Sunday, September 3, 2023

Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States -- Week 35

Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States -- Week 35

Compiling week 35 of the project, comprised of an additional 7 posts, this week's subject being a deep dive of a region of interest, the magical, mystical and dangerous Borderlands below the Wastelands as shown below:




Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #239 

August 28th, 2023 

  • Number: 239 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: The Borderlands – Part 1 

  • Location: The southern Wastelands before things get very strange. 

  • Population (approx.): Varies 

  • Brief: As the Ta’arna Empire collapsed in upon itself, its death throes rippled across the land, changing the very nature of Aenwyld to varying degrees. Closer to the old center of the Empire, the more radical changes occurred as Corrupted factions battled each other to a nation ending mutual annihilation. The four City-States to the north (Carasta, Noldrune, Ceannar and Taodeas) are quite habitable, nearly normal. The Wastelands south of Taodeas are mostly habitable, especially if one avoids certain areas and ruins. But further south, beyond a line marked by a half dozen unusual locations, the remains of the Empire are barely habitable. Tales tell that the sailors of Stormwatch (#65) and Pike’s Point (#139) have sailed a wide berth about the blight and report that eventually land returns to normal as the world grows colder. 

  • Geography: The Borderlands is a narrow ribbon of land stretching from the Arvach Ocean to the Sea of Hethichol. It runs south of The Hedron Assembly (#104), Ulono Atu – City of Six Curses (#204), Heliostat Citadel (#69) and the headwaters of the Saut River (#31). The locations of the Borderlands reveal where the normal and altered meet and interact. 

  • Next Article: Over the course of this week, we’ll present some of the notable peoples, happenings and plot threads of the six notable sites of the Borderlands. 


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #240 

August 29th, 2023 

  • Number: 240 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: The Borderlands – Part 2 

  • Location: South border of Zetroscha. 

  • Population (approx.): 3 

  • Brief: The inexorable passage of time has caused the wastes to swallow the fallen Ta’arnan Empire. The Ta’arnans, at their peak, wielded high sorceries and manufactured terrible machines, some fell to disease, some to war and others to disaster. 

  • In this region they powered part of their economy by tapping into the ley lines that ran below the great central prairies (as they were known at the time). Buildings dotted the landscape, attached to great pipes driven into the lines like wells tapping an aquifer. The magic was pulled to the surface and passed into sapphire tubes that crisscrossed their territory. Magic was plentiful and consumed by all. 

  • As all these stories ended, one day the wells ran dry. Perhaps the ley lines ran out of magic or perhaps the Aenwyld felt the drain, like a deep wound on its surface, and redirected the ley lines elsewhere. Ta’arna soon fell and was consumed by the wastes, leaving behind these empty wells, perched on dark crevasses, connected to broken tubes. 

  • Genjon Silvershard, 143, male Elf, is an Illusionist whose goal is to create the complete illusion of sight and smell. He is of average height and slender frame. His silver hair is long and straight. Genjon's eyes are lavender and have flecks of silver in them. He wears comfortable pants and a tunic unless he is dealing with other people. He uses a birch wood staff with a polished piece of amber on top. 

  • Genjon is a researcher who stumbled upon this area and built himself a facility that helps him improve his work. He likes the area's peace and has two apprentices who support him. Genjon would enjoy illusions that people could feel and touch, so most of his research is based on that. He has tapped into the Ley Lines that are here. Unfortunately, the Ley lines are no longer at peak strength.  

  • Genjon is married to one of his apprentices, Holadi, 130, male Elf. They have adopted child, Bryanni, 7, an Elven girl. The other apprentice is Xanton, 25, a Human male. Genjon is well-known and supports his research by taking odd jobs from the nearest settlements of Zetroscha. While he is out on the job, he picks up supplies and anything needed for his experiments. 

  • Geography: In the borderlands south of Zetroscha (#169), Genjon discovered one of the few remaining Ley Line essence pumping stations. It is about 3 days travel a bit south of east from Natroscha (#134) and 2 days directly south from South Plains Tar (#68). A gem-shaped structure about 25 feetlong by 15 feet wide and 40 feet high, covered in panels of glass in geometric shapes, sits on a stone platform on the edge of a seemingly bottomless crevasse. Glass-like semi-translucent pipes extend from the building, mostly broken, except for the larger channel descending into the depths. Genjon and his companions have made their home within the pumping station where he can draw a trickle of essence from the depths of Aenwyld. They rarely linger outside, except when Genjon travels, as the area is subject to sudden skin-flaying sandstorms apparently, Genjon believes, summoned by the magical forces in the darkness below. 


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #241 

August 30th, 2023 

  • Number: 241 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: The Borderlands – Part 3 

  • Location: Southernmost Ulu Maug between wastes and desert 

  • Population (approx.): 283 

  • Brief: Between the western wastes of the Mu Onno Desert and the eastern edge of the Borderlands, the great Salistin Ridge erupts from the sands and rises into the air. Centuries ago, the diviners of the Fesea Nomads (#173) discovered an aquifer below the ridge. Wells were drilled by hand, slave and magic, allowing a town of terraces to grow across the face of the Salistin. Isolated by distance and environment, it is home to wanderers, from the west or east, who have ended their nomadic ways for a sedentary lifestyle (by choice or need). Alone in the desert, Salistin avoided most direct effects of Ta’arna’s fall but can be cut off by sandstorms from the dunes or windstorms out of the wastes. 

  • Families of the Salistin Vaeg own or claim one or more terraces and the connected rooms within the stone. Many years have passed since the first terrace was carved and now the stone is covered with curved protrusions and the ridge riddled with tunnels, wide and small. The entire area bustles with activity, the air filled with smell and sound. 

  • Tazzitas 'Taz', 30, female Wosen, is a Master Gardener of the ridges of Salistin. She is petite and has short red hair she wears as a bob. Her aquamarine eyes shine with happiness as she looks at plants. Taz has tattoos of various plants and herbs covering most of her body. She loves brown or green dresses, usually with colorful flowers on them. Taz has a wand that helps plants grow. She dances and sings to her plants, and they grow very well for her. 

  • Taz grows vegetables and herbs on many terraces that make up this area. She has arranged a barter system with the elders of the decks. She provides them with fresh produce and herbs, and they give her the other necessities of life. A few women and one or two men are interested in learning how to garden, so Taz is teaching classes on gardening twice a week. 

  • Taz lives with two roommates in a small room off one of the interior tunnels. The three of them have become fast friends and support each other in all they do. Eliyra, 111, an Elf woman with a playful nature, and Eograce, 75, a male Halfling, are her friends and new family. Taz's real family died in a fierce windstorm when Taz was young. Another Wosen family adopted her and taught her how to garden. 

  • Geography: Salistin is a hard week’s travel southeast of Heliostat Citadel (#69) or the same distance southwest of (#31). The terraces of Salistin cover several hundred yards on either side of the ridge, the prized aquifer being in the depths of the underearth below the surface. Each side features four or five stacked levels of terraces, each level about 20 feet above the one below. Paths ascend the ridges to several entryways, terraces whose entrances to the underearth can easily be barred or in some cases the entire terrace can be detached from the ridge to crash down the slope to the desert floor. The semi-circular platforms are of similar sizes (about 15 feet across and 20 feet deep) but wildly different uses (patios, gardens, orchards, animal pens, laundries, etc.). Most have canopies or shells that can cover the platforms when the winds rise and sandstorms approach. 

Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #242 

August 31st, 2023 

  • Number: 242 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: The Borderlands – Part 4 

  • Location: In the Borderlands south of Ulono Atu 

  • Population (approx.): 1? 

  • Brief: In the depths of the Borderlands lays an array of regularly spaced structures. Once perhaps cylindrical or conical, time and weather wore the stone to irregular “Domes” about 20 foot in diameter and perhaps 30 feet high. 

  • These structures predate all who lived in or crossed the plains of Ta’arna before it became the Borderlands. Their lore suggests something lies within these domes, but no one has seen one hatch or open. As Ta’arna decays, windstorms scour the plains and cover the domes with fresh layers of dust and debris. When the weather clears, sometimes a dome vanished, replaced by a pile of rubble. 

  • Other domes have collapsed, revealing featureless square chambers within. These are sometimes used as nests or lairs for other beasts of the Borderlands or even homes to the strange hermits who have anointed themselves guardians of "the resting place" as they call it. 

  • Grendar Burrowhelm, 205, male Dwarf is a guardian of this resting place. He is short and thin and has gray hair and a long beard. Grendar keeps his mustache waxed and is highly sensitive about it. He likes to wear long linen pants with an over-tunic. He has a gnarled staff made of oak with various valuable runes on it. 

  • Grendar is the current self-declared guardian of the Domes, a series of what appear to be dome-shaped piles of stone that look curious to most people. These Domes are the shells of former land tortoises that have come here to rest in their later years. The tortoises have historical significance in that they remember their entire life. Grendar has the unique ability to talk to them and record all that the tortoises have seen and heard.  

  • Grendar lives in one of the old tortoise shells and has quite a nice setup. One of Grendar's friends, Emmur Deepboot, 200, hikes through the Borderlands and brings him food and news every few weeks. The two take this time to play chess and swap stories the tortoises have told Grendar about the latest happenings in the world. Grendar doesn't get lonely; he talks to the remaining tortoises daily and cares for them. 

  • Geography: The resting place is about a week's hike split between the Wastelands and Borderlands south of Ulono Atu (#204). The site, consisting of a last count over two hundred intact Domes and many more collapsed or empty Domes, is spread over several hundred square yards. Twenty feet in diameter and about thirty feet high, the dirt and stone caked Domes don’t appear to resemble any creature or monster currently known, but there are clues in the ancient writing of the priests of Pala, the Earth God.  


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #243 

September 1st, 2023 

  • Number: 243 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: The Borderlands – Part 5 

  • Location: In the Borderlands southwest of Ulono Atu and southeast of South Plains Tar 

  • Population (approx.): 30 

  • Brief:  Years, after Ta’arna’s fall, ago a “Dirt Devil” (a minor magician dealing in earth magicks) followed a ley line across the Borderlands. She stumbled into a spherical cavern where a loop in the magicks formed a whirling mass of stone and rock. The magician managed to convince other stone singers of Pala, the Earth God, to come to the site and behold what she had found. 

  • Years later, the Cult of Shattered Stone, a remnant of forces involved in the fall of the Empire, maintains its headquarters in this hidden cavern. Working together, the earth enchanters managed to tap the ley line, slow and stabilize the swirling masses and formed an organized structure. It is an Orrery of a sort, with an altar at its center. The magicians meet to wield the magicks of the ley line in various rituals, usually of construction and destruction. 

  • Micarva 'Mic' Tinn, 78, female “Drow” (Night Elf), is a Magician who works at the orrery for the Cult of the Shattered Stone. She is of average height and has an aquiline nose. Her black hair is unusually curly for a Drow, a source of great pride for Mic. Mic has deep purple eyes, and her lips are in a perpetual sneer. Mic wears robes that have the cult's symbols embroidered all over it. Her favorite weapon is a long dagger with runes to draw extra blood. 

  • Mic has been part of the Cult of the Shattered Stone for many years. She has risen through the ranks and become an advisor to the leadership. Most of her talent is in ritual magic, and she provides stability to the Orrery by drawing from the ley lines and parsing the magic to other magicians.  

  • Mic has one apprentice, Relona, 25, Half-Elf. Relona had just joined the cult, and Mic reluctantly agreed to take her on. At first, Mic gave Relona paltry spells to practice and lots of grunt work. Now, she has taught her the beginnings of ritual magic with a few surprise spells thrown in. Mic talks to a few other people during the day and only spends time with other magicians when necessary for the rituals. 

  • Geography: The Orrery of Pala is about two weeks hard trek into the Borderlands either southwest of Ulono Atu (#204) or southeast of South Plains Tar (#68). The altar is a flattened stone about 40 feet across in the center of the hollow chamber almost 100 feet across. A path leads through a narrow defile to a ledge connected to the altar by a rope and wood bridge. The Cult of the Shattered Stone occupies a series of caves on either side of the entryway carved by hand and magic into the stone surrounding the Orrery. The Cult plots the return of a darker, more forceful Ta’arnan Empire to the lands outside of the Borderlands. They wait for a sign from Pala that a great plan is in motion. 


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #244 

September 2nd, 2023 

  • Number: 244 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: The Borderlands – Part 6 

  • Location: In the Borderlands south of the Salistin Ridge and Heliostat Citadel 

  • Population (approx.): 75 (base) and 1457 (surrounding community) 

  • Brief:  Millenia ago the tall mesas of the wastes, south of the Ulu Maug range, were home to nests of Pterosaurs, who used the hot winds of the desert to hunt far and wide. Their calls, like screams of thunder, echoed about the columns of stone. 

  • Years passed and the beasts died off, leaving empty nests burrowed into the tops and sides of the granite towers. Exiled clans of Gnomish raiders found the site, scaled the walls and made those caves into their new base of operation. They declared themselves the Imperial Gnomish Empire and their engineers raised the specter of the Pterosaurs from the dead in the form of mechanical flying vehicles that they launched from concealed bases. 

  • Stone doors, on metal tracks, withdrew into caverns. Rails were snapped into place, extending into the air and the Automaton Pterosaur was catapulted down a slope and into the skies. Wings unfolded and the airship flew into the distance. Once missions were done, the craft returned to the top of the mesa, circled to land and was lowered by elevator to the cavern below. 

  • Mantor Wildhide, 127, male Gnome, a pilot of a metal Pterosaur. He is small and a little stout. He adores flying and wears his long hair tied back for his trips on the dinosaur. Mantor has yellow-green eyes and a friendly smile. He wears long pants and colorful tunics that highlight his eyes. He wears a tool belt that contains items that help him fix his metal ride. 

  • Mantor always knew he wanted to be a pilot but needed help getting accepted into the Imperial Gnomish Air Corps (IGAC). As a youth, Mantor got into many altercations with other Gnomes. He even spent a brief time in prison. Once Mantor left prison, he took his first dinosaur ride and knew he had found his calling. He began by cleaning up his act and devoted much time to keeping other Gnomes out of trouble. While helping others, a Gnome colonel noticed him and later helped him get into the IGAC. 

  • Mantor lives in the barracks with other pilots. He has several friends, and they spend time helping others. Mantor adores reading and borrows books and scrolls from everyone around the base and the nearby Gnomish community. One day, Mantor hopes to get married and have a family, but he is in no rush now and takes each day as it comes. 

  • Geography: The “Imperial Gnomish Empire” has called the buttes and mesas a week’s trek south of Salistin Ridge (#241) their home for at least six hundred years, formed as the Ta’arnan Empire completely collapsed and the leaders of the once allied Gnome raider clans knew it was time to relocate. The Pterosaur air base is concealed at the top of a mesa about 700 feet tall. The abandoned nest was expanded to feature a central hangar about 40 feet wide and a hundred feet deep. Metal doors, each 10-foot wide with stone facings to resemble the mesa, cover the opening. At the back of the hangar an elevator, large enough for the airship, connects the chamber to the top of the mesa. Tunnels connect the space to surrounding workshops, barracks and a mess hall. A vertical tube, with a spiral staircase about a central elevator, connects the base to the community in caverns below and throughout the nearby mesas and buttes. 


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #245 

September 3rd, 2023 

  • Number: 245 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: The Borderlands – Part 7 

  • Location: In the Borderlands near the Arvach Ocean 

  • Population (approx.): 127 (nearest community of Lone Tree) 

  • Brief: The Deep Cut River lives up to its name and carves a narrow, sharp canyon through the center of the Borderlands south of the Wastelands. Explorers to its far reaches, before the long run through the Dire Moors to the Arvach Ocean, found a lone tree growing within the confines of the river, below the view of the lands above. That tree, tapping an ancient spur of magicks, grew fruit with many wondrous uses. 

  • The rich and powerful, with access to flight or teleportation spells, could easily visit the tree. But fortunately for all, it would grant only one fruit per person ever. Adventurers crafted, fixed, re-crafted and re-re-crafted a network of rope and wood bridges forming a path between the canyon walls, across stone outcroppings, and the tree. Despite their efforts, reaching the fruit was hazardous, the whipping winds, roaring waters and fast currents of the Deep Cut claiming many a pilgrim. 

  • Years ago, a lone Dwarf priest-mason of Pala arrived at the site and made it his personal quest to grant all equal access. Over the years he has slowly sung stone into graceful arches forming staircases, with railings and walls, and flat patios, for landings in between. Many are grateful and supply the man with food and supplies so he might complete his good works. 

  • Gola Lunarkith, 40, female Leonin (a humanoid race with features resembling a Lion) is an adventurer looking for rare and unusual artifacts. She is tall and broad across the chest. Her mane is tawny and has streaks of yellow and brown in it. Gola's eyes are very dark brown, almost black. She can be quite an imposing figure. Gola dresses in cloth skirts and tunics with some chainmail applied to them. Gola is skilled in several weapons but prefers large axes and a heavy crossbow that she wears strapped to her back. 

  • Gola is part of an adventuring company called the Snarling Spring Guardians. They aim to find rare items that can help people in various ways. Gola heard about this unique fruit that grew on a single tree near the Deep Cut River and suggested that the group get a few to help some refugees from the latest war. Everyone agreed and succeeded, with at least half their group getting one fruit each. 

  • Besides being part of an adventuring company, Gola happily hangs out with her Lion pride at their home to the north in Zetroscha. Her parents are Pioz, 62, and Colma, 58. She has two brothers, Grior, 42, and Gethin, 32. Her one sister, Kazre, 37, is her best friend. Gola's interests include researching magic items and many athletic pursuits. 

  • Geography: The Deep Cut River, sourced from far inland, carves its path through the Borderlands to the Dire Moors at the coast of the Arvach Ocean. The site of the tree is about 2 weeks nigh impossible journey south of central Zetroscha (#169). On the north side of the river a small settlement, Lone Tree, supports the resident priest-mason and travelers attempting to reach its namesake in the canyon below. 

  • The Lone Tree is a tall narrow conifer about 100 feet tall. It sits just above the river surface and hence is not visible from above until one leans over the canyon wall. The fruit grows at the tips of the branches. The tree whips back and forth in the winds channeled down the ravine, making collecting the precious fruit a dangerous task (the fruit that lands on the ground or in the river nearby are apparently no longer magical). The patios and walkways feature sturdy walls and non-skid surfaces to aid pilgrims to the tree. 


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