The main approach to Amber City brings one through the Vale of Garnath. The region, controlled by House Karm, is mainly open fields for grazing, with scattered farmhouses and small wooded areas.
The valley runs parallel to the coast, bordered to the north-east by the heavily forested Spine of the World, and to the south-east by the more sparsely wooded Saba mountains. The Oisin River emerges from the Saba mountains in the west and runs a twisting course along the valley floor until it meets the ocean within sight of Kolvir’s foothills.
The Oisin River is prone to seasonal flooding and subsequent changes in course, making it very hard to map. The unstable nature of the river also means that those who live permanently in the Vale have become used to a seasonally nomadic lifestyle.
Environment and ecology
Garnath enjoys a humid temperate to subtropical climate (Köppen classification Cfa, equivalent to SE USA or northern NSW) with warm moist summers and mild wet winters. Thunderstorms are not uncommon in all seasons, and tornadoes accompany the biggest summer storms. Snow falls down to sea level one winter in three. The River Oisin has created a fertile alluvial plain across the graben that defines the vale, with soils down past 20m in places. It also floods at the end of winter and rearranges the topology of the vale in most years.
Vegetation ranges from estuary/marshland rushes and low herbs in the estuary and along the braided course of the river to primal forest in the hilly slopes that mark the boundary with upland Arden. Grasslands and scattered open forest predominate. Farmlands are transitory and only lightly tilled; orchards and vineyards are vanishingly rare.
The native fauna assembly is largely equivalent to pre-Ice Age Europe or North America, and includes apex types such as lions (cave and pride), panthers, bears (cave, grizzly and black), mammoths (non woolly, but including a riparian ‘shovel-tusker’), rhinoceroses, deer (including Irish Elk and moose), cattle (aurochs, bison), giant porcupines, equines (Garnath horses are striped), sheep/goats, giant weasels, and baboons. Chimerical/mythical beasties also come down out of the mountains seeking food. Birds are spectacularly common, particularly towards the estuary of the Oisin, where hunters say they can fire an arrow in the air at random and bring down a mixed kebab. The Oisin is also home to four species of crocodile, one of which is smart enough to talk (on a very limited range of topics, admittedly), and the sabretooth salmon, fighting males of which grow to 3 metres of tasty pink flesh.
Eorthwick is the seat of House Karm, built on top of the largest hill in the Vale. The settlement around the stronghold grows and shrinks seasonally as people take refuge there during flood season.
The northern edge of the Vale was ravaged by fire during the recent dynastic struggle between Erica, Corwin and Bleys. The vegetation in this burned region has not recovered, and has been further ruined by a weirmonken incursion called the Black Road.
“There was a mist hanging above the wood. It was a cold, gray, wet-looking thing that clung to the tops of the small, gnarly trees. The trees were dark, and their branches twisted together like the fingers of wrestling hands. Dark things darted among them, and from the patterns of their fight I knew they were not birds. Bats, probably. There was something evil present in that great wood…
I had done this thing with my curse. I had transformed the peaceful Valley of Garnath into a symbol of my hate for Erica and for all those others who had stood by and let her get away with her power grab.
I had created a new entranceway into the real world. Garnath was now a pathway through shadows dark and grim. Only the dangerous, the malicious might walk that pathway. This was the source of the things that troubled Amber.
I couldn’t escape the feeling that I had done a very bad thing indeed. I had done a thing which had never been done before, not during the whole of Oberon’s reign: I had opened a new way to Amber. And I had opened it only to the worst.” — Prince Corwin