From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
Velgarth is the planetary setting created by Mercedes Lackey, the author of the Valdemar Saga novels. The continents are not named. The Valdemar Saga primarily focuses on the story of the nation of Valdemar, and according to Mercedes Lackey’s official bibliography, there are thirty novels and seven anthologies.
Many of the inhabitants of Velgarth possess supernatural abilities. These skills primarily fall under the categories of Magic and Mind-Magic; though a number of them fall outside of either description.
Magic, in Velgarth, refers to the ability to use a normally invisible form of energy to produce fantastic results. This energy, also referred to as "Mage-power", is present both in living beings and the environment. Powerful streams of energy, known as ley lines, may be utilized by some mages; and only the most skilled "Adept-level" mages can control and use the powerful nodes, or reservoirs, where two or more ley-lines meet. These lines and nodes can occur naturally, or can be created by extremely skilled mages. From these nodes, the energy is slowly siphoned into a desolate nether plane called the Void; and later returned to the world (Storm Warning). Magic is said to act much in the same way that water does. It is present in nature everywhere, but slowly gathers together - first in runnel-lines, which come together into feeder-lines, which then join together into ley-lines, and points where ley-lines converge are known as nodes: similar to how brooks and creeks slowly become streams, then rivers, and then crossings of these magical rivers form deep natural reservoirs similar to lakes of variable sizes. After the final cataclysm was averted (Storm Breaking), all magic was taken from the earth and now falls like rain back down upon it. It is believed that, given time, magic will once again begin to behave the way it did before. (Owlflight)
Three of the best-known Schools of Magic, which align themselves with Valdemar during the Mage Storms trilogy (meaning they most likely practice magic that is of good moral fiber), are the Fireflower School, the Blue Mountain School, and the White Winds School. The Valdemar Saga does not describe these schools in great depth. A White Winds Adept is obliged to, when they attain Adept status, settle down and construct a White Winds School of their own to teach further mages the way of the White Winds. The White Winds School was originally founded by a hertasi mage, quite possibly "the Lizard Wizard" whose songs are mentioned occasionally in the series. The Blue Mountain and Fireflower Schools of Magic are virtually undescribed to any degree, as characters who are from these schools do not seem to be shown in any of the novels of the Valdemar Saga as of March 2009.
Magic in Velgarth is accessed in a number of ways. Anyone with the ability to see magic (Magesight) can manipulate it; the difference in power levels being that of skill, patience, and natural ability of the user. Various means of achieving the desired results are mentioned throughout the novels, including:
Extraplanar Proxy is a form of magic which involves bargaining, diplomacy or coercive tactics with the creatures from all other planes of existence than those inhabited by the Mages themselves.
 The known planes of existence include one for demons, one for each element, and one for very powerful but not quite godly creatures that are nevertheless inclined toward kindness to humans, and that while there may be other planes, no one has discovered any, and similar to certain religious beliefs, there are only four known Elemental Planes.
 For a Mage who relies on the voluntary cooperation of other-planar entities, as opposed to coercive tactics of any kind, there are advantages such as never needing to protect oneself against the deceptions and treacheries of these creatures, but at the same time, the cost in energy for acquiring that voluntary cooperation is correspondingly higher. It takes a great deal of power to attract the attention of an other-planar being of benign intent, particularly one that does not know the Mage, and more to convince that creature that their own intentions are good. In cases of benign negotiations, the Mage whose specialty is Extraplanar Proxy will frequently draw a circle of protection – not for their own protection, but for the protection of the entity they seek to draw to them, so that that creature will know itself to be safe. The art of this summoning is described as being “like balancing on a rooftree while screaming an epic poem in a foreign language at the top of your lungs.”  Air and Water are described as “the Mutable Elements,” as Earth and Fire are described as “the Stable Elements,” and Wind is described as the “Fifth Element.”
Elemental Plane: Air  A vrondi is an air elemental that is described as a small cloud with eyes.
Elemental Plane: Fire  A sandaar is described as a fire elemental, but the exact appearance of one is not described.
Elemental Plane: Earth  A khamsin is described as being a jewel-bright desert lizard which stands erect like a man – about as tall as a man’s arm is long – with an inordinately large cranium with scales that reflected firelight in bands of shining colors, those colors primarily being topaz and ruby, but including other colors of notation.
Elemental Plane: Water There are no known examples of water elementals appearing in the novels.
Abyssal Plane  Entities in this plane are what most humans would call ‘demons,’ and can be coerced with either pain-energy or death-energy, because this is the kind of energy on which they feed.
Empyreal Plane  This Plane is described as the Sixth Plane, and creatures from this plane are stated as being impossible to coerce.
Ethereal Plane  Mentioned is made of an Ethereal Plane, wherein one of the inhabitant creatures is described as being what is called a Varrir.
Psychic abilities, called alternately mind-magic, Gifts (usually capitalized), or Herald's Magic, are encouraged in Valdemar and presumably the little-discussed southern nation of Ceejay. The Empire had no tradition of mind-magic, and (until faced with Valdemar) assumed Gifts were charlatan's tricks. Before the reign of Solaris, the people of Karse rejected mind-magic, and often burned the Gifted alive.
Gifts are accessed by sending energy through channels in the mind (Magic's Pawn). These channels are dormant in most people; those who manifest Gifts have active or open channels. This is the same energy used by Mages, though those without the "Mage Gift" can only use the natural power within themselves except in rare cases where Companions can feed power from themselves to their Herald. Due to this limitation, those who over-use their gift quickly collapse or die when they overspend their own natural energy. There seem to be other bonds which facilitate this sharing of power between people, such as being 'lifebound.'
The most common of these channels allow for Mind-Hearing, and the corresponding Mindspeech. Other abilities include FarSight, ForeSight, Fetching, Empathy, FireStarting, Touchreading and Thoughtsensing. Gifts can be strengthened to a point by repeated use; but pushing a person beyond their usual abilities can result in a debilitating "reaction headache" or worse. Some with the Mage-Gift lack "sensitivity" in some of the novels. As such, Mage-Sight might be separate from the Mage-Gift, itself.
Touchreading is mentioned in Exile's Valor, and is described as the ability to read the emotions, feelings, and occasionally the very strong thoughts, of the last person or persons to touch an object that the reader touches, themselves.
Healers use "healing energy" on a small scale to "encourage a person's body to do quickly what it would do anyway." For the recipient, this results in the near-instantaneous healing of minor injuries. Major injuries, such as those received by Queen's Own Herald Talia (Arrow's Fall), may take months of Healing sessions, depending on the power of the Healer.
Healing energy can repair damages due to injury or illness, but cannot replace a missing limb or reverse birth defects. Healing energy only speeds natural recovery. Scarring may be reduced by the use of magical Healing but not eliminated.
A specific type of Healing called Mind-Healing focuses on the maladies of the mind and emotions, rather than the physical well-being of the patient.
Bardic Magic in Velgarth seems to be related to other Gifts, especially Empathy. The use of Bardic Gift is usually embedded in performing music. "Talented" Bards, those with the Gift as opposed to extremely talented musicians, can influence people's emotions or behavior with their music, letting them experience the song.
A rare form of additional perception, Earthsense is the ability that allows one to "see" or "feel" the condition of the land around him. Examples of this are Herald-Prince Darenthalis (By the Sword), King Tremane (Storm Breaking), and Firesong K'Treva (Mage Winds and Mage Storms trilogies). Traditionally, the monarch of Hardorn is required to possess Earthsense in potential, which can then be awakened by ritual. Also, all Tayledras Healer-Mage Adepts have Earthsense as well, which allows them to sense hurts in the land and use their Healing and Mage Gifts to help heal these deep environmental hurts.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2011)|
The Tayledras - called Tale'edras by their Shin'a'in cousins and commonly known as simply the Hawkbrothers to outsiders are servants, as the stated cousins, of the Star-Eyed Windrider, the goddess Kal'enel. Originally, the Shin'a'in and the Tayledras were both part of a culture that served Urtho, Mage of Silence, during the time of the Mage Wars, and preceded him significantly in existence. After the Mage Wars, the Clans were sundered, and where there were once Ten Clans of Kaled'a'in, at the conclusion of the Mage Wars they split into four separate groups. Nine Clans returned to their former homeland, which had become a bowl of smooth glass destroyed by the explosion caused by Urtho's death. Four of these Clans abhorred magic, and abandoned it, and their goddess answered their prayer for a homeland by transforming the glass bowl into the Dhorisha Plains, eliminating all of the Mage-Gift save but for the rarest who should become her Shamans, and charged them with the task of protecting the Dhorisha Shin'a - the Plains of Sacrifice - and named them Shin'a'in - People of the Plains - and the ravaged remains of Urtho's Tower. For within the Tower, remained devastatingly powerful magical artifacts, and thus the reason for the near-total removal of Mage-Gift from those who abandoned it on the whole, for Mages not Shamans would be potentially tempted by the unparalleled power that might bring about a second but smaller cataclysm if any tried to use them. These artifacts would not only cause tremendous damage, but would also kill the user (Mage Storms trilogy).
Of the Nine Clans that returned, Five desired to retain their magic, and set forth into the Uncleansed Lands of the Pelagir Hills and Pelagiris Forest. These, too, prayed to Kal'enel, goddess of the Kaled'a'in, for aid, and became the Hawkbrothers, consensually geas-bound by their goddess. She ensured that no Tayledras would be born without the Mage-Gift, and bound them to the Uncleansed Lands, charging them with constant movement of their homes, and the task of returning the Uncleansed Lands to the way they were before the cataclysm, returning them to what they would call the Cleansed Lands. She gave to them the knowledge necessary to construct their Vales, to produce Heartstones, and many other traits, skills and abilities to enable them to best manage to achieve this task. This geas is broken at the time of the second cataclysm caused by the echo through time of the original, during the events of the Mage Storms trilogy. It is during this time frame that Vanyel removes his spell that prevented Valdemarans from knowing anything whatsoever of magic and set vrondi against all mages who worked their magic inside Valdemaran borders (as defined by Heralds' locations, insinuating that some vrondi would essentially follow Heralds around) to madden them.
The remaining Clan, the "Lost Clan" of k'Leshya, the Spirit Clan, seems to have been further sundered - some members and many Gryphons found their way to White Gryphon with the Gryphon Skandranon and the kestra'chern Amberdrake. Meanwhile most Gryphons, many humans, as well as many kyree, hertasi and dyheli seem to have ended up in what became Iftel, along with all tyrill and ratha, and were taken under the wings of the Sunlord of Karse, Vkandis, under the variation Vykaendys but still the Sunlord, who produced a barrier around Iftel to protect it. It is suggested that Karse is to the Tayledras what Iftel is to the Shin'a'in - those of Karse prayed for a means to maintain their lands and heal them, to drive out the changed-things, and Vkandis gave them the ability to summon and control demons, to be able to most efficiently battle the monsters. Conversely, the sundered people of Iftel prayed for protection, as a host of Ma'ar's mercenaries had come upon them shortly after they arrived, and Vkandis to them known as Vykaendys, produced Iftel's renowned barrier, preventing all unwelcome or hostile passage.
While the cultures of White Gryphon and Iftel seem to have remained geared toward permanent settlement and habitation, this same cannot be said for the Tayledras and the Shin'a'in. In the Shin'a'in is a habitation of widely arrayed colors of tents and pavilions, moving clans, roaming within a territory, masters of the breeding of warhorses whose intelligence is quite legendary and insinuated to be only narrowly shy of the sentience of Companions. Conversely, the Tayledras live in Vales they create, centered on a Heartstone, fed by ley-lines and used to maintain a number of spells which maintain the suitable growth of foliage which becomes a beautiful and exotic locale, with magically powered springs of cool, warm, and hot water, as many for bathing as for swimming and trysting, and monumental trees far beyond the range of what could ever possibly be grown naturally. Living in ekeles in these trees from as high as they dare all the way down to very nearly ground level, these Vales invariably bear populations of hertasi in accompaniment, as well as typically being surrounded by roving bands of tervardi who live nearby, as well for that matter as kyree being found local along with one or more herds of dyheli - all of whom are allies of the Tayledras in the Pelagir Hills and Pelagiris Forest.
Neither Tayledras nor Shin'a'in, converse to White Gryphon and Iftel, are proficient in line-fighter combat or management of armies, or for that matter, even of divisions or battalions of any particular size. Expert in the use of individual combatants and small squadrons or at best perhaps a legion, they are dangerous combatants in their homeland territories, and do not typically congregate into any larger grouping. The Shin'a'in and Tayledras share what to outsiders may also be considered a "bloodthirsty" demeanor - the Shin'a'in drive anyone not of Shin'a'in or adopted Shin'a'in, out of their plains, typically by arrowhead and sword-blade, and the Tayledras have a tendency for driving out interlopers - usually by arrowhead or at knifepoint. When the Tayledras move onward after cleansing the Uncleansed Lands, they no longer protect such lands and habitation by outsiders is permitted to expand therein, but only so far as the boundaries of the Tayledras' newly chosen location for their new Vale, an area wherein the lands are still dangerous. After the Mage Storms and the breaking of geas, however, Vales began to proliferate, as many Tayledras Vales became permanent settlements in all, and nearly a dozen and a half Vales exist according to the Valdemar Companion, which would seem to indicate that when the Vales can afford to establish a new Vale, they gather together those who would settle such and work there, and launch the expedition to the newly chosen point for the Vale to exist.
Whether this means that Vales that may be said to be "behind the line" are more friendly to human inhabitation, however, is not thoroughly established, and it may be that they're still protective of their land to the point of not letting any humans beyond themselves move in if they do not happen to know the people seeking to move in, already. While not definitive upon the matter, the Valdemar Companion does not show any settlement, village, town or city which is found "amongst" the Tayledras Vales. Whether this is because such settlements do not exist or because they are simply too small to bear mentioning on the map, is not established.
Companions are highly intelligent magical creatures who look like (but are not) white horses with silver hooves and blue eyes. Each Herald has such a Companion. Companions "Choose" Heralds in the trainee or apprentice stage; the exact nature of the "Companion's Choice" is not stated explicitly in the novels. Various Choices have been described as "being weighed and measured", "falling into [the Companion's] blue eyes", and "finding something I didn't know I was missing." The Choice bonds Companions to their Heralds into a mutual relationship, and the bond can affect both parties' spiritual and physical well-being. The Companion becomes a loving friend who guides, supports, and sometimes augments a Herald's abilities; the relationship between the two is very similar to the Pernese dragons' with their riders. The joining is known to strengthen the Herald's Gifts, especially Mindspeech. The Choice is, for the most part, permanent; it can be broken while in its early stages with no effect on the parties (as Selenay suggested to Talia in Arrows of the Queen). After the initial phase, however, the bond becomes so important that the loss of either Herald or Companion is followed by depression and almost always death. The defining factor of one's Choosing seems to rely on the individual's moral fiber and where applicable, their ability to provide something that is needed by Valdemar, at the time.
The Companions first appeared from a grove near the palace in Haven, seemingly in response to King Valdemar's prayer (see History of Valdemar). Though the first companions were all Grove-Born, later generations were born in the manner of normal horses. In "Present-Day" Valdemar (Reign of Queen Selenay), only three Companions are revealed to be Grove-born: Gwena (Companion of Herald Elspeth), Rolan (Companion of Talamir and later Talia), and Rolan's predecessor Taver (Companion of Talamir).
Though the true nature of the Companions has not been fully revealed, it is inferred they are both the returned spirits of departed Heralds and Companions, as well as divine agents or "avatars" of the gods. In the novel Oathbreakers, the Shin'a'in goddess specifically refers to a Companion as the "[child] of my other Selves." Companions take great pains to reveal that they are both fallible and mortal. When a Companion or Herald dies, he or she is sent to a "resting place" where they can recover from their recent life. After a time they are given the choice of returning as a Companion, with all memory of their past life intact, or to lose all of their old memories and become a human baby destined to become a Herald. Not all Heralds are returned from previous lifetimes, many are "new souls" who are then judged by the Companions to join the ranks of the Heralds.
These spirits are not allowed to return as Companions within the lifetime of the people they knew to avoid emotional entanglements such as Choosing their own child, or revealing themselves to their former lover. When they return as Companions they often use some variation of their former human name (for instance, a Herald-Mage called Savil might use the name Sayvil as a Companion).
The Companion to the Monarch's Own Herald is always a Grove-Born Stallion, and is considered the leader of the Companions. This Companion, currently Rolan, has the ability to bond with a second Herald if the Monarch's Own dies; as Rolan has Chosen both Talamir and Talia (Arrows of the Queen). The Monarch's Own is also subject to this; if his or her Companion dies, it is possible for the Herald to bond to a newly arrived Grove-Born Companion. Also, presumptive Monarch's Own who are also Heralds are only temporarily bonded to their first Companion; though the exact nature of this bonding is not explored (Magic's Promise). The Monarch's Own Companion is not a reborn Herald, they may be true Avatars. There seem to be several who take turns. Rolan was Monarch's Own Companion during Brightly Burning, two hundred years later Taver has replaced him, and Rolan returns when Taver is killed in battle.
The only other known Grove-Born mare since the time of King Valdemar is Gwena, who seems to have been "newly created" for the purpose of being the Companion to the first Herald-Mage in several hundred years.
Firecats are similar to the Companions in that they are the returned spirits of the Sons of the Sun, the head of the church of Karse, effectively the head of the country. Because there are far fewer Sons of the Sun, there are fewer Firecats. Firecats do not make any attempt to hide their nature and use the name they were known as when they were Son of the Sun.
Firecats are assigned (presumably by V'kandis) to accompany a human, usually to designate a new Son of the Sun, and to advise the Son of the Sun as a direct representative of the sun god. Firecats will also accompany and advise individuals whom V'kandis believes to be figures who are likely to be central in coming events that the Sunlord wishes to influence.
Firecats resemble very, very large Siamese cats with red markings instead of brown, and blue eyes. They have the ability to appear as a common cat, become invisible and to transport themselves long distances by teleportation. They can also transport a human, although the extra "load" tires them greatly. Like Companions, Firecats are mortal, must eat and sleep and grieve.
Only four Firecats are seen in the canon stories, Altra, Firecat to Karal, Karsite Ambassador to Valdemar, Hansa, Solaris' Firecat, and Raelys, Firecat companion to Franse, who appear briefly to save Mags from captivity in Karse (Redoubt). The fourth is Khar, seen in the story The Cat Who Came To Dinner, a short story by Nancy Asire, which appears in the official Valdemar short story compilation, Sun In Glory. Kharr is the Firecat companion of Reulan, a country priest who makes a trip with him to Sunhame, and is there crowned as the new Son of the Sun, on Summer Solstice.
The gryphons are a race of primary avian/secondary feline-based creatures created by the Mage Urtho (also known as the Mage of Silence) in the time before the Mage War trilogy. Gryphons, which are quadrupedal, winged, sentient beings, have the ability to fly and the potential for both magic and mind-magic. Urtho considered the gryphons both his children and his greatest accomplishment.
Gryphons give birth to living young (often twins), can grow rather old and come in various shapes, depending to a large part on the avian influence. Examples of the early generations are the hawklike Broadwings and the unique Gryfalcon-female Zhaneel. Obviously, later generations are larger than their progenitors, they reach at least the size of a heavy warhorse (Treyvan, Hydona). Usually, all four legs of a gryphon end in taloned feet of great strength. In some cases the forefeet are more handlike and useful for fine manipulations. Their heads appear very similar to those of raptors, just broader and topped by a set of feathered ears. Gryphon tails are feathered and sometimes end in tufts, not unlike those of lions.
Gryphons are deadly fighters and, save for a Cold Drake, there seems to be no creature that is a match for them without the aid of ranged weaponry, magic, a surprise tactic or a large dose of sheer luck. They also work as scouts and messengers, using their superior senses and speed. Two gryphons together (or a single one, supported by weight-reduction magic) are able to carry a harness or a sled with a human for several hours.
Gryphons, being created creatures, have unusual physiologies often requiring the presence of specially trained healers known as "trondi'irn". One very interesting aspect of gryphons is a built-in birth control system, designed by Urtho to prevent undesired gryphlets after he witnessed too many unloved children born as a result of one night stands or parents becoming parents for the wrong reasons ("The Black Gryphon"). The "condition" was originally overcome by a fictional "fertility ritual" designed by Urtho. Skandranon, the legendary Black Gryphon, learned the secret of the ritual near the end of the Mage Wars, and it was swiftly distributed through the ranks of the gryphons. Another is the fact that their flight is magical in nature, rather than physical (as stated in Larry Dixon's "Transmutation"), and is made possible by the fact that their physical structure is designed to channel magic. In "Present-Day" Velgarth, gryphons reside primarily in Iftel and as members of k'Leshya, as well as in the wild.
The kyree are a race of wolf-like creatures that are found in the Pelagirs region and elsewhere. Kyree have a natural talent for mind-magic, and have the distinction of coming in three genders: male, female, and neuter. Warrl, the kyree companion of Tarma and Kethry in the Vows and Honor trilogy, is neuter. A den of kyree is also mentioned in Magic's Price known as the Hot Springs Clan which is within a few days traveling distance from the Ice Wall Mountains during the Last Herald-Mage trilogy. The kyree not only have powerful mind-magic but also produce among their numbers kyree born with the ability to become Mages, Healers, Shaman, and God-Touched.
In description the kyree have "rather blunt, wolf-like heads and bodies like a cheetah, with tails and coats like wolves," and they live for "about as long as humans."
This is a race of short lizardlike people allegedly created by accident by one of Urtho's predecessors ("The Black Gryphon"). The race is known for friendly relations with the Tayledras, as well as making up a substantial part of the population of k'Leshya. The race as a whole has a compulsion to serve, such as cooking and serving of meals and the cleaning and repairing of clothing, pathways, or housing. They are not subservient in this, more along the lines of down-to-earth friends who realize the great mages will forget to eat, sleep, and change their socks if it weren't for these little allies. Hertasi can be extremely timid, but Ayshen ("Owlflight") is very friendly, and isn't shy whatsoever. There are also clans of Hertasi that live out of the Tayledras Vales, usually in marshes or caves.
Ayshen is described as the most absolutely and completely average of hertasi in the way of his appearance: he is about the height of the chest of a man, with a short, stubby snout and short, stubby fingers that are highly dexterous, and covered in pebble-scales of a blue-gray coloration.
Hertasi farm crops such as rice and also do extensive fishing. They are proficient in the use of fishing spears and small hooked daggers, and can swim well. They are able to use Mind-Magic, and some of them become Healers and Mages as well. Hertasi are active in the summer, and if they do not live in a Vale, they get sluggish in winter like all other cold-blooded animals. During the cold months they sleep as well as craft, making wooden carvings, clothing, and other utilitarian and decorative objects. If it gets too cold, hertasi can get very sick, and sometimes die.
A hertasi ("Gervase, the Lizard Wizard," as mentioned in The Oathbound) is credited with the expansion of the White Winds School of magic. In another novel, the White Winds School is credited with being founded by a hertasi Adept-rank Mage.
The hertasi motto, as esplicitly mentioned in "The Black Gryphon", is "We can do this."
The bondbirds of the Hawkbrothers are similar to Companions in that the birds choose the human that they wish to bond with. They bond only with Tayledras or those adopted into a Tayledras clan. All Tayledras are able to speak with their bondbirds mind-to-mind - however, this is done in a more rudimentary fashion than the way Heralds speak to their Companions. Thoughts must sometimes be portrayed through feelings or simple phrases rather than through conversation. Unlike Companions, many bondbirds may choose to bond to the same human at the same time. This happens most often with flocks of crows.
The Tayledras cultivate a bondbird breeding stock. Bondbirds are allowed to live as wild birds if they wish, but most choose to bond. Bondbirds are generally anywhere from 3 to 10 times the size of their wild counterparts.
The tervardi are a race of flightless, anthropomorphic bird people. Known Tervardi settlements are found among the Tayledras and as members of k'Leshya. They are said to be beautiful singers and musicians. They were once traded as slaves because of their unique and enchanting voices, but the slave trade has stopped since they came under the protection of the Tayledras. It is mentioned in one of the novels that the tervardi are not useful for physical offensive action due to their fragile birdlike physiology.
The dyheli are a race of stag-like creatures with a talent for offensive mind-magic. Dyheli herds are led by the male with the strongest mind; and in times of crisis the leader can and will psychically control the entire herd. Dyheli herds can be found near Tayledras Vales and as part of Clan K'Leshya. They seem to be universally white-furred and white-horned by all accounts, with highly intelligent eyes, and instead of antlers they possess long, curved horns similar to an antelope. All dyheli possess Mindspeech as a general rule, and are strong enough to take control of others and force their bodies into doing something without the individual's consent being a necessity, but they only do this when it benefits the herd, and do not typically do so to humans unless the human has been adopted into the herd as an official member of the herd. (Or, if they're part of a group traveling together, in which case they will consider the group and everyone in it no matter species, to be their herd, and will vigorously protect every member of the herd as well as they can.) Ethics involving the dyheli have become a topic of much internal debate for many who have had to take advantage of this particular ability. (Owlsight, Owlknight)
The tyrill are a race mentioned by the Gryphon Tashiketh in the novel Storm Breaking, and dwell exclusively in Iftel. They are described as being something like the hertasi, only larger in nature. It may be assumed that they have Mindspeech like the hertasi but this is not specific in Storm Breaking, however, they can clearly speak.
The ratha are mentioned in Storm Breaking by the Gryphon Tashiketh, and are described as being "what kyree are to wolves, ratha are to mountain cats"). They can be assumed in reasonable course, then, to possess Mindspeech, since they're compared to the kyree who by virtue of what they are, always have the Gift of Mindspeech.
 Two kinds of monsters which exist in the setting – cold-drakes and basilisks – were creatures that were manufactured by Ma’ar. A predecessor of Ma’ar who remains unnamed, is responsible for the creation of monsters that are called wyrsa, and they were meant to mimic the kyree and intended as a more formidable guard dog or hunting pack. This experiment failed because they were unable to be controlled, and eventually escaped from the Adept who created them, though the originals are noted to also have been smaller than those encountered in the events of The Silver Gryphon. There also exists a beast called a krashak which is described as to be a virtually immortal, indestructible mage-made construct. It is stated on the same page that these constructs will literally fall apart if a mixture of “salt, moly, and Lady’s Star” are put to the creature’s eyes and mouth.
 The wyrsa are designated to be approximately the size of a horse, or just a bit smaller, and those which are found in the Pelagir range nearest to Valdemar also glow a sulfurous yellow, and their eyes glow even more brightly in the same hue as their bodies. The pain-sound of a wyrsa is described as having hiss-reminiscent and howl-reminiscent elements to it. A wyrsa looks as if a mage had taken a greyhound, mixed it with a snake, and magnified it to horse-size, they are described as a deep black pigmentation, having shiny scaled skin, a long neck, and teeth which are sharper and more dagger-like than a dog’s, and the head and limbs are also described as doglike. The canine teeth are as large as a teen’s finger, and the remaining teeth are accurately proportionate to that. The original wyrsa were created by a predecessor of Ma’ar, but they were smaller, happening to be white in color, and with poisonous fangs and claws. The larger the pack is, the smarter it behaves, since a part of the intelligence of every individual is shared with every other individual in the pack. They are incredibly tenacious, and once they had a scent they would track it for days, and that if one were hurt or killed by the target they were tracking, they would track that target forever. The only way to be rid of them is to die, or to kill every member of the entire pack. If one were to run from them, it would cause the wyrsa to chase them, even if they hadn’t been previously chasing the one to run away from them. They are also described in these three pages as being incredibly swift-moving, able to move so quickly that after revealing themselves, they were “gone,” quicker than a human can blink or draw breath. They are nocturnal by nature, and those affected by the Mage Storms were changed to lack venom, but to be black in color, making them twice as likely to be nocturnal hunters. A wyrsa takes only four years to reach breeding age, that they can breed once in any two-year period at maximum, and that their litters consist of no more than a maximum of two pups. The natural eye color of a wyrsa is opaque white, and any wyrsa changed by the cataclysm’s mage storms has the ability to “inhale” magical energies, recharging in the process – functionally, they eat magic energy as a method by which to heal themselves.
 Cold-drakes are one of the created monsters of Ma’ar, the Mage of Black Fire, but one of the ones which are distinguished by being identified as not analogous to anything created by his nemesis, Urtho, or any of the predecessors of the Mage of Silence. A cold-drake is a magical construct, an uncontrollable eating machine which was created for use as offensive weapons, but which turned on their own side often as not, and therefore proved to be utterly unreliable. They use mind-magic to paralyze their prey, before moving in to strike or dining at their leisure, depending on their mood. Similar to spiders, cold-drakes all possess the ability to sense vibrations on the ground if anything larger than a mouse walks on it, and that vibration will wake the cold-drake immediately. Cold-drakes are extraordinarily territorial, to the point that driving one out from claimed territory or luring it away from such terrain is equally improbable. Albeit they tend to dormancy in the summer months, due to the heat, they are active year-round in the colder climes, where the temperatures are never warm enough to trigger a cold-drake’s hibernation period. They not only thrive in the cold weather, they magically generate it from their  bone-white plates.
 A cold-drake is described in the following manner: “less like a lizard, and more like a snake, with short, stubby legs,” “as long as six carts placed end-to-end” from nose to tail, an “equine” head with a size which he compares to a wine barrel. It is described further as having numerous rows of needle-sharp spines all the way from the crest down the back, and a “frill” of the same kind of spines around the neck, with teeth as long individually as his hand and razor-sharp, with talons cited as “longer” than one’s hand, and just as sharp as the teeth. It is described as being scaled in sparkling silver-white scales, with eyes described as being a deep purple in hue, depicted as being like “cabochon amethysts.” It is also noted that it has a hypnotic gaze based from those eyes, which are described as being the cold-drake’s primary weapon, a weapon of paralysis to kill living prey without struggle. Only the eyes and nostrils of the cold-drake are vulnerable to attack, but to strike them one must be within the direct range of the primary and most deadly of the cold-drake’s weapons – the paralyzing gaze of the white monstrosity’s purple eyes. The head of a cold-drake is approximately the size of a dyheli.
 Confronted with distress or unfamiliar pain (as young cold-drakes are rarely familiar with pain that was not administered by the creature’s mother as a disciplinary action), they release a high-pitched sound that is something like a shrieking, keening wail, which ends when the most severe pain is conquered. This is a sound strong enough to cause eye-watering, mind-numbing pain. If disoriented by heat and pain, while thereby unable to focus or see clearly as a result, a cold-drake can be frightened by an Empath if they are familiar enough with cold-drake reproduction to know precisely what manner of fear to project against the target. Due to their thick near-invulnerable hide, a cold-drake matriarch (or queen) cannot easily discipline an unruly member of its brood – therefore, when one needs to be disciplined, the mother bites the nose, since the nostrils are one of the few vulnerable points in the cold-drake’s intensely armored exoskeleton-like hide. For cold-drakes that have never before felt pain, the combination of pain and heat is enough to cause disorientation, delirium, and an infant-like blurring of the vision, allowing an Empath to use their Gift to delude the cold-drake into momentarily thinking they are larger and vastly more powerful, this in turn is the only known means by whence an Empath may instill terror in a cold-drake sufficient to make it flee.
 One battle wherein a small group was able to overwhelm and defeat a cold-drake indicates that these creatures are naturally and extensively susceptible to heat, and the warmer it gets, the more their natural ice-shell (over their white scales) will thaw, and torpidity will increase. Due to this intensive vulnerability to heat, almost any cunning Mage (who is either aware of this susceptibility or smart enough to figure out that a cold-drake would obviously not like any kind of warmth) should be able to – as long as they can avoid making eye contact – easily overwhelm and even kill a cold-drake by cooking it to death. Moreover, at the end of this chapter, it is noted that the only times that one of the Tayledras with the group can remember to hear of the killing of a cold-drake, it was accomplished by three or four Adept-class Mages, at distance.
 Basilisks are one of the creations of Ma’ar, the Mage of Black Fire, but one that lacks any clear analog to a creature devised by his nemesis, Urtho (or any predecessor of the Mage of Silence). Basilisks are ravenous, stupid, but incredibly dangerous carnivores, which will gladly consume any prey that cannot outrun them; however, perhaps because of the implied lack of sentience, they are not evil in nature, and can be driven out of a territory if one does not wish to kill them. They do, however, have their place in the food chain - they indifferently consume their own kills or scavenge the kills of other predators, and are perfectly content (as few things are) to dine on the carcasses of cold-drakes or wyrsa. Basilisks, a failed and abandoned experiment by a blood-path mage during the Mage Wars which managed to survive that abandonment, lay between two and three fertile eggs in the whole of their lifetime.
Valdemar is named after the country's first king. The country was founded when Baron Valdemar fled from the oppression of the Empire. After finally journeying beyond the Emperor's vast reach, he settled his people in what is now Haven. Having settled into a burgeoning empire, Valdemar could not think of a way to ensure his people would be protected generations forward—he knew that he was a good king and a good man, and believed his son would be, as well, but wanted a way to ensure that his son's children, and theirs would be good rulers, too. He prayed to the gods for assistance, casting a spell, and this is how the Companions came into existence. Haven is the nation's capital, as well as home to the three Collegia; a boarding school for Bards (Bardic Collegium), Healers (Healer's Collegium), and Heralds (Herald's Collegium). The country is ruled by a monarch with the advice of a council consisting of representatives from various areas of the country, guilds, and the Heralds. Only a Chosen Herald of the royal blood can become the King or Queen of Valdemar. If no one of the royal family is Chosen, then the closest of kin that is Chosen becomes the next monarch. The Heralds hold a special position in the government: they act as arbitrators, judges, police, spies, elite military forces, militia trainers, ambassadors, and at times in the rare but necessary role of executioner or assassin. Due to the circumstances of its founding, Valdemar has no one religion. The more important law (as taught to Talia in Arrows of the Queen) is that all religions and ways of life are allowed. This includes different customs, religions, and types of sexuality (although, of course, some individuals may not be as tolerant as the law decrees). It was engaged in a war with Karse for many years, but with the reign of Queen Selenay they found peace, until Ancar of Hardorn assassinated his father and brought back magery to wage war.
 Southeast of Valdemar, and bordering it, Hardorn, Ruvan, and Rethwellan, the relatively small nation of Karse plays an important role in nearly all the stories.
 Karse is technically a monarchy, but the king is a mere figurehead, who presides over a Royal Court that is described as being little more than an elaborate social club. The real power is in the theocracy, and all real governmental powers rest with the high priest or Son of the Sun, and the Sunpriests. Women are subjugated to clearly defined domestic, passive roles. The priests are personally responsible for choosing officers for the Karsite army. Soldiers of the line are forbidden to marry. Homosexuality is officially forbidden, although more common than anyone would care to admit.
The Son of the Sun is chosen out of the ranks of the upper echelon of the current priesthood, who proclaim his personal selection by the hand of the supreme god, V'Kandis Sunlord. Magic in Karse is problematic. Most children with mage potential are routinely burnt at the stake, but a few are ordained as "black robed" priests; they will learn to summon demons to keep the people under control.
 In the late fourteenth century since the Founding of Valdemar, V'Kandis Sunlord descended from heaven to personally crown a woman as the new Son of the Sun, naming her Solaris. He gave her a Firecat as a guide and protector, so that none would question her reign. Shortly after her ascension to power, the new Son of the Sun implemented sweeping new changes to the whole of the Karsite lands and the ruling priesthood. The burning of "witches" and summoning of demons was outlawed, although parents can still get their children tested for mage potential if they wish. The ban on homosexuality was also lifted. Solaris also commanded an end to the hostilities between Karse and Valdemar, revealing that the mages of Valdemar are not evil wizards as the sun-priests had always taught, and that they should be allies.
Iftel is an immensely isolationist country which has been in existence since the time which was directly after the Cataclysm caused by the simultaneous death of Urtho and Ma'ar. When the magic-hating Shin'a'in prayed to the Star-Eyed, she gave them the Dhorisha Plains, and the task of guardianship - when the Tayledras / Tale'edras with their love of magic prayed to her for aid, she gave them a guaranteed inherent Mage-Gift and the task of protecting the changed lands and cleansing them and healing them. Karse is indicated to be analogous to the Tayledras in their request of power from Vkandis. In Iftel, they were beset by a surviving army of Ma'ar, and prayed to their god, Vykaendys, for protection - and the Sunlord granted the Barrier for whence Iftel is so well known. Vykaendys is noted as essentially another name for the Sunlord, Vkandis. This Barrier, which lasted for two thousand years and kept out all but a select few and the truer-hearted Sun-priests such as Karal (Mage Storms Trilogy) were unable to enter Iftel, and Iftel rarely sent emissaries to foreign courts, until the events of Storm Breaking. In this, the Barrier was moved to Karse to aid in its protection as Iftel took to a separate means of protection while the Barrier and Solaris safeguarded the nodes in Karse.
 According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Rethwellan is bordered by Valdemar to their north, Menmellith to their east-north, Karse to their east-south, Jkatha to the south, and to the west by the Tayledras Vales and vast, unknown expanses of wilderness beyond. The capital city of Rethwellan is the city of Petras.
 It is stated that Rethwellan is sufficiently opposed, religiously, to homosexuality that shay’a’chern are not only unwelcome, but sending an openly shay’a’chern envoy with his lover as an ambassadorial unit might cause a declaration of war from Rethwellan for the perceived insult. The first King of Rethwellan was an Adept-class Mage from the Leverand mage-school, and he valued honesty so highly that he ensorcelled the royal archives so that once something has been entered into the royal archives, it cannot be removed or “something nasty happens.”  The family name of the royal family of Rethwellan is Jadrevalyn.
Sharing a border with Valdemar, Hardorn was for many years ruled by Alessandar and was peaceful. Alessandar was murdered by his power-hungry son, Ancar, in Arrow's Fall. Ancar waged a long and devastating war against Valdemar (By the Sword, The Mage Winds Trilogy), holding a personal grudge against Queen Selenay and her daughter Elspeth. It was discovered that Ancar was being manipulated by agents of the Eastern Empire with the purpose of weakening Hardorn and making it ready for Eastern conquest. At the death of Ancar by Elspeth, the Eastern Empire began conquest (The Mage Storms Trilogy). The conquest was headed by Grand Duke Tremane, the heir presumptive of the Empire as a task to show his worthiness to rule. Mired down by bad weather and hit-and-run attacks from the Hardornens who remember Alessandar and being free and further disorganized by the arrival of the Mage Storms, Tremane fortified his position. By making himself popular with the locals he eventually was named King of Hardorn. His honesty sealed by a curse of truth set by Solaris using Divine Magic and by his bonding to Hardorn with Earthsense, Tremane allied himself with the kingdoms of the west and severed his ties with the Empire.
 According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Jkatha is a nation bordered on the north by Rethwellan, northeast by Ruvan, south by Velvar, and southwest by the bowl-shaped crater which is the Dhorisha Plains. The Jkathan capital is named Throne City.
 The Jkathan city of Mornedealth, noted as Mournedealth on the maps of the Valdemar Companion and located in far northern Jkatha near the borders of both Ruvan and Rethwellan, is noted as having “Fifty Noble Houses.”  It is against the law in their city for any of the Fifty Noble Houses to be sold, under any circumstances, which seems a throwback to keeping original noble families, that regardless of the state of the family in question, the sale of their manse is strictly illegal.
Three groups of people in "modern-day" Velgarth are descended from a nomadic people called the Kaled'a'in. Shortly after the Mage Wars ended, all the Kaled'a'in except for k'Leshya (Spirit Clan) gathered at the edge of the crater now called the Dhorisha Plains. k'Leshya were thought lost, and the remaining clans split along ideological lines. The clans which shunned magic became the Shin'a'in, and the clans which accepted it became the Tayledras. k'Leshya settled at White Gryphon, a fortified city built into the side of a cliff, and allied themselves with the "Black Kings."
The Shin'a'in, the Guardians of the Plains, have no true organization above that of a clan. However, each clan has a number of elders that deal with other clans. Shin'a'in are known by their name and clan; for example Tarma shena Tale'sedrin is Tarma of the Clan Tale'sedrin. The Shin'a'in guard the Dhorisha Plains, and are known as shrewd traders and excellent horsemen.
The Tayledras, also called Tale'edras, or Hawkbrothers, their most common name, have little organization above that of their Vale. Vales are villages built around a Heartstone, a melding of the physical world and a magical node. The Heartstone is used to power a number of set spells; most important of these is the Veil, a weather-shield surrounding the entire Vale. The five Vales are set in the remnants of an old forest devastated and poisoned by the Mage-Wars, and a principle function of the Heartstone is healing magic to restore the forest to its previous condition; after a region is cleared, the Clan moves its Heartstone to a new center and the original location reopens to settlement. Over the course of its history—and with few people aware of what was really happening—Valdemar expanded significantly westward into former Tale'edras lands.
Vales are "ruled" by a council of elders, which consists of representatives of various trades, Mages, and Scouts. Tayledras are known for their bondbirds, who are larger and have enhanced intelligence (compared to normal birds) and limited Mindspeech.
Founded by a group of stranded mercenaries in the years following the Mage Wars, the Empire is a military and magical powerhouse stretching from the eastern borders of Hardorn and Iftel to the Salten Sea. Ruled by the Emperor, the Iron Throne is passed to the Emperor-elect in the final years of an Emperor's reign. Administrations can last upwards of a hundred years, for the Emperor must be a mage of at least Master-class, and as such has access to life-extending magics.
Until the Mage Storms, the Empire was known for their prolific use of magical Portals. The Mage Storm effectively eliminated the use of these portals, causing massive chaos throughout the Empire.
 Once the peoples of the northern tribes have accepted someone as a bona fide trader, a merchant has near-immunity among them, because they are smart enough to realize that if they kill the trader, there will be no additional traders coming afterward. The reason they feel so amenable to traders is more because of a desire for shiny baubles and finery from the cultivated world and less out of an interest in news from where the goods came from. Like the Tayledras, the Northern tribes have a ceremony for welcoming an individual into their Clan who is not initially part of that Clan, a ceremony making them a “Clanbrother.”  It is not common for groups of greater than twelve to set out on any particular task, unless the group has a shaman-mage to lead them; horseback riding is also rare. During warm weather, as both a precaution to chase away vermin and odors and as a means of displaying the handiwork of the women of the house, beautifully woven blankets of pieced-fur are hung on the outer walls of the home, each blanket serving as a representation of the totem animal of the person it belonged to, and even their pottery is given painted decorations. The oldest tribal villages, moreover, are heavily decorated with these painted tribal carvings. The people of the Northern Tribes, like the Kaled’a’in and the Tayledras and Shin’a’in who came out of the Kaled’a’in culture, have never met a color they didn’t like, and they use those colors in eye-wateringly vibrant combinations, and the Northern men are even more color-mad than their female counterparts.
 Settlements are built with the houses built in circles around the central building, but this central building is not, as one might expect, the home of the chief – rather, this quintessential structure that forms what is the epicenter of the settlement, is the storehouse for the entire tribe. This storehouse is dedicated to all of the tribe, and as such, the decorations of the storehouse are those of the tribe’s totemic animal, repeated over and over in a seemingly endless variety of different poses and depictions. Each family has a cubicle within this storehouse for the storage of raw materials belonging only to the family, with the center of the storehouse being reserved for communal storage.
 Northern Tribes are far from the barbarians they are initially perceived, though some tribes would most definitely qualify under the descriptor of “savages” or “barbarians,” but when they build their settlements, they are as neatly laid out as any Valdemaran village. They build large, circular, single-room homes, with an enormous common room in the center, with small cubicles for privacy encompassing that central room, and housing the extended family. The homes are typically constructed of wood, not stone, and the roof is – instead of being made of slate or thatch – instead supported by four great pillars. The buildings are made of squared-off wooden logs, with chinks filled in by a mixture of mud and moss, and the roof is made of rough planks laid over a radial pattern of rafters, which are then topped with rough wood shakes. The thick plank door of each home is carved and painted with the symbol of the totemic animal of their family, in something very similar to a high-relief style. These portrayals are not realistic, but rather highly stylistic and colorful, oftentimes in shades of red, white and black. There are always two poles outside of the front door of a home, carved and painted with the totem of every member of the family, and always topped with the totemic spirit of the tribe in question, and the four support beams inside are carved in a similar nature to the poles always found outside of a home. The ends of rafters which protrude beyond the edge of the roof are also carved and painted, though in this case with the heads of spirits and ancestors.
 Although the floor of the home is not exactly earthen, a fire-pit is dug in the center of the common room, and this pit is lined with stones which are laid out some distance outward from there in case of sparks that may jump from a five, with a smoke-hole in the center of the roof. The floor is made first of pounded earth, overlaid with many layers thick of grass mats, which are “added to on a daily basis,” it being the “duty of every member of the family old enough to do so” to weave one grass mat in the morning and lay it where the mats are looking shabby. As the mats at the bottom decompose and disintegrate, they are replaced from above, and insects are driven off by the pine needles and herbs that are layered between the mats. Although there are no windows in these homes, adequate light is provided by crude oil lamps around the interior wall, though the lack of windows is inspired primarily by the fact that the Northern Tribes are found in the Icewall Mountains, and north of them, where the weather is terribly frigid. The residential cubicles of the home are formed by partitions about six to eight paces apart, which extend about six to eight paces into the center of the home, and these cubicles are as often used for storage as habitation. A rope across the front of each cubicle allows for a curtain to be hung to facilitate a certain degree of privacy, but there are shelves across the back and side walls of every cubicle, to allow for a degree of personal storage, as well.
 When confronted with climates where there are warmer seasons, circular shelters extraordinarily similar to their homes are built, but these shelters are constructed without walls, and from spring until fall, this is where most of the living and working is done. On the hottest nights, sometimes the entire family will sleep in the shelter instead of the home, with pots of smoldering herbs around the periphery of the shelter, as a means by whence to facilitate a degree of insect repellency.
 At the point of marriage, the man moves in with the parents of the bride, and there they live until the birth of the couple’s third child, in part because it often takes the young man that long to gather up the resources needed for the construction of his own domicile. Those who remain unwed lose no status continue to live with their parents, as additional hands, but they suffer no decrease in status resultant from such a decision. Grandparents often bequeath their home to a favored couple, and then move out of that home, often to move in with the family of their eldest daughter – however, there is often stiff competition between those daughters who are married to lure their Grandmother and Grandfather into moving into their home. There is a simple and variably admirable reason for this: there is a noteworthy increase in status for those who shelter such valuable repositories of wisdom as their grandparents represent.
 Among Northern tribesmen, there is significant segregation at the meal-times: adult males have choice cuts of the meat and eat together – meanwhile women, girls, and boys below the age of puberty, eat at a separate communal meal. However, this segregation is not enforced by brutality, barbarism or beatings. A woman in the culture is neither cowed nor slavish – she performs domestic tasks, scolds rowdy children, and chat amongst themselves easily and openly. Amongst the tribes – not including Ghost Cat tribe, in Valdemar, for the local customs of openness quickly took root amongst the Ghost Cat Clan – a man must not approach a woman for conversation, regardless of her status: if a woman of the tribes with to speak with a man, then she must approach the man, herself, for he will not approach her. Even in the case of a Wisewoman (which is what they call their female Healers), it is considered beneath the dignity of a man to give a woman any notice outside of the home – this in spite of that the Wisewoman is near-equal to the Shaman, in the tribal hierarchy. However, there are some female warriors in tribal history, enough to the point that the tribal culture has come up with a category to fit them – they are called “man-souled women,” in the native tongue, and are somewhat like the Kal’enedral of the Shin’a’in, sacrificing the ability to ever be a wife or mother, viewed effectively as a social neuter, and these women are viewed with similar level of respect as men. They must, however, grow as boys: they must accomplish the same initiation trials as boys must take, to become hunters and warriors within their tribe.
 When a life-debt is owed by a member of the Northern Tribes, they are eager to discharge this debt by the returning of a favor or aid of equivalent value, for it holds them back both socially and personally, to owe a life-debt to another. When a youth of the tribes owes one a life-debt, they cannot marry or for that matter even engage in courtship, and cannot undertake any of the major responsibilities of adulthood until such time as their life-debt is repaid, for the repayment of that life-debt is a solemn duty they must attend to before all other commitments.
 Totemic animals play a very large part in the lives of the people of the Northern Tribes; each tribe has a special totem, usually (albeit by implication, not always) a very powerful predator. Each family has a totem animal of their own, one related to the totem animal of the tribe – and when an individual has reached the stage of adulthood, in a special dream-ceremony presided over by the tribal shaman, they are embraced by a personal totem animal. In the case of one who is accepted into the tribe as a Clanbrother, if that one happens to be bonded to by a Bondbird, the shaman will usually judge that the individual has already got a totem animal – given that the Herald-Companion Bond is similar to but stronger than this, it can be then logically assumed this same assessment would be made if a Herald were to become also a Clanbrother. The totemic spirits of the tribes take a very proprietary interest in the welfare of their tribe, though some of the spirits are less proprietary or interested than others, but they seem to disavow those who turn in the direction of evil: this is implied in the novel Owlknight. The Snow Fox leads sick members of their tribe to Ghost Cat, who in turn lead them to the Healing Sanctuary in northwestern Valdemar, but the Blood Bear does not lead members of its tribe to Ghost Cat or the Healing Sanctuary, implying that their acts of evil have distanced them from the Blood Bear’s guidance.
Some examples of Northern tribe-names are  Ghost Cat, Blood Bear, Seashan (an animal for which Valdemar has no word, but which is described as being some sort of fish with a large dorsal fin), Snow Fox, Raven, Gray Wolf, Black Bear (“not to be confused with Blood Bear”), Magpie, Wolverine, and  Red Fox.
 Although in battles of Northlander against Southlander there are no rules, tribal warfare between tribes is mandated to follow strict conventions-of-war enforced by the totemic spirits they follow, and when the shaman or war-leader of one tribe makes a promise on the field of battle to the shaman or war-leader of another, that promise is tantamount to a sacred oath. At time of such an oathbreaking, the oathbreakers become the outcast of all the tribes: there would be no alliances, no inter-marriages, no trade, no manner of intercourse whatsoever, for the oathbreakers have blackened the name of their tribe, and in-so-doing, it may even cause the totemic spirit of their tribe, itself, to abandon them, for the shame of such an action. It categorically signals the final, absolute and irrevocable death of the tribe, to break the tribal battle-oaths, and it is this which has happened to Blood Bear – they broke the promise made by their leader, and so in turn condemned the whole of their tribe to extinction.
 The Haighlei Empire is described as being composed of Six Nations. All natural-born citizens of the Haighlei Empire have black skin – not brown, not painted, and not sunburned their complexion is actually, genuinely black, and they are taller than the Kaled’a’in to a very noticeable degree, and have finely sculpted features, but their facial features are described as being “not as hawklike” as those of the Kaled’a’in. High-ranking Haighlei officials tend toward clothing that is woven in incredibly detailed geometric patterns, and the Haighlei envoys’ garments are noted for being of warm colors – specifically, bright yellows, reds, and oranges. The envoys also differ from the sailors guiding the ship by which they arrive in that they are wearing robes which fasten high up on the side of the neck, with the opening running down the left side of the front, as opposed to down the middle. The robes of the envoys are noted as having high, stiff collars which matched the cylindrical hats they are wearing, and they are noted as wearing heavy, jeweled brooches that rest on their breasts and shoulders, with heavy, matching brooches centered in each hat. The hair of the Haighlei is described as tending to be as “tightly-curled as a sheep’s fleece, but so black that it swallowed up all the light.”  No garment made in the Haighlei Empire sports fewer than at least three separate colors, that those colors tend to be harlequin-bright, and that they favor at least four kinds of fabric – silk, raime, the finest linen imaginable, and a sort of gauze woven from what is described as fluffy plant fiber. They favor fluttering robes, draped gowns, and billowing trousers.
 Haighlei sailors are noted as being dressed in white breeches, most with colored cloths on their heads and colored sashes around their waists, and that every crewman had an enormous knife in their sash, as well as having brought many spears. Haighlei naval vessels are described to have three masts, several sails striped in red and white and augmented by a network of lines and rope-ladders, with the hull painted red and blue, as well as having a raised, house-like structure in the center of the deck, this with windows and one door. It is unclear if the red, white and blue markings are a standard of the Haighlei Empire, or of King Shalaman’s individual nation of that Empire.
 The capital city of King Shalaman, Khimbata, is noted as having strange and fascinating architecture, and as being a voyage of two weeks by sail south from the Kaled’a’in city named “White Gryphon,” sailing south along the coast of the Western Sea. The architecture is described as having an oddly organic feeling, with pronounced wood-grains, a seeming prohibition on any exterior surface ever remaining unornamented, and with the swirling curves being covered in mosaics and the sculptured reliefs of plants, birds, and animals. It is also noted that there were seldom found any straight lines, and that there are gentle curves in place of corners and the junctions of walls and ceilings. It is furthermore noted that these always form arches, with the ceiling sloping gently upwards, and that at the top of every room there is always a lamp shaped either like a flower or a globe, and right angles aren’t seen anywhere in Khimbata, or presumably the rest of the Haighlei Empire. The private rooms are also described, to all seem to be decorated in pastel colors, and to include ingenious ways to at a minimum, simulate coolness – gauze curtains to reflect the worst light, with huge windows and balcony doors to catch the slightest breeze. It is also noted that the fabrics themselves are light and airy, smooth and soft to the touch, which is just as well given that Khimbata also lies in the heart of the jungle, and it is the most northerly of all of the Six Nations of the Haighlei Empire.
 It is described that in public areas, the Haighlei love of color runs riot, and that their love of the jungle is also clearly evident. The public rooms, at least in the palace, sport huge, lush plants placed where sunlight could reach them and accompanied by fountains, or pools containing lazy fish having gold, black and white markings, while the main rooms are described to have walls covered in brightly multicolored mosaics, and the passages between them are cool, dim, and of a deep-green wall coloring.
 The Haighlei simultaneously abhor change, and also adore it. In Haighlei culture, change comes only when the gods wish it, and then, only when the gods are so desirous of it that they come right out and say it; or, when there occurs the Eclipse Ceremony, which is held once every twenty years, and only in conjunction with an eclipse which happens once every similar number of years, and then, only so much change as is proportionate to the amount of the sun covered by the eclipse, can be allowed to be implemented into their culture and society. It is stated that this is how it has been for untold centuries prior, and that the kestra’chern who appear in the Haighlei society, are the kestra’chern of two centuries ago, or more: the most pampered members of the very elite nobility, and never, ever seen by the peasantry. It is also clarified that at some point the holy writings, which forbid change in strictest terms, were changed to include the Eclipse Ceremony, because someone, somewhere at some point in an unknown number of years before, realized that cultures can stagnate, and the society bearing that culture can rot from within, without some degree of change. The Haighlei are an extremely literal people: they will tell you exactly what they mean to do, not a bit more, and not a bit less, but this is also subject to the modification of how one feels about the person – if one were to ask a Haighlei citizen who is indifferent toward the person to guard their pet, he would guard their pet, but ignore the thief stealing their purse.
 When a child is born who possesses the Mage Gift, a child of this sort is taken from their parents by the government at the age of seven, similar to how Spartan boys were taken in during the golden age of Spartan culture, and the family receives a dower-portion as a compensation for the loss of a child. The child is then taken and raised by the priests, and taught absolute obedience to a degree which is unheard-of outside of the Haighlei Empire, and it is stated that females of the Haighlei apply themselves to their studies better than boys, so females conclude their education when they reach sixteen, on average, as opposed to boys, whose education is finished at eighteen. At the end of this, they are returned to their families – either as priests (or priestesses) themselves, or as Scholars. The child is also watched – far more closely than many of them realize – and if the child is flawed in character, if the child is a habitual liar, a thief, or a child who uses their Gift without express permission and-or to the harm of others, the child is “removed,” “from the school and from magic,” “completely.” Since any Gift is functionally a channel inside of the mind which is open if one can use it, this implies that the Haighlei have a manner by which to take an open channel and to permanently and forcefully close it.
 This removal does not mean the killing of the individual, but in many ways, it may have been better for the individual if they had been executed: they can no longer touch magic, and then as soon as that is done, they are returned to their family in disgrace, for everyone knows that the person is fatally flawed, and will trust the person with nothing of any consequence, and when grown, they will not ever hold any position of authority within their rank. Additionally, if their rank is low, they will be allowed to only the most menial of labors, and then under only the strictest of supervision. If, however, their rank is high, they will be similarly under constant watch, and will serve their family as little more than as an idle ornament, for none would wed them with a mark of such disgrace upon them. It is declaratively indicated these rules are applied to all, and even members of those families of the highest caste (even the royal family) are not exempt from this.
 Those Gifts which constitute what is called Mind-Magic in Valdemar (which does not exist, at the time of this novel, as a point of reference), are a form of magic which is even more highly prohibited than the Mage Gift. Those abilities a Valdemaran would call Mind-Magic is, in the Haighlei Empire, forbidden to all but the priests, and then only to those who are called to special responsibilities, primarily Truthsayers.
 When a man proposes to a woman in the Haighlei culture, the bride-to-be accepts the proposal of her betrothed only in her own home, or in the case of a guest at court, only in her chambers in the palace or her gardens in the palace (which are found to be connected directly to that room, presumably). This is an old custom, dating back to days when the Haighlei themselves were barbarians, and at times kidnapped one that they wished to wed. In making the groom come to her, unarmed and alone, the bride is therefore prevented from being coerced into acceptance.
 Lifebonding is a rare occurrence in the Haighlei Empire, and one that bears tremendous significance to the whole of their culture, and those who are Lifebonded are what the Haighlei call loriganalea, a word which means “soulbonded.”  It is believed that Lifebonded pairs are united within a sacred bond – a marriage made not for lust, power or convenience, but rather one made by the gods, themselves. The Haighlei holy texts are very clear about this: anyone who interferes with such a bond will bring the “curses of the ages” upon whoever attempted to break this bond, and that whosoever helps to break it, or fails to aid the bonded pairing, will likewise be cursed. Additionally, if the one who tried to interfere in the bond is a ruler, the said curse would fall upon the whole of the people of that ruler, and all would suffer as the curses of all of the gods of the Haighlei – and all of the curses of the gods of foreigners in the case of interference in a foreigner’s relationship of the nature that is described as loriganalea – would fall upon the whole of that ruler’s demesne. Even in purest ignorance of such a bond, if the potentially offended party does not forgive the offender’s transgression, there would still be the gravest threat of those curses still being visited upon them, for ignorance does not excuse the interference.
 The Haighlei are not by nature a peaceful people, that they are in fact quite warlike, and that only their law makes them more inclined toward pacific negotiation of problem. Traditionally, in the Haighlei culture, every chance to make war, within the law, is most times eagerly seized upon, as long as the war itself would not be considered illegal by Haighlei customs. In Khimbata, the Haighlei complexion is black, but in Haighlei nations even further south than this, the complexion is actually true-black, having a bluish tint to it.
 One of the kingdoms of the Haighlei Empire is named Ghandai, and the citizens of this nation have a true-black complexion, which means it must be assumed that since only two nations of the Haighlei are on the main continent, Ghandai is one of the four remaining nations that are on the continent to the south of that continent.
 One of the Six Nations of the Haighlei Empire is named Nbubi.
 One of the nations of the Haighlei Empire is named the Kmbata Empire, the capital of this is Khimbata.
 In the case of many nations, on the continent, there is only one reference source for any information. That resource is the Valdemar Companion. Unless additional references are cited for a specific nation, it should be considered that the maps in the Valdemar Companion are the only source of reference material for all nations to follow.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Menmellith is a tiny nation sandwiched at the corners between Rethwellan (west), Valdemar (north) and Karse (east), whose only city is Keyold, which is located in the far southern area of the kingdom, which claims a portion of The Comb mountain range in its north. Menmellith was once a part of Karse, but it is noted that the time when Menmellith was part of Karse was a very, very long time ago.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the capital of Velvar is Ashuel, and Velvar is bordered to the north by Jkatha, east by Seejay (south-sector), Rodina (north-sector), to the southeast by Acabarrin, and entirely surrounds in the southeastern section of Velvar, the small kingdom of Crane. The northwestern border of Velvar is part of the crater-bowl of the Dhorisha Plains, bordered southwest and to the west by open unclaimed wilderness. In the southern reaches of Velvar there is also coastline, wherein the coastal border opens out onto the Bitter Sea.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Crane is a tiny nation having two cities – Port Craow, and the capital city of Tozoa. Port Craow is at the delta of a river which splits into several smaller rivers as it flows inland, but seemingly none of these rivers extends far enough inland to enter the territory of the kingdom of Velvar. This river delta is on the Bitter Sea, meaning that Crane most likely has a navy.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Acabarrin is one of the southernmost nations shown, but is ostensibly not one of the member nations of the Haighlei Empire, as it is not far enough to the south – the continent scrolls away off-map south to the southwest of Velvar. The capital city is Mirr, and the kingdom of Acabarrin is bordered to the northwest by Velvar, and to the north-northeast by the kingdom of Rodina. The kingdom has a somewhat broad, angular-seeming peninsula which juts out into the Bitter Sea but is completely encompassed by it, this is clear because the Bitter Sea is the name of the body of the water past the eastern and western coasts of the kingdom, which are seen even though the kingdom’s southern borders are not seen, for the kingdom extends too far south to remain on the map.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Rodina is bordered on the south by Acabarrin, on the west by Velvar, on the north by Seejay, on the majority of the east by the Treterine Empire, and on the farthest southeast by the tiny kingdom called the Drammin Prefecture. Rodina has coastline out onto the Bitter Sea, and the capital city is Kyer.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Seejay is bordered south by Rodina, west by Velvar, north by Ruvan, northeast by Brendan, east-north by the Altvar Confederation, and east-south by the Treterine Empire. The capital of this landlocked nation is not explicitly shown, which suggests that it might be a potentially democratic nation.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Ruvan is bordered south by Seejay, west by Jkatha, southwest by Velvar (only narrowly), east by Brendan, north by Karse (west) and Thurbrigard (to the direct northeastern portion of the northern borders). Ruvan is landlocked, and the capital city is, like in the case with Seejay, not explicitly indicated.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Thurbrigard is bordered south by Brendan (east) and Ruvan (west), west by Karse, north by Hardorn, east by Isiro. The capital city is named Velian, and most of the kingdom appears to be in mountainous terrain, with limited level or lowland terrain.
According to the Colleigum Chronicles, Thurbirigard is home to the 'Sleepbringer' assassin clan
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Isiro is a landlocked nation whose capital city is Ijien. It is bordered west by Thurbrigard (south) and by Hardorn (north), the northern border is shared to Oris, and the southern border is with Brendan. To the east, Isiro is bordered (north-sector) by Sarmus and (south-sector) by the Grand Empire of the Hinar.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the kingdom of Brendan is bordered to their north by Thurbrigard, west by Ruvan, south by Seejay (west) and the Altvar Confederation (east), with the kingdom of Isiro having a narrow northeastern border, the Grand Empire of the Hinar having an eastern border which is even narrower, and southeast by a kingdom named Ambon, with most of their east border being with Agedia, which causes the narrow mountainous border connection with the stated Empire. The capital of Brendan is a city named High Kingdom Hall.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Oris is a landlocked kingdom whose capital is Tau, and which is a small kingdom bordered by Isiro to the south, Hardorn to the west, Tolmassar to their north, Taymyrr to their east-north, and the Empire of Holy Ithik to their east-south.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Tolmassar is an expansive kingdom bordered west by Iftel, south by Hardorn (west), Oris (west-center), Taymyrr (east-center), and an unknown nation (east) whose name does not appear on the map, and whose eastern border is not seen for it vanishes off of the eastern edges of the map image. The capital city of Tolmassar is also not shown on the map, but Tolmassar possesses extensive northern coastline onto the Icepack Sea, claims dominion over the Iskish Bay, and undoubtedly the many varied islands in the immediate vicinity within this section of Icepack Sea.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Taymyrr is bordered north by Tolmassar, east by an unknown nation, west by Oris, southwest by a corner of the Empire of Holy Ithik, and primarily the southern border is shared with the tiny kingdom of Zoskin. The capital city of Taymyrr is Stormhaven, and given the propensity for mercenary companies to name their base of operations with the suffix of “haven,” it seems likely that Taymyrr may originally have been founded, an unknown period of time ago, by some mercenary company which was active in the vicinity. If this is the case, it is likely that the stated Company is most likely now the official national army of the kingdom of Taymyrr, since the capital is Stormhaven.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Zoskin is sandwiched between Taymyrr to the north and the Empire of Holy Ithik to the south, with the narrow eastern border shared with a nation which does not have a name designated on the map. Zoskin is mountainous, for the most part, and the western section includes Ice Lake – the capital city is named Hallow.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the Empire of Holy Ithik is bordered north by Zoskin, and narrowly by Taymyrr, northwest by Oris, west and southwest by Sarmus, south by Angarsk, and northeast by the unknown nation which is also bordered by Taymyrr, Zoskin and Tolmassar. The east borders of this Empire vanish into the further east, off the edges of the map, so further nations are yet to be revealed by the author. The capital city of this empire is High Ashuel.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the kingdom of Sarmus is ruled from the city of Taran, the capital, and it is a very small nation. It is enclosed with Isiro to the west, the Grand Empire of the Hinar to the south, the Empire of Holy Ithik to the north, Angarsk to the east, and has a coastline of a large body of water called Koochuk Lake as the southeastern border.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Angarsk is a small nation bordered west by Sarmus, south by Koochuk Lake, southwest by the Grand Empire of the Hinar, and south by Vaterlunde. The capital city of Angarsk is Uskursk.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Agedia is a small nation bordered northeast and east by the Grand Empire of the Hinar, southeast by the Treterine Empire, northwest by Brendan and southwest by Ambon. The capital of this small nation is Usuv.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the Grand Empire of the Hinar shares borders with Isiro in the northwest, Sarmus to the north, Angarsk to the northeast and partially to the north, Agedia to the west, Brendan only extremely narrowly to the farthest west, Vaterlunde to the southeast, and with the Treterine Empire to the direct south. The imperial capital city is Gray Bull.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the kingdom of Vaterlunde is a large nation of primarily hilly terrain on the map, whose eastern borders are unknown because they vanish off the map’s eastern edge, but which is bordered south by the Fury Sea. Vaterlunde is bordered north by Angarsk and northwest by the Grand Empire of the Hinar, west by the Treterine Empire, and southwest by Azill. Due to the lack of cities in Vaterlunde territory on the map, it seems likely that the people of Vaterlunde have not yet settled their western portion of the kingdom, and this lack of cities means Vaterlunde capital is also an unknown at this time.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the kingdom of Ambon is a small nation that is bordered northeast by Agedia, north and west by Brendan, southwest by the Altvar Confederation, and to the southeast by the Treterine Empire. The only confirmed city is Trade City, which is their capital city.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the Altvar Confederation is bordered on the north by Ambon (east) and Brendan (west), Seejay to the west, and the Treterine Empire to the south and to the east. The capital city of the Confederation is Altvari. It is a small nation with a total of four cities.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, Azill is a nation with no cities being indicated on the map, which is sandwiched between Vaterlunde (north) and the Treterine Empire (west and south). It has coastline onto the Therista Bay, which leads out into the Fury Sea, on the east-southeast border.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the Treterine Empire is a massive empire that stretches off the southern edge of the map, and whose imperial capital is named Treter. It is bordered to the north by the Grand Empire of the Hinar, northeast by Vaterlunde and the small nation of Azill, and to the northwest by Agedia (further north) and Ambon (directly northwest). It is bordered to the partial west and partial north by the Altvar Confederation, with the far western border shared between Seejay (north) and Rodina (south). The Treterine Empire almost completely encompasses the Drammin Prefecture save for a narrow portion of that Prefecture’s southwestern border. Most of the Treterine Empire, including that area claimed which encircles the Drammin Prefecture, is unsettled and especially the far southern regions that it claims, as well as the entire eastern coastline. Therefore it is unlikely that the Treterine Empire has a navy, despite having coastlines on both the Bitter Sea and the Fury Sea.
According to the map images of the Valdemar Companion, the Drammin Prefecture is a tiny nation which has three cities – Kalunabay, Havutaset, and the capital of Eskavin. It has coastline onto the Bitter Sea, and except for the narrow southwestern border with Rodina, the Drammin Prefecture is otherwise entirely encircled by the Treterine Empire to the northwest, north, northeast, east, and southeast.
Heralds are exclusive to Valdemar, possess the highest quality of moral fiber and exist only by virtue of being Chosen by a Companion. Each Companion is destined to Choose someone, and most do so well in advance of reaching ten years age, though occasionally the wait can be quite long. Yfandes was ten years of age when she Chose Vanyel Ashkevron, shortly after the death of his Lifebonded, Tylendel.
Heralds are Chosen because they have the ability to contribute to Valdemar, or on occasion, because they have exact skills which are desperately needed by the kingdom at the time. When Chosen, one is brought by their Companion to Haven, and is enrolled in Herald's Collegium as a Herald-Trainee, and learns all of the fundamental skills that a Herald requires. Past Herald-Trainees are noted (in Take A Thief) as including assassins, spies, foreign agents or military personnel including officers, and a host of other unexpected things, and in Take A Thief, Skif becomes the first Herald-Trainee to have been a thief. The average age of a Herald-Trainee is usually twelve or thirteen, though Trainees have been known to be as varied in ages as in background. After anywhere from three to five years worth of education, which includes equitation, literature, religions, and deportment, the Trainee is then granted Whites and sent out on an internship of rounds with a more experienced Herald which lasts from a year to two years. Exceptions are usually made for some Trainees, including the Heir Presumptive, who usually undergoes a long term internship serving in Haven's Courts and other duties within Haven, and those who have certain special abilities which cannot be risked, including Herald-Mages.
Heralds are held to an extraordinarily high moral standard, however. If a Herald or Herald-Trainee does not abide by this moral standard, they will be hounded by their Companion until they do abide by it and one who does unforgivable acts, will generally be repudiated by their Companion. This will usually be followed up by the Companion's suicide in some manner or another. The result for the repudiated Herald or Herald-Trainee is generally a wound so deep that it may mar the soul, though that is not assured, but it will also quite commonly leave the victim catatonic as a result, blankly nonresponsive. Those who are responsive, are typically insane to the point that they are unable to use any Gifts that they might possess. However, repudiation does not necessarily mean that one is relieved of their Herald status, as when Tylendel was repudiated, the Death Bell tolled for him, indicating that he was accepted by the Companions as a full Herald and should be buried with Herald's honors. One can assume that Tylendel was given this distinction because his repudiation and the terrible act perpetrated causing it were caused by severe psychological trauma.
It is implied that being connected, mind-to-mind, by way of Mindspeech, with another person at the moment of their death is an extraordinarily traumatic moment for anyone, but in the case of Tylendel, he was connected mind-to-mind with his twin and felt the murder of his twin firsthand. For this reason, one can assume that Tylendel's experience was far more traumatic than being connected to someone one does not know, and it is implied that even the act of killing an enemy by the use of Mindspeech (which is possible for those strong enough to do so) is highly traumatic on the individual who uses Mindspeech to kill, since the individual is still mind-to-mind connected to the individual at the moment of their death. Vanyel once had occasion to need to kill an enemy using his own Mindspeech; in the aftermath deciding he did not wish to ever repeat the experience.
There are two Mage Gifts: Mage-Sight, where the bearer is able to see magic itself, in ley-lines, nodes and other forms, and the Mage Gift itself. Generally speaking, the Mage Gift is required for someone to pass the level of an Apprentice or Journeyman. As with Healers, herb witches and hedgewizards are very common as almost anyone can use magic, when taught how to do so, just as anyone can heal if taught how, but only those who possess the Gift can generally reach any great level. Also, Mage Sight seems to be a major requirement for someone to reach Master Mage or Mage-Adept, as they need to be able to find some greater source of energy. However, one does not necessarily NEED to have Mage-Sight. The Mage Kethryveris attains Mage-Adept, but she is a White Winds sorceress and they teach the art of Extraplanar Proxy, which allows her an alternative source of power through whence to attain Master Rank.
Mage-Adepts possess extraordinary power, nearly limitless magical resources of energy and things that even for a Master-rank took a notable amount of energy take nearly no energy at all for an Adept, and moreover, Mage-Adepts have a new responsibility (or threat):
If a Mage-Adept issues a challenge to another Mage-Adept, the opposing Mage-Adept cannot decline. If they do, they lose their Adept status and drop back down to Master-rank, ostensibly demoted by the gods themselves for denying the challenge, which seems to hold as much ritual significance as mundane. An engagement between Mage-Adepts can as easily kill both Adepts, particularly if both are skilled, or if one cheats, and it is rare for one to survive, though those who survive are not typically wounded past all chance of healing or repair (although they will most likely need Healing), but recovery will most likely be time-consuming. It is implied in the Mage Wars Trilogy that there are levels even inside of Adeptclass amongst Mages, as Urtho and Ma'ar are both implied to be extraordinarily powerful Adepts.
Mage ranks are as follows, after hedgewizard or herb witch:
Apprentice - Journeyman - Master - Adept
One either is, or is not, of this rank. It is not one that is simply given by someone who outranks the individual. It is earned, through a variety of trials depending on the school. For instance, the White Winds School of magery has a series of magical rituals that build upon each other and can be undertaken at any time a mage feels ready to attempt the next rank.
Those who possess the Gifts of Healing or Mind-Healing (or both) are commonly taken into Healer's Collegium, when found, and given proper training to become a Healer. Healers come in certain levels, which determine the power of the individual based on what level they are, but this level is not one given to them as in the case of Bards (see below), but rather earned and self-determining in nature.
Healers and Mages function on the same system. As there are hedgewizards & herb witches in Mages, there are similarly hedgewizards and herb witches in Healers. These are markedly more common, but in the case of these, what is uncommon is for them to realize their limitations and exact skills, and capitalize on them, but when they do capitalize on their own abilities and accept their own limitations, hedgewizards and herb witches can be extraordinarily useful. Of those more powerful than this, however, the order is much the same, again, as for Mages:
Apprentice - Journeyman - Master - Adept
Healer-Adepts are extraordinarily rare. They are far less common than Mage-Adepts, comparatively, and the sheer scope of what they can do makes them exceptionally valuable. Mind-Healers are even rarer as Mind-Healing is a rarer Gift than normal Healing, and therefore a Mind-Healer-Adept is valued higher, still, than a Healer-Adept. However, a Mind-Healer-Adept is also of exceptionally limited scope of use, but there's nearly nothing of mental disorder and trauma that a Mind-Healer-Adept could not repair.
Bards in Velgarth are fairly common, though outside of Valdemar, it is unknown if they receive much in the way of quality, focused training. However, inside of Valdemar, they are chosen based on the basis of whether they have "two of the three" gifts that are pertinent to Bards: Creativity, Talent, Gift. To become a Bard-Trainee, an individual must have two of the following three things: the Bardic Gift, the talent for playing one or more musical instruments, or the creativity required to compose original works. In Valdemar, one who possesses at least two of these three will be taken to Haven and enrolled, usually at no cost to the student or family, in the Bardic Collegium and will become a Bard-Trainee.
Bards wear scarlet, and are required to have weapons training. They have the following ranking system:
Apprentice Bard - Journeyman Bard - Master Bard - Full Bard
Each level has certain requirements on it before one can be allowed to attain it. Graduation comes when one reaches Master status, though some gain Full Bard status by the time of their graduation, but that is a rare occasion.
 Those Shin’a’in who take the Oath of the Warrior to the Shin’a’in goddess are described as Kal’enedral, divine warriors for the goddess to carry death and vengeance to the enemies of the Shin’a’in, dressing in only darkest shades of brown – or, when on the quest of blood-feud, or in ritual combat, in purest black. Celibacy is a part of the Oath to the Warrior, and that the Swordsworn are as devoid of concupiscence as their weapons. Kal’enedral is a word used to describe the Sword-Sworn, in their own language, the term Swordsworn being what they are known by to outlanders, but the term Kal’enedral means alternatively, in Shin’a’in, either “Children of Her Sword” or “Her Sword-Brothers.”  The Kal’enedral are taught by former Kal’enedral, usually ones dead for at least a century, and these teachers are called leshya’e Kal’enedral.
 Mercenaries in this setting are unique, because there is an international Mercenaries’ Guild, and part of the Code of the Mercenaries’ Guild is that both parties must follow a contract to the letter – if the person doing the hiring violates the contract, he or she is fined by the Guild, and cannot hire a bonded Company for a period of at least one year. If the hired Company violates the contract, the Guild takes it out of their hide and out of the bond they were paid by their employer, for the violation of contracted. Additionally, if a bonded Company or a bonded individual hired in a war surrenders, they are allowed to leave the zone of battle unmolested and report to a neutral zone, where they will “get ransomed,” by the Guild (meaning saved in some context), and this is stated as the reason that a bonded Mercenary (one who actually has a membership with the Mercenaries’ Guild) pays their dues. Additionally, as part of the Code, a bonded Company will not fight for a suicide cause, will not switch sides midway through a conflict, will not follow a mutiny against their employer, and will do all in their power to ensure safe extraction for that employer, if things “go south.” For this reason, bonded Companies are more expensive to hire than either a free-lance Company or spontaneously assembled Company, because bonded Companies are of a correspondingly higher caliber.
The topic of Reincarnation is a natural element of the deep emotional and psychological connections between the characters and peoples of the Valdemar series. The Companions and their Heralds, along with corresponding "gifted" characters from other nations, all have varying degrees of Extrasensory perception (ESP), "information not gained through the recognized physical senses but sensed with the mind...psychic abilities such as telepathy, clairaudience, and clairvoyance, and their trans-temporal operation as precognition or retrocognition. ESP is also sometimes casually referred to as a sixth sense...The term implies acquisition of information by means external to the basic limiting assumptions of science, such as that organisms can only receive information from the past to the present."
The foremost and notable Reincarnations are embodied by the Companions, who were initially born from pure Light in "the Companion's Field Grove". The soul reincarnated within each Companion is always from a deceased Herald. Like many accounts of Reincarnation, memory is diffused from identity, while skills and ability, particularly magical strengths, are largely intact. A clear indication is seen in Herald-Mage-Trainee Tylendel returning as Bard Stefen. Companions appear to be self-named, yet their chosen name typically reflects the name they had in a past life, but is not identical. Listed are examples of likely reincarnations:
In The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, Herald Tantras is one of Vanyel's contemporaries. Herald Kris in the first trilogy of Lackey's Valdemar Saga stories (starting with Arrows of the Queen) has a Companion named Tantris. In the above-mentioned Trilogy, Vanyel's Aunt is Savil. Herald-Captain Kerowyn's Companion is named Sayvil.
While sexuality is not depicted in graphic detail, sexual orientation is explored. In the Shin'a'in culture there is a word, she'chorne, that means homosexual and has a positive connotation; those who are she'chorne (which is pronounced shay-chornah) are considered a blessing upon the clan. The Shin'a'in cousins they call Tale'edras but known to themselves as the Tayledras and to others simply as Hawkbrothers, also have a word with similar connotation and views to it, shay'a'chern.
In the country of Valdemar, all sexual orientations are acceptable and welcome, as all who have no harmful intent are welcome in Valdemar. Since Iftel is a nation predominantly of the Kaled'a'in culture, they may have similar views. In Karse, it does not seem to be persecuted, but it also seems to be something which is not actively spoken about or looked at closely. In Rethwellan, it is considered highly taboo, and the dominant religious cult in the kingdom seems to very actively persecute it, or at least did in Vanyel's time; by the time of the series "present" this may have moderated to strong social disapproval. This cult also seems to usually include one or more members of the royal family, up to and potentially including the King.
(In chronological order of events according to the Valdemar timeline)
Note: Stories from short story compilations are scattered throughout the time-line and their chronological position in the setting is usually not clearly designated.