Gazetteer of the Southlands of The West
This short gazetteer outlines some information on specific regions in Chirak about which little information has previously been revealed, or only hinted at. Here, at last, are some details on the region of Helios and its surrounding areas. This area is covered on two maps.
Despite its reputation as a great city in the desert, Helios is in fact a cluster of coastal cities along the southern coast of The West. These cities include:
Sardikus – seat of power of the fabled Sun King
Elene – the center of commerce and the throne of power for the Queen of Helios, wife to the Sun King
Mazdigan – the easternmost city, Madigan is steeped in ancient lore and includes most of the tomb monuments in the region, as well as the enigmatic Death Cult known as the Followers of Sathos
Helios has been locked in a generations-long battle with their eastern neighbors in Zann, but about twenty years ago the Sun King Khal’Hados, at only age 14, led an army through Zann to victory, conquering the region, slaying its kings, and putting the area under his control. Much of Zann consisted of semi-nomadic jungle tribes, but their cultural center was at the city port of Yenne, where the Sun King set down his armies and began building a new, grand city in his name. This conquest took three years.
From there, Khal’Hados, eager to prove himself at only 17 years of age, turned the city over to his Death Priests and then looked to the south, across the gulf between his lands and Therias to the south. He commissioned a great fleet and sailed on Magdithar, which he conquered after only three months. Impressed with his success, but dissatisfied with the local folk of the island who were erudite scholars, he left a garrison and sailed against Sheddaham.
Naval combat proved difficult against Sheddaham, however, as the foe was equipped with a sophisticated navy and after two years of conflict the Sheddaham was proving costly, when Empress Taminalia suggested a peaceful resolution: she offered up her daughter, Telos, as a bride with a significant payment in wealth to the young Sun King. Khal’Hados was at first hesitant, but when he met Telos he was smitten and married her, accepting unity between Helios and Sheddaham. Telos became the Sun Queen, and would eventually have her own palace in Elene.
Though his servants and advisors cautioned the king about pursuing his imperial expansion, the Sun King soon grew restless. Less than two years later her ventured forth to claim the Helios Desert, the namesake of his kingdom and technically “his land,” but chiefly he sought out the ruined city of Not, once believed to be the sacred city of his people before they were cast out by the encroaching deserts. He briefly attempted to settle and repopulate the region, but the land was too far gone; it was beyond recovery, and after only a few months many workers became mysteriously sick. Of those who died, many rose as undead. The Sun King abandoned his plans, and instead turned to the north east, where he then took his armies to the Sabiri lands. After many fights and skirmishes he conquered Uvalin, but the Sabiri tribes united and called upon the power of Khobal to aid them in their time of need. The stories vary, but according to Anton Joshero of Espanea, who said he witnessed the battle, it was “the most glorious and vile thing man had perpetrated on one another since the Final War.”
In the end, the Helian forces were routed, the Sun King nearly killed with a crippling wound. He retreated, and –shaken to the core—determined that he would amend his ways.
Whether the Sun King has truly settled or not remains a question best left to his heirs. Though Khal’Hados now dwells peacefully in Sardkus at the ripe age of 34 with a crippled leg, his wife Telos of Ellene has born four children, two sons and two daughters, and her oldest son, Pethor, is now 14 years old, the same age his father was when he ascended to rule and began his conquests. Pethor is adept in magic and has already developed close ties to the Death Cult of Sathos, but he displays an acuity for battle and strategy as well. He now considers when his father will pass, and looks to other lands such as Xorias as possible sites of conquest.
The Death Cult of Sathos
Beneath the city of Mazdigan, as the story is told, an ancient wyrm who was the vilest and most evil of the dragons who served Ga’Thon was slain in the Great War. This wyrm, a death dragon named Talax, was not truly slain, and its flesh and bones sank into the swamps of the region and permeated the land with its darkness.
The city was first built by pilgrims after the Final War who heard the calling of the dragon, and were drawn to its inexplicable power. The first to truly understand this power and the whispers of the dragon was the priest Sathos, who founded the Death Cult in the dragon’s honor. He learned of new forms of immortality through undeath, and forged the first great citadels and tombs of the new necropolis which he built, draining the swamplands as he did so and protecting the land against the encroaching sea.
Over the centuries the Death Cult became an obsession among those who would call themselves Helians, but not until the great exodus from the city of Not, which fell some three centuries after the Final War, when a great plague gradually wiped out the entire land. This plague was suspected to be the product of the rivers of blood of the god Ga’Thon poisoning the land, killing all in its wake.
The Death Cults promised salvation and protection; the power of the vestige of the ancient dragon Talax would protect the pilgrims if only the accepted him as their new demiurge. The desperate refugees were willing, and so it was that distant Helios came to found a new kingdom along the coast.
Today, the Death Cult is ubiquitous, and while the Sun King is regarded as something of a “living god” his status is never compared directly to Talax, who’s cult of Sathar reigns supreme. Sathar himself is believed to dwell, in deep undying slumber, beneath the Black Pyramid, the most notable ancient monument in the region. The Necropolis has suffered in some ways, however, as the vast collection of ancient monuments were built on low swampland prone to flooding and the dikes have failed countless times, leading to the majority of the old tombs and monuments being at least partially submerged in water.
Mazdigan itself harbors many secrets, including a large number of willful undead forged by the most elite of the Death Cult. The desire to defy death through undeath has led to a painstaking process by which initiates and the desirable members of the cult may join in undeath, a gift by the Dragon, allowing them to continue to serve Talax and maintain the ancient Necropolis. Some estimate that there are more dead than living in the city, which is not at all off the mark.
Polimark is a rival city along the northwestern coast which is known for its close trade connections with Helios. The ruler of the city is the Sun King's brother, who seized the city seventeen years ago during the period when the Sun King was invading Magdathar in the south. Regent Salgrath took the city with minimal effort, for its people were only recently liberated from an evil despot and there was little formal rule or government. He put it under Helian rule in the name of his brother, and later sent his armies to join his brother in assaulting Sabiri. He remains a threat to Enderas which is neatly sandwiched in between Helian holdings, as Salgrath has designs on expanding his own dominion of control, but his first effort to attempt invasion was soundly driven back by the fierceness of the Sindatherae and Enderans who stood against him. Worse yet, the giants of the Shaigothic Mountains have been a constant terror to his city, targeting it for raids every year out of capricious delight.
This southern port is nestled in between Helian territories, and serves as a trade center between Therias to the south and Helios for those traders who fear direct interaction with the Sun King’s realm. Both Helian merchants and Therian merchants of Magdathar and Sheddaham congregate here. A large temple to the Raven Queen Morrigan rests here, where the people seem to worship her with unremitting respect, and a large culture of silvered elves calling themselves the Sindatherae live in the forest and beside the men of Enderas.
Enderas has a bustling local industry dedicated to relic art replicas. The artwork is derived largely from pieces once found in the shaigothic Mountains, but the art is regarded as significant, even sacred with trade partners and the city prospers from this art trade as a result.
Enderas is ruled by a Khallum, a sort of king who is called "Shepard of the people." The current Khallum is a Sindatherae half elf named Livias, and she is also a priestess of Morrigan. Though most of the human settlers in the region are believed to be a mix of Sheddaham colonists and old Helian pilgrims and refugees, much of the local political system is adopted from elven systems of rule, the role of Khallum in particular.
The people of Enderas are ethnically related to Helians and Sheddahami, but speak a unique language called Enderic. The language bears no resemblance to any other local languages, and is only spoken in this city and neighboring communities in the Silverwood. Exactly why the people of this region gave up their old languages and learned a new dialect remains a mystery, even to the elves who claim that this was not a gradual change over time but a conscious choice made not long after the first settlers of Enderas arrived. Some strongly suspect that the adoption of this new language had to do with the mysterious ruins in the region, which early settlers plundered for relics and artifacts.
The Shaigothic Mountains
Giants dwell in large numbers in the Shaigothic Mountains, all dedicated to the old Mountain God, who is said to have once been the greatest general of Ga'Thon, though others think the Mountain God is actually a Thousandspawn. It is believed to dwell a mile beneath the mountains, and speaks in mad whispers to the giant priestesses. The greatest dedicates sacrifice themselves to the Mountain God and return as Death Giants.
Along the southern edge of the mountains, running for hundreds of miles intermittently can be found the Ruins of Shaigoth. This is an immense stretch of still intact ruins, partially subsumed in lava flows, of a strange greenish stone. The ruins are ancient, and some scholars think they were old and little understood long before the Ancients had their war. Within the ruins are still undiscovered chambers and buried secrets.
Reaver's Deep is the name given to the Coastal region where a deep trench makes diving beyond the great shelf all but impossible. Stories of what dwells below are many, but entire cities of underwater denizens such as deepspawn, skum and kopru dwell in the region and occasionally make raids on the surface communities.
Off the coast over the deeps is a strange device called the Silver Machine - a vast, floating silver relic of unknown nature hovering out over Reaver's Deep. Explorers have tried to penetrate it but the Skum and Kopru are vicious defenders of the object, which locals claim has been out there for at least four centuries. They claimed it descended from the sky, possibly called there by dark rituals of the fishmen.
The Silverwood is the homeland of many coastal villages and elven tribes. The region is dangerous for travelers, for the giants of the mountains see fit to raid almost seasonally, but the many fortifications in this region reflect such troubles; most villages are clustered near or within large walled keeps designed to stave off attacks from thirty to fifty-foot-tall giants.
There are a number of oddities in the Silverwood, including The Grand Aviary. Here, the ravens, rooks and crows of the Silverwood are sacred to Morrigan, and an ancient dome of lost ruins has been renovated into a sacred aviary from which all birds are protected and cared for. It is managed by the priestesses of Morrigan, and located south along the coast, overlooking Cualon Bay. Other impressive, ancient monuments forged by the elves long ago dot the forest, a tribute to the ancient culture of the Sindatherae.