When fires burn bright from the peaks of the Lortmils and are answered in kind from atop the Good Hills and Stark Mounds, the autumn of the year has come. Once, however, these celebratory fires held a far different, far from celebratory, meaning. In ages long past, when the Baal Fires were lit, the tramp of dwarven boots could heard throughout the Sheldomar. The Dwarf Lords were on the march.
The Baal Fires of the Sheldomar
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Used with permission. Do not repost without permission from the author.
Date: 24th Patchwall
Location: Goodhills (Keoland), Stark Mounds (Geoff), Lortmil Mountains
In ancient times, before the Migrations, the dwarf lords of the Sheldomar held sway over the valley from their holds in the Lortmil Mountains in the east. In the west, their kindred lived in peace with the gnomes of the Good Hills and the Stark Mounds. "Trouble," the dwarven saying goes, "always comes from the West." This was certainly true during those times as the Good Hills and Stark Mounds were regularly threatened by giantish incursions or humanoid hordes displaced by the relocation of giantish populations within the Crystalmist and Joten mountain ranges. At the same time, as the Flan moved into the Sheldomar Valley from the north, there arose among them great threats to the dwarves and gnomes in the person of the arch-wizard Vecna.
To insure that the dwur of the east and west could always come to each others aid, and practically guaranteeing any enemy within the Sheldomar Valley a two front war, the tradition of the Baal Fires was established. Great beacons of combustible materials were built and maintained on certain high peaks up and down the Lortmils, with counterparts upon the highest points within the Good Hills and Stark Mounds. When terrible danger threatened, the beacons could be set alight, signaling up and down the eastern ranges and western hills that now was the time to muster. While the distance was great, signal fires in the Good Hills or Stark Mounds could be seen across the valley in the Lortmils, and in reverse. Certain of the beacons were specially prepared and would flame brighter and higher than all others to accomplish this. The color of these flames, the result of certain alchemical admixtures, would convey specific meanings to knowledgeable observers.
Because the beacons had to be maintained, they were yearly burned off in the fall, before new beacons were prepared for the coming year. This is the origin of the Baal Fires of the Sheldomar. Today, the ancient system of beacon fires is no longer maintained, although it is said that the dwarves of east and west still maintain a greatly reduced capacity to signal each other by the use of beacon fires. What remains is the fire festival - the Baal Fires of the Sheldomar. Each fall the dwarves of the Lortmils and their kin, along with the gnomes of the Good Hills and Stark Mounds, light great fires on high peaks. Where once these fires were invariably a call to arms, they now are an opportunity for celebration, drinking and the telling of stories about the bygone days of old. Human populations now living in the Sheldomar Valley yearly see the Baal Fires rise to the east and west. For those friendly with dwarves, it is a time to renew such friendships and revisit a time gone by. In living memory, of the dwarves, the Baal Fires have flared upon only one occasion other than during the Patchwall celebrations. They signaled the start of the Hateful Wars.