There is no place in Valtyr quite like the primal stretch of land known as the Wildlands. Filled with life, the Wildlands are so named for the nature they evoke to all who have seen them. The immense woods known as Hunter’s Grove stretches for miles, its great trees rivaled in size only by the silverleaf forests of T’lranen. The Rainesh River cuts a swath through the middle of the Wildlands’ fertile plains and rolling savannahs so deep and wide in parts it is believed to flow into other worlds. The giant Bloodclaw Valley hosts creatures of epic proportions and caves that are said to dazzle all that look on them from crystals the size of wagon wheels that catch the sun’s bright rays. And the split twin peaks of Fenrath and Teyr form the highest points in the entire world, and rumors persist of a mystical site at their cleft base.
Wherever one travels in the Wildlands, life is just more intense than anywhere else. Colors are more vibrant, smells are stronger and the air is charged with an energy few can put into words. Here, great giants of beasts roam the lands and the elements hold court over a place virtually untouched by the spreading civilization of mankind or the other races. In fact, only the race of blue-skinned giants known as the Bloodsworn inhabits these lands.
Despite its captivating beauty and pristine essence, the Wildlands pose great threat to overland travelers. It is no accident that those traveling north or south do so by way of ship most of the time. The Bloodsworn do not take kindly to any who intrude into their realm’s borders. Aside from that obvious deterrent, the storms that sometimes visit the open places of the Wildlands can swallow explorers in their raging path. And if either of those don’t get you, then the denizens that call these wild places home certainly will: all manner of deadly creatures live in the forests, plains, valleys, steppes and mountains of this natural realm, and many see travelers as another way to fill their bellies.
Despite the Bloodsworn’s inhospitable temperament and the unchecked violence of nature, the Wildlands have been explored (in daring attempts) from time to time. From the mouths and manuscripts of thrill-seeking explorers come tales of sites that defy explanation or comparison. A few of those sites are detailed below (with more to follow in later posts):
In the northern part of the Trivaunnel Savannah sits a series of cracks in the earth, some of which stretch as much as half a mile wide. Situated on a plain of solid rock and red clay fields, these cracks are known for the geysers of steam and boiling water that shoot out of them at regular intervals. Some of the resulting blasts can send plumes of steam upwards of 250 feet into the air. Hundreds of these cracks make up the site known as the Devil’s Vents, so named by the Syrian sailors who sail Brightwater Bay and who describe the vents as “the anger of Mezodan himself escaping up from the blood soaked earth.”
Not much is known about the vents other than the fact that the geysers fire off all hours of the day and night. The plumes are tinted a dirty yellow in color and smell vaguely of sulfur. As noted above, even passing ships, miles away, can see the sign of the Vents when they are active. Some reports from sailors have also claimed to see creatures rising up from the cracks in the earth and bathing in the scalding spray of the geysers. If this is fact, no evidence has been brought to light yet.
The red clay nearby the geysers is extremely valuable. If dissolved in certain solutions, it is said to make a solvent that can dissolve anything. If hardened under fire, it creates a last material just as strong as brick. If mixed with water and the plant known as heart’s fern, it can create a regenerative salve that heals wounds in stunningly little time. For these reasons, the red clay is sought after by alchemists, healers and artisans and fetches an amazing price for those brave or foolhardy enough to tempt fate by entering the scalding and poisonous landscape.
Lastly, the Devil’s Vents are featured in an ancient myth surrounding a lost set of magical orbs. The story goes that once a sorcerer of great power created nine orbs to help him devise a way to contact other worlds. On the morning of his first contact, the sorcerer used all nine orbs to open a gate to another realm, a place far from Valtyr. However, the sorcerer’s magic was unprepared for what came through the gate and he battled unspeakable horrors in an attempt to save his life. Sadly, the sorcerer was defeated and the gate sealed as he died, but not before the foul creatures that had come through escaped into our world.
With his dying breath, the sorcerer scattered the orbs to the far reaches of Valtyr, burying their magical signature deep within the earth so that the creatures he had unleashed could never find them. He feared, even as he passed on, that if the creatures recovered the orbs, they would use them to open another gate and allow more of their nameless entities into this world. The unspeakable horrors chased after the orbs, but could not find them, so they began to dig in the area where they believed they might be. It is this digging that created the cracks and giant chasms of the Devil’s Vents, and the story says that the creatures continue to dig to this day. Such obvious tall tales are probably not the reason for the Vents’ existence, but with sailors spinning tales of strange creatures climbing out of the earth to bask in the geysers, one can never be too sure.
Red Wash Falls:
Within the primal forest of Hunter’s Grove, the Rainesh River splits, creating two impressive, but smaller, rivers that join back again into one after 30 or more miles. Where the two smaller rivers meet and rejoin the Rainesh, a great waterfall plummets more than 1,400 feet to the river below. A great canopy of mist and spray blankets the ground for more than 500 feet in every direction. Thunderous noise fills the air and it is said that standing amidst the cloud at the shore, one can feel their bones thrum with the power of the falls.
The falls get their name from the sediment above the falls, which bears a deep red color. When the water flows over the edge it becomes tinted red and creates the impression of a giant torrent of blood cascading down the side of the cliff. Strangely however, the mist and spray is almost completely white, creating a cloud that the “bloody water” flows into. Near the base of the falls, the water once again returns to its normal whitecaps and blue coloring, giving those few who have ever seen it the impression that the cloud “purifies” the tainted water as it passes through.
Red Wash Falls is the largest recorded waterfall in Valtyr. Aside from earning this distinction, it also has the added wonder of having immense carvings of thousands of cupped hands etched upon the cliff wall to the side and behind the raging falls. Most of the hands are the size of a normal human, but there are other hundreds that are gigantic in proportion or miniscule, as if from a newborn babe; still other carvings represent taloned or hoofed paws and some defy any explanation at all. None are sure whom or what first created the hand carvings but they have been around since before the dawn of man’s recorded history.
What draws people to risk seeing Red Wash Falls lies within these hard carvings. Many believe that drinking or submerging one’s self in the pools of captured water these hands hold instills great vitality and long life; the larger the pool, the more life that will be extended to the person. There are even rumors of ever-lasting life if one bathes in the largest of the cupped hands. But to reach the falls, one must first survive the dangers of the open plains and Bloodsworn tribes, and then brave the rumors of the Dark Hunter and its pack of savage beasts that claims Hunter’s Grove for itself. The irony is that, in the end, not many are willing to risk such a flirtation with death just to fulfill the promise of immortality.
Valtyr is a big place. There are thousands of miles of land and many more than that of open ocean. Distant islands that many will never see sit on unnamed seas. Hidden passages within the tallest mountain ranges sit silently, untouched by man. Cities and towns dot the landscape in such number that one would be hard pressed to travel to each before he died. Who knows what mysteries lie within the heart of the jungles and forests of the world, within the shadows of the underdark, within the sweeping dunes of sand that form T’zarak’s great belly. To those who wish to know the answers to these questions, there is a way: the Labyrinth’s Gate.
Located in the lower reaches of the Steppes of Kala bordering Mierg from the Wildlands sits a black gate. It formation changes as the day does. During the morning, it appears as a monolithic twin door of arched black stone. As the day progresses, is shifts into a circular portal ringed in twisting black points, like some overgrown thorn bush. During the evening, it is said to be an inverted triangle that is covered in a sluggish bronze colored liquid. And finally, in the dead of the night, it is a yawning crack in the hillside, so dark and black that it seems no light can escape it.
The Labyrinth’s Gate is an old structure, but one created by the hands of mankind. During the early days of the Age of Wonder, after the formation of the Citadel, a quad of sorcerers gathered together and decided to pool their power to create a thing of wonder. They wanted a place that could transport them to anywhere in Valtyr that they wished to go. Using powerful spells and ancient rituals taught to them by their draconic patrons, they sorcerers managed to create the Labyrinth’s Gate. At the time, the gate was located on the island of Nilea. Quick to test their creation, the sorcerers did in deed find out that they had succeeded in creating a place that connected all space in one location.
What they did not prepare for was the treachery that would befall the group. Two of the sorcerers plotted against their brothers and sought to steal the gate’s secret for themselves. In an act of treason, the two usurpers brutally killed the their comrades. When the dark deed was done, one turned then upon the other until both were killed from the magic employed that day. The tragedy was that all fell who knew the gate’s secrets and without the sorcerers’ collective magics to bind it, the gate began to shift. No longer was it simply a single point that connected all space together, allowing travel to any place in Valtyr, but it became more. The magic within it warped and changed allowing travel to other places beyond the world’s boundary. And that was not all. The gate gained the power to transport those who entered it to different points in time as well. The magic became unstable and in a great storm of raw Voss the gate disappeared from Nilea, only to reappear at its present location. The Citadel is not quite sure why the Labyrinth’s Gate remains in the Wildlands; perhaps it is the place’s attenuation to great flows of Voss that helps to bind it there.
These days, the Labyrinth’s Gate is both a curiosity and a fear. Any many enter it, but few (if any) know how to navigate its twisting paths of magic to arrive when and where they desire. Most who enter never come back out again. Those that do are sometimes stricken mad by what they have seen. But some have found a way to travel the labyrinthine passageways of the gate and claim to have seen wonders and gained riches people can only dream about.