Whether its common name of Vallée de l'heureux ('Valley of the Happy') is a corruption of the older Glantrian Vallée des Hiboux ('Valley of the Owls'), this gap in the mountains separating its native Touraine from the province of Caurenze was once more important than it is today.
The mountain roads to Elisien are too rugged, perhaps, even for smugglers, and the small villages of Bodkin, Worms and Sligo have not competed with the commerce of a larger Glantri for some time, though Worms, once the site of hot mineral baths for visiting aristocracy, was able to produce a generation's worth of wines after the loss of Ambervillian vintage due to the recent war. But now even the sweet Liebfraumilch - some might say plonk - once ripening on the northern hill faces has now drizzled dry.
Echoing the ancient venerability of its namesake, the valley is a reputed crucible for the incubation of priestly magics. The reformist brothers Jorl and Rolf des Esseintes hailed from the region, their statues still standing a mawkish guard over the entrance to the sleepy valley. Their old-fashioned verse harking back to darkened fens and sun-drenched hills of remembered youth, not far from their adopted homes in the plucked and groomed avenues of the capital, but yet so very far.
The valley has largely rested its chin upon its chest and slumbered since. The partial occupation of Caurenze by Darokinese forces, however, has caused caravan companies to seek an alternate route through the valley.
Map of Happy Valley
Under the dark yews which shade them,
The owls are perched in rows,
Like so many strange gods,
Darting their red eyes. They meditate.
Without budging they will remain
Till that melancholy hour
When, pushing back the slanting sun,
Darkness will take up its abode.
Their attitude teaches the wise
That in this world one must fear
Movement and commotion;
Man, enraptured by a passing shadow,
Forever bears the punishment
Of having tried to change his place.
— Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil, tr. William Aggeler