Now that I'm done with Foster for the time being, it's back to the grind with the next set of three Valdemar books. Time for a little history and a bit on the Shin'a'in and Tayledras, who will be figuring a good bit in the rest of the books.
It's about 200 years since the days of Lavan Firestorm (which, ironically, took about 200 years to read), about 1270 years since the Founding of Valdemar, and 2270 years since the Cataclysm.
The twin explosions of the great Cataclysm were centered on the strongholds of Urtho and his nemesis Ma'ar. Urtho was the more powerful mage, or at least had more power invested in his Tower, and upon his death the explosion carved a crater many miles across. Ma'ar's own end was brought about by a device Urtho sent to him in care of the Black Gryphon. This explosion was much smaller and its crater formed what later became Lake Evindem.
The explosions also did weird things to magical energy; in the two millenia since the Cataclysm, there are still wild lands where twisted magic makes for great danger to regular people. This area is known as the Pelagirs, a great forest along the western border of present-day Valdemar.
At some point after the fireworks faded, the remainder of Urtho's followers wandered back toward his Tower and found the crater instead. They were divided--some of the Clans wanted to keep using magic, the rest wanted no part of it. The magic-users went West, and were charged by their Goddess with using magic the cleanse the Pelagirs of wild magic (and bad mages and twisted creatures), taming it so regular folks could move in and live in peace. These are the Tale'edras or Tayledras, the "Hawkbrothers." They breed enormous birds of prey which are highly intelligent. The Hawkbrothers keep themselves hidden away from much of the rest of the world, living in luxurious man-made valleys--Vales--and storing the magic they gather in a Heartstone.
The remaining Clans were charged by the same Goddess with keeping the secret of Urtho's Tower: it wasn't completely destroyed and still contained powerful artifacts and weapons. She remade the entire crater into a vast grassland, the Dhorisha Plains, and set the people to guarding it against any who would intrude. These are the Shin'a'in, the "people of the plains." They breed horses that are the envy of riders everywhere and are known to be fierce warriors.