater intelligence than they should. Those who have traveled through the valley even claim they've witnessed the animals acting like they're talking to one another. It is unclear, however, how much of this is truth and how much should be attributed to nervous imaginations.
The greatest threat to anyone traveling through the valley is the cat creature itself. Its dark fur allows it to blend into the shadows, and it often strikes by leaping down from the trees to ambush its prey. Its claws are razor sharp, and it moves with unnatural speed. It seldom attacks unprovoked, but its motivations seem quite alien, making it difficult to know what might anger it.
A variety of animals and magical beasts make the valley their home. Many of these are dangerous, either by nature or if frightened. Even more troubling is the variety of animals not normally seen together that are witnessed working together to attack a foe.
Join Tales of the Free Kingdoms
The Valley of the Cat is an official part of the World of Aetaltis, but it is also player controlled kingdom from the Tales of the Free Kingdoms interactive adventure game! Click here for more information on the Tales of the Free Kingdoms game!
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Art & Illustration
- Cartography by Nate Mangion