The Lost Vale
Claim yourself a practiced Bright Wizard, believe yourself Tzeentch's favored Chosen, pray that you are a balanced Archmage, the Lost Vale awaits you. Take arms alongside five of your strongest allies when venturing into this six player instance, for the challenges therein are like none other found in the Old World. Your prowess with the sword, bow and arcane will be pushed to its limits against creatures and daemons both rare and terrible. Only the most skilled and innovative of players working together will manage their way through the many threats and solve the many mysteries this majestic island holds. Those successful few will learn the Everqueen's fate, and reap the greatest rewards.
Oh, my Queen, how I have failed you.
It seems odd, perhaps, that I set pen to page now, but ever have I been a scribe, and ever will I remain so. Even though I have carried shield and spear, bow and blade as one of Alarielle's Handmaidens, I cannot bring myself to forget my humblest beginnings. Every great tragedy begins with sorrow, and mine is no different. I have thinned my ink with tears which I have freely shed in the name of my people.
It is not of me that I set out to write, for I am merely a tiny player upon a grander stage. I write of my Queen, and of my sisters, for I have lost them here within the Gaen Vale. Call it the Lost Vale, if you prefer, for it has truly been lost to us. I fear that the Gaen Vale will soon become synonymous with all that is corrupt and vulgar in this pitiless world.
Even as we arrived, the signs were somehow wrong. The light was of an unusual cast, and the air was still and tainted with an odor that I can only describe as feral. The beasts of the wood, normally complacent and welcoming, were not to be seen. The songbirds regarded us from the treetops with obvious suspicion. It was as if we were strangers to our own island, forgotten by our former friends. Forgotten, or mistrusted.
While the Queen's retinue traveled onward to the Palace, I was sent to the Thornvale Wilds with Nunriel to collect silk from the Whitefire Spiders. The Spiders had long been friends, and long had we harvested their silk for our looms. When we found the spiders, they did not greet us. Their eyes flashed with anger, and their limbs waved with frantic, aggressive motions.
Nunriel was not concerned, and approached within a pace or two of the gleaming creature that hissed at her as if possessed. Before I could call a warning, the spider leapt upon her, its venom-slicked fangs descending upon her exposed throat. Fear overcame me, and I ran. I do not hide the shame of my fear, for I may have been able to save Nunriel had I taken up my blade against her attacker.
I fled blindly through the wilds with Nunriel's screams a companion to the sounds of my beating heart and labored breath. My mind was two paces behind my eyes as I entered a clearing filled with a number of cavorting Beastmen. At their center was an ancient waystone, drenched in fresh blood and filth, and beside it stood a massive Doombull with the pale fur of an albino.
It was then that I screamed, for I had never imagined such a sight would be found in this fair place. The Beastmen ceased their savage dance, their red eyes turning upon me with hate, fury, and dare I say lust. I stopped short of them, my hand upon the pommel of my sword. The white Doombull grunted in amusement, a sentiment that was echoed by his companions.
Their laughter died in their brutal throats as the spiders that had given me chase scrambled into the clearing in my wake. The two forces paused only briefly at seeing one another before they joined together in frenzied battle. The hissing of the spiders joined the braying of the Beastmen in a symphony born of madness. Using the fight as a distraction, I made my way towards what I hoped was Alarielle's Palace.
My sense of direction, hindered by my fear and self-loathing, did not serve me well. I wandered for many hours, alone and bereft of hope. How could this have happened? Beastmen upon the Gaen Vale? The Whitefire Spiders now our enemies? Alarielle would know what to do, if only I could find her and bring her the news. It was only when I caught sight of an ancient tree, one that I had seen many times before, that I knew I had come to the Blackwillow Forest.
The Blackwillow had long been a refuge for the rarest and most beautiful of our kingdom's wildlife. It was truly a refuge, for the trees watched over the grounds diligently. These spirits of the forest could be counted on to lend me their aid, were I able to find them. My footfalls had likely alerted them to my presence already, and I only had to wait a short while before one of their kith came to investigate.
I could hear my would-be ally coming before I saw its woody body and leafy limbs emerge from the underbrush ahead. It locked its gaze upon me, pausing briefly to appraise me before breaking into a sudden, inexplicable charge. The creaking of its boughs and its upraised claws gave me no doubt that it was unfriendly. Much like the spiders of the Thornvale Wilds, the forest spirits of the Blackwillow Forest had also come unhinged.
I regret my actions, for I have always sworn to uphold the natural order, to defend those spirits that reside within the wooded places of my Queen's realm. The warrior within me broke free of her fear and surprise, and I drew my blade in a swift, sure motion. The dryad was upon me in an instant, but my sword served me well. Sticky sap sprayed across the leaf-strewn ground, and the forest creature fell to its knees, thrashing.
"Why?" I asked, my voice choked with emotion.
The Dryad rolled upon its back. It did not reply, glaring at me with such loathing that I was forced to take a step away. Sap continued to pulse from the dryad's wound in a thick, ceaseless torrent. The creature's eyes lost their angry glare just as its wound ceased to bleed. I watched helplessly, my weapon shaking in my hand. I felt that I had somehow betrayed the land, but what else could I have done?
Leaving the Dryad behind, I approached the bole of the tree that had once looked so familiar from a distance. The bark was torn and gouged, the wounds recent. The brush around its roots was trampled, crushed into the mud by heavy feet. Peering closer, I realized that whatever had trodden here was no Treekin. Though my mind raced to find some alternative, I had seen such markings before: Ogres.
It was then that I knew what must be done. My bearings found, I would travel to Alarielle's Palace. I would discover the condition of those halls, and discern the whereabouts of my sisters. What else could I do? What other options were open to me?
So this is what I have come to, and how I have arrived here. The moon rises now, marking the day's passage. The sounds of the Blackwillow echo behind me and the lights of the Palace blaze beyond the fog that faces me. I hear screams in the night air, and each one makes me cringe. The pained voices are familiar, which makes them all the more horrifying. Should I be the last free Handmaiden here, then I am my sisters' final hope.
Now I go to face my fate within the Palace Gardens. I leave this sheaf of parchment as a testament to what I have seen, and as a warning to those who come after me. I fear to discover that which has befallen my sisters, and I shudder to think that my beloved Everqueen may be among them. May Isha protect me.
-- Raelle Mournfire, Handmaiden/Scribe to Alarielle, the Everqueen