FANDOM


"At the birth of the world, the Emperor of the Heavens sent a phoenix and a raven to fly across the world and meet at its centre. Upon the omphalos stone is where they met and through it, the oracles of the Mother Goddess can speak to the kingdom of heaven. Though whether they understand the reply is another matter."
—The Oracle of Isha to Rhianna of Saphery.[2c]
Gaen vale waterfall area by jonathankirtz-d31okpi

The Island of Rebirth's Gaen Vale.

North of the Island of Flame, off the shores of Avelorn, lies the Island of Rebirth, site of the Earth Mother's shrine. Here, in the depths of the beautiful Gaen Vale, lies the cavern-temple of the Mother Goddess, where the Everqueen is crowned. Herein dwell the priestesses of Isha, an oracular order whose origins lie shrouded in the mists of time. Within the underground complex, many mysterious rites take place which no male Elf is allowed to witness or learn of. Every female High Elf is expected to make a pilgrimage here at least once in her life, and hear the words of her oracle.[1a][2a]

From the Inner Sea, the island is described as a beautiful swathe of green, gold and sapphire. Glittering blue cliffs, shaggy with lush forest, and the scent of flowering plants carried on the breeze. Game roams free within the low lying forests, with onlookers able to spot deer and pale horses running wild through the surf that skirts the island's western shores.[2b]

Bay of Cython

An outthurst spit of rock fringed with tall evergreens forms the edge of a natural bay known as the Bay of Cython. Here, golden beaches and verdant forests spread out before those coming towards the bay, with crystal waterfalls tumbling from rounded boulders into foaming pools that run to the Sea of Dusk. Flocks of white birds circle overhead and silver bells are sounded from somewhere out of sight. Here, the waters of the ocean are unimaginably clear, the sandy sea bottom rippling beneath ships like the freshest streams of Ellyrion.[2b]

If any ships carrying Elf-men ride closer than a half-mile, silver-shafted arrows will be loosed as a warning. Any Elf-maids aboard such a vessel are forced to swim ashore, though many believe that the island will guide them safely. All the same, archer women will move through the nearby forest to shadow such new arrivals just to be sure.[2b]

Upon reaching the warm, white-gold sand of the bay, supplicants can feel the welcome of the island in their very bones. The ground beneath their feet charged with the magic of creation. Near the forest's edge, a narrow path can be found winding upward from the beach, its boundaries marked by gleaming white stones. The warmth of the sun penetrates the leafy canopy here, spears of light waving through the shadowy forest as the path grows long and steep of slope. Despite this, supplicants find such a trek easy, as though the ground itself rises to meet their every footfall. The forest air becomes like a tonic to the spirit, and though the Mages of Hoeth might wield power that could destroy whole armies, not one amongst them could create life as sacred as this place could. But, if one were to dig the rich black loam from around one of the smooth white stone markers, they would find a grisly truth. The stones are revealed as fleshless, white skulls, allegedly belonging to those males who could not contain their curiosity.[2b]

Curling uphill along the dead centre of the path, the route weaves a circuitous path through shady arbours and golden clearings until, at last, the supplicants arrive at the edge of the forest and a rippling curtain of sunlight, and beyond it, the Gaen Vale.[2b]

The Gaen Vale

The Gaen Vale itself is a beautiful, high-sided valley of wild flowers, apple trees, and fresh mountain springs.[2a] The landscape spreads out in a rolling patchwork of bountiful forests, fast-flowing rivers, and wide groves of graceful statues and temples of purest white. Music fills the air, not the tunes of Elvenfolk, but the melodies of the earth: birdsong, the rustle of wind in the branches of tall trees, and the gurgling of life-giving waters flowing from a rocky peak at the island's centre. Together the sounds form a natural orchestra that plays the symphony of creation with every breath. If one is welcomed by the oracle, an Elf-maid armed with a moon-coloured bow will appear and guide supplicants into the valley below.[2c]

Unicorns, pegasi and griffons roam freely within the vale, unafraid of passersby. Indeed, the deeper one journeys in, the more of its fay inhabitants can be found. Dancers and archers who practice their arts within groves of glorious splendor. White marble temples sit within overgrown arbours, priestesses of Isha pouring wine and honey on the sacred places as they given praise to the fertility of the land. Kneeling maidens receive instructions from the island's inhabitants.[2c]

Temple of the Mother Goddess

Somewhere within the valley can be found a path leading through an archway formed from the overhanging branches of looming trees. Through the gently waving canopy, one can see the tall peak at the centre of the island, streams of mountain water pouring down its flanks like trails of tears.[2c]

A wide stream tumbles energetically over a cascade of pebbles worn smooth over thousands of years. From here, one emerges from the forest to find a dark cavern ahead. The path curls up towards the flanks of the peak through a procession of votive statues and piles of offerings to the Mother Goddess. Sparkling mist clings to the rocky ground before the cavern as shimmering rainbows arc from the glistening stones. It is here that the guide takes her leave, as supplicants must travel alone. Warning that it is perilous to waste the oracle's time, she will disappear into the forest as quickly as she appeared.[2c]

The mountain looms overhead, its raw, hard-edged ruggedness only now apparent. Where it had once looked majestic and regal at a distance, the stone now appears dark and threatening. Up until this point, supplicants had only seen the beauty of the island. It is now that they learn that for everything of beauty, there is a balancing darkness: day and night, good and evil. For everything wondrous in nature, there is cruelty to match. Nature is a bloody world of death and rebirth. So it is here too.[2c]

Climbing the path into the cave, one can smell the aroma of dark smokey wood, as though a fire smoulders deep within the mountain. The aroma comes followed by white poppy, camphor and mandrake, and one's vision momentarily blurs as they breathe the scent deep into their lungs. Flickering lights are seen ahead, leading to a cavern with smokeless, blue flames dancing above bowls of oil on the floor to either side of the room. The walls are adorned with a multitude of paintings of the moon, new-blooming roses and writhing serpents. Even to the eyes of an Elf, there is a darkness of the room that cannot be penetrated. Though the flames leave no smoke, a cloying thickness fills the air. If the supplicant came with others, she soon finds herself abruptly alone. Even the light of the cave entrance is nowhere in view, as if a great door had come down to block off the outside world.[2c]

With way of turning back, the supplicant is forced to follow the route of the dancing flames, leading her deeper into the painted temple. The further she goes, the more aware she becomes of a soft tremor in the earth, like an infinitely slower heartbeat, powerful yet impossibly distant. She can soon feel it in the air, as though the pulse of the world is all around her, its rhythmic cadence soothing. The passageway widens till at last the supplicant emerges onto a smokey cavern, at the centre of which sits a thick stone with a carving of knotted net around it. Pungent smoke drifts from atop this stone, whilst behind it stands the oracle: a hooded figure in long, white robes, carrying a staff made from the branch of a willow tree.[2c]

From here, the oracle will ask what the supplicant wishes to know regarding the future. Even if the elf-maid does not speak it, the oracle appears able to sense the supplicant's greatest concern. This is when the oracle's voice rises with power as she speaks the ancient words: "The New Moon is the white goddess of birth and growth; the Full Moon, the red goddess of love and battle; the Old Moon, the black goddess of death and divination."[2c]

Powerless to resist, the elf-maid lays her hands upon the stone, and looks into its hollow core as the darkness of the cavern rises up around her. Her spirit soon feels pulled down into the smoke, and the hot breath of the gods engulfs her senses. A vision spans before her, and even should the elf-maid beg, the oracle will not stop it, saying: "like all things a woman must suffer, it cannot be stopped."[2c]

Once the vision subsides, the darkened cave snaps back into view, as the oracle moves around the stone to stand above the supplicant. It is at this moment she might see that, beneath the oracle's cowl, a glimmer of light shines. In an instant, the oracle's face changes between that of a youthful elf-maid to one of full womanhood and then to that of a deathly crone, ravaged and withered with time. Even as the supplicant watches, the cycle repeats itself over and over.[2c]

Trivia

  • The magic of the Vale forces emotions held back and hidden to the surface, but in so doing aids in healing the mind and spirit as one comes to terms with their grief.[2b]
  • No males are permitted within the Gaen Vale's confines, on pain of death. This is because Isha is the goddess of birth and renewal, both of which are the province of the female. The life giving cycle of the world and the rhythms of nature are secrets denied to males, whose gift to the world is death and destruction.[2a]
  • The forests of the Island are noted for being different to those found in Avelorn, whose realm is enchanted with the magic of the Elves. The Gaen Vale's magic, in contrast, is primal and untouched by such meddling.[2c]

Source

  • 1 Warhammer Armies: High Elves (8th Edition)
    • 1a -- pg. 11
  • 2: Defenders of Ulthuan, by Graham McNeill
    • 2a: Chapter 4
    • 2b: Chapter 15
    • 2c: Chapter 16