Coldforged Atlas: Landmarks and Locations 2

I continue rushing headlong into the second year of writing Coldforged material, and this year I hope to cover enough topics in preparation to print as is possible. I hope we’re in the home stretch. Here I’m continuing my atlas, turning from looking at the physical geography of the continent to the political geography of where they all live, this time focusing on the most impressive structures and natural locations in each region.

Continuing the Landmarks and Locations, we move southwards, into the Highlands, Hills, and Forests of Central Tysis.

Northern Highlands

Sholiran Vale

The highlands of northern Tysis, where the smallfolk lived for centuries, is a pleasant, if rocky, land. While travel can be difficult off of the known roads and paths, the land is fertile, and the people who live there suffer for little. Though Killbarans and Thraxians have pillaged much of the land, the Sholiran Vale has remained, due to its difficult to reach location and its fertile land, untouched and unpillaged by foreign armies. It is the largest independent city in the highlands, and one of the most diverse on the continent. Levishan exiles, Thraxian outcasts, disgraced Tyndarians, and smallfolk refugees have all made their way to Sholiran Vale over the centuries, and they share a fierce independent streak. Trade is robust and their city is open to travelers of all forms. Its inhabitants are not secretive or xenophobic, instead, the simple physical impossibility of assaulting or removing the city prevents it from ever being pressured into any sort of agreement it does not desire.

The 8 Eyes of Guul

In the Legends of the highlands, Guul is a spider-demon, the spawn of the spider god Shekal and an elf, who sided with the Accursed in the Godswar. Guul was an indomitable fighter, sleek and fast, with poisoned blades and deft movements. According to legend, Guul and Shekal met in battle in the northern highlands, and after fighting each other to a standstill, Guul shifted into their Warform, that of a demonic steel spider whose only vulnerability was their eyes. It was as Skekal had expected. Growing in size, the deity of spiders leaped atop the spider-demon and, with their godly powers, forced them to retain that shape. One at a time, with her godly dagger, She removed the demon’s eyes, where they crashed to the earth, before finally killing the demon. Today, the 8 gigantic, smooth, metallic stones scattered around the central Highlands are referred to as the Eyes of Guul. There is nothing like them recorded in the annals of history across the whole of the island or arcane lore.

Dachulain

Within the rocky highlands, there is a singular mountain. It is not the largest or widest mountain, and it is in a large string of other, impressive mountains. Dachulain’s peak, however, seems completely shorn off, sliced completely through to create a perfectly flat surface. This site has been a significant site for longer than any of the cultures that exist here currently or within living memory. It was here that the smallfolk gathered to unite their kind, creating County Jeslith, and here that altars to both Dagor and Evalrun exist, carved by unknown hands. The location is steeped in magical resonance, and Levishans exiled from their kingdom have come here to access its powers that amplify divination and communication. The place has been holy to anyone who has been fortunate enough to control it, and battles have been fought at its feet to secure that same power, with rumors of the ghosts of long-dead warriors haunting its slopes.

Ardenoch Bogs

While there are rocky slopes and pleasant meadows across the whole of the highlands, there is one place that is unique among the whole of the region: The bogs of Ardenoch. Here, the sluggish water of a thousand small streams meet and join at the lowest point of the region, settling in before percolating through the earth and seeping even further down into the continent. This fen, deep and filled with stinking muck, contains numerous large islands poking above the fetid pool, which house the wild smallfolk that inhabit this dismal location. These smallfolk consider themselves at war with anyone who trespasses in their land without their permission, and they never give permission.

The Nairien Forest

Much like the bogs, the Nairien forest is a wild place that exists within the highlands, stretching over and around numerous hills, plateaus, and streams. The Forest has been the favorite hideout of those few individuals who never gave in to the Killbaran occupation and conquest twenty years ago. From this dense, uncharted wood they strike out against any and all Killbarans they can reach. Though the Republic has fallen, this fact hasn’t deterred the raids of those living in the forest, who now feel unrestrained in their attacks against those Killbarans who remain. Warlords, merchants, and senators alike feel the wrath of these determined rebels striking out against a cause that has long since resolved itself.

The Toldiri Hills

Toldiri Valley

The Toldiri hills have been the home of numerous Hrondring clans for nearly as long as the continent existed. They have tales that have been told through generations of their origins, and it all stems back to the Toldiri valley, a wide and gentle plain spreading in the center of the hills, a seemingly unnatural and impossible location. Several gentle streams wind their way through, avoiding the few small hills and copses of trees. It is here, amidst the glowing green land, that the elderly, infirm, and children of many different Hrondring tribes live. They have built numerous villages on the ponds, tilling the fields and growing food for those who will descend from the many other villages deep in the hills to overwinter, if they need. The valley is a place of communal living and shared existence, where even those who fought against each other for a lifetime can live side by side, providing a life for those who are no longer able to suffer the strain and violence of battle and everyday life in the hills.

Bluemist lake

Bluemist lake is a remote, cold, placid lake at the edge of the Toldiri Hills. Recently, a clan of Hrondring settled on the edge of the massive lake, hoping to live well on the coldwater fish and excellent pastureland near its banks. Unfortunately, this was not a life they meant for them. After just a few weeks of living on the banks, fishing its depths, and grazing their sheep, they were attacked. The assault was completely unexpected, as it came not from the hills, but from the shore. Out of the deeps came hulking, terrible husks covered in shells that seemed invulnerable to normal weapons and magic. Their dozens tore through the defenders with ease, though any who didn’t resist were left unharmed. The boats were destroyed and the houses crushed under their massive claws and weapons, leaving only rubble before retreating into the depths of the waters. One experience was enough, and the Hrondring tribe packed up everything and moved on to less challenging pastures, where maybe they wouldn’t be assaulted from directions they could never truly protect from.

The Mother and the Father

Two of the largest hills in the whole of the area have a pair of roughly carved statues on them, facing each other, one male and one female. They are out of place and of no known local stone, their arms outstretched to nearly touching each other. Each statue is almost 20 feet tall, with features that do not resemble any known hrondring tribe or other humanoid being in on the continent. The location isn’t sacred to the Hrondring, but it is used as a gathering spot, a well-known location that is easy to navigate to and around, it is a popular location for weddings and loyalty vows, and “beneath the mother and father” is a common saying among the Hrondring to show something strongly held or that will come to be.

The Greenheart

The Toldiri hills are littered with ruins of civilizations dead and gone, both named and unnamed, as old as the world itself. The Greenheart is one of these ruins. Domed, unnatural hills collide with the more uneven and rocky regular hills of the area, with sections packed and sparsely populated seemingly without a plan. Some of these hills barely peek above the ground, and others have doors clearly carved into them. Those brave enough to tread within these hills have found that they are artificially created, serving as the uneasy resting place of up to a dozen individuals in each dome. Once they are broken into, the dead rise as one and, if the intruders are unprepared, slay the defilers. They are then free of their sleep forever and begin to wander the area, searching for the unwary to slay and consume. Little is known of who created this or why, and those who are wise stay away.

The Forest of Thrax

Bloodbreaker Cliff

On the shores of the ocean, reaching high into the air along the southern edge of the forest, the sea meets the land at a monstrous wall of black and red granite. It is said those here, centuries ago, Thrax himself to the first steps of their people onto the continent that would become their home. Though many had made the perilous ocean crossing and survived the sundering in their great fleet, many had not. Here the dead from the journey and those they had brought with them from their homeland were interred in the caves below the cliffs. This is also, unfortunately, a place of pilgrimage for those who have become disgraced and dishonored, where they throw themselves off the cliffs to join their ancestors in the afterlife, fighting the war against the demon queen.

The Pit

The Giants are an indelible and unique part of the Thraxian civilization and culture, and among these giants, no place is more sacred than The Pit. It is here, that they say they were spawned, spewed out from the earth, and given form and strength. The rocky and jagged maw within the earth shows no realistic or logical method for expelling the giants, but their lore persists nonetheless. This is where many of the journeys to spend their last days, and sometimes years, tending to the pit and awaiting their death when they will be tossed into the pit in a ritual burial.

Hevrukk

The city of Hevrukk sits on the Kelphrath River along the eastern bank, where Kelphra Falls plummet to the earth. Here the body of Thrax rests, under the earth dedicated to Evalrun, the deity of earth and wealth. This city, tended by the priests of Evalrun and run by their clergy, is neutral ground to any who would approach. All who would stay in the city for longer than a year must swear to forsake all tribal allegiances and dedicate their lives and skills to that of the city. The city contains halls and lodging for each of the tribes, and skilled diviners who communicate with the ancestral spirits, providing wisdom and guidance. Lastly, the market of Hevrukk is a wonder, with trade goods from all over Thrax and the continent being traded and sold. Stuck, as it is deep in the forest, the Gemguard provides regular and dependable passage for interested caravans.

The Village of Wretches

Spreading across the western shores of Lake Tashai are dozens of villages, the homes of those old and feeble, those crippled in battle and no longer able to fight, and those who simply wish to live a life of peace. The Thraxians refer to this town as Beneog, The Wretches. There is no shame to be had at living here or coming here. The wretches were a simple group of folk who built the first of the villages here. Now, many of the villages stretch even onto the waters, built on pillars of stone and wood, and held above the lapping banks on platforms, where the people can fish and dive for shellfish. It is from here that those who would judge the chieftains and shamans at the Three Teeth travel, south in a great caravan every third year in order to grant their blessing, or fervently deny, those who would-be leaders.

Bleakheart Grove

Decades ago, Mar’Kran the Undaunted grew in power and became chieftain over numerous tribes, uniting them as one. He was so efficient in his consolidation of power it was thought that he would soon call to attack the southern kingdoms, or perhaps the Levishans, who he hated with a fervor. His rise was meteoric. There were questions, however, about how this once anonymous individual achieved power. It was found out that he had sided with the accursed and promised to give the souls of all Thraxians to the Demon Queen. When his secret was revealed, many of his loyal followers turned on him, and he was captured and taken to the sacred grove at the heart of his territory, where he was executed. The power of his pact and the vile hatred contained in his body forever tainted the grove, where today twisted and broken trees grow, blackened and warped. It is said that his soul was trapped by the execution, preventing the completion of the pact, and haunts the grove to this day.

The Aloran Savanah

Hilea

Hilea was a troubled city for decades. Ruled by ineffectual Barons in servitude to different guild masters who yearned to control the city directly. After years of infighting, the conflicts boiled over, and the Guild War erupted in the streets. The events of the Guild War and its outcome were completely unexpected, as the Baron was killed and his daughter, Lady Dustmaker, wrested control of the city from the guilds, some of whom were destroyed, while others strongly weakened. Many of the guild masters were slain and from the ashes of the unruly guilds, Lady Dustmake declared that Hilea was an independent kingdom from the negligent and absent Tyndaria, that they would reclaim their glorious Aloran name, and that the city’s population, once terrorized by the guilds, would now be free to go about their lives. The City has since revitalized itself, becoming a hub of trade once again, and standing independent of other forces, though it is tough, and the battles they have fought have been hard-won and difficult, but the kingdom remains.

The Rediron Mines

The Rediron mines are located on the edge of the plain, as the hills move from rolling and gentle to a bit more high and harsh. Long ago, these mines produced some of the finest iron in all of Tysis, providing immense wealth to the nearby city, now abandoned, of Algrotur. Now, the mines have played haven to all sorts of disreputable groups, from highway bandits to bands of raiding Dragonborn to Killbaran deserters. The mines are a vast and twisting network of caverns, held up by amazing ingenuity and state of the art engineering. To this day, those who live within – currently a displaced and aggressive band of Levishans – maintain and improve on the design, knowing that their lives inside depend on proper care.

The Old Sister

Standing all above the plains, reaching her hand impossibly high into the air, stands a great statue on a great hill. Carved of stone no local has ever seen, and standing over a hundred feet tall, it dominates the landscape that it surveys. It is impossible to miss, and many provide some religious significance to its existence, though none can say for sure. The inscription on the base is in an unknown language whose meaning remains hidden even to this day, protected by magical means from being interpreted. Her race is unknowable, as the details of her actual person have been either eroded away or never completed, though her armaments do close resemble items of dwarven make (Shield and axe), she does not have typical dwarven proportions or scale. Many people in Alora view her as uniquely their own, seeing in her the protector of their people, and know that if any true and lasting harm were to approach, she would animate to strike it down!  

Battle of Three Crowns

The Battlefield of the Three Crowns is purported to be the spot where three kingdoms and their kings battled fought a terrible battle, costing thousands of lives. The Monarchs differ from telling to telling, as do the Kingdoms they were representing and the details of the battle itself. Surrounding the battlefield are at least four towns with populations said to be made up of survivors from the battle who set aside their arms to live out their days, with each of these speaking some combination of different languages, among them Aloran, Levishan, Drimmen, Occuran, Tyndarian, and Elthrim. There is no doubt, however, that a great many soldiers died here, as the battlefield remains a sight of both hauntings and necromantic power. Ghosts in archaic armor no one has seen, howling winds and the clash of battle during the night ringing out with no evidence of combat then or in the morning. The Townsfolk in the area have grown used to it, but visitors are often disturbed by the events in the area.

Gurahan

The Ringed City of Gurahan has long been a focal point of travel and trade through the Aloran Plain. Though its population rises and falls, it has always been there for traders and merchants traveling between Killbarum and the Tyndarian Kingdoms. Today, it is a city at a nadir, with few inhabitants year-round, who attended to the needs of those few caravans that travel these roads. The vast majority of the city stands empty, with abandoned ruins in four of the five rings of the city. Makeshift barriers block the way into these abandoned rings, where it is said the dead walk, exiles hideout, and giant beasts roam, feasting on those they catch. The city now only inhabits the center ring of the city, the huge villas of the once-wealthy now divided into homes for dozens of families, and the one Lord Mayor ruling over it all from their modest two-story home at the top of the only hill, a location of pride and dignity.