The work contained on this page is taken from a Q&A thread on the Candlekeep Forum with Ed Greenwood. This material is used with permission. The information contained below is expanded upon by Ed Greenwood from his novel, Stormlight, therefore story spoilers are given.
By Ed Greenwood
Thanks to STORMLIGHT, you know where in easternmost Cormyr Firefall Vale is, in the district of Northtrees March, hard against the Thunder Peaks and the northern edge of Hullack Forest, and that it has traditionally been ruled by Lord Summerstar from his castle at its western end, Firefall Keep.
In the early days of Cormyr, Glothgam Summerstar (the founder of House Summerstar and its first Lord) used the magical Sword of Summer Winds to slay and drive away red dragons after they attacked Glothgam's encampment with a mighty spell that turned the waters of the Brook to flame (giving the Vale its name), and so claimed the valley as his own.
I'm going to pull some SPOILERS here, though they shouldn't really ruin your enjoyment (or if you hate it, lack of same :}) of STORMLIGHT if you just read on. (By the way, if anyone reading this wants the true measure of Storm's character, read pages 114 through 121, and page 192, of the novel.)
Generations later, Glothgam's descendant Rauvor was the Lord of Firefall Vale. After Lord Rauvor Summerstar's death, of a wasting fever decades before the events of STORMLIGHT, his bride became the Dowager Lady Pheirauze Summerstar, and -- as an haughty, imperious and coldly beautiful noblewoman widely known (though not to her face) as “Dowager Lady Daggertongue”-- outlived her son (Pyramus) and her grandson, being in her sixties at the time of STORMLIGHT. She became romantically involved with no less than three generations of the Illance noble family (one after another, not all at once!) but never remarried. Pheirauze was very intelligent, very strong-willed, and very used to getting her own way in everything: spreading and using her personal influence to govern others is what she does.
Rauvor had one brother, Hergrest, who predeceased him. Hergrest married a quiet, strong-willed sorceress, Harper, and adventurer, Maerla Downhand, but it was a true (though childless) love-match, and she survived him only by four summers.
Lord Pyramus Summerstar was the eldest of five sons of Rauvor and Pheirauze. Eldest to youngest, the brothers of Pyramus were the mage Orm Hlannan Summerstar, the warriors Darandar and Brezm, and the womanizer and rogue Lord Erlandar Summerstar (the only one still alive when STORMLIGHT begins). After birthing sons, Pheirauze gave Rauvor three daughters: Dalestra, Margort and Nalanna, and the latter two (both ‘maiden aunts') are still alive at the time of STORMLIGHT.
Pyramus wed the timid and mostly silent Zarova Battlestar (of House Battlestar of West Shore not far along the coast west from Suzail, who became the second Dowager Lady Summerstar, and -- like Pheiauze --outlived both Pyramus and Athlan).
Lord Pyramus married Zarova only after his secret marriage to Princess Sulesta (daughter of King Rhigaerd) was annulled by mutual agreement (and furious pressure from the War Wizards to undo the match and never to speak of it) after their love cooled. Thanks to War Wizard precautions, Pyramus did not sire any children with Sulesta.
Lord Pyramus was succeeded by his son Lord Athlan Summerstar (a Harper), who perishes in the first few pages of STORMLIGHT, leaving his stunningly beautiful, wanton younger sister Shayna as heir. Their cousin is the womanizing fop Sir Thalance Summerstar, the bastard son of Baelangar Harth (a local forester -- ranger -- of common birth), and Lady Dalestra Summerstar. Baelangar was killed by wolves whilst defending his lady when they were caught in a fierce winter storm while travelling overland during a very hard winter, a decade before STORMLIGHT. As STORMLIGHT begins, Shayna, Thalance, Erlandar, Zarova, Pheirauze, and two daughters of Darandar not named in the novel but present at the feasts, Myara and Calaumdra, are still alive and dwelling in the Keep.
Firefall Vale is the long, lushly green valley (prone to spring flooding) carved by Turnwyrm Brook on its descent from the Thunder Peaks to join the River Immerflow. It runs for some five miles east to west, being about a mile wide at its midpoint and much narrower at both ends. At its eastern end, the Vale hooks to the southeast, and ends at the Cascades, a series of falls that brings the Brook down into it from a higher, narrower ‘upper Vale' that runs for another two miles southeast back into the mountains.
Vale folk keep many small flocks of sheep and goats are kept in the upper Vale and in the many small, nameless valleys around the Vale itself. The Vale is bordered and surrounded by knife-sharp rocky ridges, and there are rumored to be ‘ghost dragons' lurking in the nearby peaks, one of which is Mount Glendaborr.
The nearest neighboring noble holdings are Hawkhar to the northwest (high rolling hills where fine horses are bred and reared for sale) held by House Indesm, and Galdyn's Gorge, south along the Immerflow (known for its gorge-side caverns where mushrooms are grown, gems mined, and vralo, a VERY strong-flavored mushroom wine, is made), home of House Yellander. (Vralo, pronounced “vrAL-oh,” is an amber-hued drink made by adding fermented mushroom essence, the juice produced when certain smoky-tasting small, brown, and wrinkled cavern mushrooms are crushed, to an undistinguised sour white wine made locally from grapes and known to most as “horsepiss.” It's very much an acquired taste, but many Vale folk seem to have done the necessary acquiring.)
Firefall Keep is a much smaller small stone fortress since the events of STORMLIGHT. Its formerly predominant Haunted Tower, Twilight Turret, Hall of Honor, and Gargoyle Stair are all gone, leaving it much changed.
Today, the oldest and tallest part of the castle is the West Front of three original towers (Darkwind, Nalvor's, and Scorchedshields), with their tall, north-south linking wall. Darkwind, the northernmost of the three, is linked by a battlement running east to the North Room (a semi-circular dining hall raised atop the rebuilt kitchens and pantries). From the North Room, the outer walls run southeast to a new, smaller tower, Ladytower, where the walls turn south for a short run to the matching new tower of Braceguilt.
Ladytower is the living quarters of the current Lord and Lady Summerstar, and Braceguilt contains guest apartments (with the quarters of the seneschal and guards at ground level, beneath them).
The original gate between Nalvor's and Scorchedshields opens west onto the end of the coach road linking Firefall with the rest of Cormyr, as it always did, and a second gate, between Ladytower and Braceguilt, now opens east into the rest of the Vale.
A modest battlement wall runs east from Scorchedshields to a large, misshapen new tower known as the Armory. From there the wall turns northeast for a short run to Braceguilt, completing the outside edge of the Keep and enclosing a large courtyard now largely given over to gardens. The stables and granary cellars run along the inside of this south wall, and there are known to be underground passages beneath the courtyard and the ring of battlement walls linking all of the Keep towers to each other and to the (original) Summerstars crypt and dungeons.
It's not necessary to pass through the Keep to enter and leave the Vale: a wide wooden bridge arches over Turnwyrm Brook just west of the castle, and carries the main cart-road over to the south bank of the Brook and along it east into the Vale proper. For most of the length of the Vale, cart-tracks run along both banks of the Brook, and are linked by cross-bridges at Dunstone Farm, Marthtree, and Bottomstones (at the base of the Cascades). Only agile hikers can ascend beyond Bottomstones, but there are rope-anchors (huge rings hammered into the rocks) to allow heavy goods to be raised or lowered from one Vale to another. At least one person took a cart up into the upper Vale in this manner, but carts can't pass freely from one Vale to another except in a spectacularly crashing descent.
After the events of STORMLIGHT, the war wizard Sir Broglan Sarmyn wed Lady Shayna Summerstar, and was created Lord Summerstar in his own right. Broglan and Shayna have three children. In order of birth, they are Ileira (daughter, now four years of age), Storm (daughter, now two, and yes, named for Storm Silverhand, a naming that some say caused Lady Margort Summerstar to die of mortification), and Rauvoril (son, just approaching his first birthday).
The battles in STORMLIGHT took a heavy toll; the only other Summerstars still living are Thalance and Erlandar. Thalance spends most of his time in Suzail these days, making friends and seducing ladies with energy enough to have some chance at catching up to the exploits and reputation of his Uncle Erlandar, who has settled into being the Lord Warden (captain of the guard and police) of the Vale, and slowed his seductions to one or two per season.
Broglan and Shayna are a happy couple, and their kindnesses and sharings of food and shelter in winter have made them much loved by the several hundred folk who call the Vale home. They are widely regarded as “good” and “just” by the locals, whose loyalty is strong—and bolstered by the fact that Cormyr often seems to reach out with cordial interest to Firefall Vale. Part of that is due to Ergluth Rowanmantle, still Boldshield of Northtrees March, part to Broglan's rank as a War Wizard, and part to Storm Silverhand's deeds in STORMLIGHT.
Harpers and War Wizards are now most welcome in Firefall Keep, and the place has become something of a retirement destination for folk of Cormyr whose colourful pasts or careers lead them to seek seclusion. These retirees have considerable coin to invest, and are sponsoring the transport of the goods of local artisans who craft pretty (and inexpensive) jewelry by cutting and polishing tiny sections of certain local stones and stringing them into bracelets, pectorals, and necklaces to markets in Arabel and Suzail, where these affordable adornments are gaining great popularity among the merchant classes.
The Vale proper has many spreading blueleaf trees (and in the upper Vale, even a few weirwoods), but is dominated by small farm fields bounded by rubble-stone walls. Most Vale farmers dwell in single-story cottages built of fieldstone where two or more field-walls meet, and roofed in wooden shingles or slates, sealed with pitch. The homes have storage cellars beneath, because long, harsh winters force prudent folk to preserve and store a lot of food and drink. Bitter-root beer and goat cheeses thickly sealed in wax are staples of such larders, and mint and “rock fur” (lichen) jellies are popular homemade condiments.
Vale farms produce local food crops (radishes, cabbages, apples, nuts, and potatoes), chickens, and hogs. The morning and evening mists coupled with bright hours of sunlight have always made this tiny area a verdant, prosperous slice of paradise, and young sons of the Vale seeking work have always been able to find it as foresters working the verges of the Hullack, or in Purple Dragon service, just as daughters have traditionally traveled to larger cities in Suzail and sought service in the households of nobles, proudly proclaiming their Summerstar training.
Storm visits the Vale seldom, usually arriving by night and teleport, to a room in the Keep that's been set aside for her. When upset, Lord Broglan has been known to go alone to this room to think or pray—and it's a measure of the deep love between Shayna and Broglan, and her regard for Storm, that this has never caused friction between them (indeed, certain Keep folk say that on the occasion of a great fight between the Lord and Lady, and when Rauvoril's birth turned difficult, the two magically called to the Bard of Shadowdale for aid, and she came).
This is not to say that all is sweetness and light in Firefall. Fell beasts have begun to prowl out of the Hullack Forest, and there are rumors that some folk among the wealthy arrivals who've built mansions along the coach road just west of the Keep are engaged in illicit practises and trade. Rumors have a tendency to paint darker portraits than truth, but local whispers include suspicions of agents and trade in drugs and poisons involving Zhentarim, Red Wizards, and a wide variety of Sembian interests who lack all respect for Cormyrean law. The whispers inevitably continue on to speak of all manner of plots against the Crown, trading (smuggling and slaving) cabals among various nobles, and so on -- and there's even talk that the Harpers are hiding something (or someone) very important in the Vale.
“Well, now,” as Elminster would say. With a chuckle. “Well, now . . .”
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