Postcards from Aetherra
That’s what we called this section because it is where we show you important locations from UNBENDED as we go along, so you begin to prepare yourselves for the days when you will finally be traveling our continent. Our POSTCARDS FROM AETHERRA are dedicated to sensitive places with a special significance for the storyline. May they help you with the orientation and get you in the mood for Aetherra. For us the “postcards” are of importance for another reason too, they are the guidelines for our “landscaping” artists. Most of what you will see on this page can later be found again in UNBENDED.
THE CHASM OF DIMONA
Those who’ve followed us in the past when we reported about the history and the creatures of the content will recall the name of this eminently strange place, as we already talked about the Chasm of Dimona in the presentation of the Chasmvampires, whose realm lies hidden deep within the Chasm. But that is not at all everything that we today know about the Chasm of Dimona, and it can prove as vitally important for travelers in Aetherra to know more about this considered as cursed region in the utmost southwest of the continent.
Following the findings of the First Chroniclers, the Chasm of Dimona belongs to the legendary places of Creation. The ancestors of the monsters that we today call Chasmvampires once hid in the dark depths of these caves to escape being wiped of the face of the earth by Aureth once he realized that dark shadows had spread over parts of his Creation. But Aureth was still young at that time and these creatures belonged to his first creations. He didn’t know yet that not only his energies that he drew from the spheres of Creation were able to form his children. But that is another story, and one that we will tell you another time.
Now, back in those days the young Creator could not permanently draw those energies required for his work from the native spheres as his power was not enough to stabilize those channels. This is why he set up reservoirs at different places all over the inanimate continent and under the influence of these Powers of the Beginning the land began to take shape. One of these formations would later become known as the Chasm of Dimona, a place where the Creation powers exert their influence to this day. And if what the First Chroniclers once wrote down is true, then there lies something hidden deep within the Chasm of Dimona that never again should set a feet into the world of the living and that has once before in the history of Aetherra caused unspeakable horror. What exactly happened in this age before the ascent of the second-created is not known to us.
Those who avoid the area around the Chasm, act wisely. And those that attempt to find out what it is that lies hidden there for so long needs the power of a god. This is why only few travelers can be found on the long forsaken paths that lead to the Chasm. And not only the closeness to the deadly Chasmvampires terrifies the inhabitants of these barren lands in the utmost southwest. There is talk that also those creatures that recently roam the area close to the Chasm in the middle of the day prefer to prey on humans. Should at one point your travels lead you close to the Chasm of Dimona – remember these words and chose your path with caution and a keen mind.
We can hardly deny it: on our recent trips through Aetherra we’ve introduced you to places where you seldom hear a happy song. That’s not least due to the fact that our continent’s history is a bloody one and that the creatures of the beginning, those that roamed this world back when the Creator himself was still inexperienced, have left their mark on it. But – there are on Aetherra also places of the light, of healing and of knowledge that no darkness, no matter how deep, has to this day managed to cast into its shadows. And it are those places that teach us that light and darkness are in the end two sides of the same coin, that one causes the other and that we shall never loose courage – no matter how bad things are. Because there will be another day.
One of these places is God’s summit, and this postcard is dedicated to it.
God’s summit – or Ayel Theara, which means “High World” in the old language – is one of the most extraordinary places you can find in Aetherra. That this special mountain is not the result of natural geological processes is for experts clear beyond doubt. Already the almost indestructible rock with its smooth shiny surface that parts of God’s summit consists of is a mystery as something similar has never been found anywhere else in the known world. The ascent to the top of the summit that is formed by a peculiar plateau and that according to the oldest legends contains some kind of immense altar is potentially a fatal undertaking. Not only is known that the path climbing up to the summit, cut into bare stone, seems to deceive the sense of travelers so that they eventually for no conceivable reason and apparently on their own volution throw themselves into the deep. There are also accounts of huge birds of prey that circle the heights of God’s summit and often attack those that could withstand the trials of the cumbersome path with their lethal claws and beaks.
There are only speculations on what exactly can be found at the top. It is known, however, that the few that found their way back into the world had stopped to talk and, finally, would completely disappear. Others are said to have from that time talked in a foreign tongue and been unable to understand the common languages of Aetherra. One thing that the stories about travelers to God’s summit have in common, however, is, that each one of them was surrounded by a gently gleaming aura and that everyone who saw one of those returnees was suddenly filled by a feeling of complete bliss and happiness that lasted for days.
What is the truth and what is legend? You probably will have to find out yourself. We wish you from our hearts that you make the ascend safely and that, one far away day, we can talk about it, sitting at a campfire somewhere in Aetherra. No matter in what tongue.
Welcome to the Ayhat Ghyn. Doesn’t ring a bell? No wonder; the mountain range that many inhabitants of the far north consider the seat of the old gods is only called this by the indigenous people. In the alledged civilized world those “daggers of ice” are better known as the Unsacred Mountains. But what has earned this region such a disparaging and dangerous sounding name?
Well, the permafrost area in the north have always been their own world. In this sparsely populated region that is little inviting for travelers due to its hostile climate, the natives that settle at the foot of the mountains could over centuries live largely unencumbered from the continuous power struggles and territorial wars that permanently shake the rest of the continent. But that changed as a group of traveling cartographers and geologists by accident discovered a real treasure: black diamonds of astonishing size and clarity. And because stories of wealth and fortune travel faster than the strongest storm winds, there soon were people from all regions of the continent that set out to wrest the treasures from the frozen mountains.
But it was not only the cold that soon turned out as bitter enemy. The natives of the mountain region, of whose existence until then no one had knowledge, weren’t willing to let the foreigners carry on. Never before had the Dhyadayn, the mountain dwellers, seen something like these little, but aggressive and highly bellicose dwarf-beings that attempted to enter the tribes’ land in order to dig – in the eyes of the mountain people – worthless, dark stones from the rock. These mites carries shining blades that were ground so sharp that they even could cut through the thick hide of the Dhyadayn and so it came to bloody slaughter where many lost their lives. When the mountain people began to gain the upper hand (their weapons certainly were less superb, but the mountains themselves were their allies so that they could fight with the powers of avalanches and the crunching weight of huge boulders), a large imperial army reached the north. In the end, the mountain people were forced to retreat by the superiority of their attackers and the surviving withdrew high into mountains. So high that the invaders could never follow as those that want to breathe this thin, ice-clear air should have more to offer than the puny thorax of a gnome.
In the end, the expeditionary corps of the Imperial Army found that which should give the mountains their name. The chronicles call it “godless slaughterhouses.” In this place the giant natives – that through the eyes of men were primitive cannibals – had evidently slaughtered and disemboweled their own kind. That in the culture of the Dhaydayn the “beloved prisoners” simply had made their last sacrifice and that the mountain tribes had learned to utilize all that nature granted them (which, by the way, they did in a festive ceremony) was something that men did not understood. And so it came that soon there were sinister legends being told over the mountain dwellers and only few adventurers since then have dared the ascend into the majestic heights of the Unsacred Mountains.
What happened to the legendary riches on black diamonds, you ask? Well, nothing really. Even though for many years mining shafts were driven into the rock, no one ever again found even the smallest of gem. Eventually, even the last treasure hunters left the mountains and their traces were soon buried under ice and snow. The Dhyadayn, though, should never return to where they once lives. Nothing is known over their fate.
THE HIGH FORTRESS OF THE BHAY-YAN
In Kay-An-Khar the southeastern dominion of Aetherra, the Order of the Bhay-Yan, better known in most parts of the world as the Blademasters, pose the highest caste of nobility. The source of the power of the Blademasters lies hidden beneath the High Fortress of the Bhay-Yan, without a doubt the best fortified fortress that ever a traveler had seen. The High Fortress belongs to the oldest buildings in the south and she is testament to the high degree of civilization of the people of this region had at very early times already. Uncounted times the High Fortress of the Bhay-Yan has been beleaguered and many efforts have been made to break its walls or climb them, but all those attempts failed. Even the allegedly invincible elite troupes of the Red Army of Synn bled in hundreds to death in front of the gates of the High Fortress. If the chronicles are to be believed, not a single Bhay-Yan lost his life in this legendary battle.
Where does the power of the Fortress come from? The answer can be found deep in its bowels, because deep under this place, a special ore can be found thanks to which the Bhay-Yan, the Initiates of the Steel, have weapons and armor of superior quality. Over the centuries, they have become truly masters in working this material that has become known as Yihar-Ayan (Hell’s Iron). It is unknown how the Bhay-Yan manufacture this metal and what methods they use to then work it. That is one of the biggest secrets of this secretive society. We do know, however, that Hell’s Iron is not only used for weaponry by the Bhay-Yan. And that the reason no one could destroy the walls of this Fortress lies in the endlessly long bands of Hell’s Iron that has been used to reinforce those walls.
The fires of the furnaces under the High Fortress of the Bhay-Yan never go out; day and night the adepts of the Blademasters tend to them so that the flow of steel can never dry up. According to a ledgend from Kay-An-Khar, the day when the Yihar-Ayan stops flowing, the rule of the Blademasters shall end. That strangers are not well received in the High Fortress should be self-explanatory. Too great the fear of spies and saboteurs. But there are stories of a secret path,older than the High Fortress itself. To this day, it hasn’t been found, though, and the secret of Hell’s Iron will remain one for all that don’t belong to the Order of the Blademasters.
THE PLAINS OF GAIHAEN
Only few places on the continent of Aetherra are as much clouded in secrecy as the Plains of Gaihaen, and certainly, those mysteries nowhere else become manifest as openly as here. Geographically speaking, the plains are the junction between the first foothills of the Tharian Heights and the deserts of the southwest. There won’t be many travelers to meet here, and those that we do come across won’t have made this journey voluntarily. It often are escapees that took the way from Sedhannia over the plains, knowing that their apprehenders stay clear of this region.
Though not a desert, the Plains of Gaihaen are still regions of death. Neither plant nor animal can be found in the plains. A constant twilight lies over the land and even though they never are lightened by the rays of the sun, the ground is burned and dead. That alone doesn’t explain why the Plains of Gaihaen are this tremendously terrifying. The reason for this lies in what is here sometimes released by the earth. It are the mortal remains of enormous creatures that are of such dimension that alone the thought to come across a living example of these monstrosities strike even the boldest discoverer with trepidation.
The creation chronicles of Eloysion have it that long before the first humans walked the earth, Aureth had created a race that was depraved from the beginning. This was at a time long before the creation of the Aether Seas. These creations have been called the Gaihaen. But the souls of the Gaihaen were dark and soon the Creator had to watch how they destroyed and devastated everything he had made. And so in the end, he killed his own children. It filled his heart with so much sorrow that he never again entered these plains and left them in darkness.
THE MINES OF SATHAGA
Already in the oldest legends the enourmous rocks are depicted as a prison used by a destructing power. The creation myth names Sathaga as well. Aureth himself supposedly used the power under the rock, the Crystals of Inception, to form the surface of Aetherra. The early leader of Sedhannia, mighty Freelords whose people once came from the south and took possession of the lands and its inhabitants, heard of those stories. At last, they began to dig. However much they tried, though, the rock of Sathaga withstood any attempt to extract its secret. The blood of thousands of slave workers who lost their lives for the endeavor soaked the ground.
During this time of oppression a resistance formed that turned against the Freelords and their gruesome methods. The rebels were led by a man called Ayhgon who declared he himself had found a way into the rock and would now be allied with the powers hidden there. This legendary Ayhgon should finally become the founder of the Order of the Crystal Mages. Under the guidance of Ayhgon and – so the chronicles tell – in alliance with powers that brought death and destruction to the oppressors, the Freelords and their armies could finally be destroyed. Since that time, the Order rules in Sedhannia with an iron fist and Ayhgon showed his followers how to open the rocks and to use its powerful secrets.
The power of the Order lies in the crystals that can only be found here, in the mines of Sathaga. It is said that every Crystal of Inception that comes from the mines had to be paid for with the lives of one hundred slaves. The deadly work in the mines is done by thralls of the Order. None who has to enter is will leave it alive. And should he still manage, he would have ceased to be human. Too strong is the influence of what was once confined in the rock; that is why the Mines of Sathaga are considered a place of great horrors and evil. It is better to stay clear of this place and its rulers.
The Lone Needle is the oldest building in the north. There are no records of its builders. According to legend, Aureth the Creator himself erected the Lone Needle as a lookout. From its tip, he once kept watch to ensure that the creatures of the Aether Seas did not become a danger to his first children. It is certain though that the Lone Needle was once used by the Anthair, a clan of ruthless pirates and smugglers that are considered the ancestors of the sea watchers, as a fortress. It was from here that the Anthair set sails for their numerous raids along the coastlines. The Needle’s position on an island and the fact that the central power during that period didn’t have a fleet with which a seaside blockade would have been possible were the reason that finally, under the reign of Emperor Sannassos II. (the legendary child emperor) and with heavy losses, the great bridge of Garragh was build. The bridge is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time. Over this bridge the imperial armies could now march and bring the reign of terror of the Anthair to an end.
For centuries, the Lone Needle was held by the Northern Garrison that was tasked with protecting the Northern Territories from the belligerent indigenous people. When at last they withdrew further into the Unsacred Mountains and the danger was over, so was the sentinel of the North Garrison. The Lone Needle lost its importance and even the proud bridge of Garragh was abandoned to decay.
It cannot be said with any certainty who reigns over the Lone Needle today. What is known from the accounts of adventurous travelers is less than encouraging. Apparently, the Lone Needle is surrounded by some kind of magical barrier that nothing can cross. Steel shatters, arrows splinter, and it kills instantly at a touch. There are other reports of enormous creatures that now guard the bridge of Garragh, of huge bonfires that blaze at night around the Lone Needle and of smoke pillars, red as blood, that day by day grow into the sky like giant funnels.