Faylia: Dark Days
Geography of Faylia
Compared to other geographical areas typically dealt with in fantasy, the Domains of Faylia cover a relatively small area; one could ride a horse from Antinua lighthouse in Nu’ath and arrive in Orithua lighthouse in Ruthgar less than two months later, circling most of the Sea of Enet in the process (and passing through all the human lands except Talan). The climate is fairly uniform along the coast due to the warmth of the Sea of Enet, varying the further inland one travels. Faylia is by nature defined by its boundaries, which are incredibly stark compared to the mild and fertile lowlands. The major features are explained here.
el-Amhar: There is only one desert of any significance in all of Faylia, and it lies as far from the Sea of Enet as one can travel safely in the lands: the el-Amhar. The el-Amhar is the genesis of the mysterious Ilynri peoples, who claim to come from lands beyond the vast waste. This desert is the only place in Faylia known to consistently drop into freezing temperatures, and for at least half the year many of the dunes can be seen with white snowcaps, looking like the turbulent Azmer frozen during Stormtime. The desert alternates between rocks and sand, with a few areas of steppe where life persists. Two-humped Amhar camels roam between these few oases, pursued by the human and Ilynri clans that maintain their nomadic status. The denizens of the desert want very little to do with the civilized lands, even the Caliphate of Talan, which encompasses the extreme eastern portion of the desert. There is rumored to be a monument somewhere in Talan’s territory of the travels of the Ilynri, but its location is guardedly kept secret by the elders of the race. Little else calls the el-Amhar home, although rumors of wurms and other great beasts abound further north; there are no oases there and travel has not been attempted by any Faylian. Ilynri legend cites that frost giants make their homes further north, but none have ever been seen, and it is unclear what they would eat in this harsh climate.
Ash Forest: The Ash Forest is located in the southeastern side of Faylia on the eastern border of Ruthgar. It gets its name from the fact that the trees are continuously covered in layers of volcanic ash in varying thicknesses from the active volcanoes that dot the southern Karif’ixen Mountains. As a result the wood always appears gnarled and haunted, the trees stunted from years of little sunlight and the suffocating ash fall. The only respite the forest gets is during the winter, when severe storms from the Azmer Ocean batter the southern reaches of the wood and send storms north to combat the volcanoes. The terrain within the forest is relatively flat and seemingly easy to traverse, but no rangers patrol the lands and no known druids call the forest home. Odd sounds can be heard above the trees in the ash clouds and the few who have ventured into the forest longer than a day report that the air becomes harder and harder to breathe the further east one travels. The reaches along the coast are occasionally home to pirates and smugglers, who only operate during the calmer summer months. Despite the ash and the haunted look, Ruthgar logs the western edges to build its trading ships and supply its country. The locals claim that the volcanic ash hardens the wood like steel with a fraction of the weight.
Liveoak Wood: The Liveoak Wood is the southernmost major forest in Faylia, and the famous home of the Nu’athian Elves, although their influence within has lessened since the decline of the draconic kingdoms. The forest touts many tall redwood and sequoia groves, home to dozens of druids and their animal and ranger consorts. All the druids of Faylia who consider themselves part of the Sylvan druidic order report to the Liveoak wood once every six years to discuss the state of the lands. Most of the displaced druids and Lorren from the Thornling Forest also reside in the Liveoak. Like the Ash Forest further east, the southern coastal reaches of the Liveoak are homes to pirates and brigands, preying on the ships who brave trade with the tribes of the southern Nomad Plains. The woods themselves are home to a host of massive animals, including dire boar, elk and bear. At least one clan of elves from the civilized portions of the Liveoak’s coasts has tamed and rides on giant owls. There are a large number of owlbears and other beasts in the southern and western parts of the forest, and they are notoriously hard to contain. The Druids, despite their prowess with nature, are at a loss to explain the recent influx of monstrous creatures into the wood.
Shadowfold Forest: The easiest way past the immediate boundaries of Faylia is the Kenshot Pass through the Redtip Mountains, which leads directly into the least well known and (according to local mountain tribes and Dwarves) the most terrifying place that Faylians know about: The Shadowfold Forest. Indeed so much is said about the forest but most is passed along as second or third hand knowledge. In truth, Dwarven clans guard the only surface entrance to the Shadowfold from Faylia, and they strongly discourage travelers. Some say that the boundary between this plane and the plane of shadows is thin within, or that there may even be an open rift to the dark plane at its center. The reasoning for this is the Shadowfold’s unusually thick canopy which blocks out sunlight to all things below. But even this cannot account for the unnatural blackness that can be seen from the dwarven outpost that guards the west side of the Kenshot Pass. The few who have ventured that far report catching sight of occasional movement within the trees and give testimony to seeing twisted versions of animals, beasts, and on a few occasions, companions both alive and dead. The only major incident involving the forest was in 533TY, when a band of dwarves sent to relieve those on duty at the pass outpost found all 30 guards dead to a man, with no signs of wounds or even struggle.
Thornling Forest: The Thornling Forest is by far the largest contiguous forest in Faylia, beginning at the very north end of the Plains of Marae and extending far to the northeast. What the Thornling lacks in the size of its trees (compared to the Liveoak Wood) it makes up for with vast expanses of conifers and broadleafs. Like the el-Amhar desert that lies on the opposite side of the Svernthrae Mountains, the further reaches of the forest get quite cold and stay that way for at least half the year. The limits on the forest on the northern side are unknown in modern times because of the fall of Levexia and the incursion of the orc and goblin armies in the late 4th century TY. Since this time the forest has morphed into a bestial version of its own past, swallowing what remained of the great elven thanes. The animals are more feral within and the majority of the Lorren tribes who used to live there have been pushed to the edges of the forest (which are within the boundaries of Zabrek and Marae) or have moved to the Liveoak. Nearly the entire goblinoid nation of Irlghik resides within its boundaries, which are stopped by the Ogre Hills to the west and the Blue hills to the southeast. Despite the presence of the goblins, this forest is still home to a large number of Fey as well as ogres, trolls, centaurs, gnolls and the occasional giant. It is also rumored to have a major undead problem; not surprising considering its past.
Blue Hills: The Blue Hills are the foothills to the Karif’ixen Mountains and are the famous home of the Ironforge dwarves and their allied clans. In the early years of the treaty of Oth Dumar, dwarves first came to the surface in the Blue Hills (named so for the strange blue stone outcroppings that are scattered among the hilltops). The hills run from the Ash Forest in the south along the mountains through Ruthgar, Marae and into Irlghik, before exiting the north side of the goblin territory and turning east, following the Karif’ixens. Volcanic activity, both active and dormant, have made the blue hills rich in both mineral and precious stone deposits as well as in the soil; all manner of things are grown there and the Ruthgar portion is famous for its wine, which is traded generously across Faylia and to the dwarven lands. In addition to the major dwarven Caers of Ironforge and Fallow, the Blue Hills is also home to the human town of Willsburg in Ruthgar.
Burym Hills: The Burym Hills are the western equivalent to the Blue Hills, in that they are the foothills of the Redtip Mountains and are home to the western dwarven conglomerate of Gorunn. The northern portion of the hills trails off into the Everfern Basin, while the southern portion continues to follow the Redtip mountains south into relatively uncharted territory. These hills are also rich with mineral deposits, although are not as fertile as their eastern cousins. They are the largest area of hills in Faylia, matching the largest known area of mountains (the Redtips). These hills are not as civilized as most of the other hilled areas in Faylia, and are host to the majority of the land’s hill giants, as well as a fair number of ogres, goblinoids, gnolls and various other creatures that roam the hills looking for food. The dwarven lands are exceptionally well kept however, and travel between Orynth and Gorunn is fairly safe. The two known major settlements are the dwarven Caers of Brotberk and Adel. The Kenshot Pass begins at the western edge of the hills, which leads to the mysterious and infamous Shadowfold Forest.
Gold Hills: The Gold Hills are an aptly named offshoot of the Trevass Hills. They wrap around the western side of the Svernthrae mountains and are completely encompassed by the Caliphate of Talan. When gold was discovered in these previously unclaimed hills, Talan claimed them and began to mine them immediately. This increase in wealth was noticed by Tyr and the insidious armies of that nation attacked. The Gold Hills were readily fortifiable, however, and Talan defended their mines stalwartly, staving off the invaders despite losing their general Gune in the process. These hills are home to the most extensive single mining complex in Faylia, known as the Vorax Mines. A new fortress (Gune) has risen in the recent years to further dissuade Tyr from taking the hills. The hills themselves have little monstrous incursions, and the Talanese take care to keep them free of ogres and goblins. The occasional giant raid from the Svernthrae is not unheard of, but these are few and far between.
Ogre Hills: Another appropriately named offshoot of the Trevass Hills, the Ogre Hills are host to more than just ogres. Various monstrous creatures inhabit these remote wastes, which have never been colonized (even by Levexia before the orc invasions). Located on the eastern side of the Svernthrae Mountains, they are heavily forested. Trolls, giants, goblinoids and even bands of orcs have been reported there. Very few humanoid races besides the goblins venture into these hills as they hold no sacredness to any Faylian nation. Judging by the equipment carried by the monstrous denizens however, the Ogre Hills are likely a good source of iron, just like the Trevass Hills further south.
Sand Hills: The Sand Hills are a remote expanse that caps the northern side of the Redtip Mountains, lying between those and the Long Steppes. They are named for the many sandy dunes that are interspersed between the hilltops. Not much is known about these hills, as they do not sustain much notable life aside from the occasional giant lizard or monstrous beetle colony. Copper has been discovered in the hills, and dwarves from the Redtip Mountains occasionally send forays into the hills to mine the deposits (although as far as metals go, the need for copper is commonly superseded by the need for iron, gold, silver and platinum). Nomadic tribes also occasionally come into the hills from the steppes, for unknown reasons.
Trevass Hills: The Trevass Hills are a range of hills that run along the southern edge of the Svernthrae Mountains. The hills fall mostly within the boundaries of Tyr and Zabrek and are rich with iron, nickel and some precious metals. Despite being heavily traversed by humans, these hills have their fair share of monstrous inhabitants. Tyr keeps an uneasy truce with the ogres and goblins that live within its boundaries, while Zabrek often sends forays into their section of the Trevass hills to root out the warrens. The Gold Hills and the Ogre Hills are offshoots that run to the north on the west and east, respectively. The Trevass Hills are relatively free of heavily forested areas (except on the far eastern side where the Thornling encroaches) and instead sport various thickets. They are rockier than most of the hills in Faylia as well, but almost as fertile as the Blue Hills. Giants both good and evil occasionally come into the hills from the Svernthrae, but these incursions rarely cause problems for the humanoid inhabitants of either nation.
Karif’ixen: The Karif’ixen Mountains are the eastern mountain range of Faylia. The name translates to “far-fire” in the draconic dialect, most likely because of the volcanic nature of the range. In modern times, the most active volcanoes reside on the southernmost reaches of the mountains, overlooking the Ash Forest. The Dwarves of Edar know that lava vents run throughout the mountains and even under the Blue Hills; Ironforge itself uses the heat of the vents to keep the city warm and the forges running. All of the mountains that have been mapped are claimed by Edar, although the extent of control is questioned by many a skeptical surfacer. As the Dwarves that now occupy Faylia are said to have come from deep underground, there are many reported paths to the Underdark within. Edar guards these carefully, as wurms and umber beasts occasionally come up from them and have wrecked havoc on dwarven mining settlements in the mountains. The mines are rich in gems, especially diamonds, and the Dwarves guard these veins carefully as well. Goblins have made their way into the mountains from the north as well, but have pointedly avoided any Dwarves that they may come in contact with so far. As with the other two mountain ranges, the Karif’ixen were host to swarms of dragons before they were overthrown and there are many signs of their prior occupants littered throughout its heights.
Redtip: The Redtip Mountains are the largest known mountain range in Faylia, although the Karif’ixen Mountains may be larger and are merely less explored. These are called the Redtip Mountains because the sun setting regularly makes the peaks glow. They are slightly shorter mountains than both the Karif’ixen and Svernthrae. Some of the southeastern portions of the mountains are mined by the Dwarves of Gorunn, but for the most part these mountains are home to giants, ogres and other larger denizens. It is bordered by the Burym Hills along the eastern side and the Sand Hills to the north. Its southern reaches are unexplored by Faylians, and many armchair problem solvers in Nu’ath blame the wild southern reaches of the Redtips for the recent monstrous incursions into the southern Liveoak Wood. The Kenshot Pass cuts the mountain range in half, leading to the Burym Hills on the east and the Shadowfold Forest on the west. The guard post on the western side of the past is the only surface settlement of Dwarves in the Redtips; many scholars speculate that the Dwarves of Gorunn may have migrated to the Burym Hills through the Redtip Mountains from the Underdark, or under the Sea of Enet.
Svernthrae: The Svernthrae Mountains have the least amount of area in Faylia as far as mountain ranges go, but they are by far the tallest. Their name means “above the sky” in draconic. They are the only peaks visible from the plains that have constant snow pack, and if one travels into the belly of these northern peaks, they would find glaciers and craggy valleys abound. The Svernthrae are controlled by no nations in Faylia and are home to dozens of clans of giants, mostly of the storm, cloud and frost variety. The foreboding crags and lack of passes have done well to discourage all but the most stalwart or stupid from entering. These mountains were also havens for dragons during the baronies, but anything left in the open has either been destroyed by the elements or is in the control of the giants. The natural resources contained within are largely unknown by the ‘civilized’ races. These mountains were also once held in mystical esteem by the Levexian Elves, but that lore has since been lost.
Oceans and Seas
Azmer Ocean: The Azmer Ocean is the vast expanse in which the Sea of Enet is a haven in. The two bodies of salt water are lessons in opposition: where the Enet is warm and calm for most of the year, the Azmer is famous for its storms and rough waters, so much so that many Faylians claim that Aussis, Master of Storms, holds his celestial realm above the center of the Azmer Ocean rather than in the upper planes with the rest of the gods. It is treacherous to even sail the coasts of this ocean, and only Ruthgar and Nu’ath use it to define their borders. No Faylian has managed to sail out of the region either northeast or southwest along this coastline; the shores are rocky and many times rife with pirates and brigands. This is not only because of the dangers of the sea, but also because most Faylian ships are shallow keeled and are not fit to sail the open ocean. The Trithage Merchants have attempted to sail around the Ash Forest on a few occasions, but like their land-based counterparts, none have returned successful. The start of the Azmer Ocean and the end of the Sea of Enet is marked by two large lighthouses, one at Orithua in Ruthgar on the east side and one at Antinua in Nu’ath on the west side. On very clear nights, the beacons from these lighthouses can be seen from each other.
Sea of Enet: It is no secret to anyone who has studied the geography of Faylia that the region resembles a large crater, perhaps the remnant of some unknown ancient calamity. If that is the case, the Sea of Enet is the center of that crater. It acts as Faylia’s giant natural harbor, protecting not only sailors but the lands it touches from the ravages of the Azmer Ocean. This is not to say that the sea does not spawn its own storms; they are many in number but limited to the winter months. The sea is quite warm all over, likely due to the exposure to the sun for most of the year. This warming sends moisture upwards, where it is stopped by the various mountain ranges within Faylia and there turns into clouds, seeding the hills and plains of the region with fertile nutrients and vital water sources. While there are only two major rivers/drainage basins in Faylia, dozens of smaller rivers, brooks and streams return water to the Sea year-round. The Sea of Enet is the driving force behind Faylia’s mild and resource heavy climate. All human nations except Talan have ports on the Sea of Enet, as does the Elven nation of Nu’ath. A wide and well kept trading road, big enough for four large carts abreast and paved in many areas, runs from Iderach on the western coast all the way to the lighthouse at Orithua on the eastern edge of the sea. The most notable cities on the coast are Trithage, home of the most aggressive merchants in Faylia, Dumar, the arcane capital of the region, and Arien, the bustling former capital of Zabrek. Initially the sea was host to many pirates, who were then subsequently driven out or killed to make the sea safe for trade. In recent years, however, piracy has risen again, this time promoted by Tyr (practically openly, much to the chagrin of the other nations).
Long Steppes: The Long Steppes is the name for the semi-arid area that stretches to the west of Faylia, south of the Cephalot River and the el-Amhar desert but north of the Sand hills. This region is not explored well, due to the lack of natural resources and water as well as a few hostile groups of humanoids, giants and centaurs. Not making travel easier is the prospect of skirting the Everfern Basin or traveling through the Sand Hills to reach them. If the Steppes are known for anything, it is the bands of horse and camel riders that can be seen at distance, although no Faylian has ever made contact with a number of riders as some reports would have travelers believe are present there. It is thought by scholars that the draconic baronies extended west into the Long Steppes, but there have been no major ruins or lairs located in the area.
Nomad Plains: The Nomad Plains run south from the borders of Orynth between the Liveoak Wood and the Burym Hills (next to the Dwarven nation of Gorunn), ending at the Azmer Ocean well south of the civilized areas of Faylia. The region is somewhat higher than the mild plains that ring the Sea of Enet, and dryer as a result. The rains that help the Liveoak flourish do not normally extend into the Nomad plains, and there are few streams to support large scale agriculture (although plenty of springs for watering herds). The humans (and some elves) that live here are herders, hunters and gathers, living in makeshift yurt or tent villages that move with the seasons. They trade regularly with the Dwarves of Gorunn, exchanging furs, jackasses, and Liveoak lumber for iron and gold. While this is a mutually beneficial arrangement, the people’s outlook toward their “civilized” neighbors to the north is wary at best and hostile at times, making travel for humans difficult through the myriad tribes that inhabit the Nomad Plains. Of late the plains have become a haven for more radical branches of the Freeriders, who feel more at ease with the nomads than traveling around the settled lands to the north.
Plains of Marae: The division between the Plains of Marae and the Plains of Oth Dumar is said to be arbitrary, but the real end of the Plains of Marae is where the ultra rich volcanic soil runs out, which is somewhere west of Uren’dar. The plains wrap around the eastern side of the Sea of Enet bordered on the north by the Trevass Hills and the Thornling forest and on the east by the Blue Hills and the Ash Forest. They are entirely settled and mostly farmed. Wheat, barley, oats, olives and vine grapes are all grown in abundance throughout the plains, which are also well covered in roads and paths leading from village to village, and on to the larger cities. The main metropolitan areas are Uren’dar of Zabrek, Stonewall of Marae and Denro of Ruthgar. The Laori River, the drainage for the entire Thornling basin, cuts a wide, slow swath through the Plains of Marae.
Plains of Oth Dumar: Like the Plains of Marae, the Plains of Oth Dumar wrap around the Sea of Enet, albeit the west side. They are not quite as fruitful as their eastern counterparts, but grow more than enough food to feed their populations nonetheless. They are bordered by the Trevass Hills and the el-Amhar Desert to the north, the Nomad Plains to the south and the Everfern Basin, Redtip Mountains and Burym Hills on the west. Unlike the Plains of Marae, these extend further inland before becoming elevated and are not all settled. The section of the plains between the Cephalot and Bethen rivers is still wild as are the plains north of this area, east of the Everfern Basin. The major cities here are Tyr, the library city of Quilit in Hallius and the shining Orynthian city of Perdon. The Bethen River flows into the Cephalot River, the latter dividing the plains neatly in half north to south.
Bethen: The Bethen River is a large arm of the Cephalot River that runs eastward from the Redtip Mountains through the Burym Hills and into the Cephalot northwest of Perdon. It is navigable along most of its length, until the first cataract in the Burym Hills. Its lower reaches serve as the northwest border of Orynth. Despite this, it sees very little traffic and is only sparsely settled on the Orynthian side. Several mining camps were established along the river in the early treaty years, which have now been abandoned with the lack of easily attainable resources.
Cephalot: The Cephalot River is the longest and largest river known in Faylia. It has its origins outside the known lands, somewhere in the Long Steppes. The river on its western beginnings is host to a multitude of barbarian gatherings, for festivals and trade. The river is not navigable by sea ships up to that point; the first cataract of the Cephalot is actually only a few standard miles upriver of the Bethen inlet. The river after the convergence serves as the border between Hallius and Orynth, and as part of the western border of Hallius before the convergence. Further up river between the plains and steppes the Cephalot slows to a virtual standstill in the Everfern Basin. Boats do not travel this length of the river. Closer to the Sea of Enet, the river widens to nearly half a mile, and the north side of the delta is the site of the city of Freeport, which is run by Hallius. There are several bridges that cross the upper reaches, but most of the lower parts of the river must be navigated by ferry (or magic).
Laori: The Laori River is a long slow river that drains the valley between the Svernthrae and Karif’ixen mountain ranges, with the Thornling forest covering most of that territory. Before the orc invasions, the Laori was home to many elven settlements, as well as a safe living space and haven for nixies, sprites, Lorren, dryads, nymphs and other sylvan creatures. Since the establishment of a permanent goblinoid presence in the region, the river has been slowly polluted by smith tailings and humanoid waste and detritus that were the result of the orc invasion and orc-goblin civil wars. Zabrek and Marae get the worst of this, since the river acts as the border between the two once it enters the plains. Still, the river is host to numerous hamlets and thorps, and it is navigable far into the Thornling Forest. A few bridges cross it, although most who wish to brave its deeps use the ferries, and take care to avoid the occasional flotilla of corpses.
Everfern Basin: The Everfern Basin is the only large contiguous area of swamp or marshland in Faylia that is not also part of a forest. Located in a bowl caused by a temporary split of the Cephalot River northeast of the Sand Hills, the Everfern is not controlled directly by any nation, human or otherwise. During the Dragon Years, it was a holy site for a since forgotten Draconic deity and was host to powerful black dragons. It is recorded as one of the last places that evil dragons were present in Faylia before they were all driven out by the human-elf coalition. The Everfern is still home to numerous dangerous creatures, including skags, shamblers, will o’ the wisps, and many others whose presence is only rumored. A few settlements (more like temporary camps than anything else) are present on the eastern side of the swamp, where peat is harvested to aid in the farming communities in Hallius and Orynth, who do not have the benefit of the richer volcanic soil in the east. Nomadic tribes from the surrounding areas sometimes venture to the edge of the swamp to gather berries or collect swamp hardened wood. The Cephalot River flows almost indiscernibly through the swamp, creating stagnant areas and treacherous mud sinks. Only the most experienced swampers venture any deeper into its depths, lest they become part of the rich peat themselves.