Non-Canon Locations: Valley of a Thousand Birds
Created by, and Copyright to Kinaheso and Nightwalker
This little Valley lies somewhere in the depth of the Northwestern Plains. A series of sharp rocky hills surround the remnants of a long extinct volcano. All that's left of the volcano is the worn down rock and scree that form the northern edge of the valley. The rock from the volcano rises in a cliff on the northern edge, there is a shallow basin at the top that collects the rain water in a jagged pool. The water runs down off a waterfall into the stream that runs through the heart of the valley. The stream is no more then a few paces across but it can run deep in places, at the deepest it comes to just below the belly on a full grown unicorn. The hills reach out and around sheltering the west and east sides in steep cliffs, riddled with small holes. Southward the cliffs become mere slopes that gradually turn into small hills, and then plains. The water continues on to another waterfall at the southern edge, from there it joins into a stream that goes on to feed into the river that runs through Alma's Heart.
The valley gets plenty of rain, while it is sheltered from the worst of the storms by the rocky hills on either side. The grass in plentiful fed by the constant stream in the bowl of the valley. As the land rises on each side oak and other trees start to grow. Small cliffs and scree on the southern edge make the journey into the valley hazardous if they don't know the way. The valley forms sort of a rain drop shape, wide at the northern edge where the waterfall runs, and then the sides becoming narrower as you go south, eventually coming together at the southern waterfall.
The valley is small. It only takes half a day to walk from the northern end to the southern. The band never grew above forty in the valley, usually consisting of around twenty to thirty individuals at any point in time.
Inside the valley several species of birds call the rocky cliffs and trees home. They number among the high hundreds and the valley is often filled with their song each morning and evening when the depart to the plains for food and then return to the safe haven. When the first five unicorns came they were amazed at the all the bright colors that nestled in the cliff sides. They jokingly called their new home the Valley of a Thousand Birds. Not much else, besides the birds, calls the valley home aside from a few brave deer and the even fewer survivors that are left. All others fled or were hunted by the haunts.
The Valley of a Thousand Birds was founded by a group of five shoulder friends that abandoned the herd during Halla's time and the great exodus across the plains. The band separated from the other warriors of the ring to try and find a life for themselves on the plains. After years of wandering they eventually came across a valley that was perfect except for a problem with being occupied by a pack of wolves. The friends chased out the predators and then settled into the valley and called it home. Time passed and other survivors of the war, and plainsdwellers wandered into the valley to make it home. Soon there was a sizable population, small since the valley itself wasn't big enough to be able to hold that many.
The unicorns took to calling the pack 'haunts', and over time a tale developed that became more elaborate with each telling. At the time the valley was lost the tale told of how the wolves were themselves remnants of a war. There was a small pack of haunts that survived the 'War or the Haunts'. The pack laid claim to the valley as a refuge. Some sang the haunts had been forced into the valley by a rival pack in the area. Others spoke of how the small band was all that was left of those from the war. All the stories did agree that the haunts used the valley as a safe haven, departing from the valley at night to hunt the nearby plains for food.
Around one year before the Battle of Endingfire a pack of wolves once again tried to move back into the Valley. In the stories told by the survivors the pack of haunts never forgot the land they had lost, and used the time to plot revenge. Life outside the valley never favored them, they never grew beyond their original numbers. The haunts remembered from their parents' stories the refuge they had lost. When a rival pack again moved into their territory they were forced off their land and the threat of starvation made them desperate. It was that desperation that brought them back to the Valley.
Few of the band retained their fighting skills so they were ill prepared one night when the haunts returned unplanned the night of a gather. Three young unicorns (Kahain, Nightwalker and Starstrider) managed to warn the band in time for most not to be caught unaware. The three young called out warnings as they fled to the plains for safety. Those that kept the skill to fight provided to tough for the desperate haunts. Still is was a long and hard battle, a few of the band fled in terror and were picked off in the night. The rest rallied around those that stayed to fight. It was a long and bloody battle but in the end the wolves were either killed or fled. Only a handful of the band survived. After they tended to their dead and injured, they argued what to do with the bodies of their once enemies. In the end anger won and two of the band left in disgust as the three remaining cast the bodies of the wolves off the southern edge and dragged them from the valley lest others scent and come calling. The dead were laid out also on the plains in honor of Alma's cycle.
Since that time the three remaining have guarded the secret of the valley. Any one who comes calling is bombarded with haunting calls sounding like haunts rising from the valley walls. One of the children that escaped that night (Starstrider) came back, and thought the valley still lost to the haunts. The laysinger spread news far and wide of what had befallen the valley as a warning for the plainsdwellers to steer clear of it.
At first it was just the exiles from the Hollow Hills that lived in the Valley. Several of the unicorns would on occasion travel out into the plains for news of the outside world, and of their people. Occasionally they would come back with a band or a new mate from the plains that was curious about the valley. They might also pick up others from the exile that found themselves alone on the plains. The valley despite its isolation tended to have a nice mixture of new blood as unicorns from the band would leave for life on the plains and those from the plains would come to join the band.
The valley was not that well known of to begin with. Staying mostly localized to those plaindwellers that called the northwestern plains home. The small size only allowed a few to call it a permanent home. Most of the plainsdwellers didn't relish living in one spot for very long either. It was a sanctuary that some plainsdwellers would visit, while children of the band would go off to the plains. The population in the valley usually stayed around twenty to thirty and it never grew beyond forty in number.
Those in the valley retained a lot of the culture from the Hollow Hills, but also mixed in was that of the culture of the plainsdwellers. They took no king or queen, instead relying solely on the governing of the five eldest in a Council of Elders. On any important decision they voted and the Elders would have last choice if there was a draw. They called themselves a band in honor of the Plainsdwellers and there was no law or ring to bind any soul. All were free to come and go as they pleased from valley to plains.
The band had two main ceremonies each month during the full and new moon. The full moon was for the band as a whole and honoring friendships, while the new moon was reserved for the more intimate bonds of family.
During the full moon the band would gather in a circle at the northern edge near the waterfall. They would dance together from when the sun's light dipped below the edge of the cliff to the time when true night would fall. Then they would gather in an inward facing ring while a laysinger (different each month) would stand in the center and sing lays about friendship and honor, or perhaps the past if the singer was feeling adventurous. The band would stay awake and listen until the first light of the moon bathed the top of the waterfall. The singer would bring his tale to an end and then they would sleep in the moonlight. Depending on the time of the year the singer might only get a few words in, or spend all night singing if the moon didn't show. Sometimes close friends would share gifts that morning to honor their friendship. It was considered a courtesy to alert the friend they were giving a gift to so that friend had time to put something together to give back.
The new moon was a time when families would gather together to spend time or spin tales together. Couples would sneak off during the darkest part of the night. If any spotted the two together they would let out a sharp whistle or yell and the couple would have to rush back to the safety of their family. If they were tagged by a pursuer then it was considered ill luck for the two to pledge that night, and they would wait till the next new Moon. It was actually a game for the couple to get to the top of the waterfall without anyone spotting them. If they made it successfully it showed how committed the couple was, and they would dance a circle dance round the pool and pledge to each other as mates.
They kept the practice of having true names, but mixed in are the naming traditions of the plainsdwellers. At birth the mother will speak the child's truename into their ear. The child is also given a childhood name (it can be a shortened form of their truename or something altogether different). When the child is old enough to name themselves they choose a new name and speak it to their families during the New Moon. The child then has two weeks to 'try it out' and may change it again if they want. By the next full moon they have usually settled on a name. At the start of the ceremony at that full moon they are introduced to the band by their adult name, and the childhood name is forgotten (sort of a coming of age ceremony). The adult name can be anything from a trait to something they favor and is usually two words together, examples include: Nightwalker, Summerwind, Starstrider, Firerose. In the honor of the first four who founded the valley any time a life changing experience changed them so much that not a shred of the old was left behind, the unicorn would change their name to suit who they now were.
Their greeting bow was a more elaborate version of that the plainsdwellers used, going down to one knee and laying horn tip on the ground.
The one thing the unicorns in the valley cast aside was the obsession with war and battle that those in the Hollow Hills had. There were no dangers in the valley, nothing to fight, and the original founders were tired of all that came with fighting. Some of the band kept up training, particularly those that still ventured on the plains and might need it for self defense. It was frowned upon by the rest of the band and so those who did practice tended to do so away from the prying eyes of others.
The three that remain, as well as the lucky few that either escaped that night, or were out wandering the plains when the attack came, are all that remain of the unique culture. Within the past year tales have branched out slowly among the free people that maybe the valley isn't all together lost.
The people of the Valley of a Thousand Birds worship Alma'harat. Some in the band retain the view that they are better then the wolves or other beasts that roam the world. Others have taken to heart the view that all life is sacred, and that they honor even the pards on the plains for all that are true to their own nature are worthy of honor as being part of the Cycle.