Friday, March 23, 2018

The Land of the Dead

South of the westerlands, across the Bay of Sunset, lies the land of the dead. It is visible from sea, and from some of the taller mountains in the land of the Gwynn such as Ober Winfrey, but all most people know about it is that if you set foot on it you will die. Sailors are occasionally shipwrecked here, but none are known to have survived. Rumors exist of brave explorers who have come seeking riches, or knowledge, or just adventure, but for the most part, these are third or fourth hand stories.

The truth is, the beach is almost perfectly safe. It is a pleasant white sandy beach looking out over the crystal clear waters of the bay, about 100 meters wide. Behind the beach is a jungle. The single odd feature of the beach is that here (and in the entirety of the land), no restful sleep is too be found. Any intelligent creature that attempts to sleep has their dreams filled with nightmares. And as they push their way into the jungle, the danger only increases.

It quickly becomes clear that the jungle is not an ordinary jungle. The colors are too vibrant, the air too alive, for that to be the case. It is filled with all kinds of vicious creatures -- venomous snakes and frogs, insane chipanzees, and rabid velociraptors. Paths lead into the jungle, but they quickly lead nowhere, or narrow until brushing up against the plant life is inevitable and deadly. Vines turn out to be strangler vines, venus fly traps increase in size until they can eat a Goliath, and trees are increasingly covered with razor sharp thorns dripping with a clear lethal poison. Sinkholes open up randomly, swallowing men whole.

It is not well known, but there is a river leading into the Land of the Dead. The few books that refer to it call it the River Styx. It flows away from the ocean, and as it leads deeper into the jungle, its waters began to turn black. They become deadly poison, and wickedly corrosive to only but the most well-spelled boat, and they are increasingly swift the closer to the Mountains of Madness that they run.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Speaking of Big Fish -- The Plane of Elemental Water

The Plane of Elemental Water is one of the four elemental planes undergirding the physical reality of Arden Est, along with the planes of fire, earth, and air. The great ocean, Terminus, contains many portals here, as do some of the larger lakes such as Lake Leriel in Lyonia. All of the known gates open into the upper layers, though there are rumors of a gate that leads to the great city of the Marids.

The uppermost layers of the plane are well-lit and pleasant. These are mainly inhabited by merpeople, nereids, and other water spirits. It is perfectly hospitable here as long as you can breathe water, and bubbles containing the retreats of various archmages are not unknown. Poseidon still has influence here, though it is not directly a part of his domain, and Vassa can sometimes be found sailing on the surface, or leading forays against Sahaugin undersea.

As you go deeper, however, it eventually begins to grow darker, casting the surrouding area into a sort of twilight. As the pressure begins to become uncomfortable, the Marid hold sway, ruling from the City of Glass, Dumat Al-Jandal. They do not suffer many outsiders to travel through their waters, but they are said to be a proud people and susceptible to flattery.

Beneath the realm of the Marid, the light ceases to illuminate, and the pressure becomes crushing. Strange creatures inhabit these depths. Schools of undead dolphins swimming upside down patrol these waters, and demon hunting parties searching for shipwreck elementals are a common sight. Shipwreck elementals are formed from the souls of drowned sailors, and appear to be a common water elemental but for the pieces of wrecked ship swimming in their body, swirling around drops of blood.