The Agaden Reach was a remote place within the Rang'Shada Mountains surrounded by jagged peaks, like a wreath of thorns, as well as a menacing, forbidding woods, meant to keep all away. Most who went into Agaden Reach never came out. It was rumored that not even a wizard would go into the Reach. Close to Agaden Reach, the snow-covered peaks around it could be seen shining brightly in the high thin air. Agaden Reach was the home of the witch woman, Shota, and her companion, Samuel.
In the outer regions of the Agaden Reach, the woods were thick and dark and the trees were big and close together. The trail became rocky and hard to walk over. The further in one got, the less traveled the trail was as it began to disappear into the thick forest. Calls of strange birds echoed from the murk. Eventually, the trail started climbing up steep switchbacks and soon came out of the trees, onto an open trail across the rock, climbing steadily toward the jagged, snow-covered peaks. Skirting the bottom of the snow caps, the path led over the bottom fringes of the snow which was wet, heavy, and hard to walk through. Unless one knew the way through the pass, it could take days to make it over the peaks. Cold wind whipped through the gaps in the rocks, pulling away long thin clouds of travelers' breath in the frigid air.
As one got deeper into the Agaden Reach, the path descended again into a dark wood and the heat became oppressive. Large trees surrounded the path all about and trailers of moss wafted down. Boggy patches with vapor rose from the black, murky water, and pairs of eyes watched and blinked from the shadows. Hollow calls echoed through the mist and vapor. The smell was rank, like the Skow Swamp. Dark forms kept to the shadows in the woods and the thick brush, sometimes letting out whoops and howls. Some stayed in the treetops, just out of sight. Although you could not see them, one could always hear them scratching, clawing, whistling, and clicking. Some of the trees within the Agaden Reach could be dangerous to travelers. The twisted roots of one of these squat, fat-trunked trees extended onto the path, whipping out, knotting around, and pulling in anything that came in contact with them under the tangled mass. The closer one got to the Agaden Reach, the darker the woods around it became. Dead branches twisted together overhead and mist occasionally drifted across the path. Sometimes the mist twirled and spun at the passing of creatures darting by, near but unseen.
As one approached the Agaden Reach itself, sunlight and the sound of rushing water came through the tangled mass of trees. The closer one got the brighter it became. At the edge of the dark wood, the trail simply ended. Spread out far below was a long valley, green and bright, lit by the sun. Gigantic rocky peaks soared almost straight up all around it. Fields of golden grasses among stands of oak, beech, and maple rippled in the breeze. From the dark forest, it felt like standing in the night looking out at the day. Water tumbled off the rocks near the trail, down the vertical drop, disappearing soundlessly through the air until it reached the clear pools and streams below, where it made a distant roar and a hiss. Spray drifted up to the trail, wetting the area. A well-hidden trail led down the wall of the valley, past a labyrinth of brush, tight trees, and fern-covered boulders. The trail was hidden behind rocks and vines at the edge of the precipice. It offered panoramic views of the country below: the trees looked small in patches over the gentle hills, the streams meandered among the fields and banks. In places on the trail down the valley's edge there were steps, thousands of them, cut from the stone of the wall twisting, tunneling, and turning downward, sometimes spiraling back on themselves, going underneath the ones above.
At the bottom, a road led off through the tree-dotted hills and warm grass fields. The road crossed the valley floor, followed a clear stream for a time, moving ever closer to the palace. The trees became a little thicker, closer together, each a magnificent specimen, shading road or field from the bright sun. The road traveled gently uphill and at the top of the rise, the trees seemed like they were gathered, sheltering, surrounding a place before them. The hint of the palace spires glinted through the branches. The road led into a shady, still, enveloping cathedral of trees where the gentle sound of water could be heard running through the mossy rock. Hazy stream of sunlight penetrated the quiet, muted area. There was a sweet smell of grass and leaves. In the center of the open, sheltered place was a rock. Water bubbled up from a clear spring and ran down the sides into a little stream dotted with rich, green, mossy rocks.
In the center of it all, set among a carpet of grand trees, was a beautiful palace of breathtaking grace and splendor. Delicate spires stretched into the air, wispy bridges spanned the high gaps between towers, stairs spiral around turrets. Colorful flags and streamers atop every point snapped lightly and flew lazily in the wind. The magnificent palace seemed to reach joyously to the sky. The palace was large, however not as large as the palace in Tamarang, or in many other places of the Midlands, although it was often said to be the most beautiful place they had ever seen by those who had seen it. Most people could not imagine that a vision of such exquisite loveliness could exist.